Booksellers seeking to join the Independent Online Booksellers Association go through our New Member Application process. In some cases, the Membership Committee decides that the applicant is fairly close to meeting the guidelines and requirements, but can use a little more work and guidance first. Sometimes these booksellers are fairly new to the profession and are joining IOBA to learn more about the trade and to upgrade their standards, and in other cases they are already established but have been using listing methods and policies that need to be adjusted to fit the IOBA model.
The most common area of concern is with bibliographic listings, grading, and policy statements. The following guidelines are from our New Member Application page.
Our primary concern is for professional listings and high standards. This means full and accurate descriptions of the book in hand with all defects noted; conservative grading; and no blanket statements about condition or shipping speed or other repetitive boilerplate. We are looking for booksellers who want to create their own listings (or at least complete them) rather than relying solely on autofill “product information” that is provided for them, as that is often inaccurate and incomplete, and not very helpful when better books come along. Your bookselling business website returns policy must clearly state that customers may initiate a return, and that you will provide a full refund in that event. The IOBA Code of Ethics further stipulates that you will pay for return shipping costs if the item was misdescribed, and that the seller is responsible for items that are lost or damaged during shipping.
The following factors are positives. Bibliographically correct descriptions; images available of books for sale; professional pricing; having your own website; specialization; good feedback; and anything that customers and fellow professional booksellers would find reassuring and admirable about your business.
The following factors are negatives. Boilerplate language; poor condition descriptions (condition should match the grade you give, grading should be conservative, there should be a separate grade for the book and the dust jacket when there is one, and you should use professionally recognized condition definitions such as those listed on our website under Resources); missing bibliographic information (you should list the author, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, edition, printing/state, and number of pages; and you should note the presence of illustrations, maps, a bibliography, an index, etc.); stock images that are not noted as such; bizarre pricing on the high end; poor communications; poor feedback; and anything that customers and fellow professional booksellers would find suspicious or disturbing about your business.
The following requirements are from our New Member Application page.
- A minimum of one year prior bookselling experience.
- Must be an owner/partner/member of an online bookselling business which is not a publicly traded corporation.
- Current, primary online business is selling books.
- Applicants must provide a business registration number of some sort (tax resale number, EIN, local business license, VAT, UTR, GST, etc.) in locations that require or provide same.
- A minimum online inventory of 200 books, at least 90% of which must be currently in stock.
- The range of pricing and the quality of your inventory should indicate your commitment to professionalism as a bookseller.
- Stated bookselling business website policy that customers may initiate a return, and that you will provide a full refund in that event.
- Policy of paying return shipping for misdescribed items, and policy of seller responsibility for items that are lost or damaged during shipping.
- Books are correctly described by author, title, place, publisher, date of publication, edition, binding type, etc., with all defects noted. Description must be about the specific book in hand.
- Membership is granted to only the business name applied for.
- Agrees to conduct business in accordance with the IOBA Code of Ethics.
If you fall a bit short in some areas but are close to meeting the requirements, we have a Mentorship Program that may give you an opportunity to work with a professional member of IOBA toward the goal of reapplying. The Education Committee Chair may extend an invitation to join this program, based on the recommendation of the Membership Committee. If so, you will be matched up with a professional IOBA bookseller from a pool of volunteer mentors, and they will work with you on making improvements as needed. When the time is right, the mentor will suggest that you reapply, though there is no guarantee that the Membership Committee will accept your application the second time around because you were in our Mentorship Program.
If you have any questions about this program, please feel free to ask by contacting the Education Committee Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.