Friday, December 5, 2008

Have You Ever Thought About Selling Books On Amazon?

I had been selling books on eBay and doing rather well until eBay made some big changes to the searches and categories with books. Book sellers lost a lot of business on eBay at that point and I was one of the ones who no longer wanted to put so much of my time into a venue that was obviously no longer for the book seller. I took time off from selling online at all at that point. I did come back not too long after and teamed up with another work at home mom Above-N-Beyond-Auctions and we sold on eBay together, but I still stayed away from books for the most part. I would sell them but nowhere near what I had before.

Over 2 years ago now I decided I wanted to try Amazon for selling books. I missed the way you could find rare books for pennies on the dollar and then resell them online for an amazing profit. I managed to list about 15 books using the option of a free account. I wont go into all of the details of this attempt BUT I will say I failed miserably and decided Amazon was not for me. That there was no way to make money there. I was fed up with it only a couple of months of signing up and only about 15 books listed.

Then a little over a year ago my fiance decided he wanted to give Amazon a try. I have to say I found every way to knock down the idea because I simply was dead sure there was no way to make money there. He did not give up hope though and began to list. He did things I had not too. He would go to list the book and then look at all of the others that were listed of the same kind. Make sure it was the same edition, same cover, same publisher etc. Then he would look at the condition of the books listed compared to the one he had, and the lowest and highest prices listed for the book. He used all of this information to decide on the price to list his copy for.

Within less than 2 weeks of him listing he had over a hundred books listed and started making sales. The fees were murder though on the lower priced books. We had a free account so there was an extra fee for each book sold. Also with the free account we knew in 30 days each listing would end and then we would have to manually re list each one. Since he was listing so many books we could see this was going to in the soon to be future create a huge mess with a lot of work for us to do all of the time re listing, which would take away from listing more books.

We decided to sign up for the premium selling account. It was free for the first month, 19.95 for the next 3 months and 39.95 after that. Now 39.95 seemed like a lot, but since that first month was free and the next 3 highly discounted we decided it would be well worth it to try. We could always cancel if it did not work out. Well it worked out very well. We usually average around $500.00 in sales a month. The monthly fee gets charged to our amazon account on the 9th of every month but it does not come directly from our bank account. It puts our Amazon in the negative and as we sell books the sales apply to the negative balance. Our sales between the 9th and the 14th always work out to cover our fees so we have never run into a time where our bank was charged. With premium our items are also listed with no expiration date therefore our time is spent listing more books instead of re listing ones over and over again.

If your interested in trying Amazon out for selling books keep these things in mind:

1. There are a lot of fees not to list, but after selling an item. With premium you can reduce one of the fees and it is a big help. With the free account it is basically pointless to sell anything under $4.00 - $5.00

2. You do not decide the shipping cost. Amazon has a flat rate for media, expedited, and international which it charges customers and you get. Most of the time this works out to be more than what you will actually pay to ship the book.

3. As long as your book is under 4lbs and fits in a flat rate priority envelope choose to sell it internationally also. The majority of our bigger sales have been international.

4. Only give expedited inside US as an option if the book you are listing fits into a flat rate priority envelope.

5. Amazon has specific definitions for the condition of books. Go by their guidelines when choosing the condition of your book and also describe your book in detail in the spot they give you to do this when listing. The more detailed you are the better the chance of it being sold AND the better the chance of staying away from negative feedback comments due to a customer not being satisfied with their purchase. We normally are very harsh on rating condition of our own books BUT in return many customers have been pleasantly surprised when their book arrived even better than they expected.

6. Penny books - you are going to see them and lots of them and it is going to drive you insane. It bugs the majority of sellers on Amazon that so many books have suffered being brought down in selling price to be worth no more than a penny. You will wonder how are these people making money. Well normally they are not and if they are it is only a few cents if it is an extremely light paperback book. Penny books I have read many times is a way for a seller to build feedback quickly. I do not even attempt these massive listings of penny books. I have seen it backfire upon many of sellers and they wind up with bad feedback OR losing money left and right. If the book you are looking up comes up with hundreds for a penny and it is the edition you have my best advice is to put it to the side and move along to the next book. You could list it for more, say 2.99 or around there and still sell it but odds are it will sit for a long time before that happens. We do honestly do this at times and we have had some sell, but overall we usually don't as time is better spent moving on and making a bigger sale instead of fighting the penny listings.

7. The shipping of books when sold must be done within 48 hours. Amazon has a strict shipping policy. Repeat late shipping can get your Amazon account closed. When books sell on Friday they do not count weekends so you have a little more time to ship. It is best to ship ASAP however still as it keeps the customers happy and in return gets you great feedback.
Amazon gives a credit currently of 3.99 for media mail, 6.95 for expedited inside US (priority) and 12.95 for international. If your book is a paperback or light many times you can ship first class mail for less than or just a few cents more than media. Highly suggested. Also expedited just use a flat rate priority envelope the 6.95 credit covers more than enough for that. International also use a flat rate priority envelope which the 12.95 credit more than covers also.

