Sunday, April 23, 2023

Late April Selling Update

This weekend was about bulk lots and vintage teen books.  I first pulled together all of my extras that I do not see fit to sell individually.  These books suffer from one or more problems: broken binding, loose pages, name written in an unpleasing fashion (very large or in red marker or crayon, etc.), badly colored illustrations, bad stains, water damage, cigarette odor, musty odor, or pulp paper that has turned brown.  I also sometimes pull Nancy Drew picture covers with bookplates for the bulk lots.  Bookplates are more intrusive than names and inscriptions, and I prefer not to list those books individually unless the books are quite desirable.

After I finished with the bulk lots, I pulled out my extra Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, Nancy Drew Files, R. L. Stine, and some scattered other teen books.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm focusing on listing books where I can find many like books where I can list them very fast with minor edits to each listing.  That has enabled me to get far more books listed and with minimal effort.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

My prices are firm, as I state in every listing.  However, the prices can go down when I feel like lowering them.  In short, it must be my idea.  I don't want to be harassed, for two reasons.  First, it annoys me and adds to my stress.  Second, I feel like I'm being used.  Buyers will request that I lower a price when I know that my price is the lowest already.  I see what's going on, and that annoys me.  So basically, both reasons boil down to being annoyed.

I sometimes do lower prices, when I finally feel like it.  I also make use of eBay's feature where I can offer a discount to people who are watching my items.  I can select which items I want to discount.  Those people will then receive a message telling them about the offer and that they have a limited amount of time to decide.  

I sent around 30 of those offers this weekend for items that are being watched.  I went with 10% off.  I had another 80+ items where I did not send an offer.  Those items were either just listed or were already near the lowest price I can accept without taking a loss.  I won't send a discount on a new listing or on a cheap listing.

So yes, it could be to your advantage to add some of my items to your watched items list.  There is no guarantee that I'll select a listing that you watch, but there is a chance you could receive an offer for a discount the next time I decide to try to move some listings.

I can do the same on Etsy, although I'm leery.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

I thought there was a charge for sending a targeted offer to someone who has faved an item, but I am apparently wrong.  It seems to be free.  I might try that sometime but certainly not now since I've already taken other action.

My Etsy shop is stagnant right now and for probably at least three reasons.  First, shops always have trouble recovering traffic and sales after a closure.  They have to gain a foothold and gradually build back up to where they were before.

Second, I lost the Star Seller badge due to a buyer leaving me four stars.  If only that buyer had left me five stars or not left a review at all, then I would be golden.  I have met all of the other metrics.  I won't recover the Star Seller badge until at least June at the earliest.  It's sad that four stars can be so damaging. 

Third and most important, I am no longer participating in Etsy's free shipping program for orders of $35 or more.  I changed my minimum to $50, which makes me a very bad seller.  Sellers who participate in the $35 free shipping promotion get higher placement in Etsy's search.  I'm not playing that game, so I will deal with whatever.  If Etsy wants to hide my stuff, then they can have at it.  I'm not budging.

Since I do want to try to regain my footing on Etsy, I have put in place a blanket 10% off promotion in my Etsy shop.  This promotion runs for one week, ending on Sunday, April 30.  If I could get some sales this next week, then the shop will gain ground.

When I reopened my stores in March, I said that I couldn't guarantee how long I'd stay open and that I could shut down unexpectedly.  I'm definitely staying open.  I will remain open until early August when I will shut down for the beginning of next school year.  

The next four weeks will be stressful, and I tend to weird out by the last week of school (which will be May 15-19).  This means that during that week I will be as mentally stressed as I was when my stores were closed in December through early March, and maybe even worse.

There's something about students coming to me on May 16 and asking me what they can do to fix their grade when they haven't done their work in three months.  Are you serious?  Is there any extra credit?  No, but you could try doing the 15 assignments that you haven't turned in.  

Yeah, fun times.  The last week is always tremendously stressful.  I will hang on.  I can do it, and my stores will remain open through this final stretch of the school year.  20 more days of school!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Etsy's Offsite Ad Fees and Book Pricing

In March, I mentioned that my Etsy fees were nearly as much as my eBay fees.  Etsy's fees are lower than eBay's, but for some reason, my Etsy fees are about the same as on eBay.

