Monday, November 14, 2011

Market Spotlight: Results Edition!

Welcome to your 8:1 profit margin

Rather than look at "new" findings and looking at future profits, I thought it might be instructive to focus on actual artifacts that sold for actual profits.

So for this column I printed out everything I've sold on Amazon since my last Market Spotlight entry on November 7.  I'm also listing (when known) what I paid for the book in question, and the source of the book.  It's a very small sample size, and we're heading into the height of Christmas book season, so sales are slightly more brisk than they would be in say, May.  The point is that this list certainly doesn't tell the whole story on book scouting by any stretch.  But it might tell some kind of useful story.

November 8, 2011

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey
Purchase Price:  $5.00
Source:    $5.00 box of trades at Fallcon
Sold for:  $27.99

November 10, 2011

Classic Gambit
Purchase Price:  $2.00
Source:   Half Price Books clearance rack
Sold for:  $14.99

X-Men: Blinded by the Light
Purchase Price:  $7.50
Source  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold for:  $34.99

Art of Hack Slash
Purchase Price:  $13.99
Sold for:  $39.99

Batman:  Shaman
Purchase Price:  unknown
Source:  unknown
Sold for:  $29.99

November 11, 2011

Essential Conan
Purchase Price:  $7.00
Source:  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold For:  $29.99

November 13, 2011

Purchase Price:  $3.50
Source:  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold for:  $17.99

Hellblazer: Hard Time
Purchase Price:  $9.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For:  $29.99

Green Arrow: Straight Shooter
Purchase Price:  $3.60
Source:  Lone Star Comics
Sold For:  $19.99

Countdown to Final Crisis Vol 4
Purchase Price:  $10.00
Source:  Half Price Books (Fallcon)
Sold For:  $34.99

Invisibles Vol 2:  Apocalipstick
Purchase Price:  $19.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For:   $37.99

November 14, 2011

Batman: Venom
Purchase Price:  $5.00
Source:  Comic Collector Live
Sold For:  $39.99

Secret Six: Depths
Purchase Price:  $14.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For:  $34.99

Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation
Purchase Price:  $14.50
Source:  Local Comic Shop
Sold For: $34.99

Looking at the results from the past couple of days, you can see illustrated many of the points I keep hammering on.  It's hard to sell an expensive book.  People are very willing to drop $20 or less, less willing at $30, but still doable.  The highest price realized was $39.99, and that's fine, particularly when you're able to score that copy of Batman: Venom for only a fiver!

Incidentally, we're getting to the time of year when wallets will loosen up a bit, and you will be able to move those deluxe high-end hardcovers.  But even in the midst of that Christmas buying season, it's pretty easy to see that your money is made buying material dirt cheap and then trying to flip it in that $20-$30 range.  You turn the product over, and then you funnel it into more product.

Yeah, I might have been able to squeeze another $5 out of a book or two in this list.  But then again, maybe not.  You're not doing yourself any favors letting that book collect dust on the shelf for a couple of bucks.  Turn it over and keep that machine rolling!  How much sense does it make to hold onto a book for an extra $5 when you could have turned it into new product that generates another $10, or $30?  I check my listings about twice a month and do some surgery, slashing prices to meet the "new" market.

Not every book is going to be a grand slam.  Sometimes you may end up selling a book for less than you paid for it.  Take your lumps and dump that liquid capital into something that will earn you some money.  You do yourself no favors waiting for that dead end to cycle back.  Granted, higher end product requires a little patience to find the right buyer.  But if you're still sitting on that book you bought a year ago waiting for a miracle, you're making a mistake.  Purge it, and generate somewhere else.

You can also see the benefits of diversifying your sources.  Work those conventions, hit the used book stores, cultivate multiple online sources.  Look to hit that sweet spot of 3:1 as much as possible.  Unless.  I'll settle for 2:1 on material I know I can move.  I had already sold a half dozen copies of Invisibles: Apocalipstick, so I was perfectly confident in a relatively quick sale.  In that case I'm happy to pay $20 for a book that will sell for $38.  But even that involves some risk, because the day DC goes back to press - poof!  You're stuck with what you've got at way less than cover.  This is why I trickled them out, and never had more than 2 on my shelf at a time.

The total for all items came to $428.86, but understand that Amazon is getting about 20% of that.  So my actual take is something like $343.09, and that's not profit, that's revenue.  Adding up purchase prices, I get about $115.59, but I just don't remember where I got Batman: Shaman from or what I paid for it.  It might have been from Lone Star, in which case it would have been in the $12 range.  It might be a straggler from a large Batman lot I scored ages ago, in which case the cost would be under $5.  Whatever I paid for that book, I'm still solidly in that 3:1 sweet spot for the whole lot.

