Tag Archives: second-hand book stores

Organizing the Westerns

westernAbout a week ago I realized that our Mancave needed cleaning. We call this the Guys with Big Guns sections, housing Westerns and War novels. It was dusty and hadn’t been culled or realphabzetized in some time.

Dealing with Guys with Big Guns is not something we as Quakers want to spend our time doing.  Although we don’t read these genres, we certainly sell a lot of them, so last Saturday, there was nothing for it but to bite the bullet and move in.

It’s enough to make a bookslinger cynical, I tell ya. First of all, the  expressions on the faces of the cover art guys are the same (grimacing with determination). Also their posture: they lean into the action but slightly away from the gun. Yes, they’re all holding guns, but here’s where it differs. Western guys hold six-shooters (I think) while the War people vary: post-apocalytpic weapon of choice is a Bazooka. Go figger. The spy guy  ranges from little pistol-ma-bobs to those huge rifle-esque guns you see flashed from the backs of Toyotas in countries where things are not going well.

Guns I don’t know much about; the alphabet I can handle. That’s what I was trying to do, organizing them by author. Some, like Terry or William Johnston(e) or good ol’ Louis L’Amour, move fast. Others go at about the speed of cattle crossing the Great Plains. So it’s important to keep them sorted, but at a certain point, whether First-time Author Hoping to Break Into the Genre or whoever is covering L’Amour these days wrote Shootout at Wherever gets old. Did you know that about half of all Western titles start with Shootout, Gunfight, or Crossing? Go ahead, check it out.

It seems to me that Westerns are Romance for Men. In fact, I once put a bunch of Native American romances back there in the mancave, mixed in with the other Shooters, and sure enough, they got scooped up. A word to whoever is designing the covers: a girl with big heaving bosoms and a guy with gritty determination in his eyes will do; you really don’t have to worry about anything else. Near as I can tell, in the Westerns she heaves in the background as the guy covers her with his big gun, while in the Romances she heaves in the foreground as the guy, again…. Anyway, you get the (cover) picture.

It took several hours, but our Westerns and War sections are now relatively dust-free. Jack did suggest I leave a bit, for atmosphere. “Guys want a little True Grit,” said my husband.




Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing


Jack and I are headed out to emcee the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival in Elizabethton, TN this weekend. Busy and running about, I offer in place of a hand-written blog this LOVELY piece of news.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES ARE THRIVING!!!! Click the link to read all about it.


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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Bizarre Bookstore Days

kangarooIt’s been an odd, OCD kind of week here at the bookstore.

On Tuesday, we had an entire day where people used credit from our big blue ledger. No cash purchases were made, no books brought in. (The ledger stays in the bookstore and regular customers have a page where we keep an updated tally.) Since we don’t have the ledger computerized, we’d have to look at the dates on each page to know how much trade credit was used, and neither of us cared at the end of Tuesday, because we were tired of looking in the ledger.

On Wednesday, every single customer bought books for cash, and we outdid our previous sales record for best day ever by $41. We were slammed and it was fun, but when the day was over, we fell without grace or ceremony into chairs and stared at the ceiling awhile.

At some point I said, “You want supper?”

He said, “No. You?”

I said, “Can’t be bothered.”

He said, “All right, then.”

We went to bed.

On Thursday, from every corner of the world, it seemed, people brought in books to trade. Bags of books, boxes of books, miles and miles and piles of books! I was actually away Thursday, and came home to a carpet of them. Jack held up his hands as if to beg for mercy.

“They came too fast; I couldn’t keep up.”

We spent that evening shelving books, gnawing on some cheese and tomatoes between stacks.

On Friday, two kangaroos and an elephant came in. The elephant was pregnant and the roos were giving her a gift certificate to our children’s room. Nice folk.

And so it goes…. people ask us about “patterns in book retail.” There’s only one pattern: expect every day to be different from the one before it, and you will always be right.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized

Curse you, Christian Fiction!

Those of you who run bookstores will understand whereof I speak. You will laugh knowingly at this question.


The people who shop Christian fiction tend to fall into a certain demographic: female, circling retirement age on one side or the other, sweet, watching their pennies, and looking for the latest of some series. I’m waiting for the day when a writer realizes the market for Christian Amish fantasy space exploration novels is still wide open.

Don’t get me wrong; I read Christian fiction, some for enjoyment, some for sarcasm factor. C. S. Lewis changed my life, but I’ve also enjoyed an occasional aga saga (that’s a British term for a domestic novel) here and there. We’ll not talk about the Left Behind series; observation suggests that opening such a dialogue is the fastest way to start a fist fight at a church’s fellowship supper.

But it is not so much the writing as the selling of them that I now query: if the customers are sensible, quiet, gentle people, then why are these bookshelves so eternally … untidy? As in the B’s are visiting the Q’s and the pocket romances are sliding behind the Gilbert Morrises? (And that’s a BIG space to hide behind; he’s got his kids writing now, sigh.)

One night I spent two hours re-alphabetizing, stacking, assigning “this far and no farther shall your boundaries be” spaces to Okes, Morrises, and Dekkers, feeling vaguely Genesis 1 about the whole thing as I parsed into order what had already been created.

I went to bed with those books lined up straight and tall as soldiers in the army of the Lord (not the Joseph Kony one). A few days later I brought a stack of new acquisitions over to shelve, and it looked as though someone had taken a leaf blower to the place. Bs and Q’s openly fraternizing, pocket romances hanging with Copeland westerns…..

I glanced suspiciously at a mother-daughter combo, Mom a dignified woman bent with age in a twin sweater set, saying “read that one” as her daughter, blond highlighted hair sculpted into perfect little “I am a teacher” waves, moved a stack of books from her arms one by one back onto the shelves.

Willy-nilly, in random order. They looked up and smiled at me in a friendly way before returning to their task.

It’s enough to make a bookslinger lose faith.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA