Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grading and Listing Books

Grading Your Books

You’re holding the first book in your hand, getting ready to list it for sale.

First you have to grade it. (If you’ve been selling on other venues or dealing with booksellers offline, one thing you’ll notice is that the word “Fine” doesn’t appear anywhere!) Amazon provides a list of Condition Guidelines that you must follow. The Condition Types are: New, Used: Like New, Used: Very Good, Used: Good and Used: Acceptable and Collectible. In addition to selecting one of those Conditions, you have a Comment field that is free text. It is ALWAYS better to grade a bit lower and let the customer be pleasantly surprised that the condition is better than expected rather than grade higher and let them be disappointed once the book arrives.

Here’s Amazon’s Condition Guidelines explanation, with my comments in parentheses:

· New: Just like it sounds. A brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition. (This is a debatable term and one that gets abused the most often. New does NOT contain highlights or marks, or wear, and the book has not been opened. New actually means New. As in - out of the box that was shipped from the publisher. If you pick up a book and it appears unread and looks New to you, go on to the next condition, which is Used: Like New. New does not mean that you bought it from the local Barnes and Noble bookstore and didn’t read it. An interesting exercise is to stroll through your local brick and mortar Barnes and Noble store and look at the books on their shelves. Few would pass as “New” online. Books get opened, thumbed through, many even are taken to seats and read. The covers lift on many books as they sit on the shelf. Once they are paid for and taken home, many would already qualify for “Used: Very Good” condition.)

· Like New: An apparently unread copy in perfect condition. Dust cover is intact; pages are clean and are not marred by notes or folds of any kind. Suitable for presenting as a gift. (The last part about being suitable for presenting as a gift is very important and a good thing to keep in mind It should appear unused. Unopened, unmarked, pages not turned. No damage.)

· Very Good: A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. (This condition also is regularly abused. It’s seen often that a book will be listed as Very Good with a comment that the spine is creased. NO. The spine remains undamaged – this means the spine is not creased. Many times the spine is uncreased from a very gentle reading, the front cover may lift a little, there are no marks and no damage. That’s a good example of a Very Good condition book)

· Good: A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact -including dust cover, if applicable. The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include "From the library of" labels. (Not only can Good condition include the “From the library of” labels but it’s also the proper category for former public library books. In the comments area you still need to explain there are stamps and stickers and that the book is an ex library or former library book, but any former library book with markings should not be listed in a higher condition than Good)

· Acceptable: A readable copy. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact - the dust cover may be missing. Pages can include considerable notes--in pen or highlighter--but the notes cannot obscure the text. (It’s important to note for this condition that the cover is intact. Even on the worst copy you can legally list on Amazon, the cover must be intact. You may come across books with the covers ripped off. And you may never have noticed this text, written on the _______ page of most paperbacks – “If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property.” When bookstores return unsold books to publishers for credit, they tear off and return only the covers and guarantee the publisher that the books themselves have been destroyed. If you come across some that have been salvaged, don’t buy them or accept them if you plan to try and sell them.)

· Unacceptable: Moldy, badly stained, or unclean copies are not acceptable, nor are copies with missing pages or obscured text. Books that are distributed for promotional use only are prohibited. This includes advance reading copies (ARCs) and uncorrected proof copies. (Although not spelled out here, Teacher’s Editions of textbooks are not allowed. In the Help section ‘Marketplace Seller Offenses & Prohibited Content you’ll see this rule spelled out:
· Solutions manuals. Manuals or teacher's editions that provide answer keys to student textbook editions are prohibited. )
A rather new addition to these rules are changes to the Collectible category:
Items priced at or above the list price (MSRP) or $10, whichever is greater, are eligible for "Collectible" designation. Items priced below this may be listed under "Used" or "New , but will not be eligible for "Collectible" designation.
These additional guidelines, although not mandatory, may be used to determine whether to list a book as Collectible. To be considered collectible, books should be unique in a way that increases value for a collector, for example:
 First edition and first printing, signed, inscribed or scarce
 Not ex-library, a remainder or a book club edition

Be sure to list your book on the exactly matching page in Amazon’s catalog. If one doesn’t exist that matches your item, you can Create a Page if you’re a Pro Merchant – which involves paying a flat $39 fee per month. Perks of being a Pro Merchant are the ability to Create a Page and the fact that the .99 per sale fee is waived. If you sell more than 39 items per month, it’s a cost savings to become a Pro Merchant.
If you are not a Pro Merchant, and the only listing is for, let’s say, the hardcover edition. You have the softcover edition. Should you list your softcover on the hardcover page and put in the comments “This is the softcover edition” ? Amazon says no – that’s a violation and if the buyer receives the wrong edition they can complain. They can also file an A-z Guarantee Claim with Amazon under the complaint of “Materially Different” and they would win. Amazon would remove the funds from your account and refund the customer while allowing them to keep the book in question.


