When it comes to book pricing, it's difficult to explain the elements of expertise and skill. My father is an excellent poker player and the family still enjoys card games. My dad used to make a considerable amount of money in card rooms, casinos and private card games. In his view, he wasn't gambling. Instead, he was skillfully exploiting other gamblers and fools. This skill is the card sense that some develop but most don't. Practice and learning can help but there are some things you just can't teach. Though counting cards, knowing statistics and percentages, reading faces and body language, bluffing and intimidating are involved for the profit-making card player, the sum is greater than all the parts. And innate abilities combine with seasoned skill to blossom into proficiency.
This may be over complicating the art of online book-pricing, but I've found it too goes beyond the mathematics of online price comparisons and guidebook rules. Many factors make a customer choose your book. Setting the best price is to some degree an acquired, seasoned skill. But in a local venue, these factors are less significant. Here the goal is to find the balance between a properly priced thrift and a used bookstore. Inventory sells best in that medium. Remember you don't have the overhead of a brick and mortar. You want buyers to feel they are getting a bit of a deal and be glad to come cross your books again. Fact is, by establishing yourself as trustworthy, fair, and competent, you earn the right to make incremental increases in pricing.
Books I sell in local venues are acquired several ways. Some are purchased for the local venue, others are bought for online but don't meet my criteria, still others are part of bulk purchases. When I sort for Web inventory, I reject books if there's a glut online or if the price would be under $10. If I'm not holding them for lots, they head for the local venue or are given to charity.
To price for local venues, I use a meta-search and look closely at the pricing of Powell's City of Books in Portland. Their books are priced to sell well, so I start with that and apply my own sensibilities and hunches. People often comment on my good prices but I don't give away books. My philosophy is people pay a little more for quality.
To make a local venue profitable, I focus on eight guidelines:
Looking back at the initial arguments against local venues, consider this. Look for a reasonable deal on rent in a small shop that offers variety. The arrangement can benefit both you and the proprietor. Pay close attention to location. Similar to the old adage about books, book buyers are everywhere. Place books where they come across them when shopping for other items. And make it simple for yourself. Weigh the pros and cons. Don't take on too many venues at once. Then decide if local venues are a way to earn extra cash for books you are already handling. It's a good deal for me and it may be for you too.
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