Pitching svengali decks

Post topics about the business side of magic.

Postby Guest » 09/28/03 09:38 PM

I have had some private e-mails asking me to post information about how to sell svengali decks. For some reason the correspondants seem to think that I know something about it.

I have mixed feeling about revealing information about this stuff. I have never liked to say too much about it. I did write a book on the svengali deck but was very careful not to reveal any information about the actual selling.

Svengali pitchmen are very territorial about their methods. Any time you see some book purporting how to sell svengali decks I can assure you it is not the real work. The only exception is "Expert at the Pitch Table" by Dave Walker and Michael Schwartz. I have reservations even about this work, good as it is.

I no longer need to sell svengali decks although I still do sometimes because it is in the blood, it gets me out of the house and is the only venue where I can treat the public with the contempt they deserve. Lest the last sentence shock a few people I can only tell you that they have never sold magic. I have always been amused that anyone that sells fun is as miserable as hell. Think of virtually any magic dealer the world over and with few exceptions they are all as miserable as sin. I have noticed this phenomena the world over.

Still, despite my reluctance to provide information on this subject my e-mail correspondants have tempted me a little. I suppose that I should give a little information on this activity before I drop dead.

There is a video coming out of my work called "The art of the pitch" This is produced by Rudy Van Langen who presented my psychic and hypnotism courses. Rudy is prone to over hyping things a la Dave Dee so I always cringe in embarrassment at his advertisements. However, on the pitch video I have given little information about actually selling. I have always thought that the less svengali pitchmen in the world the better.Incidentally that goes for magicians too but for entirely different reasons.

In fact there are probably not more than a dozen REAL magic pitchmen in the entire world. Sure there are loads and loads and loads of people selling magic but they are not the real deal. The real deal are wicked people like me.Transient people who speak a special jargon and have a cynical view of the public and who believe that the customer is always wrong.And furthermore that they are sheep to be shorn.

I concede that there are people who want to know about this stuff. People who open magic zones and that sort of thing. (People who open these type of operations would be surprised to know that the humble svengali deck in the right hands can take just as much money as the whole caboodle of colourful magic tricks that they sell. Yes. Just the one item is sufficient. You don't need a "zone". You have to be good of course.)

There are also starving magicians who want to supplement their income working at flea markets and other venues.

I may supply this information or I may not. A few people have already requested it. I shall have to see what mood I am in and how many people are interested.

I am normally very generous with information. This stuff is different. I am not sure I want to.

We shall see what the universe requires. Who wants to know the REAL way to extract money from the undeserving public?

Postby Guest » 09/29/03 07:32 PM

I have now had some more e-mails.
I have no idea how to start though. Or even if I want to start.
Let us see. I think the best way is for one of my e-mailers (or anyone else for that matter) just to ask a question about the business. I may answer it, I may not,- depending on what mood I am in.
You have to ask it here though,not privately. I don't want it to look as if I am talking to myself.

Postby Roy McIlwee » 09/30/03 09:42 AM

Hey Angelic, If you're in the mood I would appreciate a few pointers on the art of pitching Svengali Decks. Roy McIlwee, Pocono area.
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Postby Guest » 09/30/03 10:07 AM

What do you want to know? Ask a specific question and I may give you a specific answer.

Postby Roy McIlwee » 09/30/03 10:30 AM

Angelic, I was really curious to find out the financial aspects of pitching Svengali Decks but I guess this open forum would not be an appropriate place for such particulars. Hopefully some other aspects of the art of pitching will come up on this thread. Good Luck, Roy McIlwee.
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Postby Guest » 09/30/03 10:59 AM

My tendency right now is to discuss the actual mechanics of pitching. I am reluctant to discuss details of where you buy stock, how much you buy it for, where you can work and how much you should pay to work.
I am beginning to realise now that this may be a mistake.
GAry's post in particular has frightened the living daylights out of me.
Oh no, dearie me.
Vegas is the most likely place that you may see me work. I have utterly no desire to educate potential competition.
Gary, you should have never said Vegas. You should have pretended to live in Alaska or somewhere. The first lesson for a pitchman to learn is never to tell the truth.
On the other hand you can come and watch me work in Vegas at some point. I won't tell you when, I won't tell you where.
You will find out though. My name will spread like wildfire as soon as I arrive. Watch certain people pretend that they do not know me. I have that effect.

