To a Theater Near You | Newberry

To a Theater Near You

I like to know about these things beforehand. It’s hard to guess, when you’re pricing books in April, what books are going to be made into movies which will be nominated for Oscars, propelling their stars, directors, action figures, and copies of the book to higher value. So when someone sent me the latest news on upcoming blockbusters based ion books, I checked it over to see whether this would provide any pricing hints. I was reminded of something the elders of my community used to say.


Some of the upcoming movies are based on books which are ALREADY expensive in the first edition. No matter how good it turns out to be, the new version of Catch-22 will probably not make that $10,000 pricetag very much higher. This decade’s version of “Little Women” may spark discussion among film buffs of what version was their favorite, but I don’t suppose it will change that note in the upper righthand corner about the book costing $5,000 change much. (Just to make matters clear, I do NOT so far have either of these books for sale. If you have one to get rid of, I would not turn down a copy, movie or no movie.)

Similarly, no one ever gives us Agatha Christie first editions. So the fact that The ABC Murders and Death Comes as the End (that’s the one set in ancient Egypt) are making their way to the BBC does very little for me.

I did talk to someone who was thrilled that Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch was being made into a movie. “Maybe they’ll find the plot while they’re at it,” she said. I don’t see that that attitude will make any of our, let’s say, thirty or forty copies sell any faster. I know we also have nearly that many copies of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I am NOT going back to reprice all those in any case. If you buy a copy for three bucks and resell it for thousands, maybe you’ll have the chauffeur bring you around the NEXT year’s Book Fair, just to say “Thanks!”

What makes us money in this line are the books nobody expected to become a hit movie. That novel we got in today, for example, a self-published volume involving Christmas miracles in a close-knit Italian neighborhood in some dark corner of Chicago. If this is not tailor-made for the Hallmark Christmas movie season, I’m a lame reindeer. And if it should happen to become THE Christmas movie of the TV season…well, it’ll still probably be worth the five bucks we put on it. But you might want to buy it, just to be sure.

I haven’t heard of some of these Major Books which are to be Major Shows, but that’s always the way. I certainly wish the best for Good Omens, a book we probably have by the dozen in paperback (It’s in the Sci Fi section: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett teamed up on it.) I think the mini-series is going to air around Memorial Day, so I COULD mark the prices up before July if….

Of course, I see the problem, and you see it, too. I don’t want to know just what books are going to be made into movies. That sort of information is all around the Interwebs. What I really need to know is which books are going to be made into GOOD movies. Which books are going to be made into the television series everyone will be talking about in the staff lounge? How many copies of Game of thrones or Westworld did I sell for pennies when if I had saved them until AFTER the blockbuster….

Maybe what I should do is write a book about the Book Fair manager who went travelling around time to get his book prices right. That would sell a million copies, and then be made into a movie and become the first book responsible for a Nobel and an Oscar within twelve months. And THEN I could make some money selling the first editions.

There: I have a business plan now. See you on the Walk of Fame.

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