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Why list books for One Cent


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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2011 5:11:19 PM PDT
M. Fox says:
I don't know what Amazon charges. I was relaying shipping information. There is another site (I'll have to look it up for you) that doesn't charge anything to sell something. I'll get back to this later.

Posted on Apr 21, 2011 5:45:53 PM PDT
Jelissa...maybe you should just sell them on craigslist locally or on ebay where you can send for the actual shipping cost and pay a smaller fee to ebay/paypal? Honestly though, wholesale booksellers are the only ones who can really make "good" money off of these scenarios.

Oh and I'm laughing at Robert the postman...just looked at one of my packages from one of my used book orders and it definitely says "Presorted Standard"....DOH! ;)

Also I know for another fact that the book club companies and music/dvd clubs also ship presorted and get a bulk rate as well, it is not just for "letters".

Posted on Apr 21, 2011 10:12:30 PM PDT
Bison Bison says:
Regarding Jellisa losing money on a $5 book, as I see it 15 cents 'commission' to Amazon on the $1 price + 2 more fees for .99 and 1.35 = $2.49 to Amazon. If it is a 1 pound book the media mail price is $2.41. Leaves the seller with only 10 cents, or less if the overall shipping cost is higher.

Posted on Apr 22, 2011 7:06:39 AM PDT
M.fox maybe Paperback swap? That's a good site for individuals to swap/list books.

Posted on Apr 22, 2011 7:35:01 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 22, 2011 7:36:45 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 22, 2011 7:39:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 22, 2011 7:53:17 AM PDT
LinDakini says:
I'm sure that offering books for .01 is mainly about volume. Costs to sell a book on Amazon are:

Sale price of the item
Shipping credit
- Referral Fee of 15% of the sale price
- $1.35 Closing Fee
- $0.99 Fixed Closing Fee (waived for Pro Merchant Subscribers)
-------------------------------------
= Total deposited to seller's account

There are 3 ways to reduce costs in this formula: 1.) lower the sales price to lower the referral fee. 2.) become a Pro Merchant to waive the Fixed Closing Fee. and 3.) save on shipping costs.

Pro Merchant membership costs $39.99 a month so you need to sell more than 40 books a month to justify it.

To ship a book you need to package it, make a label, get it to the shipper and pay for shipping. There are a number of ways to save money here and again volume is key.

You could use Click 'n Ship or Stamps.com to pay postage online, print the label, and schedule a pickup, saving you a trip to the post office. Or even if you go to the post office, you won't need to stand in line. Stamps.com is just one example. It costs $15.99 a month and they discount Priority Mail shipping by 15% so you want enough volume to offset the monthly charge.

When you sell on Amazon you can offer different shipping options. If the customer wants standard shipping, you can use Media Mail. You can also offer priority or expedited shipping for customers who want faster shipping. This is where a service like Stamps.com might save you money.

Hope this helps!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2011 8:07:22 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 22, 2011 8:12:58 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 22, 2011 8:34:28 AM PDT
Pablo says:
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Posted on Apr 22, 2011 10:20:01 AM PDT
Selling a book for 1 cent is probably a way for the seller to eliminate the inventory. It is comparable to a clearance sell to move inventory that has been listed for an extended period of time in order to focus on more in demand products. Old inventory is a drag on any business so the loss incurred on that one particular item is more than made up for by the better business gained by listing the more popular faster selling products.

Posted on Apr 23, 2011 7:22:07 PM PDT
Honey Bee says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 23, 2011 8:35:33 PM PDT
Well, after receiving another round of $.01 cent books I now can tell you how. Money is made on the shipping. Even though I read the physical description of the $.01 cent books, they were surprisingly crappy condition books. 'You get what you pay for' books. Some 'books' were actually more like pamphlets, some were like a 'Cliff's Notes-type' version of what I expected to be a real book, the ex-library copies descriptions are almost blunt enough when described as 'discarded' library copy, and more library stamps, stickers, markings than you could ever imagine. And even if you get 2, 3, 4, or whatever number of $.01 cent books from the same bookseller, they are all shipped together in one shipment at Media price but I am still charged $3.99 shipping for each book. And each 'used-good' or 'used-very good' book is 'used-crappy'. If they're all really 'discarded' books, they are making $4.00 a book and their cost is a fraction for shipping all of these books together.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 23, 2011 8:58:23 PM PDT
You're right. How can someone that supposedly worked for the post office conveniently forget about Media Mail shipping? That is the standard way to ship books and is way cheaper than the cheapest standard way to ship anything else. And they shipped all of my $.01 cent books together in one shipment at Media Mail price, but I was still charged $3.99 shipping for each book even though they were from the same bookseller ordered at the same time.

Posted on Apr 23, 2011 10:39:25 PM PDT
Alice Anyone says:
I guess my biggest problem here is that all the calculations posted so far don't really take into account the price of the book to start with. Even if you got it used for $1, that pretty much eats up that little bit you save by charging $4 for shipping and using media mail to ship for $2.50, after you take out the Amazon charges it's all gone. I'd say the most likely thing is clearing stock, because it's a losing proposition if you're selling something you have any amount of money invested in.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 7:20:33 AM PDT
Try better_world_books I usually buy a lot of $.01 books through them. The condition is used of course, either in paperback or hardbound, some books are not text books but art books like Sothebys auction catalogs (Sothebys cats are usually $5-15.), etc, the texts are of average good condition and the latter are in great condition. The used text books I received were not marked up beyond reason or really beat up when purchased from the above seller and usually matched their descriptions or better. I placed a multiple $.01 book order with BWBs and they sent it UPS, it got here fast. Yes I did not receive a discount on shipping nor did I expect one when purchasing a multiple order of one cent books and I am sure the profit was made on shipping, but they have a lot of expendable stock that can be sold for one cent as a loss leader to generate revenue from shipping and future sales.
I think on average when sellers purchase text books to resell they most likely will offer a lump price for the entire lot allowing them to buy the ones they can mark up for a regular priced sale and the other "loss leader" books that were in the lump sum purchase can be sold for $.01 to attract sales and with some titles they have multiple copies, and when listing they have cut and paste responses to save time.
I can relate to this, when I sold on line as I used cut and paste responses and customized the listing a bit if needed, I also would not combine postage on multiple sales that finished low and would combine on buy it now or on multiple sales that ended well.
All library books sold are discarded, they aren't going to be selling their current circulating stock and most "EX LIB COPY" books are in pretty decent shape, true I don't like all the stamps, stickers, pockets, and return by slips but they do have a Mylar slip covering the dust jacket that has kept it in a nice condition, most stickers and other additions can be removed using several methods but is a pain unless it is a hard to come by copy out of print edition, then that extra bit of elbow grease is worth it. I have had good luck with the penny books and try to buy penny books and some of my regular priced books from one seller if they offer the title I want in the condition or price I am willing to spend and they seem to treat me very well when selecting my copies.
To understand where I come from, I used to have a brick and mortar resale clothing business that sold only high end boutique brands like Eileen Fisher, Blue Fish, Flax, Babbette SF, Citron,etc (no off brands, wally world, KM labels etc).. and I would purchase by the lot, three quarters or more was sold at 1/3 of retail and the rest was priced a little lower and with a boutique across the street that sold the same labels at full retail I got they marked price. I also sold on line as it appeared that the on line tastes were different than my walk in customers.
You can't expect a business to not turn a profit where they can, and sale advertisements for brick and mortar businesses are similar to the penny books sold here.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 8:20:26 AM PDT
I totally agree with you, I worked for a huge billion dollar big box wholesale membership club out of Kirkland, it was like working in the worlds oldest profession but with excellent benefits and instead of getting beat up physically they were masters at psychological warfare. It was if they sent all new supervisors and managers to take classes on how to be the perfect jerk, and they all graduated with top honors.
After that I went into business for myself I soon realized the importance of trying to shop locally owned when ever possible, and that a local business was not the same as locally owned business and what it was like to depend on the economy that was driven by fear, my numbers would rise and fall with the "Terrorist Threat Level" on the nightly news.
It was hard in the state of Washington to do business as a small business establishment. Often you were in the shadow of the huge cookie cutter chains that had add campaigns to rival the GNP of a developing third world country, it was hard to over come the consumers idea of "Perceived Value" of better prices through constant brain washing even though the smaller guy could often offer better merchandise at better or comparable prices due to long established relationships with their vendors.
The way I priced my stock is similar to how these books are priced, I would buy inventory in hand picked lots. The majority of my inventory would be priced at 1/3 third new retail or like the regular priced books in new or almost new condition and then I had inventory that went immediately to sale or like the loss leader or penny books. The profit from the high end inventory would offset the negligible profit from the inventory that went out at sale prices. Like the books, profit from the high end items would average out the cost from the sale merchandise or loss leaders.
It was a constant battle in the small business community, talking about elitist discounts, the membership to the local "Chamber of Commerce" for a business like mine with up to 2 employees was around $250. the same membership for the membership "Wholesale Club" was around $550. and they could join for free with an "In Kind" donation. Here the small business is paying half what a billion dollar corporation was paying.
Many consumers do not know that if you do not join the chamber of commerce, if there are inquiries made for a certain type of business by out of town visitors etc, the chamber will only recommend their paid members, not all the businesses in that area of interest. It is not the chamber of commerce that equally represents their local business community, but only the businesses who are members and their are other endless examples where the corporate business gets favoritism over the little guy in all areas of the business world are to numerous to list.
Many of the book vendors selling on Amazon are also brick and mortar store front businesses who are trying to generate income any way they can in today's economy whether it be with books that are priced at fair retail or as a penny loss leader to attract sales.
I think $4.00 (cost of the book + shipping) is a pretty good deal for a book that was never intended for the coffee table, considering you don't have to fill up the car and fight with parking and traffic to go buy it.
If you want a book that is special then you'll spend what you deem reasonable for your needs.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 9:50:41 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 24, 2011 10:03:12 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 9:52:44 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 24, 2011 10:03:00 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 9:57:13 AM PDT
Media Mail for most books comes out at $2.45 or $2.78 depending on the weight.

