Selling books on Amazon is a fantastic way to make some cash — and even to start building an Amazon business. (In fact, that’s how I got my start selling on Amazon five years ago!)
But, to get started, you’ll need to learn how selling on Amazon works, as well as how to find books to sell on Amazon and what types of books you should and shouldn’t sell.
How to sell books on Amazon (my story)
Long before I made six-figures selling my own branded products on Amazon, I sold books.
It all started with a nine-to-five job; and I hated my nine-to-five job. It was back in 2012, and I was hired to sell cars (yep — all the bad stuff you hear about car salesmen is 100% true, at least in my case).
After three years, I’d had enough.
So, in 2015, I started looking for a way out. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur but, like many, I didn’t know how or where to begin. I was scared to make a move.
Then, my internet searches led me to blogs and videos about passive income. That’s how I discovered bookselling on Amazon.
I didn’t have a lot of money to start with either. Just a few hundred bucks. And frankly, I didn’t want to risk even that. I mean, who wants to risk losing their hard-earned money, right?!
Fortunately, I had an old comic book collection gathering dust. I thought, “Maybe I’ll list these online? See what happens!” And that’s how I started selling books on Amazon.
In just days, I had dozens of books listed on Amazon.
I was earning money, and I was learning about how to sell on Amazon as a way to replace my income. Now, five years later, I’m still an Amazon seller with hundreds of product listings and thousands in monthly sales — and the income that comes with it.
In other words, selling books on Amazon is absolutely doable! And I’ll walk you through all the steps you need to know in order to be successful.
How can I sell my used books on Amazon?
To sell a book on Amazon you need to decide three things:
- Your fulfillment method (FBA or FBM)
- The type of seller you want to be (Individual or Professional Seller)
- How you source inventory
Once you’ve made those decisions, you can list your books on Amazon immediately — and then just wait for your first sale!
Let’s break it down further:
1. How will you fulfill orders?
There are two ways to fulfill your orders on Amazon: FBA and FBM.
Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)
With this method, when a sale is made on Amazon, you pick, pack, and ship the book yourself, using the carrier of your choice (eg. FedEx, UPS, etc). FBM sellers are also responsible for storing their own inventory.
So, when you are calculating your costs, remember to factor in storage fees if you’re not storing the books at home, as well as shipping and handling expenses and the amount of time it takes for you to pack and ship your orders.
Use FBM if you only have a few orders to fulfill or if you have a large enough operation that the costs to ship your orders are lower than Amazon’s. And again, you will have to have a place to store your books.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
With this method, when a sale is made on Amazon, Amazon picks, packs, and ships the book on your behalf. Amazon also stores your inventory for you and takes care of customer service.
Therefore, instead of paying storage, shipping and handling expenses, and labor costs on your own, you pay Amazon an FBA fee to cover those costs.
Use FBA if you have a lot of orders to fulfill and your operation isn’t large enough to have shipping costs lower than the requisite FBA fees. On the plus side, you won’t need a place to store your books as Amazon’s fulfillment centers will hold them for you until they sell.
2. What type of Amazon seller should you be?
There are two types of Amazon sellers.
Individual sellers typically sell fewer than 40 products per month. This method is recommended for sellers who only have a few items to sell or are only selling as a hobby. Individual sellers have different fees than professional sellers (see the FAQ section below).
Professional sellers are Amazon sellers who sell 40 or more products per month. This method is recommended for sellers who have large inventories and want to create a regular monthly income from their Amazon sales.
Note: To find out what types of Amazon sellers are most successful, and what other categories they sell in, check out “The State of the Amazon Seller” report.
3. How do you find books to sell (ie. what is your inventory)?
Most folks want to sell books they already have online, but you can also source your inventory from a number of different places to continue growing your book sales on Amazon.
Here are some of the most popular methods.
Sell your own books
This one is probably the simplest way to find books to sell and it’s how I got started. Look around your house (yes, second-hand Marie Kondo-style) and see if you have some old books collecting dust.
Consider textbooks, rare topics, or — as I did — old comic books. (See the FAQ section for more on which types of books are best to sell on Amazon.)
A lot of sellers love going to book sales as it can be kind of like hunting for treasure. Plus, there’s always a book sale going on somewhere, especially at libraries.
Head to these sales with a book scanner and look for some good picks that you buy and list online.
Don’t feel like going out? Some sellers look on websites other than Amazon for books with prices lower than what you could sell the same book for on Amazon. This is usually called ‘online arbitrage.’
All you do is purchase the book from the one website, wait for it to arrive, and then list it on Amazon.
You can often buy entire lots of books online for super low prices. You can buy full lots of used books on eBay, CraigsList, and Facebook listed at low rates.
Estate sales, closing sales, and moving sales are awesome ways to find books since large collections of books will be sold all at once. I used to go to estate sales and make offers on entire collections for pennies on the dollar.
