How to Repair a Paperback Book

I fixed a broken marriage!  It was nearly torn in half, a fractured mess.  It was coming apart at the seams.  With a little time, patience, and glue, I was able to save The Marriage of Figaro: Vocal Score from the garbage bin.

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This boocaught my book scouting eye for several reasons.  First, it is a Non-Fiction book.  Non-Fiction outsells Fiction.  Second, it is a musical score.  Scores cater to a specific audience and can command as much as a good textbook under the right circumstances.  Third, it is a large book.  It immediately stood out on the thrift store shelf from the other trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks for sale.  Size is no guarantor of profit, but it is a distinguishing feature that separates this book from the rest of the pack.  Finally, I checked the book on the Amazon app on my iPhone and saw a favorable resale price.  I snatched it up.

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Once in my hands, the book revealed its flaws.  From the shelf I could see its creased, dirty spine, but I did not expect the book to fall apart when I opened it!  I like to buy books in the best condition possible (Very Good to Like New) because they require the least work to resell and solidify my reputation as a seller of high quality items.  However, I occasionally pick up books in Acceptable to Good condition and recondition them to Good or Very Good depending on how the restoration turns out.  The Marriage of Figaro, in this broken state, was Acceptable at best; a usable copy to someone in desperate need of the text, but not a reliable, sturdy copy of a book that will see much use and handling as a textbook.  Priced to move for a quarter ($0.25), I took the small risk and decided to purchase it with the plan of repairing the binding.

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For this repair, I used Helmar Professional Acid Free Glue.  It dries clear, forms a strong, flexible bond, and maintains its integrity due to its neutral pH.  Other glues can yellow if they are not pH neutral or are susceptible to degradation.  Make sure your glue is appropriate for the task.

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Assess the Damage

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She's split right down the middle.  All of the pages are present and intact, making the book suitable for repair.  If the book is missing any pages, it's probably not worth repairing unless it is an exceptionally scarce book.  The interior of the book is still attached to the cover, leaving us with the split spine.

Address the Damage

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Lay a line of glue down the spine.  I use my paring knife to work the glue into problem areas and smooth it out before closing up the book.  Remove any stray glue that made its way onto the pages.  Carefully close the book and lay it down.

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Make your spine as straight as possible, then place weights atop the book to aid the healing process.  Gravity is your friend.  In this example, I used an old iBook (essentially a brick at this point) and several hardcover books in lieu of a fancy book press.  Use what you have at your disposal.  If you have a few copies of Marv Levy's autobiography, go for it.  First Edition of The Notebook?  Just icing on the cake.

Now wait.  Be patient; do not touch your book for 24 hours.  The glue applies and dries quickly, but you should let it set for a day to ensure a quality repair.

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Patience pays off.  After 24 hours, I opened my book and was happy with the repair.  I handled the book for a bit, riffling it back and forth, holding it as I would were I to use it for study, and I feel confident selling this book on the marketplace.  Once Acceptable, it is now Good, and ready to find a new home.

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The book has a nice square binding, but the damage is evident to a keen eye.  Always disclose any damage or condition issues in your books.

The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro): Vocal Score The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro): Vocal Score
Author: Ruth Martin
List Price: $34.99
Sale Price: $25.64
  Eligible for free shipping!
23 new from $25.64  24 used from $10.95

Description

(Vocal Score). Italian/English. Translated by Martin.

Features

  • 496 Pages
  • Editor or Translator: Ruth Martin
  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Publisher: G. Schirmer, Inc.
  • Softcover

FBA Shipping Walkthrough

If you have read my FBA overview post, you undoubtedly know that I am a proponent of Fulfillment by Amazon as a strategic partner.  Avoiding the Post Office, reducing shipping costs, expediting deliveries, offloading customer service duties, and increasing profits make my time and money invested in FBA a worthwhile expenditure.  Unfortunately, I learned most of what I know through my own mistakes, but experience is our best teacher.  To help you navigate the FBA shipping process, I have provided an overview of my inventory management flow process.

Step 1: Acquire Inventory

If you do not know how or where to acquire inventory, then FBA will be a moot point.  Expect a thoughtful write up on inventory acquisitions in the coming weeks.  This tutorial assumes that you have a wealth of inventory and have done some research on FBA.

Step 2: Organize Inventory

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Get yourself a shelf.  I buy them at yard sales, thrift stores, and major discount stores for a reasonable price.  I have even garbage picked a few in my day.  Get something sturdy because books are heavy.

Excuse the extension cord in the picture.  I only have a few outlets in my basement and need to run a cord to power a few devices.  This is one of many shelves I acquired for free.  Curb alert.

 

Step 3: List Your Inventory

Develop your process for listing the inventory you have purchased.  Clean your books and list them for sale, noting all condition issues and pertinent information.  Price accordingly, and do not forget to include your markup for FBA.  Standard shipping reimbursement for Merchant fulfilled (that's you in your abode) orders is $3.99.  Make sure you add $4 to cover your "shipping" cost, which should cover most of the fees associated with FBA.  If you would sell your book for $10 + $3.99 Merchant fulfilled, then you should charge $13.99 for the same book sold through FBA.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to list my items for sale.  Again, there's a learning curve, and it will be covered in a separate post.

