Sunday, September 25, 2016

How Do You Find Collectible Books?

I'm getting more questions regarding how & where I find my collectible books. There's no one source of information or one place I turn to—and if there were, that would probably take some of the fun out of it for me. I like the thrill of the hunt.

First, I do the research

As for how I determine if something might be a collectible, I do A LOT of research. I read trade magazines, bookseller descriptions, publishers' websites, author websites, independent bookstore newsletters, library publications, book reviews—whatever I can get my hands on. The more information, the better.

Some of the publications I turn to:

  • Publishers Weekly: PW will publish the run-down of books that are soon-to-be-published. The information included in these briefs may include print run numbers or how the rights were acquired (via auction or pre-empt)
  • PW Tip Sheet: PW newsletter with industry news, and information about books & authors.
  • For reviews: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist
  •—Brodart has a database for librarians that sometimes includes the first print run numbers. (this is by subscription only)
  • Advanced reading copies of specific books—sometimes this gives information on the print runs and the marketing plan, including whether or not the author will do a book-signing tour.
  • Bookseller listings at Abebooks. Many times there are small bits of information or leads about why a book might be considered collectible. I look for terms like "rare 2nd printing," or "first state dust jacket," or "low print run," etc.

I'm looking for something that resonates

I'm looking for anything that gives me the sense of the book & how it came to be published. It's not scientific—it's instinctual. I'm looking for "the feels" as Sam Cooke would say. Something that resonates. A book that resonates with the public is more likely to fall into the collectible realm.

It doesn't have to be something I read and loved (although sometimes that helps).

I pay attention to the book buzz by reading reviews and asking booksellers & librarians what's popular or different. For more "organic" reviews, I look at Goodreads & Amazon (because they seem to be the most populated). Goodreads seems to have less of an agenda than Amazon, although at Amazon, if people really like the book, they're more like to post a lot (the opposite is true as well).

I pay attention to the big book fairs, festivals, and conventions

I do a lot of Google searches

 Once I figure out what titles to be on the lookout for, I start researching those titles specifically to figure out what the print run numbers are, if they're up for any awards, etc. I do a lot of Google searches.

Where I look for books

I tend to shop the used bookstores and book sales in my area—this requires a lot of patience and the ability to hold lists in my head (or keep them in my phone). 

I do better with actual bookstores, but have had some success with buying books online. 

  • Abebooks: I trust Abebooks the most, as sellers tend to be more aware of book conditions and print runs. 
  • Powell's (in Oregon) is my second choice, although I have to know exactly what I'm looking for—they're really good for ordering signed books, since they have signings at their store.
  • VJ Books (in Oregon)—is also good for signed editions (>> there's a link in the sidebar >>)
Bricks & Mortar:
  • Half Price Books: I've had a lot of luck with Half Price Books. We don't have a Half Price Books where I live, but every time I travel back to the Midwest, I hit one of their stores and usually leave with a much lighter wallet and a much heavier suitcase. I wouldn't necessarily suggest you buy from their online marketplace though. Their listings aren't always accurate as far as condition goes & they ship their books without much protection or care.
  • Local / Indie Bookstores
  • Barnes & Noble: I'll usually shop here when I have a gift card, when they've had an author signing, or during the Christmas season (when their leather bound books are on sale or when they offer signed editions).

On occasion I'll shop the Amazon marketplace, but this is hit or miss, so you have to be prepared for disappointment.

I never shop eBay. There are just too many counterfeits and misrepresented listings and it's too easy for sellers to pull up stakes & disappear. Although there are a number of fairly good eBay guides for collectors.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Speaking of Potential Collectibles...

Yesterday I got into a little bit about what makes a book a collectible. Collectors of hypermodern books (books published in the last 20-ish years) are at somewhat of a disadvantage because it takes 5, 10, or 20 years to truly determine if the book IS a collectible.

We are basically speculators. We're making our best guesses, but there are so many variables at play, that we're lucky if we have a 50/50 track record.

