Monday, June 27, 2022

Keeping a Facebook Group from Being Boxed In

This is an update on my post, "The Growing Pains of a Facebook Group," and it is also strongly tied to my post, "Gatekeeping of Opinions in the Facebook Groups."

Last month, I once again explained the focus of the Vintage Teen Books group to members.  As a result, several people went off on me, saying that I was wrong about the group's focus and that I needed to "do better" with my moderation.

I didn't write about all of the comments that members made.  I now want to focus on one complaint that I skipped mentioning last month, since it had to do with gatekeeping.  In fact, this came from the same person who had previously accused a member of being a "mansplaining male," detailed in my post about gatekeeping in the Facebook Groups.

What happened is that somebody looked up the book and found out about the overweight characters.  They said that the book featured fat-shaming and bullying.  Someone else responded to that comment saying that social norms were different back in those days and that the book should be read with an open mind.  The first person then went off on the second person, calling them a "mansplaining male" and saying that they were trying to explain women and eating disorders.  The first person then reported the second person's comment to the mods. 

The person who had made the comment about the "mansplaining male" then complained last month about John Benton's teen books.  John Benton was a reverend who ran the Walter Hoving Home in New York, and he wrote books based on the experiences of the girls who went through the program.  The girls were drug addicts and prostitutes and were saved through their conversion to Christianity.

On May 9, this person wrote, "In light of what is going on with Roe v Wade and other issues in the news, I don't think they should be allowed again... books like those should not be posted because we would never know their complete content and don't know just from the summary how unjust women are being judged or talked to in them."

On May 9, I responded as follows:

This leads us onto a slippery slope.  Books that are 20 to 40 (or more) years old typically have content that is now unacceptable.  If we start disallowing content that could offend someone, then we will end up boxing ourselves in.  I know this from past experience with other groups.

If we say that certain books with potentially objectionable content are banned from the group, then some members will start pushing for lots of books to be excluded from the group that shouldn't be, simply because they don't approve of those books.

I then looked up the books and added this response:

I read some reviews.  I don't see a problem, and I don't want the post taken down.  We will not start censoring which books within our focus are mentioned in this group.

Many books in this group have themes or passages that are now offensive.  We might as well disband the group if we start disallowing books that could offend some members.

If any books seem offensive, my suggestion is for members to scroll past the books and ignore them.

I thought that settled it.  Meanwhile, I had become curious about the books.  I wanted to know exactly what was in John Benton's books that made the books unacceptable for discussion. I ordered four of the books so that I could see what they are like.

I read one last week.  I liked it a lot, so I decided to purchase the rest.  I then posted about my actions in the group.  That led to what happened on Friday.  On my post about the books, the member who had complained on May 9 made this statement.

with the OVERTURNING of R v W today, I am leaving this weird group that is supposed to be about safe young adult lit!

They also stated, "[T]here are gay members of this group!" followed by "who won't feel safe in this group for long!"

I was initially quite puzzled.  I wrote:

I find these statements to be perplexing. Many members of my groups are gay.  I am protective of those people and will not tolerate homophobic comments.

This book, Denise, does have some very offensive statements about gay men. I cringed when I read them.  When I review this book in the near future, I will mention that the book contains offensive homophobic statements.  I will not quote them.  I don't want those statements in my blog or in this group.

I finally realized that this person made an assumption about what I think about gay rights because I am reading some books written by a Christian.  Furthermore, they are making assumptions about what I think about the Roe v. Wade decision and are tying it to what Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion.  What I am reading has nothing to do with current events.  The two should not be conflated.

Someone asked what the Supreme Court decision has to do with the group.  I wrote:

Some people are so sensitive that they cannot stand anything that contradicts their own view of the world.  I've been in this position many times where someone wants the group to be different.  They eventually leave when they can't change my mind.  I do feel that it's best that she decided to leave since these books upset her so much.

What she doesn't understand is that if I start agreeing to ban discussion of what she wants, then other people who have different world views will ask for certain books to be banned from discussion.  I can think of quite a few books that deeply religious people might dislike, like all of the Dark Forces and Twilight Where Darkness Begins books.  I'm not going to say that certain books are okay and others aren't other than enforcing the main guidelines of the group.

After I wrote my explanation of why the person complained about John Benton's books, a second person, who took me to task last month, decided to have another go at me.  This second person is the one mentioned in my previous post who said that I was "nitpicky, impersonal, and unwelcoming."  I almost removed that person from the group last month.  I decided to give them another chance since it was possible that they were just having a bad day.  They told me this:

I find your philosophy puzzling.  Surely the point is that the content is not condoned or validated by its presence in the group, and that's why.  That makes sense.  [T]his should be explained to be people who are upset.  You did try a little, but then you belittle the person.  Not necessary.

