BookThink, now in our 16th year, is a leading resource provider for online and open shop book dealers and book collectors. Resources include:
- The BookThinker, a free twice monthly newsletter addressing a wide range of bookselling topics.
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- Moderated book forums; an extensive library of active and pertinent book-related links; book and bookseller product reviews; interviews with authors and other notables; and tutorials on practical book repair, grading, terminology, buying for resale, selling books online and off, building a bookseller's reference library and more.
#180 28 May 2019
Two feature articles appear today - a review autograph dealer Stephen Koschal's new book, Authenticity for Sale, Exposing the Incompetence in Autograph Authentication, the Importance of Choosing the Right Autograph Dealer and my own take on an alarming trend in the interior décor biz, namely, shelving books backwards.
Matters of Signature Authentication
The topic of signature authentication comes up perennially, and two questions in particular repeat themselves: 1. How do I know if my signature is genuine? 2. Do I need a Certificate of Authenticity? Though we have covered this ground more than once at BookThink ...
Shelving Books Backwards
I've put this off as long as I could. For a few years now there's been a growing trend to shelve books backwards - and it's become epidemic, especially on TV shows that focus on home decor. Some contend that ...
It's getting close to year's end, and some of you might be thinking about a purchase or two that couldmitigate some of your tax consequences next year. If you're operating a bookselling business, any purchase you make from BookThink can be written off as a business expense. To this end ...
The Death of the Forum?
I can't begin to count the number of booksellers who have lamented the death (or decline) of online forums. Sure, there are other ways to connect with our fellow booksellers - book fairs, Facebook, etc. - but you and I know it's just not the same. Perhaps this trend is no more apparent than on ...
I attended an estate sale a few days ago - thirtysomething miles away but an hour-and-a-half drive. I suppose I need to get used to this, the breathtaking traffic in the DC area. If nothing else, it slashes the number of sales I can get to in a morning. In this case it was only two. The first sale was … interesting on several counts ...
Tactics for Establishing Contacts
I was thinking back today - way back - and in all my years as a bookseller, I can't recall doing business with a single liquidator who knew much about books.Oh, there were two who hired so-called book specialists to price their books, but it didn't take long to discover that neither of them had a grasp of more thana few niches - and were clueless about most everything else. I'll never forget how one of them ...
From the Editor
About a month ago I completed a move to another state. It's been a crazy year, and, in a perverse sort of sense, moving fit right into the craziness. The huge downside to moving has been losing all the local contacts I had spent many years cultivating (and befriending). The upside is that I'm now planted in an area that's well known for its enhanced inventory opportunities ...
Estate Sale Strategies for Booksellers
Experienced booksellers who depend on local estate sales, auctions, etc., for inventory acquisition no doubt have proven strategies for maximizing their efforts to grab the good stuff amidst competing booksellers, especially when both other booksellers and books are many. Sometimes it's an all-out athletic event, sometimes less challenging, but, if you're new to the game, some sort of strategic approach to a roomful of books is helpful. Mine is more or less three-pronged.
Another installment of BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling today - the 8th group of five. Note to subscribers: Chapter 19 - Building Value Into Books - of BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling was delivered recently. If you didn't receive your copy, please check your spam folder first. If it's not there, email me at email@example.com and I'll get it to you ASAP.
BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling: The Eighth Five
When I first started selling books on eBay eons ago, almost nobody posted photos with their descriptions, and those that did most often took photos with conventional cameras, had the film developed by a third party and scanned the resulting prints into their computers. It was a multi-step process - both time consuming and expensive. I didn't bother. Then digital cameras arrived ...
There are numerous things that betray the amateur - or inexperienced - bookseller as an amateur. Often the description alone gives it away via exposing a lack of command of bookselling terminology. Or not using something resembling the Standard Format. But perhaps just as often it's what's not in the description.
From the Editor
No question there are significant advantages to specialty bookselling. For one thing, it presents you with the opportunity - maybe I should call it a requirement - to truly know your subject, and when you do know it, you can consistently get the best prices for your stuff. It also enables you to focus your efforts on inventory acquisition. We live in a time when ...
Surf's Up!: Approaching a Bookselling Specialty
Confession: I have never in my life been on a surf board, but surfing has always intrigued me, and somewhere along the way it's become one of my cluster of bookselling specialties. Perhaps being born in California has had something to do with it, but I know there's more to it than that. In his introduction to 200 Years of Surfing Literature: An Annotated Bibliography, Steve Pezman captures some of the mystique of early surfing: " ... the numbers of surfers grew increasingly noticeable. But even as our numbers grew, the ride itself remained an intangible ...
As my family and friends know, this has been, health-wise, a difficult year for me, and in a sense it began in November, 2016 when I contracted a strep infection followed closely on its heels by a bout with bronchitis that would persist for many months. This triggered, in turn, three ER visits, four EKG's and numerous additional tests along with visits to various specialists in an attempt to diagnose why I was having, among other things, serious low blood pressure episodes. A latest event - this has been especially fun - has involved an elevated PSA. I'm sure that the last thing most of you want to hear is a tale about somebody's health issues, but I'm telling you mine because I feel as though I've let some of you down, maybe more than some, by being slow issuing both free newsletters and paid reports. If there's good news, it's that I think that all of this health junk has been solved, and I feel better than I have in months. I'm also feeling enthusiastic about BookThink - and very much want to get on with things here.
Years ago, the eBay bookseller's forum, aka the BSB, was a fount of useful bookselling knowledge. One of its more prominent contributors often posted what I guess you could call bookselling aphorisms - concisely worded, generally applicable truths about bookselling. One such aphorism, re-posted recently by a surviving BSB member on the "new and improved" (NOT) eBay forum, was the following: "Most new bookdealers burn out within three years ... " I've seen more than a few of them burn out myself over the last, now almost twenty years, but still, some don't. Coincidentally, for those who don't it seems to take a similar period of three or four years for them to actually get it, as in, "Ohhh, now I see what I need to do to make this bookselling thing work."
Experiments in Bookselling: Le Miracle du Professeur Wolmar
When purchasing inventory, no matter what venue it happens in, there is always risk. The best we can do, it seems, is to make educated guesses on what will sell for a profit and hope to be right most of the time. Having access to historical pricing obviously lessens the risk, but collector interest - for that matter, institutional interest - can change at any time, and even what happened yesterday is no guarantee of what will happen again. But there are times when, if you're like me, you take what in gambling parlance is called a flyer. A flyer goes beyond educated guessing and is perhaps better characterized as wild guessing. I like to think that I'm better at this sort of thing now than I once was, if for no other reason than experience seems to enhance my instincts - and taking a flyer on something is almost purely instinctive, if not totally so.
One would think that the passing of an author who wrote a book that, to date, has sold over 50 million copies would merit something more than a yawn, but no fireworks have gone off since Robert James Waller's passing a few days ago. More in today's feature article.
Robert Waller's The Bridges of Madison County: We'll Always Have Paris
Author Robert James Waller passed away on Thursday, March 9. There wasn't much fanfare about it, certainly nothing on the order of a few others recently deceased. Prince, say. Or Arnold Palmer. Typically, authors don't achieve celebrity status, and why should they? At best they lurk in the background while we read - and sometimes get lost in - something they've written, their faces nowhere to be seen. And it doesn't seem to matter much if somebody like Waller penned one of the bestselling novels of all time - The Bridges of Madison County. Over 50 million copies sold to date.
From the Editor
As most of you know, popular movies and television shows often drive sales of associated material - books, for example, magazines, and so on. In the case of the recently concluded History Channel reality show series, The Curse of Oak Island, this phenomenon has certainly been afoot. Today's feature article gets into more detail about this.
Buried Treasure for Booksellers: Oak Island's Money Pit
Perhaps no buried treasure story is more intriguing than the one long circulated about the Money Pit on Oak Island in Nova Scotia - a deep tunnel dug near the shore of the island, presumably in the early 1700's. peculation has it that it was used to bury pirate booty, though other theories abound, including one that a cache of Shakespeare's manuscripts are down there. Through an ingenious system of tunnels ...
So. Another year. BookThink was founded in 2003, nearly 14 years ago, and much in bookselling has changed since then, not the least of which is there's no longer easy money to be made - at least not that I know of. But there is money to be made - still - and it can largely be done without getting up from your chair. Opportunities for purchasing inventory online abound now, and if you find this process at all daunting, let me suggest that you start on a venue that you might already be comfortable with ...
How to Buy Books Online: A Case Study
Though I purchase a significant amount of inventory elsewhere now, I still spend time most days on eBay searching for things I can make a buck on. What makes eBay a good starting point is that you don't have to risk a lot of money. Today's feature article offers a case study on how this can be done even if you've never seen the book you're buying nor heard of its author.
Something I've long observed feedback I've received at BookThink is that there are, more or less, two types of buyers for our reports. There are those who want what I would call hot information - tips - that will help them make fast money. And there are those who realize that this approach to bookselling - scoring big and soon - is little more than a recipe for disillusionment. The latter are more interested in the foundational knowledge required to build a successful business on. Though some of BookThink's reports do emphasize what to buy, I've always attempted to keep most of the focus on what's needed in a more fundamental sense. If you're new to this game, it's important to know that you can succeed - and do it in more than a modest manner - but it's perhaps more important to know that nobody gets there overnight.