I finally realized that offsite ads have caused my Etsy fees to be so high.  I did not choose to participate in offsite ads.  Several years ago, I sold more than $10,000 in items on Etsy in one year.  Bear in mind that this was not profit.  This was my gross sales before deductions.

Once a seller has reached gross sales of $10,000 in a single year on Etsy, the seller is required to participate in offsite ads for the lifetime of the shop.  My current gross sales for the last 365 days is nowhere near $10,000, but I cannot opt out of the offsite ads.

The fees for the offsite ads are steep.  Fortunately, the seller only pays a fee for offsite ads when a buyer completes a purchase after having followed the offsite ad.  That is, unless that same buyer comes back within the next 30 days to make a purchase.  If so, then that buyer's second purchase will also fall under the offsite ads.  When the offsite ad fee applies to a sale, the seller still pays the regular Etsy fees and then the offsite ad fee in addition to the regular fees.

These images show my sales from offsite ads during the last month.  I underlined the fees to draw attention to them.  Click on each image in order to see it at a higher resolution.

I figured out what my total fees were for these transactions (final value fees + offsite ad fees).  My total fees were 21%, which is higher than eBay's fees.

For this reason, I must raise prices.  I cannot control which listings get sold via offsite ads.  I must have my prices set higher in order to offset those additional fees.

Notice that two copies of Thirteenth Pearl sold via offsite ads.  This is why I got higher prices for them.  The buyers who are using Google and Bing to search for books are willing to pay higher prices.

Moving forward, my prices must be set higher, not only because of the fees but also because postage and handling costs have increased.

On eBay, my biggest change is that I will be running regular auctions.  I have been foolish to let many books that are greatly in demand sell at fixed prices when buyers are willing to pay much more.

Most all library editions will be sold via auctions from this point on.  If the books don't sell, then they could go to fixed price.  It's important that I place the books up for auction first so that interested parties all have a chance at those books.  If a certain binding is greatly in demand, then it is to my advantage to auction it off.

I also have quite a few other books that I will send to auctions first.  I have some very nice Nancy Drew early and first picture covers that I have upgraded.  I want to try those at auction first and then will go to fixed price if necessary.

I will also be starting those first printing picture covers a bit higher than what you might expect.  I think that perhaps I should start them at around $35.  The books are beginning to get very hard to source in collectible condition.  Copies that came from my collection that I've had for 20 to 30 years ought to be priced higher.

One of my favorite holidays is tomorrow.  We call it "April Day," and it is basically a fake holiday.  We don't have school, which is all that matters.  I have a three-day weekend, so I hope to be able to get some more books listed.  I've done rather well getting books listed during recent weekends, so I should be able to get even more listed.  The goal is to list as much as I can.  If the books aren't listed, then they can't sell.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Nancy Drew Action Figures Kickstarter Is Now Live

The Kickstarter for the proposed new Nancy Drew action figures is now live.

Nancy Drew Retro-Style Action Figures and an All-New Novella

You know you need them. 

Pledge and help them become a reality.  If you pledge and the Kickstarter does not meet its goal, then you are not charged.  This also means that the action figures do not get made.

If you pledge and the Kickstarter meets its goal, then you will be charged and will receive whatever is included in the tier that you choose.

If you are unable to afford any of the tiers, then you can pledge as little as $1 to support the Kickstarter.

These photos are a sample of what is offered in the different tiers. Please follow the above link for all tiers.  Click on each image to see a larger version, or go to the Kickstarter page linked above.

The campaign ends on May 17.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Overview of the Keeper of the Lost Cities Series by Shannon Messenger

I do judge a book by its cover.  On March 13, I sorted through the children's books listed on Simon & Schuster's website.  I was embarking on my quest to see what S&S's other books are like, particularly the ones aimed at the same readers as the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  Of course this quest has to do with discovering S&S's shortcomings, in that I suspect that their other output is far better than the current Nancy Drew books.

As I perused S&S's books, one book stood out.  It was one of the volumes in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.  It had great artwork, and I decided to start there.  It took me a entire month to read through the set.  The books are long, similar in length to the Harry Potter books.  There are 9 books (so far) plus a novella.  This series has consumed my life for the last month, much like what the All the Young Dudes Harry Potter fanfic did to me back in November. 

To be honest, the Keeper series has captivated me more than anything I have read in years.

I've been thinking about why this is, and it's because a certain character has at least three identities and probably four of them.  This character has likely manipulated everything while keeping his true identity a secret.  His true identity is a splendid mystery, and I'm having a blast unearthing the clues.  The author has definitely placed clues in the text including some anagrams.

