Monday, March 18, 2013

Decisions, decisions

A local Friends of the Library (FOL) organization is holding their annual book sale this week in conjunction with the Cherry Blossom Festival.  It opens at 10 a.m. on Thursday, and since the sale is fairly large, book dealers and dedicated readers start forming the line early.  I usually skip this sale because I have to work, but it always pains me to miss this money making opportunity. 

Every year, though, the FOL hosts a three-hour Preview Party, complete with refreshments, for members, who are allowed to buy books before the horde of locusts, I mean booksellers, descend upon the rows of coveted tomes.  Of course, there’s a catch.  There are different levels of membership, and each level can only buy only a certain number of books. 

From the FOL website:

The level of membership will determine the number of books a member may purchase at the Preview Party. A Student ($10) or Individual ($25) Member is entitled to purchase as many as 12 books. A Patron/Couple ($50) may purchase 24 books and a Benefactor ($100) may purchase 48 books. Members are welcome to bring their own totes or boxes if desired.

I’ve been trying to do the math (not one of my strong points) to determine if purchasing a Benefactor membership would be worth the time, effort, and money.  By joining at that level, I already would be $100 in the red.  Ella and I would have to pick out 48 re-sellable books, each costing between $1 and $4.  An average price of $2.50 per book would put us another $120 (48 X $2.50) in the red, for a total of $220.  To break even, each of the 48 books would have to be worth at least $5. 

The name of the game is profit, though.  Breaking even doesn’t cover our time or our gas costs. To make money, each of the books would have to be worth at least $10.  Now, I’m sure there will be plenty of $10 books there, but I’m also sure that I am not the only dealer who has this idea, and while there will be decreased competition at the Preview Party, I am confident there will others looking for those $10 books.

Just for the record, I also know that the membership fee is tax deductible, which helps a little at the end of the year, but not so much when writing a check in March.

I’ve been waffling about this for several days now.  Is $100 too much money to spend just to attend a sale, with no guarantee of success, or should I just be confident that I will find enough high-dollar books to make it worthwhile?

Decisions, decisions.


  1. Hey Scott,
    Looking into my crystal ball...this might be just the thing for you to do so you won't ever have to think about it again! However, my own business model is to never buy a book unless I can sell it for at least $10.00, and/or at least 10 times what I paid for it. Have you ever been to the sale after the preview? And if so, were you able to find worthwhile books? Hopefully the answers to these questions will make your decisions easier to make! 8-)

    1. I've been to the sale on the last day, and actually managed to find a few sellable items. I've never stood in line with the masses, though. Thanks for your input.

  2. could view it this way: The $100 is a DONATION given to a good cause,namely, the library which makes it so you can buy books for resale, in addition to providing a service for the community, bla, bla. Additionally, you get to go in early, buy up to 48 books while scoping out the sale to determine if you really need to go when the true hordes descend. Could be NOT worth coming back once you get the 48 gems you'll grab up that night.
    Alternatively, Go for the $50 donation, and grab up 24 books while scoping out the field of available books.
    If you just consider the "donation" part just that, then the rest is easy.
    It's OK to be good guys, even if we ARE resellers, eh?

    1. I think my biggest issue is the return on investment angle. Worst case scenario, is it worthwhile to spend approximately $220 to make a small profit?

    2. Yeah...trouble is, it's so unpredictable. If the pickings are only good, and not could end up feeling it's not a good return. so that's why I was thinking if it's a cause you'd be into supporting anyway, then it doesn't matter, whereas if you figure it into the cost, then you feel ripped off.
      Semantics, perhaps, but... :)
      Good luck!

  3. Do they just have one sale per year? Just wondering if they have multiple sales per year, if the benefactor level would get you into all sales early for an entire year.

    Our FOL has two big booksales every year. They also have a pre-sale for their members. Membership here only runs $8 per year for an individual! But, our FOL group sells a lot of books online, so I always imagine that they've already culled out the best to sell themselves.

    1. The FOL has one big sale a year. As far as I know, they don't sell online, so the pickings are usually pretty good if you can get in line early enough, or go to the Preview Party.

  4. Are these memberships regular memerships? Or just for the sale? If it's a regular membership, do they have a little nook or place where they sell books all the time? I pay a $208 family membership to our library and we have a place where they always put out books for sale. I've never gone to the annual book sale, but have bought and sold lots of books with a great ROI. I always check when I go in..and we use the library a lot...for movies, music, audiobooks, magazines, classes, etc.

    I recently wrote a post about using the library for sourcing inventory:

    I know you have a scanner and will probably make out great on the sale even with the membership. BTW..I've been thinking of investing in one of those scanners. you think it's worth it?

    Margaret @ Live Like No One Else