Check out CraigsList or Facebook marketplace; there is always someone who is looking to offload books at no charge. All you have to do is go get them.
Just be careful, as sometimes these free books could be listed by other sellers who are getting rid of the books that don’t sell.
What kind of books can you sell on Amazon?
Finding books to list on Amazon is usually pretty easy. However, you don’t want to spend your time listing books that no one will buy. That’s why it’s important to know how to find the right books to sell on Amazon.
Here are a few tricks you can use to sort through the clutter.
Check the book’s Best-Seller Ranking
Every single product on Amazon gets a ‘‘Best Sellers Rank’ (BSR). The lower a product’s BSR, the more often that product sells on Amazon.
For example, a book ranked #1 on Amazon sells 1,500 copies per month. Meanwhile, a book ranked #1,000,000 might not sell a single copy for months — if ever.
A book’s best-seller ranking can be found on the book’s page listing in the product details.
Note: The Amazon Best Sellers Rank you need to focus on is the BSR for the Books category. You can ignore the BSRs for the subcategories.
In my experience, you want to sell books that have a BSR lower than 100,000. That means there is a pretty good chance that your book will sell within 24 hours.
Estimate the book’s likelihood to sell
There are a few tools you can use to estimate how likely a book is to sell on Amazon shortly after you purchase it.
- Jungle Scout’s Free Estimator Tool: Simply put in a book’s BSR, the market you’re selling it in, and the category. From there, the Sales Estimator tells you the monthly sales for that product. For example, if a product has 3,000 sales per month, it sells about 10 copies per day.
- Keepa: Keepa creates a graph that shows you how a book’s BSR has changed over time. Using that data, you can predict how often sales are made. Keepa’s premium version, which shows a book’s BSRs, costs $149 per year.
- Jungle Scout Extension. Jungle Scout — an all-in-one platform for selling on Amazon — offers an extension too, which not only shows you the sales history for a single product but the estimated sales for an entire page of search results as well. This is useful if you ever expand your business beyond selling books, and the cost is $228 per year.
- Book Scanners: Many book sellers use a handheld scanner to help them while they’re looking for inventory. To make life really easy for yourself, you can always use Amazon’s mobile seller app instead. It comes with a scanner of its own that gives you the product price, FBA fees, approximate profits, BSR, total number of sellers, and official Amazon category.
Note: If you don’t mind storing books in your own home for a longer period of time, or paying the additional storage fees (if you’re an FBA seller), then you can list books that sell more slowly. Just go with what you’re comfortable with!
How to list your book on Amazon
Once you become registered to sell on Amazon, you can start listing your books.
The easiest way to do this is to go to the actual product page for the book you want to list. That’s right—you can actually list your books from the Amazon page itself instead of creating an entirely new listing. Then, once you list your book, it appears on the same page.
Here’s an example:
To access the product listing page, type in the book’s ISBN (which is the book’s registration code) into Amazon’s search bar — just like you do when you’re searching for a product to buy.
The ISBN can usually be found either on the barcode or somewhere inside the book’s dust jacket.
However, if the book was printed before 1970, it won’t have an ISBN. In that case, you’ll have to enter the title manually.
Once you’re on the product listing page, you will find a gray button that says “Sell on Amazon” just below the Buy Box.
After clicking on that button — and as long as you’re permitted to sell the book — you should see this screen:
From there, enter the following information:
- SKU: This is your own personal code for the book. This can be whatever you you want it to be, though it’s best if it’s something that will help you remember it. If you leave it blank, Amazon randomly generates one for you.
- Price: I recommend selling the book for the lowest price possible, unless there is a large difference between the prices on the varying conditions of the book. For example, books of ‘Acceptable’ quality usually sell for less than books of ‘Very Good’ value. For your convenience, Amazon has a button you can click to match the lowest price.
- Quantity: If you have more than one copy of a book, enter the total quantity here. Otherwise, it defaults to one unit.
- Condition: There are five conditions for Amazon books: ‘New’, ‘Like new’, ‘Very good’, ‘Good’, and ‘Acceptable’. If you can sell Collectible books (see FAQs), you will also have options for: Like new, Very good, Good, and Acceptable books. Furthermore, hardcover books with dust jackets have separate conditions for just the dust jacket.
- Fulfillment Channel: FBM or FBA (see above in this article for the difference).
Once you enter that information, one of two things will happen:
- If you selected to sell the book FBM, your listing for the book will appear on the book’s product listing page in 15-30 minutes. All you have to do is wait for it to sell.
- If you selected to sell the book FBA, you have to prepare the book to ship to Amazon. It typically takes 1-2 weeks for your inventory to arrive at the destination fulfillment center. Then, it will take Amazon’s staff another three days to a week to unpack the inventory and distribute it to their network. This time could be longer if it’s a particularly busy period for Amazon, like the holiday season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have you sold books on Amazon before? What tips do you recommend for people just starting out? Share them in the comments below; we’d love to hear them!