Bookselling is less profitable today than it was a few years back. True or false? For the sake of argument, let's say it's true, and we wouldn't have to look far for reasons why. The economy. Competition for inventory. Too many books for too few buyers. E-books. Postage increases. Fee increases. And so on. But even if these were valid reasons, guess what? Tons of books are getting sold every day, still, and prices for some of them are moving north, not south. Somebody is selling them, you see. Somebody is making money at this game.
If it isn't you, especially if it was once you but no longer is, you may be discouraged, and discouragement isn't something that is easily tossed off. Oh, it's easy to say, Get off your butt and get back to work. Or work harder. Or smarter. But if you're doing the same things you have been doing, how much good is going to come of doing more of them in 2013? I'm guessing ... not much.
I can tell you one thing: Bookselling, less profitable or not, is more demanding than it has been in years past. It's often lamented among booksellers that the entry barrier to selling books, especially online, is virtually non-existent. Anybody can do it, and what follows from this ain't necessarily good. But what's not often noted is that there are many and various hidden barriers to bookselling, and they aren't always what you think they are. Example: It's vitally important to source quality inventory, but this doesn't mean that the most successful booksellers have protected or secret inventory sources and those who don't are out of luck. The barrier isn't the source. I've seen too many booksellers tap into secret sources, succeed wildly for a year or more, and flame out when their sources became public - and you can count on this: All secret sources become public sooner or later.
The hidden barriers can be substantial but they are not at all insurmountable. This is what we teach at BookThink, and in the coming year we will continue teaching this. For now, I'm going to offer something for discouraged booksellers (or booksellers who are doing fine but want to do better): 25 different things you can do in 2013 to grow your bookselling business. Not all of these will apply to everybody because some of you are already doing them (or in some cases don't need to do them at all), but take a look and you might see something that will make a difference.
Stan Zielinski's series on the top 100 collectible children's books continues today. Part II looks at the "Nearly No Brainers" - those books which didn't make the top 25 but are still highly sought after. Click here if you missed Part I, and look for Parts III and IV in upcoming issues.
Chapter 12 of BookThink's Guide to Online Bookselling has been delivered to subscribers. This is a comprehensive, in-progress bookselling how-to available by subscription here. It's approximately half completed, and new subscribers will receive current and all remaining chapters as they are issued.
Chapter 12, by the way, is the first in a series of chapters on how to buy inventory, and it presents an inductive, statistical method for identifying authors and titles that currently generate the most interest in the marketplace, present the most opportunities for us in the field, and provide the highest returns. Can't ask for much more than that, and believe me, this is a method anybody can master.
BookThink's popular First Edition Library Checklist has been reformatted to PDF and now includes thumbnail photos of cover art for all FEL titles. The FEL, for those not familiar with it, is a series of extraordinarily faithful first edition facsimiles of over 100 notable publications, most of them issued with protective slipcases. Many are now out of print and all are enthusiastically collected. As booksellers, it pays for you to know of them and about them. Our checklist package includes a checklist of all 111 FEL titles, thumbnail images of cover art, indications of most and least valuable titles, indications of rarest and most common titles, detailed issue points (where applicable), explanatory notes, and the full text of Stan Shelley's superb, illustrated primer on the First Edition Library.
If you have purchased the earlier version (which was available in DOC and TXT formats), you can upgrade to the new version for $5. The price for first time buyers is $14.99. Either option can be exercised by clicking here.
BookThink's forum is up and running again. You can get to it by clicking this link.
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Also, BookThink's complete Gold Edition is now available in PDF format. All 59 Gold Editions have been recently updated (and in some cases expanded) and combined into a PDF format e-book. A table of contents presents clickable report titles, and the entire document is searchable by keywords. The PDF format ensures 100% compatibility with all computers, tablets and smartphones, and it's easier than ever to take the Gold Edition with you on scouting trips. Purchase it here for $59.99.
Click here to see several sample pages. (And yes, we're working on converting and updating 50/50 and QMR as well.)
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