Tips for selling manga on eBay

February 16, 2009

I’m in the process of salvaging (OK, shamelessly recycling) posts from a now-defunct blog of mine, and thought this one might be of use to folks with too much manga and too little floor space…

eBay is a great way to convert your manga cast-offs into cash and fund your Vagabond habit in the process. Before you start listing those old Sgt. Frog volumes, however, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Individual volumes seldom sell. Unless you’re selling a desirable, out-of-print title (e.g. volume two of Short Program, volume one of Please Save My Earth), use Amazon to unload your unwanted singletons.
  • eBayers prefer partial or complete series. Complete or partial sets command better prices on the eBay market than randomly assembled lots. (You know the kind: two volumes of series X, the fourth volume of series Y, and three issues of Shonen Jump.) A complete run of Chobits might not net the seller the full $80 he paid for it, but he’s likely to recoup $25-$40 of his original investment through an auction.
  • Overpriced manga won’t sell. Yes, this seems like an obvious thing to say, but I see many eBayers charging close-to-bookstore prices for Death Note and Bleach. Aim for a starting price that’s 50-70% off list and let bidders do the rest. If you’re still not sure how much to charge, spend some time browsing similar listings.
  • Well-known series sell better than manwha, OEL, and niche-market titles. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Naruto will attract more interest than Banya the Explosive Delivery Man, but some eBayers stubbornly insist on selling less popular titles at near-market prices. The one exception to the niche-market rule is BL/yaoi. I’m not sure why BL/yaoi sells so well on eBay (the embarrassment factor? lack of availability in Peoria?), but one of the most fiercely-contested lots I ever sold included two volumes of Gorgeous Carat and one of Black Knight. From the feverish bidding, one might reasonably have concluded that I was auctioning a Spiderman comic from Barack Obama’s personal collection.

If I haven’t yet dissuaded you from listing your Kaori Yuki collection, I have a few more words of advice for you:

  • Make your listing look attractive. Your listing should look nice–don’t go overboard using different fonts or busy patterns. If you don’t like the templates that eBay provides, invest in a program such as GarageSale.
  • Take photographs. Show your buyers the complete lot (spines and covers). If any of the books are damaged, include a close-up. Full disclosure is always the best policy, even if it means your manga doesn’t sell. Better to have a box of unloved manga than a poor seller rating.
  • Know your shipping costs before you post your ad. Box up the set, weigh it, and find out how it much it will cost to ship it via media and Priority Mail. Don’t use mailing costs as an opportunity to gouge your buyer; eBay has begun cracking down on sellers who charge excessive shipping costs.
  • Be creative in your bundling. I read Blood: The Last Vampire and Arm of Kannon, two manga that just didn’t tickle my fancy. (OK, I loathed them.) I tried selling each individually. No takers. Then I bundled them with the first five volumes of Hellsing and presto! the lot sold for nearly $50. Another strategy I use: selling lots comprised entirely of first volumes. This gambit works best if the titles are reasonably similar (e.g. seven shojo romances) than if you bundle Color of Rage with Phantom Dream and One Piece.
  • Tag your listing correctly. Manga should be classified as Collectibles > Comics > Manga.
  • State your seller policies clearly. Be sure to include a brief statement explaining your selling practices and policies, e.g. I ship within 48 hours of receiving payment, I only accept returns within 2 weeks of the ship date. Keep it brief and upbeat; don’t complain about deadbeat bidders or explain the rationale for every policy.

A final tip: choose the right keywords for your listing. I always include the word “manga” in my title, especially when marketing a series with common English-language words in the title. (Do a search for “Model” or “Red River” on eBay and you’ll see why.) Space permitting, I try to list the most popular titles in my set, their volume numbers, and–if the artist’s name has sufficient marquee value–the manga-ka. For mixed sets, I’ll purchase a searchable subheading so that I can list all of the titles for sale. Here are a few sample listing titles:

  • Lot of 7 Manga: Hellsing 1 2 3 4 5, Arm of Kannon 1 + more
  • Lot of 12 Manga by CLAMP: Chobits 1-8, Wish 1-4
  • Lot of 8 Manga: Chobits by CLAMP 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (complete)
  • Complete Manga/Manwha Series: Les Bijoux 1 2 3 4 5
  • 2 Manga by Rumiko Takahashi: Rumic World/Rumic Theater

Is your manga collection just not selling on eBay? Another attractive option for unloading unwanted manga is Mangatude, a manga swap site. Like eBay, Mangatude operates on the honor system, so exercise caution before setting up trades. Most Mangatude users are enthusiastic about the site, so it’s worth investigating if you have some singletons that you’d like to trade.

I guess it’s not forever

February 16, 2009

Reading comics retailer Brian Hibbs’ reaction to comics retailer Chris Butcher’s reaction to Diamond’s de-listing of a lot of Viz’s back catalog has me thinking about monopolies, or at least businesses perceived to be monopolies.

The thing that strikes me is that objections to Diamond’s recent decisions (and I’m in total sympathy with those objections, don’t get me wrong) stem in large part from the perception that Diamond is behaving in ways that suggest that the company cares less about the medium of comics than the salability of product. (If I’m reading Tom Spurgeon’s piece on the subject correctly, I think that’s kind of what he’s saying as well, or at least that emphasis on short-term gain is limiting and damaging to the comics industry as a whole.) In a world where Diamond wasn’t perceived to be the only comics distribution game in town, that wouldn’t be a problem, because there would be competitors on a similar scale that would be able to fill whatever gaps emerge.

But since Diamond is perceived (not unfairly) as the only meaningful comics distribution game in town, well, then, the only meaningful comics distribution game in town has a certain responsibility to care about comics as a medium, which means making more examples of the medium available, not less. If Diamond wants to have a stranglehold on comics distribution, that stranglehold should be as tender and loving as possible. There should be a dial tone when you pick up the phone to call someone. The train should arrive at the station on time. If a retailer wants to order a volume of the final, unfinished masterpiece of one of the greatest cartoonists who ever lived, then the near-monopoly comics distributor should say “It will ship Tuesday” instead of “You should have stocked up when we had our fire sale.”

So when Diamond behaves like a business that doesn’t exist in a relative vacuum, making decisions that may result in limited availability of non-mainstream new product and big chunks of back stock, they look like they’re abusing the power that their status as a relative monopoly has afforded them. And in a niche market with a very dedicated audience, that is a very, very bad perception to create.

Also, de-listing Iou Kuroda’s Sexy Voice and Robo is just stupid.

Girls + vampires = WIN

February 16, 2009

This week’s Flipped is given over to the rather murky state of affairs currently in play in the manga industry. I have to say, it’s much more fun writing about actual comics than writing about the business of comics.