Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2016 Issue

Selling books online - CARPE DIEM: Some tips for a better bottom line in 2016

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Carpe Diem - "Seize the Day" was my mother's favorite piece of bookselling advice. A bookseller for 50 years she hung this motto over her desk and she found opportunity in many places. Here are some tips - old and new - that consistently helped me sell books and ephemera, prints, maps and other older paper online. May 2016 be your best year ever.

 

  • Try ADDALL

Before I list anything I always try to get a rough idea of what the value of the book might be and estimate how many copies are out there. Addall is my preferred first stop. used.addall.com

 

Lots of sellers use other bases including ABE, AMAZON, BOOKFINDER or VIALIBRI to check the prices, but I prefer ADDALL because it includes many book bases all at once, and let’s you filter out print-on-demand titles. It’s an easy way to get a rough idea of just how many duplicate listings of any given title may be available.

 

Many dealers list the same book on many bases, so the same book can show up four or five places. With ADDALL you’ll know it’s just one book and genuinely scarce, or it’s the same book owned by the same seller listed in a variety of places. Set ADDALL to have the results sorted by price with the most expensive first (descending) order, and then click on the binding (hard, soft, any) and click “no print on demand” and you’re good to go.

 

Use descending order because though some dealers ask a high price set by an algorithmic formula, better dealers ask a higher price because they actually know something about the book that gives it more value. These dealers are apt to put this information in their description and if you see similar info popping up in several higher priced listings (such as “The rose on p. 27 faces left.”) and your book has that point, you’ll want to include that information in your description. Likewise, if the better dealers say their copy is a “stated first edition” and your copy lacks that statement, then chances are your copy isn’t.

 

  • Dust Jackets

Lord knows why, but a great deal of the value of a used book, especially a used collectible book, resides in the dust jacket. Does it have a dust jacket? Is that dust jacket priced? (Usually on the front flap, but sometimes on the back flap). Then mention it in your description, and give the price in dollars, pounds, rupees or however it’s denominated. Also mention the condition of the dust jacket.

 

It’s often worthwhile to put it in a Brodart cello protector, especially if it’s fragile or in less than pristine condition. I use BrodartJust-A-Fold Original Cover’ in a size that fits books to 12” (Catalog Number: 10-195-004.) One roll will last quite a while. I’ve found it’s more economical to buy the big size and cut it down for smaller dust jackets than to purchase multiple sizes. Brodart sells a wide variety of book and library products, if you have more sophisicated needs ask for a catalog or view their stock on line www.shopbrodart.com (Brodart Co. USA toll-free 1-888-820-4377, Canada toll free 1-800-265-8470.)

 

  • Bookish Listservs: Here are two good ones

Listservs were one of the earliest incarnations of the digital age and though we’ve invented higher tech tools the basic text only listserv is still a very good way to exchange bookish info:

 

The Bib List

One of the longest running bookish listservs is bibliophilegroup.com aka the Bib List run by Lynn DeWeese-Parkinson lynn@bibliophilegroup.comThis is a list that has been going for at least the last 15 years. A subscription costs $30 per year payable in March. Parkinson offers a two week free trial period for potential subscribers. At any given time this list has about 1,000 members, many of whom are booksellers. Some of the Bibs sell and comment frequently. Others never post but are faithful lurkers -- and though they may be invisible they are indeed buyers.

 

Subscribers can list books and book related materials For Sale (FS), For Auction (FA) or Wanted (WTD). They can also post topics for discussion, information, news, tech support and other headers. Much valuable information is exchanged and the tone is friendly and consistently collegial. This is a very good place to sell books. There is no fee or commission besides the annual one time subscription charge. In 2015 I had sales from the Bib List every single month. If a book or lot is going to sell on the Bib List it usually is spoken for within an hour or two and sometimes within minutes.

 

Ex-Libris

Ex-libris is a very different kind of listserv. The moderator is Ev Wilkie ewilkie@ix.netcom.comand he runs a tight ship. The active users tend to be from academia, especially librarians in special collections and archives. The only day that sellers can post is Tuesday and then there are very strict rules about what is allowed and how it is to be formatted. Ex-libris does not allow actual ‘For Sale’ listings, but links to catalogs are permitted. This list is free; the best way to join is to contact Wilkie, sign up and read the rules carefully. Then it’s a good idea to lurk until you get the feel of the group. Ex-Libris is not a good place to make money, but it is a good place to see what other dealers are offering and to learn some of the more specialized knowledge shared by those who work in rare book rooms, archives, museums and the like. It is a particularly good for job postings, news of coming events, symposiums, exhibits at the various member institutions, and lots of really specialized bibliographical information. Some of the information posted on Ex-libris can be useful to people who buy and sell in less elevated spheres.

 

  • Terminology helps

There are lots of ways to describe a book. You can say: “Used ex-library copy with usual stamps and marks” or you can say “Gently read former library copy lightly marked.” It’s the same book but one sounds better than the other.

