Ten Commandments of Book Sales…

Having just returned from two large spring book sales, I feel compelled to provide this handy guide to behaviour at such events:

1. Thou shalt arrive early.  Due to a stop at the Dairy Queen in Sussex for supper, we were half an hour late late getting to the University Women’s Book Fair in Moncton this year…consequently, I fear that many of the best books had already been scooped up by other dealers (I also paid dearly the next morning for the chicken sandwich I ate at DQImodium was my best friend for a couple of hours).  For the Saint John Free Public Library Book Sale, I was there at 9:15 a.m. (the sale opened at 10) staking out the local/New Brunswick table.  I stood right next to the table, knowing that if I was on the other side of the aisle, that someone would get in front of me!  Unfortunately, my old nemesis, Witchy-Poo, also came early, and attempted to engage me in conversation (nosy old bat!).

2. Thou shalt not peek under the table covers.  As I was waiting for the appointed opening hour at the library sale, I noticed a man pretending to “adjust” the table cover on the table I’d staked out…if looks could kill, he’d be dead right now!

3. Thou shalt not block the tables or aisles whilst carrying on idle chit-chat.  Look around you…there could be a woman with a crazed look in her eye trying to make her way to the table you’re standing in front of (yup…that would be me!).

4. Thou shalt leave small children at home.  No one enjoys having their shins or ankles rammed by strollers, or listening to children whine or cry.  Letting them rummage through boxes of books they have absolutely no interest in is inviting the possibility of torn pages or dustjackets, which will not endear you to your fellow shoppers.

5. Thou shalt put books thou doesn’t want back where thou found them.  Most sales are organized by volunteers, who have spent hours sorting thousands of donations into appropriate categories.  Leaving a Harlequin romance on the “Collectibles” table makes people like me angry and creates extra work for the organizers!

6. Thou shalt not bring coffee or food to a book sale.  Picking up a book which is sticky or coffee-stained is very disappointing (and the book is pretty much unsaleable once it has fallen victim to a careless caffeine consumer)!

7. Thou shalt not stagger around balancing huge piles of books.  Get an empty box from under one of the tables, and push it along the floor in front of you as you go.

8. Thou shalt not steal.  Most book sales are charity events…do not help yourself to items with no intention of paying for them.  Hope came out of the washroom at the University Women’s sale with a handful of tampons, which she then offered to Anna…”They’re not dinner mints!” Anna exclaimed in horror.

9. Thou shalt not haggle.  The prices are already a fraction of the actual value of the book…that extra dollar will not cause the bank to foreclose on your home!  The people taking the money are not being paid to argue with you either.

10. Thou shalt shop with bills smaller than $20.  Charitable organizations have enough to do without having to run to the bank to get change because some numbnuts tries to give them a $100 bill for a $2 book!

Following these ten simple commandments will make your next book sale experience more pleasurable for all!

I was happy with our purchases at the two sales, netting roughly $1000 worth of books for the $110 we spent…my best find was a newer book on secular effigies from the 13th century, which I will list online for $80.  Jim was happy to get several expensive computer textbooks for $2 each…some of them were still shrinkwrapped!  Anna and Hope each got a stack of reading material too.

The next sale is the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Book Sale this summer…can’t wait!

Update: This post was Freshly Pressed on May 9th…my third honour from the editors at WordPress…thank you!


Filed under books, family, rants, satire, shopping

166 responses to “Ten Commandments of Book Sales…

  1. A lot of these could be meant for craft fairs and shows. Especially #4. Trying get past strollers and toddlers can be dangerous for all involved.

  2. #8 is a hoot! I think I may refer to them as dinner mints from now on. Less embarrassing for my sons.
    In defense of the child-shackled mothers, #4 would often mean for me that I would go NO WHERE. Therefore the public must endure my well-behaved children and their paraphernalia. If the children aren’t behaving, then I leave. This is where so many parents go wrong.
    I suddenly want to go book shopping…

  3. Sounds like a good time. Shopping for books is one of life’s greatest delights, though reading them is always better, of course. Congrats on your finds. Hope you have a happy Mothers’ Day, Wendy!

  4. 1959duke

    Those adjustments can be dangerous things sometimes.

  5. A serious comment here Wendy. When I downsized I had to get rid of mountains of books to the local Lions club. They were very appreciative and commented that so many people had all these, mostly paperback books, that they would never read again. Of course, I kept those that were special but gave away a raft of fishing books, particularly those on game fishing, and was later told that these went within the first half hour.


  6. I’m still laughing over #8. Glad the sale was a success!

  7. How fun Wendy! I always look forward to the Public Library’s fundraiser each year that people donate book to for the booksale.

  8. thejaggedman

    I have not been to a book sale but I am now informed on proper etiquette if I ever do.

