This is an excerpt from the book:
SELL BOOKS ON THE INTERNET!
How to Identify, Describe and Market Books on the Internet
Updated and Revised Second Edition, © 1999 and 2002 by Tessa Hebert, all rights reserved.
Items to Include in a Book's Description
There are certain essential items that describe the book, are required for determining the book's value, and will determine whether or not someone buys the book. This chapter contains the information and terminology that you will need to use to describe a book in a sale listing, along with advice about how to create a description. There is a table below, titled Items to Include in a Description, that you can use as a checklist. Also, examples of a book description in two different formats are at the end of this chapter.
|The items to include in a book’s description
9 Essential Items, plus:
3 Optional Items
5 Items to Include if Space Permits
Essential Items and Items to Include if Present:
Definitions and Placements in a Description
Author: The person who wrote the text of the book is the author. Text is the main body of work in the book, exclusive of pre-text pages like an preface or introduction written by someone else, illustrations, and supplemental pages like an index.
In descriptions of more than one book that are placed in alphabetical order, such as catalog listings, the author's name is placed first. The order of the author's name in alphabetical descriptions is: last name is placed first, followed by a comma, then the author's first name, followed by a colon. For example:
In alphabetical descriptions, additional author's names are placed after the first author's name, in the order of first name first, last name second, such as:
Smith, John and Joe Jones:
In the case of a book that does not have an author's name, the word “anonymous” is placed in parenthesis where the author's name would be placed, in an alphabetical description.
Editor: The editor prepares the manuscript for publication in final form, including revising or rearranging the writing, checking the writing for factual accuracy, as well as correcting the punctuation, spelling, and grammatical mistakes.
In the case of a collection of writings by different authors, or when a book does not have an author but has an editor, the editor's name is stated in the description in place of an author's name, with a notation that the name is the editor's. An example of a description for an editor's name, when the book does not have an author's name, in an alphabetical listing, is:
James, Will (Editor):
In a collection of writings by the same author, for a book that states the author's name, plus there is an editor, the editor's name is included after the author's. An example of a description for an author's name, plus an editor's name, in an alphabetical listing, is:
Smith, John. Will James (Editor):
Illustrator and Photographer: The illustrator is the one who created the drawings or illustrations that are in the book. The photographer is the one who took the photographs that are in the book.
Some books are very collectible because of the illustrations or photography, particularly when an artist has become famous and his art is highly collectible. Thus, it is a good idea to list the names of illustrators and photographers, when their names are shown in the book, after the name of the author. Examples of a description with an author's name plus an illustrator's name are:
Smith, John. Sam Henry (Illustrator):
Smith, John. Illustrated by Sam Henry:
Title: The title of the book is the complete name of the book, including the subtitle, as shown on the title page of the book.
Publisher's Name and Location: The publisher is the company that was responsible for producing the book. The publisher's information is usually found on the title page, and/or on the copyright page.
In an alphabetical description, the publisher's location is usually shown first, followed by a colon, and the publisher's name is shown second, such as in this example:Copyright Year: The copyright year is the year the work was copyrighted by the author or owner of the book. Usually, it is the year the author wrote the book, or the year the book was first published. The year of the copyright is usually printed in the book by either the use of the word “copyright” or the ©, followed by the copyright year and the name of the owner of the copyright. The copyright year is usually found on the reverse of the title page. This is an example of a copyright statement:Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. New York: ABC Publisher.The publisher's name can also be shown first, followed by a comma and the publisher's location, as in this example:Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York.
© 1999 by John Smith
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, © 1975.
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, 1975.
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, entered according to an Act of Congress in 1867.
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, 1867.
If the edition or printing history is stated in the book, it is best to use the word “stated” when describing the edition or printing. When the word “stated” is not used, the presumption is that the seller has determined the edition and printing (and guarantees it to be correct, rather than just copying what was stated in the book into his description). An example of a description that shows a book’s edition and printing history is:
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, © 1975, stated first edition, stated first printing.If you know the statement of edition and printing in the book is incorrect, you must clarify your description with a correction statement. An example of the way to show what is incorrectly stated in the book with a correction statement is:
Stated first edition, stated first printing (Publisher's statement is incorrect. This edition is actually a first printing of the ABC reprint.).You can also state the correct edition and printing without stating the incorrect publisher's statement, as in this example:
First printing of the ABC reprint.An example of a description of a book-club edition with a first-edition statement is:
Book-club edition with first-edition statement on copyright page.Binding Format: The binding format is a description of the book’s cover, such as hardback, paperback, leather-bound, or cloth. It is important to mention the binding format, because binding format can greatly affect the book’s value.
