|Larry "Mr. Book Look" Craig|
This business was not planned nor envisioned by me so I'd guess you'd say it was God designed (at least, that's what I say). In January of 1984 a sweet lady named Wilma was looking for someone to expand her home bookstore outreach; I wasn't interested but you know how that goes; without knowing anything about me, she offered to let me take boxes of product from her store and go try to sell it and, if I did, she'd give me a commission.
After a couple months of doing everything unsuccessfully, I “divinely stumbled” into the library market...yeah yeah and the rest they say is history. I worked on commission for Wilma for about 3 years then for another book business for a couple years; finally realizing I was going further and further in the hole financially, I made the decision to borrow some money and buy my own stock.
From then to now I buy the books from publishers, Ingrams, B&T, or anywhere else I can, then load up my dodge extended van and travel to small town public libraries to try to sell Book Look books. I have a great sales pitch that I've used from the beginning -- “Hi, my name is Larry, would you like to buy some books?”
One librarian said I was the most pathetic salesman she had ever seen and, just to do me a favor, I could bring my books in and she'd look at them; I've been servicing that library for over 25 years now! Yes, I actually haul one or two boxes of books into the library and the librarian buys on the spot from the boxes. (If I'm out of something or there is a need for a special order, I send it to the library and I pay the shipping.) This form of selling comes under the heading of “dinosaur” since it's been almost extinct for many years.
When I started, there were only a handful of Christian books available and the average price was about 4.95; well you know about the market today. For years I heard the librarians say, “there is no call in our community for this kind of book”. When I'd tell folks what I did for a living they'd say, “you mean there's Christian books in the public libraries?” What seems natural today – going to the library to get the new Mary Connealy book – is a situation that took years to achieve.
Bottom line: I've been blessed! God started the business, sustained the business, guided the business, and to this day, I'm only in the business because He literally keeps me there. Over the years I've put nearly 300,000 miles on each of 5 extended vans. Used to be I could eat a meal on the road for $2.50 and a motel room would cost me $12.00 – 14.00. Not too long ago a small sale would pay for the weeks petrol bill; now that same sale pays for part of a tank of gas. I'm a “one horse” outfit with annual sales of $120,000. How does this business continue? To God be the glory! And that's not false modesty: every day I am blessed. It hasn't been easy but I have been blessed.
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