October 16, 2002 was my first day in business. We sold one book that day, “Chronicle of the Pharaohs” for $17.50 — It was from my personal library, which I used to seed the business.
Wayne’s Books was a solo operation at first. My wife had her own job, but in 2012 left it and joined me as shipper for the past 10 years. The business is older than our sons, who grew up immersed in the business day-to-day operations, sci-fi, fantasy, and roleplaying games. We started small, and remain to this day a small family business.
My wife and I moved to Phoenix, Arizona the month after September 11th, 2001. This generation’s Pearl Harbor had pushed the country into a recession, and I couldn’t find a job in my field (management) for nothing. I worked in construction, and then was a server at a restaurant for a while.
Later in 2002, my daughter suggested selling some of my stuff on eBay. Online auctions were a relatively new thing at the time. I did a little bit of that, and some buying there too.
My big break was on Amazon, which had just recently opened their Marketplace, allowing individual sellers to sell their used books in competition with Amazon’s own new books.
It was easier than eBay. On Amazon, there was no need to upload photos, and listing items for sale was a snap. In October 2002, I began listing books from my personal collection. They sold like hotcakes. It was nuts. I was so excited, there were some nights I never went to bed.
I quit my serving job the following month, and never looked back.
By November, I’d gutted my personal book collection, and had listed around 800 books. They were selling quick and the money was rolling in. But I was running out of books to list for sale.
So I began visiting library sales, the events, but mostly the little book sale area that every library had. Also Goodwill and other thrift stores. Smart phones weren’t around at the time, so there was no checking book prices online. I’d use my instincts, but mostly just buying books cheap by the box-full.
Phoenix has a massive metro area; you can spend an hour driving from one side to the other by highway, even with no traffic. It meant a LOT of book sources were available to me. I had regular routes I’d run in my un-air-conditioned pickup truck, drag-netting every library and thrift store in the area.
Those first few years, it was like printing money. Few people had caught on to the business model at the time. I was buying books in bulk for 50 cents each and flipping them for 10 bucks, and occasionally $20 or $50. Those were heady days.
It didn’t last of course. More people began selling on Amazon – depressing selling prices – and I’d show up at my thrift stores and libraries to find somebody’d already cleaned ’em out. But I adapted, got technology. Example: A PDA, scanner, and an expensive online service that’d download the entire Amazon database in an abbreviated form into my PDA. Kinda like having a smart phone but not needing a cell signal. I branched out my buying to local bookstores. They cost more, but I needed inventory.
Within a few years, I began specializing in RPGs. I’d played ’em since the Eighties, sold some here and there, but they were a minor part of my inventory in the early days of the business. It was a continuum over the years, as “books” formed less and less of my stock, in favor of RPGs. Nowdays games are mostly what I sell.
Which explains why my business is called “Wayne’s Books,” and not “Wayne’s Games”.