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Observations on
Biblio and Barnes & Noble

by Reesa Turner

#129, 3 November 2008

So many venues, so little time. Life gets in the way of research, and dedication to the task. Listing scads of books can become mind numbing. It takes a concise mind to follow the formula, and a steady demeanor to plug away at it day after day. Not the easiest proposition for lazy me, with my wandering imagination, and desire to throw the lot out and be done with bookselling altogether. Indian Summer never fails to bring about my lackadaisical nature. As one of my professors once mentioned to me many years ago: "I may be first off the blocks on any given day, but my experience has been that of struggling to reach the finish line."

Loss of discretionary income was not something I was too worried about when I decided to try a new start, and get rid of the albatross of unwanted expense in my low-functioning eBay stores. Not having that bill to pay was a relief, but my other venues were not creating much cash flow either. Surprisingly, just when I begin to think all is lost, a breakthrough presents itself. My husband gets a very nice raise, and a huge book order comes in the next day. Thankfully I don't have to pay to maintain presence at most other venues. The one exception to this rule is my inventory on Biblio.

The Little Venue that Could

Signing up to sell on was probably the best move I've made over the years. Of course, I gravitated to Biblio's free-to-list policy, chose them over every one of the bigger fixed-price listing sites because of it. Biblio is one of the few sites out there that allow the seller to set his own shipping price and does not take a portion of that shipping price for their own cut. If only this were the norm for all selling sites. You will also be given a small refund each billing cycle if you maintain a high percentage of order fulfillment each month. Biblio welcomes you to use your own merchant account for credit card processing, or they can provide that service for a fee.

There have been many positive changes over the years at Biblio, and they strive to allow a seller his independence over the long haul. When they implemented an optional monthly fee structured platform, I began to look more closely at sales revenues vs. fees incurred, and the handy comparison tool provided by the site convinced me that my level of sales warranted a change in fee choices. The differences in fee structure: Option A: Pay no monthly fee and you are charged 15% on sales (plus any credit card fees you may incur thru Biblio's processing). Option B: Pay a monthly fee (calculated on the basis of your inventory size) and pay 7.5% commission on sales.

At one point I had listed several thousand books to the site but found that more common books are not generally sought at Biblio, and have since culled the bulk of that lesser inventory. How do I know those titles weren't generally sought? I merely took a look at my site-provided bookseller dashboard/book report to determine which titles in my inventory were getting the most hits.

When setting up your listings for upload to Biblio, it is imperative that you designate a catalog for each listing. In order to take full advantage of Biblio's search engine, and to make your items easier to find within your own Biblio storefront, these catalogs are going to make a world of difference. When one of your items is viewed through the general search, this will be key in directing the buyer to "similar books from this bookseller." Not similar books found on Biblio, but similar books from your storefront. I love that! For a list of the main BISAC Subject headings for Biblio, you can go to the "add a listing" page and scroll down to the catalog section where you will find the 49 main subject headings currently in use. Each main subject header has several subsets of categories for you to choose from.

One of my favorite tools at Biblio is the Book Sale Manager. You are allowed to take up to 20% of your inventory at a time and run it in a sale of your choosing. The ability to discount a bulk of your inventory garners multiple sales and increased views of your inventory. You may discount a fixed dollar amount for all books in the sale, or a percentage amount. The items you include in your sale can be held at that discounted price for up to 3 months at a time. All books in the sale will show a discount banner when found online, and will also provide a link to the remainder of your discount sale items when found in search.

I have enjoyed experiencing the growth of Biblio, and have placed many a call to their friendly customer service team, when things have gone awry (mostly due to difficulties I created myself). I have a propensity for causing myself undue problems. Biblio's support team and the site's dedication to independent sellers worldwide is something I appreciate very much. There have been some growing pains at Biblio, mostly felt by sellers who had to adjust to a new, more streamlined Bisac-based catalog, and a revamping of the entire site. In the long run, they have implemented many bonus features and positive influences for booksellers. Biblio should become much stronger than the old stand-by fixed-price venues, which seem to be struggling after years of counter-intuitive business decisions.

See links below for many of the added perks which serve to assist all of us with a love for books.

For more information - Biblio's bookseller program and a link to their application, Biblio's helpful forums ,Monthly E-zine, Blog , Bookhound inventory management

More about Barnes and Noble

I cannot stress this enough to you: Barnes & Noble has stellar customer service for their buyers as well as their sellers. I had read nothing but great feedback about B&N customer service, and can attest that I have experienced it first-hand. Kudos to Diane Cronrath and her staff for one of the best selling experiences I have encountered in all my years of selling online.

I spent a pleasant half hour or so on the phone with Diane (Manager of Seller Relations). She makes a habit of reading sundry forums, blogs, and articles about bookselling available to us all and came upon my last article featuring B&N. Diane called me to clarify my inquiry about the packing list dilemma I encountered when shipping my first book through the B&N site. Her advice on this matter is to not select a shipping option, and no tracking number will then be required. You can now get to the packing list page, package up your book, and return to enter the shipping/tracking information after the fact. I sort of figured this could be done, but I often just bumble through with the status quo and forget about trying other ways when I encounter such things. Not always the best policy to have, eh?

One thing Diane mentioned had to do with textbook sales. I'm not a textbook seller, but those of you who are should know that textbooks are a hot commodity at B&N right now, and this is expected to continue. An added plus to selling on B&N is the ability for any of their in-store retail customers to purchase used items when they aren't able to find what they want in the store. In these situations, retail sales associates are trained to offer the customer an online purchase through the Authorized Seller Program and to place that order for the customer if they so desire. It's just another example of fine service from the crew at B&N.

A question I had for Diane concerned my desire for individual storefronts for all authorized sellers on the site. She assured me that this was something they are looking into, and it is merely a matter of time and technology. Barnes & Noble has a current focus on books, and allowing used book sales through their authorized seller program. In time, they may be expanding their service to allow sellers to delve into other items such as CDs and DVDS. The impetus is on creating as simple a bookselling platform as possible for all parties involved, before attempting to expand on it, for their authorized seller program.

If you decide to sign up at Barnes and Noble, you will be hard-pressed to find better service. If you find anything lacking in their help pages, they would appreciate a note explaining your concerns, so their information can be clarified or reevaluated. For those of us who are somewhat technologically challenged, the customer service team at B&N is actually there to serve. Imagine that!

I also learned that listing to Barnes & Noble using your current database is a simple matter. Merely create your tab-delimited file and change the headers to match the B&N requirements. If you run into any problems, the error reports will tell you where the problem lies. If you still have difficulty, a quick note or call to support will get you the immediate help you need.

I am terribly pleased with my short time of experiences with B&N, and I am sure you will be too, if you decide to apply for authorized seller status there. Do it; you've got nothing to lose!

Next Month: Having been so busy trying to concentrate on loading my database with years of neglected inventory, I haven't had the desire to muddle through yet another site. I am going to go against my grain and take a much closer look at Bonanzle, Wensy, and the like. I have found that auctions are just not something I'm interested in pursuing, but for the sake of the learning curve, I'll give it a whirl. I believe that most of these newer sites offer storefronts as well, so I'll push onward and try to get the scoop.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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