I always have cleaning supplies handy to remove price stickers and dirt, gunk, filth, and muck from the books I buy secondhand.  You can see the tools of the trade in the picture to the right.

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When I am done cleaning and listing my books, I place them face down on the table in the order in which they appear in my spreadsheet.  From left to right, the first book in my spreadsheet is at the bottom of the leftmost pile.  The second book sits atop the first, and so on and so forth, until the stack gets too high and I find myself in need of another stack.  I do this for two reasons; I organize by size and I need to affix FBA labels to the books before I ship them.  When my labels print out, I start with the last label and put it on the last book (which would be top of the rightmost stack) and work my way down the stack and over to the left side of the table.  Additionally, I organize the books by size because I ship the books to the Amazon Fulfillment Center in cardboard boxes, and it is far more efficient to squeeze them into boxes when you know the sizes of the books you are shipping.  I'm not always perfect, but I try to put large textbooks with large textbooks, trade paperbacks with trade paperbacks, and so on and so forth.

Step 4: Affix FBA (FNSKU) Labels

IMG_2719Every unit that enters the Amazon Fulfillment Center needs a special barcode label.  This special label has a FNSKU on it, which likely means Fulfillment Number Stock Keeping Unit.  It is different from the SKU you give your item in your inventory.  This is Amazon's SKU for keeping track of your item in its network of massive Fulfillment Centers.  As you travel through the backend of the FBA process, deserving of another tutorial in itself, you will have the opportunity to print out these labels.  You will need 1" x 2.625" (2 5/8") address labels and a good printer to make these labels.  Essentially, you tell Amazon how many labels you need, they assign the FNSKUs, and send you a PDF of your labels to print out and stick on your items.  I use Avery 5160 knockoff labels with a good HP laser printer.  Inkjet ink has a tendency to smear.  Smeared labels could mean lost inventory.  Go laser or thermal.

I deal in single units of used merchandise most of the time, I have to have an effective way of laying out my inventory for labeling purposes, which goes back to the point I made about stacking in Step 3.

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Remove the label from your sheet and plaster it over the barcode on the book. You need to cover the barcode entirely to prevent any confusion in the Fulfillment Center. This barcode label identifies the item as your item. Failure to cover the barcode completely could result in loss of inventory.

Additionally, Amazon offers a labeling service at the cost of $0.20/item labeled in your shipment. If I send in 100 books and let Amazon do the labeling, I will be charged $20 for the service. No thanks! Labeling is quick and easy if you organize your inventory and have an effective workflow. Labeling 100 items will take me 10-15 minutes and cost me less than a dollar.

Americopy 3000 Blank Labels Name and Address Label, 2-5/8" x 1 Americopy 3000 Blank Labels Name and Address Label, 2-5/8" x 1
Sale Price: $16.99
  Eligible for free shipping!
1 new from $16.99

Description

30 Up Address Labels

Features

  • CD/DVD Labels
  • 30 up
  • 100label30up

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Step 5: Place Inventory in Shipping Boxes

Once you have all of your items labeled, it's time to stick them in boxes and get them on their way to the Fulfillment Center.  I reuse boxes that have been sent to me from online orders and I occasionally buy new boxes from Walmart for less than a dollar each.  I'm a small volume seller, so I never need more than 3-5 boxes at a time to send out my inventory.  Make sure you have a sturdy box rated for at least 75 lb Edge Crush.

Recently, Amazon placed a new rule in effect that requires the seller to provide Box Level information about the inbound shipment. It replaces the old packing slip requirement and supposedly gets your items live on the site quicker due to the increased efficiency of the warehouse receiving process. It ends being slightly more work for the seller and truly requires a post of its own. When I write that post, I will link it here.

Step 6: Weigh Your Boxes

IMG_2723Once you have your boxes packed, you will need to weigh your boxes.  When I am shipping relatively heavy boxes to Amazon, I always use the Amazon Partnered Carrier, aka UPS.  Usually, I can ship out my boxes for $0.20 - $0.30 / lb to the Fulfillment Center.  You will need a good scale to weigh your boxes.  I recommend the Ultraship 75 Lb Electronic Digital Shipping Postal Kitchen Scale.

I try to keep my boxes under 50 lbs, but I go over sometimes.  When I do, I write "Heavyweight" or "Team Lift" on the box to satisfy Amazon's safe lifting requirements.

 

 

Ultraship 75 Lb Electronic Digital Shipping Postal Kitchen Scale Ultraship 75 Lb Electronic Digital Shipping Postal Kitchen Scale
Sale Price: $30.98
  Eligible for free shipping!
13 new from $30.98

Description

Myweigh is a manufacturer of high quality scales and scale accessories. Myweigh has some of the most reputable scales on the market. To find what you are looking for please select from the Category above or click the view all icon to see all our scales...

