<<< Continued from previous page

The next book that qualifies for First Class is the #4 book on the list, Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, weighing in at 9.6 ounces. This book has been out for several months and does have an eBay track record - a good one. Closed auction sales on eBay have been averaging between $15-$17 (including shipping), and guess what? This book can be purchased new from Amazon for $12.07 and, as long as you order at least three copies (which launches you over the $25 qualifying minimum), you'll get free shipping.

Now, let's do some quick calculations.

Cost of acquisition: $12.07
Anticipated sales price on eBay (including shipping): $16.00
Difference: $3.93
USPS First Class shipping: $2.70 (higher if Delivery Confirmation is used)
eBay insertion fee: $.35
eBay final value fee (see explanation below): $1.14
Packaging materials (b-flute system with poly bags): $.15
Out of pocket expense: $4.34 - $3.93 = $.41

The final value fee is calculated on the basis of $2.99 quoted shipping and a final value of $13.01. Obviously, you could offer free shipping or higher shipping than $2.99 to reduce your fees, but closed auctions with free shipping trend to lower final values, and if you were to charge $4, $5 or more for shipping, you might get the same $16 outcome when all is said and done, but keep in mind that many buyers are more likely to leave positive feedback when shipping charges are more reasonable. Also note that auctions or fixed-priced listings of best sellers on average perform better that Store items - in other words, this method is likely to work best in the auction format.

So - assuming you package each book brilliantly, ship daily via First Class Mail, communicate immediately with your buyers, etc., and also assuming, conservatively, that every one out of two or three buyers will leave feedback, each positive feedback you receive using this system should cost you less than $1, possibly a lot less. At the very worst, the buyer who stands at 66.7% today could easily be back to 99% in a month or less for an outlay of less than $100.

Is it worth it? Feedback has become increasingly precious of late, so yes, if you seek to derive serious income from eBay, you'll absolutely have to establish a trusted presence. This simply can't be done without a good feedback rating. On this basis, $100 and a few hours of additional work seem cheap to me.

Note that this system can also help out in other situations. If you're just short of qualifying for PowerSeller status, for example, and would like to start enjoying the benefits this program now offers by way of raised search status and reduced fees, it might make perfect economic sense to both increase your selling activity and upgrade your feedback, and chances are you could do it for a lot less than $100.

Finally, the success of this system will inevitably depend on a careful investigation of eBay closed auctions. Some bestsellers are significantly more enduring than others. Pick your spots and check eBay often for trends; don't rely entirely on the Amazon best seller list.

I anticipate that some of you will object on principle to my suggestion that feedback-impacted booksellers consider "buying" feedback. Frankly, I'm not any more thrilled than anybody else that eBay has altered its policy to necessitate even thinking about things like this, especially since it increases both Amazon's and eBay's revenue at your expense, but ultimately, what works best is to take charge of your own destiny, be proactive. Sometimes this means fending off potentially damaging problems before they occur - a cost of doing business.

An addendum for booksellers too clever by half:

Just in case the idea occurred to you that, based on the price differential between Amazon and average eBay outcomes, you might be able to game the system by using Amazon to drop-ship your sales directly to your eBay buyers, thereby avoiding packaging materials and shipping costs (not to mention saving yourself the trouble of fulfilling orders) and pocketing the difference, it won't work. In order to qualify for free shipping, you must agree to have qualifying purchases (in this case multiple copies of the same book) shipped to a single US address. Also, there's this ominous policy statement from Amazon: "Eligible items fulfilled by Amazon.com may not be eligible if fulfilled by a third-party seller."

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