That said, I'm guessing that this book may end up being a YA collectible:

The Reader by Traci Chee (G.P. Putnam's Sons, Sept. 13, 2016)

This is her debut novel with the promise of two more books in the trilogy.

It's gotten starred reviews from: 
And has been shortlisted for the 2016 Kirkus Prize ($50,000 USD). I'm guessing it will make other awards lists in the upcoming year.

She's been scheduled for a few book events (mostly in California), but no book tour at this point. I imagine if she starts getting more press there will be a drive for her book and a possible tour. As far as I know, the publisher didn't have her do any in-house signings. We're only a week into the publication, so it's not surprising that there aren't any signed copies available yet.

According to her website, folks who preordered her book and provided proof (in the form of a receipt) were sent signed bookplates... so watch out for those listings popping up in the near future. A signed bookplate isn't as valuable as a signed and handled book. Although I'm sure there are plenty of  sellers who won't make that differentiation.

She's also getting a lot of buzz in the review sections on Goodreads and Amazon.

So keep your ears open and eyes peeled for this one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

In The Post: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

On Saturday I ordered a SIGNED first printing of Kristin Cashore's debut novel, Graceling. This was after a conversation in which Graceling had come up and I was curious about prices. I looked at Abebooks and out of curiosity I hit the Amazon marketplace where I found the below listing:

I was a little leery because the price listed was $5.49 plus shipping and I (naturally) thought it was too good to be true. The twist in the story is that the seller who listed the book is one that had sold me a first edition of H is for Hawk back in January, but when I received it, it was actually a 17th printing (& not a first anything). The seller apologized for the mistake and offered to refund my money with the return of the book. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and kept the book (because I wanted to read it).

When this listing came up and I saw it was the same seller, I have to admit to thinking the worst. Still,  $5.49 was too good to pass up, so I bit the bullet.

It arrived yesterday in the mail. It came in a bubble mailer with no other added protection, but appeared mostly undamaged as I looked it over. (I am always amazed when books survive the USPS with minimal protection. Nothing against the USPS, it's just that shit happens.)

The cover appears clean with no rips, bumps, stains, or tears—although there are two slight indentations on the back cover (that are easier to see when the cover is removed).

The head, tail, and fore-edge appear clean. There is no bumping to the edges or corners of the book board, and the text block is fairly tight, maybe having been read once.

The indentation on the back of the dust jacket translated to the book boards as well, but it's a minimal invasion—with no tearing or piercing of the paper covering. You can see the marks in the image on the right. They appear diagonally on the upper left and lower right. It's enough to take it from a Fine to a Very Good copy (given that there are no other issues).

But I'm sure what you're most eager to know is if it is truly a signed first printing, or did I get burned once again. I was a bit cautious when I opened the book to the title page because I was indeed afraid that I'd been scorched—but no. 

This is what I saw.
Sure enough, the book is inscribed to "Tema" and Cashore's signature appears sandwiched above the title.

My next thought was to confirm that this was an authentic signature, which isn't always easy, as there aren't many examples of her early signature available online.

I found several samples of her later signature (from Fire and Bitterblue), but only one example from the first book (an Abebook seller's image). A comparison of the early signatures shows that they appear to be very similar, but since there was only one other copy with which to compare, I decided to do a side by side comparison with the later signatures, for which there are more examples. While signatures do change, there are some things that remain fairly constant—especially when dealing with the beginning and ending strokes. 

Comparison of the two early signatures:

The easiest letters to compare would be the K in her first name, the C in her last name, the T in "To," the lowercase m in "Tema," and the w's, s's, and b. Her later signature is much looser than the one in my edition, but the uppercase K, C, and T all show similarities.

Signature examples:

Signature comparison

Here's a side by side comparison of some of the letters:

Clearly, her signature changed, but the loop and the upward swoop of the K as well as the fact that the arms don't connect with the K's backbone indicate a similarity.

The C is tall and skinny and a little more controlled on the earlier signature.

The 'To' is nearly identical—from the angle of the T's cap to the little tail on the left side.

The lowercase m and w have similarities, but differences can be attributed to the changing of the later signature, the speed with which the book was signed, or where the letters appear within the word.

