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My bookseller tips and advice.

I sell books online. I specialize in used books. I will find the occasional new book, though.

Where I find used books:

I pick up books at yard sales, thrift stores, and resale shops. Also, library book sales can be a good place to pick up books. I plan to look for auctions and other sales soon, too.

What I am doing right now:

I'm learning what people like and which books sell the best. It takes a while to learn that what YOU like and what OTHER people like can be very different. Of course, just to make things complicated, sometimes it can line up just fine.

My learning curve

I used to think that any book in good shape (i.e. not falling apart!) was re-sellable. Nope. Often, book companies will really churn out some books that are best sellers and have too many on hand. These books will be priced much lower than others. They go on sale at bookstores. Some even are given away.

Also, I have been surprised at which books command high prices and which don't. For instance, some books are out of print - these sell quickly when listed.

Others (like science fiction and western theme paperbacks) are sometimes worth more when they have a number on the cover, because some people collect them that way.

I always check the front pages to see if a book is a first edition (or first printing) and I always flip through each book to make sure there are not any rips, folds, or stains before I spend money on it.

Where to sell your books

I started out selling only on Ebay. Then, I discovered Amazon, where booksellers can list for free and only pay when a book sells. Later, I found other sites that I could use. Still others catered to established booksellers with large inventories. Abelist, Bookfinder, and Alibris are examples of these kinds of sites. Maybe someday I will sell enough books to be able to join these groups. For now, I will concentrate on free or nearly free sites while I learn more about selling.

Book condition and describing your book

So much rides on a book's condition. I had a lot to learn about that when I started selling. For instance, I used to think that if a book was in good condition, a dust jacket was not necessarily needed. I was way wrong on that. If a book originally had a dust jacket, that jacket must be on the book in order to offer the book in "good" condition. It may be ripped, or have holes in it, but the important thing is, it needs to be there.

Also, every bookseller must describe everything about the book. Is it "bumped" from hitting something on the floor? Does it have a spot on it? Everything you notice must be described well, because the buyer wants to know.

Some buyers (of course) are more picky than others. One may want a nice copy for his or her bookshelf, while another just wants to read the book and discard it or give it to charity afterwards. The quality and condition varies according to what each buyer wants. Since he or she can't inspect your book in person, it is doubly important to do that kind of work for him or her.

Missing Pages, etc.

I had a couple of books with missing pages - but they sold anyway because they were very old and rare books. Generally, though, people do want all their pages. A clipped page or two won't matter too much, or a blank page that is ripped out, but collectors usually want their book as pristine as possible.

Wrapping your books

I have been reading the Ebay and Amazon bookseller boards. Most people agree that wrapping a book in plastic before boxing it up is the thing to do. Nobody wants water damage to wreck a book before a customer gets it. Also, you don't want your book to rattle around in the box. Make sure to double-box it and make sure it is stable inside the box. Protect all edges of the book with stiff cardboard before you wrap it and protect it with filler the second time.

Another piece of advice: keep a packing slip with your address and where your book is headed inside the box. Sometimes there could be an accident, and the outside box can be damaged. If you have a packing slip in there (I tape it to the book box) then the book will still arrive at its destination.

Addressing your label

Always use the Zip plus 4 address. This gets to the customer faster than just using the regular zip. Look up the zip here.

Taking advice

Read as much about bookselling as you can. How do other booksellers describe their books? What would you as a customer want to know about the book? Take advice from as many people as you can while you are learning.

Repairing books

I clean my books sometimes with Goo-Gone. I have to be careful, though, because Goo-Gone can take paper off of books and can wet inside pages. Make sure that your book cover finish can take water before you try to get spots off with this.

As for rips, scotch tape repair of rips is not a good idea because it discolors the page later.There are ways that professional book restorers can mend a book's spine, boards, or jacket, but they know exactly what they are doing. If you must repair a book, be very careful.

Personally, I prefer to let the customer repair the book later or take it to a professional. Some other booksellers say to practice book repair on an inexpensive book first before you try it on a valuable book. There are books available to help you with this if you want to learn more about it.

Keeping records

Try to keep very detailed records for your taxes. Make sure that you have a business license (if needed). Keep every receipt and write down your expenses. I keep all my business records in one folder and make sure I put a copy of each sale in this folder. I have it labeled by month with dividers. This helps me a lot at tax time.