Making It My Brand

Yes, I’ve been bad. I’ve been selling books on Amazon. I’ve learned my lesson. I will never build my brand (or at least not the brand I want) if I am selling on Amazon as a third-party reseller. It’s hard to give it up! It’s addictive. You find books, ship them to an Amazon warehouse (for a reduce shipping rate) and someone else stores them, picks and packs them when the time comes, and handles all the details. But we pay a premium for that service, and it is costly. Not only is it cutting into my profit margin, but it is costing me the growth and exposure of my own brand, which is non-existent as long as I am relying on Amazon. I’ve got to quit.

I need to absolutely quit.

I quit.

The remaining titles are being “picked and packed” from the warehouse to be returned to me over the weeks to come. I’m getting everything listed on the new website.

Click me! Buy Me!
I’m the only one left!

Now, the most obvious difference between listing on Amazon and having your own website is the exposure. Tens of millions (LOTS of tens of millions) of people go online to shop Amazon. People pay over a hundred bucks a year just to be a member. How many online stores can get their customers to do that?

Yep. It’s the classic John Updike novel referred to as “a burlesque of the quest for enlightenment, and an affectionate meditation on American womanhood. ”

What this means for me is I have to do all my own marketing and advertising. The build-it-and-they-will-come marketing plan has only ever worked once, and that was in a movie. I am promoting through social media right now (this blog is a part of that, obviously) and that takes time to build momentum. I have promos of various flavors and one of them is for getting people to sign up to receive email promotions. I’ve had that one running for a solid day now and I have one lead. Granted, it’s not a huge-budget campaign, but it’s a start, I suppose.

There are going to be more opportunities and some of them will be mistakes. The trick is to find more of the former and as very little of the latter. I know I need to develop as much direct marketing potential as possible, and that is analogous to when rich people say “The first million is the hardest” and then chuckle aimlessly. It’s a long row to hoe.

If anyone has any cost-efficient and highly effective methods of promotion, I’d love to hear your suggestion. Have a great evening!

It is Alive!

I’ve got some inventory in place, some in a pile waiting to be listed, and more on it’s way. I’m making all these little decisions about which site and hosting to use and how to go about sourcing my books. I have my tax resale form saved and and copies of it completed and submitted to suppliers. I’m starting to look into advertising and promotion. It’s nice to actually have some stuff in the rear view mirror.

I actually need to start looking into expanding my storage for inventory. The decision at hand is whether to buy some shelving or get the some materials and try to build my own. With the way things are going right now, I’m leaning heavily towards just purchasing some at a good deal and having them delivered. Maybe I’m just older and lazy, but I think I have found some at a good deal. It’s all about efficiency, right?

One of my Music Titles

It’s very appealing to continue listing on Amazon as they do have the vast share of the market exposure, but it does nothing for building my own brand. I need to break away from the third-party selling and become accustomed to running my own show.

Instinctively, I want to list things on Facebook shops and eBay and Amazon, but if I’m ever going to have my own shop, I need to build it. It’s got to start with me and I know it can be done. There are independent bookstore owners out there who are successful and have become an integral part of their community. I’ll never do that on Amazon, eBay, or Facebook shops.

I have definitely decided on the pre-made shelves at this point. Now the matter at hand, for the time being, becomes the best way to promote the website. I had a Zoom call with a guy that is the promotions guy for the Texas Legends ( the players one step away from becoming Dallas Mavericks) and he is going to get back with me about some promotional ideas. How much do you think it would cost to be the official book supplier to the Texas Legends? We’ll find out. That’ll be interesting.

Another Motivational Title

Marketing and advertising is going to be the most costly part of this venture up front and will, hopefully, decrease (percentage-wise) from the overall expense list of running this bookshop. It’s hard to figure out where to spend advertising dollars. It’s definitely not a lack of options. It’s figuring out what’s going to get me the best ROI. I somehow thought I would promote the hell out of it on free-form social media alone, but I’m apparently not really great at that. I have a few more things I want to try along the lines of free social media promotion tactics, but I don’t know how far they will move the shop along. We’ll see. Stay tuned!

A Little Bookstore

A Local Neighborhood Little Library

Kurt’s Books is on the way. Inventory is arriving daily and the website is being tweaked and prepared for launch. It will have a slightly better selection than the quaint little library seen here on the left, and it will improve, with your feedback, of course, over time. Keep an eye out for it. Kurt’s Books is coming soon!

