Bookscouting, BOOK VENDING -- TIPS FROM VENDORS.
GOT SO MANY BOOKS that FOLKS are getting LOST among your rooms of shelves? Cull the good ones and SELL THE rest ONLINE! Especially if you live in quake territory. Many Californians have died under an avalanche of tall book shelves! My Michigan book vendor pal Donald says "THE RECESSION has been good for me. I use BOOK SALE FINDER DOT COM, which finds you library sales in every state. I am now starting a new program of buying whole collections with biz cards and local ads. The Recession has wiped out almost all of my scouting competition and local book people are folding up. So I figure it might be a good time for an expansion venture by me. Offering a couple of hundred dollars for a professor/profesional/alumnus' whole collection sounds good to me.
DId you know that Larry McMurtry was a bookman before he was an author? I just read his new book 'Books' about his life as a book dealer. Get that book! He made his one horse Texas hometown into a booktown by opening a store. Now people flock to the town just for books. Reading can be addictive. If you're bored with TV, can no longer afford cable, and someone turns you on to novels, mysteries, suspense thriller fiction, my bet is you'll start hankering after used paperbacks. One smart book dealer can infect a city with that acquired taste. McMurtry had people video tape/or digital photograph their entire collection, sending the emails or tapes to him for perusal.
Ebay has offered me a 3cent a listing deal (on my 22k books) that has been working real well with an additional 6+ sales a day...I know you'll think this is high but we pay $700-800 a month to list 22,000 books, which is a bit scary at first but actually is a better rate than amazon or abe, which takes a higher percentage on the back end.
And Earlier email from him read: A book vendor tried to warn me away from writing up the BOOK BIZ, and declared candidly that he didn't want to AID and abet his getting competitors!
He wrote me "there are so many people doing this now that it is very difficult to find books for us to sell. The guy who set us up with the software also set up about a dozen others just in this SoCal area, and set others up all along the west coast. There others like him on the east coast and throughout the United States setting up so many people to sell used books that it is very competitive. I'm struggling to get this business profitable, so I wouldn't recommend anyone do this unless they are certain they have sources and lots of money.
ANOTHER VENDOR SAID: Nonsense. If he can't build a business on 100% profit, more education in mathematics is needed and thats just the minimum.
Under-funded business' develop the best economical practices eg. making your own boxes, cheapest tape etc...so plenty of money is actually a detriment. 1 sale per day per 1000 listings is average. I sold a $275.00 book yesterday...title? 26 different books at different prices was how I got there. I am going to sell another $200+ book(s) today. How I started? Buying $20 a day in books while I was a waiter, listing for free on biblio.com untill I had 3000 listings and then I was ready for abe alibris and amazon and their fees.
I have 17,000 listings. (Later it would grow to 22 thousand) Also, If you only buy blue chip books ($$$) you will decrease your target market. Most people read mass paperbacks and no nothing of editions and isbns and such. The real value of John Macdonald is that he is still widely read....$1.00 paperback.
My beef is with all these people who want to be "rare" book dealers. Ken Lopez (real rare dealer) and his like have more education than three doctors. Persons starting out in this field have quite a long way to go indeed. You and I start off as used book dealers. A real "used" book dealer has the kind of books people read at affordable prices. Our mantra; paperbacks pay the bills. These days I just grab any paperback with a 13 digit ISBN(2006-07). Ask any new book dealer who complains of stiff competition if 100% profit is enough and they will tell you no way...waste of time..... Does this sound right to you? This is the mind set my competition locally, as I walk by them with a $1 bag of mass paperbacks....3c each, keeping in mind 6c would be 100% profit. How much profit from $1.89? Most likely their math skill could not compute that much margin. But still on the surface only $1.86 is profits but mixed with the less frequent larger price tags, balances out beautifully. I tell you this relunctantly. But I'm being confidential here".
The gal vendor read that and told me: "You can get a Pro-Merchant acct on Amazon for $40 a month; they still take out commissions, but I don't think the vendor above comes out ahead on ebay. I started on Amazon, not eBay. I do get wholesale shipments from eBay, and I find gems in them, like a recent super obscure Desi Arnaz bio, (sounds weird right? but I got 200$ for it when it finally went. Go figure.) I don't sell books on eBay, I buy some of the lots there. Your other dealer pal, the guy, should make approximately 33-44 sales a day, or around 1200 monthly. I don't know what kind of books he sells-- if he sells penny books, he'd make maybe $2500 clear. I sell all kinds, penny and others, and my average book cost is $6.25 plus commission. I count on making free and clear about $2-$3 a book, so I think my profit monthly is around $750 on 6600. My costs to the 4 venues I have is about $350, so he is certainly coming out ahead-- with one problem: ebay has limits on how long you can list each book, plus they have limits on how old the books can be (none before ISBN's). That puts a lot of my rare books out of contention. And my venues let the books stay on forever, or until they are sold. So I think it's a matter of exposure. Your friend above gets plenty on ebay, but Alibris also sells on half.com and ebay. So if I list on alibris, I also get on half, barnes & noble, and about 5 other places at no extra charge. And ebay charges even if the book doesn't sell within the alloted time."
