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Store History & Philosophy
What's Quimby's all about?
Quimby's is an independently owned bookstore that sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and ephemera. We favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow.
How did the idea of Quimby's come about and how long has the store been around?
On September 15th, 1991, Steven Svymbersky, the founder of Quimby's, opened the store in Chicago on 1328 N. Damen (at Evergreen) in Wicker Park, in a 1000 sq. ft. space. Since 1985 he had published over 50 zines with his friends, and had published Quimby Magazine for five years in Boston. Steven explained the philosophy of the store with these words: "I really want to carry every cool - bizarre - strange - dope - queer - surreal - weird publication ever written and published and in time Qvimby's will. Because I know you're out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist." (And yes, that was a V.) In 1997 Steven sold the store to Eric Kirsammer, the owner of Chicago Comics. Steven moved to Amsterdam with his family shortly thereafter. Eric purchased the store from Steven in order to continue Steven's commitment to the First Amendment. After a few years, the rent became too expensive to keep Quimby's at the same spot in which Steven had opened it. Eric moved it to it's current locale, 1854 W. North Avenue, to provide it with a more permanent locale. He also still owns Chicago Comics. Quimby's and Chicago Comics have a reciprocal "sister store" relationship, where we transfer materials between each other and often collaborate on ordering, outreach and off-site events.
How do you decide what you sell at Quimby's?
Some of what we sell is on consignment, and some of what we sell is not on consignment. Consignment means that we pay the person who sells their stuff here once their merchandise sells. People can just bring their stuff they published to Quimby's in person and fill out the consignment form when they get here or if they're not local they can print out a consignment form from our website if they're not able to drop it off in person. With consignment stuff, we'll sell just about anything, as long as it's bound so it won't fall apart on the shelf, is below a certain price, has a title, etc. (All the terms are on our website.) So in a sense, the independently published stuff that's consigned, that's not particularly curated. Sure, we try to put them into sections so we can find it, but lots of stuff makes its way to us without us even knowing it exists until it gets here, since word gets out that people can come sell their stuff at Quimby's and sometimes we'll seek it out if one of us hears of something we're excited about. In terms of books, lots of those we order from distributors, which is more curated. We tend to order stuff that deals with topics that in some way relate to outer limits, carnies, freaks, conspiracy theory, lowbrow art, miscreants, mayhem, that kind of stuff. That stuff we're picky about because it's a financial investment that we have to pay for before they sell, so we have to choose wisely.
How has Quimby's evolved since you first opened your doors?
The original space that Quimby's was in on Damen is about a third of the size of the space we're in now. Other than that, it's still the same basic place with the same basic philosophy -- to sell weird periodicals, stuff you don't necessarily find anywhere else, but we've added stuff to it. Over the years it seems that independent publishing has become easier with more resources available, which means we continue to get more and more stuff, to the point where we don't have space to keep it all in one particular spot in the store. We have to be logistically creative in utilizing space because we have so much stuff. Also, we often experiment with getting lots of different type of books to see what works for our customers, like a section for children/radical parenting or humor. We might also stop selling certain books if they don't do well for us (like film books, for example).
How does Quimby's support the independent publishing in the community?
We support independent publishing by giving people the space to come sell their material here, and then we take care of that business end by providing the space and labor to get it offered to sell to the public. We also physically provide the space for writers to meet and do events, and also to get the word out about their work, by creating a space for them to congregate and see what materials their peers and fellow publishers are working on.
Does Chris Ware own Quimby's?
No, but he is friends with the store.
What's the deal with Quimby's Bookstore and Chris Ware's Quimby the Mouse?
Chris Ware's Quimby the Mouse character does appear on the Quimby's sign, but in a way, it's sort of coincidental; although Steven, the original owner of Quimby's, and Chris Ware were friendly, the Quimby store is not named after the Chris Ware character. Or vice-versa. Ware was kind enough to lend his mouse as a "mascot" (for lack of a better word) of sorts for the store. In a weird coincidence, both the name of the store and Ware's Quimby the Mouse character were serendipitously created at the same time without the knowledge of each other's creation. The current owner of Quimby's, Eric Kirsammer, is an artist (and also the owner of Chicago Comics) and an obvious comics enthusiast. As such, he is also friends with Chris Ware, who has done a lot of the newer signage for Quimby's.
Can you get me in touch with Chris Ware?
We would be happy to forward e-mails on to him if you send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. But we can't be responsible for negotiating contact or soliciting any response from him back to you.
Are you a co-op?
No, we are not a co-op (as in co-operatively run, where everybody who works there owns it). We are a small business. We do not get funding from the city, the government, grants, donors, pledge drives, boards or institutions (unless they are schools purchasing books for their libraries, in which case that makes them customers buying books). We have one owner and three full-time employees. It's a tiny staff and we each have many tasks.
How do I set up an interview with a staff member or the owner for my periodical, website, newspaper or school project?
First read all our FAQs and all the press info we have in our press section, because many of the questions we get repeatedly are addressed in those places, and you are welcome to quote from them. Also there you will find helpful Quimby's graphics if you need them to link on your site or put in your media. And of course, we appreciate the mention and your interest. If you still have more questions you can contact us then via this form or by calling us at 773-342-0910. We also help teachers and professors teaching classes about zines, comix, independent publishing and that sort of thing, so contact us in advance for us to set up a mutually convenient time for us to help you with your class either at Quimby's or off-site.