I love, love, LOVE this series.  It is everything.  And it's not over.  Shannon Messenger is still writing the story, the saga, the most incredible coming-of-age tale of Sophie Foster.

Do I have your attention?

Sophie Foster is 12 years old and a senior in high school in San Diego.  Sophie has a photographic memory, and she is unpopular in school, since she is far more intelligent than all of the other students.   

Sophie can hear the thoughts of everyone else, so she keeps earbuds in her ears and plays loud music on her iPod, even during her classes, to try to muffle the noise.  This hasn't made her popular with her teachers, either.  Sophie is particularly distressed as she endures hearing her parents' thoughts while they wish she were normal like her sister.

One day Sophie learns that she is an elf and that all elves have special powers.  This explains Sophie's photographic memory and telepathy.  Sophie is taken to the Lost Cities and is enrolled in Foxfire Academy, the elven school.

The elven world, the Lost Cities, is ruled by the Council, which has 12 Councillors.  Sophie soon learns that she was created through Project Moonlark, which was envisioned by the rebel group, the Black Swan.  Sophie is unsure whether the Black Swan is good or evil.  Later, Sophie learns about another rebel group, the Neverseen.  

Sophie is caught in the middle of the three factions.  She is left wondering who to trust and why she was created by the Black Swan.

Fun fact:  The elven boys are all in love with Sophie, and she has no idea.  Sophie is so used to being hated by everyone that she fails to notice how much the elves admire her.  She's completely oblivious as she fends off attacks by the rebels.  Dex, Fitz, and Keefe all adore her.  While Sophie makes mistakes due to her not understanding the elven world, she is also held in an exalted status by everyone.  Everyone thinks she is completely awesome.

So you see, not all books have to have characters that are so flawed that everyone laughs at them.  That has nothing to do with relatability.  Some series book fans keep trying to excuse S&S by saying that Nancy Drew needs to be relatable.  No, she doesn't.  I'll step back off my soapbox. 

This series is fantasy, which I like under certain circumstances which are met by this series.  I dislike fantasy that is set in strange worlds that I have trouble visualizing.  I do like fantasy that is set in our world in an alternate society unknown to regular humans or in another world that is similar to ours.  That basic premise fits Harry Potter, the Narnia books, and the books written by Brandon Mull and Rick Riordan, among others.

If you like Harry Potter or series like Fablehaven and Beyonders, please try the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.  This series is not to be missed.  I am so glad that I decided to look at S&S's offerings.  Thank goodness I did.

   1.  Keeper of the Lost Cities, 2012 
   2.  Exile, 2013
   3.  Everblaze, 2014
   4.  Neverseen, 2015
   5.  Lodestar, 2016
   6.  Nightfall, 2017
   7.  Flashback, 2018
   8.  Legacy, 2019
8.5.  Unlocked, 2020
   9.  Stellarlune, 2022

Book #8.5 is mostly an encyclopedia for the series.  However, it is vital that the novella from #8.5 be read prior to beginning #9.  Important plot developments occur in the novella.

An event occurs in one of the early books that I just didn't buy.  I felt that the author left out too many details, and that usually means that information is being purposefully withheld so as to mislead the reader.  As I read further, I couldn't get past that scene.  I kept wondering if I was right that what was believed to have happened did not actually happen.

As I continued reading, I searched the previous books for clues.  I noticed anagrams involving many of the names.  After a certain secret was revealed, I picked up on an important anagram that pointed to that secret.  I kept thinking of the one scene that bothered me, and I searched the books for a certain name, hoping to find the full name so that I could try to find an anagram.  I felt like I had seen the full name, but strangely, I was having trouble locating it through Kindle's book search function.

I wanted to see if this character's full name could be rearranged to make an anagram connecting with one or two other characters.  Remember, I mentioned that a certain character has three or four identities.  If I could draw a connection, then it would prove that I was right about the scene with missing details.

I finally found the full name that I needed.  I immediately pulled one character name out of it, and I felt that this was not a coincidence.  I was left with a group of letters that seemed to have no meaning, but I suspected that something was there.

