Example Book Talks

We are by this time agreed that the sale of the proper books at lecture

meetings is greatly to be desired. In this article we shall consider the

chief instrument by which this is attained--the book talk.

We might treat this theme by laying down general rules as to the

elements which enter into the make-up of a successful book talk, but

while this is necessary it is not enough--so many speakers seem to find

it very difficult to apply rules. This part of the question will be

treated in a few sentences.

A book talk, to be successful, must answer the following questions:

(1) Who wrote the book? It is not, of course, simply a question as to

the author's name, but his position and his competence to write on the

subject, etc.

(2) What object had the author in view?

(3) What is the main thesis of the book?

(4) Why is it necessary that the hearer should read the book?

Above all, a book talk should be interesting. How often have we seen a

speaker begin a book talk at a meeting by destroying all interest and

making sales almost impossible! The speaker holds up a book in view of

the audience and says: "Here is a book I want you to buy and read." That

settles it. The public has been taught to regard all efforts to sell

things as attacks upon their pocketbooks, and the speaker who begins by

announcing his intention to sell, at once makes himself an object of

suspicion. In the commercial world it is held and admitted that a seller

is seeking his own benefit and the advantages to the buyer are only

incidental. In our case this is largely reversed, but that does not

justify the speaker in rousing all the prejudices lying dormant in the

hearer's mind.

A good book talk thoroughly captures the interest of the audience before

they know the book is on hand and is going to be offered for sale. About

the middle of the talk the listener should be wondering if you are going

to tell where the book can be obtained and getting ready to take down

the publisher's address when you give it.

His interest increases, and toward the close he learns to his great

delight that you have anticipated his desires and he can take the volume

with him when he leaves the meeting.

This is a good method, but where one is to make many book talks to much

the same audience there are a great many ways in which it can be varied.

I will now submit a book talk which has enabled me to sell thousands of

copies of the book it deals with. This is a ten-cent book, and this

price is high enough for the speaker's experiments. The speaker will

later find it surprisingly easy, when he has mastered the art to sell

fifty-cent and dollar books.

The speaker may use the substance of this talk in his own language, or,

commit it to memory and reproduce it verbatim. Any one who finds the

memorizing beyond his powers should abandon public speaking and devote

his energies to something easy.



For some time previous to the year 1875 the German Socialist

party had been divided into two camps--the Eisenachers and the

Lassallians. About that time they closed their ranks and

presented to the common enemy a united front. So great was their

increase of strength from that union that they were determined

never to divide again. They would preserve their newly won unity

at all costs.

No sooner was this decision made than it seemed as if it was

destined to be overthrown. Professor Eugene Duehring, Privat

Docent of Berlin University, loudly proclaimed himself a convert

to Socialism. When this great figure from the bourgeois

intellectual world stepped boldly and somewhat noisily into the

arena, there was not wanting a considerable group of young and

uninitiated members in the party who flocked to his standard and

found in him a new oracle.

This would have been well enough if Duehring had been content to

take Socialism as he found it or if he had been well enough

informed to make an intelligent criticism of it and reveal any

mistakes in its positions. But he was neither the one or the

other. He undertook, without the slightest qualification for the

task, to overthrow Marx and establish a new Socialism which

should be free from the lamentable blunders of the Marxian


Marx was a mere bungler and the whole matter must be set right

without delay. This was rather a large task, but the Professor

went at it in a large way. He did it in the approved German

manner. Germany would be forever disgraced if any philosopher

took up a new position about anything without going back to the

first beginnings of the orderly universe in nebulous matter, and

showing that from that time on to the discovery of the latest

design in tin kettles everything that happened simply went to

prove his new theory.

Duehring presented a long suffering world with three volumes

that were at least large enough to fill the supposed aching

void. These were: "A Course of Philosophy," "A Course of

Political and Social Science" and "A Critical History of

Political Economy and Socialism."

These large volumes gave Duehring quite a standing among

ill-informed Socialists, who took long words for learning, and

obscurity for profundity. His followers became so numerous that

a new division of the ranks threatened and it became clear that

Duehring's large literary output must be answered.

There was a man in the Socialist movement at that time who was

pre-eminently fitted for that task, who for over thirty years

had proven himself a master of discussion and an accomplished

scholar--Frederick Engels.