Understanding Zines, Comix & Independent Publishing
What's a zine?
The short answer Quimby's employees tell extended relatives at family functions: an independently published periodical. It rhymes with bean. The long answer given to everybody else: an independently written, published and distributed periodical with little or no advertising or profit. Typically it has less distribution than a glossy magazine, and various other debatable details. Invariably other things come up in the discussion, including but not limited to arguments concerning: When does a zine become a magazine? Does having a bar code not make it a zine anymore? If it's glossy can you still consider it a zine? etc. Zine culture is rooted in traditions such as science fiction fanzines of the 50s, punk rock, anarchist pamphlets calling for rebellion, etc. Many folks have published material devoted to the history of zines and independent publishing, so we won't reinvent the wheel here. For some helpful places to click on to find out more about zines, see our links page. Or better yet, come in to the store and look at some. And then make one yourself.
How is "zine" pronounced?
It is pronounced like the last syllable of "magazine." Rhymes with bean. Or Sheen. Like Charlie Sheen. Yes. Like that.
How do I make a zine?
Come and look at some in the store and see how they did it. Go to our DIY section and look at books and other zines about it. Or make one in a few minutes, directions provided by a friend of Quimby's, Anne Elizabeth Moore: How To Make This Very Zine (PDF). Also, see our links page for some helpful links. If you decide to make a zine and you want to sell it, you can bring it to Quimby's, and we'll sell it for you.
Why are comics sometimes spelled with an x, like in comix?
As per http://www.graphicnovelscene.com: "This spelling [with an x at the end] is usually used to refer to the underground comic book movement of the sixties and seventies. It was used as a way to separate independently produced, uncensored comics from the mainstream commercial output."
What are mini-comix?
Sometimes there's a hyphen in there, sometimes the comix is spelled comics, etc. The point is that they're comics that are "mini" in a variety of ways, as in miniature model of distribution, little or no advertising, often photocopied, possibly even miniature in size -- sound familiar? That's right, mini-comix are like the zines of the comics/comix world.
What are chap books?
The zines of the poetry world, essentially. Those have a somewhat arguably older tradition than zines (depending on who you ask), going back to the sixteenth century bla bla bla. Anyway, yes we carry them, and if you're a poet and you want to consign them with us that's cool too.
Can you suggest any titles or websites to introduce me to the world of zines and independent publishing?
Yes! Go to our links page and check that out. We also carry items on our shelves that are helpful, so if you come into the store and look in both our DIY section and in the zines, you will find titles that will help you write, publish and distribute your own publications.
Consignment/Selling Items at Quimby's
How do I sell my book/zine/comic at Quimby's?
We will be happy to take your item on consignment. We offer a 60/40 split (you get 60% of the cover price) and we pay for sold copies when you check in. Our consignment terms and form are on our web page in the "sell zines at Quimby's" section located at http://quimbys.com/consignment.php . Print the consignment agreement, fill it out, sign it and send it back to us, along with 5 copies of the latest issue. Make sure you note the RETAIL PRICE or else we will assume it is free. If you want to send back issues, please send no more than 3 of each. Please note that we pay you with a Quimby's business check and it will be in U.S. funds, so be sure to put your real name and to whom we should write checks. We will not send cash through the mail. If you want to be paid for sold copies via Paypal please note what e-mail address we should use. Also, please note that Quimby's cannot be responsible for any fees or percentages that Paypal charges you for Paypal transactions. If you have any questions or if you need a print copy of the consignment form let us know. Keep us posted if any of your contact information does change, and if you don't check in within at least six months we will assume ownership. You can check in by e-mail to email@example.com or call us at 773-342-0910 or stop in when we're open.
Why do you sell so much on consignment?
Consignment is great because it allows us to sell what we do, since we don't have to pay the consignor (the person who bring in their zines to us) for their merchandise until after it sells, and sometimes it doesn't sell. Face it, some things we carry sell better than others. If we took a chance on buying something upfront that we think is really great but it doesn't sell, we wouldn't be able to pay our bills. But we want to sell those items, so we wait until after it sells and then we give the money to the consignor. So without consignment, we would probably be out of business by now. As you can probably imagine, there's not a ton of money to be made from zines and mini comix. So as a sales model, no, there's not a lot of dough in independent publishing for the publisher or distributor, and there's not a lot of dough in it for us as that store that sells that stuff, especially considering that a lot of time/labor (and therefore, unfortunately, dollars) goes into the processing of those items. We have to do a lot just to get a zine that's only a dollar onto the sales floor for you. We have to check them in, monitor their progress, maybe put them on our website, and sometimes even pimp them the way we want to because we're so excited about them. We are willing and proud to put in all this work for you and your creations, but to do all that we do have to be smart about how we buy and sell it. Consignment is a labor intensive process that can be time-consuming and annoyingly detail-oriented, but we feel it is necessary. We feel strongly that independent publishing and the culture that surrounds it needs to exist, that zines and their brethren uphold the tradition of the First Amendment, and that generally speaking, independent and underground publishing is awesome. Oh, and that there is great importance and necessity for inspiring and nourishing one's soul. Yes that sounds cheesy but it is true. Consignment lets us uphold this standard in a respectful way to the creator and to us. Amen.
