I sit here about to write something which fills me with fear: I’m closing the bookselling arm of my business. It’s been like a comfort blanket for so long. I love being surrounded by books; I love reading them; I love hunting for them; I love sharing them with other people. What can be better than to spend your life with books? The problem is that over the past few years it’s been a case of ever-increasing work for ever-decreasing profits. Much as I love my books, and my customers, the cold hard fact is that I need to make money. I can’t just do books as a nice little hobby. Or a lifestyle business (whatever that is) as my lifestyle demands that I eat.
The books have been very good to me. If it wasn’t for my decision all those years ago to specialise in pony books, I wouldn’t have been asked to write Heroines on Horseback, my book on the world of the pony book. Neither would I have been able to indulge my passion for research and produce my website. Perhaps they were the problem: in the now defunct Bookseller magazine I read a comment by an Italian bookseller. His father told him never to waste time in research, as time spent there was time not spent selling books. I think that’s a very valid point. It’s a tricky thing to weigh up: how much time should you spend building your public profile, so that people have heard of you and come to you to buy books, and how much time should you knuckle down, sell on the big bookselling platforms and not worry about trying to build your own platform?
Maybe I did get it wrong, but I’ll always be grateful to the bookselling trade for the opportunities it’s given me, and to my customers for the massive amount of support they’ve given me: how much better could it get than to share your passion for books with other people? But it’s time to move on now and concentrate on other things.
I was asked recently in my Horse&Rider interview whether I thought Amazon was to blame for the state of bookselling, and what I said was that booksellers have to deal with the fact Amazon is there, and isn’t going away anytime soon. Amazon has, as I’ve said before, a business model which works. Whatever we think of that model and the way Amazon organises its financial affairs, in the internet age people want things now and Amazon fulfils that need in a way that I can’t match. I’m not beating people about the head for shopping on Amazon because I can totally understand why they do. I am quite partial to now myself.
The thing that pushed me over the edge in the end wasn’t much, in itself: just the cancellation of a large order because the buyer had gone and found some of the books on Amazon instead. It wasn’t the first time it had happened. It wasn’t as if the customer was particularly nasty: thoughtless, yes, but not evil or malicious. So why did it make such an impact on me? I think it was because for the first time in my bookselling career, I no longer wanted to make the effort to be polite and cheerful in the face of adversity. And that, to me, means that I no longer care enough to make the effort, and so it’s really time to stop.
So, farewell bookselling. And thank you very much to everyone who has bought from me over the years. It’s been great finding you books you wanted, and getting to know you all. The pony book fan is generally a pretty splendid being, and I hope you’ll still keep up with me and the website. My main website, janebadgerbooks.co.uk, will carry on as before, absolutely unaffected. I’ll still keep on adding stuff to it, and reviewing books, and doing all the other stuff I’ve always done: just won’t sell books. If you’re wondering what I’m doing to keep body and soul together, I’m editing, proofreading and copywriting. I’d always kept that going even as I sold books, but I’ve been working away getting that business going again.
There’s 30% off the remaining stock on my website until 28th August 2013, when the bookshop will close.