Thursday, May 21, 2020

Undercutting the eBots

I was looking for a paperback copy of Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends on eBay last night, and was struck by how many sellers were offering copies for list price or higher. If Amazon is cutting that price down, what hope do you have of shifting a copy on eBay? Then again, many of these "sellers" seem almost bot-like. Maybe they really are listing in earnest, but are you a bookseller if you never sell a book?

Searching for Rooney's book gave me the idea of searching for my own books on eBay, just to see if any were out there. Now, the vast majority of my sales (80-90%, depending upon the title), have been ebooks, mostly Kindle. So there aren't a metric ton of my paperbacks floating around out there. They exist, certainly, but it's not like a John Grisham thriller, where you can't expect more than a buck and a half for one because everyone else is also trying to unload their copy.

The first one I typed in was The Greatest Show on Dirt. Two copies popped up. One was priced at $14.73, the other at $16.51. Nice round numbers, gotta love it. The best part is the book goes for $11.95 new on Amazon, and pretty much any other book seller you want to search. My theory on these eBay listings is they don't actually hold a live copy of the book. If by some lightning strike someone buys through them, they then go order it through Amazon and pocket the difference. I still can't imagine this ever happens, but nothing really makes sense with these, and that's my best guess. They're like Twitter bots, hoping to sell to other bots.

I searched for Nine Bucks a Pound and Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed and found similar results. There were five listings for Nine Bucks a Pound, all priced well above the actual $13.95 list price. Four bots have posted Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, all looking to make a hefty commission over the $11.95 standard freight.

And then I did the most basic eBay search on my name, querying "James Bailey" under Books. There are a number of other James Baileys out there writing books. Most of what came up wasn't mine. But one in particular caught my eye.

To quote Peter Parker from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, "We don't talk about that." No, we don't talk about A Misconception of Fate. This was the first novel I ever wrote. I self-pubbed it six years before The Greatest Show on Dirt. And then quickly un-pubbed it. Because it's just not very good. The best thing I can say for it is I finished it. I wrote 2/3 of it back in my 20s, set it aside, then came back to it half a decade and two major moves later.

It's bad. The plot, the characters, the entire concept. I don't think I ever sold five copies of it, and that was five more than should have been sold. And I don't for a moment believe whoever/whatever listed it on eBay actually owns a copy. I'm almost tempted to put in an order to see what happens. Because unless they have some pirate source overseas, there's zero chance they can fulfill it.

I do have a couple copies floating around here somewhere. I won't post them on eBay myself. Some things are better left unread.

I did, however, post copies of my other books. The first three, anyway. I still have inventory on hand. I figured why not undercut the bots and see if anyone places an order. If you happen to be in the market, The Greatest Show on Dirt, Nine Bucks a Pound, and Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed are each listed for $5.95. You pay media rate for the USPS delivery. Still a great deal compared to what you'd pay on Amazon. Order now and it should arrive in plenty of time for Father's Day.

But, please, spare your dad the Misconception. Leave that one for the father of the bots.

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