Fiction and Non…New and Used…Kurt’s Books will hopefully be launched this weekend.

A Bit of a Damper

Obviously, global pandemics can be a bit of a damper on routine life and casual living. We all pivoted and adjusted accordingly, and now we are trying to safely ride out the rest of it and take on whatever else comes our way in these tumultuous times.

There is the ever-growing list of anti-racism titles which seem to be sold out everywhere at the moment. Titles like White Fragility and Stamped from the Beginning are flying off the virtual and physical bookstore shelves.

I’ve just submitted my own wholesale order for books and I hope to have them listed and available in a couple weeks. Where I normally do mostly arbitrage around my community, both Covid-19 (and my wife) have discouraged me from that.

Penny the dachshund warning me to not go out hunting books.

I’m excited to have some material to post online and I am seriously trying to break into some type of regular pop-up locations I can rotate regularly throughout the month. I’m going to reach out to some shop owners and see about setting up a table one Saturday per month. If I get four locations per month, one each Saturday, it will be a start, and I will be thrilled.

Also, once I have my inventory in place and everything is accounted for, I will also be posting select titles here in my blog, as well as all the other facets of social media available to me. I’ll have to start linking my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Wow, It kind of sounds like I should be making a list for myself instead of a blog post. LOL. I’ll write it down and get it done. Let’s see…what else?

Well, concerning the nationwide protests, in case there is any doubt concerning where I stand, I am for peace. I am for all races being able to come together and live in a united environment which actively strives for equality. In order for that to happen, society must realize that Black Lives Matter. Yes, all you nay-sayers…All Lives DO Matter, but in today’s world, right now, the emphasis is on black lives, because they need it right now.

Black Lives Matter, as do all lives, but today, the emphasis is on Black lives. They are the ones who need it right now.

I sincerely hope you understand. If not, and if it actually offends you, know that it is isn’t my intent to offend anyone, but also that it is important and I won’t be changing my stance. Thanks for your understanding. I wish we were ALL that understanding. It’ll happen one day.

The books are on the way! I must be, too, at the moment. I have stuff to do!

Take care, stay safe, keep reading and keep the momentum.

Scanning and Texting. Texting and Scanning.

I was at a local bookstore this past weekend, scouting books with my BlueTooth scanner, and my wife sent me a text to remind me of the incoming rain storms. I went to text her back to let her know I’d be heading back soon, and I couldn’t get the virtual keyboard to come up on my phone. I quickly realized the HID setting on my scanner was replacing the keyboard input so the software deemed the virtual keyboard completely unnecessary.

What I didn’t know at the time was that one can flip back and forth between HID input and virtual keyboard input by double clicking on the scan button. Of course, that wouldn’t be as fun as trying to figure out how to otherwise respond to my wife’s text.

Usually, if I was busy, I’d just reply with a thumbs up emoticon. Since that emoticon weren’t available, I had to improvise.

My Homemade Thumbs Up Emoticon

So, I took a couple moments to take a thumb selfie, and was able to get back to scanning.

I managed to pull almost a dozen books which may not sound like much, however, they were pretty nice books. Some books, such as certain text books, medical manuals, science, and engineering and math references, can sometimes be found, used, quite inexpensively and provide a good profit margin. Finding books like this would usually be preferable to trying to get the same return with a bunch of “less valuable” books that take more space and shipping costs, eating up the profit margin. Of course, I take them all. The “lesser” books will also sell quicker, generally, and earn their way into the box.

So, remember, if you ever find your self scanning with an Eyoyo 1D scanner and your significant other sends you a text, you can simply double click on the scan button to toggle between the scanner input and the virtual keyboard. Other than that, you can always make your own custom emoticon with the camera on your phone and make them wonder about you.

Keep the momentum! Happy booking!

I got yelled at…twice.

Yes, I knew running around in public with a Bluetooth scanner scanning used retail books would eventually get me in trouble, but it just happens when you least expect it, and by the most unusual suspects.

Alright. The first time was last week. I was going to a library sale, not the regular sale, but the preview. Ya know, the early sale that people pay an extra five or ten bucks to attend by purchasing their annual “Friends of the Library” membership in order to have first dibs at the most profitable books.