Total profit?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of $215-$220, which is high for me but not completely out of control.  Can you quit your job and do this instead?  Probably not.  Maybe if you expanded your game outside of TPBs you could do it.  Can you sell enough books to subsidize a really nice comic collection?  Yeah, I'd say you can.

- Ryan


Funcrusher said...

The shop down the street has 3 copied of Apocalipstick. I may pick up 2. Do yoy really recommend Amazon? I know you get more than eBay, but 20% seems like a lot. Thanks for Market Spotlight. I'm going to start doing this!

DJ said...

I'm still stuck waiting for Nonplayer #2 to finally crawl out from whatever hole it's been hiding in so I can get ride of my last copies of #1. Good advice though, and it's nice to see some numbers to better understand just what you're actually talking about with this stuff on the show.

Jersey Keith said...

DJ, Non Player was for the most part a dog fresh out of the gate. I speculated on that one just to make minimal profit. Just remember Ryan and I saying that it's more reactionary to market fluctuations and digging in places no one is spending time at to pick up cheap books, than 1993 speculating....Wanted to just check out something about Minnesota and the town that god forgot...One of my biggest haunting grounds are the millions of county libraries in NJ....they all have monthly book sales and they are consistent honey holes.

St. Paul, MN

Quatrefoil Library
1619 Dayton Ave

Dec 3rd Saturday 1-3

24 min from Brooklyn center. NJ is the most densely populated state so I can hit a new sale weekly. But one thing MN has that NJ doesn't is Half Price Books.

Web Wreckage Stephen said...

Thanks for the share, Ryan. It is always interesting to see examples of what you are pulling in. I often lament that I am trapped (trapped, I tell you!) with the much slimmer pickings of Amazon Canada of which a surprising number of Canadians still seem unaware of the existence of. At least I can boast some repeat sales from my customer base. The biggest dump on my profits has to be the lack of decent shipping options in Canada and the lack of decent shipping charged to customers by to customers: the $6.49 charged per book means either a tidy profit on shipping for slimmer tomes or that you are out of pocket that much after the shipping credit.

Another thing to consider with more expensive books is that sometimes even decent/lower prices might not move a book where the demand has been satiated for those few customers looking for it on amazon. I have learned that lesson with some hardcovers that have sat around longer than I would like.

BTW, if and when someone puts a copy of a scarce book up for sale at or near retail, becoming the low price in the process, do you ever consider picking it up to keep the minimum price at ahigher level? Admittedly, this would be taking the game to whole new level in which you would now be involving yourself more directly in a kind of market manipulation. Just wondering.

BTW #2 With regards to nonplayer, don't forget that it has been optioned and that can only help to bolster demand for that lone issue down the road once more concrete news of the movie project is released. (better make sure to hit Nate Simpson up for a sketch at ECCC in March!)


Chronic Insomnia said...

Jersey Keith - I've been to a couple of library sales, and I find very little in the way of trades. If I expanded my game a little, I think those would be more fruitful. Never been to an estate sale, either, which is probably a mistake.

Stephen - I've definitely snapped up a book from people who are completely lowballing, but only for books with a solid track record I understand. Otherwise, that low mark might actually be the new market level, and you're compounding your problem.

I'll tell you something even more devious I've contemplated but never pulled the trigger on. Some of these sellers have software that automatically undercuts the low price, and it happens fairly immediately. So the low price will be $30, you put your book up for $27.99, an hour later some jackhole who was higher is now at $27.98

I've considered artificially lowering my price on a book to profitable levels, seeing if the software will bring it down with me, then pull the trigger on the competitor's book and raise my price back up. This would be...less than ethical. But I bet it would work, depending on whether or not the seller or the software had a price floor installed. And what do you do if some random person stumbles onto your book that second and buys it from you? Pretty shady stuff. But I've thought about it.

Chronic Insomnia said...

Funcrusher -

I do recommend Amazon, for sure. The 20% gouging is always painful, but the truth of the matter is that you more than make up for it with the number of eyes on your listing, and the ease with which you can sell. Listing takes 30 seconds. Selling takes 5 minutes + a trip to the post office.

The only way I think you could improve your results would be to have an established brand with your own website. But then you're paying hosting fees, managing the site, and still getting charged a fee for taking credit cards. 20% sounds like a lot, because it is, but you're going to achieve prices 100-300% what you will on eBay, unless your item is particularly "hot" at the moment, and then you're breaking even with eBay.

- Ryan

Funcrusher said...

Thanks for responding Ryan, you've talked me into it. I will let it be known how I do.