Entrepreneur Beth knows the highs and lows of being one's own boss.
5 Key Steps to Successful Book-Selling
- Be professional when dealing with customers. Good customer service brings repeat purchases.
- Describe the goods clearly in your ads. State condition, year of publication, publisher, and ISBN number.
- Price the books fairly. Research competitor websites, and specialist book auctions.
- Ensure your books are in the best condition they can be. They should be clean, and have no pages missing.
- State shipping costs in your advert. Mail them promptly once they're sold, and use a trackable delivery service.
Selling Books on Amazon, eBay, and AbeBooks
Amazon. AbeBooks and eBay are popular websites for selling second-hand and used books. Anyone can list books for sale on them and name their asking price. However, if you want to make regular sales, don't be greedy; price realistically. The video below shows how using a book pricing app together with a portable bluetooth scanner make finding and pricing stock much easier than it used to be. This scanner and phone app combo has saved me hours of time.
Where to Find Books to Sell Online
Thrift Stores, Charity Shops, Yard Sales, and House Clearance
If you find you enjoy selling books online and make a profit then you'll need to find more stock. Thrift stores and charity shops sell cheap second-hand books. However the internet makes achievable prices visible to everyone and so it's becoming more difficult to find hidden gems in these stores.
Just because a book is old, doesn't make it valuable. The opposite can also be true. Some newly published books are sought after because small print runs cannot keep up with demand. If you specialize in a particular subject area, you'll learn what has value, and what does not. Persistence and knowledge are the keys to success in this business, although luck also plays a part. Auctions and house clearances can be a good source of large book collections. Relatives of the deceased may want to clear the house with as little hassle as possible. If you have transport you may even get paid by executors to take hundreds of books away for dumping, and be able to retrieve a couple of gems from the dross.
Describe Your Books Clearly
The way you list your books for sale is key to making this a viable home business. Describe the book in as much detail as you can. If a website allows, post lots of photos. These should show the front, back, and spine of the book, as well as any illustrations. If there's any damage, include a photo of this as well.
Include the date of publication, full title and author, as well as the illustrator (if relevant). If it's a modern book it will also have an ISBN number which is a unique identifier relating to the publishing format and date of publication. The book should be presented in as clean a condition as possible. If there are any marks, these should be noted in the description. It's not a good idea to try and remove them with modern chemicals, as this can damage the paper or binding. You can quickly reduce a valuable book to scrap paper by over-zealous cleaning.
Calculate Shipping and Postage Costs
Books are heavy. Most buyers expect to have their books delivered to them, and so you should consider shipping costs when you price your wares. Make sure the book's sale price is sufficient to cover your outgoings, and make a profit for you. Some websites (e.g. eBay) allow you to determine what (if anything) you want to charge for delivery on top of the sale price. Consider charging different amounts so that you can offer your customer a choice between standard or tracked delivery.
For rare and collectable books, use a traceable delivery method in case the package gets lost in transit. Remember to include the cost of your bubble mailer and Scotch tape in the shipping costs. Depending on the size of the book, these can be as much as the postal charge itself. It's worth using good quality packing materials; these will ensure that your buyer receives their book(s) undamaged by rough handling in transit. Happy customers mean repeat purchases.
Does Selling Old Books Online Make Money?
Many books are read once (or not at all) and then given to a thrift shop, sold at auction or discarded by being left on public transport. You may be able to make a buck by selling them online for a profit. Making money this way is not an easy option, it takes hard work and persistence. Getting the right books to sell and then matching them to waiting customers is the key to success. You may find you have days or weeks of zero sales, but then make a super-sale. To make this type of business pay you need specialist knowledge.
You can use a middleman to sell, or you could set up your own website. The video below describes how little cash established online resellers offer you for secondhand books. The websites reviewed in it are webuybooks.co.uk, Ziffit.com, momox.co.uk, and musicmagpie.co.uk.
Can You Sell Unwanted Books Online?
Second Hand or Rare and Collectable
There are two main categories of second-hand books. The first and most common is a book which has been owned by someone else (yourself or another person) and is now being resold at a percentage of the original cover price. This category includes student textbooks, popular fiction, or ordinary books which are being sold off following the death of their original owner.
The second and smaller category is rare and collectable books. Book illustrations may add value if they are detailed engravings or colored prints. This is a specialist market in which the book’s value is determined not just by its condition and rarity, but also by investment potential. The values in this sector of the second-hand book market can be highly volatile.
How Do You Know if a Book Has Significant Monetary Value?
Rare and antique books are a specialist market within the general antiques and collectables trade. Their price is determined not just by a book’s condition but also by how other investment markets are doing. There are always investors with cash to splash even in a recession. When interest rates are low, cash moves into other investment classes. The value of antiques and other “collectables” including books may rise as a result.
If you have any books you think may have special value, I recommend you take photos of the covers and a few of the inside pages of the books. Then after phoning first, email the pictures to some auction houses or specialist book traders. Other traders can be generous with their knowledge and time. Even if you don’t have a hidden gem on your bookshelf, you may learn a little more about collectable books.
Can You Get Rich Selling Second Hand Books Online?
Probably not. Getting rich selling online depends on what you define as rich. The amount of profit you make will depend on your marketing skills, and being able to source enough stock at the right price. a few sellers do manage to make a good living from doing this, but most people sell used books online as a hobby or side hustle.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.