The Book Seller Dilettante

In a previous comment I mentioned that the minimum wage here in Australia was approximately $15 per hour add in benefits such as holiday pay sick pay superannuation and the self employed should be looking at around $22 per hour to achieve some sort of parity with minimum wage (we won’t go anywhere near capital return, GST/Sales Tax etc etc)

Cheap Books in a binLike most B&M owners these days I also sell on line and I accept that it is a cutthroatedly competitive market and that the megasellers can list used books for pennies  AND make money using a high volume, low margin business model. We are fortunate that this business model is not common in Australia as we don’t have a listing service that caters to it and no one has the millions of used books required to make it work.

Even as a hobbyist I tried hard to realise the best price for my collection.

But it is the low volume ,low margin online hobby sellers who bug me; they chortle gleefully as they undercut your price by pennies, endlessly checking your listings to see what they should be selling, never thinking past the wow I bought this book for 50c and sold it for $3.50, never thinking beyond gross profit to selling expenses or the value of their time.

They clearly don’t rely on selling books to make a living and they can’t see what underpricing their books does to book selling as a trade, about how buyers start to expect everyone to sell on the same basis as they do.

They come into the bookshop and get cross because they can’t buy my  books cheaply enough to resell online and you feel like saying  “See that computer on my desk? It’s connected to the internet and I know how to use it”

The only time I love them is when they operate at the other end of the scale, they make no effort to ascertain market value and  they price so high not even the most gullible buyer would fall for it. Then you can list your reasonably priced, accurately described copy and sell it within a reasonable timeframe.

My in store de minimis is $6 and my on line de minimis (depending on the listing service ) is $7.95 below that and the build in selling costs mean I  would better to send off to sent the books  to landfill and go and work for someone else.

My advice?

Welcome to the world of on-line selling but remember; factor in your time, effort (your wage) and selling costs (travel, internet, listing fees etc)  into your selling price so you can have fun, make some money and keep a little value in the booktrade.

Therese Holland

McLeods Books

10 Station St

Nunawading 3131

4 thoughts on “The Book Seller Dilettante”

  1. de minimis. Lovely phrase, and I had not heard it in connection with book selling, but it makes sense. I am curious, though, does this mean nothing in your shop is under $6? I’m always interested in pricing systems and the justification behind them, since we’re still in the process of formulating our own.

    • okay I do have a couple of cheaper books !
      outside the shop I have a bargain bin -everything a dollar and Mills & Boon start at a dollar too but they are out the back in a corridor not in the main shop space
      and there are a few books from our old premises hiding on the back of shelves for odd prices like $2.40 or $4.70
      but my general rule is if you want to get on the shelf you have to sell for $6 or more or there is a better book in the storage locker who can take your place
      if not you get a spot on the $1 trolley
      and anyone who spends more than $20 gets a freebie from the dollar trolley (if I remember to tell them)
      It does depend on turnover but I figure each book has to contribute approximately $3 to overheads
      most of my paperbacks that I get from the US are priced at $10-the same books in Australia sell for $19.95 to $24.95 new and I would say $10 is my average price-I offer trade credit of 45% on my returned paperback fiction
      I tend to have a bunch of popular thriller authors -the more common ones like Clancy, Grisham, Higgins Steele Cookson etc priced at $6 to keep them moving. You have to have them because people want them.
      I think if I can get my turnover to improve I will probably drop that $6 to $5 (another long story)
      not on line though -listing is too labour intensive especially when you get to where the heck is that book I just sold part
      well I think I have given away most of my trade secrets now

      • It’s fascinating! Min. wage at $15A is of interest, too. It’s abut $7 here. We were the only state to lower their minimum wage this year, I understand. Which is embarrassing.

  2. I agree,

    Considering online sales only: scan photos, list with descriptions (condition, and blurb), wrapping, driving to the post office, standing in line etc.

    There has to be a minimum profit you can settle for, or it just is no longer a business. Sad but True.

    Good article!

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