"Remember that in canvassing you must think rapidly, talk fluently, and show your book to the best advantage."-- The Successful Agent

A Book Agent at the Door

The intention of this part of the archive is to simulate, however imperfectly, the experience of buying one of MT's books from a subscription agent.

We can do this because, along with a prospectus, agents were sent a script for presenting and selling it. In the Barrett Collection is one example of this kind of text -- titled "Canvass of Mark Twain," it tells the subscription agent exactly how she or he should convince someone to buy Following the Equator.

Undoubtedly no agent ever followed this scenario verbatim, but since most knew nothing about the book they were selling beyond the prospectus they probably relied heavily on its advice about how to manipulate the buyer's appetites, which aspects of the book to emphasize, what to say about MT.

As you'll see, the "Canvass of Mark Twain" takes an agent step-by-step, selling point by selling point, from beginning a sale to picking a binding. Clicking below will take you to the agent's opening lines, and from there you'll be able to click your way through the whole spiel, at least as the American Publishing Company imagined it should go. (You can hear the pitch by clicking on the HEAR SPIEL icon you'll see on every page; the part of the book agent is played by Meagan Hess.) Of course, whether you want to buy Following the Equator is up to you. You can END SALE and return to this page at any time.



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