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December 05, 2006

Pure Insanity

Some fellow is auctioning off a first edition hardcover of Old Man's War on eBay. No idea what the reserve price is, but the "Buy It Now" price the dude has listed is $490. Four hundred ninety dollars. And it's not even autographed! See, now, that's just nuts. Flattering, yes. But nuts.

However, it does suggest to me that if you do have a first printing of the hardcover version of the book, you might want to tuck it away somewhere. The first printing was indeed only 3,800 copies, and even if from here on out I buy an express ticket to Suckville and write only pure crap, OMW was a Hugo nominee and I did win my Campbell primarily because of it. It has collector's value independent of me now. Possibly not $500 worth; I think this fellow is being charmingly optimistic about that. But some.

I do promise that I will try to increase its value for you by attempting not to suck. I can't promise anything -- I think sometimes writers take the express to Suckville whether they intend to or not -- but, you know. I'll try to stay off that particular line.

Posted by john at December 5, 2006 09:12 AM

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Petter Hesselberg | December 5, 2006 09:54 AM

I guess few writers go to Suckville on purpose, whether by express or by slow train. Still, it's good to know that you will attempt not to suck -- and fortunately, your talent for sucking badly does seem somewhat underdeveloped.

But $490? It boggles the (alleged) mind...

Randy | December 5, 2006 10:00 AM

I guess the fact that no one "bought it now" for $35.00 didn't affect this new lister.


John Scalzi | December 5, 2006 10:02 AM

Yeah, that one's a fourth printing. I don't recall how many of those are out there.

kero aka kevin | December 5, 2006 10:11 AM

Probably easier to increase the value by bidding on it, then you wouldn't have to worry so much about the suckatude thing. You have less stress, the owner of the book makes a nice profit, it's a win-win!

John Scalzi | December 5, 2006 10:15 AM

Well, you know. I already have first editions of my work.

Steve Buchheit | December 5, 2006 10:15 AM

Sounds like there is no box of remainders sitting in John's basement. Which is a Good Thing(tm).

I have friends in the rare book business and they do things like this. I've never really understood it, but I do have some books that are more precious because of what they are (samples of hand-set type, hand-colored plates, etc) than for their subject, I just never understood the whole "signed copy" and "first print" mania. When I get a book signed, it's because I respect the author and I'm keeping the damn thing, not because I want to increase it's value.

John Scalzi | December 5, 2006 10:28 AM

Steve Buchheit:

"Sounds like there is no box of remainders sitting in John's basement."

Indeed not. The sell-through on the hardcover of OMW was pretty good, although that's also due to Tor doing multiple small printings, which had the effect of keeping supply well-tied to demand. Early indications suggest there won't be too many remaindered copies of Ghost Brigades either. Which is also a good thing.

I tend not to be a book collector myself. I have a lot of first editions/first printings, but that's because I tend to buy the work of people I like when it comes out. And then I read them. Because that's what books are for.

Chang who love eat brainz! | December 5, 2006 11:41 AM


jeez, maybe I can get a couple grand for my TGB first edition.

John, can I get you to sign my copy of TAD in gold pen at Boskone? That'll be really snazzy looking on the 'Bay!

Nathan | December 5, 2006 12:00 PM

Slight left turn from the topic but, Amazon is listing The Sagan Diary as available for pre-order (January 2007). Hardcover @ $13.60 and Hardcover @ $29.70.

Do they just forward pre-orders to SP? How are they pricing this way. Will there be a Pvt. 3rd class Amazon on the memoriam?


John Scalzi | December 5, 2006 12:07 PM

If people want to get their names in the book, they need to order the limited edition from the Subterranean Press site. I'm pretty sure Amazon won't be forwarding the names of those who order the book to Subterranean.

hugh57 | December 5, 2006 12:09 PM

Just curious, who did the DJ art for the hardcover? And why did Tor change it for the trade paperback?

PixelFish | December 5, 2006 12:18 PM

Now your inscription on my first edition OMW makes even more sense: Guard this book with your life!

I'm fully expecting the black ops fans to come bursting through the door any minute now.

John Scalzi | December 5, 2006 12:25 PM

Never sleep in the same place twice. Carry it with you always. Learn to make weapons out of everyday objects.

Erbo | December 5, 2006 12:38 PM

It's possible, even likely, that the actual printed hardcover edition of Agent to the Stars may be rarer. I mentioned it to my father while I was visiting him in San Diego recently, and he keyed it into a book search site (abebooks.com, I think) that he's used in the past to find things like Tony Hillerman first editions. He found...nada.

Oh well...rather than look back on missed opportunities, I'm looking forward to TLC and the limited-edition TSD I preordered...

John Scalzi | December 5, 2006 12:44 PM

The printed hardcover of Agent is indeed rarer: There are only 1,500 copies printed, plus a few additional copies which went to me and the publisher.

Eddie | December 5, 2006 01:38 PM

I have a very nice copy of TAD with only a few coffee stains that I will be offering on eBaY in the near future.

Anyone reading this and wishing to avoid the distasteful bidding process can pick it up now at the ridicuously low price of er,say $485.

My wife takes most of my books(they tend to take over my room) to Half-Price.She wouldn't think twice about getting rid of my signed firsts.

andrew | December 5, 2006 02:13 PM

Speaking as a collector and a bookseller, $500 isn’t actually that far out of line. ABE.com doesn’t even seem to have a first edition/first printing of OMW available. A 3,800 copy run is quite low for a popular, award-wining author’s first book. It’s all supply and demand man, not intrinsic value. And frankly, I’ve seen books by far less talented writers sell for much more, for a variety of obscure market-driven reasons. In the rare book business, volumes routinely exchange hands for staggering amounts. Someday, a fine copy of OMW will pass through an auction house for several grand, believe it.

Fred Kiesche | December 6, 2006 09:01 PM

Darn. Second printing. There go my hopes for financing a trip to a warm clime!

Bookninja | December 9, 2006 04:13 PM

Well, I am a book dealer and let me reveal the secret of why we sell newish books at ridiculously high prices...

Because people pay.

Now the secret of why people pay a premium for the first printing...

They want a nice hardcover edition and the "first" is "closer" to the author. A signed copy is closer still as empirical evidence of the author touching the book exists.

3,800 as a first edition is too many to keep the price high. Just wait a few years. To put it in perspective, Snow Crash is reputed to have about 600 copies in the first edition and currently goes in the (actually selling price, not silly asking price) $600ish range. The fact that there are reprints will work against a high price on the first as those who just want a nice copy and just buy a nice copy.

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