some selling rules of thumb from Susan Halas

I got some nice comments on my Q&A for buying books, here are a few thoughts on SELLING

Q: Business is slow, what can I do for no cost to generate more sales without buying more books?
A: Best source of new business is old business, look through your last year’s records and see who bought what, especially bigger ticket items, see if you have anything else to offer. Have a few things that seem a little esoteric or obscure, GOOGLE the topic, place, person and see if any websites or people who specialize in this area — send your offer to them as well.

Q: I’ve got a ton of stuff but I can’t seem to get started. What do I do now?
A: Start moving it around. Moving stuff around ALWAYS WORKS. If your shelves and work table full of books the first step to selling it is rearranging it, moving it, dividing it up into smaller units. Picking any part and separating from the other part will activate the book sales genie and some portion of what you moved will sell. This is one of the less known secret imutable laws of bookselling. “If you move it it will sell.”

Q: From time to time people come to my house/store/ business and they want to buy stuff, but my inventory is unpriced. What should I tell them?
A: I seldom see live people, but when I do I don’t tell them the prices until they have picked out everything they want. I say, “Oh don’t worry about the price, just make a PILE of what appeals to you, we’ll talk about the price after I see what interests you.” The making of PILES is the first step in selling more. Once it’s in a pile you can make a price that makes you happy and makes the buyer happy.

Q: What’s the most important thing to know about selling books on the internet?
A: Du-oh the picture and the description. That’s why eBay is better than most places because there is always a picture of that SPECIFIC item that you offer for sale. Even if it’s relatively common title the pictures says” I am here, I am real, I am available, BUY ME.” The next most important part is the description, the blurb. On line – contrary to popular thought – the most important factor is NOT price, it is writing the blurb so it make the book sound INTERESTING, even if they’re all the same book, if your’s sounds more interesting, they will buy yours. So along with the regular stuff, date, author, pages, publisher, size, pix, tell what it’s about, WHY you would want it, what makes it WORTH $20 or $50 or $500

Q: What’s a finder’s fee?
A: A finder’s fee is a percentage you offer another person/dealer for helping you find a customer, especially for a more expensive item. It helps you sell more because it increases the number of people who have an active financial stake in finding a customer.It’s a good thing to offer because you don’t have to pay it until the book(s) sells. Works best for expensive things or collections on a specific subject. Ten percent is a good number.

Q:Is it worthwhile to take things on consignment?
A: Usually not, You think….oh if I only had classier stuff I’d make more money, but you ALWAYS underestimate the amount of time it takes to sell books, the amount of handling, packing, trips to the post office etc, so no matter what you make, if you have to split a large portion of it with someone else it almost always is not worth the effort. Important exception to the rule. You have a customer waiting but the book doesn’t belong to you, ask the other dealer to let you have it on consignment for a SHORT period of time (not more than a week) Avoid open ended or long term consigments. Another reason to avoid consignments is most of us are not very good at keeping records, so comes the day when you have to give back what isn’t sold and your recollection doesn’t match the recollection of the person who consigned it to you. Also selling other people’s stuff takes time away from selling your own stuff, which is 99 times out of a 100 more profitable.

Q: Does condition matter?
A: Yes, but not as much as an accurate description and a fair price. So much is made of booksellers terms, like fine, but in truth, most buyers want the book for their own purpose, pleasure and they don’t really care that much about condition as — is the book all there?, all the pages, all the pictures, index, is the price a good value for what I’m getting? Do I want this book at this price? Be up front about condition, but PUT THE EMPHASIS ON THE GOOD PART, not the bad part, so when writing the blurb put more effort into why you would want this book than what’s wrong with it. “Shabby but all there” covers a multitude of sins.

Q: Does a dust jacket matter?
A: YES, YES, YES, I don’t know why, but it does, especially for FICTION and for books from the mid 20th century to the present. Dust jacket is IMPORTANT. In non fiction dust jacket not so important, what’s important is content.

Q: What other factors are important that I might not have thought about in selling?
A: The “because I say so” factor. When in doubt, trust your own evaluation. Do this long enough and you may not be an expert–but there will be something convincing and persuasive about your own personal opinion. Just as when you were a kid there were certain thing you had to do and the reason was “because I say so” issued by your mother, that same factor now that you’re grown up will work for you when you go to sell. Words and phrases that sell: Old, vintage, uncommon, scarce, unusual, a long time between copies, hard to find, seldom seen, good value, dealer’s choice, or make up your own. If you think this is a good deal, don’t hesitate to mention it. It works.

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