#43, 16 April 2005

Profile of Rick Marsh

Name: Rick Marsh

Name of Business: 4WeirdBooks

Location: Outside of Deetroit Michigan (I say that just to let you guys know how darn tough I am).

Website (if any): www.4WeirdBooks.com

Number of Years in Business: I am coming up on 6 years on eBay but started selling books on alt.rec.books a few years before that. Then a few more years bookselling (and buying) on BBS's before the 'net was really functioning.

Part Time or Full Time: So sad to say "part time." I'm working my way to retirement from a big (was much bigger) American automobile company. I am a designer in the engineering department working with a team to develop your next new car - or is that China's next new car? Tremendously unfulfilling and totally out of touch with reality, but possibly I'm a bit burnt out!

Bookselling Venues Used (in order of importance):

Amazon - 70%
Alibris - 20%
eBay - 5%
ChooseBooks (ZVAB) - 1%
IOBAbooks.com - 1%
4WeirdBooks.com - 1%

Size of Inventory: 3,000, and another 200 or so that are always in process. I get nervous without at least a couple boxes lying around waiting to be listed.

Specialties: A true generalist, I will sell anything that is worth something. My personal taste runs towards the "blood sports" - shooting, hunting and fishing. But I also have an interest in jewelry design, religious studies and art. So there are probably more of those titles than most in my inventory (because you buy what you know).

Why I Sell Books: I love books, but I must say I love them as tools, not as art objects. My personal books are all scribbled in and dog-eared - that is, I actually use my books and don't worry too much about damaging them. Lucky for my buyers, I rarely sell a book I truly love, and if I do, it will be the cheapest copy out there. Unlike what I hear many booksellers profess, I do think of books as a commodity and believe that most any of them can be replaced. I learned in college what wonderful tools books are and discovered that I never needed to go to lectures (so I didn't and don't like videos much either). Did fine in school (3 Bachelor Degrees), so I guess I can read! I was trained (3 times) by Evelyn Wood Courses, and this has done nothing for my spelling ability but has tremendously increased my reading speed. Highly recommended. Give me a book or six on most any topic and I will learn it (I think?).

Advice to New Booksellers: Number 1, and the only rule you really need: don't sell cheap books! If you get in the habit of selling cheap books, you will spend all your time packing and shipping and none of your time going to the bank! Start right with a high minimum price, and you will be saved tons of work: deleting them from the services, listing them, tossing them out, answering angry emails, etc. If you are a part time seller, it seems to me you need the fastest, most efficient methods in everything you do. To accomplish this I would highly recommend some or all of the following:

  1. ScoutPal. Some don't like it, but you will gain so much knowledge and save so much money not buying worthless books that you will just have to put up with the nay-sayers and add it to your arsenal.

  2. All of Craig's newsletters! They pay for themselves in hours, not years!

  3. Good management software. You will need something that will manage your inventory and customer emails. It should also be capable of sending invoices and printing packing slips, and hopefully it will interface with Endicia (another must have, but wait until your selling 40 or so books a month). I use Auction Wizard 2000, but most folks make HomeBase or BookTrakker work. I have no experience with either of them. Settle on something early, and learn it forwards and backwards.

  4. Backup your data very, very often. You will be pretty darn sad when you have to retype 3500 records (either that or you will not be making money!). Spend the money on a CD/DVD Burner or USB External Hard drive and the software to automate the procedure.

Best Bookselling Tip: Always buy quality stock!

Favorite Author(s): I'm largely a non-fiction reader, always trying to learn something new and different, so titles are much more important than authors, and they change by the week. Of the bit of fiction I have read, I adore John Steinbeck (when is he going to write something new?) and believe I have read everything he has written at least twice. John Dunning for something a bit more current. Christopher Morley's books Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Book Shop are near the top of my fiction list. Of course, I think all booksellers need to try those two on for size.

Favorite Quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

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