Friday, 23 August 2013

Moving on

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. 

18 comments:

Minerva said...

Sorry to read this. Good luck with your editing business. Love your website and enjoy your thoughtful blogs.

madwippitt said...

Sorry to hear about this, I truly am. Amazon is one of those double edged swords. No excuse for the rudeness of the customer though: but it sounds as though this was inevitable eventually anyway. I do hope you are going to keep up the blog and book reviews - I really rate your opinions - it's refreshing to get such honest reviews and I've picked up a lot of reading on the strength of them!
And the research and interviews are terrific reading - I'm still dipping into them as and when I have time for playing instead of working on the computer. And of course they lead to your Heroines
book which is marvellous.
Good luck with the other side of your business!

Jane Badger said...

Thanks Minerva. The website and the blog will still be continuing.

Madwippit, yes, I'm keeping the book reviews going, and the blog, Facebook page and website and the occasional tweet! I sometimes wonder if I'm a bit too honest. I try and temper my opinions with kindness so I hope that comes across. Feel free to beat me over the head with a wet kipper if you think not.

Goldielover said...

Sorry to hear this. The bookselling industry has changed so much over the past twenty years or so. Years ago, I used to spend many a happy Saturday afternoon cruising the second hand stores, many of which used to cluster in the same area. They're all gone now - victims of the internet and glass condo towers. Now the smaller internet sellers are going, victims of the bigger sites like Amazon or ABE. The thing that's really scaring me, though, is not these changes, but the shift towards e-books. They're convenient for reading something you may not particularly want to keep, but I see them eventually killing the second hand market, as the publisher retains control. I also see many works, which may only be available in digital format, eventually being lost forever as formats change. Not great for future generations. Anyways, rant over. Good luck in your other endeavours.

Christina Wilsdon said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the end of your bookselling business but was relieved to see you'd keep up the website and the blog. If I lived in Europe I know I would've been snapping up a lot of titles over the years! But as you say it did lead to being able to produce your book (which I only just finished reading and enjoying) so that stands as a wonderful ode to your bookselling career. (Maybe you will now have more time for Morning Walks in your new neighborhood! Well, new-ish, I recall your saying you lived there before.)

Elizabeth williams said...

I loved looking through your books for sale and I've bought quite a few, but I just really love your website, with the blog, the pages on my favourite authors,your book reviews and particularly Heroines on Horseback. I'm still gnashing my teeth at the fact that you couldn't do proper referencing in the GGB format, because although it's a great read, it's a well researched academic work as well. So , yes I'm sad that you aren't selling books any more, especially as I'm sure that GGB and Fidra must have sold lots of their titles through your site, but I'm so glad that the website will continue. Thank you for all the entertainment and information you've given me.

fuzzi said...

I'm very sorry to hear of another non-Amazon source leaving the field.

I wish you the best in all your endeavors.

LS
NC, USA

LyzzyBee said...

I'm very sorry to hear this, especially the way you were treated by that last customer. I'm glad that you're carrying on with the blog and I will be reading and reviewing your book next month I promise! Best of luck with your "other" career - I know I can send a few clients your way!

Jane Badger said...

Thanks Elizabeth - did you want the list of references? Because I do have it. If I promised to send it to you and haven't, I apologise!

Goldie, thanks. Yes, I miss being able to mooch around secondhand bookshops too. It's getting harder and harder to do, and some of them are so peculiar, you wonder they survive. As for ebooks, I wonder? The last report I read said that sales of proper books were holding up well. I must admit, there are quite a few books I'd happily have just in ebook format.

Christina, I've not stopped morning walks, just haven't photographed them! You've reminded me that I did do one a couple of weeks ago, so I'll post that. A sort of testament to the 1970s house.

Thank you Fuzzi. It will be very interesting; and I hope interesting and not depressing, to see where Amazon is in 10 years' time.

Lyzzybee - thank you! More clients always good. I'm looking forward to your review of my book (whatever it says!)

Goldielover said...

Taken two off your hands anyways - The Young Horse Breakers and Khyberie in Burma.

Jane Lovering said...

So sorry to hear this, but I'm sure you're doing the right thing.

Jane Badger said...

Thanks Goldie! They'll be on their way on Tuesday - Bank Holiday here on Monday.

Thanks Jane. I think I think that too.

Juxtabook said...

I am really sorry to hear this Jane. Thank you for all the help that you've given me as a bookseller over the years. You're one of the best and a real loss to the trade.

Good luck in your new business.

Jane Badger said...

And thanks to you Catherine - you've been a far greater support and help than you know, especially with the mysteries of Twitter! When I think about how something should be done, I often thing about how you would do it and do that.

Barbara said...

Dear Jane, I understand and sympathise with everything you say in this post. I am also spending far too much time on the things I love doing, like my blog and chatting about books.

I’ve come across one or two of ‘those’ customers recently. It's heartbreaking when it happens, especially as things are so tough at the moment. I

I wish you massive amounts of luck and hope the next chapter in your life brings you all the rewards you deserve. Barbara.

Jane Badger said...

Thanks Barbara, and I wish you massive amounts of luck too. Your website is awesome, and so is your blogging! It all just looks so beautiful.

Geranium Cat said...

I'm really sorry to hear this, Jane, especially as I was frankly envious of you for being able to do it, although I knew it must be tough. I wish you all the best for whatever you do in the future, and I'm glad to hear that you'll still be be blogging - I'll carry on lurking there.

Jane Badger said...

Thank you - it's been a month now since I stopped, and it is quite liberating not to have to worry about cash flow. I have flung myself into writing a story to fill the gap, so we'll see how that goes! Thanks for continuing to read me. I do appreciate it.