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  1. #1
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Were You A Seller through Amazon?
    I own a collectible edition of Slovenly Peter
    by Heinrich Hoffmann (Author).

    If you look up this title in Amazon, you will notice that someone is asking $400 for an edition that has this problem: "spine has come loose and is peeling."
    I read that description knowing that my copy is in very good condition and thought "Gee! I'd love to sell my nearly perfect copy." If I could get close to $400 I'd be ecstatic.

    I have a nearly perfect hardcover copy. The pages are slightly yellowed with age (because one of my grandmothers had a sarcastic sense of humor and bought the book in the 1930s) but the spine is excellent.

    I never touched the book because it scared me. If you'd like to see what I am talking about, Project Gutenberg has a related eBook online.
    Check out http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12116...-h/12116-h.htm
    The book made me cry as a little girl, take a look at the stories (i.e. The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb ) and you'll understand why the book is in such great condition (I was afraid the touch the book as a kid but I stopped sucking my thumb cold turkey after my Mother read me the story ). Now that I am an adult I see the sarcastic charm of the book but I still have memories

    I see a range of prices for this book which is also known as Slovenly Peter [Der Struwwelpeter], Translated into English jingles from the original German of Dr. Heinrich Hoffman (Hardcover)

    Has anyone become an independent seller though Amazon? At the right it says, "Have one to sell? Sell yours here."

    The only type of selling I've done online is 3rd party affiliate (i.e. CJ, LS, SAS, etc.)

    Do you have any tips for someone who would like to sell books in good condition through Amazon? Thanks.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  2. #2
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    First, the fact that someone has listed a particular book for $400 on Amazon does NOT mean that the book will ever be purchased (at that price or any other). Fortunately, you don't pay any fee to list your item on Amazon (fees are collected only if the item sells, unless you are a "Pro" reseller -- but if you're not a "Pro" reseller, you would need to re-list the item each month), so if you are willing to part with this book, you will probably find that Amazon is the best place to list it.

    I have sold a few books through Amazon for $20 or more, but usually the items were listed for many months before purchase, and the vast majority of items (>90%) that I listed with prices over $20 never sold.

    During part of 2004, I was an Amazon Marketplace "Pro" bookseller, and sold hundreds of books [probably more than 1,000] over a period of several months. (I ended up with a feedback score of 4.9 out of 5, from 312 feedback posts.) [Earlier, in 2000-2001 and again in 2003, I became an active Ebay reseller, also selling hundreds of items over a period of several months.]

    I did all of this to "explore" this market space, certainly with an eye toward earning a profit, but almost as much with the goal of gathering data and experience that could be useful to my consulting clients.

    Some of these books and music CDs were part of my personal library (which had bloated to several thousand books and several hundred CDs that weren't going to join me when I moved in with my wife), but most were books I'd purchased for an average of about a dime each at library book sales. (http://www.booksalefinder.com/)

    I sold books for prices ranging from $1 to $20, with a few selling at higher prices. In general, I listed books at the apparent 'market price,' based on what other Amazon resellers were asking for their copies of the same book.

    It didn't take long for me to realize that I was earning a "gross profit" of only about $1 to $2 per order for most books sold.

    Note that for sales of low-priced used books (under $2), nearly all of Amazon's and resellers' profits come from the "shipping and handling fee," not the book itself. Amazon collected $3.49 per book from buyers, and passes along only a portion of that fee to resellers (I think it's around $2.25), but the actual cost to ship a book via Media Mail was well under $2. [For current information about the S&H fees, see http://www.amazonsellercommunity.com...readID=133793]

    (Note that Amazon "Associates" [affiliates] don't share in the S&H profits, but are paid commission only on the purchase price for the item, which can sometimes be as low as one cent.)

    Amazon charges fees for each item sold, plus a monthly fee (I think it was $40 per month) to be a "Pro Merchant," in order to avoid higher fees per item sold. I also paid a monthly fee for the postage-printing account.

    Of course, there were other costs, including car expenses to travel to book sales and the post office, scales, tape guns and tape, bubble wrap, boxes, and adhesive labels for the postpaid mailing labels.

    There are many specialized software packages and web services out there to help Amazon resellers, including data entry, automatic submission of listings, automatic collection of order data from Amazon's server, and automatic generation of shipping labels with postage.

    BUT:

    It didn't take me long to verify that the primary "cost" of being an Amazon Marketplace bookseller was TIME.

    (1) I had to acquire the books, which I bought mostly on Sundays at library book sales for $5 per shopping-bag full; I'd often spend a half-hour driving each way, plus about two hours at the sale. The net "time cost for acquisition" was probably 5 to 10 minutes for each book actually sold.

    (2) I had to log in every book, identify and match it correctly on Amazon (sometimes difficult for older books without ISBNs, and sometimes I actually had to create an Amazon entry for a book that wasn't in its database), and create a listing on Amazon that includes a score and details about the book's condition. The average "time cost for data entry" was probably 5 minutes per book sold.

    (3) When orders came in, I had to pick the book from the shelf, pack it, create a mailing label with postage, and take the day's load of packages to the post office. The average "time cost for fulfillment" was at least 10 minutes per book sold.

