More experiences selling books online

When you have kids with health challenges and you also have health challenges it’s sometimes advisable to find yourself a job at home.  It just makes it so much easier to take some time off to look after the kids or to take time off when you’re in pain or your body isn’t behaving.  I found myself in this position and while I didn’t go into the situation thinking I’d create my own job and sell pre-loved books from home it is something I found myself doing.
Finding the stock can be easy.  There’s a number of online auction sites where you can buy books for bulk, you can go to op shops (charity shops), or car boot sales, garage sales, real life auctions or my favourite, deceased estates.  The hard part is knowing how much they are worth and whether they’ll sell.  Selling online is different to selling in a bricks and mortar shop.  Online selling has the advantage of having the whole world as your potential buyer so long as you can actually get them to come to your website.  Selling in a bricks and mortar shop has the advantage of foot traffic, so if you’re in a shopping centre you’ll have people walking past who will see your display and walk in.  Online selling means you can have all your stock at home and your overheads are greatly reduced while in a shop you have all the overheads of any other shop.  While I prefer online selling I am seriously considering opening a shop and that comes with a totally different set of problems…health challenges.  How do you take a day or even half a day off if your body isn’t able to cope and you need to lie down?  Anyway, that’s why I sell online at the moment, I really don’t know what the future will bring and if I will get my health challenges under control but for the present I have a website.
What challenges does that present?  Well, there’s getting people to come to your website.  That’s been a big challenge for me.  You’ve got to get the right webhost and get your seo (search engine optimization) right.  I mention webhost as I’m in the process of stocking my new website and have only stopped having problems with my old webhost about a month ago.  I could never work out why I had very few sales as I did a lot of work on seo and had about 1,500 books on it and yet traffic was abysmal.  I was persuaded to change from .asp to .php and only a month after finally breaking free of my old webhost my traffic is already way above that of my old website.  But that problem is something that’s worldwide and doesn’t matter which country you’re in.

I’m in Australia, most specifically, Melbourne.  It’s right down in the south of Australia and the only place further south than Australia is Antartica.  I don’t count Tasmania as that’s part of Australia despite being further south than Melbourne.  Australia is a very big country with a fairly small and sparse population.  The continent is almost as big as North America with about 20 billion people.  Because we are sooooo big and the population is fairly widespread postage is really expensive.  It’s also really expensive to send anything out of Australia.
Now to send a 500gm (about one and a half pounds) book from one side of Australia to the other costs $AUD5.70 in a pre-paid satchel.  You can send increments of one kg lots but it’s more cost effective when sending bulk lots to use a 3kg pre-paid satchel for $AUD9.90.  And there’s a problem, what if the buyer only wants one book weighing 600gm and they’re in Perth?  I have two options there, I can either use normal mail and it’ll cost $AUD11.90 or I can use a pre-paid satchel for $AUD9.90.  Only $AUD2 difference so it’s not bad until you look at the time it takes to get there.  Perth is a long, long way from Melbourne, about 3,420 km (or 1,690 miles, approximately 42 hours nonstop driving) and I presume parcels are generally put on a truck as it can take almost two weeks for a parcel to travel from here to there.  It’s generally recommended for the buyer to buy more books to fill up the satchel for cost effective posting but it’s still a long time to wait for a parcel.  That can actually be fairly quick compared with smaller towns in outback Australia.  Mail going to small towns a long way from a capital city such as Perth, Darwin or Brisbane can take even longer and if the book or books won’t fit into a pre-paid satchel then the post can be enormous.  I’m going to take Marble Bar and a 4kg (8.8 pound) book for example.  Marble Bar is in the Kimberley region in North-West Western Australia, it has the dubious distinction of being the hottest town in Australia and incredibly hard to get to but also incredibly beautiful.  As it’s a 4kg book I can’t use a pre-paid satchel so I have to use the other method of postage calculation.  So AusPost will charge $AUD9.40 for postage out of the state as a base rate and then from Melbourne to Marble Bar it’s also an added extra of $AUD3 per kg which comes to a total of $AUD21.40.  Postage becomes rather challenging just due to the price and then I’d expect it to take at least three weeks to get there as it would have to go to Darwin or Perth first before going on to Marble Bar.
This is the most extreme price I could find and most places are more cost effective, but it does highlight the problems we have here.  Australia is a most beautiful country and I love it dearly but it is challenging to send parcels interstate due to the distance and difficulty and can be very expensive.  All of this makes it challenging to run any type of online business, but I’m not going to stop yet.

So, where can you find me?  You can buy books from me on or read more of my scribbles on, if you haven’t had enough of me you can catch me on Twitter and I’m somewhere to be found on Facebook but I haven’t found myself yet.

5 thoughts on “More experiences selling books online”

  1. Hi Suz, Welcome to Bookshop Blog. I take it that you are a good typist. I know If I tried posting a piece this long it would take me a week using my four finger method.

    I certainly understand the problems associated with shipping books. I had a potential buyer in Romania that wanted to purchase a book but it was too big to fit in the lower price envelopes. ($12.95 USD – 9.5″x12.5″) and it would have cost closer to $40 to ship a $20 book. There was a copy in England and another in France which of course is closer to his location but with the other sellers he has to contend with higher book prices that would offset any savings in shipping.

    I see on your website that you tell people what the book is about rather than just giving the title, date and condition. I always admire this in booksellers that do it not just because of the time and care involved but because I know these sellers are more likely to have their listings appear in the top hits of the search engines. Plus buyers are more likely to spend a few extra dollars and purchase a well described book as opposed to the “might have remainder marks” some sellers put on their listings.

    Well done I say. Keep up the good work and I hope to see more of your postings here. I’ll also put your blog in my favorites and try to visit once in a while.

    • Thank you. And yes, I’m sort of okay at typing, three years of data entry sort of makes you pretty good.

      I do try to put in enough details so it’s nice to know someone appreciates it.

  2. There’s several articles in the archives here on using Google AdWords pay per click advertising to drive traffic. You CAN set Adwords to only show ads to Aussies so you don’t have to deal with international shipping. Articles are here:

    Also, you have a minor typo. Australia can’t have 20 Billion residents… the planet only has 6.7 billion.

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