How to Start Selling Books on Amazon

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One of the questions people have asked me is how to start selling books on Amazon.

Amazon provides ordinary people like myself and you reading this post opportunity to sell on their platform.

Amazon is growing at a significant rate. The internet is at its infancy because a lot of retail business is still being done in traditional brick and mortar shops mostly on the high street.

The best time to start selling books or any physical product is now.

I have heard people say there is competition on Amazon, while this is true. It is important to note that the number of people buying online has increased. This means that there are more customers to serve.

If I consider that I have only been selling on Amazon for just over two years, this is not a long time.

While it’s not too long that I started selling on amazon, I have acquired an unimaginable number of skills. I have seen people start and quit their 9 to 5 jobs to sell full time. Selling on Amazon can be very rewarding.

I have also seen people start and quit selling because they lost motivation or got overwhelmed. Perseverance and persistence is a requirement for anyone that will be successful in selling books or anything on Amazon.

One of the easiest ways to start selling on amazon is to start with books.

Why selling books is the easiest way to start on Amazon

Low cost

You can start selling books on Amazon with very little money.

You can walk into a charity shop and find books as cheap as 50p. You can then sell a 50p book for £10 or more on Amazon.

You can start with as little as £10 by buying used books from charity shops and other sources.

Low risk

There is no serious risk of starting a bookselling business.

There is a risk to everything in life but the risk of selling books on Amazon is very low compared to a lot of other business models where you have to commit a lot of money.

You are not going to lose any serious money by selling used or new books on Amazon.

Easy to source

Selling books on Amazon is a very simple strategy.

I am not saying it is easy to do because there is no such thing as easy when it comes to making a profit. What I am saying is that it’s easy to source for books compared to a lot of other business models on Amazon.

Because it is a book, you know specifically what you are looking for. The more you source the more you will understand what types of books sell well and the sourcing will become easier for you.

What type of book sell well on Amazon

Before I talk about the types of books that sell well on Amazon, I think it is important to first understand what sales rank is and how to know the sales rank of a book.

Sales Rank

One of the first things to understand when it comes to selling anything including books on Amazon is the sales rank.

Your Amazon sales rank can also be called Amazon Best Seller Ranking (BSR).

This is a very important metric on Amazon as it relates to how well your product is selling in its category.

Amazon will assign a sales rank number to a product depending on how well the product is selling.

The smaller the number, the better. For example, a product with the #1 sales rank will be selling faster than a product with a sales rank of #100.

In the books category, the sales rank can be very high because there are a lot of books on Amazon.

There is no specific rule but generally, you want to be looking for books that the sales rank is not more than #1,000,000 (1million). This does not mean that you cannot sell books that have sales rank higher than 1million.

A book might not have sold any unit in the past year and somebody just needs the book for research and comes to Amazon to look for the book.

Because it has not sold any copy in the last one year the sales rank might be something like #10million.

As soon as somebody buys the book on Amazon, the sales rank could become #2million.

To save energy of sourcing and listing, it is better to stick to a particular plan of having a sales rank you won’t go above.

I generally don’t sourcebooks above #1million sales rank. I used to source books up to #5million sales rank before. I still have books listed that have not yet sold any unit which I hope they will sell sometime.

How to know Amazon Best Seller Ranking (BSR)

Using the image below as example, you will notice the highlighted part in red. The sales rank of this particular book is #123,225.

When you get to the page where the book is on Amazon.co.uk, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see a section that looks like the image below.

Alternatively, you can do it easily by pressing CTRL + F on window or COMMAND + F on Mac, this will give you a small pop up where you can type the word ‘rank’, this will take you straight to the same section in the image below where you will see the sales rank of the book.

You can also know the sales rank of a book from the Amazon seller app when you scan the book. This can be very handy when you are out and about sourcing for books in places like a charity shop.

Types of book that sell well

This depends on who you ask. I have seen people say fiction books sell well on Amazon and I have also seen people that say non-fiction sells better.

The rule of thumb for me is sourcing for books that solve a particular problem. I know biography and novels can sell well if you can source them at cheap prices.

When you are sourcing, watch out for how-to books or step by step guide. Below is an example of a book I sold on Amazon. You will notice the book is a step by step guide book which was published to help Florist or someone interested in Floristry.

This type of book should catch your attention when you are outsourcing. However, you still need to scan it before you can be sure it has a reasonable sales rank on Amazon.

