At some point, you'll have to lose that weight. All that fat bulging on your bookshelves, tucked away in your closets, or packed away in boxes. One day you'll hear the floorboards in your home groan and beg for mercy under the crushing weight of your book hoard, and you'll end up doing the one thing that no self-respecting dragon would ever do: you'll get rid of it. Or a part of it at least, the part you've outgrown, the part you've been gifted, the part you'll probably never read again anyway.
And where do you take that slashed off hunk of literary fat? If you're patient and willing to delay instant financial gratification, you try selling it yourself online. If you need money right now or need to clear some room in your house right now and don't have time to wait for somebody to click a "Buy Now" button and then have to pack up your stuff and ship it to them, you'll probably end up trying your luck at your friendly neighborhood used bookstore.
And that's where people like me come in.
I've been in the used books business for four years. I've sold my fair share of personal belongings to other stores, and I've bought thousands of items for my store from a diverse array of folks, some of them mensches, and some of them total jerks.
Having been both a buyer and seller of used goods, I've decided to impart my hard-earned wisdom to help you avoid the many mistakes sellers make that end up invoking the wrath of their book buyer. And before you say, "Why should I care what a secondhand buyer thinks of me?" keep in mind that an angry buyer is probably not going to be a generous buyer. If you want to make the maximum profit off your old books with a minimum amount of damage done to your dignity and to your buyer's sanity, keep these things in mind.
These are the reasons why a book buyer might hate you.
You smoke like a chimney.
One of the more unfortunate characteristics of books is their uncanny ability to pick up surrounding odors, graft them to their person, and then NEVER LOSE THEM EVER. If you pick up one of your books and inhale deeply, and the pages smell like Joe Camel's asshole, good luck getting rid of them.
You're a cat person.
Nothing against felines, personally. They are marvelous creatures. They are also hairy creatures, and they just love leaving their stray clumps of fur all over books. If the inside of the box of books you're trying to sell looks like it spent an hour parked underneath a barber's chair, it'd be a good idea to sweep out all that nasty, potentially allergic reaction-inducing hair before letting other folks paw through it. We want to buy your books, not shave them.
You've got shit to sell with your shit.
Dogs shit. Babies shit. Cats shit. Rats shit. Birds shit. And sometimes they like to shit on your books. If this happens, please, please, please don't bring them to us. Seriously: this happens more often than you think it would. Unless they defiled a 1st edition Hemingway, nobody is going to buy a book with unsightly brown smudges and splatters on it. This also applies to blood, semen, piss, half eaten pieces of food.... if you wouldn't touch it with gloves, don't let it be on or near your books.
You don't believe books should be intact.
Some folks for reasons that are beyond me like to tear the covers off their books. Some folks like randomly tearing pages out of their books. Some folks enjoy bending the spines of their books until they snap and the book lies limply in 2 halves whenever they open it, floppy and flat like the peels of a banana. Congratulations: you've just taken something that may have had a shred of worth and beaten it out of them. You're the literary equivalent of Chris Brown.
You've got stowaways.
Often times people stash their old books in a box in a garage, or in a closet somewhere, duct-taped and left to sit for years and years before they decide to drag them out and sell them. These people often forget that they live in a world crawling with parasites and nasty little bugs, and these squirming multi-legged creatures love nothing more than to hitch a ride inside a box of books and find new places to infest. Silverfish, termites, roaches, spiders, and scorpions are among the many things we've had to smash into slimy bits while looking through books. And since critters like silverfish love laying eggs in books, we don't buy them. Not even a signed Bukowski is worth the risk of an infestation. So better take a peak in that box and make sure everything inside is inanimate before bringing it over.
You're not a fan of boxes.
Few things say "treat my things like trash" quite like bringing your books in to sell inside a garbage bag, so don't do it. Ever. Piling them haphazardly inside a shopping cart (where they'll often mash into each other and get crumpled) and wheeling them in is also a great way to say "hey, I don't care, so why should you?". And if you think that suggesting that the book buyer leaves the store to dig through your car trunk and make the purchase out in the parking lot is going to work, think again. That might work out great for your drug dealer, but not for us.
You like to read in the bathtub.
Books and water don't mix. Again, unless it's a 1st edition Hemingway or it's wrapped up in a lock of Sylvia Plath's burnt hair, no book that has suffered water damage is worth jack. And when it rains, it is not a good idea to pile your books on carts and wheel them into a bookstore through the downpour. They may have been fine at home and on the drive over, but two minutes of rain can turn your book-gold into utter trash.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
You don't understand what the phrase "Supply and Demand" means.
If you paid list price for a book, you will never get paid that price back at a used bookstore. And unless it's something really good, you probably won't get half of that value back. If that hard truth bothers you, sell it yourself. When you sell to middle-men like us, you're selling for the convenience of easy money that day, you're selling to clear some space up quickly, but you can't expect to break even, because you won't. Books devalue rapidly. Books that were a hot best-seller two years ago may be worth pennies today due to over-saturating the market. If you're selling a Tom Clancy paperback that millions of people have already read and sold back to stores like us, don't be shocked that you don't get handed fat stacks of cash.
You think bus books, phone books, and half-completed sudoku books are sale-able goods.
If it cost you nothing, it'll get you nothing. Except possibly some contempt. But you can't fill a gas tank with contempt, so it's best not to even try. But if you do, at least you'll have the bus book to help you get home.