I kept rearranging the letters, sometimes pulling out a word that then led to a dead end.  Finally, I pulled out a certain word that specifically described a second character.  Oh!  I now had the name of one character, a specific word that pointed directly to a second character, and then some more letters left over.  I pulled out the word "and."  I looked at the five remaining letters, and then I saw it.  That other word had significance as well. 

I had the name of the first character, a specific word describing a second character, plus the word "and" followed by a specific word describing a third character.  

I was astonished.  There was no way these words were a random coincidence.  I couldn't believe that I had solved an anagram by myself and that it had meaning.  It told me that what I suspected was true!  I was on such a high the rest of the day.  I was so excited!

I was perplexed when I finished reading the series and got online to find no mention of this anagram.  Seriously, am I expected to believe that I have solved an anagram that hasn't already been posted everywhere online?  I don't get it.  I am proud of myself, though.  It took me between 15 and 30 minutes to solve the anagram.

I'm now reading the series again, as I detailed in my previous post.  While I am completely convinced that I'm right, I want to gather more evidence.  This is for my own personal satisfaction and well-being, since I'm going to have to wait one or more years to find out for sure.

Before I close, I want to mention that the books are written in a modern fashion.  At times, they have short sentences and modern punctuation styles used for emphasis.

The books are very, very exciting at times, and at other times, they slow down.  This is usually the case with books that are very long.  They do have slow spots.  These books tend to have extremely lengthy discussions that go on and on.  This is realistic, since in real life we do discuss our problems at great length.  I did enjoy the conversations, but I also got anxious at times because I wanted to find more clues about my theory. 

I will be hashing out my theory in a series of future posts.  These posts will be marked as spoilers so that you can avoid them unless you've already read the series.

I highly recommend this series.  Please give it a try if you have enjoyed other similar fantasy books.  

Sunday, April 16, 2023

My Keeper of the Lost Cities Obsession

I spent one month reading the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, beginning on March 13 and ending on April 13.  As soon as I finished, I started over with book #1.  I am now reading through the set a second time.

This all began during spring break after I finished reading John Benton's books.  I've been wanting to investigate Simon & Schuster's other children's book offerings, to see if their average children's book is of higher quality than the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  I browsed through S&S's children's book category, making sure that I was browsing within the subcategory where the Nancy Drew Diaries series is listed.  

Keeper of the Lost Cities jumped out at me due to its attractive cover art.  I wasn't in the mood for reading a children's fantasy book; after all, I had just finished reading vintage teen books about prostitutes and drug addicts.  However, I wanted to see what S&S has been up to while they've been neglecting Nancy Drew.  This was as good of a place to start as anywhere else.

I read the sample of the first book on Amazon, and it seemed really good.  Why not?  I purchased the first book, leading to this obsession that I now have.

Are these books better than the Nancy Drew Diaries series?  I'd say so... by a lot.  

The author has left clues all over the place, including anagrams.  Some of the anagrams are decoys to throw readers off, but other anagrams are deeply significant.  At least, I think they are.

The series is still in progress, but I have found an anagram pointing to what I believe is the big secret.  When I ran a Google search the other day, there were no results.  How strange.  The book that has this clue was published in 2014.  I cannot possibly be the only person who has figured out the anagram. 

I posted about it on Reddit a few days ago to see what would happen.  I got some downvotes at first.  I have upvotes as well, and it appears that I've shocked some people.  It's weird to be the person who has found the anagram.  Usually I'm reading other people's theories and getting my mind blown.  I am now one of the people with a theory.

Even though I can't find evidence online of anybody else cracking the anagram, I'm sure that others have decoded it.  I cannot be the only person who's figured it out.  Other people just haven't posted about it online.

Admittedly, I haven't looked hard online.  I've been put off by some of the discussions that I've read, so I don't feel like reading anything else.  I'll just enjoy the books by myself.  I'm not interested in hashing out whether the books have enough diverse characters.  I just want to discuss theories, not worry about whether a children's book has enough political correctness.

The clue is in an anagram of one character's full name, and I won't say anything else.  I decided that I wanted to use Post-it page markers to flag where four different characters appear.  I'm confident that a pattern will emerge.

The visual with the page markers is something that I wanted, but I needed physical copies.  While I had marked dozens of passages in my Kindle books, I wanted to be able to see where certain characters appear.  On Friday, I made the decision to acquire physical copies ASAP, like no later than Saturday.

I had to feed this obsession.