Lastly, the copyright page does show the full letter line from A to H, indicating that it is a first printing. So then, the question becomes, what makes this particular book so collectible?
Truly, this is the question for most collectibles. The problem is, there's not always a concrete answer.

Usually we can apply the formula [scarcity + desirability = collectible score]. The more scarce a book actually is combined with a larger number of people who want to get their hands on it, makes for a higher collectibility score. Of course, all of this is subjective and based on perceptions.

In this case, there were no first print run numbers published, that I could find. So the scarcity score will depend on how easily people can find it in the marketplace at any given time. If there is perceived scarcity, the price will probably go up.

Add to the equation whether or not this was the author's debut novel. If so, the desirability score goes up because it's the first. As collectors we like firsts. We're gambling that the author will go on to reach fame and popularity, in which case the early/first adopters are rewarded.  

Follow that with a series of questions: 
  • Did the book win awards? 
  • How well was it reviewed?
  • Did it have a big fan base or following? (even if the fans came along later)
  • Is it the first of it's kind or an early adopter of a new genre?
  • Is there an interesting story about how the book came to be? 
  • Were the author's next book(s) equally well received? (if there were other books)
  • Were there any issues with the first printing that caused it to be lower (caught mistakes, recalled book, etc)
  • Is there anything currently driving desirability? (Was there just an article about the book/author? Is there a controversy surrounding it? Did the author pass away? etc.)
  • Was there a movie made? (if so, did it bomb or was it a hit?)

Any of these scenarios can sway the desirability of a book and effect value.

This is Cashore's debut novel and it won many starred reviews (Kirkus, PW, Booklist), accolades, and awards. It was embraced by teens and adults, indie booksellers as well as mainstream, and it was an early adopter to the "mash-up," appealing to fans of multiple genres (YA Fantasy + Female Heroine + Romance).

Combine that with the fact that they made a movie (which always seems to bump collectible prices up, even if just temporarily), and that it's hard to find a first printing—presumably because people liked the book so much that they held on to their copies... and it seems to make for the perfect storm for a collectible.

If you can find first printings in Very Good to Fine condition, they're worth $70+ unsigned, and $200+ signed.

—and apologies to buymeimcheap for thinking the worst. You did not do wrong by me.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Oh Amazon, Ye Marketplace of Scoundrels

So I got into a conversation over on Facebook about how to know if a book is collectible (which I won't go into for this post—but maybe after I get back from my weekend Vacay)... Anyway, Graceling, by Kristen Cashore was brought up in the conversation. So I figured I would go check out prices (you know, like you do).

My first stop was Abebooks (naturally), where the listings were about what I expected: on average $70 for unsigned up to $175 (signed) for first printings. Then I hopped over to Amazon to see what was being offered over there. I didn't get very far because I ran into this (we'll call it, too-good-to-be-true) listing:

Whoa. $5.49 for a "Pristine First Edition... Signed by author..." — usually the price point would be such that I'd go for it immediately with the expectation that it's probably NOT what it says it is... Then I notice the seller, "buymeimcheap."

For those who've been reading along for awhile, back in January, I procured a copy of H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald—this was the listing:

What I got was a 17th printing—not a full number line—albeit it was pristine.

When I contacted the seller to enquire about it she said it'd been a long day of copying and pasting book listings and she'd neglected to correct the listing to match the edition. She offered to refund my money if I wanted to send the book back to her (which I did not do, opting to keep and read it).

At that time, one of my readers suggested that I'd been duped and, after seeing the Graceling listing, I am inclined to believe that she was right. But just for giggles, I went ahead and purchased the above "signed" copy of Graceling for $9.48 (including shipping). In 2 weeks, we'll see what I actually purchased.

Stay tuned...

Friday, September 16, 2016

So Many Short Lists, So Little Time

I look forward all year to awards season. Not the Tonys, Oscars, or Emmys but the NBAs, Man-Bookers, Peace Prize, etc. I love book awards season. Yet another set of awards lists have come out in the last couple of days: The Dayton Literary Peace Prize short-list and the National Book Awards for Fiction longlist.

