Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's Gone!...No, it's $.39.

If you’re a published author and your book is out of print, spare yourself the humiliation of going to or one of those on-line book dealers and looking up your masterpiece. Even during the big holiday buying season. Steve Martin will never have this problem.

For my book, “It's Gone!... No, Wait a Minute…Talking My Way into the Big Leagues at 40”, published by Villard in 1993, copies are available for as little as $0.39. I don’t think the instrument has been invented to calculate my royalty on $0.39.

And then there are the comments.

Ex Lib (meaning an ex library book). Even libraries dumped it! And to add further indignity, a blog reader mentioned he bought one recently that was an ex lib from Seattle. I broadcast in Seattle!

I can scan the book & author’s signature in your request. Someone ditched a copy I signed. Since I didn’t do any book signings (the publisher said I was not famous enough – also great for the ego), this means the copy probably belonged to a friend… or relative.

Gift inscription included Someone who didn’t even buy it wants to unload it. And it’s worth the $0.39 to get it the hell out of the house.

Remainder table price still on dust jacket Alerts the buyer that the original list price was $1.00 or two for $3.00.

There were a bunch of those. Not sure how they could tell. No mustard on the pages? No one underlined the “good” parts?

Looks like an interesting title Be still my heart!

I must say the only comment that bugged me was the library tossing it out. So I decided to check which library near me still featured it. Starting from nearest location, within ten libraries the distance was up to 233 miles. So I feel better. That’s still within walking distance.


There have been a lot of programs this year on the anniversary of the "Summer of Love". But the best has been saved for last. GREAT BIG RADIO. from the 23rd through New Years Day sets the Way-back machine for 1967. During that stretch, nothing but the music of 67 -- the big hits you remember, the great ones you forgot, the ones you thought you'd never hear again, the ones you were hoping to never hear again. Beatles, Stones, Motown, psychedelic, sunshine, folk rock, protest, Monkees, Memphis soul, Beach Boys, garage bands, Sinatra (two of 'em), acid rock, bubblegum, chicken rock, Jimi, Jim, Janis, and my personal favorite -- Lulu! Hear it ALL here on GREAT BIG RADIO.

And no this isn't a Pay Per Post. I'd make less than my book royalty.


Anonymous said...

"Tis better to have been published and perished than to never have been published at all." (with apologies to Saint Augustine)

Could be worse, you could have been hired to ghost write the Lynne Spears book on parenting entitled "Of course Jamie Lynn is still a virgin... no wait."

cbm said...

If it makes you feel any better, I have an ex-library version of Thomas Pynchon's V.


I think I paid $5.00 for it.

Anonymous said...

That top picture's sexy. Can those boxes strip? ;)

Rob said...

In an attempt to make the poor writer (who is facing a tough Christmas this year, being both unemployed and stuck far away from home during this season of joy) feel better, let me offer some possible explanations and/or things that will make you feel better:

1) If you've ever sold a book on Amazon, you know that you'll lose money if you sell it for .39 cents. Yes, if you lose $1.00 every copy you sell, you can eventually make it up in volume, but......

2) The nation's disgust over doping in baseball has spilled over to your book. Maybe they found out about the Andro you were taking during your days of announcing at Baltimore.

3) Libraries in your area were tossing it because they bought so many copies to handle the rush of interest from Seattle fans. (Or the flip side, someobody donated their copy after reading it, and the library wound up with more copies than they could use.)

4) The "signed" copy could be a forgery. After all, how many people out there would know what a Ken Levine signature would look like besides those few dozen kids that would line up near your booth before each game. Or..... maybe your daughter just needed a little extra spending cash.

5) If you really need an instrument to calculate your royalty on $0.39, ask the people you're striking against for some help. They're used to figuring out such tiny reimbursements.

Rob said...

Honestly, I would have paid to see Ken's ghost work on the Lynne Spears book. Heck, even the book as it is should be a riot.

Anonymous said...

If it's any consolation, I just checked with Amazon Germany here and the cheapest used price was 21 EUR (30 USD). And, get this, the only new one is offered for just 53 EUR (77 USD!). So there you go...

Anonymous said...

I loved your book and paid several dollars for it. Would have purchased it new if available. I admit, though, I got 50-cents for it later at our yard sale.

VP81955 said...

