Describing the Older Book

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I like to think of book description as a creative challenge. New or like new books are quick and easy to list, but they offer no scope for the wordsmith. A book that’s been read, handled, shared – one with a history – that’s the one that makes the work interesting. You need to conjure an accurate image of the book in the customer’s mind with a few well chosen words. You’ll want to do it quickly, as well, so your time is well used; an exacting description of a $10 book is a waste of everyone’s time. A few specific details will perk up a listing and reassure the customer that he’ll get what’s expected. Here is a typical book that sold recently that offers an example of the description and pricing process.

The Tragic Saga of the Indiana Indians by Harold Allison
This is a good local history title, the kind of book that will never look like much in the Amazon sales ranking (2,380,000+) but is worth adding to your inventory. The first thing to note is that it’s a library discard. Then riffle the pages, looking for markings, dirt, bent corners, etc. Examine the covers for the condition of the corners, any soiling or scratches, fading of the color or lettering. It’s basically in decent shape with moderate overall wear. I would rate it “Good” but, because (in my guidelines) being exlibrary automatically lowers one level in the ratings, I listed it as “Acceptable”. I think it’s a good idea always to comment on the condition of the text. Mention the particular flaws or damage to the covers. Here’s what we said:
exlibrary copy with usual markings/pocket; the text is unmarked and in good condition; covers scuffed/soiled, corners bumped; a good reading copy.

It sold for $40. That was the lowest priced copy on Amazon; the range was typically ridiculous to $447. I looked for other Indiana sellers, who would be familiar with the value of this title, to set our price. An established Indiana specialist store offered a very good signed copy for $150. My copy is exlibrary, so cut that in half, then take something more off for the lack of author signature; If my copy had only slight wear I would price it around $60. Sadly, my copy is a bit grubby. Another Indiana library had a similar copy for $43. I know from the sales ranking that not many customers are out there, so I chose to set the lowest price and hope for a bargain hunter.

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