Why am I only getting 60% of the retail price once my items sell on consignment?
This percentage breakdown mimics the way book buying industry works. Unpacking that, here's what we mean: When we buy books from a distributor, we don't pay the retail price. We pay what's called a wholesale price. That wholesale price is usually a percentage of the retail price, meaning that we get a discount off that retail price so we can sell it to you at the intended retail price that they print on the book. Depending on the book, it can be typically anywhere from 42% to 50% off. For example, if a book that we're getting a 40% discount on has a retail price of $12.00, that means that we paid $7.20 for it; we paid 60% of that retail price. When you consign your $1.00 zine with us, when you come pick up your payment for your sold zine, we give you 60% of a dollar, which is $.60. It's like we paid the wholesale price from you, but the difference between doing it with a book distributor where we buy the items outright, and you as a consignor, is that we paid you after the item has sold. And the 60%-40% split is kind of an average, although the truth is, you getting 60% as a consignor is actually on the higher end, so that's nice for you.
Will you do consignment with me even if I'm out of the city, state or country?
Yes. We just ask that if you're sending your zines to us that you include a printed copy of our consignment form from our website at https://www.quimbys.com/consignment.php. If we've had stuff from you before, please include information so we know what it is, what the retail price is, whether you've had stuff on consignment before (and what it was). If you don;t tell us what the retail price is, we will assume it is free. We deal with so much paperwork everyday with consignment that we need as much help as you can give us to make sure your merchandise is processed successfully. We pay folks by check or Paypal. Please note: if you select Paypal as payment, Quimby's cannot beheld responsible for whatever fees you incur from Paypal. Also we will not send cash through the mail.
I have a new issue of my zine/comic/book that which previous issues you've had before. How do I consign this new issue at Quimby's?
Please enclose a note with your items that indicates that you've had items consigned with Quimby's before, as well as the retail price of the items, as well as your contact info (with your real name). We usually take 5 copies of new issues.
How do I check in for payment for my sold consignment items?
With consignment we ask that you check in with us at least once a year to see how sales are doing (otherwise we assume ownership). But you can check in more often if you want. We typically send payment when you ask to get paid, and if issues are sold out or close to being sold out. We send a check (not cash) through the mail. You can check in by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or snail mail, or calling, or even by stopping in. Just make sure that you keep us posted with your current contact info and let us know who we should make the check out to. We would hate to try to contact you or send you a check and have it come back to us.
Do you contact me when my consignment items sell?
We usually ask our consignors check in with us to request payment or to check in to see if they should replenish sold copies. If you've ever been in the store and seen the hundreds of items we have here for your reading pleasure, you would understand how totally impossible it would be for us to contact our consignors each time their items sell. Don't wait for us to come to you. The general rule is check in every couple months. Just don't wait more than six months to check in or we may assume ownership. Since so much of the consignment stuff we sell is unsolicited (which is fabulous, don't get us wrong), we get tons of stuff every day, and we are always super busy trying to do what we have to do with all our retail magic to get those items out on the floor for sale. There are three of us at Quimby's and hundreds of you (consignors), so the more you can help us the easier that is for us.
Why haven't I heard from Quimby's since I consigned my stuff ?
We have hundreds of things on consignment. It would be impossible for us to contact you every time something sells. We ask that you check in with us by e-mail at email@example.com, or calling at 773-342-010, or even by stopping in. Or drop us a postcard.
I sent you zines and you have no record of it in your database. What's up with that?
Is it possible that it got lost in the mail? Did you use the right address? Did you include a consignment form or note with it so we didn't think it was just some free thing for us to give away? Did you enclose any note at all? Did the item have a title on it?
I received a notice that asks me about retrieving my consignment items from Quimby's. Sadness! Can't my item stay on your shelves?
Our store is always super packed with books, zines, and comics, so we're always begging for space. That means that unfortunately, like any store, sometimes we need to make room for newer items at the cost of other items that haven't sold. We try to give our consignment items as much support as we can, and wish we could keep all the publications ever consigned with us here, but we simply don't have the room, since we are not a library or archive. We are firm believers in the right of free speech as well as giving independent publishers and artists space to communicate their ideas. We don't have much of a screening process, so for the most part we'll agree to sell just about any reading material. That means that even though we personally may think certain zines and books are awesome (such as your item) that doesn't necessarily guarantee sales. Consignment retrieval is not a judgment call on the particular item's content. The truth is that sometimes we have to ask ourselves if we are financially capable of devoting space on our shelves to items that have been there for an extended period of time and have not sold. The result is that sometimes we have to make space for new items in order to stay in business. We're sorry your title was selected for retrieval, and we hope that you continue to consign future titles with us.
You alerted me that it is time to take my item off consignment. Now what?
We're asking that you choose one of these options in regards to your item(s):
- Your zines/books/comics and the sales from them are donated to our grab bags, free area or to give away as free swag to our mail order customers.
