formatting for fun and profit

I finally have my life back, or the thing I like to pretend is a life and started back on that contract job cataloging a reference collection. It’s only a few weeks worth of work but it’s better than working at Denny’s. Regardless of the pay, we all like doing what we are best at, and cataloging books is something I can do with my eyes closed, and often do.

When I read the bulk of the tripe on the net that folks laughingly call descriptions, I want to weep. It would seem obvious that when you get into the business, you should read catalogs and descriptions of sellers you respect and then try to emulate them. You may not know exactly what you are doing or why, but you can fake it until you do. Sure, not everyone does them the exact same way, but it’s like abstract art, you KNOW Pablo learned how to draw a naked woman that looked like a nekkid woman before he moved on to ones falling down stairs with three breasts and one eye.

Everyone should read the first chapter of the Chicago Manual of Style “Parts of a Published Work” – it’s very long, go buy a copy you will need it. . . . . This chapter familiarizes you with the bits and pieces of information that are the tools of the trade. Some books have many pieces of information, others have very few but there are standard formats for the information that are traditional. Now you can ask, go ahead you know you want to: “But I want to make up my own rules, I want my descriptions to be unique and to stand out.” To which my answer is “No, no no. Bad bookseller, No bagel.” Your descriptions can be unique in other ways, restrict your creativity to wording. If you twist the formatting out of recognition, folks who are skimming through hundreds of listings at at time, looking for the one the want are not going to slow down and read yours because it is awkward, they are just gonna skip it completely.

Here’s a little something I wrote two years ago, I researched this book for a month, and had a LOT more to say, but I distilled it down to just the bits of information that are necessary and interesting.

ZAMIATIN, Eugene. We. New York: Dutton, 1924 Octavo, 286pp. First edition. Less than very good copy, in a good dust jacket. Previous owner’s inscription on the front endpaper. Zamyatin, a marine architect by profession, and an ex-Bolshevik who had been imprisoned after the 1905 revolution, was building ice-breakers in North-East England when the Tsarist regime was overthrown. He returned to Russia in September 1917, and became a leading figure among the left-wing writers of Petersburg until his outspoken and heretical views came in conflict with the rigid cultural controls of the 1920s. Written in 1920-21 We was banned in the Soviet Union, and was translated into English translation by Manhattan Psychiatrist Gregory Zilboorg in 1924. At the same time as writing We, Zamyatin supervised a series of H. G. Wells translations between 1918 and 1926. George Orwell’s 1984 was heavily influenced by Zamyatin. Influential translator Gleb Struve presented Orwell with a copy of 25 Years of Soviet Literature in 1944 (letter dated 2-17-44), which brought We to Orwell’s attention. In 1946 Orwell read the French translation and wrote an enthusiastic review in London’s weekly Tribune (Tribune Jan. 4, 1946) of which he was then literary editor.


ZAMIATIN, Eugene. (author’s name) We. (title) < -- this refers to the work itself + this data describes this edition–>New York (city of publication for THIS book): Dutton (the publisher of THIS book), 1924 (publication year for this edition – if there was a previous copyright date you put it in [brackets] alongside) this describes the physical book –>Octavo, 286pp. First edition. Less than very good copy, in a good dust jacket. Previous owner’s inscription on the front endpaper. this is where you describe the history of the edition, you get creative and try to SELL the book –>Zamyatin, a marine architect by profession, and an ex-Bolshevik who had been imprisoned after the 1905 revolution, was building ice-breakers in North-East England when the Tsarist regime was overthrown. He returned to Russia in September 1917, and became a leading figure among the left-wing writers of Petersburg until his outspoken and heretical views came in conflict with the rigid cultural controls of the 1920s. Written in 1920-21 We was banned in the Soviet Union, and was translated into English translation by Manhattan Psychiatrist Gregory Zilboorg in 1924. At the same time as writing We, Zamyatin supervised a series of H. G. Wells translations between 1918 and 1926. George Orwell’s 1984 was heavily influenced by Zamyatin. Influential translator Gleb Struve presented Orwell with a copy of 25 Years of Soviet Literature in 1944 (letter dated 2-17-44), which brought We to Orwell’s attention. In 1946 Orwell read the French translation and wrote an enthusiastic review in London’s weekly Tribune (Tribune Jan. 4, 1946) of which he was then literary editor.

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