Not so many years ago international sales comprised about 25% of my sales. Today it's down to about 15%, but I hear reports from not a few booksellers that their international sales have all but gone away. Today's feature article examines reasons for this and suggests at least a partial solution.
Have Your International Sales Gone Away?: A Packaging Suggestion That Might Turn Things Around
Recently, I participated in a discussion on a bookseller's forum in which somebody declared, "I ship EVERYTHING in a box," then later noted that his packaging cost alone was about a buck a book. A buck a book? This is far from the first time I've heard this sort of thing. The use of boxes by booksellers seems to persist, stubbornly, as though there was something sacred in it. Or that, once one graduates to using boxes exclusively, one has arrived as a bookseller. What a bunch of applesauce.
From the Editor
Just back from vacation, this year to Russia, the Baltics and several Scandinavian countries - and no, not once did I darken the doors of a bookstore. I understand that bookselling is pretty much a 24/7 undertaking for most of us, but I've discovered that it's a good idea (for me) to drop everything remotely related to bookselling for a few weeks once a year and let the world catch up to me. And clear.
A Bookseller at Antiques Roadshow: The "Reality" of Reality TV
Last month I attended a filming session of the long-running PBS series Antiques Roadshow. This was staged in a huge hall at the Orlando Convention Center, and approximately 10,000 people moved through at various times during the day, each bringing one or two items for evaluation. The footage, once edited, will comprise three episodes of the show and be aired sometime next year.
This is something I don't publicize much, but I will today: BookThink has a standing policy of crediting any purchases of BookThink reports you have made in the past toward the purchase of our Kitchen Sink package. Every dollar you've spent, that is, will be deducted from the $179.99 price. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.
What You Might Be Doing Better at Estate Sales: The Power of Attitude Adjustment
Do you depend on estate sales for part or much of your inventory? If so, how is it going? Do you enjoy getting up in the middle of the night to be first in line? Once inside, what then? Is it fun, fun, fun battling other booksellers for books? Paying more and more for the books you are able to grab? Or maybe, too often, you come out empty-handed, having burned an entire morning for nothing? Been there. I have felt the pain. But perhaps there is a better way to go about this? Some suggestions in today's feature article.
A Cheap, Safe and Practical Method for Packing Books From Scratch
I was never happy with commercial book boxes. They seldom fit right, aren't sturdy enough and still cost money. Envelopes and bubble mailers were not an option unless I could fit boxes into them, so by minor trial and error I've developed a very simple, common sense, geometrically oblivious method for safely packing books that works within my one man business. My customers have responded quite positively over the years so, even when I came close to purchasing commercial boxes during the most prosperous times, I decided to stick with what works. Plus, the method is inherently friendly to recycling.
BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling Revisited: The Sixth Five
As it is with so many professions, in bookselling there are things that must be done pretty much every day - or at least often. Books to pack and get out the door, sales to attend, emails and phone calls to address and so on. And then there are things that can be put off until there's time to do them, listing books being one of the more crucial activities. But when have you ever arrived at the end of a work day and said to yourself, "My work is done." It isn't done; it can't be. There is always something that is left undone.
Sell many cookbooks? If you don't, it's likely you're leaving money on the table again and again. Next to Bibles, I consistently come across more cookbooks worth bothering with at sales than anything else. If cookbooks are something you're serious about - or intend to be - there are some bibliographies that can prove useful. Today's feature article takes a close at them.
If You're Serious About Cookbooks:
The Essential Bibliographies
When I got into bookselling, I knew next to nothing about cookbooks, nor was I overly interested in learning about them. But it wasn't long after I began to do market research that my interest perked up considerably. I discovered that there were a handful of cookbooks I encountered at sales time and time again that sold for real money online - $50, $100 (and more) real. In the ensuing years I've continued to learn more about them, and this has genre evolved into one of my specialties. In very recent years I've begun to focus on mixology as well.
Some things in bookselling change; some things, seemingly, never do. One of the changes often cited is that the internet has leveled the playing field among more experienced and less experienced booksellers. Or has it? Today's feature article offers a case study to ponder.
Food Chain Bookselling:
Does It Still Apply?
Take a look at most any book with more than a few copies listed on most any major bookselling venue and, more often than not, you'll see an array of prices - sometimes a dizzying array. There are a number of factors that can explain this, at least potentially. Condition might come to mind first, and it can be a huge factor in some instances, as can the presence or absence of a dust jacket - or other factors that play into the issue of completeness. And one's business model may affect things, say, in the case of a mega-dealer who needs to move stock quickly to keep a business viable, and thus price to sell. And - e-books and POD's are there in spades to complicate things.
Important: BookThink's Kitchen Sink sale will end tomorrow morning, February 1, at 9 am.The Kitchen Sink, otherwise known as everything, includes subscriptions to BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling and BookThink's Author Reports (including the Grosset & Dunlap reports) along with all complete report packages - all Gold Editions, all 50/50's and all Quarterly Market Reports - and any revisions/updates to these reports as they are completed. The subscriptions include all current chapters and reports and additional chapters and reports as they are issued. This is a ton of bookselling content that, if applied, will pay for itself quickly and generate income for years to come. What has been offered at $179.99 for many months now will be slashed to $129.99 - a $50 savings. Click here to purchase it, and everything will be emailed to you as attachments within 24 hours.
Low Cost, Sturdy Shelving for Booksellers
Over three decades ago I walked into a used bookstore in the historic district of a Midwestern town and beheld an extraordinary array of bookcases that shelved what had to be over 100,000 books. I wasn't there to buy books; I'd been called to the scene by the proprietor, who needed even more bookcases. A friend of hers had built the original units but was no longer available, she explained, and, after leading me up to one of them, then asked, "Can you build me something to match this?" "I can," I said, "but I won't."
Today's newsletter isn't a newsletter as such but a sort of addendum to last week's newsletter - namely, some feedback from it. I've put together five representative opinions in the following article, which I think you might find interesting. If you don't know what a bookjacker is, you'll soon find out.
Fraud in bookselling is an age-old issue, and even in our time - a time when it's so much easier to out somebody who isn't doing the right thing - it persists. In today's feature article I present a case study of an eBay seller who has been getting away with murder for years. I would appreciate your feedback.
Fraud in the Book Biz
I'm not much of a policeman. I spend a lot of time buying books on eBay, so it's inevitable that I run across misrepresented books - a lot of misrepresented books. To be charitable, I assume that most of them aren't deliberate misrepresentations, and mostly I just move on when I see them. Even if I felt so inclined, there wouldn't be time to address every last one of them, and if I tried, I'm not sure it would foster much goodwill or even change most seller's practices. I sometimes make an exception when a book is represented, for example, as a First Edition, is anything but, and it's getting bid up and up - and it's clear that the buyer will be hugely over-paying for something that isn't what the seller says it is. Mostly I get polite replies from sellers. Sometimes no reply. Much less often do I get push back. I guess this is some indication that most sellers want to do the right thing. But certain things nag at me some.
2016 has arrived, and with it a fresh start. The primary focus at BookThink will be, as always, on buying and selling books, and several projects now in the planning stages will help the cause. Look for announcements soon.
Low-Cost, Sturdy Shelving for Booksellers
Some of you may recall that, in a former lifetime, I designed and built furniture. For one reason or another, I probably built more shelving - or bookcases - than anything else. After you've built your first 100 or so bookcases, you get a feel for what works and what doesn't; after 1,000, you don't even have to think about it anymore. You just know, usually at a glance, even if you're looking at something you didn't build yourself.
From the Editor
2016 is almost upon us, and how are things looking for you? Are holiday sales brisk? As BookThink moves into its 13th year I can safely report that bookselling is a different game than it was in 2003, but it's a game that can still be won. A few observations in today's feature article.
Looking Ahead to 2016 Bookselling
Several months ago I purchased a turntable for my son's birthday. You can connect it to most anything - computer speakers, TV, whatever. Toss a record on it, and you're ready to go. No expensive components to purchase, and at about $100, not a budget buster. The thing is, though he grew up in a different time, he likes how vinyl sounds, and so do I. So do many of us. But I never anticipated I'd be buying a turntable for any purpose in 2015.
Feedback for the November 22 BookThinker - "Critical Mass Bookselling" - was, let's say, above average, and it pointed to some things I probably should have clarified the first time through. Thus a second look in today's feature article.
A Second, Deeper Look at Critical Mass Bookselling
As these things go, response to the November 22 BookThinker was fairly brisk. When I was writing it - specifically, the article on "critical mass" bookselling - a small voice said, "Maybe you shouldn't use yearbooks as an example without elaborating on it." Based on some of the feedback I received, it appears as though that voice was right.