I arrived early, in typical early-bird-get-the-worm mentality, and ready to go. In fact, I showed up way early. The sale was supposed to start at two in the afternoon and the organizers and volunteers were madly rushing to set up tables. I asked if I could go ahead and pay someone for my membership (my entry ticket) so I could start scanning as soon as the starter gun went off. The lady behind the counter told me not to worry, I had plenty of time. The sale didn’t start until three. I was like “Cool! No problem. I thought it started at two but I’ll just hand around and browse and wait.”

Well, now she was curious as to how I possibly could have thought it was starting at two. When she asked, I simply took out my phone and showed her the online ad….”Preview Sale: 2:00 to 5:00” Well, that was simply the wrong thing to do. I could see the veins in her neck swell momentarily before the blood reversed and drained her face white, and she responded through gritted teeth. “I submitted that ad myself!”…as if that were the final say in the matter and nothing po…O.K., yeah. That WAS the final say in the matter. I said “thank you” and went to wait in my car.

Then, a week later…this evening, in fact, I was scanning in the back of my local Goodwill store and after about half an hour, this guy comes in and starts scanning with his phone. He looked over and saw me with my Bluetooth scanner setup and, again, the veins in the neck thing. He was visibly upset.

“So now YOU’RE here.” He said, as if we had met before. “I’ve been coming here and scanning for fifteen years and now everyone with a cell phone is in here!”

I hadn’t realized that Amazon had a reseller program fifteen years ago, but, even so, time passes and things evolve. Things that make money tend to become popular and, eventually saturated. We live in the DFW metroplex and there are about eight million people here. I imagine a few of them hit up this particular Goodwill store from time to time.

I said “Nice ya meet ya!” And, I have to admit, I momentarily considered going to wait in the car again, but I immediately thought better of it. I figured, I was here first, it’s a public space, and I’m not doing anything wrong. He had obviously intended to intimidate me but I DID get a chuckle out of it…and kept scanning.

He left in a huff and, figuring the store had already been recently scanned by someone who came before me, I decided to go ahead and check out as well. The girls at the register were talking about the angry guy who just stormed out and wondering what happened.

“I’ve never seen him get angry like that!” One of them said. I laughed and said “Are you talking about that guy that just stormed out?”

They looked at me as if I may have some juicy dirt to share, so I shared. “Do you know what he does? He scans books to sell on Amazon.”

I held up my scanner for them to see. “And so do I. Apparently, he’s been coming here for fifteen years and I just started scanning last month. I am infringing on his territory.” The cashiers and everyone in line all had a good laugh. I suppose they were relieved that he wasn’t some kind of psycho with some other issue, not to say that he wasn’t.

Anyway, it initiated a quick discussion about how the scanner worked and the software I used and how the books were transferred to Amazon. It was very educational for them and the discussion helped by means of introducing my self and making me a familiar face they can be comfortable with when they see me walking around scanning, instead of some angry guy, sulking around thinking he owns the place.

So, we all had a good laugh, I got a few books, and I went home to fix some fresh coffee and relax. Some times you have to put aside the hustle and just get out of the way. Not often, but tonight, it seemed warranted. LOL

I’m Jumpin’ In

I haven’t posted in a few days but I haven’t been resting on my laurels. I’ve been busy researching all the retail arbitrage videos on YouTube and listening to Gary Vaynerchuk (which keeps me both hyped up and in touch with reality at the same time, which is very unique) and preparing to jump in to selling on Amazon.

A Bluetooth scanner is on the way and I am now able to scan with my phone in the mean time. I was going to wait until the scanner came in before I went out and tried finding stuff to sell, but I decided to go ahead and get familiar with the software and the process so I would be ready to go when the scanner got here. That turned out to be a really good idea.

Hittin’ the Road

First, I mapped out a couple nearby places and headed out. One of my immediate concerns was what it was going to be like walking into a place and scanning and how people would react. Both locations had people who didn’t appear to mind at all. So, I’m thrilled with that. I was experiencing a bit of paranoia about someone walking over to me with an angry glare and asking what I thought I was doing and telling me to leave before they called the police. It never happened. Good deal.

Next, I managed to scan a few bags of books. Score! I came home to load them all into my seller account and get them mailed off to Amazon, but my seller account is apparently still going through some clearing process. I created a trouble ticket and sent it off to the fine folks at Amazon to see what I may have done wrong in my endeavors to load my books, and then I headed on to the next thing on my list.

My List

  • Shipping Boxes
  • Shipping Tape
  • Printer Labels (various sizes)
  • Goo-Be-Gone (for removing stubborn labels)
  • Plastic Scraper (for removing stubborn labels)
  • Dog treats (morale boosters for the store mascots)

Ok. ‘Got all those ordered.

