Sell Used Books Online
I first got the idea to sell used books on Amazon for money from an article I read in Entrepreneur’s 2007 eBay Startup Guide (Yes…a long time ago!). The person interviewed for this article explained how he quit his full-time job in just a short few months to sell books online. The article also explained how he went on to write a book about his experience selling used books online. I purchased this book as well as two other ones so I could fully understand what it takes to make money selling used books.
The first thing I did was to look around my house at all the books I accumulated over the years. I thought I could make a few extra dollars by selling them on Amazon. My bookcase held a lot of business books I could sell. Ebay was my selling platform of choice. I felt comfortable in that “environment,” however I was intrigued by the opportunity to sell books on Amazon. The apparent ease of listing items made me want to explore more.
I had a lot of books. To take pictures and write descriptions of all those books would take a long time if I was going to list them on eBay. However, as I soon found out, Amazon’s catalog of books, videos, DVD’s etc. is so extensive that I could list my own inventory in very little time. As a busy Mom of two children; I liked that part!
Apparently, eBay has its’ own catalog of books and media products. Like Amazon, that means you don’t need to take pictures of your items if they’re listed in the catalog. However, their catalog isn’t nearly as extensive as Amazon’s.
I decided to move forward with listing my books on Amazon. In addition, I bought two books from Amazon’s website about selling books online. That way, I could learn all there was to learn about the “business.” I enjoyed both books because I learned different things from each one. The following are the two books I purchased:
- The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site
- Selling Used Books Online: The Complete Guide to Bookselling at Amazon’s Marketplace and Other Online Sites
Amazon Associate – Registering for an Account
If you want to sell on Amazon, the very first thing you will need to do is register as an Amazon Associate. You can’t sell or get paid by Amazon without being an Amazon Associate. The application is easy and only takes minutes to complete. Be sure to have a check handy if you want your funds deposited directly into your bank account. You set this up in Seller Central.
When you’re paid by Amazon Payments, there’s no need for you to do anything but ship your item. Generally, Amazon Payments first settles your account 14 days after your first payment transaction completes. After the initial 14 day holding period, your account is settled daily.
Amazon deposits the buyer’s money into your Amazon account and notifies you via e-mail. In addition, Amazon collects the shipping fee from the buyer and this is included in what is deposited to your account less Amazon’s small commission (learn more about getting paid by Amazon).
Where To Get Books to Resell
Everyone wants to know where to get good books to re-sell on Amazon (or eBay). And like other booksellers, I won’t give away all of my secrets! However, Frank Florence does! He created an ebook called, “Creative Sourcing For Booksellers” that gives away his book sourcing secrets. If you want to get a head start on the bookselling business, Frank’s book is a must-read. Whereas a lot of books out there concentrate on how to set up your bookselling business on Amazon, and just touch upon where to find books, “Creative Sourcing For Booksellers” is your bible to finding books to sell. Without inventory, you have no business, right?
Below is just a short list of the places I visit on a regular basis to find my inventory. It’s nothing like what Frank tells you about in his book, however, it’s a start. Obviously, you want to get books either at no cost or for very little money. I started by selling the books on my bookshelf. Good sources of inexpensive books include:
- Thrift Stores
- Friends of Library Sales
- Ongoing Library Sales (these are usually in a separate room in a library)
What Types of Books To Sell
There are many different types of books you can sell. You can specialize in one or more niches, or you can sell all different kinds of books. I suggest when you first start selling books, to sell whatever you can. Once you get some experience, you may at that time decide to specialize. It’s also acceptable to take smaller profits in the beginning. Basically, don’t be too picky; sell what you can to start seeing a profit. It’s important to have some success from the beginning–this will get you excited to keep going!
Here’s a small list of the types of books you may want to sell
- Niche subject books, and DVD’s and videos (I stick to self-help videos or video courses)
- Books that were popular but are not out of print
- Some cookbooks (old Betty Crocker cookbooks, some special edition Southern Living cookbooks)
- A few audio and DVD special sets such as motivational or self-improvement series
- Some children’s books
- Recent textbooks (and I stress RECENT)
With all of these subjects, you still need to check what the going used price is on Amazon which brings me to my next subject:
Listing Items For Sale
The next thing you do is search for the item on Amazon.com that you want to sell and click the Sell Yours Here button. Make sure you have the correct product; one title can have several editions or formats. You can search for the title you want to sell, or you can search for the 10-digit ISBN number located on the back or on the inside of your book (you can also use an ASIN or UPC identifier to sell your item). If you are just searching for the title of the book, be careful that you have the appropriate copyright year as many books have several.
