HOW TO STOCK A BOOKSTORE FROM SCRATCH
One of the fun things has been imagining how one would stock a bookstore from scratch, particularly if I -- or the novel's protagonist of a new bookstore owner -- is a starving poet. So I had to think of ways to acquire a lot of inventory at zero, or almost zero, unpfront costs.
One of the answers I'd devised was that I would go to Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, whose peeps know me, and offer to do a de facto "SPD in Wine Country" section where they would ship over a lot of poetry inventory that otherwise would just stay in their inventory back room. I'd give SPD a lot of play and this method also would give me a lot of inventory right away at no upfront cost.
Of course, there'd be some hoo-haa negotiations with SPD who would prefer to give me the usual bookstore arrangement. What we end up agreeing to do is that for the popular poetry titles, I'll have to abide by the usual retail arrangement. But SPD knows, and in truth the SPD staffers probably do really know (wink), which poetry titles are hard to move and from these they'd give me titles that otherwise would just sit in their back room. The key here is that, as a start-up, I need to get inventory right away for little money.
Oh we'd spice up the plot somewhat with the bookstore guaranteeing some SPD events in the bookstore... and since I've gotta make the story interesting, I'll probably have to concoct some more nefarious scheme(s) -- perhaps involving poetic "cultural capital" if I can make the concept not boring (which is not easy - wink).
Another stocking idea was to email a bunch of Poet Listserves for poets who'd be willing to send their own books on consignment -- I suspect that'd get a lot of takers (or, I write it as such anyway in the novel).
One of the logistics I anticipated is shoplifting -- and so in my offer to Poet Listserves, though I'd tell them the arrangement is "on consignment," I also say that they'd have to just forgive me their loan of their books if they're shoplifted. Since most poets would be sending just 1-2 titles, I don't expect that this would decrease interest.
Speaking of shoplifting, I thought I'd hang some sign somewhere in the bookstore:
If You're Going to Shoplift, Go to Barnes and Noble.
Poor Barnes and Noble -- they get such grief from us idealists, don't they.
Then, of course, hitting publishers for poetry titles -- especially older titles. in real life, I once put a call out there to poetry publishers requesting donations of 100 copies each of poetry titles for another poetry project I'm still working on. I actually have about a thousand books -- mostly much older titles -- right now in my house, awaiting the fulfillment of this other project. But the response means that tossing in this idea into the novel ain't over-the-top fictitious at all, if at all fiction. And I wouldn't discriminate between stocking newly-released versus older titles...I, uh, the protagonist, believes Poetry is timeless.
Part of the problem is that this bookstore -- unlike the Kingdom Bookstore that Ron Silliman blogs about quite interestingly today -- would be open most of the week, rather than once a month.
St. Helena, once you strip away the wine-related tourism, is a town of 5,000 while Kingdom Book's Waterford, VT contains an approximate 1,100 population. I don't necessarily think 5,000 would generate more significant traffic to accommodate a bookstore, but hope that tourists would add to the traffic.
And I probably would structure an online-business to the operations. Part of what's going on here (obviously) is that though all this is for writing a novel, I do have a dream of opening up a bookstore someday...so I'm multitasking--doing the research for the novel may give me a way to discover things that would be helpful if I, in real life, opened up a bookstore someday.
A bookstore oriented around Poetry -- it's a dream, it's a dream...
(Meanwhile, if anyone reading this has an idea to help out a starving poetry bookstore owner on building up inventory during the initial days of the store, let me know!)