There are many viable approaches to bookselling, and any one bookseller may not settle on one but take on two or more. I know I do. But one approach that doesn't seem to come up for discussion much is what I call critical mass bookselling - the topic of today's feature article.
Critical Mass Bookselling: In It for the Long Run
Other than buying low and selling high, what, if any, is your strategy for purchasing inventory? One possible approach - and a successful one for at least some booksellers - is to purchase books (as cheaply as possible) with the best Amazon sales rankings. Not so many years ago I knew several booksellers who did this, maintaining inventories of about a thousand books, and they did quite well, achieving turn rates of one quarter to one third monthly. When is the last time you sold one third of your inventory in one month? To be sure, this is short-tail selling on steroids. But wouldn't it be nice to keep your inventory at this level and still make good money? What a time saver it would be! Or would it?
In the process of searching a digitized text, how many times have you received a "no results" reply, even in situations where you know darn well the information you're looking for is in it somewhere? I have, more times than I can count, and it often occurs in situations where there is no alternative source for the information - or at least one that's remotely convenient. If you haven't already noticed, a significant percentage of digitized texts are comprised of poor scans - and are either unusable or nearly so. If you're researching a potentially valuable book in an online bibliography, for example, this can be frustrating because you want very much to maximize its outcome. Fortunately, there is hope, and today's feature article explains why.
Are You Searching Digitized Texts and Coming Up Empty-Handed?
Say what you will about the effect the so-called Digital Revolution has had on the print book marketplace, I for one have found myself accessing digitized books and other publications often of late - for research, mainly - and am thankful that I can. Though far from complete, at least some of the reference materials that booksellers once had to darken doors of libraries to access (or spend big money to acquire) are now freely available in various digitized formats at the Hathi Trust Digital Library, the Internet Archive, etc., not to mention numerous institutions. Better yet, unlike print content, these publications are readily searchable. Or are they?
From the Editor
Fun with Bookselling proverbs again: 21-25. Part I of BookThink's Bookseller's Guide to Grosset & Dunlap has been delivered to subscribers of our Author Reports. If you didn't receive your copy, please check your spam folder first. If it's not there, email me at email@example.com and I'll get it to you ASAP. This report is also available for purchase here at $19.99.
BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling Revisited: The Fifth Five
John Carter, of ABC for Book Collectors notoriety, defines a reader's (or reading) copy as follows: "A usually apologetic but occasionally slightly defiant term meaning that the book is not in collector's condition. A reading copy will probably look worse than a second-hand copy but better than a working copy." In turn, he defines a working copy as "the humblest term in the vocabulary of condition." There's not much to add to this other than to note that ...
Part I of BookThink's Bookseller's Guide to Grosset & Dunlap has been delivered to subscribers of our Author Reports. If you didn't receive your copy, please check your spam folder first. If it's not there, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get it to you ASAP. This report is also available for purchase here at $19.99.
Cataloging Dates: A Primer
It's funny how often learning a trade involves unlearning. One of the first things I "learned" as a bookseller was that Grosset & Dunlap was a reprint house, and I labored under this half-truth for perhaps a year or so before I unlearned it. Of course, Grosset & Dunlap has issued countless reprints over the years, but, as booksellers, if we don't familiarize ourselves with the many First Editions they published as well, we're likely to miss some important opportunities.
Sales booming? Then you can safely pass on today's newsletter. If not, I invite you to accompany me on a recent trip to locate a book for my P.G. Wodehouse collection. As mentioned below, Chapter 17 of BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling will be delivered to subscribers tomorrow. Subscribe now and receive all 17 chapters plus all remaining chapters as they are issued.
100 Reasons Your Book Won't Sell: And Somebody Else's Copy Will
So, maybe not quite 100 reasons it won't sell, but there are so many possibilities that sometimes it feels like it. Speaking of 100, you've probably heard this here at least 100 times before in one form or another: The quickest way to learn how to sell books is to buy books. I'm going to take my bookseller's hat off today and take you on a buying trip to show you what I mean from a buyer's point of view.
BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling Revisited: The Fourth Five
When I first started selling books, I sold on eBay only. Then Amazon. Then other venues. As I added venues, I enjoyed a bump in sales every time, and later, I began to sell books off-site, by other means (see #18), and experienced more bumps. But multiplying footprints isn't the entire story. If you look back over the past twenty or so years, it's clear that ...
From the Editor
When is the last time you heard another bookseller complain about not having enough books to list? When is the last time you complained about it? Never? If anything, the story is more likely to be, "I have all of these darn books I haven't listed yet, and I keep buying more." And, so often, the spouse is complaining that books are taking over the house. If this sounds familiar to you, and especially if you're experiencing a downturn, it might be a good time to look at some reasons for not listing a book at all. There are many, and it can pay to heed them. Today's feature article discusses five of the most common.
Five Reasons to Think Twice About Listing a Book
I have a question to pose: If you knew that the last book you listed will never sell in your lifetime, how would you feel? I concede that the process of listing some books can be an educational experience in itself, and if this is the case, okay, time well spent. But how often is it? A more specific question: If you knew that only five or ten of the last hundred books you listed would sell in your lifetime, how would you feel? I don't know about you, but I'd be thinking long and hard about the criteria I was using for listing books, not to mention buying them. Time is too precious not to.
For me, sales are usually somewhat quieter over the summer, and so it naturally becomes a time to do things that have been put off some. Like re-pricing. I'm not a bookseller who re-prices much. Once a year at most, and even then it goes pretty quickly because not too much needs to be adjusted. Almost from the beginning I've attempted to acquire inventory that doesn't need to be re-priced, though sometimes doing this is easier said than done. Often this means listing books that are uncommon, much sought after or are special in some other way - signed books, for example. If you're re-pricing a lot, have you considered why?
Ultimately, if you don't learn how to do at least some basic book repairs, you'll be leaving a lot of money on the table. And this is the purpose of BookThink's Bookselling Hack series - to show you how to accomplish them as competently and efficiently as possible. Today's hack - #3 in the series - demonstrates how to repair stapled booklets that are falling apart.
BookThink's Bookselling Hack #3: Replacing Booklet Staples
Replacing a booklet's staples might seem like a repair that anybody with half a brain could accomplish without referring to a tutorial, but if the staples have rusted and eroded the paper they're stapled to, the approach isn't as straightforward.
So, how has bookselling been going for you lately? For many years I've made a point of reading and sometimes posting on bookselling forums to help me stay in touch with what's happening in the trade. Also, via BookThink, I hear from many of you. It seems that things are somewhat more difficult for some of you now, but still - still - there are those of you who are doing just fine. There are reasons for this. This is why BookThink is still here.
BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling Revisited: The Second Five
Okay, so, whomever gets to the book first gets the book, assuming it's priced right. If it's an estate or FOL sale, get there at five or so in the morning so as to be first or near first in line. If it's a garage sale that's starting at eight and, to boot, states "no early birds" - well, you don't have to play this game long to see that ...
From the Editor
Bookselling hack #2 is up today, and the topic is spine roll. This is usually a straightforward fix, but the issue of binding tightness does come into play.
BookThink's Bookselling Hack #2
Spine roll, or spine cocking, is seen more often in softcover books than hardcover - and perhaps most often in comic books. For collectors it's a moderately serious fault. To give you a feel for how serious, a rolled spine automatically reduces the comic book standard CGC grade, assuming no other issues, from 10.0 (Mint) to 4.0 (Very Good).
Certainly bookselling is much about acquiring knowledge. The more you know, the better, right? Right. But there are intangibles too, and today's feature article takes a look at some of them.
BookThink's Proverbs of Bookselling Revisited
Have you ever noticed how some booksellers seem to succeed almost effortlessly and others have to grind it out - and usually come up short? As much as I emphasize the need to acquire knowledge here - and this is crucial - it's important, I think, to acknowledge that there's more to it than this. There's wisdom as well. Wisdom isn't what you know; it's what you are.
The word "hack," which has numerous, often pejorative meanings, has taken on a somewhat more hip meaning recently: a quick, often clever solution to a problem, as in, say, a hard-boiled egg hack, which might show one how to peel one without stripping half of the darn thing away with the shell. There are certainly no shortage YouTube tutorials that demonstrate solutions for just this, perhaps my favorite being the so-called Ninja method. Well, booksellers have problems like anybody else, so I thought it might be useful, occasionally, to offer some bookselling hacks in the BookThinker. Today's hack demonstrates a somewhat quirky but effective approach to repairing a softcover book whose cover is, let's say, mangled.
BookThink's Bookselling Hack #1
One of the first big buys I made years ago was a library belonging to a Professor of Spanish literature. No surprise, there were many Spanish language books, and many of these were decades-old trade softcovers published in Spain and various Latin American countries in Central and South America. Most of the text blocks were sewn, so they were pretty sound overall, but many of the covers were in various stages of disrepair.
We've been publishing the BookThinker now for some 11 years. In cyber-time, this seems like an eternity. So much has changed since 2003. But not everything has, and in antiquarian bookselling, given that it's a centuries old trade that's more about selling older things than newer, it's no surprise that most of the changes we've seen in recent years have been associated with what we sell, not how we sell it.
Booksellers and Book Fairs
Like hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other booksellers, I work out of my home, toiling in relative obscurity. While it's nice to work from home - I can work around my kids' schedules and other family demands - it can sometimes feel as if I'm working in a vacuum. I don't get to meet my customers and find out more about their book interests. I don't often get the opportunity to develop relationships with other booksellers, something that is crucial for success in the antiquarian book trade.
The 12th Annual Houston Book Fair
On Saturday, November 8th, I participated in the 12th annual Houston Book Fair. It was my first fair. Set up was Friday. At CABS they told us that no matter how many book fairs we do, we will always be anxious about at least two things: (1) low or no sales;(2) fellow dealers will think my stock stinks. To assist in ameliorating those fears the faculty gave us a detailed list of what we would need to set up and strongly encouraged us to prepare a mock set up at home for our very first show. I over prepared and am glad I did.
From the Editor
Part II of my two-part series on Time Magazine is up today. The focus is on high spots.
A Bookseller's Guide to Time Magazine: Part II
As noted in Part I, Time Magazine has been publishing for decades, so it's no surprise that there are many high spots. Below is a sampling chosen more or less at random to illustrate various marketplace phenomena, all of which meet BookThink's worth-bothering-with ($50+) criteria in today's marketplace.
At BookThink I've tried as much as possible to focus on "the how" of bookselling and not so much "the what," though the what has certainly been addressed here over the years - sometimes, I admit, at the expense of the how. Perhaps this is because so often booksellers new to the business ...
A Bookseller's Guide to Time Magazine
Along with the countless books that once put money in our pockets but no longer do are countless magazines - especially magazine lots. Many of us sell what we know, and when I first got into this business, having designed and built furniture for many years, I knew woodworking magazines, and I bought and sold them successfully. Time was when ...
If you've visited BookThink's forum recently, you've no doubt noticed a significant increase in activity, also a new sub-forum - eBay East. This was installed to accommodate refugees from the eBay bookseller's forum, or BSB, who have been exiting in the wake of major consolidations of this and ...
A Bookseller's Guide to Grosset & Dunlap
There's probably not a bookseller alive who hasn't been tripped up by a Grosset & Dunlap publication, whether it took the form of misrepresenting a reprint as a First Edition, mistaking a First Edition for a reprint or, in an attempt to identify a publication date, confusing a copyright date with a publication date....
A late start this month. I've been hard at work on an upcoming two-part Author Report. As mentioned at the outset of this series, some of these reports will feature topics other than authors. In this case, it's a publisher. For most of us, it's not long into bookselling before we encounter difficulties with the notorious "reprint" house Grosset & Dunlap ...
Searching for the First Fifty Newbery Medal Books
Beginning in 1922 the Newbery Medal has been awarded annually by the American Library Association "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." The Newbery Medal, a writer's analog to the Caldecott Medal, is awarded by the ALA to the illustrator of the most distinguished American picturebook....
From the Editor
First published on October 21, 1940, Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls remains enthusiastically collected to this day, nearly 74 years later, as does, for that matter, most any Hemingway title. But there are several things that make this particular novel a topic of special interest for booksellers. First, if we get out much ...
It's been some time since I've previewed a new chapter in BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling, but it seemed appropriate to do it today because this particular chapter - Chapter 15 - could potentially make a big difference to booksellers who are having difficulty finding quality inventory at a good price. Believe it or not, books that can be bought low and sold significantly higher on eBay are there for the taking every day - if you know how to go about it....
Chapter 15 Preview: An eBay Buying Tutorial
Anybody who knows anything about eBay knows that, if you can count on anything, you can count on change. Nothing ever stays the same, not even the logo. This was not a venture that started with what you could call ... vision. Pierre Omidyar simply gave a bright idea a shot in the 1990's; it caught on almost immediately - fortuitously, I'd say - it grew explosively, becoming so big so fast that it seemed at times hopelessly out of control. Those of us who were on board early will recall ...
Previous discussions of Vogue Magazine at BookThink have focused on established collectible back issues, but a magazine with Vogue's prestige, not to mention that of noted photographer Annie Liebowitz, can, at times, play into the hands of the strike-while-the-iron-is-hot school of bookselling, and profits can be had by those who act in a timely fashion. Such will likely be the case with ...
How to Live With a Bitch and Other Herter's Collectibles
It's near axiomatic that the best reference books - and this also applies more specifically to book-related reference books - are inevitably those in which the author is both present and witty, at least on occasion. The explanation is obvious: It brings otherwise dead content alive. Take English usage. We'd be hard put, I think, to come up with a subject that shows less promise for entertainment, and yet ...
Today I'm reprising something I did early last month with book club sets. This time it's cookbooks - and not just any cookbooks; very common and very profitable cookbooks. One cookbook is showcased in this issue's feature article, and nine more will be available by emailing me at email@example.com and requesting an invoice. Lots of money to be made here....
Bread and Butter Cookbooks
One genre of bookselling that I came somewhat reluctantly to was cookbooks. The reason was simple: I was far more interested in so-called guy things. Military, sports, etc. I say "somewhat" reluctantly because, when I saw, early on, those Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book's sell for $50, $100 or more on eBay, it got my attention ...
From the Editor
As it is with authors, we booksellers have to start somewhere, and overnight success rarely happens. Years of apprenticeship is the more likely path, as is selling lower-dollar material at the outset. However, even if you aren't ready to buy and sell the bigger stuff yet, there are some maybe-not-so-obvious things you can do on the edges of the higher-dollar marketplace than can accelerate your progress. This is the topic of today's feature article....
Hidden Profits in Public Places
Everybody has to start somewhere, and typically, with the inevitable exceptions, those few who become famous for what they do don't do so overnight. Years of obscurity often precede their making it big. As booksellers, we can cash in on this phenomenon - if we know what to look for and if we, in turn, market things so as to...
For many of us, book club editions, with few exceptions, don't figure into things. Sure, we might grab the occasional BCE of The Old Man and the Sea, Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird, perhaps a few others, butit falls off pretty quickly after that. The money just isn't there, right? But perhaps it doesn't have to fall off quite so quickly. There may be more opportunities out there than you think....
Book Club Sets
I've talked about something I call bread-and-butter bookselling more than once but without going into much detail. By "bread-and-butter" books, I mean those books that we not only happen upon frequently but also sell quickly - and for money worth bothering with, say, $30, $50, $100 or more. These aren't blockbuster outcomes but ...
As promised in the forum recently, I'm offering to any and all a free sample HTML template today that can be used to list books on eBay from The Art of Books - a much quicker, simpler task than listing on eBay directly...
An eBay Listing Template for the Art of Books
As a rule, eBay doesn't make things easy for us, and a recently introduced requirement that all listings include at least one photo has made it more difficult yet for otherwise would-be eBayer's who list many hundreds if not thousands of books on other, more user-friendly venues, none of which require any photos. Yet. But it isn't just the photos that make selling on eBay daunting. Listing books without photos is itself a major time hog. And it's a shame because, if you could ...
Long time, no see. I've discovered that one of the difficulties of going solo now - producing content, coding, distributing email newsletters, etc. - is that it doesn't leave much room to get these things done if something else comes up. And two things came up in the latter half of this year - a month's-long project to add photos to every last book I had listed and an astonishingly busy holiday season - bookselling, that is. I'd like to think they are related, and I'll elaborate on this in the following article.
How Much Do Photos Matter? Adding Them Could Dramatically Impact Your Business
When I first started selling books in the late 1990's, I used eBay Auctions exclusively - and added no photos - and though many sellers listed items without photos in eBay's early days, the introduction of affordable digital cameras and desktop scanners soon changed that. By 2000 or so sellers who didn't use photos were the exception, and even I was busy snapping away ...
From the Editor
I don't have anything brilliant to say today by way of introducing the feature article. It's about my cat.
Does "early" mean anything to you in bookselling? It does to collectors, and whatever means something to collectors means something to us. More about this in today's feature article.
I Knew Her When: Taking Aim at "Early" in Bookselling
After doing two consecutive articles about the aging bookseller, perhaps it won't be such a concession for me to admit that, when I was in high school, Barbra Streisand was just getting traction with her acting/singing career. I know - the 1960's! I mention this because ...
Part II of a two-part series today on the "old" bookseller. This time it's a look at mental fitness as it pertains to bookselling....
The Old Bookseller, or How Can We Best Age in the Trade? Part II, Mental Fitness
A month or so ago I was at a sale liquidating the estate of a recently deceased, eightysomething widow. There were books in every room, thousands of them overall, and surprisingly, most of them were relatively new. Topics were varied, but there was an especially strong emphasis on spiritual development with, happily, many occult titles present. There were also ...
Here's an old saw: If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. And it's certainly as true for booksellers as it is for anybody else. One of the more common stereotypes of booksellers is some old dude sitting behind a counter with his legs up, reading, occasionally leaning forward to ring up a sale. But we all know that bookselling is much more demanding than that ...
