Opportunities for Booksellers
in a Faltering Economy

by Craig Stark

#120, 12 May 2008

Also Some Related Advice on How to Save Money

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Need a $50 sale today? List four or five Foxfire books. What's that? You have ten of them? How about $150 instead? All 13? We're getting close to a car payment now. There's a reason Foxfires are doing so well now. Many Americans are feeling the pinch, and these books are packed with survival skills and lots of do-it-yourself how-to, not to mention advice on simple living. This is knowledge that can save you money, perhaps make you money. The good news for booksellers is that these things pop up everywhere. I reserve a space on one of my shelves for them, and when I accumulate a run (which doesn't take long), up they go on eBay. Ka-ching.

If you haven't noticed, books that teach us how to make and save money are pretty hot now. Small wonder. But has it occurred to you to focus more on them? Bookselling, like any other profession, succeeds only when demands are met, and knowing and keeping up on what's in demand (which is forever changing) is half the battle. If you can anticipate demand before it materializes, all the better, and since we're fairly early into this economic downturn, there are still plenty of buyers out there who haven't yet decided to buy a how-to book - but will soon. You can help them decide with both your title selections and marketing efforts. And yes, cookbooks are a major portion of this niche. Haven't you noticed yourself eating out less?

Bad times are times of opportunity just like any other.

Now that the dollar has tanked and will likely remain weak for some time in the foreign exchange market, we're presented with another opportunity: Sell books internationally. Or sell more than you have been. I don't know about you, but I've never gone through as many customs forms as I have so far this year. Half the books I packaged today were international orders. Our books are bargains to foreign buyers, so much so that higher shipping costs no longer present a significant deterrent. If you're already taking advantage of this, great, but why not try to ramp it up some? Stop passing up those foreign-language titles on scouting trips, especially in used bookstores, where they're often under-priced. Or start selling on eBay UK - or, really, on any eBay satellite venue. I don't speak much Spanish, but I've successfully listed books on eBay Spain by opening eBay US in one window and eBay Spain in another and referring back to eBay US when it wasn't clear what button to click, what to fill in a box, etc. I've also sold photographs on eBay Hong Kong, and - guess what? - this satellite speaks English!

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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