EBay sellers, lecture me on my inventory!

alisandeApril 11, 2005

I sell mostly books on eBay. If one doesn't sell the first time, I usually look at how many hits the auction got, any watchers, etc., and decide whether or not to relist. Those that got very little activity probably shouldn't be relisted...and those that failed to sell twice probably should not go up a third time. And books in either of those categories should probably (definitely?) be discarded. But they're in piles all over the place. I bought most of them, and the profit motive keeps me hanging on. Help!


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What is important is not how well any individual book does, but whether you are making money on them as a whole. If a book you bought for 0.50 sells for $15, you can dump a lot of turkeys and still be profitable.

Bundle the turkeys by category and sell them for real cheap - like "Box Lot 15 English Mysteries". And if a certain category fails to do well consistently, stop buying them.

Pay careful attention to the way you write the descriptions - presentation is everything in an auction, and you want to make sure that your stuff shows up on search. I sold a 70s cookbook for about triple the usual prices by making sure the auction included a recipe, and the description was a bit whimsical about vintage hippy life. If all you do is give author and title, and the title of the auction has no clue about content, few will even find it. For example, if I were selling my bio of Bishop Tuttle, I would make sure the description features the Montana and Mormon history of the book, in the title and the description. It also has a small amount of US Army, Jesuit, and black history.

One way to get better is to search for a successful sale of something you failed to sell and see what they did ... copy what you can.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 9:35AM
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Hi, LG! Long time no see. Thanks for the tips. I usually buy books donated to the library ($1 each). I've some successes, and probably an equal number of duds. I'm slowly learning that what looks wonderfully collectible to me does not necessarily appeal to the rest of the country.

I hadn't thought about bundling them...or including a recipe in a cookbook listing. I have a couple of British cookbooksÂmaybe I'll combine both ideas in that listing.

Maybe "Lot of 4 First Editions" would work, too.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 9:31AM
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Susan -
Visit the book chat board on eBay - they are very knowledgeable.
Scan the covers to use in the auction ... people like to see what the book looks like. Make sure you write the description as if you were explaining it to me over the phone - what is the book about.

is a bad auction. If I wasn't already familiar with the book, I have no reason to bid on it.

You need Title, Author, publisher, edition, number of pages, approximate shipping weight. "First Edition" is not really a big thing ... all books have a first edition and most don't sell well enough to have a second. The firsts that really matter will be scarce because the first book by the author had a small print run, then they became famous. Tom Clancy's first book, if you can find the Annapolis Press one, or a true British First of the first Harry Potter. Also make sure it's a first printing of the first edition.

Things I found to be good sellers:
Wierd cookbooks: imports, old, etc ones. Write up a

Large type books - any genre. Make sure you have "large Type" in the title

Lurid paperback fiction from the 50s and early 60s. There are fun to sell, because the covers are so over-done. There are some

Most hobby and craft books

Total duds:
Recent mass market fiction, whether HB or PB, unless it's a box-lot, a first edition

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 12:58PM
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Alisande :

Do you make a lot of money selling books on eBay?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 11:37AM
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That depends on how you define "a lot." Actually, I'd have to answer no whatever your definition. I'm not a serious bookseller, and I'm not trying to make my living this way. But for the past year it's provided me with extra spending money, and some entertainment as well.

I started out selling books I owned but no longer needed. I did very well with my DH's chemistry books and horse books, but I have to add that the selling prices, while very good from my standpoint, were far below what the books originally cost. I still sell stuff from my house, but I also pick up titles at garage sales and book sales. I've had some good experiences, and I've had some duds. Little by little I'm learning what is likely to sell. I'm still wrong sometimes, and I'm also occasionally pleasantly surprised. My most recent "big" success was a rather unkempt copy of a book I owned that was not particularly old (1962). When I checked a used book website, I was startled to find it selling for several hundred dollars. I knew I'd get far less on eBay (it almost always happens that way), and I knew those copies were in better shape than mine, but I gave it a shot, describing its condition in accurate detail. It sold for over $100! But that's unusual.

I've sold other items as well, but I keep coming back to books. I have so many! Sometimes if I buy a book for $1 and after doing the research realize that I'm not likely to get even five bucks for it on eBay, I'll offer it to a local used book dealer and (sometimes) get the $5 that way.

Hope that answers your question.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 5:36PM
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You can also sell books on amazon - the good part about it is that it's free to list. The bad part is that amazon takes a higher commission than EBAY but I was looking at it as found money anyway. After 60 days, the listing expires but you can list again if you want. I would generally list only twice and then donate the book. I didn't bother listing books that were going to go for less than $4.00

I was a MAJOR book hoarder and basically used it to declutter. It certainly has cured me of any desire to purchase books -- all those books that I never read - all those books that I read once.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 9:55PM
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If you are only using ebay auctions, you might want to try listing on half.com. Half.com is now a subsidiary of ebay and so your ebay registration and feedback carry over, but it's not an auction site: you specify a price and the book stays in the half.com inventory until it sells, more or less. There is no charge for listing (you're charged when the book sells); shipping charges are fixed (if the book is large or heavy, set the price accordingly since you cannot charge extra for the shipping); and half.com collects the payments for you.

In most of those respects, it's very similar to selling on Amazon. One difference is that Amazon can only list books that are otherwise listed on Amazon (even if out of print), while half.com can list any book that is in whatever database it uses.

My experience as a seller is that popular books sell best on half.com, while more scholarly or expensive trade books are easier to sell on Amazon. Individual listing in ebay auctions has worked best for me with books that are rare or collectible, or that require some explaining.

Mass-market paperbacks aren't worth the effort of selling individually on either site; the idea of selling a boxful of similar books is one that a friend who usually sells on Amazon has done successfully.

A peculiarity of half.com (i.e., of the customers) is that it is nearly impossible to sell a hardcover edition once the paperback has appeared, even if you price it to be competitive. People who are looking for bargains generally don't even browse the hardcover listings.

You can also sell individual titles through Alibris.com, but I have no personal experience with that.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2005 at 5:24PM
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I've not tried books but do buy them from eBay.

I think if I did and they didn't sell the first, maybe second, time I might think along a dealer line or just release them into the wild via BookCrossing. http://www.bookcrossing.com/

I sell a variety of collectibles. If they don't sell I take them to a local consignment shop. Much higher at 30% but they can sit there indefinitely.

I'd been away from eBay for a couple of years and had forgotten how much work it is!


    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 5:30AM
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