Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2008 Issue

Bookselling: Making it Personal

Rose

Our postcard for Rose's Books.


By Renée Magriel Roberts

It is Tuesday morning and we have just finished printing up today's orders. Like most days, it is a mix of foreign and domestic orders. We have one book going out to a customer in Switzerland, two individual books and a set of books going to the U.K.; the rest domestic orders from our rare, used and new book collections. An order that was awaiting payment is moved from the pending/hold pile to the outgoing pile. Several special orders that came in this morning are matched with their order forms. We pick everything from the warehouse and line up all the books with their packing slips, postage and shipping labels.

Most days, I am happy to pack efficiently and accurately, and to do it well. We check all the used books for listing accuracy, and all the new books for any sign of damage. Every book is swathed in a soft, heavy recycled paper. We add the packing slip and invoice, as well as a postcard. This postcard, of my grandmother reading a book (and after whom the store is named) has a handwritten note. This is sometimes just a thank-you which I sign; other times, if I know the customer (or have something else to say), a more personalized greeting.

The entire packet is then bubble-wrapped, boxed in the right kind of packaging, or bagged, and dispatched via any number of services: the U.S. post office; FedEx; UPS; or Pitney Bowes. I've attempted to write down the algorithms for selection of service and appropriate packaging, but largely, they are still in my head, a pile of if-then statements resulting in the best service for each customer, while saving money, if possible, for us.

Most days, accomplishing these tasks would be enough. The effort is huge because we do everything ourselves. We believe that performing these tasks well sends a non-verbal message to every customer: we care about your purchase, and we care about your satisfaction. You have connected with us; we want this connection to be positive.

We decided, long ago, to keep our business growth within our reach. We want to continuously improve our stock, our services, and our customer base. But, we do not want to become so large that we need additional employees or space.

At another level, however, there are other connections occurring. I was reminded of it this week when I received a series of emails and phone calls from different customers. Besides including a handwritten card, we always post our names, email and telephone number on our sites (no hiding under a pseudonym!). We try to make it easy for people to reach us; we're real people and we want real communication.

It was at the end of the day when a man called inquiring about a book by Thoreau. I knew we had it. It was an inexpensive book with a sweet art nouveau design to the boards.

There was an urgency to his voice. He asked if we could send it out express mail the same day. We had already gone to the post office in the morning and my husband was out collecting our granddaughter from day camp. I thought briefly about sending it out with next day's mail, but there was something unsaid that made me think otherwise.

So, when Mark came back I ran out with the package, told him not to bother turning off the car, and sent him off to the post office before it closed.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions