A Startling Discovery for Success – It's Called Work.


This is a guest post by a great friend of the Bookshop Blog – Paul Young. Paul runs Prying1 Books please take a moment a pay a visit to his site.

One thing I have discovered in the short time I’ve been selling books online is that a bit of research pays off in the long run. Recently I decided to list an art book and found that on Bookfinder.com the simple title, “Tamayo” (a Mexican artist 1899-1991), was somewhat lacking. In my initial search I typed in the title, “Tamayo”, left it ‘any’ and ‘all’ as far as new/used and hardcover/soft cover goes and got 70 listings. The majority had longer titles and could be dismissed but I found a couple lines that looked promising. They still didn’t look right as I checked them out. Key words were missing from the listings.

So I went to Google and typed in the title, publisher, date and the name of the person that wrote the Intro. Bingo! I find another bookseller that has it for $125.00. That sounds promising but… I’ll dig a little deeper. Back to Bookfinder with the name of the Intro guy… Here we go. 25 listings with some dupes. Low price $30.00 plus shipping. Scroll down… Here are the numbers I like. One for $180 and another for $285.

Again I check out the Google search page I had left open. Click another link and here is an auction house that sold a copy and a pic is provided. Same book hammered down for only $34.00. Quite a disparity. Ten minutes of playing around (this includes periodically adjusting the puppy on my lap) and I now have high/low numbers and a choice.

Do I want to look lovingly at this book forever and ever or find it a good home at a reasonable price? I once asked a friend of mine that owned a wonderful antique store why her prices were so low on most of the items she had. Her reply, “I don’t want to stay married to this stuff.” was a line I will ever remember. Although there are some books I have that this statement does not apply to this isn’t one of them.

3 thoughts on “A Startling Discovery for Success – It's Called Work.”

  1. Yes – pricing has become a very difficult process sometimes. The internet has generally lowered prices, although now making it easier, in the case of rare books, for the buyer and seller to find each other. Sites like Abebooks that encourage everyone to be a bookseller have only made it worse.

    I have a number of books that don’t show up on the listing sites at all. I have others for which there are only a very few – expensive – listings. Often, just reading a page or two, I can see why the book is rare. It has nothing to offer and no one cared enough to keep it.

    Rare only equals valuable if there are people who want the book enough to pay a lot for it. Of course, they also have to be able to afford to spend that much money on it.

    If you have the only copy of a book, you can ask anything you want. If you want to sell it, you might have to be more reasonable. In many cases, they aren’t even worth the trouble of listing, or the space to store them. There are a lot of books that can’t even be given away. And more are published every day.



  2. Thanks for the thoughtful reply Bob.

    I have one book that was (at the time) not to be found (in first edition HB with DJ as mine is) on bookfinder.com. It is mentioned as a must read on several websites and is a bit of a ‘specialty item’ because it deals with a subject some people are enamored with. Very few reprints are out there and the PB editions are listed at over $100.

    I priced my copy WAY MORE than it is worth and since then have seen a couple other copies come out of the woodwork priced much higher than mine. One of these days I will drop the price to what I think might be closer to a selling price and the other copies listed will make mine look more ‘reasonable’.

    I hope.

  3. Yes – pricing books is more of an art than a science and I admire the supreme efforts you made on that particular book.

    If this was easy everyone would be doing it – oh, I forgot – almost everyone is doing it – on the web.

    As a brick and mortar store operator I have no idea how anyone could make any sort of regular income selling books on the web and even less of an idea why anyone would even try – because of all the extra work involved in buying inventory, researching inventory, listing inventory, wrapping inventory, the neverending email queries and then the ultimate frustration of having the book returned to you for the flimsiest of reasons.

    It really seems like throwing your shorts at the wall to determine whether you had a good time last night.

    In order to gain any semblance of knowledge you must have to specialize drastically or else throw thousands of books out into cyberspace and then conduct seances to bring them to the attention of the universal consciousness.

    Maybe thinking about your inventory as your own personal “books to read” list would be helpful.

    Eventually I would be more eccentric than I already am … good luck.

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