Interesting Books: The Art of Manipulation by RB Sparkman

A late-70s book about con men and manipulators is both a fun read and a particularly difficult book to find.

The title "The Art of Manipulation" is exactly as cynical as it sounds. But the book is also a very interesting read both in its content and and its publication.

It's a very difficult book to find to begin with. In the difficulty arises from a number of factors. First off, it is actually rare and there are only three editions that were printed.

The first edition was printed by The Dial Press in 1978, and is a hardcover edition and appears to be in the digest size format at roughly 6 inches by 9 inches. It has a gray cloth cover and is 182 pages long. In the same year, a paperback edition was printed by Cope Allied Publishing with a white cover and art of a red marionette on the cover. The next year, Doubleday published another hardcover edition with a different ISBN, but the same dust jacket and format.

So far, that's relatively normal. But even these three editions have some fairly rare quirks about them that make the book even harder to locate and likely also make them more valuable.

The first edition ISBN is 0803707754. Unfortunately that ISBN was later reused for a different book. A portion of an ISBN is assigned to the publisher who is produces the book. So when ISBNs are reused, it is generally done within a single publisher, and that is the case here as well. In 1990, The Dial Publishing printed the first edition of a children's book called "Trouble for Breakfast" by Sandy Gullikson. The book's content and audience couldn't be more different from the first ISBN, and since the book is newer it dominates the search for that ISBN.

The second printing, the paperback version, is unique in that it has no ISBN whatsoever. So its rarity and its status as a paperback copy of a collectible book, compounded with the fact that it has no unique identifier, nor does it look particularly impressive, makes it exceedingly difficult to find and maybe counterintuitively, very valuable. In fact, the paperback version sold for $200 more than a current listing of the first edition hardcover sold for in like new condition on eBay.

The third, and as far as I know the last printing of "The Art of Manipulation" was made by Doubleday in 1979. It would seem like with a mainstream publisher and a book that was successful enough to be reprinted multiple times, that this copy would be the easiest to find and likely not as valuable. The Doubleday printing has an ISBN that is unique to the book as one would expect, and is 0385270070. This copy does indeed seem to be easier to locate, as Amazon lists it with the proper ISBN. at this time, there are a few copies for sale in the $600 range, and the page on Amazon also links to the prior paperback edition, which is currently selling for $800.

The book itself is actually quite good, and describes RB Sparkman's experiment of living with con-men and manipulators. It is interesting, not only in the insights he learns from living with the manipulators, but also in that he is consistently taken in by their schemes -- even with him knowing they're all cons.

The result is a very enjoyable read, and most normal people will be able to relate to at least one of the situations that the author found himself in. He includes a warning at the end of the book not to take these methods as any kind of instruction manual. The people that he lived with, while they could manipulate people, also destroyed their own lives. So the book itself is more of a warning against manipulation and a guide on how to avoid being manipulated.

Because of the difficulty of locating this book, and the usefulness of the content, I have included links below to multiple sources where you can read the book online. I'm not positive whether it is legal to serve PDFs or images of this book, so I am linking offsite, and for what it's worth there they are. If you would like to compare prices on this book in the few places it does exist for sale, I will include links to those as well. I have reprinted the table of contents to give you a flavor of the content within.

The Art of Manipulation First Edition Hardcover 0803707754 The Dial Press 1978

The Art of Manipulation Paperback Cope Allied Publishing 1978

The Art of Manipulation Hardcover 0385270070 Doubleday 1979

Table of Contents

  1. Five Percent of the People Manipulate the Other Ninety-five Percent
    What do these manipulators know that the rest of us don't?
  2. Tactic 1: Character Types to Watch Out For
    Tips that tell you you're about to be taken
  3. Tactic 2: How to Make a Slave Out of a Person
    What made you think being good to people all the time will ever get you what you want?
  4. Tactic 3: The World Is Rife with Favoritism
    How to put it to work for you
  5. Tactic 4: The Essence of Manipulation
    "I don't need you. You need me."
  6. Tactic 5: And the Meek Shall Manipulate the Earth
    Never know much, and you'll get further.
  7. Tactic 6: How to Pick a Person Apart and Discover His Real Motives and Feelings
  8. Tactic 7: The Guernsey vs. the Brahma
    Why a "positive attitude" is like a gigolo
  9. Tactic 8: How to Avoid Being Taken in Financial Dealings
    Watch where the money is.
  10. Tactic 9: Manipulating a Person's Thinking
    Know whose mind you can change, and when it's better to shut up.
  11. Tactic 10: Win Ninety-five Percent of Your Arguments
    Rule of Thumb 2: Let sleeping dogs lie if they don't affect your vital interests.
  12. Tactic 11: Manipulate a Person Against His Will and Make Him Like It
    The Unargue Technique
  13. Tactic 12: A Little Pressure Has Its Place-- But Seldom
  14. Tactic 13: If All Else Fails, Try the Dirty Way
  15. Tactic 14: How to Squelch Ingratitude Before It Starts
  16. What You Get Out of Using People for Your Own Selfish Ends

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