MY MALE VENDOR FRIEND GOES ON: "My pet site is booksalefinder.com. It lists mosts of the library sales in an area. It's FREE, and wonderful to go to. The name of the game is getting writers when they're FRESH and NEW, psyching out who are the greats that are as yet unknown. If you'd bought THOMAS MCGUANE in the 70 's, first editions, hardcover, you'd be sitting on super valuable books today. But unless you knew he was a great writer, an American STAR, you wouldn't have bought him early, taking the trouble to get all the first editions you could. Everybody wrote First editions. JACKIE SUSANN did. But they're not worth much unless the ole gal signed them. You always want perfect dust jackets so learn to store them where they don't get touched or mussed while the decades slide by.. Just keeping the book primo on a shelf is how to make the $. You wanna read it? HEY, READ the library version, not the one you're saving to be worth $2000.00 when your kids want to go to college. The best American young writer is Thomas Mc Guane. Could you have picked him out of the field back in the 70s? Probably not.
Writers from a few yrs back, like Thomas Berger (Little Big Man, remember the movie? With Dustin Hoffman) His books are worth a grand or two each now. in primo shape. Autographed is better. If you chase around
after top authors when they're in the bookstore, signing, you kick up the value to TWICE just a first edition. John Dunning wrote a mystery where a secondary chracter had, over four decades, carefully bought every signed first edition of a superb writer with unerring judgement and his collection was worth millions. Get his mysteries. Bookman's Promise is one. They usually have word Bookman in title.
See, "Signed by the author", means that you went to bookstore when he was on his tour. You want to give that a try as it triples the value. Want to know how you can check that issue out, right now? Search at abebooks which has a wonderful search engine, for a contemporary writer. Jorge Luis Borges or Gabriel Marquez. Isaac Bashevis Singer. Find a signed first edition. You do that hitting ADVANCED SEARCH, then stipulating first edition, signed. Or, tell you what, just pick HIGHEST PRICE. That's an option in ADVANCED SEARCH. MCGUANE hasn't gone up yet as he's so contemporary but people think he could be #1 in America. Some of his hardcover books are a buck each or with dust jacket, (DJ) maybe two or three bucks, still a buck each at some vendors.
More FROM that Gal BOOK VENDOR. I got started selling books by accident. I put three books on EBAY and got so much for them I became interested. The books were textbook science, literature, math books from homeschooling my younger daughter. I homeschooled her from 1995 to 2004. These particular ones were probably about 8-10 years old in 2007, just lying around the house.
Then I went through books on the shelves, all the way from my college days (graduated in 1978), up to the fairly recent. And started selling them. Then I started at the thrift stores and yard sales. Found things on military affairs, one of hich I bought for $2.96, and am selling for several hundred.
Then I learned about library sales from www.booksalefinder.com. Fifty cent and $1.00 books-- I bought a $1.00 book of Hitler's architect's biography, in German, SIGNED by SPEER, the thing retails for several hundred! Then I bid on a few wholesale lots on eBay. I thought I was getting penny paperbacks, but many of them were First Printings, and they sold well. I asked everyone, "Do you have any books you want to get rid of?" I got quite a few freebies. My younger daughter even found books that a couple splitting up had thrown out! (They are selling very well, too!) I went from 4 books, to around 4500 that first year. Now I have 6600 online, with another 800-1000 waiting to be put on. It is a great job for people with health problems, older people, couples, moms who want to stay home. All you need is room for the books, and patience to build up an inventory. The more books you have, the more you sell. And don't worry about penny books; if you sell 10 really cheap books a day, you'll get at least 10 dollars from shipping fees! $10 is $10, no matter what the book! You have to go to library sales and I found out that at some libraries the books that don't sell are PUT OUT the next day for anyone to get! Another way that I make a living is selling TEXTBOOKS. A site you might like to price books is directtextbook.com. Any book can be put in and priced through about thirty sites on this search engine. I have gotten several ladies into selling books-- great job for people who are older and have health problems (I'm a stroke-cancer-diabetes survivor.) Now, I have to be honest. Abebooks doesn't sell well any more. It's been bought out by Amazon, but is still a separate entity. It DOES, however, take Uncorrected Proofs and Advanced Reading Copies, which is about the only reason I stay with them. Alibris does very well as it is partners with Barnes & Noble, Half.com, eBay.com, Borders, and several others. It also has the lowest shipping fees of any of them. Amazon is still No. 1, although I think many people don't like it as much as they did. It now takes things other than books, like toys, games, electronics, etc., on a smaller scale than eBay, but similarly.