Ken, hope the Lulu stuff from '67 includes "The Boat That I Row," a great record that was a top ten UK hit and got a little U.S. airplay, though here it was buried on the B-side of "To Sir With Love" (which itself was a B-side to another track in Britain). "Boat" was written by Neil Diamond (it's reminiscent of his "Cherry Cherry" or "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"), and it almost makes one forgive him for "Sweet Caroline." Almost.

estiv said...

I at least wouldn't worry about the library book, Ken. After working in a library a while back, I know that their attitude to the average book is rather cavalier. I was shocked when one of my duties was to dump some old books into the trash. But they were twenty-year-old math textbooks, never to be used again by anyone, and for some reason not even fit to be recycled as paper.

And on the other end of the spectrum, I've bought some classic books cheap on that were discarded library copies. So look at this way--libraries dump stuff that's even better than yours. You're in good company.

Anonymous said...

Hey, my copy cost me a buck! And I could have had it for $.39?! I feel cheated, violated!!!

When I'm pushing my hot dog cart in Kona, I'll read it again between customers.

- Ignatius

The Curmudgeon said...

So, what have we learned from reading the post and the comments together?

Your book, with autograph, 39 cents.

Your book in Germany, without autograph, 21 Euros ($30 U.S.).
In Germany?

Anonymous said...

Ken, you may have forgotten that the ex libris bookplate most commonly designates “from the library of” the private owner of a book, so that it may be properly returned if lost or lent. You can therefore take comfort in the fact that Ex Lib may not necessarily mean your opus was dumped by a public library. It may merely have been unloaded by someone incredibly pretentious.

To provide further solace, my (still) best friend from school wrote a two volume set that is one of the more commonly used college textbooks on classical civilization (list $138 paperback, actual generally c. $93). In fact my daughter’s class had it assigned. With teaching responsibilities by now requiring far less preparation, he decided to supplement his income some evenings and weekends with a sales position at Barnes and Noble in New Haven.

As he was ringing up the sale of one of said volumes, Richard offhandedly mentioned to the purchaser that he was the book’s author, and would the young man like it autographed. As he was personalizing the book, he thought he noticed a look on the kid’s face suggesting the question, “Maybe I ought to switch majors.”

To make matters worse, the B&N website offering Richard’s various books includes this as the complete biographical information: "[The author] has a PhD. In Classics from Yale University. He is a sales representative for Barnes and Noble in New Haven, Connecticut.”

Anonymous said...

If it makes you feel better, over 247 libraries around the world own your book from Alaska to Florida! It even is owned by libraries internationally (Canada). Sadly, no library in Hawaii has a copy.
Kathryn, a librarian

Howard Hoffman said...

Hey, I still haven't sold my copy yet. But if your signing it bumps the price up to 39c, then I might have to reconsider. Let's get together when you return.

Well, now that you've gone and plugged the 1967 thing, I guess we have to follow through and actually do it. It starts midnight tomorrow night. And yes...a lot of the music does indeed require drugs.

Anonymous said...

Take heart, Levine. I bought your book off a remainder table in Santa Barbara many years ago, long before you were a world famous blogger. It now rests proudly on the very top of my living room bookcase, between MAX SHULMAN'S COLLEGE HUMOR ANTHOLOGY and HOLLYWOOD BABYLON.

It's 9 feet off the ground so I don't get to thumb through it that often anymore, but just to prove I DID read it--how well did you get along with Jon Miller? You both go to the movies but you go separately and wind up at the same show? Doesn't sound like best buds.

Also--while you're in Hawaii and in the extremely unlikely case you go into a used book store while on vacation, look for WAIKIKI BEACHNIK by H. Allen Smith. He was a newspaperman/humorist who went to Hawaii with his wife over Christmas (back when you sailed on the Matsonia) and wrote a book in diary form of the 3 months he spent there, i.e. a blog in the day when blogs were called "books."
The story of trying to rid the Royal Hawaiian Hotel trying to rid itself of the mynah birds in the courtyard is the best.

The royalties from your book should about cover the purchase price of his book.

By Ken Levine said...

Thanks everyone for the book love. Honestly, I just find the current state amusing. The fact that it was printed at all, sold at one time for full price, and some people actually BOUGHT it astounds and delights me to this day.

Re Jon Miller -- we were and continue to be great friends. We went to a lot of movies together but especially when we were home he had a family and I had a condo, so when we would show up the same night for a movie it was a surprise because I figured he was out doing something else with his fam.

