guest post – Hugh Hollowell

on lend/lease from Hugh’s Entrepreneurial Bookselling blog.

The perfect venue to sell books?

Have you ever thought about what the perfect venue for selling books would be like? I often have, and my dream list looks something like this:

1. Very low fees
2. High sell through rate
3. Heavily shopped by other dealers
4. No communication barriers between you and the buyer
5. You could post your want lists, and people would actually read them.
6. Would allow you to have total control over the format in which your offerings are displayed.
7. You would have complete control over the payment methods you accept or your other terms of sale.
8. Virtually no penny listings
9. No “posting ID’s”, in other words, you know exactly who you are dealing with when you buy or sell.
10. You could also use this venue to advertise your business generally, to announce catalogues, to hire employees and to drive traffic to your auctions.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a place where books are bought and sold on a daily basis. That place is called the Bibliophile Mailing List.

From their website:

The Bibliophile Mailing List is maintained for the benefit of sellers and/or collectors of rare, out-of-print, scarce books in all subject areas. Our subscribers include librarians, students, scholars, and book lovers of all kinds. Participants will find books offered from a few dollars to many thousands of dollars.

Let me give you a recent example of the power of the list. I recently had a late 1800’s book on Guatemala come in over the transom; it was beautiful- decorated cloth, fold out maps, the works. This could sit on the shelf here in the shop forever before a buyer would walk in and none of my regular customers are candidates for such a thing. In the old days, this would have been a candidate for the wonderful world of eBay, and still might be, but now I had some other things to try first.

There is one dealer on the list who often posts wants for books on Latin America. On Friday I email said dealer directly and offer him the book, complete with dealer discount. On Friday night I get an email back, saying he appreciates the offer, but he has now restricted his buying a bit, so the book would not be a fit for him, but would I please keep him in mind for ____, ____, and any ____ books. No harm, no foul, and now I have 3 more wants to add to my file.

I then offer the book to the list as a whole, again with just a simple email, no pictures. This was Saturday. Sunday afternoon I got an email asking if I still had the book and asking if I ship to Oceania. I did and I do, so by Tuesday, I had money in my account and the book was on the way.

Gross sales, almost $100. Fees to the site, Zero.

You can do this all day long. I would estimate I sell about half of everything I offer to the list; some sell much more, others much less. For me, there are months it surpasses ABE and Alibris together for gross sales. Like all other sites, quality, price and dealer reputation go a long way. This is not a place to sell your paperbacks for $00.01 with $5 shipping. However, there are people who have listed and sold a lot of 15 paperbacks for $20 and gotten takers.

I have used the list to get an employee who was moving to North Carolina an interview in a bookshop out there, I have used it to drive traffic to my eBay auctions, I have announced wants and had offers within 4 hours that were spot on. I have used the list to determine which edition of Leaves of Grass I had, and to learn the points for the French First Edition of Planet of the Apes. In short, it makes my life easier and helps me sell more books.

If you have subscribed to other mailing lists and left disappointed because everyone was ranting because of what George Bush said or because someone called someone else a poopypants, then have no fear, because this is not that sort of list. It is moderated by the Grand Poohbah of Bibliotenango, Lynn Deweese Parkinson, who both owns and operates the list. Lynn is quick to jump in if a fracus starts up and has been known to suspend violators with swiftness and extreme prejudice.

All good things cost, and this is no exception. There is a two-week free trial to the list, at the end of which, should you decide to stay you will owe $30 for a one year subscription. For less than $3 a month you can sell as many books as you want. As my Grandfather was known to say, “You cannot beat that with a stick“.

For more information on the list, see the official rules, posted here. To join, go here.

please tune into Hugh’s Original Post for some great follow up responses.

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