<<< Continued from previous page

Here's where it gets fun. Now you must decide whether to go for a quick, sure sale, or to hold out for a higher price. So far, we know that the average pending pre-order price is $270, but we don't know how many pre-orders there are. It could be one order for $270. Or it could be two orders - one at $135 and one at $405. Or it could be three orders and ... well, you get the idea. To find out, let's look at the Buyers Waiting list. On my site, for example, you'd see this:

Strength of Biological Materials [Hardcover] by Yamada, Hiroshi 3 buyers waiting.... Average price: $270 Minimum acceptable condition: Any

Remember, the list is sorted by dollar value, so you'll find this book about halfway down this page.

Or, if you've downloaded Amazon's Buyers Waiting spreadsheet, the number of pre-orders (in this case 3) appears in the "Quantity" field.

With three pending orders, there's clearly lots of interest in this book. What this tells us is that it can easily sell for more than $270, even though most book dealers have never heard of it. So let's try doing some research. Can we find other online listings for this book? Try typing the ISBN, 0683093231 in the blue search box (FetchBook) on BookThink's home page.

No copies for sale. How about AddALL? Nothing. BookFinder? Nada. Let's try entering the title and author name into BookFinder's advanced search. Still nothing. Let's thumb through Tedford's Official Price Guide to Books. No dice.

The next step is to list this book on Amazon for $500. If you have an eBay Store, put it there too. Odds are it will sell at your price within a couple of months. We already know that at least one customer comes along every month who wants the book so badly that they place a pre-order on Amazon, and some of these buyers aren't blinking at $270. So one of the next few buyers who comes along might think your $500 price tag is just dandy. Sure, you could probably sell the book today for $300. But why leave $200 on the table? You can always lower the price later if you decide you've priced it too high, but you can't raise the price after your pre-order pops its cork.

You'll find plenty of these books if you keep digging, and this reminds me of the first time I found a Buyers Waiting book. I was on my way out of a small library sale in the Virginia countryside when a box of dog books under a table caught my eye. $5 for all, and I didn't even bother looking at the titles. The next day, at the bottom of the box, I found a copy of The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs, which sold for $100 to a waiting Amazon buyer. Yahoo!

At this point, you be might be wondering whether you can use the Buyers Waiting list as a shopping list or scouting report for your next book-buying binge. Could you walk into a used bookstore and find some of these books after scanning the list? I'm not sure if it can work this way. I know I can't memorize 50,000 book titles. But you can use the Buyers Waiting list to learn to recognize the kind of offbeat titles that tend to be on it - the things that Amazon buyers pay big bucks for. Examples:

Measuring Risk in Complex Stochastic Systems

Stock Index Futures and Index Arbitrage in a Rational Expectations Model

Theories of Elasticity in Old Chewing Gum

OK, I made up that last one, but you get the idea. Practice, and you'll be spotting these titles from across the room.

Next month, I'll continue with Part I of our look at the Buyers Waiting list. We'll examine how these buyers differ from traditional collectors. We'll look at the pitfalls of handling pre-orders. And we'll look at some new technology that can alert you to Buyers Waiting pre-orders while you're at your next library sale.

< to previous article                

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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