Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chasing After eBay's Top-Rated Seller Part 2

A little over one week ago, I listed a large number of items on eBay during one of its free auction listing promotions.  Those items close in the next one to three days.  My goal is to maintain my top-rated seller status.

The problem is caused by sales that continuously roll off of my record from one year ago.

The above screen capture shows the sales that will roll off in the next seven months.  Since I am right at 100 items sold in the last year, I cannot afford to slack on getting items listed on eBay.  I need to sell these numbers of items in the coming months.

My biggest obstacle in the near future is the 21 sales needed by January 20.  I have been scrambling for several months to try to get ahead of 100 sales, but I have only been able to keep my total at just slightly over 100 items sold in the last year.  I gave some details in Part 1 of this discussion.

My task is made much more difficult by the fact that auctions are once again suppressed in "best match."  While all of us who have been collecting for a while know to avoid "best match," people new to eBay are not aware.  They do not know that "best match" presents the items in a jumbled order.  This is a huge problem for Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, due to the large number of items seen in those search results.  A newbie buyer using "best match" is not likely to see any of my Nancy Drew books.

Also consider that newbie buyers are the ones who need everything and tend to be the most enthusiastic of buyers.  They are the ones who will place multiple bids on auctions.  If a significant number of those buyers are seeing the "best match" sort, then auctions will close for lower prices and fewer auction listings will sell.  

I decided to look at a few longtime eBay sellers of series books to see how they are doing.  The last time I checked on several sellers, their sell-through rate had dropped to around 10%.  

One seller who sells series books plus a good many other items has sold 162 items out of 1,522 items, which gives this seller a sell-through rate of 10.6%.  I should note that this seller has sold more items that are not books than ones that are books.  I did not want to try to separate the sales due to the high number of listings.

I checked two other sellers who almost exclusively sell series books.  Of these sellers, one has sold 5 out of 82 items with a sell-through rate of 6.1%.  The other has sold 12 out of 304 items with a sell-through rate of 3.9%.  This last one might be the most telling, since this particular seller has been extremely successful over the years on eBay.  3.9% is a horrible sell-through rate, especially for someone who has always had great traction on eBay and has never left eBay.

These low sell-through rates show how much eBay has slid in recent years.  Do not misunderstand and think that I am blaming the sellers.  Not at all.  These sellers are doing what they have always done, and their sell-through rates continue to fall.

When I first began listing on Bonanza in my Jennifer's Series Books booth, I had to figure out a way to promote my listings.  I created a Facebook page and placed links in this blog and on my website.  This was in early 2009, and only on the alternative sites did people get told that they had to promote their listings.  Now in 2012, this same advice is given on eBay's message boards.  eBay users are now telling other users that they cannot just list their items.  They need a Facebook page, and they need to promote outside eBay.

eBay has changed.  In order to have a chance on eBay, one must promote one's items.  Furthermore, Buy It Now is almost necessary, and one's items need to be inexpensive.

During last week's eBay promotion, I decided to list as much as I could and as cheaply as I could.  Since that promotion offered 10-day listings for free, I listed every auction for 10 days to maximize my exposure.  I added Buy It Now to all listings in hopes of either getting an immediate sale or forcing someone to deactivate the Buy It Now.  I aimed for each Buy It Now to be approximately 10% above the opening bid, which is the minimum amount above the starting bid price that is allowed by eBay.  Essentially, I wanted these items to serve as fixed-price items but without the listing fee associated with such listings.

I have sold several items via Buy It Now, and several items have had the Buy It Now deactivated.  Either way, I am happy since I need every single sale to maintain 100 items sold during the last year.  Counting all of the items that have sold and the current items with bids, I have met my December requirement and now have 16 out of the 21 items required for January 20.  As soon as these items close, I am immediately going to relist 26 of them to use up my remaining November free listings.  I am hoping that at least few of those will sell and that I will then be right at the 21 required items for January 20.  If I can get those items plus a few extra, then I will be okay well into the spring.

