It’s getting harder and harder to write in any meaningful way about book events produced by Marvin Getman and Impact Events Group. He’s developed such a reliable product, with a such a consistent look and feel, that there’s rarely anything to squawk about.
So, that’s the sum total of my report on last weekend’s Ephemera Fair. Nothing to squawk about. Particularly given that the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Old Greenwich, Connecticut is such a comfortable venue. Big rooms, free coffee and snacks laid out on each floor each morning, a comfortable bar and dining area, and a flock tweety atrium sparrows whose ancestors were trapped inside ten generations ago and have been living off our crumbs ever since. What’s not to like?
Having said that, as they say (in the same way they say “with all due respect”), I’d also have to say that this year’s edition of the Ephemera Fair was notable for its preponderance of pokers and pikers. I’ve never sold so much cheap stuff at one of these events. Items priced between $3 and $30 were flying out of their plastic sleeves. Am I complaining? Not exactly, but the quantity of low end sales was vaguely worrisome. And I’m far from the only dealer who got writer’s cramp dispensing $12 invoices. Certainly not Marvin’s fault. I guess I just didn’t have the right stuff.
However, I do now.
The buying at this show was fantastic.
At least four dealers who had not exhibited last week in New York came laden with fresh material, and at one point Friday afternoon the aisles were so rich in juicy stuff that simply walking down one of them could cost you $10K. Or more. In years past I’d be selling what I bought here at the big New York book fair next week. But this year next week’s fair was last week. Don’t get me started…
(NEWS FLASH – as this piece was going to press I got a call from Sandy Smith. He wanted me to know, and to make sure you know, that the choice of Armory dates is completely out of his hands. He is utterly at the mercy of the folks who run the Armory, and didn’t want to be tarred for moving the date from April to March. However, he also stated that he was perfectly willing to accept credit for the success of this year’s show.)
Here are a few of the things I snagged, accompanied by the prices I think they’ll bring – aka – the chickens I’m counting before they hatch. Pardon the lousy photography.
Jefferson signed commission for War of 1812 naval hero and martyr, William Allen – $7500
Handbill advertising the sailing of clipper ship Andrew Jackson, with image of Jackson at New Orleans, signed by artist George F. Nesbitt, the same man who printed the handbill – $2500
Giant (28 x 39 inches) color lithograph of a right whale cavorting in Arctic waters – $1250
Broadside printed on silk using the failed Great Eastern to advertise Lewis’ Department Store (ca. 1858) – $850
And much, much more (Maritime List 247 will be coming along just after April Fool’s Day).
On another topic entirely, I got a very nice letter last month from an aspiring book seller named Mike Breznay. He’s in the Denver area, and he seems to specialize in science fiction and fantasy. He told me that he was determined to learn the trade, and that he went on all sorts of sites trying to find out how to become successful, and that all their advice was garbage. Then he stumbled across the book selling talk I gave at CABS years ago, called “Don’t Do It!” and the scales fell from his eyes.
If I understand correctly, he has the idea of using YouTube to sell books. He’s got a channel called The Neutral Good and on it you can find his Made-For-YouTube dramatic reading of Don’t Do It! as well as several videos in which he shows us, and talks about, books he’s recently purchased. Toward the end of my talk, I advised aspiring book sellers to “think creatively about using every aspect of the technology available to you.” Mike has certainly taken that advice. At the moment his channel only has five subscribers, but as long as we’re counting chickens, let’s think seriously about YouTube and the future of rare book selling.
This came to mind because I just got an email from someone named Neil Redden, trying to sell me a product called Pointy that is supposed to load all my books to all websites at once, or something like that.
At the end of his message he says, “By the way, we wrote a blog with a series of tips for bookstores on how to stay competitive in the digital age. You can check it out here if that’s of interest.” I checked out his “7 Tips To Attract More Customers To Your Bookstore” and it is about the lamest thing I’ve read in many a moon, offering such gems as, “#1 – Keep in Touch with Customers.”
Well, duh. I AM keeping in touch with you, aren’t I?