The Value of Books – Guest Post

Lisa Roe is an online book publicist and the proprietor of Connecting Books with the Online World


*A box of gossipy ‘notes’ we used to pass to each other in middle school. (cleverly designated as such with a music note scribbled on the front instead of the word ‘note’)

*birthday cards from the past 15 years.

*bags of make-up samples (curse you Sephora!)

*A reindeer ornament made from a wooden clothespin.

*My first cell phone from 1993.

I’m a pack rat. There it is. I have more hidden treasures than the Titanic. The one item surprisingly missing from my basement inventory is: books! One reason being that I tend to scatter books all around the house, never leaving them boxed up. The other is that I was forced to sell them in order to fund my life. You know, rent and food. That life.

In the past 11 years, I’ve lived in as many apartments. 7 in Milwaukee, 1 in England, and 3 in NYC. Throughout that time, I’ve managed to kid myself into believing I have my pack ratting under control, combining smaller boxes into larger ones so that it suddenly became 1 box instead of 3, hiding them in my mom’s basement, and stuffing them in every nook and cranny I could find. But the truth is that I have a problem. But it’s getting better! I swear! NYC taught me how.

Since leaving New York and coming back to the Midwest, my common response to the ‘How was NY’ question has been: ‘I’ve never been so poor before in my life.’ Career wise, no one enters into publishing to get rich. It could happen, but more likely than not, it won’t. When a book is published, the money is spread around between editorial, art design, production, typesetting, publicity, marketing, agents, and authors. If I told you my starting salary for my first job in NY, it would be a dropped-casserole-on-the-floor-hands flutter-to-mouth-sharp-intake-of-air kind of moment. You know, shocking. I made more money as a full time student with a part time job. Ramen included.

So it came to pass that every now and again, I would come home, check the rent due date on the calendar and scour the apartment the something to sell. Funnily enough, there was no street or eBay value for my gossip notes or the melted candlesticks that I’ve managed to convince myself I will melt down and turn into new candles one day. Which I find just silly. Come on. Who doesn’t want the 37 rolls of film I took of that boyfriend I dated for only a month yet can’t bring myself to get rid of? I think his name was Mike…

So, there I’d go, humping stacks of books on my back, galumphing through Manhattan to The Strand Bookstore (18 Miles of Books!) to peddle my passions. It was depressing at first, choosing who would go and who would get to stay on to the next round. Sort of like my own little Survivor. I’d lie awake at night trying to decide if an unread book was more deserving of an old classic or not. Chewing on my nail as I tormented over whether $1 was really worth selling a hardcover, with the dollar winning out every time. Mostly because dragging the book on the two train trip back to my apartment was worse. But after a while, I reached a point where I wouldn’t sell any more. I had reached my limit.

I’m proud to know that every book I now own has earned its place on my (slightly smaller) shelves. I feel very secure with them and think I even catch a glint of appreciation of the chosen ones as I walk by. I’m also happy to know that books still hold some sort of value! That alone was well worth the conversion rate of new book to ‘used’.

Anyone else ever have to sell off those typed page beauties?

3 comments to The Value of Books – Guest Post

  • I am a pack rat too. I’ve never really had to do that with books, but I did with CDs back in the early 90s and I’ve regretted it ever since. My daughter Allison just discovered Allison Road by the Gin Blossoms and loves it. I could kick myself for selling that CD back then. I do sell books though, but they are things that I don’t ever see myself ever reading again.

  • Dana

    I have never had to sell a book. Mind you,I have never before 4 years ago had any great quantity to sell.

    I, too am a pack rat. I have a great deal of difficulty in passing on a book I will probably never get to read. Who knows some day I might have the opportunity to read that particular book.

  • I say, keep the rest!

    (for now…)