January 17, 1999

Post #797 – 19990117

In reply to your reply to my message, I didn’t mention the bookdealer’s name out of respect to you; the man whom I by most all of my books from is a used book dealer. Nothing at all embarrassing in his profession, of course, but as these books are rather recent, I didn’t want to mention the fact that, for me to have gotten them secondhand, they first were discarded by some unknown illiterate . . .

But in any case, I live deep in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where books, when sold at all, are vended on the walmart plan, i.e. like soap—fine if you’re in need of it, but nothing beyond the latest, most popular brands, all packaged in nice, salable hunks. This all serves to explain why I travel 35 miles or so to Allentown, to

Another Story, 100 North Ninth Street, Allentown, Penna. 18102 (610) 435-4433, where the owner, John Furphy, while irascible, knows his stock, and where you’re apt to find almost everything, sooner or later. I can find more books of use to me there in one trip, than I can find in one year at any national chain bookstore, if only by chance.

Word handyman works for me; perhaps Wordsmith is a little too high-flown, or has become less useful through misuse.

N. M. Lucas, Jr.

Daniel replies:

In general, a book, (other than a planned best-seller, which is another kind of animal altogether), needs to sell between 7,000 and 10,000 copies before the publisher makes a profit. (Something that authors know, and one supposes stockholders don't, is that very many publishers will back off trying to sell a given book as soon as it reaches that profit-point, and turn their attention to the next season's offerings, the idea being that you can't get fired over books that are showing a profit, however skimpy). Prior to publication, review copies are sent out, often two at a time, and often more than 1,000 of them. It's common practice for reviewers to sell off their copies. It seems likely that these are the copies that find their way to your estimable used book dealer. Of course, your instinct is correct--no one but an illiterate, (or an impoverished book reviewer), would voluntarily part with any book written by me.