- We pay you for sold copies and you donate the rest of the unsold copies to our grab bags, free area or to give away as free swag to our mail order customers.
- We pay you for sold copies and you pick up your items or we send the rest of the unsold copies back to you USPS media mail. If you would like your unsold items mailed back to you we have to ask that you pay for the shipping, which if you have any sales we deduct shipping from that. As you can guess, the options are in order of our our preferences for obvious reasons, but the choice is of course up to you.
I paid shipping to get my consignment items to you. Shouldn't you pay the shipping to get them back to me?
After a reasonable length of time, items need to be pulled from the shelves (as any reasonable bookstore or retail establishment would do). Unfortunately, we offer so many items (and are happy to do so) to our customers, but if we paid the shipping to get all of the unsold items back to their consignors, we wouldn't be financially able to stay in business. Since we have the consignment form available on our website so that anybody can sell their printed material to sell at Quimby's, we never know what will arrive, and like any art form, a lot of is great, a lot isn't, some sells, some doesn't. We're happy to try to sell your items for you here. However, we do ask that you cut us a break and understand that we do a lot to get it out on the floor for you but we are not made of money. Often we don't even know what items are coming until they arrive, and we get dozens of items to sell everyday. Every day is like xmas at Quimby's when we open the mail, but it is hardly fair for us to be expected to pay to ship your items back if you sent us something we didn't know was coming and doesn't sell.
Why isn't my item available for sale on your website?
We do not put everything that we sell in the store for sale on our website. If we decide to put it for sale, congratulations. If we opt not to put it for sale on our website, please do not take it personally. We are proud to sell a wide array of independently published periodicals.While Quimby's honors an open, no-judgement policy in regards to consignment, we are forced to be selective about what is placed on to www.quimbys.com. This is not intended as a judgment about the material of your periodical. Rather, we humbly ask our consignors to remember that the both the brick and mortar Quimby's and Quimbys.com are operated seven days a week by a very busy skeleton crew of three people. Specialized knowledge and extra work is required to add material to our website, and the simple fact is that the costs, labor, and time required to maintain a brick and mortar shop, an online shop, and our sanity, necessitate a pared down website in comparison to what may be found in-store.
I have a free periodical that I don't want sold but I still want your customers to have access to it. Can I send it to you?
How nice! Yes! We love gifts! And so do our customers. How awfully sweet of you! Oh you shouldn't have! But oh! If you wouldn't mind, could you please do us the pleasure of enclosing a note that says it's free, and we'll put it in our free area or give them customers we think might enjoy them. Just please don't ask us to track it for you on the floor because we have hundreds of things we sell that is already a paperwork nightmare and believe it or not, that actually creates more of a paperwork nightmare to add free stuff to our database.
Can I have a consignor's name and contact information?
No. Not without their permission. However, we'd be happy to forward your information on to them if you like.
I want to sell my zine/book/comic at Chicago Comics. Can Quimby's handle this for me?
Although we are sister stores (both owned by the same person), we keep all our consignment accounts separate. However, you can print out their consignment form at http://www.chicagocomics.com/forms.php and drop your stuff off with us and we can transfer it over there for you. But we can't pay you for sold items you have consigned with them and other account details like that. You can contact Chicago Comics at 773-528-1983, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chicagocomics.com/.
I'm having problems placing an order on your website. Can I do it via e-mail or by phone?
We are sorry to hear you are having difficulty our the web site. If you want to place your order via e-mail or phone, you can either e-mail us at email@example.com or call us at 773-342-0910. If you're e-mailing us, here is the info we need from you: Billing address (where your credit card statement goes), shipping address (where your items should ship to), your phone number, the best e-mail at which to contact you, your credit card number, expiration date, and V code on the back of your credit card (the 3 or 4 digit number on the back of the card to the right of the signature). Note that you are welcome to split up your credit card number into multiple e-mails if you feel more secure doing it that way (just make sure you label your e-mails 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3 , etc.) Once we have all your info, we can e-mail you a total we will charge your credit card.
What are shipping rates for mail orders within the U.S.?
Shipping is based on how much you order, and when you check out it will be calculated for you. Please also note that if the shipping amount needs to be adjusted from what is listed on your order, we will contact you for approval.
Why is postage so much for my small order? Can't you just send it Media Mail?
Unfortunately we don't ship our mail orders Media Mail because we have to print the postage here at the store and the USPS website does not offer a Media Mail shipping option. We use Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes, and the amount you pay for shipping depends on how much you spend on merchandise, even for small orders. This fee covers not only the postage it takes for us to get the product to you, but the packing materials, the labor and time required to process the transaction, verify the credit card, pack up your order, print out the postage, etc. We do not make any money off this flat rate that we charge. What you do get from Priority Mail that you don't get with Media Mail is a tracking number, because we want you to get your order in a timely fashion, and with Media Mail it's not clear when the package will arrive to check your package's progress on its way to you on USPS.com. Also, the way Chicago processes Media Mail, if the package is rejected, it is not necessarily returned to us, so we have no way to know if the merchandise we sent you makes it's way to you. Since you have given us your money, have entrusted us with your credit card and billing information, we believe it is our responsibility to do our best to make sure the merchandise you have ordered makes it's way safely to you. We do understand that sometimes you're just ordering a few zines, so since it is a flat rate, if we can fit extra free swag in there we'll try our best.
Why don't you have the item I want in stock? Your website says you have it.
Occasionally items will be out of stock in the store but labeled as in stock on the web site or vice versa. This is because our in-store database is not linked to our website product database. That means we have to go in and manually change the website stock numbers to reflect the in-store stock numbers. The merchandise we use to fill web orders is from the very same stock we sell in the store. Quimby's is a small store run only by a skeleton crew, so sometimes some products on our website may not get updated as promptly as we would like. That however, is the price we pay for selling the merchandise that we do, and we ask our customers to remember that although we have hundreds of items for sale, we are not a big chain outfit that has huge overstock, so items go in and out of stock, especially the independently published and small press items that which only small runs are published in the first place. We and our hundreds of consignors that sell their wares here are indeed, only human.
How much is shipping for items being shipped outside the contiguous U.S.?
Quimby's ships books worldwide. We do not offer discounts for international shipping. International shipping charges are calculated by total order weight and destination, and at checkout shipping will be added based on how much merchandise you ordered. Due to foreign regimes hatred of hot porn and/or desire to take away your nerdy recording magazines, Quimby's cannot accept responsibility for lost shipments outside the United States. Also, due to issues regarding identity theft, we will not fulfill orders from nor ship to Indonesia and Nigeria. Please also note that if the shipping amount needs to be adjusted from what is listed on your order, we will contact you for approval.
I mail ordered something and it was just some stapled piece of crap. Can I return it?
We do not accept returns on mail orders. Although we are sorry if you are unhappy with your purchase, we merely carry the items in our store, and the price is determined by the publisher and not by us. However, if you like, we can forward your e-mail onto the publisher. (We won't give out consignor's information without their permission. We can however, forward your info to them.) As with much of the independently published zines, books, comix and ephemera that we sell here, they are sold on consignment from the publisher, and because we believe in free speech and not adhering to the same rules of the mainstream media and mainstream press, much of the type of merchandise we sell is by its very nature, homemade and different from other reading materials on the mainstream market. That said, many of the items that we sell differ in quality and content from each other, and because by and large we do not put restrictions on what our consignors sell here, we are at their mercy to make products that they feel are of (and this is subjective of course) high quality. Unfortunately, that may mean that a customer may disagree with the publisher's standards, but we cannot be held responsible for that type of disagreement. If you are in the Chicago area, we strongly suggest that you come into Quimby's, and we think you will be convinced upon first sight that the world of independent publishing is very different from that of the world of the mainstream press and exists with a different set of expectations.
Can I buy a gift certificate through the mail, e-mail or by phone?
Yes, we sell gift certificates in any amount you want. You can do it via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 773-342-0910. If you want to do it via e-mail what we'd need from you is the amount you want the certificate for, to whom you want it made out, whom you'd like us to say it's from, your credit card number, expiration date, billing name and address (where your credit card statement gets sent to), and V code on the back of your credit card (the 3 or 4 digit number on the back to the right of the signature) as well as your phone number. Note that you are welcome to split up your credit card number into multiple e-mails if you feel more secure doing it that way (just make sure you label your e-mails 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3, etc.). You can check in by e-mail to email@example.com or call us at 773-342-0910. If you want to leave the gift certificate here with us we can hold onto it until the recipient retrieves it for use. Or you can have us mail it to the recipient if you supply us with their name and shipping address.
Events at Quimby's
Can you tell me about events you have at Quimby's?
Firstly, we suggest looking directly here for upcoming events: http://quimbys.com/blog/store-events/ But we also suggest that you sign up for our monthly e-mail newsletter at quimbys.com. It tells you about store events, noteworthy new stuff regarding the store and other pertinant Quimby's news.
How do I book an event at Quimby's?
Want to do an event here? First we ask that you do your homework and take a good look at our store or at the very least, our website first, to see what types of things we sell at our store and to make sure we are even an appropriate fit for you and your book/item you're selling at the event. If you're interested in booking an event, please go to our web site and fill out an event proposal. It's at:
The more you can provide us while you're pitching the event to us, the more likely we are going to be to want to do it with you. Be sure to respond to any e-mails we send you once we receive your request. Also, please note that we need at least one month's advance notice in order to book an event. If we approve your event, we will expect you to be thorough and responsible in promoting your own event. We will include it where we can to promote it, but don't expect us to do all the promoting. And no matter who your publisher is, understand that you may not be able to rely on a publicist to do all you want or expect them to do.
Why do you prefer to have books on consignment for my event instead of ordering them from a distributor?
Putting something on consignment means that instead of paying for it before they sell (how distributors tend to work), we wait until after it sells, and then we actually have the money on hand to pay consignors. We wouldn't be able to sell the things we do any other way. Events typically end up costing us money, since we rarely sell a lot of books at them. We do the events we do at Quimby's because we think it's important to support emerging writers, independent publishers, and general fringe-like mayhem and high weirdness. The unfortunate truth is though, we tend to spent money to get the books to Quimby's (and back to return unsold copies), as well as the expenditure of time and labor required to schedule, promote and run your event. For these reasons, we tend to actually lose money for most of the events that we do. One genre in particular that we tend to favor on consignment is poetry. It doesn't sell well for us, and if we were to buy poetry books upfront, we would lose money. It's not that we don't like poetry, it's that it doesn't sell well for us. So when folks want to do poetry events at Quimby's we prefer they sell their books on consignment so that we can financially afford to do the event. A sidenote: if we order event books from book wholesalers like Ingram or Baker & Taylor, that's problematic for us because we're only allowed to return 10% of the books that we get from them before we start being penalized financially by the distributor. Getting the books on consignment helps us keep those costs down, so that we can actually afford the time and labor required to promote the event with press releases, e-mails, flyers, and whatever other ways we can think of (including social networking sites). You want us to promote your event, right? Help us by keeping our event costs down. In the end we are always more excited about the fact that people come out to the event itself, meet different authors and speakers and get connected, even if it's not a financially lucrative event. Supporting the creative and independent publishing community is important to us, and getting as many books as we can on consignment for events allows us to keep doing so.
You've told me you're turning down my event at Quimby's because of the issue of not being able to get the book in stock. What do you mean?
The distributors that we go through do not have the book that you're doing the event for, so we are unable to order it. Often with certain publishers opening an account with them can be problematic, because they may not carry anything else we would sell at Quimby's. Typically at events we do not sell all the books we ordered to have on hand and then we have to return them to where we purchased them, and it is for credit only. That means that if there are not any other books that we'd want to order from that publisher, then we are out the money we paid for both the books and the shipping we paid, because the publisher doesn't refund the money we paid for the books initially. They basically just give us a credit to spend on whatever we want that they sell. But they don't sell any other books we would normally sell here. That means we lose a considerable sum of money.
Just because I don't want to sell my poetry book on consignment, why are you turning my poetry event down?
Unfortunately, poetry is not a big enough seller for us to have a poetry event here at Quimby's unless the material is sold on consignment. And over time we have found that it is killing us to pay shipping for materials here and back for items that don't sell. But if your book is that important to you and you want to have your event at Quimby's, you can increase the probability of us agreeing to do your event here by having some copies of your own book yourself to consign. And really, it is wise to have some copies yourself to sell anyway instead of relying on your publisher or distributor, if you really want to walk the walk of independent or small time publishing. So do what you have to do to get them. And maybe you'll have to buy them at a wholesale price from whoever the publisher is, or maybe your publisher can pay you for your work partially with copies for you to sell yourself. Any way you slice it, you really should have some copies of your own book. And if your publisher won't let you sell your own book you may need to rethink whether it is worth publishing with them again. So you know, maybe meditate on that a little, is all we're sayin'.
I am a food/drink vendor/bakery/restaurant. How do I set up a free tasting/sampling at your store?
We like to gift our customers with free food or drink (or both) with the support of local businesses that jive with Quimby's sensibilities and philosophy. The best way to do this is to supply our customers at any of our in-store events, that makes you a co-sponsor of the event and we promote it as such. We like to schedule all of our events at least one month in advance. Or if you want, we can schedule you to do your tasting during high-traffic times during the week, to provide you with the most possible exposure to our customers. We have a table and folding chairs, water, and a refrigerator/freezer if you need to store something. We'll also advertise the tasting with a sign in our window, and a mention it in all the places where we promote store events, like in a press release, our blog, our monthly newsletter, etc. At samplings we need you to have the table attended with your own personnel and ask you to have information on how our customers can buy your product. We're also fine with you selling items during the sampling as long as any food is packaged. We also encourage you to come and check out the space before hand, just to make sure the space will accommodate your needs. So let us know if you're still interested in sampling at Quimby's at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 773-342-0910.
Can I pay for a book in advance and then have it signed because I can't make it to the event?
As much as we would like to accommodate all of our customers, we reserve the books for the people that make it to the event. In order to keep our own sanity, and then also the artists' sanity, we cannot guarantee signed items for a customer that cannot be present at the event. Events are busy, rushed, chaotic, so we don't want make any promises we can't keep. Sometimes authors only want to sign copies for people on hand, or the authors escape before we can get them to sign any of the books, -- there's a whole variety of things that can occur that would create a situation where we wouldn't be able to live up to the promise of getting a pre-paid book signed. Also, we want to make sure we have enough copies on hand for the people that are actually present. It is conceivable that we'll have some signed copies after the event but we can't make any promises and don't feel comfortable doing so. We suggest that you check back after the event to see if we have any signed copies on hand. Often we do.
Can you come and sell books at my off-site event?
Possibly. These are just some of the conditions that need to be met in order for us to participate: the event must be relevant to the type of books that we sell and the mission of the store, if we are given at least a month's advance notice, if we are able to get the books in a reasonable length of time (so we don't have to pay for rush shipping), if we have enough time and resources to promote the event, etc. We are a small staff with many responsibilities, so we must be selective about which off-site events we participate in, otherwise none of us get days off in addition to not being able to complete our responsibilities at the store that need to get done.
I feel intimidated when I go into Quimby's. I want to ask questions or for help and even buy something but I'm afraid you'll make fun of me. What can you tell me to set me at ease?