  9. Jess Witkins

    Nice rules, Wendy! We would shop well together! I want to know what great titles you picked up! Were you buying for your bookstore or for your home library?

    Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow!

    • Thanks, Jess…I was buying for the store, but I did pick up a Bill Gaston (quirky Canadian author) title for myself that I haven’t read yet…you probably wouldn’t recognize most of the titles I bought because they’re either local or old…


      • Jess Witkins

        Had to stop back and say congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Woohoo! Looks like a great turnout, hopefully this means more people will be educated in the ways of the book fair thanks to your help!

      • Thanks Jess! It’s my third time, but it’s still fun! Wendy

  10. The only one I might be a violator of is the don’t bring coffee rule. Coffee drinking and book shopping go hand in hand. Literally. But then you use a word like numbnuts in context and I just can’t argue with you. Or haggle.

  11. one of the most dangerous places to go. when you finally try to pick up the book box, and find it’s too heavy for a human to lift

  12. Great rules to abide by. Books should be revered and treated with respect, especially books at sales for charity. So thanks, Wendy, for the gentle reminder.

  13. You’re so funny, Wendy! Glad you had a successful day at the sale, though – sounds like you bagged some amazing bargains! I thought of you the other day when we went into an antique bookstore in Greenwich – but the differences between that store and yours are that the building is so antique it’s about to collapse, I think, and so are the people who work there! But the books looked awesome …
    Sunshine xx

  14. Good tips, Wendy. I love book sales. My daughter just went to one in Moncton (A library sale, I believe.) I has jokingly asked her to keep an eye out for a book on a certain subject I’m interested in writing about, and I couldn’t believe it when she called to say she found the perfect book! So thrilled. If only people realized what wonderful gems can be found at used book sales.

  15. This is one of my absolute favorite posts; you portrayed this experience perfectly. I love the ‘thou shalt not…” juxtaposed to Dairy Queen and such–priceless!

  16. People who haggle at charity sales are a big pet peeve. My wife is a librarian and she often runs the booth selling donated books and there is always someone who haggles or wants a discount for buying more than one.

    • I’d forgotten about your wife being a librarian, Paul… The people who ask for a discount would never dream of haggling with the clerk at WalMart…sigh… Wendy

  17. A great list. I am aware of all of these because of my husband, a recovering librarian and garage sale/book sale/flea market fanatic. We also have a library in our house, floor to ceiling book shelves on three walls stalked with books (at least 80% of which were purchased second hand).

    The best thing about book sales is finding yourself going around the tables with someone who has similar reading tastes to you. I’ve started filling people’s baskets (If you like X, you’ll love Y. It was great!). And then they do the same.

    I’ve often regretted not sharing emails with these people.

  18. How DARE you look under the table. The nerve…


    Funny list! I can definitely imagine that holding a cup of coffee would be a precarious endeavor.

  19. Though shall not haggle… sounds all to familiar over here. It’s a major bragging right, and I don’t think anyone would abide to that rule, great as it is.
    Congrats on FP!

  20. Congratulations, my dear Wendy, you’ve been Freshly Pressed, again!

  21. Sounds like you really know your way around those sales, Wendy! 🙂

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!!

  22. When I saw this I was thinking how many rules could there possibly be? But each and every one makes perfect sense. Honestly, haggling at a charity event. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  23. Congratulations, Wendy! What a great way to promote the value of books, too. Long live books, book sellers, librarians, etc.
    ~ Lenore

  24. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, Wendy!

    • Thanks, Todd…one more time, and I’ll have caught up with you! The funny part is that I didn’t even know until my friend messaged me on Facebook…I was busy working on my new post for today! Wendy

  25. Thanks for this delightful post.

  26. You are the type of buyer that my brother would appreciate. He runs the Book Fair at the Newberry Library and has a crabby blog about life on the other side of the table. (Feel free to remove this link if necessary.) http://www.newberry.org/giving/events/Bookfairblog/default.asp

  27. How do you find out about the book sales?

  28. Loved all your sensible rules; if only the masses would follow ((sigh)).

    Cheers – You’re fresh pressed !! 🙂


  29. I recently attended 2 book sales, and these commandments are perfect! Wish they’d been posted on the front door.

  30. y

    I love book sales! I will follow this. Thanks for the advice. Nice post and congrats on being on Freshly Pressed. 🙂

  31. Pingback: Ten Commandments of Book Sales… (via Herding Cats in Hammond River) « My Writing Life

  32. Pingback: Ten Commandments of Book Sales… (via Herding Cats in Hammond River) « My Writing Life

  33. All County Insurance - Brea, California

    Good tips Wendy! Sounds like something similar to when I go shopping at the local record fair. Congrats on being FP’ed!

