Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Guessing Right and Wrong

So there are two ways to screw up as a buyer--
1. Buy too many copies of a title no one wants
2. Buy too few copies of a title everyone wants

Buying too many books doesn't endear you to the boss and makes you look like a fool, but from what I can tell it sure doesn't have the daily hurt that comes with having to tell a customer we're out of a title and don't know when we'll have it back.

My first #2 as a buyer is Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great, which we've been out of for over a week now as we wait for the publisher to get more printed. I actually did have a good sized initial order, but not nearly enough for the demand. I'm not happy, but I know I made a good buy that was just a little too low and we were just a little too slow to get more.

In comparison, being out of Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein's Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes make me feel awful. When I saw this in the Abrams' catalog I knew it would be perfect for our store; I was psyched. I bought a modest but not inconsequential number for our front desk, a nice high profile spot where I thought it might get some notice, sell a few and then we could order more. Well, we got them in they sat and sat and sat. I figured I had a #1 on my hands; I'd chalk it up to a learning experience and be glad I didn't order more, as I had originally intended. Then NPR did a little piece with Messrs Cathcart and Klein and we sold out of our copies in an hour and have had requests in the double digits and won't be able to get anymore until the book has been reprinted. This has been made all the more nightmarish for me because, as mentioned in the previous sentence, I had thought about ordering bigger but didn't have the courage.

Please forgive me, Brookline Booksmith customers; I know I still have a lot to learn.

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