The problem is that the Oklahoma City bookstores are in other parts of the city.  Where I live is less densely populated, so most chains avoid my area.  Large companies fail to understand how spread out the eastern Oklahoma City metro is.  People drive in from the rural areas east of the city to shop in Midwest City.  Since companies don't know that, they don't realize that Midwest City could support some of these stores.  The closest Barnes & Noble is 20 miles away, which is a 40 mile round trip.  I checked the prices on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The books were cheaper on Amazon, but I was going to have to pay expedited shipping in order to acquire them in one day.  

I had to decide whether I was going to drive 20 miles to obtain them or whether I was going to pay $14.68 shipping to get the books delivered from Amazon.  I compared the cost and found that I was only going to save about $2.00 if I drove to Barnes & Noble.  However, the gasoline cost probably would have been around $7.00.  Therefore, it was more expensive to drive to the store, besides the time involved.  I very quickly decided to pay the $14.68 shipping.

Here are the books.  They are lovely.

I did not purchase a physical copy of book #9.  It is only available in hardcover, and I thought that $16.99 was a bit expensive since I already have the Kindle edition.  I'm mainly interested in marking the locations of certain character appearances up to around book #7, so I really didn't need book #9 in a physical copy.

I have already started marking pages.

I have done most of book #1, and I have also marked the location of the important name in book #3.  I hope to have most of my markers in place by next weekend so that I can decide if my theory is right.

I will be posting a series overview which will be spoiler free.  I plan to post about my theory in future posts, which will be marked as spoilers. 

I implore you to try this series if you have ever enjoyed reading series like Harry Potter, Fablehaven, Beyonders, or Percy Jackson.  Really.  Please give these books a try.  I can't promise that you'll like them, but you don't want to risk missing out on something that you might really love.

If you do try these books and end up liking them, please let me know.  It would make me happy.

Friday, April 14, 2023

The Burden of Being Visible in a Hobby

Those people who are more visible in a hobby often end up drained, sometimes even leaving the hobby.  The most memorable instance was when Rick Brant collector Jim Ogden disappeared in 2012.  He had a Rick Brant website, ran a Rick Brant group, and had published a Rick Brant guide.  We will never know why Jim abruptly disappeared from his online presence, never to contact any of us ever again.  He passed away on March 9, 2023.

Jim Ogden's Obituary

Godspeed, Jim.  We don't know why you left, but you had a lasting influence on our hobby.

Before I continue, I want to include a lengthy comment that I made on Facebook, since it is relevant to this post.

I can think of several reasons why a prominent collector would decide to withdraw. However, it's unusual for someone so prominent to make such a sudden break and never make contact again, not a single time to my knowledge. He did have a Facebook account, but he stayed away from all of us.

I was very prominent in the Zorro fandom from 2001 until around the time everyone moved to Facebook. Probably around the time Jim vanished from his Rick Brant group was when I began to pull back from Zorro. I ran a very active Yahoo! group for one of the Zorro television series (Family Channel New World Zorro version, 1990-1993).

I kept a contact link open. I have two Zorro websites. I continue to pay the monthly fees. I recently moved them to GoDaddy to get them out of Yahoo!'s clutches. I haven't disappeared, but I no longer run a group. I have a link to this Facebook page (Jennifer's Series Books) at the bottom of each Zorro site, and a few times per year someone will contact me through this page.

They don't contact me often, but they know where to find me. They don't know why I stay away, but I have a very good reason.

Another fan became unbearable.  They contacted me often.  It was kind of a stalker situation. Some of you have told me that it is a shame that I left.  Just understand that it was better to remove myself from that situation.  That fan took the joy away from me.  There was no way that I could continue.  Another fan removed herself at the same time that I did.  The two of us were targeted for a particular reason, and it was best that we escaped.

Everyone else has carried on.  As new Zorro Facebook groups have been created, one person always invites me.  I do join, even if I don't participate.

At least twice per year, I'll be tagged in one of the Zorro groups, and I do respond.  I am reachable even though I'm standing in the shadows.  They wish I would participate more, but that ship has sailed.  At least I'm reachable.

So I do understand reasons why someone would make a complete break from contact with other enthusiasts.  It's just disturbing for someone so very prominent never to keep a line of communication open.

I also want to give you an idea of what kind of situation this was.  Many of you remember two very needy, aggressive series book fans who used to be in the Facebook groups.  One fan was a disabled young man, and the other fan lived in a nursing home.  These fans constantly asked for free books.  They asked in the group repeatedly and sent many private messages, acquiring many free books. 

They were highly disruptive, and we removed them.  Both fans have multiple Facebook accounts, and we've had to block the other accounts upon their future attempts to rejoin the group. 

My Zorro situation was similar in that this person constantly harassed us two fans who collected memorabilia associated with the show.  He also interfered with eBay auctions.  The situation was toxic and was impacting my health.  I finally concluded that the only way to end the situation was to distance myself.  I gradually made myself not care as much and pulled away, which resulted in this fan leaving me alone.  Sure, he won, but I was happier.  

I will be selling some Zorro items in the next six months that could interest this fan.  I'm certain that he will surface instantly and will contact me begging me to sell the stuff that I will never sell.  That happened the last time I offered something on eBay. 

He's a desperate fan who won't quit.  He creates multiple IDs, so there's no way to keep him from creating another ID for contact purposes.  That's why I had to withdraw from my interest in Zorro.  It was unbearable.

Let's get into the rest of the post.

Being heavily involved (group moderation, writing collector guides, blogs, selling) in a hobby takes its toll.  People focus on those who are highly visible and expect them to solve every problem.  I have been told in confidence by someone prominent that they feel used at times.  I don't quite feel used, but I do feel that people take me for granted, expect too much of me, believe that I can answer any random question on command, and sell them books at low prices.  Perhaps I do feel used, even though I don't consciously think of it that way.

The worst of all is group moderation.  I am overall okay at the moment, but I wanted to flee as recently as early March.  I briefly considered whether it was finally time to cut myself free of moderating a large Facebook group.  That was at least 50% caused by my thyroid condition, which destabilizes my mental state when my levels are off.  However, the other 50% was caused by my increasing dislike of running a Facebook group.  
I remain dissatisfied, but I can keep going for now as a group moderator.  I don't see doing it forever.  As long as I still care about the group, I will continue.  Once I finally decide that I don't care enough, then I will let it go.  The series book collecting groups are just not that fun anymore. 

I want to read good discussions.  I'm talking about when people actually take the time to write at least a few sentences of insightful commentary.  That's what I want, and that is what motivated me to start a blog and create a Facebook group. 

My greatest desire in the series book collecting community is to be able to read good discussions.  Those discussions are minimal at best, these days.  I wish we could change that, but I don't know how.  I can't do it alone.

I've tried.  Every so often, I take the time to write up a post for the Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books group (Collecting group).  For instance, I might photograph my Vicki Barr books and post the photos in the Collecting group along with general series information.  It results in some discussion, but it peters out fast.  Some people use the opportunity to pick my brain, which gets exhausting fast.

They will ask random questions on my post.  Or they'll make an innocent statement that irks me to no end.  They'll say, "I've never seen some of these images before.  Thanks for posting them!"  They mean well, but I feel disappointment because I placed the images on my website some 20 years ago.  Yet another person doesn't know that my Series Books for Girls website exists, and I wonder why I ever bothered.  I probably shouldn't be annoyed.  It's a sign that I'm getting burned out.

You might have noticed that I no longer moderate the Sleuthing for Vintage Children's Series Books group (Sleuthing group).  I stepped down from moderating in late August 2022.  I never wanted that group in the first place.  I only created it because a prominent collector had been banned from the existing series book selling group and that person didn't like being unable to offer books in the Collecting group when we disallowed sales from that group.  I created the group for that person, who then never used it.

Running the Sleuthing group was an extreme nuisance that I hated.  It was just constantly having to tell people to put prices in their posts and constantly declining off-topic books.  I never wanted to run a selling group, so I finally quit.  I seldom check the group, since I find trying to buy on Facebook to be annoying and stressful. 

That was a lesson learned.  Never take on an unwanted task solely to appease somebody else.  It's never worth it.

In February 2022, I removed myself from another group I created, Vintage Chapter Books for Children (Chapter group).  I never wanted that group either, but I didn't mind watching over it that much since it had no problems.  We finally had to remove a prominent member from the Collecting group due to disruptive behavior that was aimed squarely at me.  I knew that I could no longer emotionally deal with being in a group with that person.  I removed myself from the Chapter group so that this person could be allowed to remain in that group. 

Most content that I post on Facebook is now just on my own Facebook page and in my own group that is linked to my Facebook page.  I mostly dislike posting in the larger groups.  I find that I generally get better responses on my page and in my group than I do in the large groups.  I suspect that this is also because some of you, like me, are no longer that comfortable in the larger groups.

I have another reason why most of my content must be on my Facebook page and in my own group. 

In the Collecting group, we have had a problem with sellers using the group to slyly promote their listings.  They might ask a question about a certain book, using the actual photo that will appear in the listing.  The book then goes up for sale within a day or so. 

We've had sellers post about their "book finds," but when they do, we can tell that something is off about the "find."  We do give them the benefit of the doubt in case we are misreading the situation.  Last fall, a seller kept posting his "finds," and a couple of members asked leading questions.  They sensed something strange.  The member posted the name of his online store in answer to one of the questions.

We warned this person that his posts were problematic.  They did it again, and the "book finds" began to be listed in their AbeBooks store within a few hours of the post.  I removed that person from the group.

Since I am a rule enforcer, I must follow the rules to the letter.  I can never post anything in the group that I might be selling within the next... oh, say three to six months.  People watch me a like a hawk and expect me to follow the rules strictly.  And so I should.

Most of my interesting observations are made when I am photographing books just before I list them on eBay or Etsy.  I can't post those observations in the group since I am in the process of listing those books.

Just last weekend, I noticed the brilliant ink on the spine of two cello Trixie Belden books from a lot that I purchased recently.  Most of the books will be sold within the next few months.  I had to post on my own page instead of in the group.

Awhile later, I was preparing to list Hardy Boys paperbacks.  I saw #90 and verified that it wasn't the first printing.  The first printing of Hardy Boys #90 has a defective binding.  I decided to make a post about how the first printings of Hardy Boys #90 and Nancy Drew #83 have defective bindings.

I wanted to put the post in the Collecting group, but I couldn't list a Hardy Boys #90 for sale that day if I were going to post about it.  I then saw that I already had one for sale that was listed last year, so I set that book aside and didn't list it.  I then proceeded with my post in the group.

I must be constantly mindful of everything I say and do in the group.  I am not allowed to just enjoy myself.  When I let my guard down, I open the door to criticism. 

It weighs on me.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Early April Selling Update

These are the boxes of books that I packed up around two months ago. 

Click on any image in order to see it at a higher resolution.

My current goal is to list some books each weekend.  To make it easier, I have been selecting like books where I can list quite a few using almost the same description.  As I make additional progress, I will begin listing a more random selection of books in the coming weeks.

My progress on my unlisted extras freed up some shelf space.  I selected the middle box on the right in the above photo.  I got those books unpacked.  These photos show most of what was in that box.

The solid blue Nancy Drew books are from a nice set that I purchased a couple months ago.  I may price the books at around $20 each.  That may seem very high, but I believe that many buyers prefer books without jackets.  These particular books present quite well as they are.  

In fact, look how much buyers paid for tweed Nancy Drew books from my Etsy shop today.  The prices shown are each buyer's total cost including sales tax and shipping.

Value is subjective.  Some buyers won't pay more than around $5.00 each for tweed Nancy Drew books.  However, other buyers are willing to pay nearly as much for a bare tweed book as they would a book in dust jacket.  Some buyers don't like dust jackets at all and might pay a premium price in order to avoid them.  I'm not kidding, as strange as that might seem.

I must raise my prices, which is why I want to aim for $20 each on the solid blue Nancy Drew books.  I have already been listing books at higher prices than I did last year.  Shipping costs (both postage and supplies) are getting to be prohibitively high.  Take a look at my order from Uline from yesterday.

If I only sold a few books per month, I'd recycle boxes and not pay for them.  At my level, I just can't do that for several reasons.  In short, reusing boxes would take up too much space, time, and trouble.  It would be a mess and a nuisance. 

Uline's prices per box go up each time I place an order.  The UPS shipping from Uline to me also goes up most every time.  It used to cost around $60 to $70 shipping on orders of this size.  The boxes now cost me an average of $0.91 each.  Years ago, my cost per box was around $0.50.  I use the small boxes (9 x 6 x 3) on as many transactions as I can, since they cost less.  They are also easier to pack and require less padding.

I purchase blank newsprint paper for padding, and that's another prohibitive cost.  I also have to pay for tape, which is also rising in price.