Since it is now apparent that this person has a problem with me and will not stop, I have removed them from the group.  

I did later consider that placing a disclaimer in the group rules does have some merit.  I subsequently decided that making a disclaimer would likely cause more trouble in the long run.  The people who cannot stand anything that is not politically correct should just leave the group if they are bothered.  Nearly everyone knows without being told that the moderators of groups do not condone offensive content found in old books.  

I am fighting to keep the Vintage Teen Books group from being boxed in.  That is what some of these people are trying to do.  I cannot allow it to happen.  

If I agree to ban books from discussion due to the mention of religion, abortion, or sex, then we will become more and more boxed in with cumbersome rules and fewer books allowed.

I have figured out how to clearly describe the focus of the Vintage Teen Books group:  pre-2000 young adult books that feature characters of ages 15-19.  All books that fit the criteria are fine, regardless of whether they feature werewolves, prostitution, or light fluffy romance.  

I do plan to read and review John Benton's teen books.  They are interesting to me.  My favorite teen books are the ones where the protagonist has a real struggle.  Girls caught in an endless cycle of prostitution and drug addiction struggle mightily.  The books aren't for everyone, but I am enjoying them.  John Benton's books have gotten me back into reading vintage books for the first time in nearly three months.  I am not backing down.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

2 Important Updates for Online Sellers

If you sell on an ecommerce site, then you are likely already aware of two important developments, one of which has been in effect since January 1.  The other will go into effect on July 1.  If you sell person-to-person online, you may not be aware of both developments.

If you live in the United States, hopefully you have been reporting your gross annual earnings to the IRS.  If not, then you will be doing so beginning with tax year 2022.  The threshold for sites to automatically report gross earnings to the IRS has been lowered to $600.  This low threshold will capture nearly all online sellers.  It does include earnings on sites like Facebook as well as funds received through PayPal, Venmo, and all other services.  Here is a screen capture of an information page on eBay.  Click on the image in order to see it clearly.

The other development concerns shipping to Germany.  Beginning July 1, sellers will be required to license their packaging.  In order to be compliant, packaging must be recyclable, and sellers will be required to pay an annual fee of 39 Euro.  Sellers who ship to Germany without licensing their packaging could be fined 200,000 Euro.  So, this is important.

I sell infrequently to Germany, and I am not willing to pay an annual fee of 39 Euro for the privilege of shipping no more than one or two packages to Germany per year.  eBay has made it clear that they will disallow sales to Germany for any seller who doesn't comply.  However, I have already blocked sales to Germany so that I don't have to worry about it.

Etsy will likely also block sales to Germany, but they are being more vague about it.  I believe that Etsy will block my sales to Germany on July 1, but I don't want to take the chance.

Sellers must use calculated shipping on Etsy when they wish to block individual countries.  I have reasons for not wishing to use calculated shipping.  Since I'm not willing to change my flat rate shipping, I had to remove worldwide shipping as an option.  I then entered specific international shipping options for Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.  I seldom ship outside of those four countries.

If you live outside of those four countries, I am still willing to ship to you, so long as you don't live in Germany.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Inflation, Low Sales, and Targeted Offers

Yesterday I explained how I have some books set aside that are slated to go into bulk lots.  Today I divided up the Nancy Drew books into possible bulk lots.  It worked out better than it usually does, and I found a place for each book.  This is what I have in mind.

The bulk lots will likely be listed sometime in the next few days.  When I price them, I will add together what the books cost, what postage will be, and what the fees will be.  I will then add a few dollars to the total, and the result is the Buy It Now price.  It is an effective means of getting books to disappear fast.  Buyers love sets of cheap reading copies.  Sometimes my bulk lots go to sellers who need some cheap inventory.  

Sales are horrible right now.  Gas prices and the resulting inflation are the biggest reasons.  Some people in the government want us to think that inflation isn't that bad right now and that the situation is improving.  Inflation is very bad, and the situation is most certainly not improving.

Around 2 years ago when I cautiously ventured forth from my self-imposed lockdown, I started using Walmart Pay on my phone to pay for my purchases at Walmart.  I liked using Walmart Pay because I didn't have to touch the register.  I have continued to use Walmart Pay.  It's easy, and I don't have to mess with paper receipts.  

All of the purchases I have made at Walmart for the past two years are saved in my account with the prices I paid.  I can search my transactions for certain items and see the price increases over the last two years and the especially noticeable price increases of the last six months.  

In the last two years, Purina wet cat food has increased by 25%.  Bottled Pepsi has gone up by 55%.  Bacon is now 75% higher.  Some products are even 100% higher.  Inflation is appallingly high.  It's not getting better.

