Selling to Collectors, not Readers, is the Biggest Mistake Booksellers Make

The most costly mistake most online booksellers, and many online resellers in general, make is to sell to collectors rather than consumers. The saddest part of this mistake is that a lot of people do not even realize that they are making it. This mistake begins early when people go to the thrift store, the garage sale, or whatever and start looking for books. They start by only searching for books that meet the criteria of collector’s items; i.e., that first edition Hemingway novel. Then they compound the mistake by rejecting any book with a minor flaw, such as a discount sticker or rip, and only buy stuff in pristine condition. For example, many sellers refuse to touch former library books. I just sold a former library book called Small Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon for $15. Some former library books, especially non-fiction books about weird, specialized, or arcane subjects, can sell very well. One way people do this is to use the criteria set by so-called guidebooks to evaluate what they buy. That’s a terrible error because the pricing in such guidebooks is often unrealistic and a majority of potential consumers do not care about such criteria in the first case. Those guidebooks are written by collectors, not for resellers, so ignore them. Such nitpicking is a mistake because you probably leave lots of books you could sell for money on the table. It is the equivalent of sorting through a stack of $1 or $5 or $10 bills in the hopes you might find a $100 bill among them, but leaving the smaller bills on the table when you are done. A smarter strategy would be to take all the money and sort it out later at home. A $1 bill is not as good as a $100 bill, but two or three of them will still get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. When you search for collector’s items, you are depending on luck. You are hoping that you...

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