I have gotten lucky twice in the last year and found some copy paper on Walmart's clearance aisle due to the packaging being damaged.  The paper was all there and was fine.  Half price paper helps a little bit.

I've had to raise my shipping prices but not all the way to covering my costs.  Raising the prices of the books some as well also helps me cover the costs.

It's a bad situation all around, but we must make the best of it.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Monday, April 3, 2023

Final Thoughts on the Living Hope Library Series

People love banning books, but it doesn't work, at least not in the way that they want.  The act of banning a book draws attention to it. 

I've mentioned several times how someone didn't want the John Benton books in the Vintage Teen Books group.  They gave these reasons, which I have slightly rephrased and reformatted.

  • The books have a lot of victim-blaming in their titles.

  • The covers and summaries contain victim-blaming.

  • Some sex workers don't want to be sex workers.

  • Some sex workers are hurt or killed.

  • The books shouldn't be allowed because we don't know the full content.

  • We don't know how unjust women are being judged or talked to.

I am mystified as to how titles like Carmen or Tracy could be interpreted as victim-blaming.  I mean... the titles are their names...?

Perhaps this person meant the promotional blurbs.

A desperate young woman is engulfed in crime—and its consequences.

A young man's habit becomes a matter of life and death.

She could con her way into anything—except happiness.

These blurbs state facts about each protagonist.  The victims are depicted as victims.  As to the summaries, the same is true.

The women most certainly don't want to be sex workers.  That's the point.  The books were used to save women from prostitution.  Benton and his wife gave his books to women who were on the streets and in jail.  Some of the women read the book that they were given, relating to the content, and were then moved to contact the Walter Hoving Home.  How is this bad?  The books helped women escape from an endless cycle of prostitution and drug abuse.

Due to the complaint, I became curious about the books.  This is what I wrote last year.

When ----- complained about your post, I became curious.  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 finally read one this week.  I liked it a lot, so I decided to purchase the rest.  And here we are.  It's ironic that -----'s complaint led me to paying attention to a set of books that I otherwise would have ignored.

To everyone:  I'm not being flippant.  That is just what happened.  Sometimes what happens is not what we expect.  I never expected that I would want all of these books.  I wasn't interested when ----- posted about them originally.

So there you go.  I never would have paid attention to the books if someone hadn't insisted that we not allow discussion of them. 

I want to address some other points made by the person who complained.  They were concerned about how the victims were treated.  Well, yes, victims aren't treated well.  Should we sweep that under the rug?

I've always been aware that prostitutes are treated poorly by their pimps, but I never stopped to think about exactly what that meant.  Now I know.  Benton made it real for me.  The women are used and abused in the worst way possible.

These books made me think about how the prostitute has the liability.  She is at risk of being arrested, while the pimp, who takes all of her money, stays hidden behind the scenes. 

I'm not sure how much this person's reason for wanting the books banned had to do with "how the girls are treated."  I suspect that the underlying reason was because the books are Christian books.  So what if they are? 

When I started to publish the reviews of these books, I removed the religious references from the first few summaries.  I then decided that anyone who reads this blog ought to be able to handle a brief mention of God or Jesus.  One of the biggest problems we face today is that people are too sensitive.  That, of course, was the problem with the person who complained about the books. 

I wish to digress briefly.  Nothing is wrong with being sensitive.  We need to be sensitive to the feelings of others.  I am sensitive myself, and I try not to hurt others' feelings.  That's why I didn't post any quotes including the homophobic content.  I know that quite a few of my readers are gay, and I know that the content would hurt you.  So, I am sensitive.  But I won't disallow books to be posted in a group just because they could contain hurtful content.  People who don't want to read the books shouldn't read them.  They can scroll past posts that they don't like.

In reviewing the books, I am not promoting religion and am not even concerned about that part of the content.  I read the books because they are thrilling and fun to read.  I guess I read the books for the wrong reasons.  Regardless, I did enjoy them.

I am grateful to the person who complained as I otherwise never would have read any of the books.  It worked out well for me, in the end.

Certainly the books are a bit grim.  I found the early books to be hilarious.  The later books were still interesting, but I found that they had begun to wear on me.  The content was so heavy that I found that it was impacting my mood.  The books are disturbing, because they are based on true stories.  People live like the characters in these books.

The highpoint of the series for me was when I read about Lori stripping off her clothes and running through the drugstore yelling, "Yippee!  Yippee!  Yippee!"  So memorable and fun.