The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Buying Book Inventory: Striking the Right Balance

Due to drastically slowing sales volume--leading to nervous tic refreshing of my inbox and blank staring at the internets wondering "Is this thing on?"--I've been rethinking my buying strategies recently.

Back when the world wasn't like this, I could count on Amazon and eBay as income pillars and the five others venues I list on as light gravy with the occasional surprise. My buying was divided about 60-40 between eBay / estate sale finds (slower selling but more interesting and financially rewarding) and thrift store hunting (ISBN checked quick-selling utility titles). I bought until I felt like stopping--based mostly on gut.

This is no longer working. My Amazon sales are down to the equivalent of an entry level job in a no future industry and--because of exhaustion and disgust at the high maintenance and ever changing conditions at eBay--my storefront has been nearly empty.

Starting NOW I'm going to much more strategically look at how I buy (a bookdealer is like a can't stop buying or you die) and try to more effectively sell what I have. I'm going to total my monthly fixed expenses, see what's left over and allocate that mostly to--hopefully--quick-selling stock.

I can't ignore eBay because so many people are unloading good books at desperation prices but the at least 3-week delay between sending a paypal payment for an auction won and the day you can relist that item has become a barrier. I need to focus on only the most promising lots and bid at 15-20% of my presumed resale price rather than my usual 25-35%.

Sales-wise, I'm starting to repopulate my eBay store focusing on speciality areas in a way that will hopefully attract multi-book buyers. I'm uploading vintage paperbacks in select batches of collector friendly authors and genres. I've included an explicit and straight forward shipping chart that should encourage bundling (especially for international sales). And as always I'm auctioning crack lots of common and low-grade titles in the hope that buyers will come back for the heavy stuff when they see the care and attention I give my product.

I'm also digging out those 'reseach' items that are stuffed in drawers and getting them listed (since they're long paid for) and opportunistically buying up cheap non-book items (toys, games, wacky crap) that I’ll quickly turnaround and--again...hopefully--pay for the slower selling books I pick up.

So, that's all I got. As a bookdealer how are you wading through the quicksand?

METAPHORICAL LESSON LEARNED: A bookdealer is like a dying--yet hopeful--shark in quicksand.

But seriously people. Support your favorite bookdealer (even if it's not me). It's cheaper than a bank bail-out, war, or health care and you'll have a new BFF.


Nathan Roberts said...

I know it goes against your modus operandi, and a lot of booksellers look down on it, but.... I would suggest becoming, *gasp*, a scanner jockey.

Adding a scanner to your arsenal will give you a lot of extra sales to allow you to pay for your day to day expenses with those "quick selling utility titles." It will be a lot more work, but you can use the money from the other sales and what is left over from the Amazon sales to start inventory building off eBay.

William Smith said...

Don't mean to give the wrong impression. I have a smartphone and scoutpal and I rely on it heavily for ISBN checking (I also use Amazon and ABE). I just don't have a scanner and don't feel like figuring out the hardware and adding the expense. I check all of the same titles that I would scan, it just takes me 40-50 percent longer. At book sales I tend to impulse grab a stack of titles, and look them up when it becomes a challenge to carry any more so I don't think I'm slowed down overmuch.