Friday, August 11, 2006


As nice as it is to work from home there are downsides. One of the best ways to learn one's job is to watch co-workers in action and I don't get to do that, except at library sales where there are other book dealers, and then I don't want to see other book dealers because I feel rushed and if the dealer is a scan monster I have to push my way past them, which I've discovered is easier to do if I'm holding a child because then the scan monster is more compelled to be polite and make way for me.

Reading forums and blogs is helpful, of course, but I like to actually see what other booksellers do. Therefore I'm reduced to snooping on eBay. Searching completed eBay book auctions is the only way for me to see a bookseller in action. In doing this I have discovered several sellers that I admire and I study their listings at least once a week. There is one seller who I study on a daily basis because everything she does is counter-intuitive to me:
  • She lists approximately eight auctions per night, six nights per week. What, no Buy It Now listings? No store?
  • Her photos are not sharp and are sometimes out of focus and she usually uses only one photo per listing.
  • She uses gallery photos. Huh? Why spend the extra money? Especially when the photo isn't high quality.
  • She does not use a template. Her descriptions are one paragraph and very tightly written and I pay very close attention to her phrases and have started "borrowing" some of them. I like the simplicity of her listings.

I also like her numbers. Last week she had 53 auctions. Thirty of them sold. The gross sales were $523 and she averaged $17 per book. If she has 240 or so auctions per month she makes quite a bit more than we did when we had a store with more than 2000 items. So I've started imitating her on a small scale and hope to earn more in one month with our small store inventory of 70 items and 1-3 auctions per night than we did with a store with 2000 items.

It's motivating for me to check her new listings each morning. When I was out scouting last week I went to the games section because of her. She had recently sold some vintage Scrabble books and I because I believe Scrabble to be the best game ever I bid on one of them, but lost, and hoped to find one in the thrift store. I found a Sheepshead card game book instead, which is worth $50.

I won one of her other auctions last night and will be anxious to see how she packages the book and if I can learn yet more from her as a result. Maybe someday I'll even be brave enough to contact her and ask all my questions. "Do you list on Amazon?" "Do you have a lot of repeat customers? "Do you do any marketing?" "How do you decide whether or not to relist an unsold book?" "Do you have kids and if so have you ever snapped at one of them when you found them reading a Listed Book or when they misplaced your tape gun or used them as decoys to sneak past the Scan Monsters?"

(filed under: bookselling tips)

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Blogger GuusjeM said...

Care to share her user id?

4:55 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

That's so interesting that someone who is counterintuitive has captured your interest so. Good luck on the sluething!

Since I work in Real Estate, I understand the need to keep up on the "competition" so to speak.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous sheila said...

Hi! I have been reading your blogs for a couple of months now and would like to compliment you on your whimsical style of writing - it's easy to read and also informative! I am an ebay beginner , an elementary teacher by profession, so I have not much time to do all of the research on ebay, thrift shop trawling etc, but I have built up quite a supply of books to list after a busy summer of yard sales! Deciding how to price the books and get them into ebay takes so long because I am new at it. How do you research as you do? What do you put into the key words and options to find a seller that you think is doing well? Then how do you keep track of her and your data? That's many questions in one but only a tiny fraction of what I would love to ask! I have bought Elaine's book and also Robin's garage sale book. I love them both! I look forward to your next blog and all of your fascinating trivia...

6:28 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

Hi Sheila - Thank you for your nice comment. I'd be happy to answer your questions via e-mail. My e-mail address is

8:43 PM  

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