8. Feedback on Amazon. Don't get frustrated when it does not come in fast. Amazon has to be the worst place I have seen as far as customers not coming back to leave feedback. Out of hundreds upon hundreds of sales and over a year of selling we have only had 48 customers actually come back and leave feedback on their purchase. We are guilty of usually not following up with a feedback request but even when we have normally it did not get many back to leave feedback. The feedback will come however it will just take a lot longer then other sites. It can be frustrating, but it is normal. We are going to begin inserting a Thank you note with packages from now on and in it request to please leave feedback. We have done this in the past on other venues and it worked well. Plus in addition to helping to achieve feedback it is also a good way to build repeat customer base. I admit though in the rush of packaging and getting things out quickly it is so much easier to overlook this. We are guilty of it and we know how important it can be.

9. Invest in some bookmarks or make your own. Include them when shipping out books as a free gift. In the the thank you note jot down something in regards to Thank you for shopping with us and enjoy your free bookmark as our thank you. Customers love free gifts. I do not always do it, but when I can I do. I don't let them know they are getting an extra freebie I let it be a surprise when they get their package.

10. Pick up bookshelves at yard sales or freecycle as you list you want a place to put them safely and make it easy for you to find them as you sell. We have recently reorganized our books that we have the hard covers alphabetized on the shelves by the last name of the author. We plan to soon have paperbacks done the same way. Anything you can do to organize your shelves will make your life so much easier as your listed inventory grows and as items sell makes it so much easier to find them and get them shipped fast.


This is actually the easy part. You will most likely find yourself buried in books and not able to keep up. We have thousands upon thousands of books. Book inventory usually is not a problem.

1. Garage sales - you can normally find books from 10 cents to a 1.00. I tend to when purchasing a book individually stay under 50 cents per book. I also stay away from novels when doing this. I will spend 1.00 on a newed dated textbook however, sometimes even a couple of dollars especially if it is a textbook from the last couple of years in excellent condition & if it comes with a disc and it still has it, even better. Also at garage sales people that have boxes and boxes of books and it is nearing the end of the day are more than happy to make a deal on a price per box. You can wind up with boxes of books for just 5.00. I have done this many times. The person usually just does not feel like dealing with cleaning up the sale and dragging them all back into the house so is happy to make a few bucks and have you haul them off.

2. Estate sales - You know the ones... where you walk inside someones house who has passed on or maybe has been moved into a nursing home or with family. Usually there is still things in the cupboards and closets. Keep an eye out at these for really old and unusual books. They could be on a shelf in a closet or in a drawer. So look carefully you never know what kinds of treasures there are to be found.

3. Storage Unit Auctions - these are very popular. You used to be able to purchase whole units for as little as 20.00 this does not happen as much anymore BUT as a book seller you have another way to approach these. Most people buying at storage unit auctions are on the lookout for other things. Go to these auctions, if your lucky and are able to win a unit for a low price thats wonderful but even if you do not, get to chatting and making connections. I know a few people who sell off the books they get in a unit and furniture (some that even give it away) because they need to have unit cleared out usually the same day or by the next day. If they do not sell books they do not want to be bothered with them. You can make an offer or let them know you would be happy to take the books of of their hands. Be friendly and have fun.

4. Thrift stores - not just inside them on the bookshelves either. Check their dumpster. Nope I am not kidding. I worked at a thrift store. It was sad how many older books and magazines were thrown away because they get so many and are very picky about them. I remember one day when I was off of work they had filled over half of the dumpster with books. Hundreds of them.

5. Friends & Family - yep your friends and family very likely have books they have no need for anymore but have not gotten around to getting rid of. Never hurts to ask.

6. Freecycle - Now this one you have to be careful. It is a big no no in most freecycle groups to ask for items to make a profit on. BUT as long as you let the person know you are getting them to resell you have done nothing wrong. Many people do not mind as long as the stuff is gone and they do not have to deal with it anymore.

7. Craigslist - Wanted section- Place an ad in the wanted section looking for books. Explain you will clean up after yard sales, clean out storage units etc. free (don't even have to mention books in that case). You can offer to purchase books on craigslist OR ask for them for free. Just use the wanted section. Also check the free section on craigslist daily.

8. Library sales - Now this is one a lot of people think is pointless believe it or not. See most books that are from the library do not resell well at all. So people think library sale and they think discarded library books. But 99% of books sold at library sales are ones that were donated to the library NOT ex-library - Many great finds at Library sales.

So as you can see there are many places to purchase books for almost nothing and plenty of places to get them completely free.

I have not covered everything, but I hope this helps some to decide whether they want to give it a try and helps make it easier for them getting started.

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