In addition to selecting the Condition, you are encouraged to write something in the Comments field. It’s your only free text area and the only place you have to communicate what is different, unique, special, or damaged about your particular copy. Mention rips, tears, bends, creases, markings, highlighting, etc. Remember that your buyer is purchasing from you sight unseen. They really don’t want to know that you’re “A great seller with a wonderful rating and excellent return policy!” That doesn’t tell them what may be wrong with your copy of the book. If it smells a little smoky, disclose it. If there is a remainder mark (usually a slash or dot made by a marker on the outer edge of the book) then disclose it. Be honest. Of course you want to make the sale but it is not a good idea to glaze over defects and only say glowing, positive things. Your buyer will more than likely be disappointed and upset when they get surprised with the damaged book. Paint an honest picture.

I like to start at the cover and go to key areas that I mention in a book description: “Covers lay flat and are shiny, Spine is uncreased, Text is clean and unmarked.” That sort of gives a virtual 360 degree turn of the book. If there is an image provided on the listing by Amazon, I usually state “Exactly as shown”. Be truthful.

I sold a book that appeared to be unread, the spine was uncreased, the text pages were crisp and clean, but inexplicably the front cover was bent back and a clear tire tread went across the title page. How would you list that book for sale? I mulled it over for a bit and then listed it as “Used: Good” with the Comment – “This book was new and unread when it was tragically run over by a car tire. It has survived to tell the tale, but the front cover is bent and creased, and there is a clear tire tread mark on the title page. Spine is uncreased, all text pages are clean and unmarked.” The book sold and there was no complaint. It was discounted and my buyer knew exactly what to expect so there was no confusion.
There was a listing spotted once that read “Looks like this book fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.” Humor can be good way to get noticed and communicate with your potential buyer, but make sure you also describe what exactly makes that book so ugly. After reading that, I might expect creases and a general wear and it may actually have water damage or worse. Be clear and be honest.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

3.2 - How to Make Your Own Air Pillows for Packing

Air Pillows are those little plastic pouches inflated with air that are put into packages to protect the contents. Why should you want to use them in your own packages?

Save Money

That's the Number One reason. They help you to save money on postage costs. Especially if you're shipping a Priority Mail box and the weight is 15 ounces or more. Add some scrunched paper or packing peanuts and you're most likely going over that one pound mark - and adding alot more to your postage cost. If you add one or two air filled pillows, you're most likely going to stay under the one pound mark.

If you're like me, you hang onto any packing supplies that come to you with incoming shipments. But if you start shipping quite a bit you'll quickly run out of your own supply of recycled materials and need to find more. I decided for myself that I wanted to use Air Pillows as often as possible, but once I started shopping around to buy them new, I was shocked at the prices. I kept saying "These are basically just air!" and I wanted to find them cheap! I also wanted to be able to decide if I needed fully inflated ones, small ones, large ones. If I bought a whole batch of tiny ones and then had a really large void to fill in a box, I'd just be filling that box with a LOT of little air pillows.

I researched on the web and saw lots of very expensive machines that churn out air pillows quickly. Way out of my price range. I decided to make my own.

Here's what you need to make them my way:

- Impulse Sealer - (previously mentioned under the post 'Impulse Sealer, Bags and Bflute'). If you don't have one, at the bottom of this post is information on how to make them without an impulse sealer.
- Plastic - Either bags (clear poly bags) pre-sealed on one end, or a roll of 2, 3, or 4 mil plastic. The smaller numbers are thinner and cheaper and make good air pillows.
- Pair of scissors
- Small hand pump for balloons (these are very cheap and found in party stores or maybe even Walmart and cost less than $5. I bought mine for a prank I did on my Director of IT at my former job when I filled her office with balloons for her birthday. Really filled it - approx waist high. Took me and two helpers many hours.... late into the night... but it was really worth it! Ah but I digress.)

1 - Seal both ends.

For this size I'm using up some small clear poly bags that I bought by mistake. They're too small to put anything in for shipping, and I never thought I'd use them. Turns out they make nice air pillows. One end was sealed when I bought them. I just sealed the other end here.

2 - Snip off one corner.

Just like that - take a sharp pair of scissors and snip off the corner making a small opening.

3 - Inflate with balloon pump. (this size air pillow only takes one full pump or a couple small ones)

4 - Seal the corner. You'll lose a tiny bit of air as you let go of the fingers holding the corner closed and move it onto the impulse sealer and seal - but it works and you can seal it easily and still have a firm air pillow.

That's it! Finished air pillow that's ready for packing!

I set my first couple of experimental air pillows under a heavy book and left it overnight to see if the seal was good. Next morning they were fine and still inflated!

How to Make Air Pillows Without an Impulse Sealer

I found this handy dandy kit at You can buy pre-sealed plastic pouches with a small circle cut out in them. You use the included pump to inflate the pouch, then put a label over the hold to seal. There is an instructional card to download on the site - here's what it looks like:

This is helpful in learning the process, but if you have an impulse sealer you'll realize quickly that you can do it yourself at a greatly reduced cost.