Engels' friends urged him to rid the movement of this new

intellectual incubus. Engels pleaded he was already over busy

with those tasks, which show him to have been so patient and

prolific a worker. Finally, realizing the importance of the

case, he yielded.

Duehring had wandered all over the universe to establish his

philosophy, and in his reply Engels would have to follow him. So

far from this deterring Engels, it was just this which made his

task attractive. He says in his preface of 1892:

"I had to treat of all and every possible subject, from the

concepts of time and space to Bimetalism; from the eternity of

matter and motion to the perishable nature of moral ideas; from

Darwin's natural selection to the education of youth in a future

society. Anyhow, the systematic comprehensiveness of my opponent

gave me the opportunity of developing, in opposition to him, and

in a more connected form than had previously been done, the

views held by Marx and myself of this great variety of subjects.

And that was the principal reason which made me undertake this

otherwise ungrateful task."

Dealing with the same point, in his biographical essay on

Engels, Kautsky says:

"Duehring was a many-sided man. He wrote on Mathematics and

Mechanics, as well as on Philosophy and Political Economy,

Jurisprudence, Ancient History, etc. Into all these spheres he

was followed by Engels, who was as many-sided as Duehring but in

another way. Engels' many-sidedness was united with a

fundamental thoroughness which in these days of specialization

is only found in a few cases and was rare even at that time. * * *

It is to the superficial many-sidedness of Duehring that we

owe the fact, that the 'Anti-Duehring' became a book which

treated the whole of modern science from the Marx-Engels

materialistic point of view. Next to 'Capital' the

'Anti-Duehring' has become the fundamental work of modern


Engels' reply was published in the Leipsic "Vorwaerts," in a

series of articles beginning early in 1877, and afterwards in a

volume entitled, "Mr. Duehring's Revolution in Science." This

book came to be known by its universal and popular title:


After the appearance of this book Duehring's influence

disappeared. Instead of a great leader in Socialism, Duehring

found himself regarded as a museum curiosity, so much so that

Kautsky, writing in 1887, said:

"The occasion for the 'Anti-Duehring' has been long forgotten.

Not only is Duehring a thing of the past for the Social

Democracy, but the whole throng of academic and platonic

Socialists have been frightened away by the anti-Socialist

legislation, which at least had the one good effect to show

where the reliable supports of our movement are to be found."

Out of Anti-Duehring came the most important Socialist pamphlet

ever published, unless, perhaps, we should except "The Communist

Manifesto," though even this is by no means certain. In 1892

Engels related the story of its birth:

"At the request of my friend, Paul Lafargue, now representative

of Lille in the French Chamber of Deputies, I arranged three

chapters of this book as a pamphlet, which he translated and

published in 1880, under the title: "Socialism, Utopian and

Scientific." From this French text a Polish and a Spanish

edition was prepared. In 1883, our German friends brought out

the pamphlet in the original language. Italian, Russian, Danish,

Dutch and Roumanian translations, based upon the German text,

have since been published. Thus, with the present English

edition, this little book circulates in ten languages. I am not

aware that any other Socialist work, not even our "Communist

Manifesto" of 1848 or Marx's "Capital," has been so often

translated. In Germany it has had four editions of about 20,000

copies in all."

The man who has the good fortune to become familiar with the

contents of this pamphlet in early life will never, in after

life, be able to estimate its full value as a factor in his

intellectual development. I have persuaded many people to buy it

and have invariably given them this advice: "Keep it in your

coat pocket by day and under your pillow by night, and read it

again and again until you know it almost by heart."

At this point you may hold up the pamphlet and announce its price. If

this is done before the lecture, have the ushers pass through the

audience, each with a good supply, and beginning at the front row and

working rapidly so as not to unnecessarily delay the meeting. If the

sale is at the close of the meeting announce that copies may be had

while leaving and have your ushers in the rear so as to meet the

audience. A good deal depends on having live and capable ushers. Our big

sales at the Garrick are due to ushers being past masters in their art.



In the year 1848--over sixty years ago--Scientific Socialism was

born. Almost every objection we now hear against Socialism holds

only against the utopian Socialism which died and was discarded

by Socialists more than half a century ago.

The birth of Scientific Socialism came as the result of the

discovery of a great new truth. This truth revolutionized all

our ideas about society just as Darwin's discovery, eleven years

later, revolutionized our notions of organic life.

