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Selling on Alternate Venues

Success on Barnes & Noble and Additional Options for Sellers

by Reesa Turner

#128, 29 Sellers 2008

After all the failures from last month, I'm feeling pretty good right about now. I have admitted several times that I doubted my decision to leave eBay, but with the latest string of announcements there, I'm very glad I got out when I did. Maybe eBay will shock me further and actually improve over time. I continue to read the eBay boards and find that many sellers are still holding their own with sales there and with adjusting their Store items to meet eBay's new demands. I also noticed a higher number of sellers expressing the need to find new venues or to build their own websites. Good luck to us all!

As I mentioned last time, I signed up to sell on Barnes & Noble. I am very happy to say that I sold my first book on B&N within hours of listing there. Having listed less than 20 books at that point, I'm glad I took the steps to enroll. Here's the application page for those of you that may have missed it before.

I'm really enjoying this process of listing for a change - and tweaking my listings for my own purposes, rather than to satisfy eBay's whims, or to conform to a listing style such as eCrater's or Buy It Sell It (which I signed up for but have really not delved into). I've read a bit more about tab-delimited files and Excel. Seems there are some really helpful people on the BISI boards. They find that Excel gives them a corrupted file that can be fixed in notepad. What's up with that? Been through it a few times, and I don't have the energy to test this further right now. I need a viable selling venue that does not require a huge learning curve.

On that note, I have been reluctant to list more items on eCrater, as I've been busy looking for even more places to sell. On the positive side, I can see by studying my Google analytics which items are being searched by specific keywords. I believe that very rare, or unusual items (such as my yearbook listings) will do especially well there, and after my excel fiasco I'm not too keen on building a completely separate database for the books I already have listed in HomeBase. It just doesn't make sense to do so. I do not intend to close out my eCrater stores, but I do need to take some time to get my oddball items that were lated for auction prepared for listing. Rather than auctioning them on eBay, I may park these in one of my eCrater stores and let Google handle the eyeballs. If I get really antsy, I may try some auctions at Wensy.

(More about Wensy below).

I must repeat that one of my eCrater stores geared to send lookers to another venue has proved to increase sales at that venue. I mentioned this in my last article as well, and I like to think of it as gateway web page sales in reverse. Use an eCrater store for the keywords you can generate, and send lookers to one of your already established selling sites. Remember, you can create multiple storefronts, and it won't cost you anything but a bit of your time.

Barnes & Noble is Sweet Relief

With roughly $2 take home minimum per book, I expect I can float recent popular fiction at B&N for a slow but steady income. B&N reminds me of without all the eBay-inspired headaches that come with the venue. On day two of listing at B&N, I sold another book there. Mind you, I am listing books that I had in my bulk lot and or donate piles. These are common paperbacks that were more than likely destined for the thrift store. I may not sell the bulk of them, but I don't mind listing them for a free and easy look-see.

B&N does not charge a listing fee, and they take 15% commission on sales. Their shipping allowances are as follows: $2.65 for domestic, $5.75 for express domestic, $8.35 Canadian, $17.00 International. No book can be listed for an asking price less than $1.99, and you cannot price above B&N's price, unless your copy is a 1st edition or signed by author. They have some restrictions on what can and cannot be sold there. Check their listing guidelines here.

In order to understand the Barnes& Noble listing format, I realized that listing individually will help me to see just what is what. When listing single items there, you will be shown a comparison page which indicates how many books are currently listed, the most recent sale price (which always states N/A), and the lowest price available for that condition category. This is similar to the way listing pages work. Do not rely on what you see on that comp page! Many of those books shown for pricing have been previously sold, and the numbers are not accurate. Please, don't mark your book price too low by what that first comp page is telling you. View the actual listings currently available by going to the main B&N site with your ISBN or title (I keep my store management page open in one window and B&N's main site open in another) and price by what you see on their available books. You may be pleasantly surprised at the actuality of sales there. Since the first comp page you see may show what appears to be a heavily loaded category with too many other listings to compete with, once you go to the actual listing on site, you may find that there are far fewer books currently available for sale. For me, this adds up to the idea that those books really are selling.