The main reason I want to keep top-rated seller is because I get a 20% discount on fees.  This really does add up to a significant savings.  If I fall below 100 items, then I lose my discount.

I want to keep my discount because I want to use eBay to help promote my Bonanza booth.  Inside each package, I send a flyer that includes a link to my Bonanza booth.  I have had a few people purchase from me on eBay in the last few months, and then make a purchase from me on Bonanza at about the item their packages arrived.  These are people who had not previously purchased from me, so the flyer is helping.

I also had one person send me a message upon receiving the package thanking me for the links.  That person was thrilled to have discovered this blog as a result of the flyer. 

Quite a few people buy on eBay who have no knowledge of where collectors gather.  They do not know about this blog, my website, my Bonanza booth, or any of the Yahoo! Groups.  Selling on eBay is an excellent way to gain exposure to a group of collectors who is outside the main circle.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reached by Ally Condie

Reached by Ally Condie was recently published.  Reached is the final installment in the Matched Trilogy.  I decided to reread Matched and Crossed before reading Reached, and I'm so glad I did.

I reviewed Matched and Crossed in this blog post, and my opinion about Crossed has changed somewhat.  I still believe that Crossed has way too much filler material, and when I reread it, I skimmed through much of it.  I no longer believe that Condie made a mistake about Xander and his secret.  I also liked Crossed better this time, but that may perhaps be because I skimmed through much of it.

Crossed has a lot of very important information, some of which the reader does not realize is important until well into the third book.  The importance of some of the information is another reason why I like Crossed better now.

Before I begin my review of Reached, I want to recap the main plot points of Matched and Crossed.

Matched is set in the Society, which controls every aspect of every person's life.  Cassia Maria Reyes is Matched with Xander Thomas Carrow.  Cassia is thrilled about her Match, since she has known Xander her entire life and is friends with him.  After the Match banquet, Cassia views Xander's microcard, which will tell her everything she needs to know about Xander.  The trouble is that another boy's face flashes on the screen, that of Ky Markham.

Cassia also knows Ky.  Cassia is drawn to Ky because of the microchip mistake and falls in love with him.  The rest of Matched deals with Cassia's feelings and her growing awareness of the flaws in the Society's ways.

Crossed tells the story of Cassia's escape from the Society and her search for Ky.  Cassia and Ky learn about the Enemy and the Rising.  The Rising is a rebellion led by the Pilot.  Nobody knows who the Pilot is.  Crossed switches between two points of view—Cassia and Ky.

In Reached, the Rising has begun, and all three of Cassia, Ky, and Xander are fully involved in some way or another.  Reached switches between the viewpoints of all three characters, with much greater success than in Crossed.  I always knew which character was the voice while reading Reached.  Each character has a unique role to play, which makes it easy to know which character is the voice.

I did not like Xander very much in either Matched or Crossed.  Xander has no personality or reason for existence in either book, so he does not matter.  I felt no connection to Xander and found him to be pointless.

This changes in Reached.  Xander has a very important role to play, and his personality comes alive.

In Reached, the arrival of the Rising wreaks havoc on the Society, just as the Rising intended.  However, the Rising's plan has unintended consequences which throws both the Society and the Rising into chaos.  The Rising scrambles to right what has gone wrong.  I dislike giving too specific of information, so I will leave it at that.

As already stated, some seemingly insignificant conversations from Crossed are discovered to be extremely important and intriguing.  Xander is finally interesting.  The ending is quite satisfying, although some of it is left open-ended.  The plot takes quite a few unexpected twists and turns.

I have read the reviews for Reached, and the reviews are quite split between people who loved Reached and others who found Reached to be boring.  The disparity is caused by how different all three books are from each other.

