by Pamela Palmer

#39, March 21, 2005


Some booksellers swear by their hunches. Others turn to occult powers. But the truly successful take a more profitable approach; they use flashpoints. As Craig Stark explains "flashpoints are specific features, details, etc., of books that trigger an emotional response. Sometimes this response is so subtle that nothing is consciously felt. Other times, much less often, it feels like a knife driven into one's solar plexus, but whatever the level of intensity, there is some kind of impression made, a change in neural tissue that burns a memory."

Sound intriguing? Then keep reading. Knowing how to work with flashpoints can transform your bottom line, so start developing your personal skills with these articles.


What They Are and How to Use Them

What are flashpoints? Nothing less than expansive knowledge, the kind that can remake you into a power bookseller. Learn more about them here - and The Grapes of Wrath too!

How to Photograph Books
Part 1 - An Introduction to Flashpoints

Critical to successful book buying, flashpoints should not be overlooked in the selling process either, especially when photographing books for sales presentations.



Book Power Made Easy
The Case for Flashpoints

With approximately 29,000,000 books and printed materials currently housed in the Library of Congress and who knows how many more millions not in this collection, how can a bookseller ever hope to accumulate enough knowledge about a significant percentage of books to make intelligent buying decisions? Well, the answer lies in the acquisition of expansive knowledge, which, unlike garden varieties, literally propagates in your mind with almost no effort, fitting you out in Seven League Boots for your journeys into Book Land.


Building Your Flashpoint Library
What's the absolute, hand's-down best thing you can do with your time as a bookseller? The answer may surprise you, and yes, it has something to do with John Steinbeck.

Anatomy of a Flashpoint
Pigeon Magic

For centuries pigeons have been used to carry messages. Bred to carry messages. Bred to carry messages faster and faster. The very idea of this is every bit as magical as, for example, a poor slob stranded on an island putting a note into a bottle and tossing it to the waves. Today, interest in pigeons no longer has much to do with carrying messages but very much to do with racing them. Or breeding them for beauty. Books or associated ephemera pertaining to pigeons are reliably good sellers. The more uncommon ones are highly sought after. Pigeon is a flashpoint of the first order.


The Hugo Award
A Universe of Flashpoints

In our feature article today, Tim Doyle offers an interesting take on flashpoints - namely, using a list of Hugo Award winners (and nominees) as flashpoints. The potential profits are considerable.


Children's Book Awards
Remarks and Lists

Bookseller Catherine Huang makes her first appearance at BookThink. Catherine has put together some especially useful lists of award winning children's books - this may be the most complete set of these lists anywhere - and skillfully demonstrates how these can be used to mine our sought-after flashpoints.



Anatomy of a Flashpoint
There's Bookselling Gold in Letters

"Anatomy of a Flashpoint" returns after a long absence to profile a little-known but profit-generating flashpoint - collections of letters.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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