There are a great many resources for folks who are hunting down that obscure category romance from the early back-when to the late days-of-yore, and a great many more resources for people who seek out the latest news and information about the romance world, from writing to reading to – woohoo! – shopping. When I’m looking for news of the genre, I think to myself, “Self, you know where you need to go to find out about new and somewhat innovative small online businesses seeking to serve the avid romance reader? You need to read the U.S. News & World Report.”
From their article on 28 April about the success of small businesses online despite mega-retailers and a very sad and mopey US economy comes this fascinating profile of Derek Stafford, founder and owner of (get ready to bookmark this one because I’d never spell it correctly if you asked me to) Lughnassadh Books:
Trying to compete with Amazon and other behemoths is daunting. But with the right strategy, an entrepreneur with limited resources can cash in on the boom in online retailing. Derek Stafford, who founded and runs the website Lughnassadh Books, sums up his outlook this way: “One of the best ways to compete with Amazon is not to.”
Stafford has been selling used books from his website since 1999. In the early days, he says, he would sell pretty much anything he could find. But now, he says, “I’ve gotten more and more specialized.” He stopped selling all fiction except Harlequin romance novels, for which he discovered a distinct niche market. This focus gives him a brand that distinguishes Lughnassadh from the big boys. He’s trying to create a comprehensive listing of all the Harlequin romance novels to further develop this brand and establish himself as a one-stop source for genre aficionados. “Even if I can’t be the seller, I want to be the source,” Stafford explains.
That’s right: his store has an entire section of nothing but Harlequin romance novels, and there’s a forum attached to the store for customers who can’t remember the name of the book they’re looking for (no one ever has that problem around here. Least of all me).
Stafford also pays attention to the personal touch of shopping online:
The Internet can be an anonymous place with none of the warmth of walking into your neighborhood store. But small-business people have found ways to genuinely interact with their customers online. Unlike most online retailers, from whom customers get automated E-mail confirmations that their orders have been shipped, Stafford says he writes personal messages for each order to let the customer know that he’s really looking at it. “The kind of thanks that I get is really the telltale,” he says. “Everything I send out gets some sort of thank you.”
I haven’t shopped from Lughnassadh personally, but if you’re looking for the rare or antique category romance, Stafford’s online store might be a good place to start. Curious about the name? I was, and on the “About Us” I found:
I get a lot of questions about our name. LughnassadhBooks.com is named for the Druid harvest festival lughnassadh (pronounced loo-nah-sahd). The festival also honors the Celtic god Lugh, who presides over the harvest and knowledge — you could say he was the Druidic god of the farmers and the teachers. Since I grew up on a farm and I’ve always loved books, it fits me and my business perfectly. LughnassadhBooks.com is devoted to preserving the written word and cultivating the love of knowledge.