The first book, Matched, is more of a romance than anything else.  People who enjoy romance ended up disappointed when the trilogy took a different direction.  Crossed is an adventure story.  Some people like Crossed the best of the three books.  Reached is like neither of the preceding stories, and that is why some readers do not like it.  Reached is compelling because we see how Cassia, Ky, and Xander are changed by the Rising and we get a glimpse into what the future holds for them.

With many trilogies, and most all series books for that matter, each book has a repetitive storyline that is very similar to the previous book.  This trilogy breaks out of the mold, giving us three very different stories that are pieces of the overall story arc.

I greatly enjoyed Reached.  I found every chapter to be interesting, and to me, Reached is the best book in the trilogy.  I had no idea while reading Matched what kind of journey I would take, and that journey was fantastic.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

eBay's Best Match Placement

Experienced eBay buyers know that they should always change the sort in eBay's search from "best match" to "ending soonest."  Since eBay has had "best match" as the default for years, a good many buyers use it to search and do not see most of the results.  eBay will soon restrict the number of results that appear in "best match," which will mean that items that are suppressed will never be seen at all by any of those buyers.

Last year, eBay gave the auction listings a boost in "best match."  I was able to use the auction listings to sell items.  It was nice, and I was able to become a top-rated seller in June.  eBay is always changing its policies back and forth, and now eBay has suppressed the auction results in best match.

Originally, auction listings were given a boost, then they were suppressed.  Next, auction listings were given a boost again, now they are suppressed again.  Could eBay make a decision and stick with it?  That's why so many of us now sell elsewhere.  We can't deal with stupid changes for no clear reason.

The result is that I am struggling to maintain the top-rated seller.  I may have to let it go in January, since I will have great trouble meeting my January sales requirement of 21 items.  In theory, I should be able to meet the requirement, but since my eBay sell-through rate on auctions is around 5%, the outlook is grim.  And I thought I had it bad four years ago when my sell-through rate dropped to 25%.  I had no idea.

eBay is running another of those "by invitation only" seller promotions for unlimited free auction listings.  As usual, I was invited.  I'm not sure why eBay bothers since nothing sells.  More to the point, I'm not sure why I bother since nothing sells.  Nevertheless, I have listed a bunch of items in hopes of meeting my January sales requirement.

Since I have listed some Connie Blair and Vicki Barr books and since those searches return a small number of items, I thought I should check to see exactly where I rank in "best match."  I know my items are suppressed, but actual data would be helpful.

I ran a Vicki Barr search for "title only" and in "best match."  The search returned 121 items.  My items are #50, 58, 66, 74, 82, 90, and 98.  The situation could be worse, but it is still bad.

I next ran a search for Connie Blair for "title only" and in "best match."  The search returned 84 items.  "Best match" is supposed to favor items that have been relisted that have sold in previous listings.  It is supposed to suppress items that do not get viewed or that have been viewed many times without selling.  Therefore, I fail to understand why an overpriced $620 Connie Blair lot is #1, and it has been listed for months without selling. 

In the Connie Blair search of 84 items, my items are #43, 52, 57, 61, 66, and 71.  This is pretty bad.

I am not going to try to find my Nancy Drew items, since a "title only" search returns 9,570 results.  Applying what I just discovered with my Vicki Barr and Connie Blair searches, my highest Nancy Drew book is probably between #4,000 and #5,000.  Consider when eBay begins limiting results in its new searches.  eBay is expected to show only the first 200 items.  When that occurs, buyers will never see my items.

And that is why items don't sell on eBay.  Perhaps I should reconsider trying to keep top-rated seller and just let it go.  Once the search begins limiting results, my items will be completely invisible.  They are already halfway to invisible, so the situation will only get worse. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nancy Drew Game: The Deadly Device

I never did a writeup of Tomb of the Lost Queen, mainly because I didn't have much to say about it.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as the earlier games.  This has been a trend with recent games.  Shadow at the Water's Edge is the exception; it is one of the very best games Her Interactive has ever produced.