The Old Bookseller, or How Can We Best Age in the Trade? Part I, Physical Fitness
You can learn a lot about people if you go to estate sales, especially if you're a bookseller, because books in particular, observed in a group context, can reveal much about their owners. Also, in most cases, because estate sales typically function to liquidate estates of recently deceased people, you can learn even more about ...
From the Editor
We charge for some things at BookThink; other things we give away. The criteria is usually this: The more potential that content has for helping others make money, the more likely we are to charge for it. Today, however, I'm going to make an exception ...
A Bibliographical Key to
Gone With the Wind
... inevitably, most books with universal appeal spawn bibliographical complexity. Later printings and editions arrive quickly, and textual changes are usually ongoing. In the case of Gone With the Wind, though editorially sound at the outset, minor errors persisted through many printings before ...
Some musings today on the future of books. Remember when vinyl was declared dead? There is a lesson in this. Look for it in the feature article....
Is Vinyl Forecasting the Future of Print Books? Sales Are Surging, By the Way
I was talking to a friend recently about print books and asked her if she had ever placed her hand on a page after reading an especially moving passage, almost as if to ... hold it. "Yes!" she said. "Many times." Well, I have too. Many times. Then I asked her if she had ever done something similar to a computer monitor or the screen of any device she was reading a book on. "No." Same here, no - heck no, in fact - though we do ...
A short feature article today, and the topic is, gasp, when it might make sense to sell lower-dollar books. You aren't hearing things; that came out of my mouth. I see three good reasons to, actually, and who knows? There might be more....
When It Makes Sense to List Lower-Dollar Books: Yes, It Can!
For all the preaching we do at BookThink urging you to sell higher-dollar, collectible books, it's easy to forget that there are occasions when selling lower-dollar books makes sense - in fact, I can think of three good reasons to, starting with ...
Part II of a two-part Easton Press series today, this time some discussion about marketing to maximize outcomes in the midst of a marketplace downturn. If you missed Part I, click here. Also today, a primer on pagination. Few booksellers paginate ...
A 2013 Guide to Buying and Selling the Easton Press: Part II, Marketing to Maximize Outcomes
So, let's say you've gotten in too deep on some Easton's, maybe paid $10 apiece for a box of ho-hum titles from the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written series, and closed eBay auctions suggest that you will be working hard just to get your money back, even though yours are in fantastic condition. If this is the case, would you be interested in a proven marketing method that will increase your outcomes to $25 to $40 for common Easton titles?
A Primer on Pagination: If You Can't Collate, Consider Paginating
Machine made paper produced in continuous rolls was introduced in the early 19th century and quickly replaced handmade paper as the publisher's preferred method of production. At about the same time (though recent scholarship suggests it was somewhat earlier) so-called edition bindings came into being - specifically, mass-produced casings that were applied to mass-produced text blocks. There are two important things to take away from this....
From the Editor
First, buying and selling the Easton Press. If you're a bookseller, you've seen Easton's everywhere, and if you're like most booksellers, you grab them enthusiastically because there is a ready market for them. It's an easy flip. And sometimes it's a big payday. But in recent years values have come down considerably for many titles...
A 2013 Guide to Buying and Selling the Easton Press: Part I, What to Look For
As it plays out with so many things in the marketplace, Easton Press books, once an automatic buy for booksellers at $5 or $10 - no matter what they were - no longer are. These days you have to pick your spots, carefully. There are several reasons for this, and certainly one of them is the downward trend in prices for commodity books generally. Yes, commodity books. Most Easton Press examples are commodity books ...
How to Photograph Books: Part V, How to Reduce the Impact of Silvering
Several silver processes have been devised and used over the years for photographic purposes, beginning in the late 19th century and extending well into the 20th century. As prints made with silver-coated paper age, there is a tendency for the silver to become visible, often near the edges, and exhibit a metallic sheen. The term for this is silvering, and, in an advanced stage, it can all but destroy a photo's value. And sometimes ...
Identifying First Editions is an all-important skill for booksellers to develop, but we all know how maddening it can be at times - and sometimes how impossible it seems when there are no published bibliographies of the author in question. Absent a bibliography, however, there are several other approaches one can take to get the job done. Today's feature article explores one in detail that I've found to be very productive....
First Edition Identification: When All Else Fails, Look at the Publisher's History
Recently, I acquired a book by an author who was a household name in the early part of the 20th century but has long since been forgotten - James Oliver Curwood. Curwood was not only prolific, penning some 26 books in 19 years; he was also popular. One novel in particular, The River's End, sold over 100,000 copies, and according to Publishers' Weekly, it finished fourth overall on the 1920 bestseller list. Seven other Curwood titles also ...
Book Collecting Byways: Show and Tell Time
If you're a book collector like me, I'm guessing you do at least some collecting outside the box - that is, occasionally you acquire something that isn't a book but is book related, and it becomes a valued part of your collection. Today I thought I'd do some show and tell, that is, share a few items I've acquired over the years....
In early BookThink years I wrote often about selling on eBay because that's where just about everybody sold their books. This is hardly the case anymore. As a result, I can't recall the last time I published a "Selling on eBay" article for BookThink. But, as I was looking over this year's sales figures, it occurred to me that maybe I have been greatly remiss in not offering our readers a proven method for improving their sales ...
Selling on eBay: Alive and Kicking or Left for Dead?
At every month's end, I note what sold and where. "Where" is of special interest to me because it shows me how to best allocate time and energy going forward. In January, for example, based on my year-end stats, I decided to experiment with adding photos to my Abebooks listings. I'd crunched some numbers, and it was clear that my sales-to-fees ratio was significantly lower on Abebooks than it was on ...
Mobile Bookselling: Where We Are Headed?
Heave you heard? Desktop PC sales are not quite in meltdown but are in fast decline. The hot trends are small - and more recently mobile. And things are already so far along that there is no reason that a bookselling business could not be run entirely with a smartphone! A few years ago this would've seemed incomprehensible, but now I can't think of a single barrier....
First, apologies for the space between newsletters. 2013 has been good to me so far. I've had three of my best months ever as a bookseller, and this gobbled up some serious time - not only because there were more orders to process but also because my bookselling strategy has long been thus:....
Build Your Bookselling Business with an Email List
Every bookseller has a contact list of customers, even if it's buried in an email inbox, a pile of invoices, or a Twitter stream. Have you been using that list to grow your business? Or have you been putting off the idea of a newsletter because you're not sure what to write, hoping book collectors will find you through social media or your online listings? Customers may find you, but you're missing out on repeat sales if you don't keep in touch with them....
Is It Time to Pop for an Electric Eraser?
In preparing for a article I wrote years ago, I tested a number of erasers, one of which was the Sakura Electric Eraser, which I was allowed to try out in an art supply store. I didn't buy one at the time, but in retrospect I think I should have. Why? Have any of these things ever happened to you?....
From the Editor
Bookselling is less profitable today than it was a few years back. True or false? For the sake of argument, let's say it's true, and we wouldn't have to look far for reasons why. The economy. Competition for inventory. Too many books for too few buyers. E-books. Postage increases. Fee increases. And so on. But even if these were valid reasons, guess what? Tons of books are getting sold every day, still, and prices for some of them are moving north, not south. Somebody is selling them, you see. Somebody is making money at this game....
How to Improve Your Bookselling Business in 2013
Today I'm going to offer something for discouraged booksellers (or booksellers who are doing fine but want to do better): 25 different things you can do in 2013 to grow your bookselling business. Not all of these will apply to everybody because some of you are already doing them (or in some cases don't need to do them at all), but take a look and you might see something that will make a difference....
Top 100 Collectible Picturebooks
Stan Zielinski's series on the top 100 collectible children's books continues today. Part II looks at the "Nearly No Brainers" - those books which didn't make the top 25 but are still highly sought after. Click here if you missed Part I, and look for Parts III and IV in upcoming issues....
To some, I suppose, reading book collector and/or bookseller autobiographies/biographies (including books about notable collections) doesn't sound like the most thrilling way to spend an evening, but I highly recommend it if you love books, also if you want to learn more about bookselling at the first tier. These books can ...
Top 100 Collectible Picturebooks
Over the next month or so BookThink will be publishing a series of articles by collector Stan Zielinksi, author of the popular reference, Children's Picturebooks, that will present what he has determined to be the top 100 collectible children's books and his rationale for choosing them. Even if children's books are not your specialty, there is much ...
I'm pleased to announce that BookThink's popular First Edition Library Checklist has been reformatted to PDF and now includes thumbnail photos of cover art for all FEL titles. The FEL, for those not familiar with it ...
How to Photograph Books: The Lean, Mean Durability of Paint Shop Pro 7
I've written several book photography tutorials in past years, one offering image editing techniques that can improve your photographic output, but I've never recommended specific image editing software. More often than not, software is something that continuously improves as it progresses through versions ...
I have two sons who work for Home Depot. This outcome does not seem accidental to me. Early on Home Depot positioned itself clearly as a do-it-yourself resource, and when all three of my sons were growing up, they watched me first hand live a do-it-yourself life - teaching myself how to design and build ...
