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The Kind of Bookseller
EBay Now Wants Forces You To Be

Is It Such a Terrible Thing?

by Craig Stark

#113, 4 Febuary 2008

I'm not going to talk too much about the numbers today. You know what they are. You know that it's likely going to cost you more to sell books on eBay in 2008 than it did in 2007. But this happens every year. And, every year, booksellers bemoan fee increases, some stop selling on eBay, others call for a boycott, etc. - surely you know the routine by now. And then everything settles down until the following year.

Yes, there are things you can do to offset this, and you should do whatever you can. Here are 15 suggestions we published last year after the Stores fees increase, some of which may still be useful.

Notice that the first 14 have nothing to do with what you're selling, only how you're selling it. Only number 15 - the most important suggestion of all - addresses inventory:

15. SELL BETTER BOOKS. The booksellers most adversely affected by this fee increase and, for that matter, many other annoying, nickel-and-dime increases venues make from time to time, are those who sell at the low end. These sellers are doubly hurt by this recent increase because competition continues to heat up in the $10-and-under sector of the market and most are experiencing fewer profitable sales. However, here's a central bookselling truth: So many problems fade into near extinction once you begin to look for and sell better books. If you don't, almost every single negative change in the marketplace will be magnified in your business. Also, in the long run, it isn't just a matter of selling better books; it's important to continuously upgrade your inventories. Sell even better books next year. Even better the next. What this enables you to do is not only stay ahead of fee increases, etc., but also enjoy an increase in net income - and not feel as inclined to vent on forums every time, for example, USPS raises their Media Mail rates.

So, if you took this last suggestion seriously, the fee increases won't hurt you at all, and that leaves nothing more to talk about - almost. This time, however, there are a surprising number of additional changes that I believe will change the landscape of eBay bookselling forever, perhaps dramatically.

Before I get into details, here's my take on this: The changes made in pricing, seller standards, the Powerseller program, PayPal and feedback all are weighted, sometimes heavily, in favor of the bookseller BookThink has been urging you to become - the bookseller who sells higher-dollar books and adheres to the highest standards in presentation of inventory and fulfillment. Become this bookseller, and you win.

Ok, first, here's the biggie for most of us: Insertion fees for Store items in the $25.00 to $199.99 range have been CUT IN HALF. If most of your inventory falls into this range, you'll experience a dramatic drop in monthly fees - and if most of it doesn't fall into this range, you should be working hard to get it there (see above). Also, this plays into the hand of booksellers with uncommon or scarce titles that take some time to find buyers.

Next, final value fees for Auctions, Fixed-Priced listings and Store items in the $25.01 to $1,000.00 range are going up, but the increases are generally more punitive in the $1 to $25 range. This puts pressure on the bookseller you don't want to be.

Also, if you're a PowerSeller with DSR ratings 4.8 or higher, look what happens to a $100 auction sale after applying the 15% discount:


Insertion fee: $2.40
Gallery feature fee: $.35 Final value fee: $3.74
Total: $6.49


Insertion fee: $2.00
Gallery feature fee: $.00
Final value fee: $4.80 (x .85 = $4.08)
Total: $6.08


Now consider what happens to that same $100 book sold from a Store inside of one month:


Insertion fee: $.10
Gallery feature fee: $.01
Final value fee: $5.25
Total: $5.36


Insertion fee: $.05
Gallery feature fee: $.00
Final value fee: $9.00 (x .85 = $7.65)
Total: $7.70

Yes, this is a significant increase, but keep in mind that the reduction in insertion fees applies to your entire Store inventory. Let's say your inventory consists of 1,000 $100 books - your monthly insertion fee total will be $50, a savings of $50 over the present fee. Subtract $5.36 from $7.70 ($2.34) and divide the answer into $50. You would need to sell 22 books in a month's time to experience a fee increase.

Finally, reserve fees for items in the $0.01 to $49.99 range are going up. Those in the $50 and up range will remain unchanged.

Conclusion: If you achieve/maintain PowerSeller status, maintain DSR ratings of 4.8 or better, and sell higher-dollar books, your total fees will almost certainly go down.

Qualifying for the PowerSeller program isn't difficult.

There's more good news for PowerSellers:

"PayPal will no longer require that PowerSellers ship to confirmed addresses for items sold on eBay. Every address in the PayPal system will be considered a confirmed address for PowerSellers.

"For PowerSellers there will no longer be an annual $5,000 limit on seller'll have unlimited protection coverage.

"Also starting in February - seller protection will be extended to cover transactions with buyers in many markets around the world (instead of only to US, Canada and the UK). Now PowerSellers can sell with confidence to a much larger group of buyers."

Note also that sellers with excellent DSRs will now be given priority in eBay's "Best Match" searches.

Perhaps the most hotly debated change has nothing to do with pricing. Starting in May, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback for buyers. Based on forum chatter during the past week, it's clear that most booksellers have a big problem with this. For the first time in eBay's history, buyers need no longer fear feedback retaliation from sellers and may neg them with impunity. True, some disincentives to leaving negative feedback will be put in place, but most sellers believe that they'll now be at the mercy of buyers, if not held hostage, also that maintaining DSR levels at 4.8 or higher will be nearly impossible under this new system.

To these sellers I would say this: Consider the Amazon Marketplace system. Though Amazon's is somewhat different than eBay's, buyers need not be concerned with retaliatory feedback notwithstanding. Yes, sellers can leave negative feedback if they choose to, but it has no measurable impact on buyers because it's not counted against their seller ratings (assuming they are sellers as well as buyers). Despite this, many, many sellers are able to maintain perfect 5-star ratings. How? Simple. They bust their tails to represent their products accurately and provide outstanding customer service. Buyers aren't out to get us, you see. Treat them right, and you'll be rewarded with positive feedback and repeat business.

For me, Amazon's feedback system is a positive influence in my own bookselling - a strong incentive to be the best bookseller I can be. Conversely, sellers who fall short on performance will not only suffer poor sales but likely wake up one morning to a closed account. Amazon has become increasingly quick to pull the trigger on underperforming sellers. To some, this system is overly biased in favor of buyers, but my thinking is that it's just this buyer-friendly approach that contributes to Amazon's success. eBay's feedback changes, in my opinion, will prove similarly positive, though some tinkering along the way may be necessary to get it right.

Other changes are detailed here.

Bookseller Keith Wease - - has produced a series of charts analyzing the fees changes and has graciously granted permission for us to reproduce them here. These charts are formulated on the basis of midpoints and highpoints for each of the price ranges and include all three selling formats - Auctions, Fixed Price and Stores - along with some additional parameters.

Click herefor charts.

Some final thoughts. Gold Edition subscribers received issue #46 last week - Part I of "How to Establish a Trusted Internet Bookselling Presence," and I think that it's apropos to this discussion. Have you evaluated your own presence lately - particularly from a buyer's perspective? It's clear to me that more booksellers than not exude anything but a trusted presence. eBay's changes will begin a process of forcing at least some of their hands, shining a brighter and brighter light on poor performance. Let's give it a chance to work.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As a special incentive to upgrade your seller performance, BookThink would like to offer issue #46 free of charge to all new Gold Edition subscribers during the month of February. Subscribe here, and issue #46 will be emailed to you ASAP.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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