When the book is a hardback, always state in your description whether or not a dust jacket is present. Also, if the book has a slipcase or box, include that in your description.
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, © 1975, first edition, first printing, hardback with dust jacket.Condition: A description of the book’s condition, as well as the dust jacket’s condition, must be included in the book’s description. Please see Chapter 4 for complete details of how to describe a book’s condition.
Price: Price is the amount that the seller wants for the book, without delivery costs. See Chapter 5 for information about how to determine a book’s selling price.
Shipping Costs: Shipping costs can include:
1. Postage or the cost of a delivery service.Any unusual or expensive shipping costs must be mentioned and explained. Always try to keep shipping costs as low as possible, because many buyers will object to high shipping costs and you may lose business to your competitors who have lower shipping costs.
2. Cost of packing materials.
3. Postal insurance, if the book is mailed.
4. Delivery confirmation costs, if the book is mailed.
5. Handling charge for wrapping and shipping.
Items That Increase a Book’s Value:
Definitions and Placements in a Description
When items that increase a book’s value are present, include statements about them in your description.
Pre-Publication Editions: Sometimes a book is issued in a pre-publication format, and those books are called uncorrected proofs and advance reading copies.
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, © 1975, uncorrected proofs, paperback.
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, © 1975, advance reading copy, stated first edition, first printing, hardback with dust jacket.
If the author also wrote the date with his signature, check to see if the year of the author's signature matches the year the book was published. Books signed by the author in the year of publication can be more valuable than one signed by the author in a later year. So, always include a “signed in the year of publication” statement in your description, if such is the case.Author-Signed Book: An author-signed book has the author's signature on one of the book’s pages. An example of a description of an author-signed book, with the author's signature dated in the year of publication, is:
A statement that the book is signed by the author is placed in the description after the binding-format statement. Always include the location of the author's signature in your description.
Chagall-illustrated bookplate on inside front cover.
Bookplate signed by John F. Kennedy with printed statement “from the library of President John F. Kennedy” on first end-page.Errata Sheet: An errata sheet lists the errors in the book that were found after the book was printed or bound. An errata sheet is usually a loose page, smaller than the pages of the book, that is laid in or tipped in the book. The presence of an errata sheet that was not originally bound with the book increases the book’s value. Some later printings and reprints will have the errata sheet of the first edition bound into the book, usually at the rear of the book. When the errata sheet is bound in with the book, its presence in the book would only be mentioned if you included a list of the contents of the book in your description.
If you know the book was issued with a loose errata sheet, but your book does not have one, you must state the absence of the errata sheet in your description. Some errata sheets are poor-quality photocopies, and that must be mentioned in your description, but if that was how the errata sheet was originally issued by the publisher, state that the condition of the errata sheet was “as issued” in your description. Because errata sheets are often issued in odd sizes, you can also include the measurements of an errata sheet in your description. This is an example of a description of an errata sheet:
4” x 5” errata sheet tipped in on first-end page (poor-quality photocopy, as issued by the publisher).Ephemera: Ephemera is a word used to describe items which are related to the book or the author, but were not originally part of the book. Ephemera can include letters written by the author, publisher's press releases about the book, photographs of the author, newspaper articles about the book or author, and tickets stubs to a performance or lecture given by the author. The presence of ephemera with the book can greatly increase the book’s value. Some examples of a description of ephemera are:
Publisher's one-page press release announcing the publication of the book, on publisher's letterhead, laid in book.
Photograph of author glued to inside front cover.
Some items are optional on certain books, because they do not provide information necessary to either identify the book or determine its value, or such items are not applicable to the book you are describing. Optional items are: number of pages; pre-text, supplemental, and other pages; and size of book.
Whenever these optional items are present and they would identify the book or help the buyer to decide to buy the book, be sure to include them in the book's description.
Number of Pages: Sometimes the number of pages in the book indicates the size and weight of the book which may justify a high price or a high shipping cost. For instance more pages means more content, which could justify a higher price, and a thousand-page book would certainly require a higher shipping cost than a hundred-page book. Sometimes the number of pages is not relevant, for instance, when there is only one edition of the book and the number of pages does not identify the edition or printing, or justify a higher shipping cost. However, when the number of pages in the book will help the buyer to determine whether or not to buy the book, it is best to include the number of pages in the listing. I always include the number of pages of the book in my book descriptions; however, when listing space is limited, the number of pages can be left out of a description.
