Tuesday, May 29, 2007

There's a first time for everyone

Sometimes I forget that buying used books online isn't the norm for everyone. This recent feedback comment by an Amazon customer reminded me of this:
"I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly my book got to me. I was wary at first to buy from an outside seller, but I was proven very wrong!"
Anxiety makes a lot of buyers hesitate. And when they hesitate they tend to ask questions. Ebay sellers in particular sometimes complain about this tendency. Someone on a forum said that there is one eBay seller who blocks buyers from bidding if they've asked a question.

You wouldn't ignore a customer if she was standing in front of your cash register and asking a question; you should speak to your potential online customers with the same courtesy. I admit that the questions are tedious. They'll ask for a photo of a $10.00 book. They'll ask you to double check and make sure the book has no marks. They'll want to know the copyright date.

Anxiety is at the root of most buyer questions and all they need is reassurance that you, the seller, are a real person who is attentive to their concerns. More than a few times I've received emails from buyers whotold me that they've had a bad experience with a previous seller and they just wanted to make sure they could trust me.

The next order you receive could be your customer's first online used book purchase ever. Make it a pleasant one.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Top Five Reasons Why Church Sales Are Better Than Library Sales

Every Thursday morning I check the classifieds and hope a church sale will be there. I can hardly be bothered with garage sales anymore. Not even garage sales by retired school teachers. I've been burned too many times. But church sales? I'm there. They tend to be better than library sales too. Here's why:

1. The incidentals. When you go to a church sale you can also replenish your stock of Coca Cola glasses, tacky plastic floral 1960's plates, cereal bowls and Tupperware. Throughout the winter these items tend to break or melt when placed inadvertently on a hot burner so the summer church sales are my chance to stock up again. We are probably the only family with a mug shortage because of all the breakage and, trust me, church sales are also an excellent source of mugs. Because of the incidentals my children happily come along when I go to church sales. Even if I walk away with no books I've spent a nice time with the children as they happily pick out junky toys that cost no more than couch change.

2. The books. People give it up for their church. They'll bring in their grown son's complete collection of science fiction paperbacks that has been sitting in their basement for twenty years. Or they'll finally decide to let go of the 100+ International Collectors Library books with the gold gilt edges that they never read anyway and won't fit in their new assisted living facility. Maybe they even part with a lifetime's collection of 1940's and 1950's vintage mystery paperbacks. Pastors and scholarly folks will donate theological books. I've had many of my best finds at church sales.

3. The people. The volunteers are always friendly and they often serve snacks and coffee.

4. The lack of people. Book people, that is. I almost always have the books to myself and don't have to deal with the pressure of other book dealers hovering nearby. There was a church sale in my neighborhood this past weekend. I showed up on Saturday, not realizing it started on Friday. I thought the books would be picked over, but no. There was a box of 1949 Childcraft books, all 14 volumes, and a few antique Mrs. E. M. Holmes books and some other things.

I went to a church sale the weekend before last and there were four high school yearbooks (2001-2004). I know you are always supposed to pick up yearbooks and park them in your eBay store at $40 a pop but I didn't have the heart to do so in this instance. Why did this girl ditch her yearbooks already? Is she unhappy? Is she deceased? I did not wish to dwell on these things so I refrained from purchasing them.

5. The prices. Ten cents. A quarter. Fifty cents at the most. Sometimes there are no prices at all and the church accepts donations instead. Of course I always end up paying more that way but at least I feel good about it.

Can a library sale top any of these things? I think not.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

MySpace Marketing

On Sunday night the BookThinker newsletter will announce the new BookThink MySpace page. Yours truly is in charge of this page.

What does MySpace possibly have to do with bookselling? Look at the blog entries over there and find out. Yes, I'm in charge of the blog over there too.

And, yes, I have my own personal MySpace page. I started my page a year or so ago to network with other online booksellers. Sometimes it gets a little lonely, sitting at the computer all by myself, listing books. It's nice to find other booksellers with whom to connect and exchange tips. It's kind of like having co-workers but without actually having to share cubicle space with them. And there's no boss to complain about.

Feel free to send me a friend invitation if you have a MySpace account.
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Ahhhh, AAUW

The annual AAUW (American Association of University Women) sale was on May 5. For me, this is the beginning of spring in the bookselling world here in Wisconsin. For the next six months there will be garage sales, church sales, and library sales to go to most every Saturday morning.

AAUW sales are always very pleasant. As I stood in line I thought about the recent BookThink forum exchange in which a bookseller revealed that he had been physically threatened by another bookseller at a library sale. The sale volunteers had to intervene and they came within a mere edge of calling the police.

Nothing close to this has ever happened to me at a sale. As I entered the AAUW sale another bookseller held the door open for me, letting me enter ahead of him, even though he had arrived before I did. This is far more typical of the behavior of other booksellers in my area.

I was under a time constraint and I had to work the sale quickly but the pickings appeared to be slim this year. I had a modest haul but left content because the experience was pleasant. The volunteers admired my Trader Joe's reusable grocery bag and admired the books I purchased. The aisles were hard to navigate but people were always kind enough to move out of my way. It felt good to be at the beginning of another spring bookselling season.

If there are AAUW sales in your area you should attend them. I travel to a couple of other AAUW sales throughout the year and they are always worth the effort.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Speaking of business cards

Here are some very clever business cards.

One of them has this title: "Director of Possibilities." I like that.
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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Having fun with clip art

Do you have an eBay store or a website? If so, you're probably interested in driving traffic to it. One simple and effective marketing tool is business cards. You should include one with each order.

If you are a Powell's Books then a plain-Jane black on white thermographed business card will be more than adequate. The rest of us should put some effort into creating something that isn't boring. There's nothing like a little clip art to get the creative juices flowing (I'm, um, not a computer graphics artist and apologize for the excess white space below):

And the back:

If the cards are printed on premium 15pt. card stock with glossy U/V
coating they will stand out from 99 percent of the cards out there. OvernightPrints.com is an excellent source and the prices are reasonable.

If you don't have a website or eBay store and only list on fixed price venues such as Amazon then business cards aren't necessary. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun with clip art. Sending a postcard like this to a few neighborhoods in your community might result in some new inventory.

The front:

And the back:

This postcard isn't professionally designed, ahem, but something like it could possibly stand a chance of being affixed to a refrigerator or kept in the pile of bills rather than thrown directly into the trash.

I'll discuss more marketing techniques in the future such as Myspace. Eek, did I just say Myspace? I did. You'll see why, soon.
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