The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bookselling Tools: ActiveWords

One of the most mind-numbing chores of selling vintage books online is typing the descriptions. Though each book has individual high-lights and flaws that need to be enumerated, for the most part a bookseller is drawing on a handful of phrases again and again. Any way to speed this up means you make more money, and have more time away from the monitor (unless you blog of course).

I've found a program that helps me write descriptions much more efficiently (without skimping on the detail either). It's called ActiveWords. It's a macro writer and organizer that lets you create short letter/number sequences to substitute text, open programs, and perform a number of other useful tasks.

Here are a few basic shortcuts that I use constantly:
  • typing "home" + F8 (my AW activation key) inserts my home address into any text field
  • "store" + F8 inserts my office address and a Googlemaps link
  • "inv" + F8 inserts my invoice template
For book descriptions I have hundreds of macros:
  • mrw -- Moderate reading-wear
  • tan -- Pages lightly age-tanned but clean and supple
  • bump -- Light bumping to corners and spine edge
  • dust -- Top page edge shows dust discoloration
  • pulp -- Attractive, vintage mass market/pocket paperback with colorful [ ] painted cover art. Cover is bright with [ ]. Pages faintly edge tanned, but supple. Binding solid. Cover copy reads:
etc, etc.

Setting up ActiveWords is a gradual, evolving process. Whenever you use a phrase repetitively, enter it in ActiveWords. Change it when it isn't useful and review your phrases every once in a while to see what you've forgotten about or don't use anymore.

The program is affordable and you can purchase additional discounted licenses for your laptop or employee machines. There's a 60-Day free trial available here. There's at least one Mac equivalent to AW and probably a few competing PC utilities but I haven't done a comparison.

Anybody have any other time saving programs for the bookseller? I'd love to hear about them.


The Booksailor said...

Greetings from a new online bookseller. I started in Feb. on eBay because of Craig and Bookthink. I just discovered you and your blog this AM.
I have used another method I thought up myself. I will highlight and select text, copy, open notepad, paste, and save as.
When I start listing I'll open all my notes I've saved. Then I copy and paste as needed.
Active Word sounds easier than going through my process but I made do with what I had.
Would you consider being a MySpace Friend?
Nuff said, The Booksailor.

William Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Smith said...

Welcome to the "very pleasant way to make a very little money". Glad you found the blog. I experimented with a cutting from a text file too. Also, I'm a homebase user and I tried to take advantage of their "sticky fields" (data that you designate to be carried over from record to record) by sorting books into piles of similar condition. All helpful. If you already have a text file going I highly recommend activewords though. All you would have to do is add your descriptions to AW and you will have a great start.

I don't have a much of a myspace presence but if I get into it more actively, I'll add you as a friend.