I first got the idea to sell used books online from an article I read in Entrepreneur’s 2007 eBay Startup Guide. 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, so I bought it-as well as two other books so I could fully understand what it takes to make money selling books on the internet.
The first thing I did was to look around my house at all the books I accumulated over the years and thought I could make a few extra dollars by selling them on Amazon. I had a lot of business books to sell. I already knew how to sell different items on eBay and felt comfortable in that “environment,” however I was intrigued about the opportunity to sell books on Amazon because of the apparent ease at listing them.
I had a good number of books and knew that it could take me a long time to take pictures and write descriptions of all the books I had to sell 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!
I also learned that eBay has its’ own catalog of books and media products that doesn’t require you to take pictures of your items but their catalog isn’t nearly as extensive as Amazon’s. At this time, I decided to move forward with listing my books Amazon. In addition, I bought three books from Amazon’s website about selling books online so I could learn all there was to learn about the “business.” I enjoyed all three books because I learned different things from each one. The following are the three books I purchased:
- The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site
- How to Sell Books on Amazon: The Stay-at-home Mom’s Secret Step-by-step Guide to Selling Used Books on Amazon
- Selling Used Books Online: The Complete Guide to Bookselling at Amazon’s Marketplace and Other Online Sites
Registering for an Amazon.com Payments Account
If you want to sell on Amazon, the very first thing you will need to do is register for an Amazon Payments account. You can’t sell or get paid by Amazon without an Amazon Payments account. 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. Amazon Payments is convenient. When you’re paid via Amazon Payments, there’s no need for you to do anything but ship your item. Amazon.com 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). Funds in your Amazon account are deposited directly into your bank account every two weeks, or you can go into your account and transfer your funds at anytime.
Where To Get Books
Everyone wants to know where to get good books to re-sell on Amazon (or eBay). And like other book sellers, 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 in the book selling business, Frank’s book is a must read. Whereas a lot of books out there concentrate on how to setup your book selling 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:
- Books that were popular but are now out of print
- Niche subject books, and dvd’s and videos (I stick to self-help videos or video courses)
- Some cookbooks (old Betty Crocker cookbooks, some special edition Southern Living cookbooks)
- Some audio and DVD special sets such as motivational or self-improvement series
- Some children’s books
- recent text books (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 to 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.
If you have lots to sell, then you’ll want to check out Amazon’s Pro Merchant Subscription. 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 smart phone. I now use the Book Bandit for my Android phone (you can read more about this app and the Profit Bandit app on my post, “Make Money Fast on Amazon With These Mobile Phone Apps.” I used to use a Sprint Treo phone, and after that–a Palm Pre when I was book hunting. 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. With the Smart phone apps, I don’t believe you need these anymore. I used to use both a scanner and my Sprint Treo or Palm Pre phone. ASellerTool.com is the company with a book scouting tool to be used with a PDA and a scanner. You can learn about ASellerTool.com and what it can do in my post titled, “Use This Tool To Make Money Selling Books, DVD’s & CD’s!” It’s up to you which tool you use, but as I update this post on September 29, 2011, I think you know my preference.
Amazon requires you to send out your packages within 2 days or risk being de-listed as a seller. It’s very important to adhere to this rule and package your book appropriately. I use large manila envelopes that you can buy at any office supply store like Staples, OfficeMax, or Office Depot. I believe they are around $14 or so for a pack of 100. I do not buy specialized bubble wrap envelopes–that’s just me. I wrap my books with my own bubble wrap that I can get for free (You would be amazed what you can get for free just by asking around!).
One of my methods for free getting free packing material is to go to my local large furniture retailer and knock on the back door where the loading dock is. Right inside the door is a trashcan 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. Yes, it takes a couple of minutes more, but every little bit adds up in the beginning of your book selling career. Besides, I’ve never had a complaint and at the time of this writing, I’m a 5-star seller on Amazon.
Another reason to make your customers happy is that they have the option of leaving feedback about their experience buying from you. But unlike eBay, sellers don’t leave feedback for buyers. 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 deterrant. 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 like I do, 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, place them on your packages, and take them to the post office. All you have to do is take them directly to the counter and drop them off. I no longer have to wait in line with my packages!
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!