I believe that the ability to pick out books is a necessity in the book business. But I've also found that penny romances and suspense from eBay in bulk sell well, too-- they just don't have the profit of a carefully chosen item. Hitler's architect, Albert Speer book was in German ---I know he was imprisioned for life so how the heck he signed it, I don't know. I picked it up at a library sale for a buck. I've got it on sale now for $200-$300. It always amazes me the stuff that people give to library sales from estates they've inherited.
Last year, a woman sold a bunch of great ethnic cookbooks she FOUND in a house they bought as part of an estate. Wow, did they go well! my two pet sites, www.booksalefinder.com, and www.directtextbooks.com. These are great places for people to get books with little money. Students, teachers, anyone that wants to collect books. Now in that article from the Ann Arbor guy, he mentioned that all his competition is falling off. I rarely regard other booksellers as competition, as many of them specialize. Some do romance penny books, some do textbooks, with specialties in many areas. I'm kinda eclectic.
Last year, when I was more specialized in history and cooking (with far fewer books), I noticed my sales really fell off Jan-May. But being eclectic now really helps. I sell fiction when the non-fiction textbooks quit, beach reads and sci-fi come in soon. Always the cookbooks are a good sell, very steady.
Economics books by Thomas Friedman do not stay on my shelves long. Nicholas Sparks fiction flies out. Carlos Castaneda is making a comeback in sales. Malcolm Gladwell is the hottest in the marketplace as he goes on Charlie Rose show.
Above all, do not price books at 1 cent! People don't trust them. Price your penny books at 5 cents to 12 cents. They sell better. I took all my unselling pennies and repriced them up to various amounts, and they sold much better. I think the rationale is that if you pay $3.99 for shipping, you can't stand to pay just one cent for the book! (BTW, the Post Office is always going up on shipping costs, and most book venues take their commissions out of the shipping as well as the book sale. Never think that the bookseller is making a killing off of the shipping costs, we're not!)
Bookselling is so much fun! I just wish I had the free cash to get more inventory. Eventually I want to build up to 18000 titles online. I have seen my sales go down recently due to the economy. Normally I sell .2% (.002) pretty steadily, with upswings to .4%+ around Christmas. Now I'm down to .1% to .15% of average daily inventory (6500 titles means 6-10 sales daily instead of 11-13). most lots contain more penny books than anything else. To really get good deals in quantity, go to library sales. My pet site is www.booksalefinder.com, which lists most of the library sales in each state. It's free, just plug in your state and see what comes up! Here is where I picked up the Speer book for $1. And we were GIVEN a very small Icelandic-English dictionary that sells for $17! I have found many first editions at library sales-- Mario Puzo, Anne Rice, many sci-fi things that sell REALLY WELL!
So the best things come from library sales. Many library sales feature donated books, not ex-library ones. You can get new books, too. Whatever is donated by individuals or culled from library shelves ends up there.
Locally, there is a sale in Suffolk, VA, next weekend. I plan on spending $200 and making at least 10 times that in sales on the items, probably considerably more. I'll try to get 200 softcovers ($100), and 100 hardbacks ($100). That's 75 cents a book that will retail for an average of $6.25 per book.
Who knows? Maybe I'll find another Desi Arnaz, another Albert Speer, or someone even more expensive! THE LURE OF THE BOOK GAME is only part of it. You get to read and read for free.
THE GUERILLA CAPITALISM WEBSITE researcher, writer and poster who created this page (Anita Sands Hernandez is a brain, also does astrology so write her, astrology at earthlink dot net......) adds: "I don't sell books because I can't figure out EBAY at all! But if I did, I'd keep all the good writers, my favorites for my children and just sell off the unreadable ones. I find that 90% of books are fairly unreadable. So I'd love to dump 90% of what's here in the house right now and get my money back! I found an Armenian family owned thrift where books are l9c each, whereas GOODWILL is 4$ for a paperback, so I've offered my books to him free. If you're in L.A. come get your share.
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