Friday, July 28, 2023

More Etsy Ineptness + My Etsy Decision

Etsy continues to do strange things.  It's kind of amusing, since 15 years ago I complained about eBay endlessly.  eBay settled down years ago and quit making bizarre decisions.  Now, it's Etsy acting strange.  The latest debacle is that Etsy is hiding the item description way down at the bottom of the listing page below reviews where buyers will never see it.

Here is the top part of one of my listings (click on the image to view it more clearly).  I have cut out the user IDs and text of the two reviews seen underneath the image.  The item description used to be on the right just underneath the promotional text about free shipping.

Here is the next part of the listing under what is seen above.  Two more reviews appear, and I have also removed the user IDs and text from those reviews.  I have placed a red box around the item description.

It is so far down on the page that many buyers will never see it.  That's just asking for trouble.

I've already had problems on Etsy with truncated item descriptions.  Now they are just plain hiding the item descriptions.  Etsy seems to think that buyers only need to see the images.  Buyers certainly don't need a written description...

Etsy has started spamming my email with marketing information.  That was where I was given the advice that I mentioned in my previous post.  Since my blog post of a few days ago, I have received three more messages from Etsy with advice. 

I can regard this spam in two different ways.  Etsy could see me as a fledgling seller who needs help.  On the other hand, Etsy may be in trouble and is trying to spur me on so that they can dig themselves out of a hole.  

The first message told me this.

Huh.  So, my most popular listing has been favorited by one buyer.  Thanks, Etsy, for reminding me about what I already knew, which is that practically no one is favoriting my items these days.

I then received a message the next day with this advice.

First, my Three Investigators books are actually selling, unlike the rest of my books.  Aside from that, I'm not sure why a video would help.  I guess I could take a video of me flipping through the book.

I received another message today with the same advice that I covered in my last blog post.  Gosh, Etsy must see me as a failure.

In summary, Etsy is getting really obnoxious.  For now, I will keep letting Etsy send me messages just to see what kind of useless advice they give me.  Once I finally grow sick of it, I will unsubscribe from Etsy's marketing emails.

After much internal debate, I decided to renew most of my expired Etsy listings.  I have held some back, and those might go to eBay in bulk lots or as individual listings.

After I renewed the listings, I then sorted my inventory by highest price first.  I went down the list and lowered the prices of at least half of my books.  Maybe that will help.  Most likely it won't, since my items are still buried in Etsy's search results.  Whatever.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

The silver lining is that I can keep my stores open during the start of the school year since I'm not getting many sales.  It's a win-win situation.  Low sales... the stores stay open... the people who want to buy are able to buy.  Win-win.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Continuing to Mull Over the Etsy Situation

I'm in the process of removing some eBay listings and changing them over to bulk lots.  Every so often, it's necessary to have a fire sale.  When I set up a bulk lot, the books are typically being sold at a great discount and at a loss.  I want them to go away and hopefully fast.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Most of my eBay listings will remain as they are.  I'm not that worried about the low sales.  I figure things will get better eventually.

Etsy is a different situation.  I had been taking that situation in stride just like I continue to do on eBay.  Now, I'm getting angry.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Today I checked the placement of my Nancy Drew listings in Etsy's search and did not find the first item until the 12th page of search results.  That is unacceptable.  Etsy is hiding my stuff and acting like I need to work harder to fix the situation.  Yes, indeed.  I'm supposed to fix this.

Etsy sent me an email a few days ago.  The email is titled, "Growth takes time.  Keep going, JennifersSeriesBooks!" 

I feel insulted.  They make it sound like I'm a new seller who hasn't sold much of anything. 

Hey Etsy, check this out.  Since 2016 on Etsy, I have sold 3,868 books in 1,688 transactions.  I'm not new, and I used to be very successful on your site, but that was before you started hiding my books.

Let's just place the blame squarely where it needs to be, which is on Etsy.

A few weeks ago, I received this gem from Etsy.  

Our research shows that a quick settings update may boost your annual sales by about $6.00.  In the last year you processed 92% of your eligible orders on the weekend.  Now you have the option to update your processing schedule to include weekend days, showing shoppers faster delivery in some cases with little or no change to how you work.  Etsy shoppers have shown they're more likely to buy items that ship faster—even if it's only by one day!

