Category Archives: Useful and Useless

Lesbian Fiction Isn’t Hot Anymore

Not long after I decided to make online bookselling my career — before I got a scouting service for my cell phone and years before I bought a PDA and barcode scanner — I stumbled onto a large collection of lesbian fiction in the clearance section at one of Fort Worth’s Half Price Books locations.

Not knowing if they would selling, I decided to risk the $1 each and snap up dozens of them. Surprisingly, about half of them had value. Some were worth $12 or $15. Some were worth $45 or $60 each. Why were some of these little books of a subject completely foreign to me worth more than the “new” price printed on their back covers? Was there something I didn’t know about the writing abilities of these women with names like Claire McNab and Karin Kallmaker?

I was learning that some bookselling opportunities come inside windows that eventually close.

In the case of the lesbian fiction, Naiad Press was dropping its writers as the company’s founders prepared to retire. By the time Naiad closed in 2003, Bella Books was already putting the dropped authors’ work back into print, but there was a period when many Naiad lesbian fiction writers were out of print and hard to find. During that period, I was a new bookseller cruising the clearance shelves of that used bookstore — part of a chain that was apparently unaware of this microscopic development in the publishing world. I quickly scoured other used bookstore and found dozens more valuable Naiad titles ready for me to use as a source of income.

That was my first open window, soon closed.

A second came when that same bookstore chain decided to clear out their remaining inventory of used audio books on tape. Cassette players were no longer standard equipment on cars, so no one would want books on tape anymore, right? They could not have been more wrong. Equipped with scouting service on my cell phone, I made good buying decisions. I moved dozens upon dozens of these items from the clearance shelves of Half Price Books into my inventory and into homes and older cars around the country. That window is now closed, too, of course.

Here’s another example. During my usual book-buying rounds, I noticed a new thrift store opening behind a restaurant in a mostly empty shopping center. The place was stocked almost entirely with salvage items from Target, complete with the little red stickers that let me in on the secret. Better yet, I must have been the only scout who visited the store because I found lots of great CDs there. I bought dozens of high-value classical music CDs (yes, many had once been on the shelves at Target) for $2.50 each on my fist visit. I quickly returned for even more. I also found a $150 computer software book and some other nice things there before it closed a few months later with fanfare equal to that of its opening. Window closed, too.

Still another time, I bought hundreds of CDs with library marking from a Friends of the Library group for $25 and am still selling them. And…

So what’s the point of the examples? There’s no consistency in the online book (and media) business, but there are lots of windows of opportunity.

Let me put it another way: I don’t find lesbian fiction hot, although I did for a few months. Books on tape got hot for awhile — and they didn’t even warp.

I haven’t found a hot deal in awhile, but I’m always looking. There could be one tomorrow.

“Lost in Space Forever” (Obscure DVD Review)

These things aren’t usually any good, but this one is.

Documentaries about old television series are often just collections of clips held together with a bad voice-over by an anonymous announcer. “Lost in Space Forever” is different, though. Actor John Larrroquette, a surprisingly good host, joins the Robot on a reconstruction of the series’ primary set. The tribute show’s script makes sense of the series’ style variations, explaining how it evolved from a black-and-white pilot without a villian to a psychadelic reflection of the time of its production rather than the time of its portrayal. Of course, modern interviews with the cast are there, too. Everything you expect from a retrospective finds its way in.

Before, I go any further, however, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen an episode of “Lost in Space”. I grew up after it had ended its three-year run and at a time when reruns of it weren’t available in my area. I like anything related to science fiction, so when I found a nice copy of “Lost in Space Forever” on clearance recently, I took a chance. I was pleased to find this presentation makes a perfect introduction to the series. I can’t imagine a better way to get into it.

Series fans will likely be pleased to see Jonathan Harris and Bill Mumy briefly reprise their roles as Dr. Smith and Will Robinson for a new scene at the end of the documentary. A behind-the-scenes featurette even shows Harris and Mumy walking onto the new set for the first time. Lengthy clips of special effects film and Guy Wil

liams’ original screen test for the part of also included, along with a CBS presentation to potential sponsors that features clips from the original pilot.

The documentary was produced for television to help renew interest in the series to coincide with the release of the (apparently dreadful, although I haven’t seen it either) 1998 “Lost in Space” film.

If you, like me, are wondering what you’ve been missing, this is a great way to pick up a little knowledge of this cult favorite series. Like the Star Trek original series and Britain’s classic Doctor Who (two of my favorites), it looks a bit campy, but what’s wrong with that? I probably won’t rush out to buy the whole series anytime soon, but if I find it on clearance, I might take a chance again.

This post was rescued from one of my old blogs and was originally posted July 7, 2009.

How I Started Bookselling

I feel like I’ve been an Internet bookseller forever, but it really hasn’t been that long at all. I made my first significant bookselling income on Amazon.com in January 2003. I had sold some books on Half.com before that, but if I must choose a date when I really became a bookseller, let’s set it at January 2003.
 
During the waning days of my full-time writing career, I began to look for ways to make extra money.
 
I opened an eBay account and began selling things I already had around the house and things I found at thrift stores on eBay. Half.com seemed the best place to get rid of some books I had collected when I was writing book reviews, so I tried it. It worked so well, I began buying books to resell.
 
When eBay bought Half.com, my growing feedback rating on Half.com was incorporated into my eBay rating and I suddenly looked more experienced with eBay than I really was. Nonetheless, I eventually gave up eBay because it is much more work than bookselling. (I don’t sell books on eBay because of the high listing fees and low interest in books there.) I rarely list on eBay now and almost never buy anything there. Amazon.com is my primary venue with Half.com and a variety of others rounding out my stable.
 
To make a long story a little less tedious, I backed into bookselling accidentally. And I’m very glad I did. I’ve been able to make substantially more money than I did writing, I have no deadlines and I enjoy the work more. My life experiences culminate in bookselling:
  • I grew up in a family of small business owners and I had been one a writer, so I knew the problems that come with being self-employed.
  • When I worked at RadioShack corporate headquarters, one of my job titles was “postal planning coordinator”. I remain one of the few people on the planet who have actually sat down and read passages of the Domestic Mail Manual. (None of the others work for the Postal Service, either, although the DMM is supposed to be their Bible of rules and regulation.) Knowing postal regulations better than most postal clerks simplifies shipping packages.
  • My seemingly useless jobs in high school and college working fast food taught be a little about customer service.
  • And my college degree (in Broadcast Management) taught me nothing specifically usable, but it taught me that I’m smart enough to learn anything anytime.

I was almost literally born to be a bookseller — and I’ve certainly been preparing to be one all my life. I suppose I’ll be one until either the opportunity or the fun of it goes away.

This post originally appeared on my So Much More Life blog at www.gipplaster.com before I decided to focus that blog more tightly on simple living and minimalism. I moved this post here because it doesn’t fit in very well there.