Selling used books online is more competitive than ever before, but you can easily increase your profits and make a great passive income by adhering to several very important tips.
In this blog post, you will learn how a 15-Year veteran of selling books manages a business and decides what types of books to buy for maximum efficiency.
Books are everywhere! But, if you buy the wrong books, you can actually lose money, even if you buy the books for very cheap at thrift stores or garage sales. All right. Let’s get rolling and find some books!
Selling Used Books Online: Top 5 Tips and Advice
1. Learn the process of selling used books online from experienced sellers BEFORE you start buying books for resale arbitrage.
I see book listings on Amazon and eBay all the time that were obviously made by rookies. By simply knowing the business, they could have sold the same book for 10-20x more profit. Would you start a cookie making business if you did not know how to make cookies? Heck no. Yet book sellers do exactly the same that same thing constantly.
Before you start buying book to sell online, you should spend AT LEAST a week studying the business of selling books. Read blog posts, watch YouTube videos. Read some Kindle books (Passive Income for Life talks about the business of selling media items on Amazon and Weber’s book Home-Base Bookstore is excellent for determining which types of books to buy).
2. Sell your books on the correct internet platform.
90% of the book sellers making big money selling books are selling on Amazon FBA. What’s not to like? You can list books fast, you make higher profits and you don’t have to store the books in your home or business. Books sold through Amazon FBA have the advantage of free 2-Day Prime shipping, Amazon Customer Care and often getting the Amazon Buy Box for better search placement. It’s more work labeling items and shipping them in to Amazon warehouses, but the cost is well worth the effort.
We went to Amazon FBA for selling books about 3 years ago and it was a great decision. It automates the book selling business and during Q4 last year, Christmas season, books were “flying off the shelves”. The best part was, they were not flying off our shelves; they were flying off Amazon’s, which means they package and ship all of our books and we just pocketed the money and had cash instantly available for Christmas presents!
3. Only buy books that meet a set of defined metrics.
Rookies buy a high percentage of books that only yield 10-25% profit margins. Professional book sellers only buy books that they know will yield a defined profit. Again, this is another reason to sell on Amazon and avoid eBay auctions. You can use smart phone apps and scanners to determine exactly what potential inventory books are currently listed for by other sellers (including Amazon FBA sellers) and you can see what the current book sales rank on Amazon is, so you know about how long that book will take to sell. Most pros use apps like Amazon Seller App (Free) and FBAScan to scan books while they are sourcing. Most pros also invest in a handheld scanner, as the bar code readers on most cell phones are terrible.
You MUST know what they books will sell for BEFORE you buy them, especially for hardcover books, which are often priced $1-2+, even at thrift stores and yard sales. You should also determine where your cutoff metrics are ahead of time. You can set these cutoffs into your scanning apps and they will tell you whether to keep or toss, while you are sourcing. I don’t buy anything that will not yield at least a $5 profit, unless it costs under 25c. Otherwise, by the time you prep the book for FBA and factor in your time, you are actually losing money.
Remember, if you are shipping heavy hardcover books into Amazon FBA, you also have to pay for the shipping cost.
4. Insider Secret for selling used books online: Get your inventory CHEAP!
In my opinion, this is the key to building a used book business that yields very high profit margins. If you really want to be in the top 5% of internet books sellers, you have to get the books cheap. Often that means buying large lots of books at a low ‘per-book’ rate. When we were getting started selling books, we bought a book advertised as a 5000 book lot on eBay for $50! I drove several hours to pick up the books.
By the time we got the books sorted and listed, we listed over 7500 books at a cost of about 2 cents a book. The average list price was about $9.40 / book. Plus, we sold some book lots back on eBay (penny books) for another $100, or so. Look on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook classified groups for chances to grab large amounts of books for cheap. Don’t be afraid of having to sort through a percentage of crappy books to get good inventory.
For individual books while sourcing, I have been buying a LOT more paperback books than hardcover books. They are always cheaper (10c to 50c), they weigh less to ship them in to FBA and other book sellers often miss paperback treasure! I have found tons of $25-50 paperbacks at thrift stores. Tons! Often, they are very skinny and the book topics are obscure, which makes them rare. I often find vintage paperbacks without ISBNs and bar codes that are worth over $50 that many ‘book sourcers’ are too lazy to look up because they can’t use their scanners.
5. Selling used books online: Inventory listing secrets
It can be tricky to balance getting a lot of book listed quickly and also making listings that accurately describe your books to potential buyers, especially when you are trying to turn over a huge lot of books. But, it is vital that your books are listed correctly, or you risk negative feedback and item returns. When you are starting out, 1-2 negative feedbacks on Amazon can cost you dozens or even hundreds of sales.
First, you must become very familiar with Amazon’s Condition Guidelines for books and conservatively assign ratings for your books using Amazon’s guidelines. When in doubt, choose the lower rating. DO NOT RISK A NEGATIVE FEEDBACK TO MAKE A COUPLE OF EXTRA DOLLARS ON ONE BOOK!
You should also completely describe your book in text portion of the listing. I buy books on Amazon all the time. How do I decide which book to buy from an Amazon book page? I buy the book I feel most comfortable receiving. It is not usually the cheapest book listed at the condition I am looking for. If I am shopping on a book page and I see books with no description text, or poorly written descriptions with misspelled words and the wrong book terminology, I skip right over them, even if they are the cheapest offering.
The easiest way to quickly add quality condition/item descriptions is to make several templates and save them as ‘text documents’ on your desktop. Make one template for newer books and one for collectible books. One thing that is often missing from book descriptions that really sells books is a confirmation of the exact item being offered. Buyers want to know that they are getting the exact version of the book that they are looking for. This is very important for books used as textbooks for colleges (some of these are not evident, just by looking at them, especially trade paperbacks).
This could be an effective template:
3rd Ed. trade softcover. Light general wear, not exlibrary. No marks, missing pages, etc. Fulfilled by Amazon. Free 2-Day Prime shipping and Amazon Customers Care. E.W. Books ships quickly and carefully from Asheville, NC. We love our readers and book collectors!
See? Everything that a buyer needs to know is included and the template is easily adjusted for condition issues. It includes: Item confirmation, text description of condition and added enticement to buy – FBA Prime shipping, quick shipping and a location, which can yield more sales from nearby buyers. Customers love to be loved. Tell them you care in each listing!
You can cut and paste this into the description box and make a new listing in about 20-30 seconds. Plus, your listing sets your offering above 80% of the book listings on Amazon.
Thanks for reading this blog post on selling used books online. I hope you picked up some helpful tips. Please leave a comment or a question in the comments below and if you are an experienced book seller, please leave your #1 best book selling tip to help other sellers!