This is why sales on eBay and Etsy have mostly halted.  The diehards are still buying.  I continue to make purchases.  When I list something special, it sells immediately.  However, the average person has quit making discretionary purchases.  Gasoline and food costs are taking their extra funds.  The current situation is bad.

Sales will remain low regardless of what I do.  It does concern me that my listings will be suppressed on eBay and Etsy due to low sales.  It's important that I sell some books so that I am not penalized in the search results.  

I first looked into making targeted offers on eBay.  I decided to try it out.  eBay allows sellers to select some of the items that are being watched by prospective buyers.  I like that I can choose which ones.  I chose items that have been up for sale longer, and I sent offers to those watchers.

I do not know who is watching my books on eBay.  I just see a list that shows me which items are being watched, and I then can select the items for which I want to send offers.  I made a few sales last night and today as a result of the offers.

On Etsy, I cannot pick and choose which items.  I have to run a campaign where offers are sent to all prospective buyers who fave an item.  The campaign would have to run indefinitely.  No, I want a one-time offer.  Also, on Etsy, I have to pay $0.10 for each targeted offer that is sent.  That would add up quickly.  So, no deal.

eBay is better for targeted offers, since I can choose and do not have to pay an additional fee.

I decided that I wanted to do something on Etsy.  My sales on Etsy have slipped so that they are worse than my eBay sales.  Both sites are bad, but Etsy is far worse.  I need some sales so that Etsy doesn't bury me in the search results.

I am now running a two-day sale on Etsy for 197 of my listings.  The sale is for 10% off.  I included all books in some of my categories, while in other categories I selected some of them.  

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

If you see this post after the Etsy sale concludes on Thursday, then the sale is over and will not be honored.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Building Bulk Lots of Books

Purchasing bulk lots of books is a great way to acquire extras and to find interesting variants.  I have acquired most of the library editions in my collection through bulk lot purchases.  The problem with purchasing bulk lots is that I end up with many bad condition books and with uneven quantities of extra books.  

I listed three bulk lots of Nancy Drew books on eBay a few days ago.  Most of the books were acquired through purchases that I made in order to acquire some hardcover Nancy Drew Files.  You will have to click or tap on photos in order see them in higher resolution.

I try to find bulk lots of bare tweed Nancy Drew books whenever I can.  These books are in high demand.  I have written about them in the past.  Buyers pay $10 or more each for bare tweed books, even when the books have some wear.  Whenever I acquire bulk lots of bare tweed Nancy Drew books, a few of them will be in bad shape.

I try to place books in bad condition near each other on a shelf as I acquire them.  In the last few days, I began organizing those books and getting them completely segregated from other books.  These photos show books that have condition problems that I have flagged as books that I intend to place in bulk lots.  

It should be obvious why many of the books are slated for bulk lots, since they have some obvious wear and tear.  Some of the blue Nancy Drew books have pulp paper, and I always place those books in bulk lots.  Some of the Nancy Drew books that look fine on the outside have significant interior condition problems, such as excessive stains, crayon, marker, or torn pages.  Other Nancy Drew books that look fine don't have significant problems, but I feel that they won't have a good chance of selling individually due to how they present.

Some books are just not worth selling individually, even though nothing is wrong with them.  The Bobbsey Twins book is an example.  There just isn't enough interest in the Bobbsey Twins series for me to sell random extras individually.  Once I have acquired some books that will fit in well with the Bobbsey Twins book, they will go in a bulk lot.  In fact, I have a copy of Black Beauty currently for sale, and I doubt that it will ever sell.  It would work as part of a bulk lot of books that would also include the Bobbsey Twins book.

After I organized the books seen in the above photos, I organized my extra bare tweed and blue Nancy Drew books which will be sold individually.

I always find it interesting to see how many extra copies I have of some titles, while I have no extras of others.  What I will do is assess the books that are slated for the bulk lots.  I will begin dividing them up into lots in such a way that will enable me to list as many of them as possible.  I have multiple copies of some bad condition books, so they cannot all go in the same bulk lot. 

Once I have begun to build the bulk lots, I will then look at my other extras.  I will focus on titles where I have more extra copies.  Hidden Staircase, Red Gate Farm, and Old Stagecoach are obvious examples where I have too many extras.  I will likely remove at least one of each, picking the worse condition copy, and will place them in with the books destined for the bulk lots.

Sometimes I will sacrifice some of my extras just to make the bulk lots more enticing.  I must make the value proposition good enough for each bulk lot so that it has a decent chance of selling.  

I will probably begin building the bulk lots tomorrow.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy