Here’s What You Need to Know About Selling Books on Amazon
Once upon a time, there was an aspiring entrepreneur who wanted to start selling on Amazon but didn’t know where to start. If this is your story, you’ve come to the right place! Before you jump headfirst into the deep end of the Amazon selling pool, it would be a good idea to test the waters and first learn how to sell books on Amazon. This is a great way to learn the ropes of both Amazon FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) and Amazon FBM (fulfilled by merchant…you!). More on that later…
With the rising popularity of kindle ebooks and audiobooks, the industry has become a multi-billion dollar market. With a playground this large and active, you can guarantee there is space to for yourself to turn a profit at any level.
Now more than ever, books have become a valued part of COVID-19 life. Using Helium 10’s Amazon keyword research tool (Magnet), we can see just how popular the term “best selling books” became right around the month of March.
Yes, this is a broad-stroke example, but still goes to show – the world is reading now more than ever. We want to encourage the entrepreneurial soul at every avenue we can. How much do Amazon sellers make? Last year, Amazon generated 53.76 billion U.S. dollars in third-party seller service revenues. This is an increase of over 25% from the previous year.
There is gold in the hills, and this data continually shows the Amazon advantage spells opportunity.
If you’re anything like me, you love to read. Unfortunately, this love of reading can lead to a lovely pile of books in the corner of your room over the years. Whether you swapped your physical bookstore membership for a library card or finally gave in and bought a Kindle ebook, we’re here to show you how to turn those old, worn out pages into something a little more… spendable.
Chapter 1: Inventory (Where are you getting your books from?)
Before you set up your seller account and start learning how to sell books on Amazon, you must first identify where you will be sourcing your books from. Here are a few of the most common options.
This is often the best place to start. Look around your house right now. Start a box full of books you no longer want or are not likely to read again. Sort them by genre and be on the lookout for rare/niche topics (yes, even those old comic books are most likely still worth something).
This is another step in your book selling journey you can take today. Download Amazon’s Mobile App. If you are truly serious about making money selling books on Amazon, using the scanning method is crucial. Tools like the Amazon Mobile Seller app include a scan feature that allows you to check:
- Current prices
- BSR (Best Seller Rank)
- FBA fees
- Estimated profitability
- Customer reviews
For example, by comparing a book’s Best Seller Rank with its lowest sale price, you can determine if a particular book is worth buying for resale.
Retail arbitrage is a very popular method for many sellers on Amazon; the story is no different for book sellers. Sourcing your books via retail arbitrage means you visit physical stores looking for cheap books to buy with the intention of reselling them for a profit on the Amazon marketplace. This includes local bookstores, thrift stores, and yard sales.
Having a lazy day? Try online arbitrage. Sites like Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook are great places to find that perfect used book on a steep discount. Thriftbooks is a fantastic resource for finding some of the best deals in print.
Keep in mind, this strategy is time consuming but very profitable if you use your time wisely. Keep an eye out for books and genres that sell for at least $20. You want to make sure the books you are targeting are worth going after. Arbitrage is modern-day treasure hunting, so picking your shots carefully is the name of the game.
To borrow the wise words of Tim Jordan, “There are riches in the niches.”
Library Sales/Checking for Unwanted Books
There’s no rule that says you can’t get crafty with your book selling inventory. Libraries and schools often hold book sales to get rid of overstock or unwanted inventory. You know the old saying… “one library’s old book is another Amazon seller’s side-income.” …or something along those lines.
Even if you can’t find a book sale, don’t hesitate to ask libraries if there are plans to discard their unwanted stock. You may strike out more than you hit it out of the park, but these are the opportunities that many book sellers don’t bother pursuing. Always be respectful and ethical with your sourcing but don’t forget, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
Estate sales are a great place to hunt for books in large quantities. Keep your eye on resources like estatesales.net for opportunities in your area.
The Amazon wholesale method involves you purchasing books in bulk from a seller (or publisher) at a cheaper rate.
This is best for those interested in selling new books and have more money to invest in sourcing. Many publishers will not waste their time with smaller orders, however if you are able to cut a deal with a wholesale supplier, it may give you the gift of a guaranteed profit margin.
Remember, if you are dealing with a bonafide publisher, there will be extra requirements to meet. This includes establishing a proper business relationship (application, account, credit rating), minimum upfront commitment (often in the thousands of dollars), and a possible minimum annual commitment.
For those just beginning their Amazon selling journey, we would advise starting elsewhere as the barriers to entry for wholesale sourcing are steeper than most.
Advertising that you Buy Books
In the spirit of taking the initiative, be proactive. Market yourself (locally or online) as someone who is on the lookout to buy used books. Advertise in Facebook groups or build your own website.
Remember, you may end up visiting peoples’ homes so it’s important to dress and act professionally; you may even want to invest in simple business cards.
Many people are looking to offload an entire library’s worth of old books. Consider charging by the pound.
Alternatively, you can offer $1 per book for smaller transactions. When faced with throwing them away or putting aside time to give them away, many book owners would be thrilled to make a couple bucks while maintaining comfort and convenience. These little transactions will all add up and eventually spell a nice profit for you if you’re patient.