I just finished playing The Deadly Device.  I have to give Her Interactive kudos for coming up with different game ideas that keep the franchise going.  Each of the recent games has been very different from earlier games.  This is good, but unfortunately, I did not enjoy most of the recent games as much as the earlier games.

Gone are the annoying chores, but some chores are fun.  I hated the mundane chores that made no sense in The Secret of Shadow Ranch, but I have missed other types of chores that are important to each game.  For instance, many of the earlier games require Nancy to find certain items in order to earn money to buy necessary supplies.  In one game, Nancy has to find shells.  Those types of chores serve a real purpose, and the search for hidden objects is fun.

The recent games have had very little searching for hidden objects.  The Deadly Device does have two instances of hidden objects, but the objects are placed in such a way that they are extremely easy to find.  Only one of the two searches is vital to the game, and that one is the one that is too easy.  In that case, every single one of the objects is in plain sight all in one small room.  What is the fun in that?

The culprit is extremely obvious in The Deadly Device.  The culprit is not obvious at the very beginning, but some statements are made which clue the player in very quickly as to the culprit's identity.  By three-fourths of the way through the game, I was 100% certain, and usually, Her Interactive keeps me guessing until the final reveal.  Not this time.

Both Tomb of the Lost Queen and The Deadly Device use the plot device of Nancy getting stranded, yet it has no effect on either game whatsoever.  What is the point of having Nancy stranded when it has no effect on the game play?  I recall an early game in which a blizzard occurs.  In that game, Nancy is able to go outside until the blizzard begins, and then she is confined to the indoors.

In Tomb of the Lost Queen, a sandstorm hits.  We do hear the sandstorm, but it occurs at a stage in which Nancy is finishing up the mystery.  The sandstorm serves no purpose.

Around halfway through The Deadly Device, we learn that Nancy is stranded due to a snowstorm.  Nancy never goes outside during this game, so what is the point?  The storm is hidden from view completely and has no impact on the game play.

In conclusion, I continue to enjoy the Nancy Drew games but not as much as the earlier ones.  Her Interactive has now released 27 games since 1997.  I looked over the list, and the games changed at around #22.  I have not enjoyed #22-27 in the same way as the earlier games, with the exception of #23 Shadow at the Water's Edge, which is absolutely outstanding.

Monday, November 5, 2012

2012 Series Book Selling Trends

I have very clear memories of 2008, for many reasons, and I have been comparing 2008 to 2012 in my mind for several months.  2008 was a presidential election year and a leap year, and so is 2012. 

2008 was the year we had a series book buying frenzy on eBay, and at about that time, eBay changed to the DSR system.  I was unaffected at first, since the buying frenzy kept prices elevated and demand high.  Once the buyer who created the buying frenzy was arrested for stealing several hundred thousand dollars from her bank's vault, sales fell sharply.

In the months after buying frenzy ended, I was targeted by another eBay seller and also had a few buyers who gave me low DSRs, and my problems began.  My sales effectively stopped on eBay due to my low DSRs.

At around this time in 2008, I began a search for a new venue.  I looked at eBid, eCRATER, Wensy, and Bonanzle, as Bonanza was known at that time.  I chose Bonanzle on January 1, 2009, and I had no idea whether my choice was right.  The choice was made purely on intuition.  I would say that I went with Bonanzle mainly because the site had more appeal to me than the other three.  Now, four years later, Bonanza has worked out quite well.

My eBay sales have been up and down over the last four years.  Except for part of 2011, my eBay sales have been down. Comparing late 2008 to late 2012, my eBay sales are in the exact same position.  My sales were bad in late 2008, and once again, they are bad in late 2012.  The irony is that I now have top-rated seller status, which would have saved me in late 2008.  Now, that is not even enough.

Series book prices fell sharply after the buying frenzy and have stayed low for four years.  I wrote about the low prices in this blog post.

I have observed that Nancy Drew books with dust jackets are now selling somewhat better than they have in the four years since 2008.  I still see the prices for the ones from the 1930s as greatly reduced from what they were in 2008, but they seem to have picked up slightly, so that is a good sign.

