Friday, July 28, 2006

eBay changes lead to no more diaper changes

The other night, because of the upcoming changes to eBay, I deleted hundreds of listings from our eBay store, one by one. Because of the rather tedious nature of this task I sought any diversion possible. Fourth Daughter had begun potty training and that night had several accidents. Normally this might be a source of exasperation, but I jumped to attention each time and happily helped her clean up each mess. Whenever she needed an escort to the potty I was right there, happy to assist and applaud and dole out M&M's.

Later, needing a diversion from the potty training diversion, I also clicked on Yahoo Games for the very first time, not knowing what to expect, but hoping it would be more exciting than deleting eBay listings. I found
Text Twist and 21,430 points later Text Twist had all the force of a Star Trek tractor beam and Fourth Daughter was treading water.

Since that night Fourth Daughter has been accident-free and I continue to rule in Text Twist. These are changes I can get excited about.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Change. Again.

By August 22 our eBay bookstore will have to become very lean and mean. eBay announced yesterday that it will raise insertion fees and commissions for store inventory.

I will get the whining out of the way at the beginning of this post. The eBay announcement said this: "A typical eBay Stores seller who uses Store Inventory format -- making no adjustments to his or her selling strategy following these changes -- will experience an overall fee increase of less than six percent." I don't get it. The insertion fees for each item will increase from two cents per month to five cents per month. Isn't that an almost 300% increase? The commission will increase from 8% to 10%. Isn't that more than a 20% increase? How is this a six percent increase? Maybe some smart person out there can explain that to me.

eBay will now list items on eBay. Some sellers are squawking about this but I'm not. The listings won't be intermingled with the regular eBay listings. There will be a box at the bottom of the search results. We list our inventory on through Valore Books with no monthly fee. Our books will now appear on eBay this way at no charge. Perhaps we'll see increased sales as a result.

Obviously eBay is infatuated with its "core listings" (auctions and Buy It Now items) and not so happy with the store format. OK. Fine. Maybe I'll try playing their game. While studying completed auctions over the last few months I've found a seller that lists 5-10 auctions per day and does not have an eBay store. This seller is a Power Seller, which means he/she has at least $1000 in sales per month with only 150-300 listings per month. Hmmm. I like that kind of efficiency. I will now study this seller's listings and completed auctions more closely. His listings are simple. No template. The photos aren't professional quality. The books are mostly non-fiction. After a few weeks of of studying this approach, who knows, maybe we'll shut down our store in August and simply list a few auctions per day and see what happens.

These changes will also weed out the mega listers (I hope) and get rid of some of the clutter on eBay. Only the strong survive change. For some sellers, ditching eBay and focusing on other venues will be the way to keep their business strong. For others, a revised eBay strategy will be necessary. By August 22 most of us will be doing business differently on eBay, until eBay throws the next curve ball at us. But we booksellers are a tough lot. We can handle it.
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Monday, July 17, 2006

I Like Bookselling Again

Last Thursday I forced myself out the door to scout for inventory. Acquisitions are supposed to be the fun part of the job. I went to a library sale the week before and picked up only two books. I had the worst possible attitude. Plus I spent way too much time trying to look books up on the internet with my cell phone. I'm still learning how to do that and think now I might chuck it completely until I can afford a Blackberry phone and surf the net properly. It's so easy to dither around with the cell phone or tell myself "We have tons of unlisted books in storage" or "I really should spend time looking for inventory online." That's how ruts begin.

I went straight to the thrift store where I knew I would be guaranteed to find at least a few good books. I went straight to the sections where I already have a base of knowledge. I didn't whip out my cell phone (I had lost it at the zoo earlier in the day and it's just as well). I didn't even have my scouting book with me and I didn't strain to remember some of the things from my scouting book. I focused on what I already knew. I lost myself in the process for at least half an hour, got into a rhythm and brought home a box full that I was excited to list, which I did later that day. There's an excitement about going out in the field that motivates me to sit down and list books. Books in storage aren't exciting. There's something about freshly picked books from the field that is more exciting. One of those books has sold already and we actually had a surge of sales this weekend. I hope the excitement, and the sales, continue.
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Monday, July 10, 2006

The Little Things

The Priority Mail flat rate envelope is my new friend.

Yes, I've been selling books for two years and only now have I discovered the flat rate Priority Mail envelope. Padded envelopes as large as #2 can fit inside of these envelopes, which cost only $4.05 to ship anywhere in the United States. And here I've been using Priority Mail boxes, or just slapping Priority Mail stickers on mailers, and often paying $1-3 more in postage. Most books ship via Media Mail rather than Priority Mail, but those $1-3 overpayments add up.

I've been wise to the flat rate *boxes* and the *global* Priority Mail envelopes from the get go but somehow I was unaware of this envelope and I don't know why the mail clerks didn't mention them to me. But that's OK. When I want to spend a few minutes dissing Crocs or discussing the movie The Devil Wears Prada or extolling the virtues of Mr. Clean Erasers, my favorite mail clerk is always happy to listen. Because I can't have such discussions at I will keep going to the post office.

I also recently discovered that when I want to send an e-mail to an Amazon customer I can reply to the order notification e-mail that Amazon sends and my e-mail will go directly to the customer. I don't have to go to my Amazon account and scrounge up the order and find the customer's e-mail address that way. Doh! Why didn't I figure that out before?

Another little thing that is helpful: Google desktop search. It's a much quicker way to search for files and e-mails and orders.

Today I had to package books without the benefit of scissors because I couldn't find them (i.e. the children misplaced them). Scissors. A little thing but absolutely essential. I couldn't even find the pinking shears, which I often use in desperation when the scissors are lost. My Favorite Mail Clerk likes how the labels look when I cut them with pinking shears so maybe the customers do too. But today I had to fold and tear them by hand. Aarrgh.

The little things dont matter, however, if I don't list books. I will go list five books now. Really. I will. No procrastinating. No siree.
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

$103 for $3 worth of books shouldn't feel like a disappointment

But it does.

I found 40 International Collectors Library books with the gold gilt edges at a recent church sale. I made sure we attended this sale because last year we acquired several bags of vintage paperbacks from this sale, donated by an older lady in the church. Several of those paperbacks were worth $10-30+ and the rest we sold as lots. I overheard the lady say that next year she might have the courage to donate her hardcovers and I made a mental note to come back.

When we arrived I didn't see a single book under the large tent. Highly unusual. Did another dealer swoop in and take them all? Because the children insisted on looking at every last junky toy I had time to notice that a side door that was propped open with a small sign that said "books." Aha.

I found the 40 books and went home and looked on eBay to research International Collectors Library. This was a Doubleday book club from the 1940's -1970's and the books are classic works bound in faux leather to resemble antique books. One normally runs away from book club books but a seller had recently sold 59 of the books for $600 (eBay item# 7041803891) so I sent Brian to the church's $1 bag sale and he fit them all in three bags. I listed them the next day (eBay item# 160001732609), hopeful that these books might fetch close to $400.

The listing received 96 hits and there were 17 watchers. But there were no last minute bids. Alas. None of the bidders for the 59 books bid on these books. I was hoping one of the losing bidders would be interested in my listing. Maybe it was a bad idea to list an auction that ended two days before July 4 or on the heels of the lot of 59. Maybe the other seller had some titles that were more rare. You never know with eBay. Oh well. At least I got to break in and fine tune our new eBay template. And the 40 books will be outta here and I don't have to store them. And I guess a quick $103 from our first church sale outing this summer isn't so bad.
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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Life Has Meaning Again

Last week I went to Borders in the hope that one or several books would find me. I normally don't purchase books as a result of idle browsing and know exactly what I want and buy it online. It had been months, however, since I read anything for pleasure, and I was desperate I was beginning to fear that bookselling had killed my joy of reading. Therefore I was delighted to discover the latest installment in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series: Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith. Life has meaning again.

If you have not spent time reading about Precious Ramotswe and her adventures as a self-taught private detective in Botswana then what are you waiting for? They might seem like "cozy", lightweight mysteries but they are not.

It has an Amazon sales ranking of around 200 so it'll sell within hours after I finish reading it and list it, and for a decent price, which will take the sting out of paying retail for it. A perk to bookselling.
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