Volume 1165

Rare Letters and Article from 1921

This issue features a rare find by Danton Burroughs. Among the Burroughs Archive he has retrieved correspondence between Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert Hungerford of The American News Trade Journal.  These letters lead up to an article by Mr. Burroughs in which he expresses his love of books and the collecting of books, as well as his views on book marketing. ERB also shares entertaining anecdotes about his early years as a bookstore owner  in Pocatello, Idaho and as a door-to-door book salesman in Chicago and Oak Park.


January 24th 1921 sj
Dear Mr. Hungerford,

Your letter of January 24th addressed to my former home in Oak Park has just reached me.

Naturally I realize the value of the work done by the retailers who push the sales of my books and I shall be only too glad to give them any encouragement along this line that is possible. 

If you will give me an idea of what you would like, provided you have anything particular in mind, and also the number of words you can use in such an article I shall be very glad indeed to write it. Possibly when the copy which you say you have mailed me arrives I will be able to get an idea of what you want, from similar articles.

With kindest regards, I am,

Very sincerely yours, 
[Edgar Rice Burroughs]

Mr. Herbert Hungerford, Editor,
The American News Trade Journal,
9-15 Park Place,
New York City.


A Magazine of Trade News and Information
Distributed Free To All Retail Newsdealers
Herbert Hungerford: Editor

February 3, 1921
Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs
Ventura Blvd. at Reseda Ave.,
Van Nuys, California

Dear Mr. Burroughs :

Perhaps, if I tell you the object I have in view in inviting the writers of books to present little messages to the booksellers it will answer your inquiry of January twenty-fourth,

The purpose of the article is to get around the old bombastic puff sort of an article. It seems to me that folks get sick and tired of hearing that this, that or the other man has written the greatest book ever and my idea is to get authors to speak for themselves, either modestly or immodestly, whiever way they choose, and I will supplement it with a list of their books and, if possible, a photograph of each author with also, possibly, a few biographical remarks.  The idea, as you can see, is to encourage the bookseller to sell more books of each author we represent. 

It seems plain common sense that, if the bookseller sees the picture of the man who is writing the book and, also, a little friendly message showing that this author is a human being and then we have it supplemented with a handy little list of the books that the author has written, that that certainly will sell more of his books, for the publisher, the distributor and the dealer and, we trust, also the reader.

I am enclosing herewith another copy of The Trade Journal and would ask you to bear in mind that you must not judge our book department by the announcement we have made of it. We had to make some sort of a start and even a poor one is better than none. I feel encouraged, however, from the response that I have received from authors, publisher, and everyone connected with the book business that our book department will ultimately become interesting and helpful. 

Cordially yours,

Herbert Hungerford


February 12th 1921 sj
Dear Mr. Hungerford:

I have your letter of February 3rd together with the American News Trade Journal.

In just a few days I will send you something, and you may rest assured that I shall always be more than glad to cooperate with you in anything htat will tend to stimlulate the sale of books, whether mine or another's.

With best wishes, I am,

Very sincerely yours,
[Edgar Rice Burroughs]

Mr. Herbert Hungerford, Editor,
The American News Trade Journal,
9-15 Park Place,
New York City.

February 12th 1921  sj
Dear Mr. Hungerford:

Since writing you this evening I have managed to evolve the enclosed. If it is not entirely satisfactory let me know and I will change it to suit  your requirements.

If you haven't a photo of me and want it for use with the article, let me know.


[Edgar Rice Burroughs]

Mr. Herbert Hungerford, Editor,
The American News Trade Journal,
9-15 Park Place,
New York City.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Shares His Views on Books

~ 1 ~
Tarzana Ranch, Feb. 12  1921

Dear Mr. Hungerford:

Sheet 1Several years ago I was a guest at a banquet in the Gold Room of the Congress Hotel in Chicago, invited to meet the booksellers of the United States. It was a lovely party and we all had a good time, for it was before Mr. Volstead had evolved the scheme of making things dry with a wet blanket.  I recall particularly one impression that I took away from that joyous festivity - that book people were quite regular people and not at all stuck up because they were high-brow, and if knowing books is one of the indications of high-browness then some of the booksellers I have met are the highest of the high.  I do not mean knowing titles and authors and prices, but really knowing b books and what is in them and being able to support just about what will fit the requirements of each customer or his particular mood at the moment, like Kubel of Los Angeles, for instance. 

