100 books sold on Amazon

On July 1st Abi and I started selling second-hand books via Amazon Marketplace. Is fun. Abi handles the grading and classification, while I deal with the distribution.

Today we sold our 100th book! Yays!

I used to work in a record label’s distribution office, and figured setting up my own system would be entertaining. The initial setup and teething problems were hard work for a few weeks, as was finding room for all the books in my small flat, but it now only takes half an hour to process the day’s sales and head down to the local postbox. Abi has all the really hard work, which I feel a little guilty about.

It started because Abi had a large collection of old books she wanted to clear out. We picked up other stock from various friends, house clearances and local wholesalers. Our aim is to reach 1000 books online, both because it’s an arbitrarily good number and it’s about the limit of space in my flat. We’re at ~400 atm, and hoping to top 1000 before Christmas.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of booksellers on Amazon, and as with any online store reputation is key. Approx. 30% of people leave feedback, and I think our numbers are just now getting high enough to look trustworthy. I’ve tried a couple of methods to make us more visible. Most sellers post second-class in 3-4 days, but my theory is that people are always impatient to receive goods – I usually am – so we’ve advertised each book as aiming to be posted within 24h in the week, and always first-class. We’d make more money posting second-class, but hopefully this gives us a slight edge.

There are, incidentally, no temporal sales patterns. A few weeks ago we sold eight on the Monday, and nothing else until Thursday. The only trend I’d suggest is that we sell more in the evening, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Genre-wise, the 3-for-2 style paperbacks are without doubt the first to sell, but otherwise it’s fairly random.

We use Google Docs and Spreadsheets so we can both work on the data simultaneously, and I’ve been very impressed with the depth of the software. For example, I was quickly able to set up a system where Abi enters the weight of a book and it automatically calculates the likely postage cost1 so she can set an appropriate total price (Amazon pay you a fixed amount of postage per book, regardless of weight). I’m not much of an Excel guru and am sure this is very easy offline, but I was still chuffed to find it’s possible with GS. It’s much less daunting than Excel, too. Once I learnt the tricks – e.g., always right-click and ‘copy’ rather than CTRL-C, as the former uses clever coding that preserves cell formatting – it’s handled almost everything I’ve needed. Given that Gmail controls our email too, I feel genuinely bad that Google are getting nothing out of it. I’d happily pay a monthly subscription.

Initial expenses were enough that we haven’t quite recouped them yet. We have a big red number that’s slowly increasing towards profit…That’ll be a good day too 🙂

  1. via a lookup table rather than any clever Royal Mail web services []