Owning a bookstore, while lovely, comes with a lot of stuff. Catalogs, more catalogs, publisher kits, and galleys — lots and lots of galleys. I love getting galleys, don’t get me wrong. It’s really important to read the books before sales meetings so we can make intelligent decisions about what to buy and in what quantity. And I still thrill at reading a book six months before it comes out. After 13 years, I’ve got some treasures — a galley of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 and Because of Winn-Dixie, to name just a few. These are galleys that we’ll always keep. Then there are the galleys I enjoyed, but don’t want to keep, add to that the galleys I didn’t have time to read in 1998, and the galleys that don’t fit with my stock, and I’m basically drowning in them.
But, I cannot throw a book out, even a galley. I can’t do stripped cover returns because you’re supposed to throw out the books after you mail the covers to publishers. I just can’t do it. So now I am left with mountains of galleys that have literally taken over my mud room. I actually put eight feet of shelves in there, so the galleys would have a home. The shelves are already full with last year’s and this year’s galleys. Elizabeth and I have a new system: we keep galleys for this year and last year. The rest now need homes.
I try to give away as galleys as I can at teacher’s nights, but honestly, that’s just a drop in the bucket. The past two years I’ve given away the rest, box by box. I know you can’t give galleys to libraries or schools, but there are lots of other worthwhile places to give galleys. Elizabeth and I try give as much thought to our galley gifts as we do to customers in the store. In the fall, the Vermont prison system got three boxes of galleys: one for the men’s prison, one for the women’s and one for the high school. Prisons are often an underserved institution. And because children visit their parents, kids’ books are fine to donate.
I like to give boxes of books to our local Ronald McDonald House — lots of picture books for the kids, lighter fiction for older kids and easy reading for the adults. We have a massively long stapler that makes stapling F&G’s very easy. This way the picture books read like real books. This past spring we gave a box of galleys to a customer who works with at-risk youth teaching them reading and poetry. This box had a range of reading levels from age eight to adult; all the books were a real hit and we got the nicest thank-you letter. One thing we do to cut down on the shipping costs, although media mail isn’t that much these days is have a local contact for the organization pick the books up. They’re happy to do it and saves a little time and money.
One of my favorite things to do with galleys, especially ones that are for the current year, is give them to one of my kid customers to read and review. I try to be organized enough that I’ll get the buy/not buy reviews in time for my actual meeting. I’ve got an amazing 12-year old right now reading for the store this summer. Her reviews are so well written and thorough I feel I’ve read the book. Her comments are great: "Would be a great book if I were an eight year old boy. I’m not, but I liked it anyway, in a simple way." I have one boy who just puts a post-it on the galley with a very simple YES or NO. Sadly, his reviews, brief as they are, tend to get to me about a year after I need them.
Obviously, our staff takes galleys, but we have a rule at the store — if you take a galley home, you have to find it a new home, it cannot come back to the store. I counted the galleys in my mudroom and I’ve got over 300 just for this year alone. Lots of galleys and lots of great books. Fall is looking awfully good. A year from now, I’ll have to find places for all of these books. But for now, I can enjoy them.
I’m always curious what other stores do with their galleys. If you have a second, I’d love to know how your store deals with them.