Now, I’m getting ready to drag a folding table out of my garage and set it up in the spare room at the end of the house. (It’s really my aquarium room, but now it’s my book processing room with a huge aquarium against one wall.) I have good lighting in there and I will be setting up the room to get my books from car to computer (for scanning) to printer (for labeling) to boxes (for shipping) and out the door to my car to drop off at UPS. Get a system in place and USE it!

If you can’t tell, I’m a little excited.

I hope you are planning on pursuing your dreams or at least thinking about it and letting it stew in your subconscious. It is important that you make some effort to achieve YOUR goals every day. Do what’s important to you. Trial and error. More trial than error will eventually lead to success.

Shoot for the moon.

Keep the momentum.

Humble Beginnings

If you’re familiar with Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk, Head of VaynerMedia), then you have probably seen one of his numerous social media productions called Trash Talk. It’s a series of videos about Gary running around town on a Saturday morning and checking out garage sales. Now, if you know anything about Gary, you know he’s one of those people you could drop off at any street corner in any city with empty pockets and he would end up owning a business by the end of the month and making a comfortable living. He just does it. It’s in his nature. So, he hits up these garage sales and he knows what to look for.

He has an eye for rough market value and trendy items and, more importantly, he does his research. On one trip, he found a collection of Olympic pins. The seller wanted a dollar each. Gary offered him twenty bucks for the set. The seller took it. When Gary went back to his car, he had over two hundred and forty pins and he ended up selling them, individually or in small sets, for a total of several hundred dollars. He bought a box of matchbox cars the same day for forty bucks, researched them online, and sold them individually or in small sets for a total of over a thousand dollars.

A Few Items which Tend to Do Well

  • expensive text books
  • name brand sneakers, NIB (new in box)
  • certain collectible toys and plush dolls, in great shape, better with original tags
  • name brand watches, NIB

These are examples of some of the mark down items you may want to seek out for resale. The idea is simple. You are taking marked down items from a local market and placing them on a global market for a higher price, where there is a much larger audience and more of a likelihood that someone will pay your price for it.

Now, Gary Vee doesn’t need to be doing this for income. He has already built quite the empire and substantial wealth. He does Trash Talk for the same reason he does all his social media. He is always trying to help people understand that building a business can be done from scratch if you just get up and do it, if you just do the research and dig in and make it happen. And his basic tenants are that you build a brand and everything else is built around it. Build a good brand, reputable, reliable, honest and understand that you work for your employees, not the other way around. You are there to give your employees everything they need to their job and they will take care of your business for you. It sounds fresh and simple, but if you live it like Gary lives it, you can really see the results. I mean, check out Gary Vaynerchuk. You’ll see what I mean.

So, What’s the Point?

Having said all this, I come to say: It appears a certain portion of Gary’s followers have followed Gary’s Trash Talk idea and extended it to their own purposes in their own territories. You should see the number of YouTube videos there are out there of people with Bluetooth bar code scanners connected to their phone out there scanning merchandise in any kind of store from GoodWill to Ross’ (Dress for Less) and Target, Belk’s and J.C. Penny. They wander through the aisles with bar code scanner and bar code scanning rings, hooked wirelessly to their phones, and checking the results in anhy of a number of apps designed to let them know what that items is currently selling for on Amazon. Closeout on on Nike’s in Wal-Mart? A quick scan will let you know whether to go grab a shopping cart and fill it with boxes and head to the check out. And, yes, they do it with books.

There are folks who do their own fulfillment and others who pay Amazon for fulfillment and ship all their product off to them. Be careful if you pay a third-party like Amazon or anyone else to do fulfillment. If your product doesn’t sell fast enough, you are left with storage fees which could eat any potential profits.

Be Aware…

That amazing array of unique coffee mugs you acquired from years of estate and garage sale hunting? You may have some winners in there but don’t let that inventory sit if it doesn’t sell. It will cost you. Make wise choices. Do your research. Know that what is selling right now may be a dead item six or even three months from now. Expensive text books tend to be profitable. Trade paperbacks are typically not.

At any rate, I mention it here just to let you know: It is one more of the myriad of means by which people make ends meet. It can be fun. It can be risky. It can be quite profitable. And it can break you bank if you don’t pay attention. So, it’s basically just like any other entrepreneurial experience.

Have a great weekend and, as always, keep the momentum.

#keepthemomentum

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