The best advice we can give you for shopping at Quimby's is just to relax and enjoy yourself. We can help you find what you're looking for if you want, but the most fun way to shop is just to walk around and see what grabs your attention. People tend to assume that we're making judgements about them based on what they're looking at or buying. We're not; usually we're too busy getting tasks done that need to get done, so we don't really have the time to make fun of you, if the truth be known. Also, here's something else you might find interesting: If you feel embarrassed about buying something, wouldn't the assumption be (according to that logic) that we'd be embarrassed to sell it? Well we're not. We're just glad you're buying something because we're a small business that appreciates you giving us some of your hard earned paycheck so we can stay in business.
Do you take credit cards or are you cash only?
We'll take both thank you! But no personal checks.
Do you sell gift certificates?
Yes, in any amount you want. You can do it in person or over the phone or via e-mail if you like. You can do it via e-mail at email@example.com or call us at 773-342-0910. If you want to do it via e-mail what we'd need from you is the amount you want the certificate for, to whom you want it made out, whom you'd like us to say it's from, your credit card number, expiration date, billing name and address (where your credit card statement gets sent to), and V code on the back of your credit card (the 3 or 4 digit number on the back to the right of the signature) as well as your phone number. Note that you are welcome to split up your credit card number into multiple e-mails if you feel more secure doing it that way (just make sure you label your e-mails 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3, etc.). You can check in by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 773-342-0910. If you want to leave the gift certificate here with us we can hold onto it until the recipient retrieves it for use. Or you can have us mail it to the recipient if you supply us with their name and shipping address.
Can you tell me about noteworthy new stuff you have?
There are two helpful places to look. The first is at quimbys.com right when you click on the site. That's the stuff we sell in both the brick and mortar store as well as and on our website. Then there's the stuff we sell only in the brick and mortar store. We post weekly updates (usually on Saturdays, if possible) on our blog that lists some of the notable items we've received that week. We do also send out a monthly e-mail that lists some noteworthy stuff we've gotten since the last e-mail we sent out (as well as events and news). You can sign up for it at quimbys.com where it says "Newsletter."
Will you special order a title for me?
If we can get it, if it is in print, if it is available to us, then we can try. It may take us a while since the way book distributors/publishers often work is that you need to order a certain minimum quantity of books to place an order. That means that for us to place an order with that distributor/publisher, we have to wait until we need enough titles from them, which can take weeks or months, especially since we are such a small bookstore with a very specialized angle. We will call you if/when we are able to get the book in stock but we do ask that you be patient with us. Please note we do not sell used books, so if you're looking for something that's out of print and only available used, that is not something we are able to obtain for you.
What is your return policy?
For mail orders, nothing is returnable unless it is damaged. If you bought items at the store, returns are for store credit only. You must have a receipt, it must be within a week of purchase, and we only accept those returns for books only. And of course, the books must be in sellable condition.
Do you sell new books or used books?
Mostly new. However, Myopic Books is a wonderful bookstore around the corner from us at 1564 North Milwaukee Avenue here in Chicago. They have special buying hours, so call them at (773) 862-4882 for more information.
Do you buy used books or used comics?
Not usually, unless they coincidentally fit in with the type of stuff we sell. And that's on a rare occasion. If you think we might be interested in what you have, you should contact us first before you bring everything over. Myopic Books is a wonderful bookstore around the corner from us at 1564 North Milwaukee Avenue here in Chicago. They have special buying hours, so call them at (773) 862-4882 for more information. If you have comics and they're more superhero-based, we don't really sell a lot of that, so we probably won't buy those either. Our sister store, Chicago Comics (chicagocomics.com or 773-528-1983) might be interested, but you should definitely check with them first.
Do you buy/sell textbooks?
I have a bunch of Playboys and Hustlers. Will you buy them from me?
No! …Well, maybe Playboy from when Robert Anton Wilson was associate editor from 1961-1971.
Can you help me get my zine library or archive off the ground by spreading the word?
Yes! You're doing a great service to the independent publishing community by archiving/saving items that have such a limited print run as most zines do. We'd be happy to spread the word on our blog and wherever else we post information about this sort of thing. Send us a blurb with 30 words or less about your project and your contact info so that folks who would like to participate can send you zines directly. Send us some flyers and we can put it in our free area too. Also let us know if you'd be interested in purchasing any of the things we carry to carry in your collection.
I am a librarian/curator and need some help selecting from the things you sell for my library/archive/gallery. How do I do this?
You e-mail us at email@example.com or call us at 773-342-0910. We are happy to help you curate a selection, and we can sell it to you tax free if you have the right documentation. A good thing to do is check out what we have for sale on our website. Although we don't sell everything we have in the store on our website, that's a good starting point. We can help you take it from there.
I teach a class about independent publishing/zines/etc. Will you talk to my class or can I bring them in to Quimby's for a field trip/lecture?
We also help teachers and professors teaching classes about zines, comix, independent publishing and that sort of thing, so contact us in advance for us to set up a mutually convenient time for us to help you with your class either at Quimby's or off-site. We ask that if you need us to participate with your class with a lecture or for a Quimby's employee to act as a docent for the store (which we are happy to do), that you contact us in advance so that we can set aside the time to focus on your class, and to make sure we do not have another event or meeting going on at that time, and of course, to make sure the store is open at the time you want to come in.
