I have a lot of books, too many books really. It’s so hard to resist an interesting book. I find them with the new books and I like the way they smell. I find vintage, retro and just plain old books at the thrift store and the second hand book stores (one of my favourite places).
I’ve begun trying to limit buying books. I really need to because I’ve got a hoard of books, more than I have storage space for really. So, I’m sorting my books and trying to part with some – even some that I would love to read but have to be practical and realize I will (in reality) never have enough time to myself to read all these books.
People who don’t love or hoard books don’t understand the love of books. My family are not book people. They read them and forget them. Some of them seldom read anything more than the occasional street sign or grocery flyer. But, I love the non-fiction books. I want to find out more about everything. As a kid I wanted to know about everything and I wondered how long it would take me to learn it all. I estimated I’d be in my thirties by the time I was done. As a kid, that seems old but, as a kid, the world seems much smaller too. In reality, as an adult, the more I learn the more I know I have yet to learn.
So then what…? I’m taking a look into selling my books. I bought them in the first place, who better than myself to know the advantages of owning such a great and interesting book?
Before we begin, please introduce yourself and give us a summary with your experience as a book reviewer and seller.
I’ve been reviewing books online for over a decade, and as a result, have review copies filling my mail box weekly. (Please note, there are precautions to selling review copies; not everyone knows or respects the rules!) I’ve been selling books as well as antiques and collectibles online since 1997, I believe it was… That includes buying, and then selling, entire estates full of books. And I’ve been reading and collecting books for decades, of course.
Do you consider yourself a book collector? What do you think makes one person a book collector versus someone who reads books or someone who hoards books – where do you draw the line?
I actually believe there are several categories of bibliophiles. There are readers, those who just love to read but do not need to keep or save books or periodicals. There are the book lovers, magazine lovers, etc., who need the objects themselves. Then there are the collectors, who consider the pursuit of works as important as the keeping of them. As for hoarding, there’s the seriously negatively impacting disorder which is pathologically compulsive (which I’m not capable of addressing) and the state hoarding which many of us joke about doing. As someone who professionally writes about collecting, I’d say the true distinctions between “collecting” and “hoarding” are about the focus in the accumulation of and care of that is given to the objects themselves.
For the record, I am a book-reading, book-loving, book-collecting bibliophile!
Are there different methods of selling books online, beyond using sites like eBay?
Oh there are likely hundreds of options! It depends upon what kind of books you have, as well as your personal goals and preferences. Each site or marketplace varies as much in audience (types of buyers) as they do in their terms or conditions and fees. It’s not just a matter of what sites you like or trust, but where the buyers are for specific types of books and how much they are willing to pay. This not only affects how much money you are likely to get for your book, but how quickly you are likely to get it too. Depending on how much you sell, these sites work perfectly for keeping track of your sales. This can come in handy for when you file taxes at the beginning of the year. Depending on how much you sell, these sites work perfectly for keeping track of your sales. This can come in handy for when you file taxes at the beginning of the year.
Along with online marketplaces, there’s also just tossing up your own site, using PayPal buttons for purchasing. Blogging software, like WordPress, now offers ecommerce plugins so that you can sell online easily. Of course, those options require you driving your own traffic to get sales, but the rewards can be greater too.
Where have you found your most success as a book seller?
Matching the book for sale to the appropriate sales platform in order to get it in front of the largest group of most likely buyers is really important.That’s how you get the best prices for your items.
Do you sell books offline, in flea markets for example?
I sell a lot of books at flea markets and at good old fashioned rummage sales in my backyard too. These books tend to be more common books; think “used books” rather than “valuable books”.
I also sell a number of books at the antique stores we have booth and case space in. These tend to be antiquarian books, rare titles, and other collectible works which are perhaps not as commonly sought after but fetch higher prices.
What are the extra costs for selling books online, like shipping?
Shipping is a cost — and that includes boxes and mailers, packing tape, shipping labels (the ink and paper you print them on), and other items for packaging. There’s also fees for shipping insurance and tracking options. If you don’t consider those costs, or are charging less than you should, those amounts can really eat at any profits you may have.
And then there’s your time. There’s the time it takes to ship items, but even before you get to that, there’s a lot of time invested in properly listing books to sell. You’ll need to research each book to have an idea of its value in order to set your price or start the bidding at. You’ll need to accurately describe the book and its condition; you may need to photograph or scan the book itself. You may need to respond to questions from potential buyers. And then there’s the time spent organizing your books for sale. (You have to be able to find a title quickly to answer questions and to ship it.) This time can add up surprisingly fast.
As the saying goes, time is money. If, after you take out the fees for listing and selling at a site, you find you are only getting a dollar or something for your book, it may not be worth your time to sell books online.
Is there a danger of being ripped off by a book purchaser?
Most sites have protections for both seller and buyer. Sites like PayPal favor the buyer a lot, which means you are best off using the insurance and delivery tracking options to protect yourself. But still, even when you’ve accurately described the item and taken the shipping precautions, issues may still arise. There are fewer scammers than one fears; but there is always the element of just bad luck with a sale or shipping. Sometimes things just end up going sideways and aggravating you, if not costing you money outright.
What advice would you give to someone starting to sell their own books online?
Whether you are simply down-sizing your book collection or planning on generating income by selling books, it’s really important to know what you have. Not just in terms of the books themselves and their values, but your time constraints, skill sets (or willingness to learn), and desire to want to do the work it takes.
It can all seem overwhelming, I know! But once you have realistic ideas and expectations, the right options for you are much easier to see.
Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed. Is there anything you would like to add?
Just that most of this information applies to used or past issues of magazines and periodicals as well — and anything vintage or antique, for that matter. While a lot of the collecting shows make it sound like there’s treasure in your attic or basement, it’s not as easy as many people think it is. Learning to identify and separate the “gems” from the “junk” takes time and experience, as does the act of selling it. There is money to be made, for sure; but, as the saying goes, there’s no easy money.
And thank you so much for including me in your discussion about selling books!