Meanwhile, in the process of writing this article I did sell four more books on Barnes and Noble, and I'm thrilled, considering I have only listed 90 books so far. When I logged in to view my first order, I found no place to print a packing slip. My first instinct is to print the packing slip and continue from there. I was a bit underwhelmed at having to figure out where the packing slip could be found. First, the order acceptance page asks for acceptance, type of carrier service you are using, and an optional tracking number. Oddly, the optional tracking number does not appear to be optional. If you don't put something in this box, you cannot go to the next page. I do use tracking numbers, but what happens if you don't use tracking? Just put some fake numbers in the box? It was a bit much to estimate the weight, create a shipping label through USPS Shipping Assistant, and input the tracking number for B&N, when I never do things in that order. Once you fill in the tracking number and the book order has been accepted, you may now find a link to print the packing slip. This is a minor issue I can work around, but it will probably bug you too, if you aren't aware of it.

I am very pleased with my results at Barnes & Noble, the ease of listing, and the knowledge that buyers do visit the site. My intent is to load the bulk of my inventory there. One thing I noticed at B&N: There does not appear to be any way to generate a storefront style page for only your listings. When clicking on a seller name within the listings, you will not be taken to a storefront for that seller, but you will see the seller's feedback and how long they have been in business. I suppose this translates to no chance for multiple orders, except by sheer luck. Does this equal a more level playing field? Possibly. In any event, I see in B&N a selling platform that should garner decent results.

Upon reading their bulk upload guidelines, I was not positive that a HomeBase file would load seamlessly to B&N. Assurances by some helpful sellers on the eBay bookseller board that HomeBase files are fine to use at B&N, however, has left me encouraged. Just watch for sold books that may arbitrarily show up in your B&N available inventory list when using bulk upload. I haven't tested such an upload, as I am currently refining and culling my inventory, much of which needing re-pricing anyway.

In the meantime, I have been pleased with the functionality of BookHound over HomeBase and will be training myself on its utilities as I transfer book items. Once my inventory is fine-tuned and completely reloaded to BookHound, I will more than likely use my fresh inventory list to become a Pro-Merchant seller on Amazon as well. I keep allowing my 60-day listings to lapse at Amazon without resubmitting, and never seem to keep much of an inventory going there. Amazing that I still manage to sell a book or two there! It should be interesting to try Pro-Merchant once I work the kinks out, and BookHound should make the transition much smoother with their special upload file to Amazon capability. For a free download of BookHound 7ce visit the Bibliopolis site.

What is Wensy?

A few months ago I read something about this fairly new auction site and bookmarked it:

Now seems the right time for a closer look. Greg Holden's recent article about Wensy is just further indication that eBay is not the only game in town for auctions.

First off, Wensy is free. "Free? Did that girl just say free again?" You bet I did. Free to list, free storefront, free auctions, free fixed price sales, dutch auctions, classified ads, free picture uploads, etc. Wensy developer Darren Bock claims no fees, ever. I keep finding typos on the Wensy site, which irks me, so I zipped off a note to their contact, which just may be Darren Bock himself. Namely, I saw reference to reverse auctions, wondering if they meant reserve. I'll let you know how long the response time is.

I prepared a bare-bones storefront for selling at Wensy, just to see the results online. It is a fairly simple procedure. In creating a store and adding items at Wensy, I find an impressive HTML editor. There are many possibilities for some interesting web pages by using it. I cannot find a way to put a store on hold or vacation. The only option is to close the storefront, which deletes it entirely. If you have items for sale, say, at fixed price, and you close your storefront, those items will still be listed on the site, but your storefront will have disappeared.

I did see that Wensy has integrated PayPal, but I did not find information about integrating Google checkout or your own merchant account. It is a simple enough matter to create an invoice for credit card payments, and send that to your buyers through email, once a sale occurs. Sellers there have verbiage in their ads indicating that they will invoice buyers for Google checkout or money order/check payments. I noticed some references to a bulk upload tool being developed for the site, but it seems to have never reached fruition. For now, I will have to put aside Wensy as another project site, to be worked on in the interim.

Down the Road

For the most part, I will be concentrating on getting BookHound fully loaded, listing more at B&N, and preparing for the big move to Pro Merchant at Amazon. I'm still convinced that Amazon is the place to list if you want to sell a lot more books, although I am reluctant to begin paying any type of monthly fee there. Amazon's commission of $1.00 per item plus 15% is just too high for most items, so jumping into Pro-Merchant and the requirement to sell 40 items per month to cover those fees will be interesting. Without a huge inventory to list at Amazon right off the bat, I don't see it being an especially effective way to sell. Ignoring penny sellers on Amazon will be the most difficult obstacle for me. I guess I'll just close my eyes and wing it.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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