Friday, March 30, 2012

Romance Novels are Radioactive

Anyone who touches a toe into the pool of book dealing will encounter the great, cracked-spine, worn-cover hordes of romance novels (such as the famous Harlequin line).  Don't touch them.  Here are two illustrative examples of why not:

Example #1

A few years ago, I helped a friend out in a small used book store he ran in a college town.  Generally speaking I wasn't authorized to buy books, but we did have a "buy list" of stalwarts that we always purchased, with accompanying prices.  On this list were "romance novels about cowboys (must wear cowboy hat on cover)" for 25 cents.  There was a young woman who stopped by once a week to inquire about these books and was willing to pay a hefty $1 a piece, provided the cowboy had a cowboy hat on the cover.

Example #2

Much more recently, I was collecting a wide variety of books to prepare for a flea market stand that never materialized.  On Craigslist I found an offer for a romance novel collection, which had to be bought in total for what worked out to around 5 cents a book.  They became an albatross around my neck as the box came to live in my car, accompanying me to every used book store I visited.  My library wouldn't even accept them for free for their sale.  I eventually, months later, unloaded them for about 3 cents a book on Craigslist.


Example 1--a standing buyer willing to pay x4 the price you paid--is just about the best you can hope for.  However, my friend still only made 75 cents a book and most weeks didn't find any romance novels with cowboy hats.  While the payback was worth a minimal, passive effort, it certainly wouldn't pay his bills in the long run and was more valuable as a laugh.  The second example is actually not a worst case scenario, the worst case would be unloading the books into a bonfire, but it is far more typical of dealing with these books.  I took a hit, not just in up-front costs but also in time, gasoline and pride as every book dealer in the city came to think "oh, there's the guy who thinks he can sell Harlequin novels."
Life Lesson: Romance novels are radioactive.

PS: For all those looking for a bit of beefcake (or a laugh), here's a video on The Making of a Romance Novel Cover.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice post. Thanks for sharing such a useful and informative post.
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