Learn from my experience…

By Sharon Fussell, August 28, 2012

Sometimes when you have been doing a venture for a while and have become more experienced you can forget what it was like to be a beginner.

Many people find it difficult to go back to basics and when they try and explain something to a complete novice they end up ‘blinding them with science’ as it were (computer ‘experts’ are great at this!)

With this in mind, although Clive and I have been selling books on Amazon for a few years now, we always try to remember what was like to be a beginner so we can assist when contacted for help and support – but we do have to think hard sometimes to remember how to address a particular process.

I thought that this week we could look back at how Clive and I worked when we first started selling books on Amazon and how we have moved on or changed (either due to increased knowledge, a change in selling strategy or because of changes made by Amazon).

Prior to using the FBA method of selling, we first started on Amazon as Merchant Sellers (SDN) we would wait expectantly all evening for SDN emails to ‘click’ into our email inbox. As emails arrived we would jump up and look to see if it was a sale – of course it was not always the case. But it would always raise our hopes somewhat.

Now our computer is rarely turned on at night, instead the BlackBerry pings every time an email enters the inbox. These emails tell me that Amazon have dispatched orders and informs us where they have gone to.

We only check the computer at intervals to monitor sales, although I still get excited when a particular sale arrives, perhaps a certain book that I took a chance on that then sells for a fabulous profit – very fulfilling.

When we first started selling on Amazon, we used recycled jiffy bags and would hunt for clean used bags at work. When we did start to buy mail bags we bought a box at a time from eBay or other online sites and I would pop into the post office in my lunch hour to post orders accrued over a couple of days. This progressed to going every day at 5pm with a large pile of orders, annoying whoever was behind me I am sure.

We would not list low value books (especially ‘1p’ books) whereas this is not so much of a concern anymore because we operate on FBA and, as Amazon’s postage rates are very reasonable compared to Royal Mail, even low-value books will usually bring in a worthwhile profit.

We used to price books quite cheaply compared to the competition, often at half the price of, or at least £1 less than the competition. This was to try and build up our feedback rating and get more of a ‘presence’ on the Amazon site.

Now we can list books that competitors have listed for 1p (£2.81) for much higher prices (as long as they are displayed on page one of the selling page) and sell them due to our superior feedback ratings and FBA status.

We would spend ages in charity shops going through ISBN’s, either writing them down and checking later at home, phoning them through to any family member sat by a computer. We also used price and ranking or any other details to make a decision to buy. Now, although we still do this type of checking from time to time, when we do we use the BlackBerry to check prices in ‘real’ time.

In the main though, we buy books by the hundreds from charity shops for between 10p and 25p each by arrangement with managers.

We get to check out each title so can usually pick the nonfiction and fiction titles that we feel will sell for higher profits due to niche, genre or condition. We also take a chance on titles that may or may not have value but for 25p or less it’s worth taking a punt.

We tend not to be so aware so much of weights or sizes of books anymore as we know we can usually profit from most books due to FBA’s cheaper postage rates.

We used to be distraught when we received neutral or negative feedback but would not chase buyers to remove it, simply because we did not realise that we could.

Now we do try and get feedback comments removed. However, because of the way feedback percentage is worked out the odd comment that is not removed would not show beyond 30 days leaving our overall high feedback intact (any FBA related negative feedback is removed by Amazon anyway).

Of course I suppose one of the biggest changes is that when we first started selling on Amazon Clive and I were employees for other companies. We only sold books on Amazon as a hobby. Now we both operate FBA together and are self employed. We have divisions of labour, I do the listing, and he does the quality control and packing.

We go together on buying trips, Clive tends to carry the books to the car whilst I am paying for them. We usually make a day of it and go for a nice lunch.

I could describe other ways in which change has taken place but the point I am trying to make is that anything we have done can be copied by you. It is not rocket science and whilst I would never advise you to leave your full time job to jump straight into selling books full time, it is a business that can be grown over time.

You can operate SDN or FBA at whatever level you want, a hobby, a part time venture, a full time business whatever suits your circumstances. No matter at what level, selling books on Amazon continues to be a fun and exciting way to make an income, Clive and I still love it as much today as when we first began.


What do you think?

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