BookThink and the Mind of Man: Part II
There are occasions in bookselling when it's helpful to think outside the box. For example, when seeking out information on bookselling, what's the first thing most of us do? Turn to an online resource - Google, Wikipedia, bookselling forums, etc. Unfortunately ...
From the Editor
Now and again, I've started this column with the question, "How are sales?" Or, along the same lines, "Have you found anything good lately?" In a sense, even though I'm guilty of asking them myself, these questions may throw too much emphasis on things that are out of our direct control. We can't force sales to happen, for example ...
BookThink and the Mind of Man: Part I
One of the most valuable books booksellers can add to their reference libraries is a book I have never mentioned at BookThink, let alone featured in our somewhat irregular series "Building a Bookselling Reference Library." It's not an obviously useful reference like, for example, Zempel and Verkler's First Editions: A Guide to Identification, and ...
Well, guess who. It's been a few months, I'd say - see today's article for at least a partial explanation - and the move to a new host has been completed. BookThink is back in action, including the forum. Thanks to a forum update, better security measures are in place that should block the bots, and forum registration is an easy process ...
Nine Years of BookThink: So, what's Next?
BookThink launched on September 1, 2003. If you're counting, that's nine years, and nine years is a long time in these here cyber-parts. At a rate of three or four newsletters a month, each containing two to three articles, I guess we're looking at over 1,000 articles total now, not to mention many dozens of ...
We don't often reprise things here, but occasionally there's good reason to. Now is one of those times because we've recently lost a literary treasure in Ray Bradbury. Science Fiction Editor Timothy Doyle interviewed Bradbury for BookThink several years ago. Following is Tim's eulogy and the original interview.
Ray Bradbury: A Eulogy and Interview
I've thought of Ray often over the years since I interviewed him for BookThink back in 2006. Coincidentally, I started reading a book of his just a few days ago - Green Shadows, White Whale - so he has been especially on my mind recently. And whenever I've thought of him, it was always with a warm feeling of pleasure that he was still with us, and still writing. Ray Bradbury lived a fabulous life and will live on in his writing, but part of me can't help but feel empty and lonely knowing he is no longer with us ....
Chapter 11 of BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling was delivered to subscribers today. The topic is first edition identification, more specifically, my recommendations for the essential (primarily print) references that booksellers should acquire for their own libraries to assist in identifying first editions. During the process of ...
Among dictionaries, there are but a select few that can actually be read with pleasure, as opposed to opening them only when information about a word is needed. An example that many booksellers are familiar with is John Carter's classic, ABC for Book Collectors. It's not only clear, concise and conversational, but also Carter's presence is in evidence throughout, often manifesting as dry wit. Years ago I ...
From the Editor
One of the later chapters in BookThink's in-progress Guide to Online Bookselling will discuss simple techniques for book repair, and one of these techniques includes a method for straightening warped boards. All that's needed are a few clamps and blocks of wood. Today's feature article - an excerpt from this upcoming chapter - shows you how ....
How to Straighten Warped Boards
One of the most commonly encountered condition issues booksellers face is warped boards. Fortunately, it's also one of the easier problems to solve - as long as you can bring a few simple items and some patience to the task ....
It seems to me, at times, that just about any bookselling question could legitimately be answered, "It depends." It isn't just that there are so many exceptions to rules - though are there ever - it's also that it depends on who is asking the question. That person is best met where they are, I believe, not where they aspire to go to or where you think they should be, so, theoretically, every answer would necessarily be different in some respect. And such is the case even with questions that seem to get asked over and over again. Read more in today's feature article, "Top All-Time FAQ's" ....
Top All-Time FAQ's
Patterns emerge over time. The same questions, mostly from those who aren't booksellers, come up again and again. When it happens on forums, sometimes these questions are patiently answered, sometimes they are dismissed with a suggestion to search the forum archives (because the question has been answered so many times before) - and sometimes the replies aren't so nice ....
I may not make you any money this week, but I hope to give you some hope for the future of the print-format book. There are many reasons, I believe, why print books will be collected for years to come, but one fundamental reason became clear to me after reading a Heritage Press edition of W. Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence ....
Why (Some) Print Books Aren't Going AwayIn recent years many arguments for and against the demise of print books have been advanced. Arguably, some evidence for their demise is in: The growth of digitized books has exploded, after all, and many commodity booksellers have experienced sharp downturns in sales. Still, the antiquarian book trade remains healthy. Some of us believe that it will remain so indefinitely ....
Resuming BookThink's dust series today - Part IV: Design Considerations for Booksellers. If you haven't already noticed, the purpose of this series isn't to present the entire dust jacket shooting match; rather my focus is on dust jacket know-how that will impact your bookselling. Today this should be especially evident because ...
Dust Jackets: A Series (Part IV)
Dust jackets, in the two-panel / spine-panel / two-flap format they have evolved into, may seem simple enough as objects go, but there are actually numerous design considerations that come into play, some of which apply directly to what we as booksellers do. Take size. Well, it just needs to fit the book, right? Certainly in the top-to-bottom sense, yes, though there have been instances when ...
|From the Editor|
How to remove odors from books may not be the number one question booksellers ask, but surely it's in the top ten. Ask it in a forum, and you'll get many different answers - baking soda, cat litter, Febreze, etc. - and I've written here about the use of ozone generators. But sometimes Mother Nature can help the cause. Find out how in today's article.
Mother Nature's "Sun"
What's that line from the Beatle's "Mother Nature's Son"? "Swaying daisies, sing a lazy song beneath the sun." Ah, now that the languorous days of summer are approaching, this might be a good time to discuss a method of deodorizing books that I've had success with and in fact uses Mother Nature. This method takes advantage of a phenomenon you might not be familiar with ....
Available now: BookThink's complete Gold Edition in PDF format. All 59 Gold Editions have been recently updated (and in some cases expanded) and combined into a PDF format e-book. A table of contents presents clickable report titles, and the entire document is searchable by keywords. The PDF format ensures 100% compatibility with all computers, tablets and smartphones, and it's easier than ever to take the Gold Edition with you on scouting trips. Purchase it Here for $59.99.
Dust Jackets: A Series (Part III)
As noted in Part II, dust jackets are not a recent development in publishing, but their acceptance as bibliographical components of books is. For this reason, bibliographers have not troubled themselves with their description in bibliographies with much regularity until fairly recently. Given intense collector interest ...
Our series on dust jackets continues today with a look at early dust jacket history. The primary purpose of this article to offer some historical perspective: When were dust jackets first issued with books, how prevalent were they and when, what were the more common forms they took, etc.? With this perspective, the next time you feel the urge to ...
Dust Jackets: A Series (Part II)
Things usually arise when a need for them arises, and this is as true of dust jackets as anything else. The need for dust jackets arose with the introduction of permanent but less durable cloth bindings in 1820, and their first appearance, so far as we know, occurred a few years later. Prior to this publishers issued books primarily as ...
Issue #6 of BookThink's Booksellers Author Reports, Irma Rombauer (The Joy of Cooking), was delivered to subscribers last week. If you didn't get your copy, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can subscribe or purchase individual copies (PDF or print) here, and please note that new subscribers will receive all reports published to date ...
Dust Jackets: A Series (Part I)
I'm old enough to recall a time when it was common practice to toss out dust jackets - in fact, I often practiced tossing them out myself. When I was teaching myself to write in the 1970's, I put together a pretty substantial library of reference books, and the first thing I did when I acquired a new book was to yank the dust jacket off ...
|From the Editor|
As I mentioned in a recent newsletter, we've been reformatting our 59 Gold Edition reports to the PDF format. This ensures 100% compatibility with all computers, tablets and smartphones. During this process, I've also revised and in some cases supplemented the reports with new content ...
How to Buy and Sell Foreign Books
If you sell books written in only one language, you will effectively eliminate the majority of this planet's books from your pool of potential inventory.Unless you can consistently acquire more quality books in your native language than you know what to do with, therefore, it makes sense to at least consider foreign language books when they become available for sale ...
I'm sure all of you who have been in the bookselling biz for a year or more have compiled a mental list of what I call bread-and-butter books - those books that you not only encounter often but also sell quickly for worthwhile profits. Most of these books won't climb into three figures but many sell in the $30 to $50 range and provide a consistent source of income over time ...
Prophetic Profits: The Most Visible Books Often Display the Least Visible Opportunities
If I were to ask you to name the third most popular poet ever - and I do mean ever - could you? I'll make it easier for you and name the first two: Shakespeare (the Sonnets) and Lao-Tzu (Tao Te Ching). Need more clues? This poet's most widely read book was first published in 1923, selling just over a thousand copies. Today, 89 years later, many thousands of copies sell weekly ...
Today's feature article - an overview of iPad applications I've found useful for scouting - will obsolesce quickly as new applications are inevitably developed, but if nothing else, this will at least give you an idea of how close the tablet has come to replicating a desktop or laptop computer in the field and, in turn, how much more powerful we can be as buyers at sales.
