Book Remainders and the
Virtues of Patience

By Joe Waynick

Increase sales and profits by selling online.

I decided to call this article Book Remainders and the Virtues of Patience because the long tail of the bookselling business continues to fascinate me.

Remainders sometimes defy explanation. Improperly used, they can sink your business. Properly used, they can significantly boost your profit margins in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times.

First, what are remaindered books? Although I cover the subject thoroughly in my book, Internet Bookselling Made Easy! I’ll cover it a little here too.

A Remainder By Any Other Name . . .

Book remainders, remainder books, remaindered books, or just plain remainders. Whatever you call them, they’re the leftovers. Remaindered books are the books publishers feel have run their course commercially and they allow them to go out of print.

Still, publishers want to get something for them, so they’re “remaindered.” Meaning the publisher holds remainder book sales and sells the leftover books to remainder book wholesalers for as little as ten cents on the dollar just to get rid of them.

What happens, next? A remainder book wholesaler sells them to retailers like you and me for eventual sale to the general public. Wholesalers also sell them to brick and mortar used bookstores, libraries, specialty shops, you name it.

But for the sake of this discussion, we’ll talk about Internet booksellers (that’s you and me again). We buy these books, put them on our shelves, and then we wait.

Beware Of Plunging Prices

Typically, when a book is remaindered and there are many copies flooding the market, the price drops like a rock.

That’s when a lot of sellers get burned. The trick is to know how to buy “right,” then predict whether a price rebound is likely.

Like today. Out of the blue I land a big sale on a book I bought two years ago for roughly 10% of the eventual sale price. I won’t name the book because I still have a couple more on the shelf – and I fully expect them to sell.

But this book isn’t unique. For example, here’s one I will name: The Making of Miss Potter: The Official Guide to the Motion Picture, ISBN 0723258635. I mention it because I sold all my copies, the price has bottomed, and it’s unlikely to rebound.

Before I knew it, there was a glut of Miss Potter books flooding the market and I sold my first four copies at less than ideal prices.

I bought 10 copies for $2.25 each back in 2008 from a remainder wholesaler I met at the Atlanta, GA Spring Book Show the year before. At the time, the book was selling online for around $13.50. When I made my book remainders purchase, I was fairly confident I would recoup my investment, for a number of reasons.

However, I didn’t account for the sudden surge in supply because when I bought my lot from the remainder wholesaler, a number of other remainder booksellers did the same.

I decided to hit the brakes, and set my repricer to hold the price at $13.55, then I waited. Over the next few months four more copies sold at full price. Woohoo! Then another glut of books hit the market.

I decided the book was unlikely to recover a second time so I let my price float and sold my last two books for a small profit.

To avoid a catastrophe I had to be disciplined enough not to dump my copes at the bottom of the first rollercoaster dip to reap the benefits of my foresight.

The Numbers

Today the book sells for a penny; its glory days long gone. Here are the actual sales figures:

2008-08-03 $3.69
2008-08-07 $3.69
2009-03-21 $4.01
2009-03-31 $4.01
2009-04-13 $13.55
2009-09-20 $13.55
2010-01-16 $13.55
2010-01-20 $13.55
2010-05-23 $5.91
2010-10-24 $3.26

Had I not exercised good discipline, I would have sold all of my copies at the bottom of the market and never saw the $13+ sales; a losing proposition.

Had I not purchased my book remainders “right” it would have been equally disastrous. Remainder book buying is an advanced bookselling technique and shouldn’t be attempted until you have a couple of years experience selling online.

Big profits can be made, but so can big losses. Caution is the watch word, with a firm eye on the bottom line.

If you want more nitty gritty analysis like this, Internet Bookselling Made Easy! readers can use their FREE membership privilege to the Internet Booksellers Forum and read Topic “How I Scored With Book Remainders”.

You haven’t read the book? Not a member? Click the link above, get the skinny on the book, buy a copy for cheap, and become a member today!

You get ongoing free consultation (from me), and support from a small army of knowledgeable booksellers just like you who just love to help each other make more money.

See you on the forum!

* * * * *

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