Where to begin... 

Why would I bother to change a setting if I would yield only a $6.00 sales boost in an entire year?  Are they on crack?!

Also, I don't get this statement that 92% of my orders are processed on the weekend.  Granted, I really don't know, and I'm not going to go through my Etsy sales to see what the breakdown is.  Nevertheless, I am certain that there is absolutely no way that 9 out of every 10 of my Etsy orders have been packed on or for the weekend.  There is no way.  Nope.  A good many orders might have been packed on the weekend, but it cannot possibly be 92%.  It could be half, maybe.  Not 92%.

But even if it were 92%, how could a change in settings only gain me a whopping $6.00 in sales in an entire year?  Again, I feel insulted.  It's like they are telling me that my sales are so awful that this wonderful settings change would only yield me $6.00.  Wow.

They are on crack.  They must be.

The email had a link to a page with a list of ways I can improve my placement in Etsy's search.  I certainly do need that, so I followed the link.

1.  Your listing’s first photo, the image displayed in search results, is crucial when it comes to inspiring shoppers to click and increasing your conversion rate. The first photo should clearly show the item that’s for sale and be eye-catching enough that buyers want to take a closer look. 


I mean... I don't see what I can change.  I show the entire outside of the book, and the title and cover art are clearly visible.  

2.  Your titles can also play a role in getting shoppers to click on your listing. Your title should make it easy for shoppers to quickly see what you’re selling and what makes it unique. Shoppers only see the first few words of your title when they’re looking at search results, so make sure you’re using that space to describe what your item is.

My title is "Nancy Drew #32 Scarlet Slipper Mystery Original Text PC."  That tells buyers what they need to know.  I don't think changing it to "Nancy Looks for Ballet Slippers" is going to help.

3.  Shoppers also compare prices when looking at search results, so your listing price can also affect whether or not a buyer clicks on your listing. Shoppers may have a specific price point in mind before they even start their search. 

Of course.  But I'm not going to give my books away.

Etsy also gives a helpful formula for calculating how to price one's items.

One basic formula for calculating price is:  (hourly overhead + production cost + profit) x 4

The part in parentheses is what I already do.  I guess I'm supposed to multiply that by 4.  The Scarlet Slipper book is priced at $19.99.  I guess Etsy wants me to change the price to $79.96.  Somehow, I don't think the book would sell...

4.  Running a sale or offering free shipping can also make your listings stand out from the competition in search results. You can offer free shipping by running a free shipping sale using Etsy’s sales and coupons tool. Shoppers will see your free shipping offer on the listing in search results and your listings will be included if a shopper uses the free shipping search filter.

In June I caved and went back to Etsy's free shipping promotion.  It's not helping.  I even ran a sale for 10% off for a few days and did not get even one sale.  That had never happened before.  

5.  Shoppers can also see your shop’s review star average when browsing search results. A high average will help to build trust, and could encourage some buyers to take a closer look at your item.

My average is five stars, and it's not helping.

6.  Your listing descriptions can also help convert views to sales... Aim to incorporate relevant keywords in the first few sentences.  Avoid copying your title verbatim or simply listing your top keywords.  Instead, you want to craft a sentence or two that casually incorporates a few of your top keywords in a way that sounds human and written in your brand’s voice.

My Scarlet Slipper listing starts as follows.  "The back cover lists to Fire Dragon. The inside lists Nancy Drew to Moonstone Castle and Dana Girls to Lost Lake. The book has the original 25 chapter text."

Maybe I should throw in "#32" and "Scarlet Slipper" somewhere.  I'm so annoyed.

I'm going to stop here.  Etsy also suggests that I have competitive shipping prices and a fast handling time.  I'm not going to lower the shipping I charge when I'm already taking a loss.  I'm also not going back to shipping the next day.  No.

This is frustrating.  Etsy's advice is not helpful.  Do you know why?  Because my Nancy Drew listings are buried down on the 12th page of search results!  That's why.

Etsy tells me that 159 of my 269 listings will be expiring in the next week, starting tomorrow.  I believe that most of them will come down tomorrow if Etsy is telling the truth about the date.  Sometimes the listings stay up for a couple days past the date given by Etsy, so I don't really know when they are going to deactivate.

