Books, Boxes, and Barcodes

Since my semester ended, I have been throwing myself into my FBA business. I have been focusing on books while also dabbling in CDs and video games. When I started this last winter, I was swamped with school and also trying to mostly sell retail items I found at Walmart and other big stores. Books are my niche though as I grew up at Borders and then worked for them as well. I also hate big box stores and prefer the low upfront cost of used books. I have managed to more than triple the number of items I’ve sold this month from last… Progress!

So what is FBA, or fulfilled by Amazon? The gist of it is that I scan used books at library sales, thrift stores, and garage sales, using a handheld scanner that connects to my phone and a couple different apps. I then determine if it is profitable and likely to sell and assess the condition of the book. I buy them and when I get home the real work begins.

A dolly full of books from my second of three trips to a library book sale.

Next, I have to create a listing by determining a price and condition and writing a description. I really hate shopping for books online only to find a copy-and-paste description of the condition so I put in the extea time and effort of writing a quick description. With my lasy shipment, I sorted them into stacks of like conditions so I could paste it a bunch of times and then write a new one, etc. Once that is done, I use a blow dryer and label peeler to get the stickers off, and a microfiber towel and rubbing alcohol to remove any sticky residue or dirt. This is labor intensive but important as bad reviews and returns do happen. My years of retail and customer service experience have taught me that presentation is important.

There are constantly stacks of books and sometimes super heros need a nap.

Finally, I search for each book’s listing in my database, select them all, create a shipment, print and apply the labels on each book, and pack them up in a box. Packing includes weighing and measuring the box and then printing a shipping label. My last shipment was four boxes, two of which were 50lbs each.

I’m considering buying a foldable dolly and I need some real canvas bags for shopping.

I take the boxes to a UPS drop off and then wait. Once Amazon has received them, I start watching my sales increase. I also have to adjust prices manually, though I will be investing the time and money in a repricing program soon as I have over 200 listings in stock. For a fee, Amazon stores my product, places it in front of the customer, handles the transaction, ships it to them, and takes care of any customer service issue. There is an advantage to FBA over merchant fulfilled as so many people have Prime accounts now and want their purchases right away. I also pay for a scanning app that is superior to the free ones and makes scanning and deciding much faster, which is crucial when Wallace is with me.

I have been creating business goals to get me to the level of income we need to be self sufficient and on the road. Though I’ve already tripled my sales, I now need to quadruple them and keep them there! I am determined to make this happen and am setting myself up to get there.

Have any questions about FBA or third party Amazon sellers? I knew nothing about this and rarely shopped online before I started so I have learned a lot!

About JennP

Single mom by choice, lesbian, natural living, parenting, car free, Chicago.Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment!
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7 Responses to Books, Boxes, and Barcodes

  1. Darlene Dee says:

    Smart! How much profit do you make each month after all of that work? It seems like a great plan for you! I wish I had known about this before getting rid of hundreds of books and records and thousands of CDs!!

  2. I don’t have a number as I haven’t started keeping track of it. After I do my taxes, I will have an idea of profit for last year. Eventually, I might get a business checking account. Because my up front cost for books is so low, this paycheck goes mostly right to my pocket.

  3. kayrosey says:

    Hey, that’s pretty cool! I do a ton of shopping on amazon and always wondered how it works on their end, and why some private sellers have prime free shipping.

  4. Yeh it amazes me that no one really knows about this! I didn’t but I maybe shopped on amazon 3 or 4 times before I started selling. Amazon likes to steal the buy box (the listing they suggest to you), so always click around and look at all the prices. Buy from us little guys when you can! Also, check out the used listings on things you wouldn’t think of buying used. If a box is scuffed up or amazon is price controlling, new in box items will be much cheaper in the used section.

  5. kayrosey says:

    Thanks for the tip 🙂
    I look around for textbooks, but I’ve never done any digging for anything else, now I will!

  6. Glad I could teach you something new! Amazon also will place an item in your buy box if it is in a warehouse closer to you, so sometimes that is helpful if the prices are the same. And always leave seller feedback! I have been at this about 10 months and have 8 seller reviews.

  7. Pingback: MicroBlog Monday: Money | Good Families Do…

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