My Amazon trade-In & book buyback arbitrage tool is live. Here’s the weird story of why I built it.
In this article:
- ZenTrade is live.
- How Textbook Money copying us inspired us to copy them.
- The 4 rules I set before releasing ZenTrade.
- How I set out to be an expert in trade-in & buy back sites, and what I learned.
- Why I chose this week to release it (it was strategic).
- Why I’m probably raising the price next week (and why I’m not sorry for it).
By now, you’ve heard the story/scandal around “Textbook Money” (aka “Book Trades.biz”)
In the midst of sorting out how much data the culprits had stole from us, we got a look at the actual Textbook Money / Book Trades Chrome extension. What does a $1,000 + $97/month piece of software look like?
It was kind of staggering. As in, staggeringly bad. Staggering simplistic. Staggeringly unimpressive.
The trade-in data was incomplete. The profit estimation figures were completely insane. And the links were weird. Why would you link to Craisglist in an online arbitrage tool?
My developer said: “They charge $1,000 for this? This unbelievably simple. It would be really easy to make this, and make it better.”
This got my attention. Imagine the poetry of making a better version of Textbook Money. The story would look like this:
- We get our data stolen & our book arbitrage software copied.
- We copy them, and do it 10x better.
Sometimes, you have to create your own karma.
As a general concept, I liked the idea of a trade-in arbitrage tool like this. But…
The concept is very simple:
Create a tool that scans the Amazon page, then alerts you for products that can be purchased for less than their Amazon trade-in or cash buyback site value.
This lets you lock in the trade-in or buyback price, buy the cheaper item, and profit the difference. And all you really have to do is surf Amazon.
Conceptually its pretty cool, but before I created just another software tool I wanted to set some ground rules…
The four things I told my developer before building ZenTrade
I told my developer there were four rules before we would begin building a Textbook Money competitor:
- Has to be better than them.
- Has to be cheaper than them.
- Has to be a 100% hands-off system.
- Has to work for credit & cash.
#1 was a programming problem, which was up to him. However the last three were 100% up to me.
Why I set these rules – one by one
The reason for #1 and #2 was obvious.
The reason for #3 was that I knew from reading emails from ex-Textbook Money members that approximately half of them were overseas & needed a prep service to receive their orders.
I also knew people that trade-in and buyback arbitrage people were at the extreme end of the “run a business in my pajamas” spectrum. Many of them wouldn’t want to ever touch a book, and I needed the entire system to be virtual. This means I needed to find a prep service that would accept books for trade-in, which I knew was almost impossible.
The reason for #4 was because even if I threw my hat in the trade-in arbitrage game, I was not a trade-in person at heart. Turning $100 cash into $500 credit would do wonders for my record collection (yes Amazon sells vinyl), but it went against everything I’ve done and taught over many years. I’m a cash person (aren’t we all).
A good percentage of the ex-Textbook Money members said the same thing: “I invested thousands of dollars and all I’m left with is useless Amazon credit.”
This means I needed a tool to mine Amazon for both trade-in and cash opportunities, and offer detailed training how to both turn credit into cash, and bypass trade-in altogether by using Amazon’s trade-in store to directly make cash.
Next step: Become an expert in the trade-in and buyback game
Once my developer got to work, I had my own work to do.
I set out to learn everything I could about the trade-in & book buy back sites. I wasn’t going to promote anything I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about. And it goes without saying I wasn’t going to promote a business model that simply didn’t work.
What I learned was encouraging, even as an old-school bookseller. I learned things like:
- Just how often prices on Amazon actually drop below their trade-in value (its not insanely common, but it happens a lot more than I thought).
- The existence of book buy back sites (I barely knew these existed before, but I learned they will often pay more in cash than a book costs on Amazon, and they lock in a price – you don’t even have to wait for a sale.)
- How often book buy back sites will pay more in cash than you can buy it for on Amazon (This is where it gets even better: Instant cash opportunity, and skipping trade-in altogether. This happens WAY more than I thought.)
- Using trade-in values to detect severely underpriced offers on Amazon (so you can skip trade-in altogether, identify underpriced books, and make quick cash sales on Amazon for a profit.)
After digging into the data and spending months practicing it myself, I knew two things:
- This was a legitimate and profitable business model.
- The people teaching this material already didn’t realize its full potential.
