Darkshelf is a combination of me trying to merge my love of books and horror fiction with an entrepreneurial spirit I’ve always had, but never been able to act on. I’m very happy that has changed and I’d like to share a bit of my journey, for what its worth.
I’ve always had a fascination with horror and Sci-Fi. From a very young age, I was watching Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone and reading Goosebumps. As I graduated to more mature content like PG-13 and R rated horror I also learned about special effects. I was very fascinated with the techniques and special effects used to create the monsters and the gore. I feel this helped me overcome, or even just sidestep, the fear usually accompanied by the genre. Child’s Play was corny as hell even to little 8 year old me. There is, however, a scene in Child’s Play 3, where Chucky hides under a bed and slices the ankle of an unsuspecting kid. That scene stayed with me for a long time and had me leaping out of bed to avoid that knife for a few years. For many years of my childhood I gorged myself on all the campy, corny and crazy horror movies I could find. From the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises, for the most part, horror didnt bother me. That was until Clive Barker’s Candyman of 1992. I didn’t watch it until maybe 95′ or so when I would have been 11. It scared the ever loving shit out of me…and I loved it! From there I discovered the Hellraiser series, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions. My tastes evolved. I was now able to separate the mediocre movies from the great ones.
It was the writing.
I’ve always liked Stephen King movies, starting with Creepshow, Maximum Overdrive and The Stand. His movies got me interested in his books. My first Stephen King book was Four Past Midnight, given to me by my aunt. This was a pretty hefty read for a pre-teen and I didn’t actually get around to it until years later. I’ve since read quite a bit of King and now consider him my favorite author. Along the way, I discovered Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was an instant hit with me. Stories like The Pit And The Pendulum, The Mask Of The Red Death and The Cask Of Amontillado struck me as genius. I also never appreciated poetry until reading The Raven; whom now holds a prominent position tattooed on my arm. As a child of the mid nineties, Goosebumps were huge for me. I devoured these books like M&Ms and traded them with friends like Pogs. I now wish I had held on to my originals because now I find myself on ebay trying to find them at decent prices. Such is the life of a book collector. Same goes for the various horror paperbacks from Zebra and Tor I gobbled up in that time. These are also becoming scarce, especially in decent condition. I didnt only read horror though. In fact, one of the most influential books of my childhood was Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. We read it in class in 5th grade and I was entralled by the story. I learned to love books fairly young and that love stuck with me all this time.
My late teens were a little troublesome and not very conducive to this love. I didn’t start actually collecting books until a little over a decade ago, in my early twenties. It started by finding some good deals on some Stephen King books and before I knew it, I had half his works. Now I have almost all of them. After I acquired a really nice leather bound Edgar Allen Poe book, I wanted more fancy leather books and classics. The more I learned about books and their histories the more I wanted for my collection. At first I just wanted certain titles. Now I want first editions, rares, signed copies, manuscripts and proofs. I want historically significant books of philosophy, history and science. I want a personal library to be proud of. It’s become an addiction. I now have doubles and even triples of some titles. I have acquired books that don’t interest me simply because I got a good deal. I have more books than shelf space.
Using what knowledge I have, I’m able to spot the deals and build value. It’s slow going, but worth it. Any profit made tends to siphon back into my collection, feeding the addiction. The culmination of activities spawned the idea of giving it a name. I wanted something simple. Something that represented my preferred genre. Something that would make a good “.com”. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided upon “Darkshelf”, simply because my bookshelf is comprised of mostly “dark” works. To me, the name brings about an image of a dark, musty corner in an old library. Where one would be apt to find a ancient copy of the Necronomicon, covered in dust and spiderwebs. Darkshelf has a double meaning of sorts. It started simply with an Instagram account of that name. I had made several posts before even telling my wife about it. Her being a avid reader and a bit of a collector herself, she was super supportive. I employed my friend, a local tattoo artist, to draw me up a unique logo. With a name, logo and a few social media accounts, Darkshelf was born.
Through interest and hobby, we started making bookmarks and selling them on etsy. The creative spark continued and we’re now able to make all kinds of stuff. Mugs, decals, shirts, sweaters, hats, koozies, whatever. It’s nice have a bit of diversity in products aside from just selling old books. It also allows us to give value to our customers via freebies and serves to further the brand.
Now that we have products, web presence and a brand, we just had to file the right paperwork and we have a legitimate business. It isn’t much, but I’m finally a business owner. For most of my life, whether out of financial restrictions, fear of failure, or simple laziness, that entrepreneurial spirit was stifled and I just never got it together. Until now…
The financial restrictions were easy enough to overcome once I realized that I didn’t need a lot of money to start this kind of business. I was always under the assumption that you needed tens of thousands of dollars to even begin to start a business. But businesses don’t have to be huge, immediately profitable, or even have a storefront in the beginning. All you really need is an idea of what you want your company to be, what you want to do and what your goals are; along whatever extra income you can set aside. A little for the government filings, a little for equipment, a little for supplies. All over the course of several months. For Darkshelf, that wasn’t a whole lot. I now set aside a bit of money to buy inventory a few times a month, a task I fully enjoy, and with smart purchases come decent profits. Darkshelf is far from being profitable, as I still have a bit of overhead, but its not a sinking ship.
It took a long time to get past the fear of failure. That was easily the hardest hurdle to overcome. It’s not even simply a fear of failure; but of ridicule and mockery. Years of feeling small and inferior and those feelings being reinforced by toxic people in my life took their toll. From bullies and bad teachers in my younger years to fake friends and an oppressive ex-wife later on, they all took their pound of flesh, their own little piece of my self worth. I’ve made great strides in overcoming this. With the invaluable help of good friends and an amazing wife I’ve been able to extract positive change of the past decade. I no longer fear the perspective of others, I have self worth, and no longer fear failure. Failure is an inevitable and important part of life. As Thomas Wayne told Bruce “why do we fall?” “to learn to pick ourselves back up”. Besides, if you do what you love, there is not much to fail at.
I still battle with laziness I guess. Though I think I’m getting better every day. I try to keep the business organized as much as possible because it keeps me productive. If my work space is in shambles I start to feel like the business is as well. I keep notes and started to schedule my administrative tasks as well, especially where the website is concerned.
If you’re reading this, and got this far, know that I appreciate you for even bothering. Darkshelf is really only about 6 months old at time of writing this and has a very long way to go. Keep checking back with us, we are always adding new books and products and I have a long list of blog topics to cover here on the website.