Book Report



I just listed a dozen or so Nora Roberts novels on my eBay store. This week I’ll list another eight or ten. One advantage of selling books, rather than, say, Land’s End chinos or heirloom china, can be summed up in two words: Media Mail. It’s the cheapest way by far to ship eBay items… and books are unbreakable and easy to pack.

Why eBay rather than Amazon?

And what’s with Nora Roberts?

Why eBay? Why not Amazon?

It costs more to sell used books on Amazon than on eBay. “If you expect to have less [sic] than 40 orders a month,” you can “sign up as an individual seller… [with] no monthly fee but instead a per-product-sold fee of 99 cents.” In addition, there’s a “referral fee” of 15 percent.

Alternatively, you can pay a monthly subscription fee of $39.99 per month plus, as I read it, a 15-percent referral fee and a “variable” closing fee ($1.35 each for books). If there’s anything left over and you actually earn some money with your sales, Amazon doles it out to you every two weeks.

Most of the books I sell are paperbacks at $1 each. I add exactly one dollar, which covers packaging materials, to the Postal Service Media Mail rate. I’d lose my shirt on Amazon.

On eBay I pay $15.99 per month for my “basic” store. Listing fees for store items (priced under $25) are only 3 cents each, and the final-value fee is 12 percent.

The contrast in fees is reason enough to choose eBay, but there’s another strong incentive: On eBay the buyer pays me directly through PayPal and, since I have a PayPal debit card, the money is immediately available to me. eBay bills me once a month.

I might get more traffic on Amazon, but there’s also more competition. I still don’t understand – and if you do, please explain it to me – how the sellers who price their books on Amazon at 1 cent make any money at all.

What’s with Nora Roberts?

[Note: I wrote this panegyric to Nora Roberts several months ago as part of another blog, the Writing Queen, in which I express unabashed admiration for the works of Diana Gabaldon, Philippa Gregory, and Roberts. Since then, I have read all the police-procedurals Roberts has written under the pseudonym “J.D. Robb.” They’re superb, and they won’t be offered for sale in my eBay store any time soon.]

Dare I link Nora Roberts’s name with Gabaldon’s and Gregory’s? Nora Roberts, who has had 124 novels on the New York Times bestseller list? Whose books in print exceed 280 million copies? Who produces a new book more often than I dust?

After my most recent Roberts-fest, the “MacGregors” series, I asked myself, once again, “How does she do it?” How, that is, does she write the same story, over and over and over again, putting her characters into different bodies and different scenic locales (usually by the turbulent sea, Atlantic or Pacific), giving them different names and occupations, but telling essentially the same tale?

She does it beautifully, though I confess I cringe every time she uses disinterested when she means uninterested. Still, I am seldom distracted by careless grammar or poor editing. Her research must be fascinating, and exacting. The men and women who populate her books are very believable cops, boat-builders, cartoonists, witches, racecar-drivers, innkeepers, sculptors, carpenters, fashion models, certified public accountants, four-star chefs, and horse breeders. None of them, it must be said, is fat or ugly, and if a character in one of her books is short of cash, it’s only temporary.

Boy meets girl, boy is rudely antisocial, girl is fiercely independent, the barriers come down, the clothes come off, someone puts a fly in the ointment, it gets fished out, and boy and girl get married, have at least three children, and live happily ever after. If we’re lucky, as in the case of the MacGregors, we get to read about several generations of lusty young men and women repeating the errors of their elders, and always triumphing

The principals are almost always white (often Irish or Scottish, though there are French and Comanche strains running through the extended MacGregor clan) and robustly heterosexual, but their close friends might or might not be black, or gay, or both. One of her heroes cheerfully donates sperm (in a clinical setting, not body to body) for his sister’s partner so that, I guess it goes without saying, the couple can have a baby. Roberts writes very comfortably, never coyly, about interracial and gay couples, neither making an issue of “diversity” nor backing away from it.

Her gift, I think, is the ability to pick you up and plop you down in some irresistible setting – an island along the New England or Georgia coastline, a clifftop near Carmel, occasionally a sunset town in Montana – and then surround you with charming people – utterly innocent, thoroughly jaded, and everything in between… and you get to live there for a while, in the beautiful, kaleidoscopic whirlwind she’s painted, and watch people grope their way toward each other… and it’s just lots of fun. Every damn time.

And I learn from them all – these made-up people with genuine humanity – the creations of Gregory, Gabaldon, and Roberts. They inspire me, even if it’s only to have a tidy, well-organized workspace like Cybil Campbell in Roberts’s The Perfect Neighbor. They never let me forget – as engrossing and colorful as their lives and times are, there, on the pages, their affairs so tidy one minute, so messy the next – to live my own life first and peek in on theirs only after my chores are done. Well, except for that “sick day” I spent reading [Philippa Gregory’s] The Queen’s Fool….

Visit the new Holiday Store at for Christmas and Winter Solstice cards, gifts, books, personalized children’s books, original (signed and numbered) art, and lots more.

May Whoever Is On Duty bless you and your endeavors.

3 thoughts on “Book Report

  1. I guess I’m missing something. I have sold a few books on Amazon,but I hve never been able to ship for less than $5.00. Amazon only credits you $3.99 for books. How do people selling books for under $5.00 make a profit?

    • Greg – I usually get the books for free. Most paperbacks are $1, most hardcover are $2. I calculate the shipping via media mail and add $1. For small paperbacks, that makes the shipping $3.23 or so. The listing fees are negligible — I pay something like $15 per month for my eBaY store and then the listings are only 5 cents apiece. So if I sold a hundred paperbacks, say, in a month, I’d net $200 after shipping. Deduct eBaY’s 15% (on sale price only, so that’s $15) and $5 for listing fees, and $15 for the store (and that’s assuming I didn’t sell anything that month besides the 100 books), and I would net $165, before taxes. And once you get your system going, there’s very little work involved.

  2. By the way, whether you list books directly on eBay or through Auctiva, there’s a “find product” link in the listing software that allows you to enter basic book data — the ISBN, or the title and author — and get a full description of the book, including cover art, publisher, publication year, synopsis, and so forth. You can check a box to include the cover art in your listing and another to include the expanded description. Big time-saver…. –M

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