Updated Tue, Mar 16, 2010 by Space Junkie
Basic production, like the sort used to produce market staples, or the sort used to produce ships, requires a constant influx of minerals, especially the so-called low-end minerals, tritanium and pyerite. Buying minerals directly from sell orders is essentially paying a hidden markup, and buy orders are inefficient because of the competition playing .01 isk markup games.
The secret is not mining, which takes way too much time and carries a hell of an opportunity cost. The secret is to put up buy orders for high-yield modules, and reprocess them into their raw materials.
Many of these modules are exceptionally rich in minerals. Especially in high-sec hubs like Jita, the market price of a tech one module is usually pretty darn close to the value of that item's mineral content. If the module price drifts too high in relation to mineral price, producers will undercut it. If the price drifts too high, savvy producers will buy the minerals and reprocess them, then sell the minerals for a quick buck. Or use them, perhaps.
The idea here is that you should set up insultingly low buy orders for modules that have decent mineral contents, rather than for just the raw minerals, in a particular area that you know is inhabited by a decent amount of players. Those players will then sell to your buy orders. At least, the lazy ones will, and that's probably most of them.
A player making ten million ISK on a mission isn't going to fly ten jumps to sell his '1600mm Reinfosrced Steel Plates I' for an extra hundred thousand ISK. At least, most won't. Instead, he will sell to your buy order.
It may be for an insultingly low price, but it's better than wasting time hauling crap to Jita and back. It's anybody's guess whether the average EVE player fits this profile, but enough do to make you a ton of ISK, if you find the right spot.
Cast A Narrow Net
Don't make the mistake of setting regional buy orders when you are lowballing for modules. There can be dozens and dozens of stations in any given high-sec region, and you don't want to be flying to each and every one of them to pick up a crappy module worth 90k ISK, even if you only paid 5k isk for it.
Instead, find agent mission hubs that aren't located too close to a market hub, and set up buy orders there. Give your buy orders a range of 1 or 2 systems, tops. That's still going to be plenty of work to pick everything up. Ideally, you should have your orders confined to one system, or not more than half a dozen stations between however many systems you choose.
Be careful, also, when placing buy orders, that you do not accidentally extend your order into low-sec systems. Dealing with the added level of hassle isn't really worth it.