Using Logo Files
Need some Quimby's logos for print or web?
Here are some reasons you might:
- You're pimping the fact that we're selling your item and you need our logo for digital and or print needs.
- You're making your own press release for your event at Quimby's and you need some logo stuff.
- You're making a link to quimbys.com on your web page and you want to use our logo.
And here they are:
Do you have a mailing list?
We do send out a monthly e-mail newsletter about events, noteworthy new stuff, and other Quimby's-related news. You can sign up for it at quimbys.com. We no longer print our miniMagalog since we offer merchandise for sale on our website.
I have artwork I want to hang at Quimby's/I want to design a window display/installation for Quimby's. How do I go about making that happen?
If it's for a window display/installation, pitch your idea with some sort of visual aid and we can talk. For hanging work at Quimby's: got some slides? Or pictures on a website? Let us know. It's always wise to come in first and take a look and scope the place out. Since we are a retail establishment and we put selected merchandise in the window, you must construct your installation that in some way allows us to put our merchandise in the window. Your installation must not have things that will make a big mess with loose material that we have to clean up. You may want to include an artist's statement with your installation. It's an art exhibit and you are an artist, so you should have the luxury of being proud of your work and promoting it. As such, you may also want to include some contact info on it if you want people to contact you. So maybe you might also want to include some flyers or business cards or something. Anyway, contact us before you shlep all your stuff over to Quimby's first.
How do I offer my art services to make a bookmark for Quimby's?
Rock. We heart bookmarks! Show us some of your work and we'll chat about it.
Are you hiring?
No. But we do accept resumes to keep on file.
Do you take interns?
We don't as of yet have a system set in place for this. We're not saying we'll never offer internship opportunities, but here's where we're at with the topic right now: we are very busy, and if we take an intern on, by the time they even get close to getting over our steep, labor-intensive learning curve (which can take more than a year), their internship would be long over, they would leave, and then we would get a new intern again, then we'd have to train a new person all over again. We are a very small staff with very little turnover, and unfortunately we do not have time to train additinal people a few times a year. Even when we get a new employee, training them makes everything slow down, and we can't afford to do that; the many tasks we each (only 3 of us!) have to do every day would get neglected. We know it sounds crazy to say that we don't have the time for an intern, but if you've ever come in to the store and watched us work, it would be readily apparent that often we don't even really even have time to allot for a real lunch hour, let alone a constantly rotating staff of interns. Sad but true. We know.
Do you have any issues of Vice Magazine in stock?
That's a free magazine. It shows up when it shows up. We have no control over when, how many they leave at Quimby's or whether they should restock more. And no, we won't save you any copies. We have things we actually sell that need our immediate attention. Any Vice-related questions should go to viceland.com.
Can you suggest some other cool stuff in the area around Quimby's that as a Quimby's shopper I might be into?
Check out some links on our links page.
What other stores are there like Quimby's and how do I get my zines sold there?
A good way to start is poke around on the internet, but also, go on to the internet and see if something you like, a zine or a magazine, has a website. If they do, sometimes on their website will list stores where you can buy it in different towns. If that store carries that item that you like, perhaps they might have other things you like to! From there, each store has different rules for how they sell stuff, but a good start is contacting them first, perhaps even sending a sample copy with a note about being interested in selling it there along with pertinant information like your name, contact info, price, etc. Also, see our links page but also note that details change all the time, so you may want to check and see if those stores still exist first.
Do you have any ideas for how to break onto the Chicago literary scene?
Everybody seems to have an opinion on whether a Chicago literary scene exists or not, so for the sake of answering this question because it is asked so often of us, we will admit that there seem to be pockets of scene-ness that pop up here or there, sometimes composed of only a few people, sometimes lasting for only a short span of time, etc. What this question is really asking is, how do I meet people who do what I do and can support and inspire me here in Chicago? And here is our stock answer: Publish your own stuff and then send/give it to people involved in whatever scene you're trying to break into. We've got lots of literary journals and such you can come look at and there's always contact info in them (so maybe you could submit your work), and then there's always lots of flyers in the free area here at the store calling for submissions. We've got lots of local based books, zines and journals here -- if you come in and take a look that's a good starting point. Also, just showing up to events is a good way to meet people. Check out the alternative weeklies like The Chicago Reader, New City, etc. for events and news around Chicago. Get on as many e-mail lists for bookstores and magazines and zines and journals as possible -- because a scene, real or imaginary, is composed of people. So meet them in person or in cyberspace. Make friends. That's a nice way to get involved. Also, we have a monthly get-together thing called Works In Progress where you can come and meet people working on projects. You can sign up for our monthly e-mail at quimbys.com too. Or, if there's someone who does cool work that resonates with you, suggest a collaboration with them. In fact, a good way to become friends with somebody is to suggest you work on something together.
What advice can you give to people who want to open a bookstore?
Make the assumption that you will not have time to sit around and read when you are working. If you have time to read you're probably neglecting something.
Wow! You work in a bookstore! Do you sit around and read all day?
No. There is no time, because we are such a small business and we all have a lot to do. Also, we have hundreds of items for sale. None of us has read every single item in the store.