Education books sell better during the period when the academic year is starting.

Some books are unique if you find a book which the title sounds a bit strange you might want to pay attention to it and scan with Amazon Seller app to check.

Another type of books that sells very well are books related to food and cooking. I have sold some cooking and food books for a very good profit.

There are a lot of cooking and food books out there but you just have to scan and believe some of those you scan might be profitable.

Types of Account and Subscription Fee

I have seen a lot of new sellers get confused about Amazon fees. There are a lot of fees you have to pay on Amazon. I am not talking about the account fees here but the fees you pay on each product you sell.

Mainly there are two types of Account on Amazon.

Individual – You register free on Amazon but for every item you sell, you will pay £1 extra. The £1 is in addition to other fees.

Professional Account – You pay monthly account subscription fees which at the time of writing this article is £25 per month (excluding VAT). You can see the current price on Amazon.

It makes sense to start with an individual account to try out amazon. But once you start selling more than 31 books or other items per month, you need to migrate to the Professional Account. This is because it will no longer be cost-effective to still be using the individual account.

It’s simple math. If you sell 31 items, that will be £1 multiplied by 31 which is £31, that means your account has cost you £6 more than someone who has a professional account paying the monthly subscription fee of £25 (excluding VAT).

You will even be losing more money if you sell much more units. Once you start selling a lot of units you need to consider switching to a professional account.

It is not compulsory to start with a professional account, you can start with either of the two and switch as your condition change. You can also switch between the accounts whenever you want.

Business Account -This account is just for people who have a registered company. Ideally, you must already have a professional account to register your business on your seller account.

Fulfilment Method

With this, I am talking about how you prefer to send the product to Amazon when they buy the book from you.

There are two major fulfilment methods.

Merchant Fulfilled

In this case, you are the merchant. This means when customers buy your book, you will be the one to pick, pack and ship the product to Amazon.

Amazon FBA ( Fulfilled by Amazon)

This is what I love about Amazon and what makes it different from eBay. With this method, all you need to do is to send all your books to Amazon fulfilment centre, Amazon will then take over the rest.

When a customer buys one of your books, you will not need to do anything.

Let’s say you’ve just sourced for about 100 books, once you list them on Amazon, you can send all the 100 books to Amazon fulfilment Centre in one shipment.

Whenever a customer purchases any of your books, you will not need to do anything, it will be the responsibility of Amazon to send the books to the customer.

This is a game-changer, unlike the Merchant Fulfilled option where you will have to visit the post office or courier drop off centre multiple times to ship products to customers.

Fulfilled by Amazon is a great example of leveraging. It’s not a free service, Amazon will pick, pack and ship your products to the customer at some cost to you. The lists of Amazon fees are below.

What condition to list your book on Amazon

To make your books available to customers to buy on Amazon, you need to list the books through Seller Central on Amazon. To list the product you will have to specify the condition of the book. Below are the conditions available to choose from:

New books – This is what it says on the tin. If you want to list a book as new, it must be brand-new, unused, unread and in perfect condition.

Collectible books: Personally, I have never sold a collectable book before. I just do not bother to sell collectables because a lot of conditions are attached to selling them. If there are restrictions that means fewer competitions, perhaps you might consider sourcing for collectibles. For a book to be classed as collectable, it must be 

  • signed,
  • a limited first edition,
  • out of print,
  • or have other desirable qualities that could reasonably be assumed to increase the book’s value to a collector.

Like New: unread and in perfect condition. 
Very Good: has been read but still in excellent condition.
Good: has been read but is in clean and pristine condition. 
Acceptable: still readable with pages and cover intact although the dust cover could be missing). 

You will need to make a judgement of the condition you think the book is. I have never sold a new book on Amazon. To be on a safer side and avoid complaint from any customer, most of my books are listed as Used or very good. In some occasions, if a book is very clean I can list as Used or like new.

You just need to assess the book and put yourself in the shoes of your customers. If you buy a book on amazon based on the listing saying it is like new, will you accept it if it was listed as new? if you cannot then most customers will not also.

I play safe and go a step back when I decide on the condition. If it’s Like New I will list as Very Good, if I think it’s Very Good, I list as Good.

For more information about books condition, you can check on Amazon.

Amazon fees on your sales

There are a lot of fees amazon will charge you when you sell an item on their platform.

In plain English, the two major fees are

ReferralThis simply means that Amazon is charging you for bringing you the customer to buy your product.