From 1848 forward there was no need for speculations and guesses

as to how the world will be in the future or how it might be now

if it were not as it is. From that time we knew that the present

was carried in the womb of the past and the future is already

here in embryo.

If you think you know the main outlines of the future society

yet cannot find those outlines already developing in the society

about you, you are nursing a delusion. You belong to the

Socialism of Utopia--if your future society is not already here

in part, it is "nowhere," as Utopia means.

We know today that science does not consist of a mere collection

of facts. The facts of course are necessary, but science comes

only when we push through the facts and find the laws behind


The discovery that gave birth to Scientific Socialism had to do

with history. This discovery changed our ideas as to what

constitutes history. The rise and fall of kings, tales of bloody

wars, the news of camp and courts; these were supposed to be all

that was important in history. This has been well called: "Drum

and trumpet history."

Since 1848 history is the story of the development of human

society. The introduction of machinery overshadows all kings and

courts in history, as we now know it, because it played a

greater part in social development than ten thousand kings.

History itself is not a science but it is one of the chief parts

of "the science of society"--sociology.

Historical movement like all movement proceeds by law. When Karl

Marx discovered the central law of history he became the real

founder of modern sociology. His discovery of this law of

history ranks with Newton's discovery of gravity or the

Copernican revolution in astronomy. It ranks Marx as one of the

men whose genius created a new epoch in human thinking.

Marx made the discovery before 1848, but that date is immortal

because in that year it was published to the world. That date

ranks with 1859 when the "undying Darwin" gave us "The Origin of


The book was not intended for a book and became a book only by

reason of its great importance. It was published as a political

manifesto--the manifesto of "The Communist League." Hence its

name--"The Communist Manifesto." This book is the foundation and

starting point of Scientific Socialism and is indispensable to

all students of social science or social questions.

The book itself explains why it is not "The Socialist Manifesto"

as we might have expected. At that time the various groups using

Socialist as a title were Utopian and some of them positively

reactionary. There is a description and analysis of these groups

in the third chapter which shows why Marx had no part in them.

Their advocates know nothing of the new historical principle

which now stands at the center of Socialist thought and which

has successfully withstood half a century of searching


This great new principle is called: "The Materialistic

Conception of History." It is not mentioned by name in the

manifesto, but it is there like a living presence spreading

light in dark places of history which had never been penetrated

by previous thinkers. The key to all history is found in methods

of producing and distributing material wealth. Out of the

changes in this field all other social changes come.

Forty years later Frederick Engels gave completeness to the

Manifesto by adding a preface which defines the main theory,

gives an estimate of its value, and explains his part as

co-author with Marx.

No other book can ever take the place of the Communist

Manifesto. Its value grows with the passing years. It was the

first trumpet blast to announce the coming of the triumphant


The Manifesto's first two chapters and its closing paragraph are

beyond all price. They are without parallel in the literature of

the world. They sparkle like "jewels on the stretched forefinger

of all time."

Here the speaker may show the book and state its price, and proceed with

the selling. If the sale is made while the audience is leaving, nothing

further need be said, and if the sale is the last thing in the meeting

it is useless to ask the audience to remain seated during the sale. They

get irritated and the meeting breaks up in confusion. See that your

salesmen are posted at the exits where they will face the audience as it

leaves. At one big meeting in Pittsburg where the sales of a fifty cent

book reached over sixty dollars they would have been double but some of

the sellers came to the front, and while the audience was clamoring for

books which could not be had at the doors, these sellers were following

the audience in the rear with armfuls which they had no chance to sell.

If the sale is made before the lecture while the sellers are passing

through the audience the speaker should continue speaking of the book so

as to sustain interest. There will be no loss of time making change if

the right priced books are sold. 10c, 25c, 50c or $1 are right prices.

At a public meeting it is a mistake to try to sell a book at an odd

price as 15c or 35c or 60c. The demand dies and the audience gets

impatient while the sellers are trying to make change.

The speaker who endeavors to make a success of book-selling at his

meetings will find his labors doubled. The larger his sales the greater

his labors. On my last western trip I sold on an average half a trunk

full of books at each meeting and I had no spare moment from the work of

ordering by telegram and rushing around to express offices and getting

the books to the meetings. But the rewards are great. My trips are

always a financial success and the books I leave scattered on my trail

do far more good than the lectures I delivered.

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