Posted on Apr 24, 2011 10:01:02 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 24, 2011 10:02:46 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 10:28:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 24, 2011 10:53:04 AM PDT
I've been selling on Amazon for 11 years, so I'll try to answer your questions. First, let's talk about the shipping fees.

When Amazon first started Marketplace, they charged the customer $3.99 per book, took a "shipping holdback fee," and gave a portion of the shipping to the seller. For media mail (standard), they kept something like $1.36 and for expedited they kept around $.85. Don't hold me to the amounts; I don't remember.

Amazon charges 15% commission on book sales. They also charge $.99 per book unless you pay $39.99 per month to be a Pro Merchant. (Sellers benefit by becoming Pro Merchants when they sell more than 40 books per month.) So if a books sells for a penny, Amazon receives no commission. But they do pocket the "variable closing fee."

In the beginning customers often complained that they paid $3.99 and it cost only $1.95 to ship a book. The customers didn't realize that shipping is more than postage. It's packaging and handling as well. Back then we made almost enough to cover costs on 1-pound packages and usually lost on 2-pound or heavier. But we were able to show the customer how Amazon skimmed a portion of the shipping.

Several years ago, Amazon changed their bookkeeping methods and moved the "shipping holdback fee" to a "variable closing fee." So now they can claim that they give the seller the full $3.99. But what also happened is they raised the variable closing fee on expedited shipments, so we sellers lost even more.

The postal service has raised their rates at least 5 or 6 times since the original $3.99 was set, and Amazon has never added to the cost the buyer pays. The seller has always absorbed the loss.

Right now Amazon skims $1.35 per sale for both standard and expedited sales.

Here's the profit on a 1-pound book for a Pro Merchant:

Book price: $.01
Shipping credit: $3.99
Total: $4.00

Variable Closing Fee: $1.35
Postage: $2.41
Bubble mailer: $.20
Labor: $.15 (approx.)
Total: $4.11

LOSS of $.11.

