Copies of a First Novel
by J. M. COETZEE (2003 Nobel Prize for Literature)
Invigorate the Bookselling Marketplace
the morning his award became public knowledge, some prices for
a book by J. M. Coetzee, who now adds the phrase Nobel Prize
for Literature to his letterhead, increased more than 60%
from $500 to $800 for first edition copies. Overnight.
But what, from these secondary marketplace deals, does the author
the morning when J. M. Coetzee received the news that he won
the Nobel Prize for Literature, his first novel Dusklands immediately
repopulated the bookselling aftermarket. Private owners and
booksellers prepared cherished copies for launch.
Rare copies of his novel surfaced in unexpected locations -
as well as the customary locations where the literati convene
and whoop for joy (or shake their heads) when recognition finds
of one of their own - and prompted crushing interest.
One of the more well-respected booksellers in the used book
market tracked the sudden interest and movement in Coetzee's
prize-winning novel. This online bookseller - based in Canada
- specializes in rare editions and secondary market sales and
reported the spike. According to Marci Crossan at Abebooks,
prices for copies of Coetzee's novels listed on their site (www.abebooks.com)
on that day were ranging from $1.67 for a secondhand copy of
Disgrace, to $800 for a rare first edition of Dusklands.
Crossan commented that on the morning of the announcement "our
websites listed 1,947 copies of novels by J. M. Coetzee, and
44 copies of his hard-to-find first novel Dusklands."
John and Sandra Berryman, booksellers in Ormand Beach Florida
who have been selling on Abebooks.com since 1997, hold the $800
copy of Dusklands.
As for why the rare novel is currently priced at this level,
Mr. Berryman noted, "This book was his first, published in 1974
by a small press in South Africa, called Raven's Press. I've
got the first printing of the first edition and it was a small
print run. It was also a long time before his second novel came
out so people weren't yet holding onto his books."
Mr. Berryman had already received several offers for the book
since the Nobel Prize was announced. "I had it listed at $500
[the day prior], and as soon as I heard the news and calls started
coming from book collectors and dealers, I raised it to $800.
It will be interesting to see what the market will bear."
But what of the author? Unlike the film industry which pays
residuals to actors, producers, and the collective creative
team responsible for a film, documentary, or television production,
what compensation for his labor does this prize-winning author
receive? Other than the Nobel committee's cash award of 10 million
kronor, or about $1.3 million, which to some might seem plenty,
the question about author compensation for secondary-marketplace
sales remains unanswered.
For Coetzee the future looks bright and he may not need to concern
himself about these aftermarket issues. When confronted by an
event of this magnitude, few authors would worry about the state
of the resale industry. About the award, Coetzee (pronounced
kut-SEE-uh) commented in a statement, "I received the news
in a phone call from Stockholm at 6 a.m. It came as a complete
surprise -- I was not even aware that the announcement was pending."
awarding the 2003 prize for literature to him, the Nobel's academy
citation noted, "There is a great wealth of variety in
Coetzee's works. No two books ever follow the same recipe. Extensive
reading reveals a recurring pattern, the downward-spiraling
journeys he considers necessary for the salvation of his characters."
Maxwell Coetzee, the son of a sheep farmer, was born in Cape
Town in 1940. In 1960, after the Sharpville shootings -- in
which police fired on demonstrators and 70 people were killed
-- he left the country for a decade, according to the AP. He
worked for IBM in England, earned a doctorate from the University
of Texas in Austin, and currently teaches at the University
novels by J. M. Coetzee include: In the Heart of the Country,
Waiting for the Barbarians, Foe, Life and Times of Michael K,
The Master of Petersburg , Disgrace, Boyhood, Youth, and his
recent novel, Elizabeth Costello.
note: Pricing and availability of the books noted in this article
may have changed due to marketplace fluctuations.]
you purchase any of these books, we recommend that upon resale,
you might consider donating a tiny portion of any beneficial
profits to your local library or archive in the author's name.
Then you might consider sending a note to the authors to let
them know that their hard-won effort serves to contribute to
the larger world of writing and to authors whose books have
yet to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. We're not nagging,
just suggesting. [Nag. Nag. Nag.]
editions by this author are available from many rare book collectors
and from online booksellers. We thank online bookseller Abebooks
and Marcia Crossan for contributing to this report. We note
that Abebooks is quite bookseller-and-reader friendly as a result
of their partnerships with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and eBay/Half.com.
The Abebooks site's ease of navigation presents well-organized
information on used books. Visit their sites for more information
about Abebooks, based in Victoria, BC Canada. In North America
(Abebooks.com), the UK (Abebooks.co.uk), France (Abebooks.fr),
and Germany (Abebooks.de).
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