Don't Let Your Business Own You

Used books sold by FBA sellers might be will be subject to long-term storage fees, according to a recent article by ecommercebytes.com (link is here)

In case you don't know, FBA stands for 'Fulfillment By Amazon'. The lure of this program has always been that sellers find, list and ship the used books from their home office to Amazon's warehouses, and when the book sells, Amazon picks, packs, ships and bills the item, and pays the seller what's left over after they've deducted their fees.

"Longtail books on Amazon are in jeopardy, some sellers are warning, because Amazon FBA is eliminating an exemption for single-unit Long Term Storage Fees," according to the article. "Longtail" refers to the fact that some books take a long time to sell.

I've had this happen myself. I've purchased what I thought was a great book to resell, and it winds up taking up shelf space for 2 years or more. Then, almost magically, the used book sells. You never know what somebody needs or wants any particular point in time, and I think that's what I love about selling used books online.

But the changes at Amazon mean sellers must promptly choose to remove affected inventory if they want to take advantage of Amazon's limited-time offer of free removal fees and ultimately avoid paying these steep storage fees coming in February 2017. (Note: the waiver of removal fees offer expired Oct. 14th, so there was not much time left for FBA booksellers to act when this article first appeared.)

The article sounded an ominous warning: "If they don't remove single-unit titles before October 14th, they face the prospect of paying LTSF if the titles don't sell by February."

I must admit such program changes by Amazon are the main reason I've never participated in the FBA program. I liked the sound of this program back in 2010 when I got started finding and listing used books for sale on the Internet, especially on the Amazon Marketplace. I traveled alot back then so I had to suspend my book listings for a week at a time by putting them on vacation, and then re-activating my listings when I was halfway back home in some airport somewhere.

But I chose to keep my online bookselling business simple by fulfilling the book orders myself. I'm glad I did. It works for me. My schedule now allows me the time to pick, pack and ship the books myself. If I happen to be working on projects out of town or I'm on vacation, I just put my account on vacation, fill any current orders before I leave town, then re-activate the listings when I'm back home. These days it's seldom more than a day or two.

Sure, it's more work. Sure, it turns off the sales while I'm busy out of town. Sure, I don't get to reach the lucrative Prime customers who tend to spend more money more often. Sure, I don't make any money when my listings are set to vacation mode.

But it works for me.

We each have to create a business that fits us.

There is no rule that you must sell FBA. Many, many booksellers have found the program very lucrative. Quite a number of them claim they've quit their jobs and have gone full-time by using the FBA program. I'm glad for them. But I've decided for now, that manual fulfillment works better for me.

I think what it really comes down to in this business is to find and list books that have a higher return on investment (ROI); i.e., buy them cheap, sell them high, and do the work yourself.

Will that limit your income?

Yes.

Will that allow you to sell every book you find?

No.

Will that work for your situation?

I don't know. It might. It might not. It depends on what you want out of your online bookstore.

The point I'm making as I wrap up this post is simple: Don't put yourself at the mercy of another firm. Don't get backed into a corner if/when they decide to change the terms, the policies, the way they do business. I think this change in the Amazon FBA program underscores that unless YOU have control of your business -- and that means NOT putting all your eggs into one basket -- you won't own a business. A business will own you.