Technology marches on, and to some extent bookselling with it. I began my bookselling life carrying a scouting book with me, and this almost seems quaint now, given the breathtaking capabilities of today's smartphones. The march of technology has steadily headed toward faster and smaller. Faster is always better, but is smaller?
Closing the Gap: Using a Tablet for Scouting: Part I
Not so long ago, in what now seems like the dark ages of online bookselling, most of us who were starting out as booksellers were flying blind. Unless you had deep experience in the trade or had compiled a comprehensive scouting book, there were no resources to help us to make buying decisions in the field. More often than not we were left to our instincts, and mistakes were inevitably made ...
|From the Editor|
There are many knowledgeable booksellers who are ready and willing to teach new or less experienced booksellers a thing or two, sometimes many things - and most of us take advantage of these opportunities. But we booksellers also learn much from collectors; in fact, it's often collectors who are the most generous sharing what they know. Moreover, collectors often author the best reference books ...
A Printing History of Everyman's Library 1906-1982: A Review
Collectors often author the best reference books, perhaps because their passion for what they collect inspires them to lavish as much attention on writing about their collections as they do on the collections themselves. Such is certainly the case with Everyman's Library collector Terry Seymour ...
I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Books that have remained in print over many decades can teach us a great deal about bookselling. Typically, they exist in multiple editions with a wide variety of bindings - and often with continuously revised and expanded (not to mention translated) content ...
Happy New Year all! Feeling energized about bookselling? I am. I'm also looking forward to doing whatever I can to help your bookselling cause during the coming year. We'll continue to publish regular newsletters with just that in mind - click here to subscribe to The BookThinker free - and progress continues on BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling ...
A Review of C. Edgar Grissom's Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography
For decades Audre Hanneman's Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography has served as the standard bibliographic reference for Ernest Hemingway, but as most of us know, bibliographies are perpetual works in progress. Hanneman herself published a 393-page supplement to her own bibliography a brief eight years after its release ...
The lowly book club edition ain't always so lowly. Here are some reasons why from Chapter 9 of BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling: First, some BCE's are in fact the first appearance (sometimes the only appearance) of a title in print - that is, the actual first edition, first printing, first you-name-it. Though not common, coming across this exception can make your day. Example: The First Edition Society of the Franklin Library has published dozens of limited first editions ...
Historical Notes on Book Club Editions
In BookThink's early years there was a running joke, primarily in our forums and entirely at my expense, that I held and treasured a massive collection of microwave cookbooks. My own fault, no doubt, because I often pointed out in articles that there was perhaps no class of books that was more ubiquitous - or more consistently worthless. I suppose similar sport could be had with another class of "worthless" books - book club editions ...
"The Secret" of Bookselling
New Thought is all the rage now. In publishing, manifestations of it are ubiquitous - Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez, Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, to name but two of many fabulously successful books. And prosperity ministries are popping up everywhere, perhaps none more conspicuously than Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, packed to the rafters of Houston's Compaq Center each week ...
The recent death of Apple founder Steve Jobs has had an impact that can be measured in many ways, some obvious, some perhaps not so obvious. For booksellers, the death of any so-called VIP has positive impact measured in dollars and cents. On eBay, publications featuring Jobs, especially early in his career - Macworld, Time Magazine, Wired, etc. - are enjoying strong sales, as we would expect. Not so obvious, perhaps, a publication that at first glance seems to have no connection to Jobs whatsoever - Stewart Brand's The Whole Earth Catalog, published primarily in the late 1960's and early 1970's with occasional reprises until the 1990's ...
Dean Marshall Revisited
It doesn't seem like five years have passed since we featured children's author Clara Deane Marshall (aka, Dean Marshall), who delighted a primarily juvenile female readership with her books some fifty years ago. In my feature article I wrote ...
The Long White Mystery
For much of my childhood and well into my adult life I was burdened with the belief that, if you could trust anything about books, it was that the bad stuff would eventually fall away and only the good stuff would survive - and be far more conspicuous by virtue of its survival. That's how it worked, sure enough, and examples were not hard to come by: Melville was ...
The Long White Month
With the first reading, The Long White Month became my future. Every week my mother took me to the Amory Public Library, housed in two small rooms of City Hall. Soon after graduating from picture books, I ran across the sole Dean Marshall book in the place and checked it out. And kept checking it out ...
Little-Known Granby Author's Books Become Collector's Items
On a warm spring evening on May 22, 1994 the new owners of a cabin on Lake Basile in Granby, Connecticut were sitting on their porch watching the highlights of the water soften into night. No moon, no lights reflecting off the water, only shadows from which the occasional rustle of night creatures were heard. There was a calm quietness, like nature awaiting a storm, when suddenly, "What in the world was that?" An apparition ...
Packaging Books for Pennies
Have you been hearing more calls lately? Recession calls, that is? The latest and perhaps most unequivocal call for a double-dip recession arrived last week from the Economic Cycle Research Institute. The ECRI has its critics, and some dispute its asserted perfect track record for predicting recessions and avoiding false alarms, but it's difficult to dispute Lakshman Achuthan's conviction ...
The Red BookYears ago, in the process of paying for books at a sale, an estate sale liquidator told me, "You know, I can never figure out what books you're going to buy. You always surprise me." To my mind, this was one of the highest compliments anybody ever paid me because it pointed to one thing - specialized knowledge. It's fine and dandy to have and act upon your good instincts when scouting for inventory ...
Buying Book Collections 101: IIIb
In the last installment of this series, I talked about what to expect when you actually go on the house call. I discussed my philosophy on coming up with an offer price, focusing on a collection where you have a good idea of the resale value of the books. I also covered some of the factors that could influence your decision to buy or pass; for instance, the ratio of good books to trash in the collection, and how much work would be involved in dealing with the trash.
Push On, Hit Hard, Follow Through
Chapter 7 of bookseller H.P. Kraus's autobiography, A Rare Book Saga, is titled, "I Was a Survivor." And indeed he was. In the late 1930s Kraus survived not one but two notorious Nazi concentration camps - Dachau and Buchenwald, which combined to produce nearly 100,000 deaths during WWII. That he was Jewish made this all the more remarkable. As you might suspect, it's a painful chapter ...
Buying Book Collections 101: IIIa
I recently received an email with the intriguing subject line "Wish to sell 400-500 SF books." The gentleman described himself as a longtime collector and stated that most of the books were first editions and printed from 1960 through 1990. The location of the books was approximately a two-hour round trip for me. While the email was quite brief and to the point, there was a lot there to interest me.
Object Lessons in the Book Trade
Some of you may recall an early BookThink article offering advice for shopping at FOL sales - "The Stillness of Trout: How to Shop FOL sales." Funny thing, I haven't attended an FOL sale since I wrote that article over seven years ago, but this month I was reminded of it several times in several competitive situations. The first situation involved a widely advertised estate sale featuring a library which was comprised in part of Easton Press books ...
A Resolution for Booksellers Along With an Interview with Thatcher Vine of Juniper Books
Be remarkable. For the past month, I have been carrying around the collected works of Seth Godin, my favorite author on all things marketing related. In 1999, Godin coined the term "Permission Marketing" in his breakthrough text for e-commerce entrepreneurs. The book revolves around the idea that you should turn customers into friends and then develop relationships with those friends which, will eventually generate repeat sales, assuming you are able to create a Purple Cow ...
Top 10 on eBay
The May 2011 fiction top 10 features Tolkien, Grisham, Trollope, Faulkner, Burroughs, King, Fleming, and Gibson, along with 2 copies of A Game of Thrones. Of these, 3 sold as Best Offers, 1 sold as a BIN, and 6 were auctions. In the non-fiction category, there were 4 Best Offers, 2 BINs, and 4 auctions. The Antiquarian & Collectible category was diverse with Karl Marx's Capital sitting aside Oscar Wilde's poetry, Theodore Roosevelt's game hunting in Africa, Mirour for Magistrates, and Winnie the Pooh.
A Brief History of Publishers' Weekly
and Why It Matters to Booksellers
Publishers' Weekly (now Publishers Weekly) commenced publication in 1872, a whopping 139 years ago, and despite a recent shake up or two, still cranks out 51 issues annually. PW was originally conceived as a "catalogue" for publisher's to announce upcoming publications to booksellers (and otherwise draw attention to them). In the summer of 1874 at a publisher's convention in Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie, PW was established as the official organ of the book trade, and from that point forward it gradually expanded its content to include general book trade news and many related features.
MediaScouter's Pocket Profit
Recently I was offered an opportunity to test drive Pocket Profit, an Android scouting application developed by MediaScouter, a popular book scouting service. To note - my Android phone is a Motorola Droid X. I bought it late last year, and it was a nice upgrade with a larger screen and faster processor than my previous Droid phone. For my own scouting I have been mainly using the Android Amazon application, along with a few other barcode scanner applications. The Amazon application is the fastest I've tried and generates the most helpful information for selling books. It pulls up the individual sellers and their descriptions (or lack there of) and gives me insight on whether or not I can take advantage of writing a better description (as pointed out by our esteemed editor in a recent issue of BookThink) compared to the other sellers, and therefore pull in a higher profit. I often sell books on average about $3 more and many times even higher with an exceptional description.
