Friday, September 01, 2006

Sick Mick's Guide to Selling Antiques and Collectibles

Sick Mick's Guide to Selling Antiques and Collectibles by Micki Suzanne suffers from an identity crisis. Is it really a guidebook for "creating a store on Ebay; moneymaking ideas for hoaders with energy issues" as Suzanne says on the cover, or is it just an excuse for Suzanne to complain bitterly about her illness, Lyme Disease? If it is supposed to actually be a helpful "how-to" guidebook, then the reader must skip the first 58 pages, in which Suzanne not only chronicles her disease process, in detail and ad nauseum, but she actually adds the case histories of several friends from an online support group (from message boards like Yahoo Groups) so we have to read about their ailments as well. I imagine most of us have been cornered at the family reunion by some dreaded relative who spends hours boring everyone with their symptoms and aches and pains, but at least we can get up and walk away, eventually, or have someone rescue us from the family bore. There simply is no way to avoid Suzanne's penchant for whining and grousing and bemoaning her fate in this book, however, which makes its value as a "how-to" guide go right into the toilet. Suzanne peppers us with a variety of language that also belongs in the toilet, as she somehow concludes that being "real" means being crude and swearing like a sailor, or having photos of herself "flipping the bird." All it really does is make Suzanne look ignorant, or too lazy to pick up the dictionary to look up a better word. One of the first things journalists learn is the "Who, What,When, Where, Why and How" questions to answer in writing an article. Chip Scanlan of the famed Poynter Institute (which owns the St Petersburg Times) made a point of telling journalists at the National Writers Workshop that, "The most important question to ask yourself about the article is WHY DO I CARE? If you're writing an article and you can't figure out who cares about this issue, then you have to stop writing and go back to the begining." Until Suzanne starts telling the reader about collecting items for sale, where to sell them, etc, she has not answered that important question. Most people who read guidebooks don't want to read about the authors ailments or altered life, no matter how tragic. They're looking for guidance and expertise in selling antiques, not a bitter diatribe against former employers and social security disability. Then, in the midst of advising on selling antiques, the reader is shocked yet again by a totally unnecessary chapter on "Gimmicks and Icebreakers" that's really just an excuse for the author to put in a photo of her little lap dog, Bodhi, and rhapsodize about how "cute" she is. Phrases like "OMIGOD! HOW CUTE IS SHE!!?!" abound. If Suzanne wanted to make the point that having a shop dog or cat can help break the ice with customers and increase sales, she could have done it in two sentences or less. This kind of chapter marks her as an amateur, and looks completely ridiculous to the reader. There is a great deal of redundant information on buying and selling on Ebay, without specific instructions for the newcomer. There is also some awful, biased and ridiculous information on garage sales, in which Suzanne claims that all children attending sales have "boogery hands" (nice made-up word there) and that all parents are shop-lifting rubes who make "insulting" offers on her junk. I'm a veteran of garage sales, and my son never lays a hand on anything he shouldn't, and his hands are not "boogery," nor do my husband and I steal from those having a sale. Bargaining for a lower price is part of the fun of garage sales, and most people who attend garage sales do so because they can't afford to shop for items in a retail environment. Poverty doesn't equal theft, however, but it does make one thrifty, and garage sales are one of the few places left where people can get necessary items like clothing and household goods at a fraction of the usual price. The final problem with this book is that Suzanne doesn't define her terms, though that's the first thing you should read in a guidebook. What defines an antique? How old does it have to be? What defines a collectible? She also neglects to mention that Ebay is not always a good source for pricing, as Ebay is comprised of so many millions of sellers, that it is inevitable that many of them have no clue how much any given item is worth. Most Ebay sellers do not do research at a library to find the value of what they are selling, they just want to get rid of something and make a profit. Other than a dire need for an editor and a good rewrite, this book does have some good advice on starting a business and keeping it running on limited energy. You just have to plow through a lot of whining to get to it.

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