Selling books on Amazon is a fantastic way to make some cash — and even to start building an Amazon business.
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 can I sell 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?
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 many sellers get started. Look around your home (yes, second-hand, Marie Kondo-style) and see if you have some old books collecting dust.
Consider textbooks, rare topics, or 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 picks that would be good to list on Amazon. By using a Bluetooth scanner along with a book scanning app, you’ll be able to find profitable books much faster than the competition at these sales.
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 for a low price, wait for it to arrive, and then list it on Amazon for a higher price.
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.
If you go this route, make sure you’re buying books that have not been sorted or scanned. If so, you could be buying another Amazon seller’s “duds” that are not profitable for Amazon.
Estate sales, closing sales, and moving sales are awesome ways to find books since large collections of books will be sold all at once. Typically, you can 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.
- Jungle Scout Extension. The Extension shows you the sales history for a single product but the estimated sales for an entire page of search results as well. The Extension also features a graph on the product detail page that shows how the BSR and price has changed over time.
- 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 detail 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 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 pricing the book based on its condition. For example, books of “Acceptable” quality usually sell for less than books of “Very Good” value. Don’t automatically match the lowest price as it may cause a “race to the bottom.” If your book is in good condition, it will usually sell even if there is a cheaper, lower-quality option.
- 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. I don’t recommend ever listing a book in “New” condition — even if it is in perfect condition. This is because you may be reported by the publisher or Amazon may request an invoice.
- 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.
You can also add the product for sale within your Seller Central account.
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!