I will answer one question though. How much should they be sold for? $10 tax included. Do not sell them for $5 as you see recommended. That is the way to the poor house. Depending on the venue you should offer a "lump up"
What is a "lump up"
I have no idea. I think I have said too much already.

As someone I know in Vegas says I talk too much.

Postby Guest » 09/30/03 11:22 AM

Nice to see that once again Mark Lewis shows up without trying to tip who he is. Angelic this time?
PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
AB Stagecraft
Suppliers of professional mentalism

Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 09/30/03 11:30 AM

I was planning to post this earlier today, but I got distracted at work. Hopefully you haven't shut down completely.

I spent my teenage years working in amusement parks and carnivals in the summers. Needless to say I have a certain understanding of treating the public with contempt. And Im always interested in anything that has to do with that business.

Anywaylets get specific:

I spent a very short time pitching svengali decks, among other items, with very little success. The problem was insufficient training and practice.

The biggest problem I felt I had was follow-through. Closing the sale. I was pretty good at drawing the crowd and keeping them through the pitch. But lost them when I tried to close. Basically I had trouble asking for the money. It may be something as simple as an attitude change. So I would be curious to hear specfic thoughts/advice on the subject.

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Postby Guest » 09/30/03 11:53 AM

Ah! That's much more like it!
Dennis knows how to ask a good question. Furthermore he has the right attitude about treating the customers with contempt. I expect it is because he comes from New York.
Mind you I was there a couple of weeks ago doing a trade show and also there about a year ago doing the same thing.
I didn't find them to be rude at all as per their reputation. Nothing like that horrible lot in London that throw eggs at David Blaine.

Still, I musn't go off at a tangent. Closing the sale otherwise known as "coming to the bat" is the most important part of grafting.Incidentally from now on I refuse to use the silly word "pitchman" or "pitching"
I hail from Her Brittanic Majesty's Realm of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and refuse to talk like an American. The word is "grafter" not pitchman. No, not grifter-grafter.

It is no point doing a wonderful demonstration if you do not ask for the money when you finish. Dennis is correct about the attitude required. You must be indignant that the public are walking about with your money in their pocket and you are demanding that they give it to you back.

I have to rush out now but I want to answer this question in some detail and will do so later on today when I get a chance.

Dennis has asked the most important question in grafting and I congratulate him on it. A good question deserves a good answer and I will be delighted to enlighten him.

Postby Guest » 09/30/03 12:12 PM

I say ya send me the info and the rest be sent on there way! After all, Angelic, I've always had you on a pedestal.
Steve V

Postby Guest » 09/30/03 12:28 PM

I share your feeling, Steve.

Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 09/30/03 12:38 PM

Thank you very much, angelic.

Patiently awaiting enlightenment...
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Postby Guest » 09/30/03 12:51 PM

Eventually Dennis, eventually.
Actually there are two types of enlightenment. Financial and spiritual. You can get both if you visit a psychic fair. The former if you are a psychic and the latter if you are a client.
I can tell you all about this business too.

I have actually sold svengali decks in between doing readings at the psychic fair. It annoys the other psychics which of course is the main reason for doing it. I also do the sponge balls and various card tricks. Mentalists sniff at this but then they don't know a lot about the real world.

Mind you, when I did the Buddha through the table at a psychic fair (I didn't have a glass handy)the psychics nearly blew a gasket. I think they put a hex on me which I have not been able to shake off yet.

I am late. I must go.

Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/30/03 01:48 PM

As a number of you have surmised, "angelic" is actually Mark Lewis, and he has been deleted yet again.
Jeff Sheridan, by the way, has some excellent and unconventional ideas about tricks using a Svengali Deck. I believe some of them are on his new DVDs.
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Postby Frank Yuen » 09/30/03 02:22 PM

It may have actually been published in Genii or only mentioned but isn't there some sort of system to manufacturing Svengali decks, that is not what one would normally think of, to get more decks for the money? I remember reading about it in Genii years ago (perhaps in The Vernon Touch ?) but again it may have been only a mention and not the actual "formula".

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Postby John Smetana » 09/30/03 05:51 PM

Too bad that Angelics (Mark Lewis') posts have been deleted. I, for one, would really like to know more about the nuts and bolts of the Svengali biz. Ahh well,

Best thoughts,
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Postby Guest » 09/30/03 07:15 PM

"The Expert at The Pitch Table", is the real deal by those who have done it for decades to turn 'em and make money. Just to watch a performance and instructional video of David Walker and Jimmy Dixon,(and his son Kim) are an education.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/30/03 07:34 PM

Originally posted by John Smetana:
Too bad that Angelics (Mark Lewis') posts have been deleted. I, for one, would really like to know more about the nuts and bolts of the Svengali biz.
I know I did not delete any of his posts, and rest assured if Richard or Jon deleted any, you didn't miss anything of importance or interest.

I too would love to have read more on pitching the Svengali. I recently purchased a copy of The Long and the Short of It by Mark Lewis for my son (by the way, thank you very much Mr. Lewis: I tried emailing you, but the message bounced back as undeliverable). As he mentions, it does not cover the pitch, but it is a fairly comprehensive and well-written manuscript on using a Svengali Deck (yes, I read it before handing it over to its rightful owner). I have little doubt that Mr. Lewis has a lot to share on the subject if he was of a mind to really do it here. In fact we'd be lucky if he did tip his hand here (under any number of assumed names, which is limited only by his unlimited imagination). But the issue is that Mr. Lewis tends to rub in areas that irritate and we feel compelled to step in. This is always a conflicted decision for me because there is no denying that he has a lot of good information to share when he's willing to share it.

The last couple of times Mr. Lewis has joined us, his stays lasted much longer than his previous visits simply because he behaved. But invariably the degeneration begins: he bates those who he knows usually cannot resist the temptation and, well, topics head in directions they never should. Does this mean that the tempted are mutually culpable? Only to a degree: remember, those who fall prey to his baiting feel as if they are on the defensive and have an obligation to answer him. It's the baiting that causes the problems. To some, just his presence here is bait enough, usually as a result of past confrontations here or on other sites. He purposely mixes the good with the bad, with a gradually escalating ratio in favor of the bad. Soon shoveling through it becomes tiresome and just not worth the trouble.

Again, it's too bad because I really believe he has a lot to share and I would like to read it. I would also like to see Mr. Lewis work in person because, frankly, I have a feeling he's as good as he thinks he is.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/30/03 08:32 PM

NONE of Mark Lewis' posts on this thread regarding the Svengali Deck have been deleted.
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Postby Jeff Haas » 09/30/03 09:32 PM

Here's what I don't get: Why does he want to give it away?

At the least, take the time to write an e-book and then SELL it to those who want to know.

He's already got a website for selling his Svengali routine. Heck, offer a bundle deal if you buy both. And throw in a free deck, too!

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Postby Guest » 10/01/03 10:00 AM

I agree with Dustin...

I think Mark Lewis has alot to offer (and I agree, I'll just bet he can back it up.)I found his ramblings (and challenges) amusing (and occasionally educational.)

What he needs is his own forum so magi can choose when they'd like to visit (be manipulated / abused and perhaps learn something now and again.)

If anyone knows him (does anyone really 'know him?) perhaps you should suggest that idea... I'd visit his forum now and again. If nothing else; I found his egomaniac-isms to be quite amusing.

Postby Ryan Matney » 10/01/03 03:02 PM

I think Mark Lewis is hilarious and I don't understand why he is continually banished. Surely the idea of a forum is to encourage posting.

I'm all for moderating profanity and slander, etc. However, what you call baiting, I see as stimulating some much needed argument and opinion.

It's strange that when he gets people posting here, you kick him off and go back to praising the current issue of Genii or dicussing how to pronouce various names.(No offence meant to David Acer)
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Postby Guest » 10/01/03 03:43 PM

I am an amateur magician -- I have never made one red cent doing it and have spent a lot of money in study and education of this field. Rarely a month goes by when some magic magazine or book that I read speaks of the amateur with thinly veiled contempt. If you have not sat at the Master's feet at Tannen's or the Castle, you are unworthy of this great art. If you can not come up with your own routines, you are an embarassment. Time after time we are ridiculed in books and articles that purport to hold magic up to a higher standard. Reading this thread, I would suggest that pomposity such as Mark's and others, as well as phrases such as "contempt", though used for shock value, are a much serious injury to magic.

Postby Guest » 10/01/03 04:20 PM

Yeah....those magicians hate us new guys. I will say that Mark knows his stuff and I think he's very funny. His pompous act is reflecting the haughty Englishman in barbaric Canada to an extreme...good stuff. We should have kept him around long enough to milk him for some info.
Steve V

Postby Bob Coyne » 10/01/03 07:25 PM

It's a drag that Mark Lewis keeps getting kicked off. His posts are among the most insightful (and entertaining) of anyone's. Too bad it rubs some people the wrong way.

Hey, I've got an idea! Why not give him a column in the magazine? That way he
can say his bit and concentrate on content without the cycle of taunting that comes so easily in an online setting. Probably wouldn't be as much fun for him though. :-)
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Postby Guest » 10/03/03 02:58 PM

To answer Dennis's original question. How do you close the sale?
Very easy. When you are working you will see people who are potential customers by their body language and reaction. Just look them in the eye and say "would you like one?" When one person buys the rest will follow.
That's it.
Simple isn't it?

Postby Guest » 10/04/03 09:37 PM

The only system for making svengali's that I remember seeing is in Barry Govan's "A Pitch is Worth a Thousand Words" that Lee Jacobs published.
I think commercially produced cards are probably much less trouble but you may have to try a few places before you find some that you are happy to be associated with, especially if you don't move continually from town to town.
If anyone wants to share a source of quality Svengalis, please email me through the Board. Thanks.
I didn't see anything funny or admirable in comments like "treat customers with contempt" - it leaves the impression, intended or not, that he is treating those of us that take the time to read his ramblings with that same contempt.
It's quite possible he has a lot of good information. I'd like to know before I buy any book that he writes exactly what parts of the topic that he has NOT shared with the people that buy his book.
Walt Lees had a booklet and audio cassette about pitching (from Martin Breese) that had some good hints.
Hope this helps.

Postby Renaldi » 10/05/03 10:51 AM

Mark Lewis lives in Toronto. I've had the pleasure of reading his fine manuscript and seeing his Svengali routine many times - both at a local magic store and in a mall where he was trying to pitch to shoppers. Let me say this, he is extremely amusing, highly entertaining and quite talented with a Svengali deck. However, the times I watched him trying to sell the deck, confirmed that there was not much money in this endeavor. In other words, don't leave school or quit your day job to pitch these decks. Mr. Lewis's return on investment based on dollar sales per hour was not that good.
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Postby Guest » 10/05/03 04:54 PM

In reply to the gentleman from Tasmania I do own the Mark Lewis book and I can tell him that there is not a single word about how to pitch the deck therein. It is purely a book on how to perform the trick not sell it. Having said that it does give a lot of information hitherto unpublished.

I must say with the greatest respect that Mr.Renaldi has little understanding of the pitch business.

I am sure that anyone that sells magic, whether on a table in a flea market or in a full scale magic shop will confirm that you cannot work things out on an hourly basis. A pitchman is not a waiter. Or a lawyer either for that matter. They do not do things on an "hourly basis". Furthermore phrases like "return on investment" mean little in this business.

Why? Because it is more than a business. It is a WAY OF LIFE!

I am not sure that coming in to watch someone for an hour or so work in a mall is a very accurate way to judge how much money the man is making. Or watching for a whole day either. Or a whole week for that matter.

You have to watch for a whole month to get an idea. It must be obvious that traffic varies, it must be obvious that sales vary, it must be obvious that people will watch early on in a week in a mall and buy later in the week.

I have already mentioned elsewhere that I have sold zilch decks in a day. I have also sold 478 in a day. Sometimes magicians come in on the wrong day.

Incidentally magic pitchmen in general abhor magicians coming in to watch on the grounds that they are time wasters and never buy anything.
Naturally I am not saying this is the case with you and Mr.Lewis. I cannot presume to guess what either of you are like.

I will condede that it is a tough business. I will not concede that you cannot make money at it. The average pitchman makes more than the average lawyer over time. Just thought I'd mention it.

I do happen to know that Ron Macmillan of International Magic built his business on the deck. I do also know that Joe Stuthard made an absolute fortune with it in Australia.

I wouldn't sniff at this business without getting the full facts about it.

Postby Guest » 10/06/03 05:35 AM

I've watched a few pitchmen sell Svengalis and other items. I've sold some myself and may do that again when the next 2 books are out of the way.
I watched Joe Stuthard for a few hours, on and off, while waiting to take him to our Magic Club several years ago. Sadly, both the Club and Joe are gone.
Joe was a gentleman, pitchman and businessman. I am sure that he knew how much he was making on an hourly basis.
Demonstrating tricks was one of the areas of magic that I got some help with from Card Mondor while I was working on putting his autobiography in to an ebook.
These men enjoyed doing it, but they would switch to some other facet of magic if pitching stopped being a paying proposition.
It is a buzz though, and I have never regretted the experiences, even when the weather and the crowds were both unfriendly.

Postby Guest » 10/06/03 10:00 AM

It sounds as if you will like the Mark Lewis book since there are several references to Joe Stuthard therein.

Postby Guest » 10/06/03 12:01 PM

Seamus O'Connell = Mark Lewis, amazing isn't it? Perhaps he will continue to post positive threads and contribute without resorting to causing trouble while he is here as an alter ego. Let's hope so.
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Postby Guest » 10/06/03 12:09 PM

Not me, Paul.

Postby Guest » 10/07/03 02:44 AM

Seamus, "You would like the book. There are several references to Joe Stuthard"
Thanks for the pointer but I have plenty of magic history round here already to keep me going for a year or more.
I am glad to get to this Forum and share/help if and when I can but my main projects right now are non-magic books plus improving my web sites.

Postby Guest » 10/07/03 08:37 AM

I saw Joe Stuthard work once and was in great awe and wonder.
Just about the greatest I have ever seen. Yet very few magicians seem to know him. He came from Canada (the "Canadian Funatic") yet nobody there seems to have heard of him. In America also he seems to be little known.
In the UK where he worked a lot only a few old timers seem to remember him.
I know he ended up in Australia. How well known is he over there among magicians?
The man was unbelievable. If he is unheard of even in Australia then all I can say is that I just can't believe it.

Postby Guest » 10/07/03 10:39 AM

Joe Stuthard - I still have one of his Bi-Co Trilby Decks. The Trilby seemed (to me) to be a great improvement on the Svengali.


Postby Guest » 10/07/03 11:00 AM

I never did like the Trilby deck. I just couldn't get into it somehow. Joe wrote a little book on it which I have.