I still haven't decided what to do.  I keep going back and forth on whether I should renew them or just leave them down.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

At a Crossroads with Etsy + Back to School

Etsy sellers continue to complain about the site, more than what I've ever seen.  

The handmaid item sellers are up in arms since Etsy continues to cater to sellers who list factory-produced "handmade items" that ship from China.  Their sales have plummeted since the sellers sourcing from China can list similar items for much lower prices.  

Etsy has placed many sellers on a 90-day reserve.  Imagine a seller's funds being held for 90 days.  Etsy has placed some sellers on reserve if they are slightly late in shipping out orders or if they have received more orders than they usually receive.

Etsy recently had a bot running amok.  The bot was shutting down listings for nonsense reasons, saying that the seller had violated policy.  For instance, the bot shut down a seller's authentic vintage Star Wars glasses for being drug paraphernalia.

Sellers are also complaining of low sales.  This is where I come in.  My sales on Etsy are quite poor, probably the worst they've been since I started on Etsy.  My listings are buried in Etsy's search results.  I test how my listings appear by using a browser that I've never used to login to Etsy.  This way Etsy doesn't favor what I might like or have clicked on in the past.  It's like I'm someone new to Etsy, and the site serves up search results that are objective.

When I search Etsy on an alternate browser while not logged in, my listings show very low in a Nancy Drew search.  Back in June I checked, and my books were not shown until the ninth page of the results.  Early this month I checked and found one listing on the first page.  Last week I checked, and the first visible listing was on the fifth page.  Yesterday, the first visible item was on the sixth page.

The poor visibility in search is why my sales have dropped substantially.  Take a look at my Etsy inventory.  Click on the image in order to see it clearly.

Slightly over 60% of my inventory consists of Nancy Drew books, which are all showing poorly in Etsy's search.  No wonder my sales have tanked.  I always did well on Etsy because my Nancy Drew books showed up prominently in Etsy's search.  No more.

Right now I'm at a crossroads on Etsy.  I feel exactly the way I did around a year before I left Bonanza.  Etsy, at least for me, is tanking like Bonanza did. 

I should note that eBay sales are lower than they should be, but they are better than Etsy.  Something is going on with people not buying books in general, but my sales on Etsy have been impacted more severely.

I feel like I can see paying to relist my current inventory on Etsy for one more listing cycle.  If sales remain poor, then I close my Etsy shop.  Sayonara. 

That's where I am.

For the last few years, I've closed my eBay and Etsy stores when school starts.  I still have a few weeks to decide for sure, but right now, I feel that I should keep them open.  My sales are so bad that I should be able to handle any sales that should occur.  If I close the stores, then I lose what little momentum I have.  

I will decide for sure what to do in early August.  My Etsy shop will soon have far fewer listings, since most of them expire on July 25.  I will have to decide for sure whether I will stay open before I consider renewing those listings for one more cycle.  I hope that I don't have to leave Etsy, since I do like the site.  However, I'm not going to continue to pay $0.20 per listing when my sales level doesn't justify the fees.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

I want to add that I've been thinking over the situation since I wrote the bulk of this post a couple days ago.  I'm going back and forth about whether to renew the Etsy listings that expire on July 25 and whether to close my stores for back to school.  

My thyroid medication has just been adjusted for the fifth time this year.  I don't anticipate that this change will impact my decision, but school starting will cause another autoimmune flare that will mess me up for a month or two.  This just means that even if I keep my stores open, I might decide to close abruptly at any time.  

I will go into more detail on the thyroid situation in another post soon.  I like to detail my journey because of the huge amount of misinformation that is in all the online thyroid forums.  My situation does not follow what the "self-appointed thyroid experts" say to be true.  It's infuriating to see so many people being led down the wrong path by snake oil salesmen.  My hope is that a few people stumble across my posts in their online searches and realize that not everyone falls under the "one size fits all approach" of the thyroid groups.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

The Dilemma of Book Length and How to Teach Reading in Schools

I have read two articles recently that shed some light on a nuanced issue.  At hand is the apparent reluctance that children have in reading books and what to do about it.

