How many worthless books in your inventory?

A new post by contributor William Smith of Hang Fire Books

The Unkindest Cut

In preparation for an upcoming move, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks (with more to follow) going over every item in my inventory and pruning the dead weight. This has been a painful but instructive process.

First I ran a report of all unsold books added a year or more ago. Then I marked-for-death nearly everything priced at <$10. Now I’m going through the stacks and pulling those titles plus anything else that looks like a clunker.

So far I’ve dropped about 400-500 books and–if the pattern follows­I’ll have reduced my inventory by a full third by the time I’m finished. This proves an observation I heard from a more experienced bookseller that “You sell 1/3 of what you list within 6 mos, another 1/3 within a year and the last 1/3…never.”

I’ve had many of these books since I “went pro” nearly 3 years ago, and looking back on them with my accumulated experience, it’s tough to see why I bothered….Actually I know why: early on I was building my inventory fast because ABE wants booksellers to have at least a few hundred items for sale (and I was dying to get more than two sales in a day). Then, after a megaton, unsorted buy, I had hundreds of okay/mediocre books that I listed just because I didn’t want them to go to waste.

Some days I wish I could have that time back but the pricing and listing experience was invaluable. It’s just as important to know why a book is common as it is to memorize your flashpoints…and at least I wasn’t making any costly mistakes.

So a few weeks from know my stock will be lean and mean, cut to (but hopefully not through) the bone. I will definitely be uneasy, having lost a good piece of my security blanket, but I will have had the edifying experience of loading all of my mistakes into the back of a van and dropping them at the Salvation Army.

Editor’s note: I am presently doing something quite similar. I have 90 banker’s boxes full of books that I purchased and listed in my earlier days. Earlier this week I began the process of eliminating, by coincidence, all books worth less than about $10.00. A few of the pocket books will end up on my shelves but many are heading to the thrift shop down the street with only the nicer books being shelved in our new newly added room.

4 thoughts on “How many worthless books in your inventory?”

  1. I recently stumbled upon this blog and just wanted to say that I enjoy it very much. There is really good information to be found here. Good links, fun reads. I’m not much of a message board person and this is a nice alternative. Thanks so much to all of the contributors. You’re doing a fantastic job!

  2. I love reading these blogs and other sites like them that offer several glimpses into the professional bookselling world. I am a part-time/hobbyist online book seller and am wanting to increase my inventory to about 5000 (currently under 500). However I dont want to just buy in bulk and get a lot of rejects.
    In your opinion what is the best & quickest way to properly begin increasing your inventory with quality books? (i.e. Staying above the $10 minimum that most like to have)
    Hopefully I can read a comment or two on here.

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