It may sound like selling the family silver and it feels like it too. I'm selling off my lovingly chosen and read books - needs must. For the poet at the bus stop life is always lived very close to the breadline, and what with the credit crunch income and expenditure no longer add up. This writing habit is a hard one to finance.
'What?' I hear you mutter at your computer. 'But surely there's no money to be made from secondhand books.' Well, I've always wanted a secondhand bookshop, and apparently secondhand books are one business that's thriving during the recession. People might not usually skimp and save on the cost of a book, but suddenly they are. So I have to admit there's a certain pleasure when I receive an order from somebody wanting the very books I wanted to buy so much once upon a time. A pleasure that continues as I wrap and send them off and imagine that person watching for the post in anticipation of a good read.
One day I might leave London (hard to imagine in many ways) and one thing that would tempt me would be the possibility of getting a house and a little shop somewhere, by the sea probably as I only seem to love the city or the sea. Until then it's easy and free to do it all by mail order, offering all my beloved books bit by bit on Amazon. Off go my Carol Ann Duffys, my Paul Muldoon and even the long Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo that I lived with so happily for months. I'm an editor as well as a writer so I read almost as slowly as the authors write some of these books.
I had set up as an Amazon reseller before but didn't have much luck. This time it's definitely different, so perhaps people are realising secondhand books are a helpful saving. Hardback poetry books and sought after novels for as little as 1p each - the resellers can manage because Amazon charges so much for postage so that alone is enough. There are some books I just couldn't part with because I turn to them so often - all my Pascale Petit collections and the anthologies by Sylvia Plath and Hilda Doolittle. Apart from those I think I can part with them and find them at times I'm looking for a particular poem, and the flat is definitely starting to look less cluttered.
The emails are coming every day as the books are ordered. Is it the credit crunch, the desirability of my much loved books, or the name I chose for my virtual secondhand shop - Muse Harbour Books? Whatever it is it feels nice to know somebody else will enjoy them and as finances improve I may well buy some hardbacks for 1p each myself.
'How can you make any money on 1p sales?' I hear you ask. The postage from Amazon means you make at least 60p from each book and that's dinner for me. 'What??' I hear you cry. 'But Jamie Oliver rants on about dinner for under a fiver at Sainsbury's.' Well, I have some recipe and shopping tips to help you all through the recession and will share them in future posts. We won't starve in our garrets or ground floor flats, and whatever the recession brings the poet at the bus stop will be smiling and still writing.