Like most folks out there who are self-employed, rare book-getter guys like me have had to learn the hard way that the realities of life never really go away even though we run from sale to sale hoping to out run our problems at the same time. Recently, while exhibiting at a show, I had a conversation with a fellow dealer about healthcare options. Being self-employed in Florida puts you in this perpetual state of working hard, while constantly being sneered at by others as a bum who escaped from some tropical, deranged tribe of barefoot woodsmen. While I often think I might be happier joining the barefoot woodsmen tribe, it simply hasn’t tugged at me quite hard enough to date.
Seriously though, rare bookmen and self-employed scouts have had a tough road when you think about it. Their industry has turned itself on its head over the last twenty years, they’re all getting older and the books just seem to get heavier. The problems that life holds in wait are starting to creep in. How many rare bookmen have a 401K? How many rare bookmen truly know what their sales are going to look like in a month? In a year? How many rare bookmen have enough insurance to cover what they believe they have and not just what they believe they paid? How many rare bookmen can honestly say that they will be doing this work in ten years? Times they have changed and uncertainty is everywhere.
We are surrounded with it like ants on a dropped Ding Dong.
Taxes, insurance, savings, college funds, retirement accounts, sales forecasts, profit margins… Where does it end? We got into this business because we were called by the higher book-loving powers that be, not because we knew it was going to make us rich enough to afford a house in West Palm someday. The passionate folks behind the scenes of a book fair and/or a mom and pop bookshop have dreams, but the larger dream was just to be able to build a life doing what they love to do! Having just suffered through ANOTHER damn birthday, I find myself in that familiar pit of retirement planning despair… A few of my friends seem content to sell books (when they can) and rely on the lottery for the endgame riches. I suppose finding a nice first edition of The Great Gatsby or a McKenney and Hall at the Goodwill would help…
With what seems like a mountain of troubles stacked against them, bookmen everywhere keep going. We keep selling and buying and trading and showing and talking and sharing and laughing and learning… Thank a veteran today for sure, but give a thought to thanking someone self-employed for putting it all on the line and doing what they personally feel passionate enough about to try to do for a living!
The Transforming World of Collectible