 

Some commonly used descriptive words

 

Words that indicate a BETTER copy

Good, bright, tight, clean, complete, original issue, vintage, antique, no marks, looks unread, stated first edition, stated first American (or UK) edition, priced dust jacket, signed by author, inscribed by author, index, bibliography, photos, color art, limited, association material laid in.

 

Words that indicate a LESSER copy

Discolored, freckled, foxed, toned, yellowing, brittle, chipped, tender, frayed, bumped, detached but present, missing, loose, torn, cracked, chipped, worn, rubbed, price clipped dust jacket, shabby, heavily read, name of prior owner in ink, inscription of prior owner in ink, lacks dust jacket, later printing, partial dust jacket, Book Club Edition.

 

Words that indicate a copy that’s NOT SO HOT

Musty odor, damped, pages with pronounced ripple, pages stuck together, insect damage, heavily stained, underlined in marker, incomplete.

 

  • Check the back - last page

Most beginning booksellers know enough to check the dates on both the title page and the copyright page. But a lot of people forget to check the very back of the book where there may be additional information especially related to the printing and production and sometimes to the limitation and number of copies published. If you think it might be unusual or limited don’t forget to look in the back.

 

  • FREE has a good ring to it

I find a lot of what I sell by looking around and asking what’s for FREE? What’s being given away, what’s being discarded? You’d be surprised how many sellers think the new books with the shiny covers are worth money and toss the older good stuff in the free box. Free can be almost anything but it often falls into the ephemera category, i.e. printed material that was produced to be given away and not intended to be saved. Sometimes these things can end up being worth quite a bit. This includes posters and flyers stuck to telephone poles, a box of handwritten recipe cards, old letters, old photos, or any accumulation of older paper including magazines.

 

Where to find FREE

Free is everywhere but you have to be looking for it. Want it for free? Come back at the end of the yard sale and offer to take away the leftovers. Free is seeing that box of old paper left on the curb for the trash collector and picking it up first. Free is saving the magazine with the good article or interesting story or first appearance by a talented author. Free is recognizing something that somebody else might want, saving it and writing an accurate description.

 

How to treat FREE

I treat free just the way I treat things I paid for, except there’s always a better margin on free. One of the rules in bookselling is what you paid for it has absolutely nothing to do with what it might be worth. Once it’s yours it isn’t free any more and you set the price.

 

When to pass on FREE

Pass on free when you are not sure the person giving it to you really owns it; when it has marks from a library but no deaccession (withdrawn) marks and especially when the little voice in the back of your head asks, “Is this stolen?”

 

  • PICKY - PICKY - PICKY

I’ve been selling books for almost 40 years and my parents sold books for 50 years before me. In the 1980s I’d carry a lot of inventory and it wouldn’t matter if it sold this year or next year because I was pretty sure it would eventually sell. But books, especially more recent titles in mass market editions, are mostly in a race to the bottom where prices are concerned. It’s hard to make money on things that are common. With that in mind 2016 is the year be more picky about what you take in and a lot more picky about what you actually list.



If it doesn’t have a dust jacket, if it isn’t a first, if there are lots of other copies around and priced under $10, and your copy isn’t signed or notably better in some unique way, then don’t go there -- just pass it up, or you pass it along for free. For me the short list of thanks but no thanks includes: No coffee table books, no modern Bibles, no Book Club Editions (BCE), no broken sets (with a few exceptions).

 

There’s a reason that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo was the #2 on Amazon’s “Top 100 list for 2015.” Some of that stuff that someone else is “decluttering” is going to come to you and at a very good price or even free. But most of that junk is really junk and even for free you don’t want it.

 

These are the trends I noticed this year in my own sales:

*SIZE - Smaller is better - very few sales of big heavy books, no matter how beautiful.

*LESS FICTION - I sold hardly any fiction.

*MORE EPHEMERA - My ephemera sales were strong, especially vintage and antique illustrated regional history. it didn’t matter what region or what period, if it was very specific, older and illustrated somebody wanted it.

*BIBLIOGRAPHY SELLS - Any time I had a decent bibliography of a collectible author or subject to offer it sold.

*OTHER DEALERS BUY - Some of my best customers and some of my top dollar sales were to other dealers

 

Some links worth checking:

 

BookThink hosted by Craig Stark is a long running site that bills itself as “resources for booksellers.” There’s a lot of interesting info here. Though not all of it is current or easily accessible it is worth a closer look. This link will take you to his Dec. 2015 article about vintage vinyl. Stark makes the point that not all displaced technology goes away. Click the red type at the bottom of the page to see other recent earlier offerings. www.bookthink.com/0175/175turn1.htm

 

ABE most expensive book sales in 2015

www.abebooks.com/rare-books/most-expensive-sales/year-2015.shtml?cm_sp=rbr-_-main_cta-_-mostex

 

100 top books on Amazon 2015- how many of these will still be around in ten years?

www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2015/books

 

The publishing industry in 5 charts

janefriedman.com/the-state-of-the-publishing-industry-in-5-charts

 

Retail sales for 2015 from the ABA

Not entirely relevant to online selling but still worth a look

www.bookweb.org/btw-topics/industry-statistics

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600

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