Cap'n Bob said...

Those people who sell books for 39 cents or even a penny on Amazon make their profit on the excessive postage they charge.

Sorry, in book seller's terms "ex lib" means ex-library. A personal bookplate is a different condition.

There seems to be no rhyme nor reason why libraries either buy or unload books. Don't lose any sleep trying to figure it out.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

i just check the suffolk county, ny library list and 5 libraries carry the book.
also i just checked amazon and the lowest price is now $.53

now, i did not know you had a book and i will be requesting the book from the library. sure it's free from me, and you get nothing


if the book is enjoyable as most everything else you write, then the smiles will be priceless.

all the best

Rob said...

TOtally off subject, but I'll tie it into your Summer Of Love.... sort of.

I was reading SPIN Magazine today and they had an interview with Albert Hammond Jr.

I knew the name from the strokes, but for some reason the little flash drive in my brain lit up and pulled up a brief flash of a MUMS record label and the song I'm a Train. As a five and six year old, I remembered putting this thing on my record player and wearing it out. I also remembered the song being on Captain Kangaroo. So I went to You Tube and typed in the song's name.

There it was, with Albert Hammond Sr. lip syncing along.

What does this have to do with Amazon? Nothing, but it was a nice brief trip down memory lane to hear a beloved crappy hit from my childhood.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, I went to Wal-Mart today, straight to the DVD bargain bin as I always do.

Volunteers: $5.00.

Anonymous said...


I had to pay $7 ($3 for the book, $4 for shipping and handling) for mine, from Mike's Baseball Books in Chula Vista. Book fans should steer clear of ABEBooks, which is a treasure trove of books of all kinds from used bookstores around the world.

You have been warned.

Ken, your situation was nicely summed up by Robert Benchley in his essay "Why Does Nobody Collect Me?" in which he speaks of finding presentation copies in used-book stores and offers a copy of one of his collections with the recipient's name misspelled at a discount.

He also tells of a copy of a Hemingway book that Hemingway personally wrote in the dirty words that the publisher had omitted

The essay has the immortal line "Ernest Hemingway adds an air of virility to my dainty little apartment that I miss after he has gone and the furniture has been repaired."

You can find it in the collection "Chips Off The Old Benchley" which was released after his death and bought by millions of his fans, then ignored by their descendants and sold to used bookstores by the hundreds, so a good copy can be had for $5 or so.

With $10 shipping.


Anonymous said...

Libraries deacession books for any number of reasons. The most common is that it hadn't been checked out in a while and was in a section that was overcrowded. Not much better than the unread selection, I know.

Libraries do not have infinite space. We can't keep everything on the shelf, even though we'd like to and selling off low-circulating items gives us the money to acquire new useful resources and puts the book in a happy home. At least in theory.

Anonymous said...

Look like by writing about it here, you were able to push the price up to $0.57! That's the power of internet marketing.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad. Libraries work like video stores. They buy a few copies when something's new, then unload all except one copy afterward.

Anonymous said...

crutnacker, I also had a 45 of "I'm a Train" and loved it to death. I think I was in high school, and a buddy of mine whose family was in the radio biz gave me a promo pressing of it. I don't think it became much of a hit, but of course Albert Hammond did quite well with "It Never Rains in Southern California."

Tallulah Morehead said...

No sympathy. Amazon currently tells shoppers that they can buy "New & Used" copies of my book for $.01 That's not even remotely a joke. $.01!!! The paper alone is worth more than that.

On the other hand, last week I sold someone a copy for $10. it was a Ludditish acquainti who doesn't own a computer! HAH!

Tallulah Morehead said...

No sympathy. Amazon currently tells shoppers that they can buy "New & Used" copies of my book for $.01 That's not even remotely a joke. $.01!!! The paper alone is worth more than that.

On the other hand, last week I sold someone a copy for $10. it was a Ludditish acquainti who doesn't own a computer! HAH!

Anonymous said...

Off the wall Songs I remember from '67 as played on KCBQ-San Diego

The River Is Wide-The Forum
Tommy & Me-Gene & Tommy
Sunny Gorge Street-Tom Northcutt
Put Your Mind At Ease-Every Mother's Son
You're A Very Lovely Woman-Merry Go Round

Big Matt

kamagra said...

It's amazing how much great music was being created during that "Summer of Love" This is a great compilation.