Imagine readers paying more than retail price for your book, even bidding against others. It happened to me.
Ebay was supposed to be just another small sales outlet in the myriad of marketing my latest release Cole Classics. Instead, it became not only a steady revenue stream for that book but a new clearinghouse for storeroom remnants of past releases.
It’s cheap, simple and 24/7. Selling directly to readers means getting all the money instead of the usual bookstore splits. Many buyers take a second or third copy, especially when the author offers to personalize them. I’ve even sold several blocks of 10.
Ebay won’t revolutionize bookselling, but it does create new sales. Mostly, my Ebay buyers are women looking for a gift for their hard-to-buy-for men. They type in their husband/father/son/brother’s favorite sports team and find the book that stands out from the endless fan merchandise of glasses, pennants and shirts.
It can be Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day or a birthday. There’s always something coming up on the schedule, though the Christmas rush is the biggest sales period. It’s not unusual to sell one or two books daily for a few weeks around Thanksgiving. Indeed, selling 50 over a Christmas season isn’t unusual. That’s like 100 copies at a bookstore given the full price, and how many bookstores sell that many of your title and pay immediately?
The best part is it can be full price or more — especially in the final days before Christmas. I know, it’s hard to believe people would pay more for a book on Ebay that they could buy at list price or less from other websites like Amazon, but they do. Ebay is about convenience and the thrill of the unknown. Sort of like yard sales. Maybe they could find it cheaper elsewhere, but most people are too busy to dicker over a few dollars. They’d rather complete the transaction and move along. And who knows, maybe some did go to amazon.com to buy it so you made money there, too.
There are a few secrets to increasing sales.
* Research where similar items are listed. My “Cole Classics” was about the University of Maryland basketball team so I listed it under Maryland Terps memorabilia. Make it easy to find. Ebay even allows a free secondary listing.
* The “buy it now” option permits an immediate purchase. The traditional auction can bring more than list price, but take up to seven days. “Buy it now” feeds into Ebay’s impulse buying and costs only pennies more.
* Keep the price flexible. You can get full price during the Christmas rush. However, discounting the book up to 50 percent will move copies during slow periods. Hey, half price is still better than most bookstore returns.
* Personalize it. Offering to inscribe the book for free is a sales-clincher. People love having authors sign books, especially when it’s a gift. We all know it’s fun to do and only takes a moment.
* You create the image. There’s plenty of room in the message area to use slick graphics and even a free cover photo.
The ins and outs of selling on Ebay don’t take long to learn, either.
* It’s easy. The first time takes a few minutes, but the “relist” option after a sale can have the book back online in less than one minute.
* It’s cheap. A $10 book can cost only 60 cents to list. Think of it as an advertising expense.
* Use the free counter. It’s a good gauge of whether people are at least looking at your book. If not, change the category.
* List for seven days with the “buy it now” option.
* Ebay’s organization is superb. They invoice and can even collect the money through the increasingly-popular PayPal, but buyers can send a check directly to the seller. Having sold more than 500 books over the years through the mail, not one check has bounced.
* There are secondary sales. Mention in the confirmation email that additional copies can be purchased at a discount. Many will buy extras. A follow-up email from buyers ordering more isn’t unusual after they received the original book.
* Old titles sell, too. Buyers often ask if you have other books. I listed about 50 books left from one title and 25 of two others that were sitting in a backroom box. They were gone at full price. That’s found money.
* Mailing lists. Today’s buyers are tomorrow’s customers that you already know. Just keep a file for coming books.
* Be sure to weigh your book to learn the shipping price before the first sale. Ebay buyers pay shipping costs. Consider priority mail. The postal service treats it better than book rates and provides free envelopes.
Rick Snider is president of 21st Century Online Publishing, author of seven books and a sports writer for The Washington Times. He invites emails at: firstname.lastname@example.org