I first found this interesting article with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Why Kids Aren't Falling in Love with Reading

The article is paywalled, so you might have trouble reading it.  I will summarize and then provide some short quotes.  The author points out that schools tend to have students read short excerpts of books, such as a few paragraphs, and then analyze them.  This takes away all the fun in reading.  I remember having to do that myself, and I never enjoyed that reading.

Even when I read full-length books for school, I never enjoyed them much.  There's something about being forced to read a preselected book that takes away the fun.  I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school.  I remember it as the best book I read for school, but I won't ever read it again. 

I read A Tale of Two Cities in school and did not like it very much.  I remember that particular senior English class was unruly, so that may have helped ruin the experience.  Additionally, that teacher quizzed us on each chapter and asked us really obscure questions, like what color of dress a character wore.  I felt that her quizzes were unfair and designed to fail us.  

I did later read some Dickens novels on my own for myself (David Copperfield, Our Mutual Friend) and enjoyed them greatly. 

I also recall reading Huckleberry Finn in school as well.  I did not enjoy it.  My one memory about the book, aside from not liking it, was that we read it aloud including the n-word.  This occurred in 1988 or 1989.  Those were different times, but still, that I remember this clearly tells you what I was a bit uncomfortable.  Perhaps that was the point.

Here are some short excerpts from the above linked article.

"But what parents today are picking up on is that a shrinking number of kids are reading widely and voraciously for fun." 

"I recently spoke with educators and librarians about this trend, and they gave many explanations, but one of the most compelling—and depressing—is rooted in how our education system teaches kids to relate to books."

"What I remember most about reading in childhood was falling in love with characters and stories... In New York, where I was in public elementary school in the early ’80s, we did have state assessments that tested reading level and comprehension, but the focus was on reading as many books as possible and engaging emotionally with them as a way to develop the requisite skills.  Now the focus on reading analytically seems to be squashing that organic enjoyment.  Critical reading is an important skill, especially for a generation bombarded with information, much of it unreliable or deceptive.  But this hyperfocus on analysis comes at a steep price:  The love of books and storytelling is being lost."

"This disregard for story starts as early as elementary school. Take this requirement from the third-grade English-language-arts Common Core standard, used widely across the U.S.:  'Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.' "

"But here's how one educator experienced in writing Common Core–aligned curricula proposes this be taught:  First, teachers introduce the concepts of nonliteral and figurative language.  Then, kids read a single paragraph from Amelia Bedelia and answer written questions."

"The process of meeting a character and following them through a series of conflicts is the fun part of reading.  Jumping into a paragraph in the middle of a book is about as appealing for most kids as cleaning their room."

The author points out that a better approach is simply to have students read Amelia Bedelia and engage with the characters.  By laughing at the antics of Amelia Bedelia, the students will learn to love reading.  The teacher can then discuss aspects of the story with students.

I recall that I never enjoyed reading excerpts in school.  My love of reading came from reading Nancy Drew books at home during my own free time.  Give me The Secret of the Old Clock anytime over some dumb out-of-context passage.

That said, reading short passages is important since students need to be exposed to a variety of topics and writing styles.  However, those students who learn to love books will quite naturally end up reading a wide variety of content.

Here's more from the article.

"A friend recently told me that her child's middle-school teacher had introduced To Kill a Mockingbird to the class, explaining that they would read it over a number of months—and might not have time to finish it.  "How can they not get to the end of To Kill a Mockingbird?" she wondered.  I'm right there with her.  You can't teach kids to love reading if you don't even prioritize making it to a book's end."

"Longer books, for example, are considered less 'fun'; in addition, some librarians, teachers, and parents are noticing a decline in kids' reading stamina after the disruption of the pandemic.  You can see these factors at play in a recent call for shorter books.  But one has to wonder whether this is also the not-entirely-unsurprising outcome of having kids interact with literature in paragraph-size bites."

"We need to meet kids where they are; for the time being, I am writing stories that are shorter and less complex." 

The above passages segue nicely into the second article.

It's Not Me, It's You:  An Argument for Shorter Middle Grade Books

This person reviews books, yet she is having trouble getting through them.

"Usually, I love all the books.  And I'm a fast reader. But when I look at the books on my shelves and my apps, I notice that in the past few months, I've finished 17, abandoned 19, and have yet to read five.

This gives me pause. Even more interesting is the fact that most of the recent books I've abandoned are around 350–400 pages."

