(By Christina Anne Taylor of Middle Island Press)
Despite the visual quaintness and charm, book-sellers can buy chapbooks at a relatively low cost, but more than that: they can actually sell chapbooks (actually move them quickly) and enrich their place of business in doing so.
Chapbooks? They are those little stapled booklets that are often showcased in bookstores much in the manner of postcards: on rotating racks near the entrance, or propped or stacked at the check-out counter. Separated from shelf upon shelf of books, they stand a chance of an occasional glance, or a frequent glance, depending on display. They are easily romanced beside a wicker basket of Lindor truffles or a box of Godiva bars, and sometimes they look equally tempting.
This article is written for those who wish to sell chapbooks in establishments and are at a loss for successful chapbook display and/or how they might go about acquiring them and selling them (therein, rewarding authors and enriching readers’ quiet literary moments). Consider the following suggestions regarding chapbook display:
1) Keep it to the left. (“What?” you ask.) Do a quick experiment: Look to your left and visualize a vanilla candle, a hazelnut cappuccino, something dreamy. Look to your right and see the same. Doesn’t it seem easier to visualize it when looking to the left? Have you noticed that restaurant waiters/waitresses present food in from the left and remove it from the right? There is something going on regarding right brain (creative brain) stimulation when one looks to the left, so make it as natural as possible. In feng shui (the ancient Chinese art and science of placement of objects), knowledge and self-cultivation are designated to the front left (enter a room and look immediately left). It is (according to Eastern theory) the common-sense place for books. The same could be applied at the check-out counter itself. Keep it to the left, and the mind will be more receptive.2) Proffer a subtle suggestion. On a table or counter space beside the chapbooks, take a particularly attractive chapbook and create a reading gift basket or two or three: a chapbook, a candle, and a mug with a small coffee pack and some chocolate tucked inside would be ideal; perhaps a bookmark. Keep a candle lit beside it to draw attention toward it. Create a chapbook spread like a hand of playing cards and place a chair nearby to encourage viewers to have a seat and browse through a few. (An enticing tent card idea to display near an attractive basket: “Give the gift of leisure.”)
3) A more active way of attracting buyers is to contact chapbook publishers and request signed copies, or better yet, generate literary activity by inviting chapbook authors to spend a Saturday in the store for a signing – perhaps one each month (table to the left, please). Such an event creates a sense of community involvement, and many shoppers like the bustle (why else, beyond sales, would so many people rush out to shop on the day after Thanksgiving)?
To sell chapbooks is the fun part, but book-sellers need not fret or fuss over the first step of buying them, because they can buy chapbooks easily and affordably online. Don’t neglect the little guys who aren’t in major catalogs. Most micro-publishers have their own websites and, often, little more than that in getting their little books into the hands of readers. Type “chapbook publishers” in your search engine and endless opportunities abound. More specifically, include your state or region in the search since readers like to support writers within their area. Most chapbook publishers offer wholesale purchase, and if their website doesn’t say so, simply contact them about it (chances are, if you’re a thriving business, you have already been contacted and know who to call).
Above all else in the quest for success, remember the key that opens to greater business possibilities. When you buy chapbooks (and display them attractively and in the right location within a place of business), you are certain to sell chapbooks as well.