Friday, September 29, 2006

Turning Negative Feedback into Positive Feedback

Last week Amazon sent me an e-mail telling me that my feedback for the last 30 days was only 90 percent and I'd better get my act together. Oops.

I went to our account and saw that eight people gave us five out of five stars last month. Yay! One person left us two out of five stars, saying that I had described the book as having clean pages but there were some underlines. These two stars lowered our monthly feedback to 90 percent. Oops.

Our lifetime feedback remained unaffected (96%) but I decided to contact the buyer anyway. I apologized and asked him to remove the negative feedback. I told him I'd be happy to give him a partial refund or a full refund, including return postage. I told him we have a home business and feedback is crucial to us and that I want him to be a happy customer. Sometimes people think they are buying direct from Amazon instead of from an individual seller so it's good to dispel that notion.
Well, the buyer was not mollified. "Sorry, You did not state in your description accurately what the condition of the book was. There is writing in the margins. Changing it would simply be a lie. Perhaps, in the future you will not receive such low marks."

Undettered, I wrote back again, apologized again. Finally it seemed to dawn on him that I was a real person, a person actually trying to make him HAPPY. He asked for a list of the other philosophy books that we have in stock. I sent it to him and he picked one out and I mailed it to him at no charge. He removed the negative feedback and now our score for the last 30 days is 100 percent and our lifetime feedback increased to 97 percent. He thanked me for my "professional" attitude. Now we're both happy.

A note to Amazon book buyers: if you purchased a used book, please leave the seller 5 out of 5 stars if you are satisfied with the transaction. If you are not satisfied, contact the seller first and give the seller a chance to correct their error and make you happy. Sometimes a buyer will leave 4 out of 5 stars and say something like "pleased with the book." Aaargh. Some people can't bring themselves to give 5 out of 5 no matter what. They think it's too hyperbolic. Because so few buyers bother to leave feedback even a 4 out of 5 will have a negative effect.

A note to Amazon sellers: when you receive a rating that is less than 5 out of 5 stars, don't hesitate to contact the buyer. Anything we can do to make buyers aware that we are professionals and real people, not faceless entities, will make the online marketplace more hospitable to buyers.
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Monday, September 25, 2006

Turning inventory into inventory

Last week I went through four shelves of inventory. I looked up each book on Amazon and ended up culling two thirds of the books. Off to Half Price Books they went. I repriced most of the remaining books and spruced up some of the descriptions.

For a few titles I noticed that our copy did not appear on Amazon even though I listed it months ago. I corrected that and one of them, a $45 book about staging Shakespeare plays for children, sold almost immediately. I listed a few books on eBay and sold them all (a Martha's Vineyard photo book from the 1940's, a puppet theatre book, a Beatrix Potter biography). They had been collecting dust on Amazon for a year or more. During the first 18 months of selling books online we didn't list on eBay. I now know much more about eBay and as I go through the old inventory I'm certain I'll be able to pluck out other titles to list on eBay and move out the door.

Even though I could be discouraged that two thirds of that inventory was stale and had to go I am instead invigorated as I look at the empty shelves. It motivates me to go out in the field and make more acquisitions.

So, if you're a bookseller, and are in the doldrums and haven't found any exciting new inventory lately, just take a look at your shelves. Look at those old books with fresh eyes and you'll find some gold and increase your sales.
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Monday, September 18, 2006

$200 in 12 minutes

Saturday nights are not usually a hot time for book orders. People aren't sitting at their computers. They're at real bookstores or Starbucks or parties or whatever else it is that people without four children do on Saturday nights. Books with Amazon sales ranks of 2 million are not hot sellers. A $5.00 book with a sales rank of 100 might sell in twelve minutes on a Saturday night but not a $200 book with a sales rank of two million. Yet that's exactly what happened to me last Saturday night.

On Saturday night I listed Dinosaurs, Mammoths and Cavemen: The Art of Charles Knight for $199.99. I decided to put it in our eBay store inventory in addition to Amazon, Alibris, etc. I figured it would take several months for this book to sell. Amazingly someone purchased the book twelve minutes after I listed it on eBay. I've never had a book sell that fast. eBay store inventory doesn't appear in saved searches (when you have a saved search for an item eBay sends you an e-mail when a new listing appears) so I don't know how the buyer found the book so quickly.

I wish I could say that I found this book at a library sale or thrift shop. It belonged to a friend of mine and I sold it on commission. He had tried selling the book on eBay on his own to no avail. You never know with eBay.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Free Help

A few online helps have revolutionized my life as of late. And they're free.

A couple of times per day I now sit down to my own custom-made magazine thanks to
Google Reader. Google Reader is a place to store your favorite blog and website links. Each time the blog is updated the new entry appears in Google Reader. No more wasting time laboriously clicking on individual blog links. I can now read more blogs in less time.

I've had a Yahoo e-mail address for years but had been oblivious of the Yahoo calendar feature until a couple of weeks ago. Someone on an e-mail list recommended Microsoft Outlook to a frazzled mom. That program costs money, however, so I wondered if Yahoo might have a calendar and, sure enough, they do. Once upon a time I used a Franklin Covey planner. In recent years I've used a wall calendar. I'm not usually in the vicinity of the calendar when I need to write something down and, even if I am near the calendar, I usually can't find a pen. Yahoo Calendar also has a task list and notepad for writing down grocery lists or whatever. I may never need to use a pen again.

I tried a free book repricing service last week:
Tooyen. I had always been reluctant to use a repricing tool for fear that it would slash prices even more dramatically than Wal Mart. But Tooyen repriced items in a conservative yet competitive way and left many items unchanged. I was pleased.

Now that I have this nifty calendar, repricing tool and reading program I have even more time to list books. A bonus. I think.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


If you take a look at the sidebar you will now see categories. Categories! I feel like my blog is more grown-up now. Blogger doesn't provide a category feature for blogs so I had to sit down and figure it out all by myself. I decided to use tags. It's not as nice as having a fancy drop down menu for categories but it's free and very easy to use.

I still have not added Google Ad Sense text ads to the blog. I think of these ads as the mosquitos of the blogosphere and can't bring myself to clutter up the site with them. These ads seem more like Ad Cents than Ad Sense. It's hard to imagine making much money from them. I wasn't totally without shame, however. I added a donate link on the sidebar for those who wish to make anonymous donations through Amazon. I've seen this on other blogs and figured it was worth a shot. Maybe someday I'll hit the big time and have real ads on the site with tasteful graphics and content that is applicable to bookselling.

I also added a new blog to the sidebar:
Ephemera: exploring the world of old paper. It's cool. Check it out.
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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Questions, Questions

A reader recently left the following comment:

Hi! I have been reading your blog 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 thought I'd go ahead and answer her questions here. (By the way, I'm chuffed that she used the word "whimsical" because it's one of my favorite words.)

Research. I prefer to call it snooping because that makes it sound more fun. The best way to snoop is to go into the advanced search screen of eBay. Click on completed auctions and then choose additional parameters, such as the non-fiction book category and books that are that are at least $30, so that you don't have to wade through as much junk. Just for kicks you can also narrow down your search by zip code. Let yourself become very familiar with this advanced search screen. It's your friend.

While perusing the completed auctions pay close attention to the books that you would have passed by at a sale. Study the auction titles and layouts and make mental notes of what you like and dislike. I like to mentally rewrite titles, even on highly successful auctions, because it's a good exercise. Eventually a certain seller will catch your eye. Go and study their other listings. Mark them as a favorite seller in your "my eBay." This allows you to return to that seller's listings on a regular basis. I look at the listings of my favorite seller on a daily basis and it motivates me to list books (I'm happy to share my favorite seller IDs via e-mail. Click on the "contact me" link in the sidebar). At the end of the week I sometimes search her completed auctions and add up her sales, because that motivates me too.

When researching book values (not quite as much fun as snooping but it must be done) I use Amazon. If the book isn't listed on Amazon, or if the Amazon price is very high, I look on Bookfinder. On Amazon I study the sales rank as closely as the price. Sales rank tells you how quickly the book will sell. If a book has a sales rank of 200 and can be listed for $5.00 I'll happily do so because I know it will fly out the door within 24 hours. If a book has a sales rank of 3 million and is worth $20.00 I study the book to see if there are keywords that will make it sell on eBay. If not I usually chuck the book, especially if the content seems weak.

Feel free to ask more questions!
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