Updates on the Book Business

So, I’m semi-stalking Hannah from Ballerina Farm on Instagram. She’s a mom of a million kids, a former ballerina, a Mormon, and a beauty pageant winner. But I’m mostly interested in her warehouse for her meat business. I’m scanning her pictures for the huge, corregated metal structure where their workers package up their meat in dry ice and ship it out. I want a barn for my book business. And I want workers to do the annoying shipping part of the business.

About ten years ago, I started buying books at estate sales and selling them on a shop on Etsy. For years, I would only list items every few months. My main gig was writing. But the pandemic happened, and people began doing all their shopping online. They wanted interesting items for their backgrounds of Zoom calls. My business boomed overnight. So, I started buying more books and listing them. Now, I make more money selling books than writing articles.

The past couple of months have been insanely busy with home stuff, so I haven’t listed too much new stuff, but that’s the cool thing about this business. I can coast on the work that I did last month, or even last year. All I have to do is fulfill the orders. Yesterday, I shipped out ten boxes of books to a movie prop company in CA. Some of the books that they bought were in my shop for over a year.

Over the weekend, I went to the New York International Book Fair to gaze at first edition Rousseau books and the Amy Winehouse’s library collection. It’s mostly a really old white guy space, but there were definitely more younger buyers there this year. And more people buying for people of color. The book market, like the art market, is very hot right now. Super rich people are looking for new ways to park their money. (More pictures of the conference on my Instagram account)

I definitely have some big ticket items in my basement storage system, but I’m more in the “pretty book” market, which can actually be just as profitable. I know that audience, and it does very well for me.

10 thoughts on “Updates on the Book Business

  1. I know of someone with a shipping/curating business (her business ships care packages for cruises). I think that’s another business that has expanded over the pandemic, “gift boxes”: chocolate + candle + spa mask, . . . .

    She’s recently rented a warehouse space for $500/month to manage the fulfillment (and hires hourly workers when the numbers go up). The space was rented through friends (actually from a not-for-profit that’s renovating a space). She was running the business out of her basement & kitchen table before.

    I think that kind of use of the mom network + joining spaces can be a way of finding workers + space that can flex workers and usage. Say, they can hire each other’s kids or each others workers as the businesses shift seasonally.


  2. Those books are gorgeous. The light blue ones look very on point for current decorating colors.

    I am personally not someone who uses books as decoration because there are too many books that I’m reading or read or want to save that are filling the bookshelves. And, don’t have enough bookshelf space because of the windows.

    I have enjoyed reading some of those books, though, the out of print books from the time (sometimes online, but at least once by picking one out of a decorating wall at a cafe). Most recently, I read “Understood Betsy” (1916) and how helicopter parenting can create anxiousness that goes away when the girl is able to do things for herself. Think, a suburban American family v the toddlers in “Old Enough”. But Betsy is 9, not 2.


    1. Actually, I’m not the ideal customer for my books either. We have tons of the real things and hand-me-down vintage items. I think I’m selling to people who are non-readers who want to appear to be interesting. I’m selling them the illusion of intelligence.


  3. Love the pics of the books.

    I have the red leather bound Kipling editions with gold leaf decorations (and an elephant on the cover) – bought cheaply 30ish years ago from 2nd hand shops – when Kipling was utterly out of fashion. I’ve got most of them — just missing one or two.

    Didn’t buy the set – just one at a time as I came across them.


    Makes me happy every time I open them: the smooth leather binding; the lovely onion-skin paper; the crisp type. All part of the joy of reading (for the umpteenth time) “The united idolaters” (still makes my cry with laughter) or “On the gate” (which makes me cry for real)

    Still remember visiting an acquaintance (friend of a friend) for a dinner party – and making conversation (as you do) around her bookshelves. It rapidly transpired that she hadn’t actually read any of them – and the topic was quickly changed. The illusion of intelligence doesn’t penetrate very deeply…. 🙂


  4. I just noticed that the blue books I was admiring for their faded and varied color in Laura’s picts were a Shakespeare collection. I’ve decided it’s OK to get the books for decor (especially the ones that aren’t rare or unusual, but just pretty). I buy art that’s just pretty without being a collector with my own goals (I prioritize supporting artists, not resale value).

    But no one should pretend.

    I’ve also joked for ages that I buy wine for the label (which I can judge) and not the wine (which I can’t). I just realized that’s now become a thing, with Boynton (the children’s board books) & Snoop Dog having wine releases in which they design the label. Boynton says she also tasted the wine and picked it. Not entirely sure of Snoop Dog’s wine, but his wine label is good).


  5. There’s nothing wrong with people inspiring to be seen as intellectuals. It gives books a home that otherwise would end up in landfills.

    Isn’t there a long-running trope of social mushrooms with books they haven’t read? Like Gatsby with the uncut pages?


  6. Hmm. Some friends of mine ran a maid service in high school. (They were sisters, this was back in the ’80s.) The most shocking story they came up with was a family that had NO books in the house. No reading material at all. To the world, they were wealthy, athletic, beautiful. And yet, their home was devoid of the written word.


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