#156, 9 May 2011
BookThink's Top 10 on eBay
Special limited editions have long appeared in all three top 10 categories. In April 2011, though, the Antiquarian and Collectible list contained an unusual three signed limited editions. From the Taschen Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made to Lady Chatterley's Lover issued in a privately printed signed edition prior to the first trade publication to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own the titles range from 1928 to 2009.
Building a Bookselling Reference Library
How to "Photograph" Books with Words
Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings
In the recently published Chapter 6 of BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling, I suggested that inexperienced booksellers study catalogs of mid- and upper-tier auction houses to accelerate the process of learning how to describe books. The better catalogs are accompanied by clear, color illustrations, and by referring back and forth between these illustrations and their textual descriptions, one can start to learn not only how to describe a book's condition but also its important physical elements - each with terminology that will suggest that you know something about books. And the latter is important because it establishes trust between you and potential buyers and, more importantly, allows you to ask for and achieve good prices. In turn, if you can achieve good prices, you can compete more favorably in the marketplace for inventory - pay better prices for it, that is. And so it goes until you wake up one day and realize that you've figured out how to make money at this!
to Online Bookselling
Trust, The Sine Qua Non of Bookselling
When I first started selling books, I took frequent road trips and looked for inventory in, among other places, used bookstores. Most bookstores weren't selling online then, and there were many opportunities for arbitrage. I recall visiting a Tampa, Florida bookstore one day - it was nineteenninetysomething - I found a few local history books, and I took them up to the counter to pay for them. I don't recall how we got on the topic, but I quietly mentioned something to the proprietor about having bought some books online. Well, this mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll suddenly transmogrified into a monstrous Mr. Hyde, and I stood amazed at the subsequent tirade that went on for minutes, not moments.
11 April 2011
A Very Simple Crime
with Grant Jerkins
Crime isn't pretty. If you need a light mystery romp or a hero with a magnetic personality, this novel may not be for you. If you like crisp writing that moves along swiftly and prefer unvarnished reality when dealing with life's seamy side, you'll find it to be an enticing page-turner. The reader of A Very Simple Crime is immediately swept into a world of dysfunctional personalities.
154, 4 April 2011
The Accidental Antiquarian
with Kevin Johnson of Royal Books
Kevin Johnson, proprietor of Royal Books, became a bookseller in 1997 and specializes in Modern Literature, Cinema, Art, and Photography. In 2007, Oak Knoll Press published his first book, The Dark Page, a full-color guide to the first edition sources for American film noir of the 1940s, followed in 2009 by The Dark Page II, a second volume covering 1950-1965. Kevin has been a member of the ABAA since 2002 and is on the faculty of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.
BookThink's Top 10 on eBay
Stephen King dominated the Fiction Top 10 with 3 entries among titles by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, McCarthy, Koontz, Rand and Howard. The nonfiction list was populated by the mix of Warhol, the Bible, Jimmy Page, and Edward Lear with Picasso and George Harrison thrown in. Tolkien held 2 places on the Antiquarian and Collectible list. The other spots were held by titles dating from 1476 to 1790.
#154 March 11, 2011
The Top 100 Collectible Children's Books
Nearly No Brainers
In the previous article the Marquis 25 was selected - the top 25 collectible American picturebooks. Although some might argue whether a book or two belongs in this list, most would agree that all belong in the Top 100 Collectible American Picturebooks. The next logical step is selecting the books that almost made the Marquis 25 - what I call the "Nearly No Brainers." These have many of the qualities of the Marquis 25 but by comparison do not have all the necessary credentials.
The World Book Market
at Seven (and Counting)
The World Book Market, a bookselling cooperative, was founded in 2004 by a small group of booksellers, among them Aussie bookseller Guy Weller, known to many online booksellers as "Mr. Pickwick in Oz." In seven years, WBM has grown to over 80 members worldwide. Previously, its powerful, bookseller-designed database application was available to members only, but that will change beginning February 28, when it will be publicly offered as freeware. To learn more about this tool as well as WBM, I recently interviewed Guy.
BookThink's Top 10 on eBay
In December, the top 10 fiction category included authors ranging from Jane Austen to Neil Gaiman. In addition, regulars such as Fleming, O'Connor, Pynchon, and Meyer made appearances. Coming in at #1 in the non-fiction group was Gen. Carl von Clausewitz 3-volume set On War, made particularly special because it came from the library of T.E. Lawrence. A 1935 Japanese karate book came in second, followed by an unredacted copy of Dark Heart, the Taschen publication Kate Moss, and 4 late-19th century volumes on chess, among others.
The Antiquarian and Collectible list was dominated by US sellers and contained both Best Offer and auction sales. Picasso, Wilfred Owen, Seigfried Sassoon, and Mark Twain were included in the top 5.
The Accidental Antiquarian
Educational Programs for Booksellers
I didn't discover antiquarian bookselling or consider it a viable career option until I was well into my 30s. Had I known the world of antiquarian books even existed prior to then, I would have found a way to major in it in college.
Fortunately for me and for those of you who want to learn more about antiquarian books and bookselling, there are several educational programs available which can improve your level of expertise.
The BookThinker, Special Report 1, 7 February 2011
BookThink's Bookseller's Author Reports
Blofeld: I had heard that you were dead.
Bond: This is my second life.
Blofeld: You only live twice, Mr. Bond.
And so goes the exchange between super-agent James Bond and super-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld - a mid-century Holmes and Moriarty pairing that powered multiple books and films in Ian Fleming's James Bond canon. It could be said that Fleming himself lived twice, once as a WWII British Naval Intelligence Officer, the architect of both Operation Mincemeat and Operation Goldeneye, and once again, imaginatively, as James Bond himself, in 14 now-classic spy novels and story collections.
1 February 2011
DIKW and the Survival of Printed Books
A Bibliophile's Considered Opinion
I am a bibliophile: I love books. Most of you - I think I know BookThink's audience pretty well by now - also love books. We share this gladly. As bibliophiles, we are concerned about the survival of the printed book, not only because its departure, immediate or by attrition, will negatively impact our chosen profession of bookselling, but also because printed books enrich our lives broadly and profoundly in a manner that Google results can never.
But it isn't always easy to articulate why. The Digital Revolution has inspired much conversation about this, but most of it has been and remains focused on the interaction with books as physical objects - the feel of them in our hands, their aesthetic beauty as objets d'arte on a shelf, or perhaps the quiet, deeply receptive experience of reading text illuminated by reflected light, an experience that cannot possibly be replicated by the direct-lit assault from a blaring, pulsating computer monitor or e-reader (though Kindles have taken a first step to mitigate this).
#152, 3 January 2010#153 17 January 2010
The Amazon FBA Program
Is It Time to Make the Move?
Yes, I'm late to the party. Fulfillment by Amazon has been available to sellers for several years now, and I just got on board late last year. The FBA concept is simple: 3P sellers bulk ship their books or other items to one of Amazon's warehouses, and when something sells, Amazon packs and ships it. Couldn't be easier. What this does is expose your inventory to market segments you previously had no (or indirect) access to - namely, customers who use Amazon Prime, Super Saver Shipping, not to mention Gift Wrapping. It also enhances your position in search, and most important of all, provides built-in trust. Customers who otherwise might be reluctant to purchase items from 3P sellers are not at all reluctant to pull the trigger under the Amazon umbrella. Fees are somewhat higher and apply to both sales and monthly storage, but in my limited experience these are more than offset by increasing my prices, which I can get away with because of the above competitive advantages. Also, I realize significant savings on shipping by taking advantage of UPS deeply-discounted rates to bulk ship to Amazon warehouses. The information I'm going to share with you has the potential to harm your business. The bright side is that, when used properly, it also has the potential to help supplement your online bookselling income.
#152, 3 January 2010
Top 10 on eBay
In the leadup to Christmas, eBay fiction top 10 was led by a signed 1st edition of Suttree. The Cormac McCarthy volume was way ahead of the pack, selling for more than double the sale price of #2. Others on the list ranged from a signed Conrad title to a 1922 Clement Woods book. The non-fiction list was headed by a signed limited edition of Paul McCartney's Blackbird Singing, followed by Easton Press' Long Walk to Freedom and a 1982 title by a college professor who believed the US government was taking control of her mind; the book was self published.
#151, 6 December 2010
Pretty Little Things
An Interview with Jilliane Hoffman
In this fast-moving novel Jilliane Hoffman paints a frighteningly real picture of the vast playground the internet provides for sexual predators and the vulnerable teens and children they target. Thirteen year old Lainey Emerson has gone missing, and FDLE Special Agent Bobby Dees is on the case. Head of the Department's Crimes Against Children Squad in Miami for more than a decade, Dees is haunted by the unsolved disappearance of his own daughter throughout the investigation, leading him alternately through a maze of hope and despair. It's a high-pitched suspense, skillfully written in a totally engrossing (but not gross) style of this difficult subject matter that will have you riveted to the pages of this book from start to finish.