Friday, September 19, 2014

What I've learned about selling online, thanks to Mom

The scene at my feet this morning -- deciding between Etsy and Amazon.
When mom died, dad was anxious to clean out the house. Mom was a closet hoarder, so her house was meticulous; but, if you open a closet door or a drawer in a file cabinet -- beware! I would shudder to find a drawer that I hadn't yet tackled after her death.

Mom kept things like receipts for a carpet replacement in a house they lived in twenty years ago. Or, she would file away some fall leaves (oak) in a space between car payment receipts and recipes. She was an avid clipper -- coupons, articles, whatever -- some of her clippings made no sense. Others revealed tons of information about my mother's proclivities and dreams.

One thing mom and I had in common was our love for books. Not the same genres, but books nonetheless. Some books were gifts, and I was surprised to find the number of autographed books she collected. I must have learned from her how to handle books, too, because even her paperbacks show little to no creasing along the spine, with clean pages and very little shelf wear.

To make a long story short, I started to resell my books on Amazon a few years ago, and I managed to sustain a 100% seller rating over the years. This rating is definitely to my advantage, because I can ask for a bit more, or even an equal price, and I may sell my book before the person who has a 94% seller rating. I've learned even more lessons this go-round, as dad wants me to sell about 90% of the books that remain at their home.

  1. First, if you have a beef with Amazon, don't take it up with me. Amazon sells more books all around than any other online bookseller. In fact, book sellers like Alibris also sell their books on Amazon.
  2. I learned that I had to apply for a "collectible" book seller rating. In other words, if I had a first edition or first printing on my hands, I wouldn't be allowed to list that book as a collectible without Amazon's approval. Fortunately, since I already had a stellar rating, that issue was resolved quickly.
  3. How do you know you have a first printing on your hands? If you're lucky, the book will list a full number line on the page where you'll also find the ISBN (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10). If you're even luckier, you'll have a book that actually states it's a first edition. Those books can make a difference between a worth of one cent and a worth of $10 or more.
  4. Always use the ISBN number to find a book on Amazon to research selling point prices. If you just go by the title, you may end up with too many (wrong) listings. It can be a mess in there.
  5. If the book is older than 1995 and doesn't have an ISBN or other identifying marks (like no image at Amazon), then I may choose to sell the book at my Etsy shop. I've had good luck at Etsy selling vintage books with decorative covers or with unusual topic information.
  6. Buy your envelopes to mail the books in bulk, because it's cheaper. I use bubble-wrap envelopes, because the bubble wrap does protect the books. It's worth the expense, especially when the buyer notes the extra care you took and contributes to a stellar rating.
I may sound a bit clinical about this process, and that attitude is one of necessity. If I pondered every oak leaf or news clipping or book signed "with love" by the author to my mother, I'd never make it through a single day. Going through my mom's things is not pleasant, trust me. But, when I falter, I simply think of my daughter. Would I want her to go through this? No. 

So...onward.