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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Selling Books on Amazon

For the last 8 years or so, I have been selling used books on Amazon as one of their pro-marketplace sellers....under the name of Michigoosey (Michigoose was taken by the IM name I had at the time....and somehow they were linked).

I started selling books to try to underwrite my quilting habit. At present, I am trying to extricate myself...but I find that I am sort of obsessive compulsive about it and am having to wean myself away. While I started this to fund my quilting, I am spending far too much time on it, and would be able to make more if I went to work at Kohls or McDonalds...and I then would presumably be able to actually get some quilting done.

It has gotten especially thin since the last two postage increases didn't bring any increase in shipping/handling from Amazon.

It's also very tricky. First, I have to obtain the books. I specialize in quilting books, as well as young adult books. I have my niche and I know it pretty well...but every once in a while I make mistakes. I buy the books and have to pray that the price doesn't fall while I have them in the inventory. Book prices are very volatile, and like everything else, it isn't worth anything unless you have a buyer. Currently, books on eBay are selling at higher prices than the same books on Amazon.

One of the things which makes selling books difficult is that sometimes sellers on Amazon list books for astronomical figures...ones which have no basis in reality. I use This website searches all the major book sellers, as well as little ones and eBay. Another struggle is that sometimes the people you purchase books from mis-represent them.

I pay Amazon $39.99 per month for Pro-merchant subscription which gives me the ability to list books without paying individual listing fees, which you have to do as individual sellers. This enables me to have a book listed longer than as an individual as well. I can also add books to the Amazon catalog if the book isn't already listed. Amazon also takes a 15% of the sale price and an additional $1.35 per book fee (which used to be their portion of the shipping/handling fee but they have now renamed it so that theoretically sellers get the whole $3.99 per book that they charge the buyer).

I also buy new bubble mailers in bulk which cost me about $0.50 per mailer. I also pay $99 per year plus the shipping labels to be able to ship them from my home with the bar coding. I usually sell about 90 books per month, so this doesn't work out too badly, and I'm able to purchase delivery confirmations at a reduced rate.

Purchasing delivery confirmation is a must. I was finding that people were claiming that books weren't delivered to them when they were...particularly in the case of college students.

I take great care in shipping my books, and I also ship them out as soon as possible...usually the next day. Each of my books are described and listed individually so that the buyers will know what they are getting.

Sometimes, people don't read the descriptions. Or recently, one of the people who got the book complained in her Amazon feedback that it "reeked" of cigarette smoke....I didn't smell it and I refunded a portion of the books' price. She wrote back saying that she didn't smell it on the first several pages, but did further on in the book, and some quick spritzes of Fabreeze took care of the smell....However, there the review sits....I'm sorry I missed it...but I didn't smell it....and indeed she said she didn't smell it at first either.

Then there are those who try to get more than they ought. My favorite is when people order books via "standard shipping" which is usually media mail. Then they complain when it takes 14 days, or my favorite, when the guy emails me and asks me to send it priority even though he only paid the basic rate.

Today, I went in the hole big time. I had listed a book which was longer than the average book and has to be packaged in cardboard. I automatically put that I shipped it worldwide....and when I packed it today to send to cost me $17.97 just for the shipping. I lost money BIG time on that one.

Then there's Brazil....Brazil either has a lot of people who claim to not receive books when they have, or the postal service is very unreliable. It's so bad that insurance agencies won't insure shipments. However, if you check that you will send world wide on Amazon, you must send to Brazil. Very scary every time I have to ship something down.

Many people look at the seller's feedback, which is important. However, there are some people who only purchase from people who have 100% positive feedback. Most people don't leave feedback. If someone leaves a "3" which supposedly is neutral, it knocks your feedback down. In March, I got a "3" and that will stay there for a year. Sometimes people make mistakes in doing their feedback. I have had a number of people leave glowing feedback...but give me a "4". I recently had a woman accidentally give me a "3". She removed it, thank goodness, but most people don't respond. Some people don't believe in giving "5"s.

I've been away for a while, and this is why you haven't seen any postings...and now I'm trying to catch up on everything...the garden, the house, and the book sales. Maybe someday I'll get around to quilting again. :(

I try very hard to be a good seller...but it is a very hard row to hoe.

1 comment:

Sunita said...

Lisa, how on earth do you keep up with everything? Do you by any chance have more than the standard 24 hours per day?
The book sales sounds so interesting. My only problem would be that if I were to do it I'd never actually sell the books. I'm an absolute hoarder of books! But thanks for telling us about this. I did wonder when you told me first some months ago.