I love books. That is not a secret. In elementary school my favorite days were the Scholastic Book Fair days. My mom would send me with a blank check (I learned how to fill them out in third grade when my mom had me pay all the bills from her checking account and taught me how to balance a checkbook.) And I would buy all the books. There was never a limit on how many books I could bring home. Flash forward to my first real job when I was 14. My best friend’s mom opened a used book store and employed me (looking back that woman must have been crazy to leave store in the hands of a 14/15 year old, but I had the time of my life.) Then in college I worked for the oldest independent bookseller in the West (though, I had to explain to the many tourists that visited that the company had been around since 1898, not the actual store we were standing in.) Then, libraries. I have worked in libraries for 7 years now and wonder why it took so long to find my way here.
When I was preparing to pay for grad school I realized two things. One, I needed to stop spending money buying books I probably would never read. And two, I needed to make more money to pay for out of state tuition. I had some success selling textbooks online and realized that I probably should try to sell some of the library I accumulated given that a move was definitely in my future. Once I made it through my personal library, I began searching out other sources of cheap books to make some extra money.
Where to sell?
There are TONS of places to sell books online, but I have had the most success with Amazon.com, Bookscouter.com and Half.com. Before you start with either one, you need to decide what it is you want to get out of book selling. Are you willing to wait longer to get more money from a book? Or are you looking for a quick payment, even if that means selling for a little less.
Amazon and Half.com are the better options if you want top dollar for your books and are willing to wait to get the best price. The danger with them is that there is no guarantee that a book will sell for the price you want it to.
Bookscouter is better if you are looking to quickly sell your books and get a paid. You might not make as much per book, but it is almost guaranteed that your book will sell.
Obviously, there are other factors in play, the most important of which is the condition of the book. If you aren’t selling books that are in decent condition then neither of these platforms will be great-unless it happens to be an extremely rare book.
The first step to selling on Amazon is to set up an account. You don’t need to have a Prime Account to sell, but if you do you can skip a couple of steps!
To set up a new account with Amazon you need to have an email address and give Amazon your name, address and bank information (so they know where to send your money!) You will also need a telephone number so that they can confirm you are a real, live person. Then you will need to provide a credit card to have on file-don’t worry, they won’t charge you anything but need to have it in case of returns.
Listing Your Item
The most accurate way to list an item is to list it using the ISBN. There are normally two places you can find an ISBN on a book. Either the back cover by the barcode, or the verso of the title page.
Type the ISBN in the search bar on Amazon.com. Once you’re at the item page, look for the “Have one to sell?” button. It’s usually in the same place but sometimes you have to hunt for it.
Now you are at the listing page. The product details box will give you information about how popular the book is and how many copies are available. As you can see, The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, while a VERY GOOD book, is not a very profitable one. Good thing this is my forever copy! (Okay, it’s Mr. Beach Life’s forever copy but we have mingled our books so I like to think it is kind of mine, too.)
Next, pick the condition the book is in. If it is a brand new, never been opened book, choose “Brand New.” If it is a read one time but still great condition choose “Like New.” I try not to sell books that are in conditions lower than “like new” unless it’s a relatively rare book. There’s no harm in listing it any, because Amazon doesn’t charge you anything until the book has sold, but it’s unlikely that books in less conditions sell.
Setting a price
Amazon will tell you what the lowest price the book is selling for. You don’t have to match the lowest price, but it might not sell if you don’t. I don’t like to list books for less than $3.00 on Amazon because the fees eat up any profit.
At this point Amazon will ask if you want to ship the item yourself or send it to an Amazon warehouse and have them take care of the selling part for you. I have never sent items to Amazon to sell for me, so I am going to skip that and just focus on selling the item yourself.
You can decide what kind of shipping you offer. Sometimes I have hard time making it to the post office immediately so I don’t offer one-day shipping. I keep a stash of priority flat rate envelopes and boxes at my house so I can make sure that the book will fit it in before I offer Expedited shipping.
I offer International Shipping only on books that fit in the flat rate mailers. Otherwise, the shipping is way too expensive.
That’s it! Once it is listed all you have to do is wait for your items to sell. You will get an email when an item has sold and you have two business days to get it to the post office. Pro tip: if the seller has chosen expedited shipping, it is cheaper to buy the postage at home. Another bonus is that USPS will charge your Amazon account directly instead of you prepaying for the postage.