Features

  • Huge 55lb/25kg capacity, dual range design
  • Tare, hold, and Auto-off feature, programmable auto on/off switch
  • Runs on batteries or optional AC adapter
  • Removable display on 2ft flesh cord
  • Included Accessories: letter tube holder, mail/envelope holder

 

Step 7: Ship Your Boxes

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After weighing your boxes, you will have to print out shipping labels and put them on your boxes.  

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I ended up with five boxes full of used books in this shipment: 159 total items, 156 SKUs.

Seal up your boxes with good packaging tape.  Go over the seam of the box a few times.  You need these boxes to survive their journey to the warehouse.  Your Fulfillment Center may be a few hours or a few days away from your home/business.  Make sure you pack them well for the long haul.  As for dunnage or filler, Amazon prefers the little airbags or rolled up Kraft paper.  Do not use shredded paper or packing peanuts.

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When you select the Amazon Partnered Carrier, UPS, you will be able to print out your shipping labels from the comfort of your home.  Get some self-adhesive half-sheet shipping labels (Avery 5126 compatible).  No need to tape them unless you feel like you cannot trust your adhesive.  These are also great for creating shipping labels for Merchant Fulfilled orders.  Again, I recommend a quality laser printer to avoid the smudgeability of injket ink.

 

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Finally, I gather all of my nicely labeled boxes and drag them up from the basement and put them on my front porch.  This shipment was 246 lbs and cost me $54.99 to send from my home to the Fulfillment Center in Indianapolis.  $55 sounds costly, but it works out to $0.23/lb.  That's a great deal.  On smaller shipments, I have sent in items through Media Mail or Fed Ex if the price was right.  Amazon doesn't mind how your items get to the warehouse.

IMG_2730I choose UPS because I like the convenience of having a driver pick up my packages.  Pickup is not free, but it is a small cost that I choose to pay because I own a small car and hate lugging heavy boxes to my local UPS drop off location.  If I tack on the extra $6.50 for pickup, my total cost is ~$61.50 for 246 lbs shipped, bringing me to $0.25/lb shipped.  Looking at a per unit perspective, I spent $61.50 to ship 159 books, which works out to $0.39/book.  That's an unbeatable price with most of the hassle of shipping eliminated.  I boxed everything at home, printed my labels at home, and had my packages picked up from my home.

 

 

 

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Overview

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I use Amazon's fantastic service, Fulfillment by Amazon, to house and ship my goods to my customers.  I am a low volume seller and send in small shipments when it is convenient to me, but Amazon does not seem to mind that I am a humble drop of income into their ocean of revenue.  I feel that the service is a win-win-win; Amazon wins by virtue of the fees they charge the seller, the retail customer wins by getting a great product at a great price with unbeatable customer service provided by Amazon, and I win by selling more items at a faster pace for an overall higher profit with a lessened workload.

Sounds good, right?  You want in!  Well, there are a few barriers to entry.

  1. You need to be a Pro Merchant through Amazon and pay the monthly service fee of $39.99, regardless of how many items you sell.
  2. You must be willing to pay the variable closing fee ($0.80 - $1.35 per item sold) and the referral fee (6-20% of the item's price, percentage charged varies by category).
  3. You must be willing to pay to have your item shipped to the customer, which means more fees! You can expect to pay a pick and pack fee of $1.00 per item, weight handling fee ($0.42 / lb), and FBA storage fees ($0.45 - $0.60 / cubic foot you occupy in the warehouse).
  4. Finally, you need to get your items to the warehouse!  As a FBA seller, you can use Amazon's terrific UPS rates to get your items to the Fulfillment Center (Amazon Warehouse) for around $0.25 / lb.

That's the harsh reality.  FBA will cost you money.  It's not a magical free-for-all.  You are paying for Amazon's infrastructure, service, and web traffic.  There is nothing else like it on the planet.  Click here for more information on Amazon Marketplace feesFulfillment by Amazon fees, and a FBA Revenue Calculator.

What's the good news?  Your sales volume will explode.  You will instantaneously experience a surge in sales that you will find hard to believe.  On top of your increased volume, you will pass along your fees to the customer.  Why?  You can an extract a premium for your goods by offering it as an Amazon Prime eligible item, which broadens your sales base to Prime customers who pay $79/yr for unlimited 2-day shipping and a host of other added features.  Non-Prime customers who spend a minimum of $35 to get Free Super Saver Shipping will also be eligible to put your items into their cart to qualify for the $35 threshold.

The fees feel top-heavy, but when you start to make sales and see your transaction reports, you will probably recognize that you are making more money on each item and doing less work in the process.  That means fewer trips to the Post Office or UPS Store, less time spent packaging orders, and less time responding to e-mails.  Once the items are in Amazon's warehouse, your job is done, freeing you to source more inventory, send more items to Amazon, and make more money!