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Easy as ABC
Believe it or not, some things in bookselling are easy. Take Sue Grafton. By writing one alphabet mystery novel after another, starting with A is for Alibi and having more recently completed S is for Silence, she has engineered a publishing phenomenon that almost shouts, "Collect me!" After all, what could be simpler for the collector? You start at one end of the alphabet and work forward or back until you've got them all, first US and/or UK's alike. And getting them all isn't prohibitively expensive - yet. A nice, dust-jacketed first of A is for Alibi can still be had for several hundred dollars, and you don't have to work too far forward from there to see prices drop below $100. By the time you reach E or F, in fact, you're already under $50. Even if your criteria is to collect signed first editions, this is still very doable because, let me tell you, this lady has signed a ton of books. As a result, signed first editions of later series titles are common and can usually be had for about $10.
As booksellers, we are only too happy to accommodate collectors. This should be bread and butter stuff for many. Not only are there 19 alphabet titles to look for but also audiobooks and proof copies, both of which sell robustly, and, if you run into multiple hardbacks of later printings, paperbacks or book club editions, no matter; you can sell these in lots - and they will sell. Also, if you do your fair share of scouting, finding Grafton firsts may almost be a weekly occurrence. J is for Judgment, for example, had an initial print run of half a million, and N is for Noose, published in 1998, was a million strong.
Essential for booksellers who want to make money off Graftons is to nail down first edition identification. Grafton began her (alphabet) US publishing life in 1982 with Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Two titles - A is for Alibi and B is for Burglar bear this imprint. Soon after B is for Burglar was published, Holt Rinehart & Winston divided into two distinct corporations, and one of these, now named Henry Holt and Co., continued to publish Grafton's work. Preceding the publication of P is for Peril in 2001, G.P. Putnam's Sons (under the Penguin Group umbrella) took over and has published all US editions henceforth.
A-B - Holt, Rinehart & Winston
C-O - Henry Holt and Co.
P-S - G.P. Putnam's Sons
It's much simpler across the Atlantic:
A-S - Macmillan
Following are the corresponding issue points for each title:
Buying and Selling Sue Grafton
Since we're addressing modern or hyper-modern firsts printed in the hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more, condition is huge in determining final values, as is the presence of a dust jacket. If at all possible, take care to buy copies in F/F condition, and this will help separate you from your competitors. When marketing, clear visual confirmation of condition will carry the day. Compromise on condition only on titles A-E (either publisher), copies of the UK (Macmillan) K is for Killer with first state dust jackets, and early proofs.
50/50 subscriber's take note: First editions of titles A-F should reach 50/50 levels in F/F condition, and the presence of a signature helps get you there. Somewhere at or before mid-alphabet it stops making sense to sell single firsts unless they're signed. Late in the alphabet, even signed copies may struggle at $10 or $15.
Grab any and all audiobooks in any format. A few may need to be grouped into lots. Some are distinctly hard to find. When purchasing later hardback printings and paperbacks for purposes grouping into lots for eBay listings, buy cheap - or don't buy at all. Also research comparables. Sometimes it's smart to put BIN's on lots for somewhat more than non-BIN auctions are going for.
Finally, note that several Graftons outside the series are highly sought after. Examples include The Lolly-Madonna War (novel), Keziah Dane (novel) and Kinsey and Me (short story collection). Buy any of these you come across in any edition or format.
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