In my last article, I mentioned that I used to be an English teacher. Well when I wasn’t teaching verbs and conjugations, I was also a part time online bookseller. eBay was my traditional stomping ground but I also tried out other selling venues such as Amazon and my own website.
I had to more or less give the whole bookselling thing up eventually as I am totally addicted to books and I become very attached to them. I found it harder and harder to part with gems that I had found at the local fleamarket or online. Nothing is worse than a bookseller who can’t part with his inventory without going into mourning afterwards!
The internet has been both a blessing and a curse for booksellers. On the one hand, book businesses are instantly opened up to international markets and it is much easier to find rare books for your inventory on places like eBay. But the flip side of that is that a lot of rare out-of-copyright books are now being freely distributed on places like Project Gutenberg or Google Books. Not to mention the rampant illegal file sharing of book page scans (the Harry Potter books are a good case in point).
Another advantage of the internet are the various online and software resources for booksellers. Here’s 5 of them :
HomeBase was actually designed by AbeBooks as a selling and inventory app for their paid subscribers. But it can actually be used by anyone for anything. Whether you’re selling in your own shop or from eBay, HomeBase has you covered – and it’s completely free. Even though it has been around for many years, it is still in development by AbeBooks. They have just brought out 3.0 Beta.
As well as allowing you to make a complete digital inventory of all your stock, HomeBase comes with some really useful features. These include :
- Look up a book in your HomeBase by its ISBN number (the number on the back of all books published after 1970).
- importing and exporting book lists.
- associating books to the clients that eventually buy them. So you can keep accurate sales records.
- Compile client lists along with their contact details.
- Generate printable sales invoices which can be sent to your printer at the click of a button.
- Compile a list of book “wants” which you would like to find for your inventory.
- Connect to AbeBooks (if you’re a paid member) and upload your inventory to their site.
You can find out more by reading the HomeBase user manual. For a free app, it is really useful.
As time goes on and you start selling your stock, you will need to start looking for other books to keep your business going. That’s where you will need a good book finding search engine if you want to start hunting for particular valuable editions.
A particular favourite of mine is BookFinder. After entering details of a book, it will then search across LOTS of bookselling websites and bring you a broad overview of the deals currently out there. It will even include the shipping / postage prices to your location. Here’s some of what it brought back for Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” :
Find Your Customers & Contacts Online
A big part of a bookseller’s time is spent on networking. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right? So it’s essential to know some good forums and mailing lists that fellow booksellers and potential buyers hang out at.
AbeBooks has two great forums – a community forum and a Booksleuth forum (the last one is for people who can’t remember the name of a book so they leave clues and maybe you know the book they mean?). They also have a Bookseller’s forum but you can’t enter that one unless you are a premium AbeBooks member.
Another excellent forum is the one operated by Auctionbytes (full disclosure – I used to be a columnist for Auctionbytes). is regularly visited by lots of book sellers and I made quite a few good deals with overseas sellers here. Well worth making an account and visiting regularly.
A good mailing list is one operated by BookFinder called Insider. When I last used it, it was VERY busy with lots of daily updates by other members, most of them professional booksellers.
Make It Easier For Customers To Buy From Your Website
As well as the common selling sites such as eBay and Amazon Marketplace, many booksellers also choose to sell from their websites. There are many premium software packages out there for installing a checkout system on your site but the two easiest and cheapest are Paypal and Google Checkout. Both offer HTML widgets that you can place on your site and when the customer clicks through, they will be taken directly to that site to pay with their credit card. The use of the logos are free and you only pay Paypal and Google Checkout a small percentage of your sale.
If you insist on building your own checkout system and / or you want to have some good looking payment logos for your site, Smashing Magazine recently brought out a downloadable list of credit card graphics which you can freely use.
Get some good book covers
When it comes to selling your books, you need to be able to show some good quality book covers. If you were the customer, would you buy a book with a bad quality picture of the cover? (or even worse, no cover at all?). Exactly. So you need to make a big effort to show your books in the best possible light. It’s the picture that really will close the deal for you.
The fastest way to produce a good quality cover picture is to go to Amazon, find the book then click on the link under the book cover to show the enlarged version of the image. Once you have that, either right-click and save the picture. Or use a screenshot app to take a copy of the image.
Not all Amazon listings have this option though so there are other options you can try. You can try Googling for the cover, check Google Books, check Fantastic Fiction (one of my favourite websites) or check a site such as the Book Cover Archive.
If all else fails, you can just use a scanner to scan the book cover yourself. But scanning can take a lot of time if you regularly go through hundreds or thousands of books. Better to check first if a picture already exists online.
What online resources do you use to sell your books? Please tell us all about it in the comments.
Image Credit: Dr Jaus