She explains further.

"I'm saying that if I, an avid reader who literally reads books for my job, am struggling to get through these really long, newly published middle grade books, is it possible that some kids aren't loving these long books, either?

The answer is yes: many kids won't even pick up a long book, as confirmed by all the responses on Twitter.  When looking at a book with a lot of pages, children might be intimidated, they might prefer quicker stories, they might be struggling readers, and/or they might have attention issues, among other factors."

The author also points out that the quality of writing is also a factor.  That's the biggest factor for me.  These days, a book must grab me within the first few pages, or I won't read it.  I don't have the attention span or stamina to slog through a book that doesn't highly captivate me.

I occasionally get requests to read and review books.  In just the last week, someone offered to send me a book to review.  I just can't.  I have books that I personally want to read, yet I can hardly force myself to read them.  Reading the Keeper of the Lost Cities series was a such a wonderful experience for me, because I was fully engaged and am still thinking about the books even though I'm done reading them.  Now, I once again can't seem to force myself to read much of anything.  It's really sad.

Most people don't have a good attention span these days.  The Internet and social media have caused this.  We need information presented to us in smaller chunks.  When I write posts for this blog, I cut most long paragraphs in half to make it easier for readers.  I don't worry about whether the paragraph break makes sense; it needs to be shorter to make it easier to read.  Logic is less important than ease of reading.

What's great about series books is that we get to read multiple stories in smaller chunks.  Each volume serves as a good stopping point.  It's great reading one story and later being able to read another one.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Seller Slight of Hand on Amazon, AbeBooks, Biblio, and Alibris

I prefer to purchase my books on eBay, simply because I have fewer problems.  To be fair, most purchases made from the other sites go fine, but the strict seller standards imposed by those sites often cause sellers to use deceptive practices.

I ordered some books from several sellers on June 14 on Amazon and Biblio.  All but one purchase arrived quickly.  One seller on Biblio did not make contact for one week.  They sent a message, telling me that the books had been shipped.  I received a shipping notice from Biblio.  I checked the tracking number and saw that it had been cancelled after it was generated.  Hmm....

The seller waited the maximum number of days that they could wait without risking having Biblio cancel the transaction.  This told me that the seller was using a delay tactic.  They waited as long as they could, then they created a shipping label.  By having a tracking number entered, they fulfilled the on-time shipping requirement.  They then cancelled the label.

Most likely, the seller didn't have one of the books on hand and needed to purchase it from another seller.  I was annoyed, because I would have purchased from someone else if I had known this would happen.

As the days passed, I kept waiting to see if the tracking number would update to a valid one or whether the books would show up.  I decided that July 5 was the earliest I could expect the books to arrive if the seller had to purchase from someone else first.  My plan was to contact the seller on July 5 after my mail had arrived.

I then decided to delay a little longer, because I felt like the books were going to show up within a few days.  Finally, they arrived today.

The shipping label showed that it was created on June 20, so at first glance, it appeared that the post office screwed up.  But I knew that was not likely what had happened.  

I entered the tracking number into  The label was created on June 20, but the package was not accepted at the seller's local post office until July 3.  Ah, so I was right.  The seller played the delay game so that they could purchase the needed book from someone else.

Sites like Biblio require sellers to maintain a rather high fulfillment rate, and furthermore, the books must be mailed promptly.  Sellers cannot avoid any mistakes, so they use delay tactics to hide when they are unable to ship on time.  This has happened to me a number of times before.

At least this seller followed through. 

I will say that the condition of each book does match the seller's written description.  Perhaps something else is going on here.  However, this seller states that they ship each day, and that is most certainly not what happened in this case.  Even if I did receive the exact books as offered, something odd went down.  The seller shouldn't have waited until July 3 to hand off the package to USPS.

In one past case, I purchased the only book available online from a certain seller.  That book didn't arrive.  When I finally asked, the seller cancelled the transaction.  I think that seller didn't have the book but couldn't buy one from someone else.  They were probably hoping I'd never notice that I didn't receive it.

Buying from the various bookselling sites can be problematic.  eBay gets a lot of criticism, but I have far more confidence in my eBay purchases.  eBay sellers usually photograph the actual item that is for sale and ship promptly.  They don't play games like some sellers on other sites.