For a 2-pound package, the loss is more.

Priority mail costs $4.80 if purchased online ($5.10 at the PO). So $6.99 credit less variable closing fee of $1.35 = $5.64 given to seller. Subtract $.35 packaging and labor = $5.29. So there's some profit in priority, but few people pay $6.99 for expedited.

So on the whole, sellers typically lose money on shipping. I would assume that those who are not pro merchants also lose an additional $.99, which gets deducted from the shipping credit.

More to follow...

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 10:31:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 24, 2011 10:54:16 AM PDT
I don't think Robert knows about books, because they're not shipped parcel post. They're shipped media mail.

As for presort, yes, books sellers can get presort discounts, which would save them an additional 30 cents or so per package.

At one point I was using presort mail. I had to buy special software. Each package had to have a barcode on it, which was individually weighed and scanned. Then it had to be placed in a particular bag going to a particular sorting center. When that bag was full, it had to be labeled and replaced with another bag. Each bag needed a destination label.

The software was expensive and the labor for processing books was about tripled. So there really was no discount at the end. We were basically doing the job of the post office. Pay them, pay the employee, you're still paying for the processing.

Now there are probably organizations that use all automation and can sort their mail using conveyor belts or some such. But that's also very expensive.

The bottom line is that sellers make no money on shipping any more.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 10:39:17 AM PDT
Robert wrote: "Selling a book for 1 cent is probably a way for the seller to eliminate the inventory."

Exactly. That's why I sometimes sell *existing* inventory for a penny. I would never bother listing a book for a penny. I would donate it or try to get credit at a bookstore.

I can sell for a penny and lose a little money. OR I can identify which books I want to remove, remove them from Amazon's inventory, pull and box them up, and drive them some place to rid of them. That's a lot of work on individual titles.

Sometimes it's just easier to sell them. I get rid of inventory and I have a happy customer. Plus if a buyer purchases a couple books from me, I can make a little on the shipping, but that seldom happens.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 10:48:57 AM PDT
Paula wrote: "And they shipped all of my $.01 cent books together in one shipment at Media Mail price, but I was still charged $3.99 shipping for each book even though they were from the same bookseller ordered at the same time."

Remember, when you click that final confirmation button, you are agreeing to the terms of the contract. You're agreeing to pay $3.99 shipping per book. That is Amazon's policy. Believe me, we sellers would love if you guys could get reduced shipping on multiple orders, and we lobbied Amazon for years but no go. We used to have shops where you could browse our inventory by category, but no longer.

Certainly you folks don't begrudge a seller a profit, do you? If they make $1 per book for shipping on a multiple-book order or even $2 per book, does that bother you? That's assuming the inventory was free. And that's not taking into account the work required to acquire the books, grade and list them, shelve them, pick, pack and ship and answer customer inquiries. How about when you find out the seller paid $2 per book for the inventory thus realizing less than ZERO profit while providing you with huge discounts?

I can't tell you how frustrated I got when customers complained to me that shipping cost more than a book at $.01. They're completely overlooking the fact that Amazon and the PO got more money than me while I did most of the work. They got what they agreed to and then complained about the price of shipping. Talk about a win-lose scenario!

I've sold book for a penny that cost me $2 to acquire. So I'm basically out $2. If I sell two copies ($4 cost to me) and pocket $2 on shipping, I'm still out $2 plus all my labor.

Believe me, many sellers here are just low-paid contractors for Amazon.

Posted on Apr 25, 2011 3:53:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2011 4:07:55 AM PDT
I don't get the people criticizing Robert's post. It is one of the more salient posts on this board. As for people saying he did not work for the post office because he uses the term "parcel post," wasn't that the term used back in the day? I think "media mail" is a newer term.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2011 4:34:48 AM PDT
C. Mossman says:
Thank you Robert....I thought that was all rubbish about bulk sales but didn't have the info to back it up. Thanks for doing so.
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