    Add those together, and I spent about 20 minutes of my time per book sold. Even if I value my time at $6 per hour (less than the minimum wage in California), that means my time "cost" $2 per book sold, which was more than the gross profit I earned from each sale. Of course, I don't rent myself out for $6 per hour, nor even for $20 per hour, so ultimately the entire activity of being an Amazon bookseller was absolutely not worthwhile for me financially. (Note that I did learn a lot that has helped some of my consulting clients.)

    In the end, I did record a "profit" (and paid taxes to the IRS) for this activity, but it was not significant compared to my other income.

  3. #3
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Mark, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for your analysis of the cost/benefit principle.

    I'm going to print out your post.

    Now that I am an adult I see the charm of Slovenly Peter but it scared the heck out of me as a kid. I come from a family of bibliophiles.

    Another book that my parents are interested in is Saltbound: A Block Island winter by Chilton Williamson. In fact my parents (who have trouble turning the Internet on ) somehow have figured out that prices are skyrocketing for this book on eBay and they wanted me to check it out. I noticed on Amazon that one book (signed by the author) is being offered at $1,000 but others are being offered as low as $60.

    What happens when somebody who is an affiliate with Amazon would like to be a seller? Should that affiliate create a separate account with a different e-mail? It seems as if every time I go to Amazon they know who I am

    {related in terms of "direct selling"}My parents are pushing me to get an eBay/paypal account again.
    There are personal reasons why I am reluctant to sign on with paypal.
    Somehow my parents are under the impression that I could be an eBay millionaire. I've been squirming around all yesterday under that pressure and I didn't know how to handle it. I think the way to handle it is to tell them that they can register with paypal in their name that ought to put a stop to it.
    Last edited by Rhia7; May 12th, 2007 at 01:11 PM.
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  4. #4
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Getting back to Slovenly Peter -- Mom would like to sell the book.
    Does anyone have suggestions for getting the best price for the collectible either on Amazon or elsewhere? Is there a chance I could get $50 over Amazon? I personally believe [our copy of] the book is worth $100.
    If I could net $50, that would be okay (net not gross).


    I live walking distance to a post office and the book is light. I'd only drive to a post office if I were to send out multiple books.

    Someone in my building moved and left a pile of books near the garbage.
    I hauled a bunch of those books back to my place. Among the books was a perfect copy from 1935 of Karl Marx's The Civil War in France
    I didn't have enough time to read it but I have a favorite used book store in NYC so I made a special trip to that bookstore to donate it (it had a special binding and I just wanted to see someone else appreciate the binding -- the guy who manages that used book store was happy that it was in such great condition -- I don't know how much that book was worth -- the used book store has given me years of pleasure so I don't mind donating books there).
    Last edited by Rhia7; May 12th, 2007 at 02:13 PM.
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  5. #5
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch

    Note that for sales of low-priced used books (under $2), nearly all of Amazon's and resellers' profits come from the "shipping and handling fee," not the book itself. Amazon collected $3.49 per book from buyers, and passes along only a portion of that fee to resellers (I think it's around $2.25), but the actual cost to ship a book via Media Mail was well under $2. [For current information about the S&H fees, see http://www.amazonsellercommunity.com...readID=133793]

    Amazon charges fees for each item sold, plus a monthly fee (I think it was $40 per month) to be a "Pro Merchant," in order to avoid higher fees per item sold. I also paid a monthly fee for the postage-printing account.

    Of course, there were other costs, including car expenses to travel to book sales and the post office, scales, tape guns and tape, bubble wrap, boxes, and adhesive labels for the postpaid mailing labels.
    Mark, who determines the S&H fees for the "independent seller?"
    If I own the book and I'd like to sell it then I am considered to be a reseller, right?

    I find your venture to sell paperbacks interesting and I appreciate the details of the costs you give.

    The book I'd like to sell is an out-of-print hardcover collectible and I already have it.
    I would hope to profit on the price of the book and not just the S&H fee.

    I myself have a book collection that spans 3 locations: my apartment, my parents' home, and my parents' other home.
    My Mother would like to give some "Feng Shui space" to her home by parting with some of the books (especially the books that might be profitable to sell), but if in the final analysis I were only to make $2 off of Slovenly Peter then maybe selling is not worth it?

    Some people must profit because I see lots of sellers out there (or are there more "wanna bees" than profiteers?)
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  6. #6
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    Rhia, I wouldn't recommend turning to selling large volumes of used books on Amazon as a major income source. Mark's description explains the time investment involved.

    But it's a great way to prune your personal library when needed, and if you have rare books, you can actually make some money. A reference set I use is out of print, and the rarer volumes actually do fetch hundreds - I've sold a few myself.

    To your specific question, you can easily sign up as a reseller. Use a different email from your affiliate account; better to keep things separate. Try listing your rare book for a price that will compete favorably with the other one listed (e.g. better condition yet near or even a little under), and that's it. When the book sells, Amazon will send you an email with the shipping details.

    If it works, you can turn this into a nice hobby by buying books whose value you know cheaply (e.g. on eBay) and selling them on Amazon for their efficient market price.

    I don't like selling books on eBay, because rarer books aren't the kind of thing that potential buyers seem to log on every week to look for; the Amazon model of listing the book for free and paying only when sold works better for this, I think.
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