Sunday, March 21, 2021

Pricing Books to Sell Online; or, Taking a Stab in the Dark

This is sort of a selling update, but it's mostly another informational post. 

I have sold 305 books since the evening of March 13.  That's a strong start, although my overstock of books is so large that it barely makes a dent in my extras.  As I list books for sale, I have to move books around.  I have to keep straight the books that have been listed and the ones that have not been listed.  I have removed some books from boxes, but I have had to replace them with other books.  

One of the biggest struggles that sellers face is the quandary of book pricing.  People frequently join the groups on Facebook to ask about pricing.  We typically tell them to run a search on eBay, select the "sold" results, and see what the prices are.  Of course, the task is actually more complex than that, but we aren't paid appraisers.  The groups would become overrun with queries about selling prices if we were to begin to answer the questions in a thorough fashion.  Instead, sellers must learn how to do it themselves.

Each seller must take a stab in the dark when pricing books for sale.  That's what I do.  I miss the mark sometimes, actually probably quite often.  I both underprice and overprice my books.  If I have overpriced, then I gradually reduce the price.  I do not take offers, since most people making offers are just trying to get the book for a bargain at my expense.

I use all of the following methods to price books.

  • what I paid for the book
  • how appealing the book would be to me if I were buying it
  • my gut feeling
  • "sold" results for the last 365 days on eBay's Terapeak price research tool
  • the price range shown on BookFinder for books currently for sale online

The first three methods are the ones that influence me the most.

What I paid for the book

When I prepare to list a book, I look at what I paid for it.  That is the single most important factor into how I price my books. 

When I receive unsolicited offers from prospective buyers, more than 50% of the offers are below my cost.  You can understand why I don't wish to mess with offers.  I don't get books anywhere near as cheaply as some people assume.  I have no time for people who want me to give away my books at below my cost.

I do sell some books below cost, but that's my decision.  Values have decreased greatly for many series books, so I have no choice but to sell below cost in many cases.  When I can price above cost, I refuse to sell below cost just so that someone else can get the book for below the current value. 

How appealing the book would be to me if I were buying it

In the past, I have been asked specifically about my Nancy Drew picture cover prices.  Why do I price some lower when all characteristics appear to be the same?  I price the books based on how much they appeal to me personally.  If the wear makes the book less appealing to me, then I price the book lower.  It's that simple.  It helps to like and collect what one sells.  I price accordingly. 

My gut feeling

I am unaware of the current value of many series books.  I have moved away from buying and selling the thick Nancy Drew books from the 1930s with dust jackets, so I actually have no idea what people are paying for them.  I do recall the values from 10 years ago.  It's been stressful when some of you have referred people to me to tell them what their early Nancy Drew books are worth.  It puts me on the spot, and I have to come up with something.  I end up giving them a range and saying that condition is very important.  

I have books to sell that were taken from my collection.  I purchased the books around 15 years ago.  I know what the books were worth then, since I can see what I paid for them.  But what about now?  I have no idea!

I wanted to list my Kay Tracey Books, Inc. picture cover books last week.  I checked Terapeak and saw that the few that sold went for around $5 or so each.  That's... really low.  What would be the point of selling the books at those prices? 

I looked at my Kay Tracey books.  The books have such nice quality paper and are in great shape.  This is an example of where my gut feeling is the only method used to price the books.  It doesn't matter what I paid for them or how very low the recent sold prices have been.  No, these books deserved better.  I priced them at $19.99 each.  Some of them have sold, so I didn't price the books too high.  

These other methods are useful but not as important as the ones just covered.

"Sold" results for the last 365 days on eBay's Terapeak price research tool

Terapeak shows all eBay sales from the last 365 days.  The tool is useful, but at the same time, it is much less useful than you would expect.  One problem is that eBay does not let sellers view the descriptions of listings older than 90 days.  We can see the title, price, and usually the image, but the information in the description, such as the condition, would be very helpful.  It's difficult to make a judgment based on a tiny picture and a sold price.

Another drawback is that sold prices from 11 months ago might not be relevant in the current market.  I often avoid Terapeak and just go to eBay's regular search which only goes back 90 days.  I can actually read those descriptions, so those results are more helpful.

For very scarce books, Terapeak is quite useful since there might be no results from the last 90 days.  With 365 days, it's much more likely to find a sold listing that matches.

The price range shown on BookFinder for books currently for sale

BookFinder aggregates the search results from major bookselling sites including eBay, Amazon, AbeBooks, and Biblio.  It is useful for seeing an overview of the asking prices for books available online.

When a search has a number of results, it's important to ignore the lowest prices and the highest prices.  The low prices are usually for books being sold by dealers like Thriftbooks, who focus on reading copies.  The high prices are for books that will probably never sell; those books are overpriced.

I have listed a number of my books by Augusta Huiell Seaman.  I have a lot of money invested in the books, and the price I paid was the primary deciding factor in how I priced the books.  There was one exception, however.

The Voice in the Dark is an extremely scarce book by Seaman.  It seldom comes up for sale.  I actually do not know how often it sells, but in the two years I was buying Seaman's books, the one I purchased was the only one that sold.  The price I paid wasn't that bad.  

I checked Terapeak and found no results, which wasn't surprising.  I checked BookFinder and found one current listing, priced at $700.  I laughed.  I know how this went.  The seller knew it was a scarce book and put a really high price on it.  That didn't help me much.  

I have the price I paid and $700.  The two numbers are so disparate as to be meaningless.  Hmm...  I feel like the book is probably worth $100 to $150, maybe.  It's a stab in the dark, which is kind of fitting for The Voice in the Dark.  That aside, I didn't dare price the book at $125, which is what I wanted to do.

I don't mind people buying my books to resell.  I truly do not mind.  Please understand that.  If I have a book for sale at $20 and you know that you can sell it for $50 or so somewhere else, then go for it.  Different sellers use different platforms.  If another seller has access to buyers who will pay more, then it is fine for that seller to purchase my books to offer to those people.

However, I do mind when a seller buys a book from me and then prices it very high, which then means that they are playing "keep away" with the book.  There are far too many books for sale online at extreme prices.  All of the sellers are playing "keep away" with the books.  I wish to avoid aiding someone in playing "keep away." 

If I sold my book for $125 and the buyer then priced it at $250, that would be fine.  At least a $250 book would have a chance of selling.  I fear that the seller of the $700 book (or even someone else) might buy my book at $125 and then place it up at $700 as well.

After some thought, I priced my book at $350.  I enjoy the humor in the situation.  After all, I am just playing "keep away" from the sellers who would then price the book too high.  I fully expect that the book will not sell.  If the book were to sell, then at least I wouldn't just be handing it to someone to price at $700.

I feel certain that the book is priced too high at $350.  I'm cautiously testing the waters by placing the book out there.  After the book doesn't sell in a few weeks, I will begin to low the price, probably in $25 increments until it sells.  

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

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