The idea of all book people getting together - the publisher, the jobber, the retailer and the author - seems to me a bully one. I believe those of us who belong in the business at all enjoy our work because of an appeal it has to some other of our instincts than the commercial. Personally,  books appeal to me in a way that is difficult or either expression or analysis.  I like to handle them and to own them.  I hate to see them abused.  I sometimes fancy that an adult who habitually marks his place in a volume by turning down the corner of a leaf would kick a dog or strike a horse without even provocation of anger.  I think I love books, though God knows I am about as far from being high-brow as one can get and yet pass the literacy test. 

But underlying all this is the stern necessity that prompts you to sell books and me to write them - the thing that is the real thing in life after all. I mean the ability properly to provide for ourselves and our families.  It is the box office receipts that really count most while we live. No man can go out after fame, as I rode out this morning, after a young bull I have in pasture, and achieve it. Incidentally I

~ 2 ~
Sheet 2
failed to achieve the bull.  But what I started to get over is that if a man is entitled to fame it will come - usually after he is dead - but he can't rope it and drag it in.  He can however go out after box office receipts, and if he shoots straight and plays fair he need not be ashamed, whether his success is great or small.  And so I say again that this idea of our getting together to boost book sales is a good one and I am for any proper methods that will sell more books, whether mine or another's.  I haven't any very brilliant ideas to suggest along this line though there is one that I believe would give the writers a chance to help.  Since I started writing I have learned that our readers like to meet us - why, God alone knows; but they do.  If Mary Roberts Rhinehart is anything like her books and her pictures I can understand why people should want to meet her; but just why they should hone to know a bald-headed old man is beyond me - the world is already too full of bald-headed old men.

Guided, then, by this unnatural desire of the reading public, the bookseller, after making due arrangements wit some available author, would mail out neat little invitations to a selected list - selected from the city directory - meet this author from two to three Thursday afternoon at the bookseller's shop.  This I think would be entirely proper and ethical and profitable and I can offer the suggestion impersonally and with entire modesty because I know that no bookseller, not even my best friend, could rope me into such a mess without the use of chloroform, and therefore the suggestion does not supply to me.  Really, though, I offer it seriously for your consideration. 

And then there must be other ways in which author and retailer might co-operate. In many shops the relations between the proprietor and his customers is quite intimate and even in the larger shops and department stores purchasers often discuss books and writers with the salespeople.  What a fund of valuable suggestion a writer might avail himself of could he overhear these unbiased opinions of his work. Possibly The American Trade News Journal might work out some plan for garnering and publishing these sidelights on our books.  I am sure writers would appreciate 

~ 3 ~
Sheet 3
them - I know I should.  And if we could profit by them and write more saleable books because of them, then it would be worth the efforts of the retailers to passing them along to us. 

And anything that might help to make saleable books - I'll change that to, make books more saleable.  I'm sure the retailer doesn't want any more books.  Anything that might help to make books more saleable would be welcomed by the retailer.  I know, because I used to sell books myself.  I had a book shop in Pocatello, Idaho, when cheap editions cost me fourteen cents and Munsey's Magazine sold for ten cents and cost me nine and weighed over a pound and the postage wa a cent a pound and I am still trying to figure where my profits occurred, especially in those recurring periods that it was non-returnable. 

That reminds me that I also sold books at another time and in another manner.  I was equipped wit a long thing that telescoped like an accordion and Mrs. Burroughs made me a little black bag with a shoulder strap, that I put on over my vest. I carried the THING in the little black bag hidden under my coat tails. It might have looked as though I was ashamed of it; but I was not supposed to be and I was.  And I wandered around a large city shoving my foot inside front doors before weary house-wives could slam the doors in my face and if I succeeded in getting in and planting myself on their best plush furniture I commenced to recite, parrot-like, a long and hideous lie, interspersed occasionally with facts.  The initial and most colossal falsehood of that shameful aggregation still haunts my memories. It was: "Mr. Stoddard has asked me to call on you, Mrs. Brown." Even now I blush as I type it. 

All of which may suggest that my heart lies with the seller of books and that we may consider one another not merely as friends, but as comrades-in-arms. And that is the truth and I hope it goes double. 



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