When listing the number of pages of a book use the number of the last text page, and include any other pages which are not numbered with the text pages, such as: pre-text pages, illustrations, supplemental pages, appendices, index, or advertisement pages. Do not include blank pages, the title page, or half-title page. For example:
i-xx, 457 numbered pages, plus 30 photo pages and 5 ad pages.Pre-Text Pages, Supplemental Pages, and Illustrations: Pre-text pages may be of interest to the potential buyer and it is best to mention their presence in the book along with information about them, if space permits. Librarians, researchers, and scholars prefer books that have indexes and bibliographies, so be sure to mention those, if they are included in the book. Some buyers will want to know if the book has illustrations, photographs, maps, charts, or graphs, so be sure to mention those also.
[The Roman numerals are the numbers of the Preliminary Pages (1-20).]
Size of Book: It is best to include the size of the book in a sale listing, because a potential buyer may want to know the book's size, and the book’s size may be an indicator of its edition. However, if the book is well known and was only issued in one edition, it is not necessary to describe its size.
I recommend using inches to describe the measurements of books when you are selling books in the USA. If your buying audience is in Canada or Europe, it is best to state the book’s measurements in centimeters. You may also provide the measurements in both inches and centimeters, to accommodate an international Internet market.
I suggest that the width of the book be listed first and then the height of the book. A quote mark instead of the word “inches” can be used, with an “x” used instead of the word “by,” such as: 6" x 9" to describe a book that is six inches wide and nine inches high. It is not necessary to state the depth or thickness of the book. The location of the size of the book in a description is before the book’s binding format.
More information about format-size terms is available at Internet locations that I have listed at the end of Chapter 2, in the Online Locations for Definitions of Book-Selling Terminology section.
Placement of Optional Items in a Description: An example of a book’s description with optional items is:
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, London, © 1975, first edition, first printing, 6” x 9” hardback with dust jacket. 375 pages, illustrated with many photographs, index, bibliography.
If there is enough space, include pictures of the book, information from the table of contents, or blurbs and quotes from the dust jacket, biographical information on the author, or your own description of the book's contents, plot, or topic. However, it is best to not copy any part of a book that is copyrighted without written permission from the copyright owner.
Using Pictures in a Description: Pictures of the front of the dust jacket and illustrations from the book will certainly enhance your description of the book. It is a good idea to include pictures of all special features of the book, such as an author's inscription and signature, decorated and embossed covers, or anything that is particularly attractive about the book and will appeal to your shopping audience.
Some book sellers use pictures to show damage to the book, and such a method is effective, but cannot be relied upon to replace a word description of damage. Pictures often do not show the vital elements clearly, and your picture might not be viewable if your picture-hosting server is down, or traffic on the Internet is too busy to allow the picture to load into a shopper’s Internet browser. Also, some Internet users have old computers which cannot handle the loading of pictures, so they turn off the picture-loading feature in their browsers.
My Advice About Pictures: Let the picture support and enhance the description. Do not expect the picture to be a replacement for a written description. All essential items to describe the book must be in words in the description. Do not assume that a potential buyer can see something significantly important in the picture. For instance, do not assume that a tear on the dust jacket that is visible in the picture will be noticed by the buyer.
For information on how to upload pictures for placement in your sale listings on the Internet, please see the Pictures section of the next chapter, Selling Books on the Internet.
What to Do If There Is a Discrepancy: Whenever there is a discrepancy between information on the spine, front cover, and title page, use the information that is found on the title page. For instance, when the book’s title on the spine might be only the shortened version of the title without the subtitle, or the author's name is abbreviated on the spine, the information on the title page would be used in the book’s description. In the event that the information on the spine or front cover is different from the information on the title page, it is best to also include the different information found on the spine or cover as an addition to the information found on the title page. This is an example for a description of a title where there is a different title on the spine than the one on the title page:
THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. Title on spine is GARDENING ART.Printer’s Name: A printer’s name and information is rarely stated in a book, and even when it is, that information is not included in a book’s description, unless the publisher's name is not stated in the book, or if the printer’s name would be of some importance to a potential buyer (and usually it is not).
In the case where there is no publisher's name, but a printer’s name is stated in the book, the printer’s name would be placed in the description where the publisher's name would normally be, along with the location of the printer, and a notation would be made that the name is the printer’s, such as in this example:
Smith, John: THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. XYZ Company (printer), New York.Typing a Copyright Symbol: To make a copyright symbol from your keyboard, hold down the Alt key while you type the numbers: 0169.
