In this post, Stephen explores the concept that making a little money on the side by reselling comic graphic novels on Amazon comes with its own learning curve, isn’t necessarily morally reprehensible, and that it might actually be a bit more acceptable than making a little money on your back(or even maybe, just maybe, a good thing)…
I have to admit that my recent experiences with the whole selling graphic novels on Amazon game have been something of an eye-opener for me. Before I started selling any collected editions on Amazon, I was pretty oblivious to just how much resale activity of Hardcovers and Trade Paperbacks was actually happening on both amazon.com and amazon.ca. (or amazon.ca-ca, as I like to call it for personal, frustrating reasons) I mean I knew that there were people on amazon offering their own personal copies of long out of print graphic novels for sale at higher than retail prices but I had no real idea that the reselling of newer, unread graphic novels by sellers on the amazon marketplace other than amazon itself was such big business.
Big business and relatively hassle-free compared to other marketplace selling sites such as Ebay because of a system that sees amazon act as a third person processor of any purchase by a buyer on the site. In other words, once someone makes a purchase of your stuff on the amazon marketplace the money is there waiting for you and passed on to you as soon as you ship the order to the buyer and let amazon know that you have done so. There is none of this making a sale and then waiting for the buyer to make good on their purchase by sending you money through Paypal.(a point of contention for many a seller on Ebay, or so I have read more than once) I can see how knowing ahead of time what you will get when an item sells (after amazon takes its commision off the top) and knowing that you will get paid as soon as you hold up your end of the transaction could be appealing to a lot of people. The key of course is having something to sell that other people want. This is likely the reason that I never considered dealing with amazon before. In fact, If I had not read an interview with someone already successfully selling graphic novels on amazon, I am sure I would never have considered it as a viable way of making some extra money on the side.
This activity has also given me an education on the side.
Before I started selling books online, I was pretty much clueless with regards to how many graphic novels are currently out of print and how there is still some demand for many of them; Enough demand that, if you have a copy of a wanted graphic novel in decent shape, you are more than likely to find awilling buyer for it online. From visiting different local comic shops around town I have also learned how frustrated many comicshop owners are that many out of print books have not been brought back into print and that there are no immediate plans to put them back into print – despite strong demand from comic fans for the comic publishers to do so. Often, the lack of supply for the demand of a trade or hardcover is enough to drive the price for even a used copy of a book quite high online. Obviously those with a more entrepreneurial mindset would see an opportunity to make a decent profit while helping satiate that demand. I was really surprised to browse around amazon and see so many individuals selling various books in their collection at (in some cases) very impressive prices. Of course putting abook up for sale at a high price does not mean it will definitely sell at that high price but it gives you a baseline of understanding as to what it will likely cost you to get that book if you want to buy it online now without dealing with any auction site bidding uncertainty. A recent conversation I had on the phone with a comicshop owner was very illuminating. He lives across the country from me (I live in British Columbia, he lives in Ontario)and was telling me a lot of stuff about the current state of the comic publishing industry from a retailer’s perspective. One of his gripes was how comic companies know there is demand for some books to be reprinted but that they dont feel the profits are enough to justify the up front expense of going back to press on many books. He also told me that he received calls almost every day from people looking for various graphic novels that his online comicstore has listed for sale at retail which he believes they are intending to buy and flip on amazon. Of course most of the books they are calling him about are not in stock on his site but he hasn’t bothered to update the listings to reflect this. (I thought of suggesting that the volume of telephone enquiries would likely drop off if he made an effort to update his book listings but then thought better of it) He even confided to me that he sells the occasional GN on amazon himself, trying to impress upon me the high prices people are getting for their books by telling me he had sold a new copy of the Absolute Watchmen hardcover on amazon the week before for $269.
So this potential to make decent amounts of that stuff called money with only a minimal effort has led me to this point and this post; I have also wondered somewhat about how this activity is perceived by others not involved in it. Do other comic collectors see it as nothing more than speculation – even though it is actually the opposite of speculation, since you are buying to resell based on a book’s current price? I suppose. Do others see someone buying a graphic novel at a discounted price and selling it online for mutiples of what they paid to be a somewhat predatory activity? Again, I suppose so … depending on how you look at it.
I would liken the whole thing to one’s initial reaction when watching one of those more graphic shows about animals hunting other animals in nature or insects and magnified bacteria: at first there is a sense of natural repulsion at what you are seeing, but once you step back and see how the actions of every creature and microbe actualy contribute to the natural cycle of things, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Consider this: I walk in and buy a copy of Absolute Kingdom Come from a local LCS at a good discount (say 40% off) and go and list it on amazon.ca to sell to some eager and willing buyer at multiples of what I paid to make sure I make a profit after amazon takes its 15% cut as well as its closing fees and also to cover any left over shipping costs not covered by amazon.ca-ca’s often set-to-low shipping charges (*grrr*). How is this a bad thing? How is this hurting anybody?
My answer: It’s not.
See, here is how I see it: I go into the lcs and buy a book at a price that the store owner was obviously happily willing to sell it at(he did set the price, after all), thereby helping out the store owner who is likely most happy to see the book move and at least get back the cash he spent on it to use for buying other store stock. I benefit from this transaction (obviously) by getting a book at a low enough price to be able to resell it on amazon for a profit – sometimes big, sometimes small, which helps to keep me in my comicbook hobby/addiction. My buyer who bought the book off me on amazon gets a book that is probably hard to find in their local area and that he or she wanted badly enough that they are willing to pay a higher than retail price for it and now they own it.
See, this is all part of a larger natural cycle in which evberybody benefits. I didnt go and buy up multiple copies of a scarce new comicbook, making it harder to get for everybody else (like those dirty speculators, lol), quite the opposite: I made it possible for a copy of a book to go from a store where it wasn’t wanted, to someone somewhere who really wanted it.
I won’t go as far as calling it a good deed, but you can if you like…