Back to my four rules: Here’s how I accomplished each one
When I finished my research phase, I got back to my developer with the plan:
#1: How we’ll make it better than “Textbook Money”
- Historical trade-in data: Display dates of highest and lowest book trade in values from each semester, so you can time your trades to get the highest amount.
- Historical pricing data: Display dates of highest and lowest prices, so you can time your purchases to pay the lowest amount.
- Price differential figures: In terms of a percentage, how much higher or lower is the trade-in value or book price than average?
- Expanded book buyback site data: Display book buy back offers from more sites than any other tool.
- 12-month average sales rank: For those who want to skip trade-in and sell books, display a book’s true demand.
- Make it for not just books, but all categories: Display arbitrage opportunity for DVDs, video games, and everything.
- No-scroll searching: Display profit totals at the top of each page, then enable keyboard shortcuts to advance ahead pages and skip scrolling.
- No phony profit totals: Display real, locked-in profit totals; not speculative numbers backed by fuzzy math.
- Underpriced item detection: Alert to cash opportunities by buying underpriced items and selling them for quick cash back on Amazon.
#2: Making it cheaper.
(I’ll get to this in a second.)
#3: How we’ll make it 100% hands-off.
This one was hard. I had almost given up hope, but at the last minute I arranged a deal with an existing prep company: They would bend their rules, just for ZenTrade members, and accept books for Amazon’s trade-in & book buy back sites. As far as I know, they are the only prep service in the country to do this.
#4: How we’ll make it for trade-in and cash.
This was the monster project, and the one that I was most passionate about. After weeks of scribbling in my notepad and coma-levels of caffeine, here was my “make cash with trade in” system in three parts:
1. Complete credit-to-cash training. Let’s say someone goes for racking up Amazon trade-in credit. I created detailed step-by-step training videos for every way you can turn that credit into cash.
2. Expanded book buy back data. I made sure people had the option of going straight for the cash by displaying more book buy back site offers than any other tool – cash offers that are often more than Amazon’s trade-in value AND more than what a book costs on Amazon.
3. Underpriced offer detection. Using trade-in values to detect underpriced Amazon offers that can be purchased and then quickly sold on Amazon for a profit (i.e. “The Underpriced Book Hack”).
Last step: Time the release perfectly
ZenTrade has been 95% completed for awhile. The decision to wait and release it this week is very deliberate.
The last 2 weeks of December is the best time to get into the trade-in and buy back game.
- Textbook prices are historically at their lowest in December.
- Trade-values surge in late-December.
- ZenTrade is the perfect way to avoid your family during the holidays: Hide behind your computer and tell them you have to “work.”
ZenTrade is about a lot more than Amazon trade-in credit, but trade-in mining is the most entry-level application of it. And the data backs up that this is the single best time to get in the game.
You already know if you want this.
Why I’m probably raising the price next week
As a tool to strictly just find Amazon-to-Amazon trades, I think $47 is a fair price.
As a tool to also find instant Amazon-to-book-buyback-site cash opportunity, I think it’s worth more.
As a tool that finds underpriced items on Amazon you can resell for quick cash, I think it’s worth a lot.
So why such a low price?
Textbook Money is charging $1,000 for an inferior version of this. I could charge $500 and still be hailed as a hero to Textbook Money’s victims.
Instead, when deciding how to price ZenTrade, here’s what we did:
- We got rid of the $997 “buy in” price. (There’s no buy-in price at all.)
- We cut the monthly price in half.
If I was going to be honest, I’m setting this (temporary) price for 3 reasons:
- When you release something, you’re supposed to have a “sale.” It’s like a cosmic law or something. $47 is the “sale” price (doubling next week).
- I want it to be very profitable even if you only use ZenTrade an hour or two a week.
- Releasing something at 1/10 the price just sounds cooler than “half the price.”
But we’re probably raising the price after next week. I’m not saying that in a cheesy “Order now and get it for half off!!!!” salesman way. I mean we are literally, seriously leaning towards doubling the price.
This is it.
- Instant access to the software – Install ZenTrade in your browser with one-click
- Instant access to the training system – Watch our 14 training videos (you only have to watch 2 to get started)
See everything you can do with ZenTrade, including a video and more, here.
And that’s the story about how Textbook Money copied us, and inspired us to copy them right back.
Sometimes you make your own karma.
PS: If you’re a part of any forum or online group where you know there are other Textbook Money members, feel free to post this there.
PPS: Any questions about ZenTrade, post below.Have a comment? Contribute by posting below.
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