Monday, April 30, 2007

A library sailing we will go. Or maybe not.

Perhaps it's time to start thinking beyond library sales.

One reads more and more about the restrictions library sales are placing on dealers. No scanning (which is fine with me, frankly). Higher prices. Cherry picking by volunteers.

These things aren't happening much in my area yet but most of the time now I view library sales simply as sources of books to sell as group lots. That is, books that are worthless individually (and passed over by the scan monsters) but do OK if grouped together as a collection and sold on eBay as a group lot. It tends to be more profitable for me than looking for the needle in the haystack. This is fine but I find myself pondering the alternatives to library sales.

There are the more obvious options like Craigslist, classified ads, letting everyone you know that you sell books and buy inventory. The acquisition of a personal collection of books can keep one happily occupied - and away from library sales - for months. Church sales and AAUW sales tend to be consistently good.

But what about less obvious alternatives? I've never heard of anyone doing this but for some time I've considered sending direct mail postcards to 100 homes in my community. I haven't run the numbers but the postage would cost around $20.00. I'd design and print the postcards myself. There's the cost of the mailing list, which might be around $20.00.

Have you considered or tried any unusual ways of acquiring inventory?
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Top 70,000 Amazon Reviewer

I've lamented before that since becoming a bookseller I go through long stretches of not reading books. From what I hear this is a common problem among booksellers. It's sort of ironic, is it not? To be surrounded by books and not read them?

I think I have found a solution to this problem. I've started writing Amazon reviews (you can take a look at them here). Writing a review helps me remember what I've read and helps me pay better attention as I'm reading. Reviewers are ranked by the number of helpful votes they receive. I have 70 helpful votes so far and a rank of 69,103. Receiving helpful votes is motivating. Somebody is actually reading my review! I hope to add freelance copywriting to the mix someday, in addition to the bookselling, and the Amazon reviews help transform my portfauxlio into a portfolio, which is another motivator.

At first I did not realize that there could be any other perks involved in writing reviews. Then today I read this Forbes article about Top Ten Reviewer Donald Mitchell:

Reviewing has its perks. "People are always inviting me to go on trips with them," he says. "If I have reviewed a travel book, they'll invite me to go to that place with them." He gets frequent dinner offers (which he accepts "occasionally"), and after mentioning in a review that he had never played on the Yale golf course, a reader invited him to play there. He accepted.

Writers regularly court Mitchell. He receives up to 40 books a day and hears directly from the author "80% of the time." He says that Jamie Lee Curtis sends him notes when he reviews her children's books, and Jack Canfield--of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame--contacts him before releasing a new book. After he reviewed Spencer Johnson's book Who Moved My Cheese?, Mitchell says, Johnson called him to discuss his criticism and incorporated his suggestions in later editions.

Mitchell has earned $20,000 writing Amazon reviews and has donated it all to Habitat for Humanity. Whoa, one can make money writing reviews? He used to charge $25 for a review of a book he wouldn't normally read; now he charges $600. Apparently the Top Ten Reviewer designation carries some weight. The #1 Reviewer is speed reader Harriet Klausner who seems to attract a lot of criticism on the Amazon review forum. Not surprising, I suppose.

I don't suppose I'll get any offers to play golf for free at Yale but, if nothing else, writing reviews will serve as another distraction from the chore of listing books.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

For the newbies out there

A friend recently asked me for advice for someone thinking of becoming an online bookseller. After reading my e-mail she said I should post it as a blog entry. I also included some things I recently wrote to a new reader. Here goes:

First, I would direct her attention to my blog, which has all the answers about online bookselling . There are categories in the sidebar like "bookselling tips."

Next, I would tell her to purchase Steve Weber's book about online bookselling called The Home-Based Bookstore.

Third, I would tell her to go to BookThink and read back issues of the newsletter and sign up for the free weekly e-newsletter. There's also a forum, where everyone is exceedingly helpful and polite. The forum also has a section for newbies. The bookselling community is full over overwhelmingly kind and helpful and smart people.
Once she's done some reading then the very best thing to do is go to library sales and grab any book she thinks might be saleable. Book Sale Finder lists all the book sales in the area every week. The more books you handle the more quickly you learn what's saleable and what's junk.

Now, where to list these books? In the beginning it is easier to list on Amazon and not deal much with eBay, until you get more experience, because eBay is time consuming. You can probably list 20 books or more on Amazon in the time it takes to list one book on eBay. Amazon has so much traffic and getting a lot of easy sales early in your bookselling career is encouraging.

Just because you (probably) won't list many books on eBay in the beginning doesn't mean you should avoid it. You should go there everyday and do research. This is as valuable as physically handling the books you find at sales. Look at the completed auctions in a particular book category. Study the auctions that sold for $30 or more. Look very very closely at the books that sold for $30+ that you would've passed on by at a book sale, not thinking they'd be worth anything. This is the best education of all. You will eventually stumble across the same eBay IDs over and over again, and you should study the listings of those sellers.

Now, go forth and sell.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Plugging Steve's Book

If you are an online bookseller then you probably already know Steve Weber. He's the author of The Home-Based Bookstore. His new book is about online marketing for authors. If you are an author, or want to be an author, this book is essential reading.

I'm not an author but the book interested me anyway because his tips about blogging, Myspace and websites apply to anyone marketing anything. I think one of the reasons Steve's bookselling book has been successful is because he has a a blog that supports it and allows him to interact with readers. He's extremely accessible. It's tools like this that allow authors to keep their book before their potential audience. He says that publishers aren't good about promoting books; it falls on the author to do that and the author shouldn't assume the publisher will do it all.

This book will also give you a much deeper understanding of Amazon and the importance of sales ranks, reviews and other techniques Amazon uses to boost sales. Steve tells the story of a novelist who used Myspace to create buzz for his book, which helped get his book published. So using these techniques before your book is even published is helpful too. I gave my copy of the book to a friend because her husband has recently published a book; they've already started implementing many of Steve's suggestions. This stuff works.
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