How do we start? Pt. 1

All bookselling is divided into three parts: evaluate and select the book;  describe and price the book;  package and ship the book.  But before you pick up the first book, it’s wise to take stock of the who, what, and where that you have to work with.  You’ll need to evaluate resources in several categories.  Staff, inventory, and location will determine your sales strategy.  Let’s consider some points for each.

Staff  –  It would be possible for one person to do some selling but it will necessarily be limited and occasional.  If you are a library staff member charged with fundraising or if you are the bold Friend of the Library urging your group to try this, your first task is clear.  Recruit some help.  With three to five people you can manage a viable online store.  Most of these stores are all volunteer Friends staffed but some, like mine, are a blend of library employee and volunteers.

When you have your team recruited, consider its strengths and limitations.

How much time do people have for this?  An online store is open 24/7.  You’ll need to monitor and process sales every business day.  It may take only a few minutes to check for  customer messages and sales, but at least that much must be covered.  It takes time to select the books and create the inventory listings.  And it takes time to wrap and mail your orders.

Who is comfortable with computers and related technology, such as scanners or cameras to upload product images?  Many older books and various ephemera that you might want to sell will need to have photos created.

Consider the main tasks of writing accurate descriptions of your sale items and of preparing the packages for shipping.  These tasks require people who are detail oriented, careful, and conscientious.  

Is there a collector among you, someone who knows the world of antiquarian books or would like to learn?

One of the advantages of an online store is flexibility. There are many ways to successfully expand your fundraising short of a high volume 24/7 business. You can experiment and create your own business model to fit your staff and circumstances. Start with a small inventory and see how it works for you. Have your store “open” only certain times of the year, such as start of school or the Christmas season, when sales volume is higher. Or adjust your store’s activity to the needs of the staff. It’s possible to put your online store “on vacation” when necessary and reactivate when staff are again available.

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