Blogging hasn't produced a book deal yet, but it has conjured up a column. I've been a devote of BookThink site for some time and Craig, the editor asked if I'd be interested in writing for him. My second submission appeared today and the editor had some very nice things to say! Talk about the perfect Christmas Present!
You can find it, and the comments on the Book Think site , however since it appeared in Craig's freebie newsletter I can also include it on my blog.
Witches, Mice and Cats - Oh My!
When it comes to childrens books it is not Lions, Tigers and Bears - Oh My!
Instead its Witches, Mice and Cats- Oh Yes!
There is something about these three subjects, be they in a picture book or a fiction / chapter book that usually guarantees a sale. A "chapter book" for those who do not hang around school libraries is a childs novel, called a "chapter book" or a "fiction book" to differentiate it from a picture book. Not only do they appeal to the collectors of children's literature and baby boomers bent on nostalgia but they are also tempting to people who collect anything witch, cat and mice related. Any picture or chapter book with a copyright date prior to 1963 is worth up if picking up the subject is witches, mice or cats and the book is in decent shape.
When it comes to witches, the wee ones rule. Little Witch, a chapter book by Anna Elizabeth Bennett will easily net you $50 on E-bay. Avoid the "I Can Read" series with the same title by Deborah Hautzig. The Littlest Witch by Jeanne Massey is another book you'd love to have fly into your bag. Weeny Witch by Ida DeLage is also a winner. DeLage wrote a series of picture books about an old witch that sometimes do well and sometimes do not. Then there is Little Left Over Witch by Florence Laughlin. This one is copyright 1978, which again proves that when it comes to bookselling all rules of thumb have their exceptions.
Patricia Coombs wrote numerous picture books about a little witch named Dorrie - snatch any that come your way. Prices vary widely, but a copy of Dorrie's Magic, the first in series just sold for $295.00 on E-bay. It didn't seem to matter that it was ex-library, had been rebound and was quite shabby.
Sally Watson is the author of Witch of the Glens - another that will easily sell for over $100. There is a paperback reprint, but her die-hard fans want a hardback. She wrote historical fiction; keep an eye out for her.
Witch on a Motorcycle by Marian Frances and Blue Nosed Witch by Margaret Embry do not command terribly high prices but they are tried and true sellers.
Of course old and ugly witches abound too. The Old Black Witch series by Wende and Harry Devlin is the top seller. The Develin's also wrote a series of holiday picture books - Cranberry Thanksgiving, Cranberry Halloween, Cranberry Christmas and so on so be on look out for them too. Librarians tend to weed by letter of the alphabet so you'll often several books by the same author piled next to each other at a FOL sale.
The queen of the Mice books is Mousekin by Edna Miller. Again, there are many in this series so don't pass up any of them. The Holy Grail is Mousekin's Golden House, in which Mousekin goes to live in a Halloween pumpkin. It will definitely top $50 and if you are lucky enough to find a really clean copy you're holding a three figure sale in your hands. There are assorted other Mousekins, most with a holiday theme. No matter the title, never pass up the royal little mouse.
Rumer Godden, a very prolific author of adult and children's books claims a couple of mouse books to her credit - Mouse House and Mouse Wife. Graham Oakley wrote the Churchmice series in the 1980s, he is currently out of print and many of his books sell in the $20+ range. Oakley very common at the library sales. The books are now 20 -25 years old, which puts them right smack in the weeding rotation.
Jill Barklem is the author of the Brambley Hedge series. Set, in the England these feature little mice in seasonal adventures. Some aren't worth much, but do well in lots, other titles - The Collected Works, The Baby Mice of Barmbley Hedge sell for $20 and more. Barklem spilled over into bric brac so when you are trolling the thrifts and estate sales keep an eye out for mugs and other assorted china pieces Her style is somewhat similar to Beatrix Potter, author of the Peter Rabbit books.
Beatrix Potter, by the way is now in the public domain and is not worth bothering with unless you stumble across a first edition, something that is unlikely to occur at a FOL sale.
The Basil of Baker street series are regaining their popularity. Written by Eve Titus in the late 1950s, early 1960s they are about a mouse size Sherlock Holmes. These have double appeal since Sherlock Holmes collectors want him too.
I do realize I have omitted the most famous mouse of all - Mickey Mouse. He falls under Disneyana, not mice so I will leave him for a Disney expert.
When it comes to cats, even folks who never bother with kiddie lit know that a first edition of The Cat in the Hat will put food on the table for many, many months. However, the points on a Dr. Seuss book are complicated to extreme and way beyond my knowledge base. If you are lucky enough to find one, contact Craig. Quickly.
For the rest of us there is Esther Averill and her Jenny and the Cat Club series. Jenny and the Fire Cat was a Weekly Reader book club book and is common as dirt but the others are collectible. Prices have fallen a bit since some of her titles are once again in print but she is still a strong seller. As a rule, never buy Weekly Reader Book Club Books - they are to children's books what BOMC books are to adult book sellers.
Carbonel, King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh has also been reprinted (reprints are the bane of my existence) but there is a still a market for the original edition. Once again, her other books are also collectible - she wrote a couple about witches and magic too. There is a sequel to Carbonel, Carbonel and Calibor which blessedly is still out of print.
Artist Peggy Bacon wrote childrenÂs books to pay the rent, and The Ghost of Opalina, written in 1967 would easily pay part of yours. I once found a copy in a thrift shop, bought it strictly because it had a cat on the cover and sold it on E-bay for $150. She is also the author of The Good American Witch, which does not go for what Opalina does but it will pay for a good meal in a nice restaurant. Look for Peggy Bacon among the art books too - she has quite following among print collectors.
Have you discerned a pattern that many folks who write witch books also write cat books and sometimes they combine the two in one story? Ruth Chew did that.. She is the author of the Would Be Witch, Witch's Buttons, Wednesday Witch, The Witch's Cat and more along the same line. She is not as sought after as she once was, but does well in lots, even in paperback.
As with any book, a first, with a dust jacket not ex-library will net you the highest price. Nevertheless, as with all children's books ex-library copies are often the only copies out there so do wander by the childrenÂs book section at the next Friend of the Library Book Sale.
Remember your mantra is "Witches, Mice and Cats - Oh Yes!"