Want to learn how to sell books on Amazon? Today I brought on Victoria Greene of Victoria Eccommerce, an e-commerce marketing expert to help you do just that.
Are you a bookworm working a boring 9-5 job? Do you want to do something you enjoy and make some easy money with a fun side hustle?
Selling second-hand books on Amazon could be just the thing for you.
You don’t need that much money to start off with, and you could soon end up with a profitable business that may even end up replacing your current day job.
Check out our beginner’s guide to selling second-hand books on Amazon for some top tips and inspiration.
How to Sell Books On Amazon
Step #1: Understanding Fulfillment
Different approaches to fulfillment
Fulfillment is essentially the process of receiving an order from a customer, and preparing that order to be delivered. This can include warehouse pick-up, packaging, labelling, and shipping, and communication with the customer on delivery.
There are two different routes to selling and fulfilment that you could go down if you want to become a third-party seller on Amazon.
Option #1: Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA)
This is probably the most obvious — and popular — way to sell second-hand books on Amazon if you’re a newbie to the game.
FBA means that you create a listing on Amazon, but Amazon keep the item in their warehouses (fulfilment centers, or FCs). They also do the packing and shipping on your behalf.
Your books will also qualify for Prime, which makes them a lot more appealing to consumers.
Option #2: Fulfilled by merchant (FBM)
FBM is when you create a listing on Amazon, but do the shipping and storing of the product yourself.
This is probably better for sellers who’ve already got their supply chain and management logistics sorted. If you’re still figuring the details out, we’d leave FBM for now.
Step #2: What Books Should You Sell
If you’re serious about making money by selling second-hand books on Amazon, then you need to make the most of the tools at your disposal — such as the Best Sellers Rank (or BSR).
There’s a top 100 Best Sellers in Books, but the list goes way past 100.
All products that have been sold at least once on Amazon are ranked in terms of their popularity in their category, so all books rank somewhere.
It’s possible to check out their ranking by clicking on a product page and scrolling down to the product details:
For example, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s motivational book “Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You” is currently listed at #64 on the list. This means it’s extremely popular and selling well on Amazon — it’s ranked 64th out of all the books available.
The better your book’s ranking (so the lower your BSR number), the more competition you will have to shift copies. You’ll need to do something to really stand out such as selling the book very cheaply, which could result in you actually losing money rather than making a profit.
Conversely, if your book is further down the list and has a higher BSR, the less likely you are to sell it quickly (or even at all). You don’t want this — slow movers will not make you money.
When you’re initially deciding on which books to sell, aim for a happy medium. Start off with books with a BSR of between 2,000 and 200,000. Experiment and see which sell quickly or slowly.
You should use the Best Seller Rank to inform your selling decisions, but not limit them.
Step #3: Sourcing Books
We’ve established different methods of selling, but how do you source your books in the first place?
There are a number of different options for sourcing books. We’ve listed some below.
Your own bookshelf
This option might not last forever, but if your bookshelves are starting to pile up and you want to make some space — as well as a profit — then start here. It’s a low-risk and free way to get your second-hand book store started.
List any books that are in a good condition to sell. You may end up surprised at what gets sold — a book you may have thought was worthless could go for $10 on Amazon. Just don’t forget to keep these books safe; you don’t want to end up losing it!
Stores, sales and markets
Check out local book sales, yard sales and flea markets to pick up some second-hand books.
You can also have a look at libraries and used bookstores for any bargains that you might be able to sell on.
There are two main methods that sellers use when they’re rummaging around for new books to flog:
- Wholesaling (buying in bulk): this is a great way to save yourself time, and buy books for a fraction of the price. Put in an offer for a whole box or collection of books rather just buying individual ones. Chances are that the seller will happily take the chance to get rid of the lot, and if you offer a lump sum for everything, you’ll get a way lower price per unit. You may get some duds, but overall, it’s cost-effective.
- Manual scanning: this is where you use an app on your phone to scan barcodes on books (or input their ISBN) to figure out their worth. Amazon’s app will show you where the book falls on the Best Seller Rank, and how much you could sell the book for. This is more time-consuming that wholesaling, but means you’ll buy higher-quality books with a better chance of selling.
Just remember to check overall quality of the products when you’re purchasing in sales — particularly if you’re bulk-buying a box! Take a peek inside to determine the condition of your investment first.
Online Arbitrage means finding books on one marketplace and selling them at a slightly higher price through another.
You can use other online marketplaces for this such as eBay, Craigslist or specialist second-hand books sites.
This option can be time-consuming and a lot of effort — scrolling through page after page to find sellable books for only a bit more profit. It can also be risky — with online marketplaces you have no guarantee of condition.
Step #4: Creating an Amazon Store
If you want to find ways to grow your business, then you can create a custom Amazon Store.
This can scale you from simple second-hand book selling to a full ecommerce brand with more appeal, and more customer engagement.
An Amazon store means you can curate content, and therefore allows you to offer something with unique appeal that no one else is selling. It’s a great way of outperforming others with near-identical inventory options.
You can even go one step further, and make your own ecommerce store which will allow you to curate literary content and elaborate on your business.
A good example of this is Lit Kit (a monthly subscription box business currently for sale on Exchange). Their monthly literature box contains books, as well as items ranging from postcards and writing tools to tea and bookmaking supplies.
By thoughtfully curating content, they have added extra value to products, which makes them more interesting. And if you have an Amazon Store, you can also link to individual products there.
Be sure to expand to social channels to advertise too. Becoming a social media influencer and referring followers directly to your book choices will help to boost sales.
Last but not least: be honest about condition
This is one of the most important things to remember when you’re selling books on Amazon: be honest about the condition of the books you’re selling. Exaggerating the quality of the item will only result in bad customer reviews or refunds.
These are the current condition categories available for used books on Amazon:
- Like New
- Very Good
You can find a good description of each category here for clarity.
If you’re thinking of selling second-hand books on Amazon, then follow these tips for a head start. Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas on how to approach fulfilment and sourcing, as well as some additional tips on useful Amazon features.
This can be a fun and profitable side hustle, and even has the potential to help you grow your store into a brand once you’re more established.
Victoria Greene is an e-commerce marketing expert, freelance writer and book lover. She loves using her own experience to help other entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and succeed. You can read more of her work at her blog VictoriaEcommerce.
What to read next: How To Get Free Amazon Gift Cards: 9 Ways That Work