Respect the Competition (a little, anyway)

I hear a lot of nonsense spoken about the book dealers at the Book Fair, generally referred to as “the DEALers”. They’re like most other humans, really. Oh yes, sometimes they arrive at 3 A.M. to wait until they can get in and get the number for their place in line for the Preview Opening at 4 P.M., but what’s so bizarre about that? And that story about them kicking an old lady in the head because she was in their way at opening time is sheer exaggeration.

(She was only a little older than I am, and she DID foolishly kneel to tie her shoe at a very strategic spot in the lobby as everyone was rushing in, and the man who jumped over her just caught the back of her head with the toe of his shoe. AND he apologized quite graciously, I thought, shouting “Sorry, lady, but I just love books!”) Anyway, he was wearing rubber-soled shoes.

Part of it’s snobbery, really. I know lots of people who sniff, “They’re just buying books to SELL. They don’t really love books.” Book dealers can so love books, the way some car dealers really love cars and some accountants love rows of numbers. That’s how a lot of them found themselves in the business. Mighty few people do it to get rich, and even fewer of them actually do.

Yes, they do get pushy. Their livelihood depends on being quicker than you are to get that book I priced at a dollar when it should have been twenty. You would never do a thing like that, of course. “They’re so RUDE,” I’m told by an indignant customer just before she kicks a small child out of their way to grab up all the carrot cookbooks. Not all book dealers are rude and not all rude customers are book dealers.

It’s not that I like the book dealers better than I like you, honest. Pretty much anyone who buys a book around here falls into my classification of Good People. But much as I like you for loving my books, the point is to raise a heap of money, after all. And that’s a thing to think about: a person who has empty shelves to fill in a bookstore buys a lot more than someone who just needs to fill that bookcase next to the bed.

So if you find yourself going through the sensitive caveman fiction and the book you want is snatched up by a pro, don’t think of your competition as a villainous DEALer. Think of him as the person who’s paying to keep the lights lit and the doors open so you can beat them to the best books when you meet again next year. 

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