What’s the opposite of “death by a thousand cuts?” Life by a thousand $1 John Grisham novels?
Chapter 2: Amazon FBA vs. Amazon FBM (How is your book getting from Point A to B?)
Before you set up your Amazon seller account, let’s take a look at fulfillment. How is your book going to get from point A to point B?
FBA vs. FBM
There are two primary ways to sell books on Amazon.
FBA (fulfillment by Amazon): Amazon packs, stores, and ships your products for you. Packing and shipping can be time consuming (and expensive) if you don’t have an efficient system in place. When sales start picking up and you’re moving a higher volume of books, the Amazon FBA book model may start to become more and more attractive to sellers.
Selling Amazon FBA books clears your plate of many logistical nightmares that accompany storing and shipping, granted you pay Amazon several fees for inheriting the headache. Being an FBA seller is great for ensuring your orders are delivered on time.
FBM (fulfillment by merchant): You pack, store, and ship your products. FBM requires a little more math (you must make sure you can afford packaging costs, shipping fees through FedEx or UPS, along with the logistics of storing books in your home).
However, if done correctly, you will end up saving a lot of money.
At the end of the day, the FBA vs. FBM discussion boils down to convenience vs. control. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s up to you to choose which one best suits your Amazon store business style.
Chapter 3: How to Sell Books on Amazon (The adventure starts here!)
- Visit www.amazon.com
- Sign in to your normal, shopper account (if you don’t already have a regular Amazon account, you will have to make one.)
- Once you are signed in, look on the upper ride side of your screen for the “Account” dropdown. It should read “Hello [Your Name]: Account & Lists.” Hover over this menu and click on “Start a Selling Account.”
- You will be taken to a separate page with a prompt to “Start Selling,” go for it!
- You will be prompted to choose your country and what kind of seller you are, individual or business. Individual sellers are classified as “selling in a private context and not as part of a business.” A privately-owned business is “registered in the context of a commercial or professional activity.”
Which one are you? The best way to make this distinction is to think about how much you will be realistically selling to Amazon book buyers. If you will be selling under ~50 products per month, it is safe to classify as an individual seller. If you plan on selling more than ~50 products per month, you are a professional seller.
- Fill out the remainder of the application forms. Have the following information ready:
- Phone number (you will need to verify this)
- Billing method (credit/debit card)
- Payment method (Bank account and routing numbers)
- Tax information (SSN)
- Driver’s License or passport for identity verification
Don’t fret if this seems like an overload of personal information. If you are going to be making money using Amazon’s marketplace, they need to make sure everything is in order for your taxes. This is a routine and secure process. Keep in mind, Amazon’s verification process may take several days so expect a short wait.
Chapter 4: Putting Books up for Sale
When your Amazon seller account is approved, your next step is to treat yourself to a chocolate cake. After that, you are ready to start listing books as an Amazon vendor.
The best way to do this is simply searching for your book’s actual product listing as it exists on Amazon. You can do this by either searching the book’s ISBN number or by manually searching for the book title. An ISBN is an international standard book number used as registration codes on most modern books.
When you find your book’s existing Amazon listing by it’s book title or ISBN number, look underneath the buy box (where you would usually click “add to cart”). You should see an option asking “Have one to sell?”
Click Sell on Amazon.
This will take you to a page asking you to fill out some important information on the Amazon store. This includes:
- A SKU (stock keeping unit): This is your unique product code for this particular book. Feel free to make something that will be easy for you to remember. If you leave this field blank, a random SKU will be generated for you.
- Selling Price: Pretty self-explanatory. It’s generally a good idea to sell your book for the lowest possible selling price while maintaining a profit for yourself. For those using Amazon FBA, feel free to use Helium 10’s Amazon profit calculator to get a better idea of storage fees, profit margins, estimated ROI, and more.
Your price will depend mostly on…
- Condition: This includes Used – Acceptable, Used – Good, Used – Very Good, Used – Like New, and New. For a detailed breakdown of product conditions, we suggest consulting Amazon’s condition guidelines. You will also be able to fill out book description information for book buyers to get a better idea of what you’re selling.
- As an Amazon vendor, final step will be choosing your fulfillment channel (FBA or FBM). FBM users will be able to go live with their listing almost instantly. FBA users will need to wait a few weeks for their inventory to arrive at an Amazon fulfillment center and be distributed to the appropriate shipment networks.
Appendix: Additional Amazon Book Selling Resources
Read about the benefits of self-publishing books with Amazon KDP to quite literally create a business from the ivory borders of a blank page.
Take time to research how to set up FBM to fully take advantage of the Amazon marketplace while maintaining full control of your inventory and shipping.
Learning how to sell books on Amazon is relatively straightforward. If you’re committed to investing the time to properly source your inventory, appropriately price your books, and market yourself as a professional book buyer, you can 100% generate a side income from selling books on Amazon.
At Helium 10, we want nothing more than to give entrepreneurs the story book ending they deserve. But every story book ending has a beginning; we look forward to helping you reach your financial “happily ever after.”