Picking, Packing, Postage – Imaging your product on the shelve somewhere in Amazon warehouse.

When a customer buys your product, one of Amazon staffs will need to go to the shelf and get your product, he or she or the robot will get a box, package the product and put label which includes the customers address on the box.

The product will then be sent to the customer. This fee is included in Amazon fee, it’s part of Amazon Referral Fee.

Referral fees are determined by the category of the product and the sale price. The fee can range between 6% to 20% of the price of the product. The average referral fee percentage is around 15%.

Shipping – Obviously, the product will need to be sent to the customer after they make a purchase. To be able to send your product to the customer, Amazon will charge you for the postage cost. This cost is embedded in their fees. This is included in what they call FBA fulfilment fee per unit.

Variable closing fee – This is an extra fee Amazon charge on media-related items like books, console, video, DVD and software. A book is one of these items you are likely going to pay this when one of your books get sold. This is a flat fee which ranges between £0.50p and £1

Storage – Just think about how the storage company operate, you take some of your belongings to them, you then pay them for their space you are using to keep you stuffs. Amazon FBA works the same way because your books or products are taking some space in Amazon warehouse, they charge you a small fee for helping you store your product in their warehouse. The storage fee is very small, as long as your product sell fast and not staying in Amazon warehouse for too long, it’s not the fee you need to worry about.

You can see an example of fees in my Amazon seller app in this image. That is one of the books I sold on Amazon.

Where to find books to sell on Amazon

Find books in your house

The first place I will suggest you start from is from your house.

This is provided you already have some books at home. Most people have books they have bought and no longer need.

It might be a book you bought to write a professional exam or a book about cooking. Just see if any of the books you already have at home are no longer useful for you.

You could scan them with Amazon app to check their sales rank.

If the book has a good sales rank, you might consider listing them on Amazon for sale. This is a good way to start selling books on Amazon.

Starting this way will help you to have some understanding of how to list a product and also to see if its a process you will like to go through again.

If you do not enjoy the process, selling books on Amazon might not be for you.

Charity shop

It’s very easy to find books you can resell in charity shops. Just go to any charity shop, you will find a small section where they have books, I think all charity shops have used books section.

All you need to do is to scan the books. Its simple to do but its not easy because you might need to scan a lot of books before you find the one with good sales rank. I have been able to find a lot of books from charity shops that I have been able to sell on Amazon.

Books from charity shops can be as cheap as 50p. It depends on the location and type of book, the condition of the book might also determine how much the charity shop will sell them.

Some charity shops only sell used books and nothing else inside the shop. I have one in my area. The Red Cross book shop on bath road in Cheltenham sell only used books. I have been able to find books that I have sold on amazon from the shop.

One one the challenges from buying used books to resell from charity shop might be a signal problem – some charity shop might have a signal problem which will make it difficult for you to use your Amazon seller scanner.

There is a piece of software that I have tried before.

This software downloads all the products on the Amazon database and helps you scan offline which mean you don’t need a mobile phone signal to use it.

To be honest I don’t use it anymore because I only sourcebook ones in a while so it doesn’t what me paying for it if I am only using it once in a while. If you are going to be devoting most of your time to sourcebooks, I will recommend you use the software because it’s very good.

Church sales

There are churches in my area who do have church sales. At least there are two which I regularly go to their sales. They usually will have a variety of items for sale.

They always have a section for books. Church book section during sales is very similar to charity shops, the books will mostly be used but in very good conditions.

They are usually cheaper than books from a charity shop. I think the difference in church book price in comparison to charity shop might have to do with the fact that charity shops usually will pay rent for their premises while the church usually owns their building.

As well, the charity shop possibly has to pay staff while the people present coordinating the church sale might just be a volunteer from church who is a church member.

Church sales as well are usually about once in 3 months. The one I go to is usually once in 3 months while the charity shops open for business every working day including Saturday in some cases. Both church and charity shops are non-profit but books at church sales are usually much cheaper than from charity shops.

One good tip for buying boots to resell from church sales is to go when they are about to close.

Like the one I do go to, they usually start at 2 and finish at 4. I usually arrive at 3 and hang around till closing time at 4 pm. Close to the closing time around 3:30 pm they will offer black bin bags for sale at £2 and you can fill the bag with as many items as you can fit in it.