Advice for Describing a Book
A Complete and Accurate Description Is Required:
Internet shopper cannot see the book or examine it, so the seller must
provide an accurate and complete description of the book. Also, the
shopper may not know any book-seller terminology, so it is best to describe
the book using only words that are commonly used and understood in the
English language. It is very important to list all defects or damage,
but at the same time, list the book’s good points too.
Always describe a book completely and accurately.
The Guidelines: Until you get more experience in describing books, it might be best to just follow the guidelines in this chapter. You can use the table, Items to Include in a Description, as a checklist for the essential items to include in your listing.
You do not have to be a book expert to describe a book. Just be fair and honest about the description, and describe the book in ordinary English. You can place the essential items in any order and in any manner in your listing that suits you. Just make sure that your description does not mislead or confuse your shopping audience. Remember that many of your shoppers will be book sellers, book collectors, and other book experts, so be careful to include all of the essential items in your description that professional book people will expect to see.
Use Personality and Good Sales Techniques in the Description: You can use a friendly tone and express your personality in your listing. Also, remember that your purpose in describing the book is to sell it, so use good sales techniques, such as highlighting the points that will appeal to your buying audience. Include the optional items that make your book more appealing and might attract a shopper to buy it. You can list the most-attractive items first, leaving the dry details for last. You can arrange your description to be very informative and yet, attractive and representative of your personality all at the same time.
Technique to Create a Description: This is a good technique to use when describing a book: Pretend that you are having a telephone conversation with a friend and your friend wants to buy the book. The friend cannot see the book or examine it, and the friend is depending on you to describe the book accurately and completely, plus tell him what condition the book is in. Naturally, you are going to tell your friend all the good points about the book, and you are also going to tell your friend all of the bad points, in as objective and honest a manner as you can. Follow the table for Items to Include in a Description, and tell your friend about each item. Write down what you pretend to tell your friend, and what you write down will become your book description.
For instance, this is what you would pretend to tell you friend (and write down):
The title is The Art of Gardening: A Complete Guide to Plants. The author's name is John Smith. The book was edited by Will James, and it is illustrated by Sam Henry. The book was published by ABC Publisher in New York. The copyright date is 1975. There is a statement on the copyright page that states: first printing, first edition. The book is a hardback and it has a dust jacket. There are some small bumps and a few tiny wears on the cover edges, but otherwise the cover and spine are in very nice, bright, and neat. The binding is intact, and so are the hinges. The pages are very neat and clean, but there are a few small creases on a few pages. The dust jacket is very nice, it is neat, clean, and bright, but there is a 2-inch tear on the front that starts at the top edge, and it has some light soil on the rear. I do not see any other damage or defects on the book or the dust jacket.Now, all you have to do is rearrange all of that information to suit you and your style of describing a book. For example, all that information could be rearranged in either of the two methods shown next.
Examples of a Book Description
Two examples of a book description are shown below.
The first description is done in a paragraph style, which would most commonly
be used in a catalog or alphabetical listing of books for sale. While
this is not a fancy or imaginative style for a description, it contains
all the essential items that are required in a book’s description.
The second description is in a table-format style, which might be more
suitable for an auction listing.
|Smith, John. Will James (editor), Sam Henry (illustrator): THE ART OF GARDENING: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS. ABC Publisher, New York, © 1975, stated first edition, stated first printing, 6” x 9” hardback with dust jacket. 375 pages, illustrated with many photographs, index, bibliography. Very Good/Good. Book and dust jacket are overall clean, neat, and bright; except for: Book: Some small bumps and few tiny wears on cover edges; few small creases on a few pages. Dust Jacket: 2" tear on top front edge; some light soil on rear. $15.00, plus $4.00 for media-mail postage, insurance, and packaging.|
|Title of Book:||The Art of Gardening: A Complete Guide to Plants|
|Publisher:||ABC Publisher, New York
Copyright Year: 1975
Edition: Stated first edition, stated first printing
|Binding Format:||6” x 9” hardback with dust jacket. Illustrated with many photographs. Index, bibliography. 375 pages.|
|Condition:||Very Good/Good. Book and dust jacket are overall clean, neat, and bright; except for: Book: Some small bumps and few tiny wears on cover edges; few small creases on a few pages. Dust Jacket: 2" tear on top front edge; some light soil on rear.|
|Shipping Fees:||$4.00 for media-mail postage, insurance, and packaging.|
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