"The Secret" of Bookselling

by Craig Stark

2 November 2011

New Thought Retroactivated

Printer Friendly Version

New Thought is all the rage now. In publishing, manifestations of it are ubiquitous - Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez, Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, to name but two of many fabulously successful books. And prosperity ministries are popping up everywhere, perhaps none more conspicuously than Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, packed to the rafters of Houston's Compaq Center each week - and televised anywhere and everywhere. This is not to mention gurus such as Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, all of whom have huge followings and have authored numerous books to help you get from here to there. As in all rages, fads, trends, etc., there are opportunities for booksellers. Now, grabbing a copy of The Secret at the next book sale won't, like most bestsellers, help your cause much, but successful bookselling requires deeper investigation.

A few years ago, in issue #36 of the Gold Edition - "Personally, I Could Care Less about Britney Spears, but She's on My Watch List Anyway" - I presented a step-by-step, somewhat tongue-in-cheek guide to identifying high spots or items likely to become high spots associated with Britney Spears. Obviously, there's much material out there that isn't worth a glance, so some sort of deliberative process is required to uncover the far fewer things that will produce a payoff. In this issue, the emphasis was on proactive bookselling - that is, anticipating books, etc., that are likely to get hot on the basis of observing current events.

Here are a few paragraphs that introduce the approach:

I keep a watch list in my scouting book for purposes of staying alert to potentially hot books and associated items. Recently, I added a name to it - Britney Spears. Frankly, other than to peruse a few pages here and there to assess writing quality, I've never read any of her several books, never exercised a choice to listen to her music (though I've heard some of it incidentally) and never seen one of her films. I'm aware, however, of certain things that target her as a potentially large source of profit for me - as a bookseller - to some extent now but almost certainly to a greater extent in the not too distant future.

I'll explain. Britney Spears has star power, which I'll define for our purposes as simply having gained and held the attention, over time, of lots and lots of people. Much of this star power was built on a recording career - to date, she's the 8th top selling US female artist in history - but lately far more publicity has been generated by what many have interpreted as bizarre behavior. Some of this has included exposing herself in public, checking in and out and in and out and in and out of rehab almost ad infinitum - oh, and shaving her head. Pop psychologists would doubtless diagnose this as some sort of symbolic cry for help, but, whatever's going on, things seem distinctly unstable, and many fans are keenly interested in new developments - and of course are being kept compulsively up to date by an accommodating media.

Speaking as a bookseller who has had some luck in the past at purchasing inventory on the cheap in advance of it becoming hot, I wouldn't be surprised if things get worse before they get better (if they ever do get better), though the culmination may not be as tragic as the recent death of Anna Nicole Smith, who, by the way, was on my watch list for many months prior. Talk about profit! For booksellers, star power can be exploited at any time throughout the star's career, but the best potential is usually near the beginning, when things are first heating up, and at the end - posthumously. In between, well, that's usually the best time to watch and buy (cheaply), but if there are dramatic developments at mid-stream, potential can be good then as well.

The more troubled Spears becomes, the more self-destructive behavior we see from her, the more intriguing she'll become to collectors. There's widespread fascination with flame-outs, especially the process as destructive societal forces interplay with celebrities.

One of the more important things a bookseller can do is to gain an understanding of collector mentality - know why collectors buy what they buy, especially why they will pay more for some items than others. The above is in part an attempt to explain why some collectors are interested in Spears, but in no way would this be a valid explanation for why other collectors are interested in New Thought material - for that matter, proactive bookselling may not even apply here. But retroactive bookselling sure does.

I'm not going to attempt a New Thought collector analysis in this article, other than to suggest that, given our troubled economic times, it makes sense to me why intense interest could be generated in a movement that seeks to show people how to achieve success - and generally manifest good things in their lives - by essentially changing their thinking. It also makes sense to me that there would be many times in our history that created a similar climate for New Thought - and indeed there were.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

| Forum | Store | Publications | BookLinks | BookSearch | BookTopics | Archives | Advertise | AboutUs | ContactUs | Search Site | Site Map | Google Site Map

Store - Specials | BookHunt | BookShelf | Gold Edition & BookThink's Quarterly Market Report | DomainsForSale | BookThinker newsletter - free

Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC

 Subscribe in a reader


Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment