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TOOLS FOR BUILDING TRUST WITH BUYERS
Chances are good that your buyer's first encounter with you will be by way of coming across one of your listings; and you have, as they say, only one chance to make a good first impression. If building more of yourself into your descriptions isn't overly appealing to you - don't we have enough to do already? - I'd ask you to at least consider what a huge difference even an extra moment or two could make in elevating you above your competitors. If you haven't ventured out as a buyer lately, you might be surprised at how bad it's gotten - how ineffectually your competitors introduce themselves.
Example: Let's say that you've decided to go hunting for inventory on Amazon - for an early, perhaps 1936 printing of Gone with the Wind,. Either from experience or reading the Gold Edition you know that, if you can get your hands on any 1936 printing in reasonably good condition for a few bucks, you can probably score $50 and up (usually up, up, etc.) on eBay, and more if it has a dust jacket. How difficult a process do you think this will be? If you've attempted to purchase collectible fiction on Amazon before, you already know that you're in for an adventure. The process will be nearly impossible, even though there may well be multiple copies available that meet your criteria. Hidden copies, that is.
To begin with, if you conduct a search for the title (and specify the author, hardcover format, and a publication date before January, 1937), dozens of separate catalog entries are returned, many with more than one offering from buyers. Here's a promising entry on the first page:
Gone with the Wind (June, 1936) (Hardcover)
With prices starting (at the time of this writing) at $2.68, surely we can find some possibilities here. Clicking in, I'm presented with the following fifteen descriptions on the first page:
So - of the 15 potential copies, only two appear to be ca. 1936 trade editions, despite the fact that all appear under the umbrella of a catalog listing which suggests a 1936 printing - and both of these appear to be in very poor condition. I've wasted my time looking.
But here's the most important thing to take away from this example: This frustrating result is typical of the state of online bookselling today. Go to any major venue and try the same thing. I guarantee that you'll be hard put to find what you're looking for, and, even if you do, condition may not be fairly represented.
And yet, think about this for a moment. Is this as seemingly dire for your own business as you think it is? No doubt there will be some buyers who will be so put off by their experience that they'll simply stop looking on Amazon and never return. But some will keep looking, and somebody will inevitably come across one of your listings - and buy it. They'll buy it because it shines, because you've taken a few more moments of your time and done what any reasonably competent bookseller should do: You've described your book with a clear, positive statement that communicates what it actually is.
I realize that almost none of us have much time to burn on descriptions, but I'm going to list what I think - ideally, if time permits, and realizing that some books require more attention than others - should be included. The closer you can come to including all of them, the more you'll stand apart from your competitors, and the more likely, other things being equal, you'll make the sale and they won't.
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