The 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction finalists are

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: 
Synopsis: Four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition — seek fame and fortune in New York City in this hymn to brotherly bonds. A masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into and those that we make for ourselves. 
*This has been shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Man-Booker and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Last year, signed first editions listed up to $425 and unsigned copies listed up to $250. Almost one year later, signed first printings are still listing from $120-$400. Unsigned copies list from $95-$185.
The U.S. edition published by Doubleday is the true first. 
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham: 
Synopsis: Held captive on a mysterious farm and under the sway of an overpowering addiction, a widow struggles to reunite with her young son. Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose infuses his characters with grace and humor while wrestling with timeless questions of forgiveness, redemption, and the will to survive. 
*Unsigned first printings list, on average, for $50; Signed list from $80-$150.

Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman: 
Synopsis: A young Afghan orphan is forced to join a US-funded militia in order to save his brother, who is hospitalized after an attack on their village, in this morally complex debut novel about the harrowing, intractable nature of war and the sacrifices we make for love.  
*Signed copies list up to $55.

Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian: 
Synopsis: Drawing on her own family history, Ohanesian pulls back the curtain on a devastating chapter of the Armenian Holocaust, moving between the 1990s and the 1915 Ottoman Empire in this remarkable debut novel about war and recovery, crimes and reparations. 
*Signed list from $50-$75; Unsigned: up to $40

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: 
Synopsis: This profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel tells the story of a man of two minds whose lofty ideals necessitate his betrayal of the people closest to him. Both gripping spy yarn and astute exploration of extreme politics, The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.  
*Signed: list from $400-$1,600; Unsigned start at $50

Youngblood by Matt Gallagher: 
Synopsis: During the final dark days of the War in Iraq, newly minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles with the preparations for withdrawal from the country, especially the alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands.
*Listing, on average, for about $50, signed (no unsigned copies were listed on Abebooks at the time of this posting) 

              Wednesday, September 14, 2016

              Some Books You Might Like

              Here are a few books that sound pretty interesting and garnered starred reviews recently:

              First on the list is a book that's been popping up a lot lately (Kudos to Putnam and her agent for getting it out there)

              The Reader by Traci Chee (Putnam, Sept 13, 2016)

              *debut novel—young adult

              SynopsisAfter 15-year-old orphan Sefia is separated from her aunt, she sets out on a rescue mission. Determined to learn the truth about her past and the rectangular object she’s spent her life hiding, Sefia eventually discovers that the item—bound paper covered in symbols—is a book. Books, reading, and writing are unheard of in the land of Kelanna, but Sefia is certain that this book holds the answers she seeks.

              Ages 12 and up

              Starred reviews: PW, Kirkus, Library Journal

              Beloved Poison, Elaine Thomson (Pegasus, Sept 13, 2016)

              *debut novel—historical fiction/mystery

              SynopsisJem Flockhart, an apothecary at St. Saviour’s Infirmary, has successfully passed herself off as a man in order to work alongside her father, continuing a family tradition in medicine that dates back a century. Meanwhile, the hospital governors have agreed that to sell the property to make way for a railway bridge, which necessitates emptying its graveyard, an unpleasant task delegated to junior architect William Quatermain. And, in the midst of that upheaval, one of the infirmary’s doctors is fatally poisoned, a crime that Jem believes is linked to her discovery of six tiny coffins, each containing a blood-stained doll.

              Starred review: PW 

              Children of the New World, Alexander Weinstein (Picador, Sept 13, 2016)

              *debut short story collection

              SynopsisTouching on virtual families, climate change, implanted memories, and more, Weinstein’s debut collection of digital-age sci-fi stories is scary, recognizable, heartbreaking, witty, and absolutely human. 

              Weinstein was listed in B&N Discover Great New Writers for August.

              He'll also be signing books at Powell's on October 14th.

