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How to Profitably Sell Books on Amazon
Knowing which books to offer on Amazon can mean the difference between a good income stream and total failure. Here is what you need to know.
First, how do I sell books on Amazon
Amazon.com has a feature called Amazon Marketplace. This service lets you sell your used books, CDs, DVDs, etc. just by listing their code number (ISBN number for books, etc.) Listings can literally be completed in a minute or less for each item you sell. It does take a few minutes to set up a selling account but there is no charge for doing so. In fact the only time you incur a charge is when something actually sells.
There is one small negative to this approach.
It only works with products that have a code number. So if you have antique books or other items without a code number, you will need to set up an amazon shop. There is a monthly fee for setting up a shop but the fees that amazon charges are much less in this method of selling than the direct selling method in the prior paragraph. So if you become a volume seller it is probably worth the investment in getting an amazon shop as the investment will quickly be paid for by the savings in fees.
Second, decide your interest level (i.e. just list books or get a store)
The next step is to decide your interest level. It is going to be a casual thing or will you be treating it as a serious business.
Lets say you were just cleaning house and wanted to make a bit of money on some books or CDs you have. In this instance, it doesn't make sense to set up an amazon shop as you won't earn enough to justify the monthly investment in keeping your shop running. But lets say your passion was yard sales and bargain hunting and you knew that every week you could find and list hundreds of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. In this case getting an amazon shop would be a wise investment.
Basically amazon is structured to satisfy anyone's selling needs and they have a variety of simple tools that will help you achieve your selling goals in a quick, cost effective and efficient manner.
Third, these are the types of books you should not be selling
Selling used books is not an obvious thing to do. Common sense would say that bestsellers are the best kind of book to offer because they have sold millions of copies. But it is their very popularity that makes them poor books to sell. If you do a search on amazon for a bestseller, you will find that many people are selling their used copies, many times for under $1.00. With millions of copies out there, the market is glutted. This is true for any type of bestseller - fiction or nonfiction. Other books types you want to avoid are biographies, cookbooks and political books. And of course books like encyclopedias, readers digest condensed books, dictionaries, etc. are also terrible for resale. Oh, and also avoid old library books. There is nothing wrong with them per se but they will be slow sellers because of the markings the library puts on the books.
The only exception to this rule would be signed first editions. If you find a signed first edition, it will retain value and possibly be worth more than the published price depending on who the author is.
Books you should be looking for are books about specific nonfiction. subjects. (In other words, avoid all fiction books.) For instance, books about cars, boats, playing tennis, collecting coins, herbal medicine, business (as long as they are not best sellers), real estate, gardening, etc. are all excellent books and have a very high prospect of selling for a very high price when compared to a bestseller. I will typically get 50-75% of the cover price selling these types of books on amazon.com.
One other thing to note when choosing books to sell. Try to find books that are in perfect or near perfect condition. These books will have their dust jacket if hard cover. The spine will not be broken. They will not be filled with writing. People know they are buying used books when buying from you but they want a book that is nice and presentable, not one that is falling apart.
Where can you find used books for sale?
Used books are everywhere but your goal is to get them as cheaply as possible - preferably for $1 or less. Places I regularly check include yard sales, flea markets, thrift shops and libraries. Libraries often have used books donated to them that they just put right on the sales table. I think the people who donate them think they will end up on the shelves of the library but they never do. Estate sales and auctions can also provide opportunities to buy books. And keep your eyes open. You never know when you might run into a buying opportunity.
Will all the books sell?
No matter how carefully you pick your books, you will end up with some that just don't sell or are just very slow in selling. This is normal. Chances are good that the book will eventually sell but it could take several months. And if you purchase your used books cheaply enough, the carrying cost of the books that sell will be small. I find that if I list a random selection of 100 books, about 25% of them will sell each month. That means that after 4-5 months, I can pretty much assume that all the books that will sell have actually sold and I may be left with 5-10 books that for whatever reason had no buyers.
At that point, I make one of two choices. I either lower the offering price on amazon to try to attract a buyer or "trade" the book for something more desirable.
The only time to buy bestsellers
There is one time and one specific reason I will buy bestsellers. If I have the opportunity to buy a large number of hardcover (and sometimes paperback) bestsellers in perfect condition for under $1 each (under $0.25 each if softcover), I will usually buy them. However, I will not sell them on amazon.
There are a large number of used bookstores that will buy or trade books with you. They typically give you 20-25% of the books list price if you want cash and up to 50% of the books list price if you want a credit. That means I have a ready outlet for liquidating these books. If it is worthwhile, I can just swap them for immediate cash. Or I can trade them for other books I can sell at amazon. In general, I make out better in a trading situation than in a cash situation but sometimes if I have way too many books, I will just go for the cash option to reduce my inventory. It is a really effective form of inventory management.
Before you jump out and buy 100's of bestsellers, do check with the used bookstores in your area to see what they are offering for these books. Different shops may offer different rates depending on their current inventory. A little shopping around by phone can result in a lot more cash ending up in your pocket.
How much can I realistically make?
The amount you can make in any given month depends entirely on how many books you acquire that month, how well you did at negotiating the cost and how well your books choices were. This is a business where you can easily make several hundred to several thousand dollars a month depending on the above items. Also it is a business that can give you higher returns the longer you do it. The more you sell, the more you get to know what will sell quickly and what will sell slowly. That will let you be a bit more particular about the books you choose in your book hunting. Instead of ending up with lots of unsold books at the end of the month, you will have an inventory that turns over very rapidly.
Book selling is a really fun and stress free way to earn anywhere from a supplemental part time income to a full time income. And with the tools offered at amazon.com, it is really easy to get started and keep the profits flowing. There aren't many businesses where you can make money by shopping but this is one of them!