Re-selling Recap (July 6th – 12th): Could This Be the Beginning of an Ending to Bookselling…

I realized some time ago that I don’t really go into too much detail about the things that go on in my world of re-selling throughout the week. It’s about time some things changed around here…starting today. Hopefully this can be an ongoing series of posts that highlight some of the things that go on behind the scenes that I don’t really talk about, but make for an interesting read.

Knee Deep In Books…

I spent a good portion of last week knee deep in processing books. I attended an estate sale the week prior that resulted in me purchasing around 300 books to re-sell on Amazon (via the FBA program). That’s 300 books from *ONE* estate sale. That number doesn’t include the 100 or so books that I purchased from several other estate sales and thrift stores prior to working on last week’s shipment.

I honestly didn’t fully understand what I got myself into. I have sold books in the past via Amazon FBA, but never at a volume like this. I also did not anticipate it taking me so long to process that amount of books. Despite using a barcode scanner (used only for approximately 40% of the books) and listing software, it still took me 5 days to get through 70% of it. I gave up towards the end because it was simply taking me too long and I had already scheduled a UPS pickup for last Friday despite not having any of the books packaged the morning of the pickup.

So why did it take me so long? I think it was a combination of a few reasons:

  1. I’m a one-woman operation and I could only work during my daughter’s nap time or early in the morning/late at night. (At minimum, I could work 1.5 hours per day.)
  2. A lot of the books I purchased did NOT have a barcode so I had to manually type in ISBN numbers for at least 250+ books.
  3. Even though I use “condition note” templates to grade my books to prevent me for typing it in each time, I took the time to manually inspect each book (even after separating them into piles according to their condition) and also cleaned up each one. (These books came from the home of a historian who also happened to be a hoarder, so they were dusty among other things.)
  4. I took the time to shrink wrap books worth $200 or more.

All of these factors combined is what led to me spending 5 days processing books. I don’t know if that is typical for a one-person operation, but having read a few blogs of other booksellers, it doesn’t seem to be the norm.

The Beginning of an End?

That experience with books has led me to believe that being a bookseller is not my calling. As much as I enjoyed thumbing through some of the books I purchased — and even keeping a few of the more interesting titles — I don’t ever want to go through what I went through last week.

I felt that the process was cumbersome and monotonous and even though I should make a decent profit, I don’t know if the time I put in justifies things.

Something else that I did not take into consideration was the cost of shipping books to Amazon. I don’t know why I was taken by surprise at my shipping costs since I’ve sent dozens of large shipments to Amazon’s warehouses, but seeing such a huge chunk of money upfront from one shipment was a shocker…for about 2 minutes.

Here’s a snapshot of my shipping costs once I had everything in boxes:

I only managed to ship 276 books, but I processed more than that. Some of those books will go out in my next shipment once I feel like touching books again, and the others that I processed will either be donated or placed into larger lots to sell on eBay.

When it was all said and done, I paid approximately $0.79 in shipping costs per book. I will have to account for this once those books sell.

Unfortunately, at least 98% of any and all books or media that I send into FBA goes back east. This results in me paying higher shipping fees and waiting 7-10 days for it to reach its destination and actually be checked into Amazon’s warehouse. I don’t anticipate this particular shipment being checked in until next Monday (21st), so it will be quite some time before I can even see sales rolling in.

Was It Worth It?

The question that I keep asking myself over and over was if this experience was worth it. I would say that it was definitely worth it in terms of self-discovery. I am the type of person that when I get an idea in my head, I go after it — full force. I wanted to experience what it was like to sell books like the “big boys,” so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it. Now that I have that experience under my belt, it has helped me to see that being a “bookseller” is not my calling.

In fact, there are four rather large book sales going on in my area this month alone. Prior to processing this last shipment of books, I wanted to attend each of them, but now I’m not so sure attending book sales for the sole intent of purchasing books on a large scale is the thing for me. I can’t image going through this again — at least not right now, and certainly not by myself. If I did go to a book sale, it would not be to purchase books for resale. 🙂

Peter Valley over at FBA Mastery recently released a guide where he reveals all of his sources for finding books. I did not purchase the guide, but I did read the sales page and he stated something that I found interesting and relevant to this post. In his sales page his reasoning for releasing his “secrets” was that he did not consider readers to be his competition because being a bookseller takes work and many people just won’t put in the effort. I believe he is spot on! It takes a lot of work and it is work that I am not willing to do on a long-term basis. Selling on Amazon FBA has be enjoyable for me. Processing 300+ books is NOT.

In closing, I don’t want this post to be misconstrued as me giving up on selling any and all books. I simply want to be realistic about what I can and can’t handle given my circumstances. I can handle processing a few profitable books here and there, but I can’t handle processing hundreds of them on a daily or weekly basis.

I am glad, however, I that I gave it a try. 🙂