              Starred reviews: PW, Booklist

              Darktown, Thomas Mullen (Atria, Sept 2106)


              SynopsisA pair of rookie black cops in 1948 Atlanta uncover political corruption and conspiracy when they stumble on to a murder case.

              Starred reviews: PW, Booklist

              Tuesday, September 13, 2016

              2016 Man Booker Short List Announced

              The short list was announced this morning for the 2016 Man Booker Award and some of the names you thought might be on the list, aren't:

              Paul Beatty (U.S.) for The Sellout (published in the U.S. by FSG in hardcover, Picador in paper)
              Deborah Levy (U.K.) for Hot Milk (Bloomsbury USA)
              Graeme Macrae Burnet (U.K.) for His Bloody Project (Skyhorse)
              Ottessa Moshfegh (U.S.) for Eileen (Penguin)
              David Szalay (Canada-U.K.) for All That Man Is (Graywolf Press)
              Madeleine Thien (Canada) for Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Norton)

              The winner will be announced October 25. 

              The biggest surprise was Graeme Macrae Burnet's His Bloody Project. The Guardian kicked off their article on the short-listers stating, "Scottish writer Graeme Macrae Burnet’s story of murder in a 19th-century crofting community has beaten novels by some of literature’s biggest names on to a shortlist for the Man Booker prize that judges said 'take[s] risks with language and form.'" 

              This is Burnet's second novel. His first, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau was released in 2014 by Contraband/Saraband Books in Scotland. According to the publisher it "received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust, was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award and was a minor cult hit."

              Most likely it was a smaller print run, although I couldn't find print run numbers on either title. Both titles are in paperback only. I found one signed book online (shipping from the U.K.).

              First printings of Paul Beatty's The Sellout (published by Oneworld) are fairly scarce. Both hardcover and softcover were released in March 2016. At the time of this posting, I was only finding listings for later printings of the hardcover. It's in at least its 5th printing, if not later.

              Deborah Levy's Hot Milk (published by Hamish Hamilton in the U.K. and Bloomsbury in the U.S.) is listing in the $100+ range unsigned and between $200-$400 signed. Levy was also a short-lister in 2012 with her Swimming Home and Other Stories. Not all of Levy's books are collectible, but these two seem to be faring well in the current market.

              Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh is getting lots of accolades. If you didn't get this title early on, then it might be a pinch to your pocket book now. Unsigned hardcovers are starting in the $100 range and going up from there. Signed copies list up to $600.

              David Salazny's All That Man Is, is all over the board price-wise. This tells me that this one is toeing the line between collectible and not collectible. If it wins, the value will undoubtedly go up—whether or not it stays up in the long-run is the question. If it doesn't win, then prices will decrease. So people are still trying to make up their minds about it. It needs a push from the collecting world and I'm not sure it's going to get it.

              Madeleine Thein's Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Knopf / Norton, Canada) appears to be a bit scarce. I couldn't find print run numbers, but only 2 hardcover copies were listed as of this posting (with no mention of printing or edition).

              A note on one of the longlist titles, The Many by Wyl Menmuir. Salt (the publisher) printed only 1,000 copies in the first print run. Prices for first printings over on Abebooks aren't all that overwhelming (from $30-$51 USD—plus shipping). Which just goes to show that it's not always about the scarcity of the first printing. There also has to be the desire for the book.

              Last year's winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James is listing up to $1,500+ for signed first printings of both the U.S. (Riverhead) and U.K. (Oneworld) editions. Unsigned are listing in the range of $100-$250 for the U.S. edition; $250-$300 for the U.K. edition. You can still find used copies for less, but be really wary of the condition for this title. I saw one listing that claimed the book had been read several times with shelf wear and small tears in the dust jacket (generally considered "Good" condition) and it was going for $30 USD. Fine and near fine condition values jump to the $100+ range.

              If you're looking for this title, look for a first printing that does not have the Man Booker sticker on the cover. First print run numbers weren't available, but the second printing from Oneworld (U.K.) was 80,000—in an attempt to meet the demand. The first U.S. printing from Riverhead was small and sold out quickly. Most likely their second printing was also larger.

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