  34. Rarely can I pass up a water fountain, and seldom do I pass up the room to the right reserved for book sales at my library. Funny post, and congratulations on being FP’d.

  35. Hilarious! Congrats on FP and very much deserved!

  36. Hi and Congrats on Freshly Pressed. Love a good book sale, maybe I should start something like that in my little community. Thanks for the idea.

  37. Hunter

    Very entertaining. Thank you.

  38. Wow! You wrote the book on book sale rules! :o)

  39. sahil khanna

    nice article, worth a like. great job 🙂

  40. Ion Ion

    If only the author would call herself the WriterCow things would make a lot more sense.

  41. Yep–still my fave post! Congrats on FP, Wendy!

  42. Sharon McElwrath

    Haha, I will keep all ten commandments in mind next time I go to a book sale!

  43. If only people followed such rules…then we wouldn’t have to write blogs about it. You should post this on the door going into the book store. 😉

  44. jacquelincangro

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, Wendy! I just saw the listing this afternoon. 😉

  45. theveryhungrybookworm

    Love this! As we are approaching the time of book sales, this is incredibly relevant and true 🙂 I shall follow these commandments as I go forth and (hopefully) prosper.

  46. You had me at numbnuts, Wendy. I bet that Hope and Anna are really happy this post was Freshly Pressed.

    Congrats, lady. No one is more deserving.

    • Funny, Chase…Clay picked up on the “numbnuts” comment too… FP’d is totally unpredictable…the girls don’t know yet about their notoriety… As I said to Kathy, being Freshly Pressed is more fun when one has friends to celebrate with! Wendy

  47. Oh, I miss book sales! I used to work around the corner from a womderful second hand book store and came home with at least five books a week…Sadly, a nomadic lifestyle is not conducive to a full library, and a lot of them ended up in other book sales! That’s why I love the idea of e-books – easy to carry hundreds in one hand! Although you can’t beat the feel of a real book, and it’s murder trying to turn the corner of an e-page…
    Congrats on being FP’d!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Damian! Wow…five books a week…wish you lived in our neighbourhood (stop in to our store if you’re ever in Saint John, New Brunswick)! I don’t do e-books (for obvious reasons), and keep very few books that I’ve read (other than the ones I collect). I do have a large pile of books to be read, however…sigh… Wendy

  48. Hey, look who’s been Freshly Pressed! Congrats, young lady!
    You definitely deserve it. Enjoy your time in the sun.

  49. Thou shalt not haggle

    the ninth commandment is a blasphemy for many …LOL

  50. Number three!! Congrats Wendy!!
    And number 8 is too much…can’t believe that she wasn’t embarrassed!!

  51. Great post! Love # 7 and #10. Congrats on making FP!

  52. All the points are good, but I particularly like #3, #5, #7 and #10….too funny!!!

    Thanks for the funny, yet insightful tips, and congrats on making FP! 🙂

  53. Great list Wendy and of course- Congratulations on being. FP!

  54. What kind of books are you selling? This is a pretty serious list. 🙂

  55. Everything is written on books 😉

  56. I really enjoyed this post good food for thought. Noted and thanks for sharing.

  57. thor27

    I’d say you pretty much covered the dos and donts of book sales
    fascinating blog. I’ve recently written a cookbook. Today I’ve added another article on my blog also. http://thor27.wordpress.com

  58. I think DQ has caused several people to be late! So delicious!

  59. Love the rules. I had my own book sale adventure on Saturday. I broke rule #7 and my wife broke rule #6. All in all, a good time though 🙂 Happy Blogging!

  60. Congrats on FP, my friend!

  61. Just attended a book fair in BA. The sins these commandments were written for appear to be global. At least they are hemispheric.

    • Welcome to Hammond River, Stephen…we have a rather famous singer in Canada with your name (he spells “Stephen” with a “v” though). I had to google “BA.” Is there a big interest in books in Argentina? I don’t think we’ve ever sold one to anyone from there… Thanks for stopping by! Wendy

  62. 🙂 Most of these “observations” could be relevant to shopping in general! Some of them are my all time rules that I would live and die by! And I can’t believe the cheek of “tampon woman”! Some poeple will take it all when its not even offered! This was a pleasure to read and should be common sense to most people!

  63. Ah, Freshly Pressed again… If it were my choice you’d be top of the Freshly Pressed list every day : ) It’s great to log in and see a familiar face on the front page 🙂

    I miss book sales 😦

  64. blackwatertown

    Good advice – especially the bring some small change instruction – unless you are determined to just spend it all.
    Here stallholder – take my notes and fill my bag till my money runs out!