Once your items are listed you can view them in your inventory. From the inventory you can keep track of what the lowest price the book is selling for and update your pricing accordingly.
Amazon makes deposits into your bank account weekly, but they hold your deposits for two weeks before they release them to you. They initiate payments every Sunday and have always hit my account Monday morning.
Selling with Bookscouter
If you’re looking for immediate payment for your books, then Bookscouter is one of the best websites. You type in the ISBN for your book and it will compare the prices across several booksellers to get you the best price.
As you can see, Bookscouter is not for every type of book. No one is willing to pay upfront for a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. However, the non-fiction book Building the Internet of Things: Implement New Business Mode fares better. Bookscouter will list the buyers by who will the most reliable buyer that will pay the highest. It will tell you if they will pay for you shipping the book to them and how they pay you, whether by check or with Paypal. Usually, you will get your money 1-3 days after the buyer receives your shipment.
This option is great if you want a quick payment and don’t want to wait to get rid of your books. You might make more money selling to a private buyer on Amazon or Half.com, but there is no guarantee your book will sell. With Bookscouter, you have the best guarantee of getting paid for your books.
You don’t have to register for an account with Bookscouter to use it, but you will have access to a ton of features if you get the free account. One such feature is a list of recently searched high-value books. If you’re interested in selling books, this might make a good reference for books to be on the lookout for.
If you have books published before the 1970s, then they might not have an ISBN. You can use Bookscouter to search for books that don’t have an ISBN.
Another feature is historic buyback price lookup. You can see if a book you have sells better during certain seasons and if you should wait to sell or not.
There’s an option to register for BookScouter Pro which offers even more features. Whether they are worth it to you depends on what you’re using Bookscouter for. If you’re just decluttering, then it probably doesn’t make sense to spend money on it. If you have suddenly inherited a used bookstore that you’re looking to liquidate, then it might want to consider it.
Half.com recently significantly increased their commission fees. I am going to leave this up since it still might be helpful, but remember to double check what your final selling price will be before listing-it might not be worth using Half.com anymore. You can check out their increased commissions here.
I am going to throw this one in because it is another option. Half.com works largely the same as Amazon.com. You list a book by its ISBN, set the price based on date Half.com provides, and wait for someone to buy it.
Pros of Half.com
The fees Half.com charges are less than the fee Amazon charges. That means it is easier to make a profit off a lower selling book.
- The lowest price you’re allowed to sell a book for is $0.75, versus $0.01 with Amazon. After the fees, you make
$0.64, $0.50 which again, makes it easier for lower selling books to be profitable.
- Books don’t sell as fast or as often. I don’t have hard data about this, but I assume its because Amazon.com giftcards are so widely available that when people are looking to buy used books they naturally gravitate to Amazon.
- Shipping reimbursement doesn’t always cover actual shipping cost. This is true with hard cover books, but also thick paperback books.
Selling on Half.com
To sell books on Half.com you need an account with Ebay. It only takes a few minutes to set one up. You need your provide your name, address and create a username.
What Type of Books Sell on Half.com
I mostly list popular mass market paperback books on Half.com. These books usually only go for one cent on Amazon, but I can sell for $0.75-$1.00 (or more, depending) on Half.com. My suggestion is to use both platforms. Sometimes books sell for more one than the other
How to List on Half.com
Just like Amazon and Bookscouter, once you type in the ISBN to Half.com you’ll see what your book is going for in the different conditions.
At the top of the page there is a link for you to sell your own copy. Unlike Amazon.com, this link is consistently placed.
When you clicked “sell my copy” it will take you the page where you describe the condition of the book and any pertinent information. Other information might include if it was signed by the author.
Once you’ve chosen the condition of the book, Half.com will tell you the average amount the book has sold for.
You can choose whatever price you want, but I try to stick near to what Half.com recommends. Next, wait for an email that your book has sold! Half.com will deposit the cost of the book, minus Half.com’s fees, in addition to the shipping reimbursement. They make the deposits every two weeks.
Though there are others, those are the three main sites I use to sell books online. Using books at home that you’re done with is a great way to get started with these sites. I pretty quickly ran through my personal books and looked to sources of buying books for profit. Soon, I will post about all the places I’ve bought books to resell.