The best thing about listing items for sale on Amazon is that it’s free! You only pay a small commission to Amazon once your item is sold. Amazon takes their commission automatically and all that you have to do is ship your item to the buyer (learn more about Amazon’s fee structure).
If you have lots to sell, then you’ll want to check out Amazon’s Pro Seller Plan. This is great for sellers that expect to sell more than 40 books per month because the subscription costs $39.99 per month. With this subscription, Amazon waives the $.99 per transaction fee.
Book Hunting Tools
The easiest and most inexpensive book hunting tools at this time can be found as apps on your cell phone. When I first started book hunting, I used to use a Sprint Treo phone, and after that–a Palm Pre. These tools were invaluable and definitely paid for themselves. I can’t tell you how much money I saved by checking the prices of books before I bought them. Once I was out book hunting and I came across an older children’s book. I wasn’t sure what it would be worth as I was still honing my skills in the children’s book arena. I used my Treo to look up the book on Amazon and found that the book was listed used for over $100. Another children’s book I had in my hand was listed used at $.47. Guess which one I kept?
Some book hunters use scanners that scan a book’s ISBN number to see what the book is selling for on Amazon.com. ASellerTool.com is the company with a book scouting tool to be used with an iPhone or Android cell phone and a scanner, or a PDA and a scanner. I used this service with a PDA and a handheld wireless scanner and I have to agree it made book hunting very easy. They offer everything you need…equipment plus a monthly plan…to start a used bookselling business.
Packaging Your Books
Amazon requires sellers to send out their packages within 2 days of the sale date. A seller risks being de-listed if they don’t comply. It’s very important to adhere to this rule and package your book appropriately. I used large manila envelopes that you buy at any office supply store like Staples, OfficeMax, or Office Depot. They cost around $14 or so for a pack of 100. Buying specialized bubble wrap envelopes really isn’t necessary. I wrap my books with my own bubble wrap that I get for free. It’s amazing what you can get for free if you just ask!
One of my methods for getting free packing material is to go to my local large furniture retailer and knock on the back door where there’s a loading dock. Right inside the door is a trash can where they stuff all their packing material they’re throwing away. They don’t mind at all when I ask if I can have it.
I know it’s faster to put a book in a padded envelope, but I’m saving money by wrapping the book myself. It takes a few minutes more, but every little bit of positive feedback helps in the beginning of your bookselling career. I’m happy to report that I never had a complaint about the condition of my packages.
Your customers have the option of leaving feedback about their experience buying from you. Not everyone leaves feedback. In fact, just a small percentage of customers leave feedback. However, when I was first starting out, I didn’t find that having no feedback was a deterrent. If you have a book someone wants and you don’t have much competition, chances are you’ll sell the book. However, if you have the same price and a book is in the same condition as someone else’s book, feedback could play a role in whether someone chooses to buy from you.
When you first start out, taking a package or two to the post office won’t be a big deal. However, if you start to sell a lot of books and have a need to visit the post office on a daily basis, you may want to invest in a postage service like www.endicia.com or stamps.com. I’ve used both. Endicia’s premium service costs about $15 a month, and Stamps.com costs about $17 a month for a basic plan. With both services, you can print postage directly from your computer. Then, place the postage on your packages, and take the packages to the post office. All you have to do is take them directly to the counter and drop them off. No more waiting in line!
If you have a lot of packages, your local post office will usually have a side door to receive packages. It’s good to get to know the postal workers at your local post office. They are very helpful and they like receiving your items!
In conclusion, I hope you enjoyed this overview on how to sell books on Amazon.com. If this work from home opportunity interests you, I highly recommend reading the books I have listed at the top, as well as Frank Florence’s “Creative Sourcing For Booksellers.” They will help you avoid making mistakes in the beginning, and can help save you a lot of time and money.
Thanks and Happy Book Hunting!
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Have you ever tried selling books or anything else on Amazon? Please share your experience below!