That is a bargain because books normally cost 20p ordinarily, sometimes I can fit up to 40 books depending on the size in the bag, this simply means that I get each book at the cost of less than 10p.

Local Library

Our two boys love reading. It’s just impossible to buy every book they read. This is the reason why the local library is there so we can borrow books for them to read. We visit our local library once a week.

When we go to the library, there are times when they have books display for sale. I don’t regularly buy books from the library but I do sometimes scan the books to check if I might find a good one that I can resell on Amazon.

I have been able to find profitable books from the library book sales. They don’t sell them for more than 50p per book, in some occasion, they sell them for 3 books for £1.

If you are interested in selling books on Amazon, try your local library if they have any books sales.

Selling books on Amazon is a form of business, and business involves relationship and communicating with other human beings. So, you could ask the library staffs if they have any library book sale coming up soon.

Car boot sales

I have been to car boot sales several times.

Car boot sales are everywhere, do some google search to find one in your area.

They do advertise some of them on Facebook. Most items at car boot sales can be very cheap.

As long as you have your phone with you with the Amazon seller app, you can do some scanning and find a book that you can resell on Amazon.

Family and friends

This is possibly the least in terms of sourcing for books to start you off in selling books on Amazon.

Consider any of your family and friends who have a lot of books that they no longer need.

It might be your parent or grandparent. Some of your friends might have a lot of books that they no longer need and don’t know what to do with them.

You can ask them if they can allow you to list the books on Amazon to sell and they can give you some percentage of the profit.

eBay

One of the ways to sourcebooks you can resell on amazon is to buy from eBay.

As strange as it may sound, some sellers are selling collections of books as joblot on eBay.

You can buy these books and resell them on Amazon. I have never bought joblot books on eBay before but it looks to me like legitimate books you can buy and resell.

The good thing is that when you list the books on Amazon, you can also list them on eBay.

The challenges with buying wholesale books or joblot are that you have a large number of books that you need to list individually on Amazon.

If you can do the work, you can make a healthy profit.

I must say that if you buy this large number of books, there is no guarantee that all of them will sell fast on Amazon when you list them.

By the time you sell few of them you possibly would have covered the cost of purchasing the bulk.

Example of joblot books listed on eBay is in this screenshot.

Make sure you do your product research before you make any purchase on eBay.

Facebook Marketplace

The marketplace on Facebook is growing stronger.

I have sold a lot of items on Facebook but I have never listed books on Facebook marketplace. When it comes to sourcing, you just have to look everywhere.

Facebook marketplace is one of the places you can check for books you can resell on Amazon. It’s just similar to eBay where you can find joblot of books.

As well, you might be lucky to find books for free. Some people just list some items for free on Facebook marketplace. Such people just want to get rid of those items and want to free up space in the house.

Online

Some websites are a niche for selling books.  Selling is all about buying low and selling high.

If you can buy a product for a certain price and sell it for a higher price than you bought it for then you make a profit.

If you can take time to browse some websites that sell books and compare their price with the price on Amazon, you might be able to find some that will be profitable after Amazon fees.

One of the websites you can try is abebooks

Tools for analysing products on Amazon

I thought I should mention some of the very useful tools I have found very useful for selling books on Amazon. These tools will help you to analysis books so you can have an idea if the books have sold recently or not.

In the world of selling on Amazon, there are a lot of tools. Some are free while you need to pay for some of them. If you are completely new to selling on Amazon, my suggestion for you is to use the free tools.

Free Tools

Helium 10 – There are a lot of tools in this one but the one you need is there chrome extension. It will help you see the chart of a product sale on Amazon. There is a paid tool called Keepa which does the same thing.

CamelCamelCamel – Its a very funny name camel called three times. You can see the last time a product sold and the price it was sold for.

Final Thought

Selling books on Amazon can be profitable if you can dedicate some time to it. I sell books on Amazon but books are not the only things I sell on Amazon. The downside of selling books is that you have to source constantly.

I don’t think it is a problem because it depends on your personality. Some people just love going out and hunting for bargains. If it fits with your personality, you can make healthy profits from selling used or new books on Amazon.

When you are doing something, it always makes sense to look for like-minded people. One of the places to find like-minded people is on Facebook. I joined a Facebook group that mainly discuss selling books on Amazon.

Actually, the person who created this group, Luke Pastore focus mainly on book selling on Amazon so he’s like an expert in selling books on Amazon.

If you are interested in joining the group you can click here.

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