There is also a routine in the Ken Brooke book -The Unique Years.

It is called a card act or something. It describes what I think is the Trilby Deck yet there is no mention of what the deck is called or any mention whatever of Joe Stuthard. I think this is a shame since Joe invented the deck.

Incidentally, Ken was furious about this book. He had no idea of it until a copy arrived on his doorstep by mail. Edwin of Supreme Magic had the rights to all Ken's tricks and instructions. He published the whole jolly lot in one book and made it a tribute to Ken. Of course Ken would have preferred money instead of a tribute.

Still, it is an excellent book. In there is the exact Dutch Looper routine I have used for decades to fleece the unwary public.
I am very ethical though. I have made sure that when I sell this trick that the instructions are quite incomprehensible. I also do this with the svengali deck instructions. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I thought anyone could actually do the trick after they bought it.

I have always believed in protecting the secrets of magic.

No doubt the magic community will wish to nominate me for sainthood because of this selfless attitude.

Postby Matthew Field » 10/07/03 01:28 PM

This is very interesting stuff.

I once pitched the "Wonder Mouse." I bought a gross of the things wholesale, wrote a pitch (excerpt: "Scare your sister! Amaze your cat!" "Contains seven distinct parts assembled from countries around the world, including the staple in the bag."), set my hookups, designed a giant button advertising the thing, and worked a street festival in Lenox, Mass. My wife owned a shop there and I needed something to occupy my time that day.

I only have about 140 or so left (!), but I had a great time. And learned quite a few lessons that day.

Originally posted by Seamus 0'Connell:
I have always believed in protecting the secrets of magic.

No doubt the magic community will wish to nominate me for sainthood because of this selfless attitude.
I shall pray for you, Seamus.

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Postby Guest » 10/07/03 01:53 PM

Thank you for your prayers,Matthew. Of course you are a saint yourself. You wrote a gospel or something didn't you?

I am a very spiritual person myself. In fact I am an ordained minister of the Free Spiritualist Church. It cost me $35.

Are you only saying you sold 4 mice??? I see you are from New York. You don't work with that Fantasmagoria bunch do you?

Don't worry. If you are stuck with them I will take them off your hands. I wouldn't want you to lose money on them. Just tell me what you paid and I will send you on the money.

On the other hand you may be able to sell them in the future. I have written a little book on the subject.I wrote it a whole year ago but have never gotten around to illustrating it and printing it, let alone marketing it. My biggest innovation to the mouse is the introduction of the "spooky pencil" trick. This substitutes for the politically incorrect stunt with the cigarette. It is about time that cigarette stunt that is used with the mouse was put out to grass.

Joe Stuthard of whom we have been speaking somewhere or other, had a wonderful idea. He would plainly show the wax gimmick and refer to it as a "magic motor" which made the trick work.

Far better than the mouse though is the "Squirmle".
This has been extensively worked in the Netherlands and in England. It has now come to North America. It makes the mouse look silly.

I heard tell that Tommy Wonder worked it in the street. I don't know if this is true but if it is I must say that I am deriving great amusement from the very idea that a true artist as shown in his books is just a street carnie like the rest of us.

Mind you Vernon himself was essentially just a wicked carnie too. When I met him for the first time I was shocked to see that he talked like a carnie, walked like a carnie and thought like one too. I should have known. He was a silhouette artist travelling all over the different fairs across America.

I met a very sincere shut eye believer psychic once. She had teamed up with a real crooked carnie mitt reader. I asked her why she had done this. She said "the carnies are the ones who know how to get the money!"

And they do.

Postby Matthew Field » 10/07/03 03:01 PM

I'll hang on to the Wonder Mice (is that the plural?), but thank you for the offer, er, Seamus. I'd love to read (i.e. purchase) your book.

I also love the "Squirmie." Tannen's was selling them for about $1 some time back and I bought several (several was all they had).

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