    • Wow, Black Water Town…if you’re ever in Saint John, please stop by our bookstore…we can help you with that pesky overabundance of money problem! LOL! Thanks for stopping by! Wendy

  65. Good commandments to be followed.

  66. Look at you, you superstar! So proud of you! Look what happens when I take time off to relax and be mommy!

    And you are right, no haggling at book sales. For the Love of Pete!

    I am glad to see you are getting squished flat! Feels good, right? 😉

  67. Wonderful post! Although, if you’re my mom, that $100 bill might not be so far off. . . I think she shopped with $20s, though.

    Thou shalt leave small children at home. No one enjoys having their shins or ankles rammed by strollers, or listening to children whine or cry. Letting them rummage through boxes of books they have absolutely no interest in is inviting the possibility of torn pages or dustjackets, which will not endear you to your fellow shoppers.

    C’mon! I’ve got fond memories of my mom taking my sister and I took huge booksales (at least, I remember them as huge. I was about half the height I am now, of course. . . at any rate, I think they were yearly). She’d bring a wagon, plop my little sister in it, and let me run about or find a book with pretty pictures and sit down under the table. One day, so the story goes, she’d found a great stack of books and was tossing them into the wagon without looking. When she did finally turn around, she found my sister practically buried, but quite happy. Speaking of which. . .

    11.Thou shalt grab first and sort later. If it looks good but you’re not completely sure, grab it. You can go through your stock later. Also, if it looks good, but you’re not sure without reading the entire thing, buy it! These things are cheap. It won’t hurt.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kathrine! I’m okay with kids at the sales as long as they’re well-behaved…I started teaching my middle daughter to “pick” books when she was 8…after 9 years, she’s pretty good at it! Please come again! Wendy

  68. Great rules, Wendy! I’m off to a sale on Saturday so it’s timely. I was going to haggle though….hmmm ;). K

    • Thanks, Kemi…a lot of sales offer great deals at the end (fill a bag for $5, etc.)…please don’t haggle if it’s a charity sale! Have fun, and I hope you find some good stuff! Thanks for visiting! Wendy

  69. Fun post. I am guessing you have a shop to sell books through. I never even thought of that as a good place to get books pertinent to my coaching to offer for sale. See what Freshly Pressed is great for, new ideas!!! Congrats and keep up the great posts! WE LOVE the kitty herd at our house (three). Have a great week! AmberLena

    • Yes, AmberLena (pretty name!)…we’ve had a bookstore for almost 11 years. We don’t have cats however (Jim and his children are allergic)…my blog title refers to trying to manage our hectic life in the country with four teenagers still at home (my dad also lives with us). This is my third FP…love it every time! Thanks for stopping by! Wendy

  70. I can’t believe I’m coming in late on your Freshly Pressed day! That’ll show me… 😦 But I am SO happy for you. I know you’ve received this award before, and it is WELL deserved again. You are a fantastic writer. I think you should print these commandments on a T-Shirt and wear it to your next sale! 🙂

  71. It's just a web site man!

    10. Cash? Really? What’s that? 🙂


    • Well, depending what country you live in, Just a Web Site, it’s really strong pieces of paper with people’s pictures and numbers on it…people still occasionally use it to procure goods and services. Thanks for stopping by! Wendy

      • It's just a web site man!

        It is quite interesting that many things in our society that we once thought were indispensable are now going way. For example, I purchased a Kindle book reader not too long ago. I am fascinated by it, and have read more in the last few months than I have in years. I find myself becoming very snobbish about it as well – insisting that a book be published on Kindle before buying it, even writing the publisher of a book to ask why they haven’t published their book for Kindle.

        I am scare of what I am becoming….


      • Me too, Just a Web Site! We sell old hardcovers in our store. I will never read an electronic book… Wendy

  72. Pingback: May 13, 2011 « poorjohnsalmanac

  73. I think you’re lucky to be able to go to one of these, I’ve always loved the idea but never had one near enough to me. Looks so much fun.

    Thank you for posting, it was a good read.

  74. I have always been a sucker for book sales and book shops. I’ve got book shelves in every room in the house except the laundry room – and I’m sure there’s enough room between the drying rack and the washer…

    • If you’re ever in Saint John, Steve, please stop into our store and introduce yourself! We’re also online (link at right). Don’t put books in your laundry room…too many temperature variables and moisture there! Glad you love books though. Wendy

  75. Pingback: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-15 – Patrick Bostrom Blog | Patrick Bostrom Blog

  76. pamelabrandares

    hi. i just wanna ask if it would be okay if i reblog this on tumblr. dont worry i’ll put all the credits. i’ll even send you the link if you wanna check. 🙂

  77. Pingback: The Ten Commandments of Editing Self-Help, Relationship Books « Copywrite1985

  78. Pingback: Friday Potluck | As a Linguist…

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