Book-selling At Meetings

The tones of the speaker's voice fade away and are forever lost. Too

often the ideas which the voice proclaimed drift into the background and

presently disappear. This is the crowning limitation of public speaking.

The lecturer should be, first of all, an educator, and his work should

not be "writ in water." The lazy lecturer who imagines that his duties

to his audience end with his peroration is unfaithful to his great

calling. Lazy lecturers are not very numerous as they are certain of a

career curtailed from lack of an audience.

There are some lecturers, however, who see nothing of importance in

their work except the delivering of their lectures. And the educational

value of such workers is only a fraction of what it might be. Life is

not so long for the strongest of us, nor are the results that can be

achieved by the most gifted such that we can afford to waste the best of

our opportunities. This article is not intended as a sermon, but if as

lecturers we are to be educators we must not neglect to use the greatest

weapons against ignorance in the educational armory--books.

The books here referred to are not the volumes in the lecturer's own

library. They, of course, are indispensable. There have been men who

felt destined to be lecturers without the use of mere "book learning,"

but they never lived long enough to find out why the public did not take

them at their own estimate.

The man who undertakes to deal with a subject without first reading, and

as far as possible, mastering, the best books on that subject, would no

more be a lecturer than a man who tried to cut a field of wheat with a

pocket-knife would be a farmer.

Any good lecture of an hour and a quarter has meant ten to fifty hours'

hard reading. There is much in the reading that cannot possibly appear

in the lecture. Another lecture on a related theme or one widely

different, has probably suggested itself. I remember while rummaging in

history to find proofs and illustrations of "The Materialistic

Conception of History," which conception I was to defend presently in a

public debate, gathering the scheme of a course of four lectures on the

significance of the great voyages of the middle ages--a course which

proved very successful when delivered about a month later.

Again, the reading furnishes a great deal of material on the question of

the lecture itself which cannot be put into it for sheer lack of time.

This is why a lecture always educates the lecturer much more than it

does the hearer. The hearer therefore labors under two great

disadvantages. First, he forgets much that he hears, and, second, there

is so much that he does not hear at all.

The first handicap can be removed by the printing of the lectures. The

second is not so easily disposed of.

A lecturer may state in three minutes an idea which has cost many days'

reading. The idea has great importance to the speaker and, if he is a

master of his art, he will impress its importance on his hearers. That

is what his art is for. But that idea will never illume the hearer's

brain as the lecturer's until the hearer knows as does the lecturer what

there is back of it.

There is only one way in which this can be done--the hearer must have

access to the same sources of knowledge as the lecturer. This does not

necessarily mean that every hearer should have a lecturer's library. It

does mean, however, that there are some books which should be read by


The lecturer himself is the best judge as to which books belong to this

category. In number they range anywhere from a dozen up, according to

the ambitions of the reader.

My method of dealing with this problem has been to take one book at a

time, tell the audience about it and see that the ushers were ready to

supply all demands. In this way I have sold more than two whole editions

of Boelsche's book "The Evolution of Man." In one week speaking in half

a dozen different cities I sold an entire edition of my first book

"Evolution, Social and Organic." One Sunday morning this spring at the

Garrick meeting at the close of a five-minute talk about Paul Lafargue's

"Social and Philosophic Studies" the audience, in three minutes, bought

250 copies, and more than a hundred would-be purchasers had to wait

until the following Sunday for a new supply. A few Sundays later

Blatchford's "God and My Neighbor," a dollar volume, had a sale of 204

copies--the total book sale for that morning reaching what I believe is

the record for a Socialist meeting--$220.00. The last lecture of this

season (April, 1910,) had a book sale of $190.00, which included 380

paper back copies of Sinclair's "Prince Hagen."

These figures are given to show that this work can be done, and if it is

not done the lecturer alone is to blame. Anyone who can lecture at all

can do this with some measure of success. There can be no sane doubt of

its value. About 500 young men in the Garrick audience have built up

small but fine libraries of their own through this advice given in this

way, and there is no part of my work which gives me so great


I never allow my audience to imagine for a moment that my book talk is a

mere matter of selling something. There will always be one or two in the

audience who will take that view--natural selection always overlooks a

few chuckle-heads.

Now let us tabulate some of the results that may be obtained in this


(1) By getting these books into the hands of our hearers we give our

teachings from the platform a greater permanence in their minds. We not

only help them to knowledge, but put them in the way of helping

themselves directly. This alone is, justification enough, but it is not


(2) We encourage the publication of just those books which in our

estimation contain the principles which we regard as destined to promote

the happiness of mankind.

(3) The difference between the wholesale and retail prices is often

enough to make successful a lecture course which would have otherwise

died prematurely of bankruptcy. Where a meeting cannot live on the

collection, the book sales may mean financial salvation. The morning we

sold $220 of books at the Garrick we also took a collection of $80.

Without the book sales $80 would have been the total receipts, and this

collection was normal. Yet the Garrick meetings cost $140 each. After we

had paid the publisher's bill we had a balance from book sales of $120,

which made the total receipts not $80 but $200. And this is among the

least important results of book selling.

Everything, of course, depends on the book talk. I will now give sample

book talks which any speaker may commit to memory and use, probably with

results that will be a surprise and an encouragement.

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