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3 Ways To Increase Your Online Bookselling Revenue When Sales Are Slow

Updated on November 17, 2015

When sales are slow, two things happen to online booksellers: We have extra time and we need more money.

If you’re a small seller like me, cash flow may be a problem when you have several days of slow sales. Slower weeks are a great time to tidy the office, combine those half-empty boxes of bubble mailers and reorganize that shelf or crate you were never pleased with. But soon, that’s done, and you still aren’t making any money.

Here are three specific things you can do to get money flowing into your online bookselling business and quickly get you in a better position:

1. Fiddle

Fiddling is top-priority for me when things are slow and always results in at least a few sales. I’m obviously not talking about playing a violin (like a certain emperor is said to have done while a certain city burned). The definition of fiddle is “to make minor manual movements to adjust something”, and that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Manual repricing can make a big difference, and it isn’t terribly difficult if you maintain a lean inventory. When I’m busy, I keep things in line with an automatic repricing service. When sales slow down, I examine my listing, looking for problems. There are several approaches, and all of them work:

Pull up your listings box by box or shelf by shelf (I maintain my inventory with The Art of Books) and check the five or ten highest priced items in each section to see if they are wildly overpriced.

Double-check the prices on listing for which you have multiple quantities. If your price change results in a sale, it will usually result in several sales.

Look at your oldest inventory items, then dramatically reduce prices on several of them to see if you can get them to move.

If you use repricing software, remember to exclude these items from automatic repricing so your work won’t be automatically undone.

2. Raid Your Personal Collections

During slow weeks, I take the extra time to turn my ever-growing DVD collection into cash.

I have a deal with myself that I don’t keep very many personal DVDs; I justify their purchase price with a promise to myself that I will resell them. (Often, I can resell a DVD within the first few months after I obtain it for very close to what I paid for it.) It’s easy to find a couple hundred dollars of DVDs — or perhaps it’s books for you — lying around the house waiting to be turned back into cash.

If, like me, you’re interested in simple, minimalist living, keeping stacks of personal books and media in case you might want to see one of them again doesn’t make sense. If you do want to watch or read one of them again, you can easily re-buy it, then resell it again. I’ve never actually done this, though.

3. Keep Buying!

Ultimately, the best inventory is fresh, high-quality books, CDs and DVDs. If you’re like most sellers who price competitively, 40 to 60 percent of newly listed inventory sells immediately.

Finding the money to buy those fresh items can be difficult on slow weeks, but listing even a few new items will improve your cash flow. It may seem like a good idea to skip a book sale if you can’t spend as much money as you usually do, but that contributes to a cycle of decreasing income. Go on to the sale with a set spending limit in mind, buy as many books as you can, then list them immediately. Getting your cash out of them quickly allows you to get your cash flow spiraling upward, not downward.

Obviously, there are more than three things you can do when sales are slow and times are tough. If you’re lucky, however, things will pick up for you and your online bookselling business before you’ve even had time to explore these three.


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