In the past 6 months I have sold 46 books on Amazon.com, and been paid $554.68. Part of my earnings on each book is a $3.99 stipend to cover shipping costs. So if I substract $3.99 for each book sold (though most don’t cost that much to mail), then I have earned (about) $371.14 in the last 6 months, just by selling off our old books. That’s an average of $8.07 per book! A lot of my friends have been asking for tips lately, so here are some of things I have learned along the way:
- Choose the right books to sell: Non-Fiction Sells. Only 4 of the 46 books I sold were Fiction. My Art Classroom Resource books sold well. Graduate and Undergraduate textbooks sold well. Christian, Religion, Classics, Marriage, Parenting, and even a Cookbook sold well. Ironically, New York Times Best-Sellers do not sell well (maybe because everyone has them already?) If it’s only selling for $0.99 or less, I don’t even waste time listing it–I just donate it to the library the next time I’m there. Books in “New” condition will sell better than those in lesser conditions.
- Listing your books on Amazon is WAY easier than listing on Craigslist, eBay, or other similar sites. You don’t have to take any photos, spend time trying to assess the value of your items, research all the details about your items and their condition, or pay additional charges if your items don’t sell immediately. All you need is the ISBN number off the back cover. Then choose the condition and the price. Your book will be listed indefinitely, and it comes with a photo already.
- Amazon takes some of your profit, but reimburses you for shipping: Amazon keeps $0.99 per book, plus a referral fee and a percentage. Generally, the more you make, the more they take. This week I sold an old art book for $34.78. Amazon took $7.56, but gave me $3.99 for shipping. So Amazon paid me $31.21 for the book.
- Leave your items up for sale indefinitely (at no charge), but check your inventory regularly to see that your items are still the lowest price: I recently discovered that the far right column of my active inventory page allows me to see the lowest price of all listings in the same sub-condition. Now I can easily check on my inventory more than once a day to see that I have the lowest prices available for my books.
- At the Post Office, ship your books using “Media Mail”: My husband learned this trick years ago when he was selling off his vast CD collection. “Media Mail” is the cheapest way to go. It’s a little slower, but it will still get there on time.
- Keep a small supply of inexpensive shipping materials on hand at all times: I’ve mailed my books in paper grocery bags turned inside out, or I’ve recycled used envelopes and bubble wrap. I use double-wide masking tape, duct tape, or packaging tape to seal them, and then I use a black permanent marker to address them. Brad preferred to buy a box full of small manilla envelopes just the right size for his CDs. As a rule, if you spend a lot on your packaging or your packaging adds significant weight to your items, then your shipping costs will be higher and your profits will be lower.
I have to say that I have loved selling our books on Amazon. We have acquired many nice books over the years as we acquired 5 college degrees between the two of us and taught in multiple schools. Some books were inherited, gifted, or gained in other ways. Many of our books have set on our shelves or in boxes, unread for many years. Many of our books have moved with us…6 times in 6 years. I am so happy to know that we will not have to move them again! It is great to clean out our garage and bookshelves, and to have some money to spend on other things that we need at this time.