The Nancy Drew books with jackets from the middle part of the 1940s and on sell fairly easily so long as they are in excellent condition and priced somewhere around $20 to $40.

The Nancy Drew picture cover editions from the 1960s are very strong sellers, and some titles are quite hard to keep in stock. #16 and #22 are examples of titles that tend to be good sellers in the first Nappi art.

The Nancy Drew double oval endpaper books are undesirable, but some titles are strong sellers, such as #24, #55, and #56.  I avoid listing the rest, but those three can be priced at $10 or higher and sell easily and usually fairly quickly.

I had a huge quantity of Nancy Drew books in dust jackets that I purchased in 2008, and it has taken me four years to run down that inventory, due to poor sales.  Since the sales have picked up in recent months, I have finally had to purchase more of them, although the amount I am willing to pay is considerably less than what it was four years ago.  I won't get into specific amounts for obvious reasons, but the amounts are 33% to 50% of what I would have paid four years ago.  And I can easily get them for those lower amounts.

Four years ago, a certain eBay seller was willing to pay higher prices than I was for Nancy Drew books with dust jackets.  It now appears that this seller is willing to pay less than what I am.  I was surprised at how easily I won some lots recently for well within what they can be resold.  Four years ago, I lost most large lot auctions of that type to one of around five people.

Much has changed with the prices realized for my own books for sale when comparing 2008 to 2012.  I have observed that while I tend not to price my books as high as several eBay sellers, I seem to be able to consistently get more for many of my books than what they are.  That statement sounds contradictory on the surface, but allow me to explain.

Those sellers price some books way too high, and sometimes do get those prices.  For many other books, such as most all Dana Girls books and Nancy Drew picture cover editions from the 1960s and 1970s, I tend to price my books higher and get those prices.  The eBay market has become very soft in that many sellers make the mistake of pricing desirable books at a few dollars in an auction, and the competitive bidding is no longer there.  I can price the book at double the amount in my Bonanza booth and easily get that price.  Sometimes the book sells within days, and sometimes it takes a couple of months.  Regardless, I get that higher price.

From 2008 to 2012, I increased my digital footprint significantly within the series book collecting community.  In 2008, I already had a successful website and blog, but I did not use either to market my eBay items.  I did not use them because I did not need to use them.  Paying eBay's listing fees was sufficient marketing, and the items sold with little difficulty until late 2008.

When I created my Bonanza booth on January 1, 2009, I needed to give it a name.  I thought about it for perhaps 30 seconds and used the first name that came to me, Jennifer's Series Books.  Next, I had to figure out how to make people aware of my booth.  I turned to my website and blog and used both to make people aware.  I was quite uncomfortable with promoting my books in both places.  In other words, I was uncomfortable with promoting my books to you, but I had no choice.  Happily, I have been over that discomfort for around 3 1/2 years.  The key is to make people aware but not to annoy them with the cross-promotion.

That done, I proceeded from there.  The journey has taken some unexpected twists and turns, and I have had some setbacks.  I have had to deal with eBay's ever-changing rules as I have off and on used eBay to try to promote my Bonanza items.  Some recent and upcoming eBay changes may finally end any chance of using eBay to sell books, but that is a topic for another post.

In late 2008, I only sold books on eBay and tended to get less for my books than other sellers.  Four years later, I almost exclusively sell my books on Bonanza, and in many cases, I get more for my books that do those same eBay sellers.  Bonanza is now known among the series book collecting community as a destination for series books, and my booth is fairly well known.

In four years, eBay's quality series book inventory has weakened significantly, mostly due to people like me who no longer sell on eBay.  As a seller, I am in better shape than I was four years ago.  As a buyer, I am in a worse position, since eBay's inventory has weakened considerably during the last four years.  As I look to the future, I am optimistic about my future success on Bonanza and deeply concerned that I could someday lose eBay as a place to purchase books.