For sale on eBay: The Brooklyn Nine

>> Thursday, December 3, 2009

Signing a stack of free, publisher-provided books at a convention or a trade show is a hit and miss venture. Often times, people ask me to personalize the book--they plan to give it to a child they know, or keep it for their own collection, or perhaps donate it to a cash-strapped library. That's all good. Others ask me just to sign the book, without a personal inscription. True book collectors know that this is the best way for a book to retain its value, and so it's not surprising that some folks who want to keep books like this for their own collections ask for a signature only. (Not that my books are going to be worth much in the future, but still.)

But from experience--both as a bookseller and as a writer--I know that some of those "sign only, please" books end up being resold, either on a bookstore shelf or online. This is less cool--the publisher has essentially donated 100 or so books for me to sign and give away to people who are fans, or people we hope will become fans, and taking the books merely to resell them is less than scrupulous. But it happens. And there's no real way to stop it. You can't exactly ask people, "So, what do you intend to do with this free book I give you?" And to be honest, Wendi and I get free books all the time that we later choose to sell to a used book store. But that's usually after we've actually read them and made the decision not to keep them. We never grab free books with the intent to go straight out and sell them to someone.

Every time a new person comes up to have a book signed, I ask them, "Would you like this personalized, or shall I just sign it?" If they hesitate, then answer, "just sign it, please," I sometimes ask, "Should I make it out to 'eBay?'" just to get a laugh out of the line. Looks like I should have written that on these two copies of The Brooklyn Nine, for sale by alibris for $10.54 each on eBay. Truth is, they probably began their life as free publisher giveaways, which is a shame. The last time I signed free books at the American Association of School Librarians convention in Charlotte, we were turning people away because all the free books had been handed out...


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