How to Sell Used Books Amazon FBA
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes.
Did you know that Amazon first started as a site to sell books?
That’s right, the ecommerce mammoth began on paper.
You can sell books on Amazon FBA today and still make a profit. Amazon may be a giant, but it can be profitable for those willing to put the work in.
Maybe you have a backlog of books at home gathering dust, you want to start an Amazon business selling books or you’re researching your options.
Whatever the reason you’re here, selling used books on Amazon can be a good way to make money without investing life savings in inventory, so it’s certainly worth investigating!
It’s also a good way to test the Amazonian waters before moving into your own private-label products.
Whilst starting a used-book business using Amazon FBA is not simply a matter of taking a photo, setting a price and waiting for sales, it is relatively straightforward.
In this guide on how to sell used books via Amazon FBA:
Table of Contents
Ready to get back to Amazon’s roots?
Let’s get started.
What Books Sell Well on Amazon?
Dominating the ecommerce sphere, Amazon has become a Google for shopping. You can buy almost anything on the platform.
Amazon started off selling used books, and you can too.
Amazon has controlled around 50%+ of US books sales for some years now. With millions of titles for sale on the platform, you might be asking yourself, “How will my books sell with that many competitors?”
There are some tips and tricks to standing out from the crowd.
Firstly, it’s important to consider what kinds of books tend to sell well on Amazon.
- Print vs. digital: While there’s no denying the huge growth of e-books, Amazon print sales remain high. There’s also higher potential for profit, particularly with rare or unusual books.
- New vs. old: Nothing beats the smell of a freshly printed manuscript. Nothing perhaps, other than a well-loved book looking for a new home. New books can be a challenging biz unless you’re prepared to do business with suppliers and wholesalers. Selling used books can cut out that need and be a little simpler.
- Fiction vs. nonfiction: On the whole, nonfiction books sell in greater volumes, but popular fiction titles sell most.
Ok, so there isn’t one route that guarantees success but this is good news: There’s room for preference and manoeuvre.
One of the best places to start when figuring out which books sell, what their competition looks like and how coveted they are is to check out their BSR - Best Seller Rating.
Understanding Sales Rankings
Understanding Amazon’s Best Sellers in Books list and its ranking system will help you determine whether a book is worth selling, and what kind of sales turnaround time you can expect.
Ranking is relative to the number of items in each category. The list only displays the top 100 sellers, but all books rank somewhere and you can find it on their listing under Product Details, Best Sellers Rank:
The most popular books will have stiff competition, with numerous “new” and “used” copies available for purchase. Prices for these tend to drop extremely low as a result, so you’ll need a real point of difference to make a sale and turn a profit.
On the other end of the spectrum, the less popular books can take a lifetime to sell. The price competition can be just as challenging as with the most popular books.
You want to find a middle ground: Good selling rate, good condition and good price range, all comparable to similar listings. Amazon’s price for the same and similar titles will give you a strong indication of what people are spending.
How to Sell Used Books on Amazon FBA
To start selling new or second-hand books on Amazon FBA you need three things: Inventory, a seller account and a fulfilment method. Here, we’ll explore everything you need to know about each.
Oh, and get the Amazon Seller app. It will be a huge help when researching which books to sell. You can scan barcodes, analyze competitive pricing data, view book ratings and estimate profits after fees. It’s a shortcut to smart inventory decisions and will help you get better at spotting a good purchase instinctually.
How much does it cost to sell books on Amazon?
The amount you’ll pay to sell books on Amazon will depend on a few things: The type of account you opt for (individual or professional), how you price your products and your fulfilment method (FBA or FBM).
We’ll explore these below, but for now, remember that these should be estimated ahead of time - before you buy any inventory or get started to ensure that your business will be profitable in the end.
How to source used books for Amazon
Newsflash: There are used books everywhere!
If you don’t have a collection already that you’re looking to sell, there are plenty of places to find stock - just make sure you have some idea of what you’re looking for.
Source used books locally
Thrift stores are a treasure trove of low-price goodies, including books. Goodwill, The Salvation Army and Savers usually have shelves full of donated books.
You could try specific used book stores which may be easier to rummage through, although perhaps priced a little higher.
Retail and discount stores like Ollie’s and Big Lots are also good sources of used books, though they may not be as consistent as the others. They’re a great place to find overstock.
Look out for library sales, or garage and estate sales in your local area. You might be able to Google these or find them via community Facebook groups.
Source used books online
Not keen on mooching through dusty piles of books in person? That’s ok, hop online. Just bear in mind that it’s tricky to tell the condition of a book if you’re not there to see it yourself.
Facebook and Craigslist are good places to start. You can look through existing posts or post something yourself asking for books, maybe people will donate them to you.
You could buy from Amazon and flip, although this is understandably a pricier option.
A word of warning: Avoid the rabbit hole of retail arbitrage. It’s murky, and unless you play it very carefully, you could be penalized by Amazon and potentially your customers.
Setting up your Amazon seller account
You’ve got some stock and you’re ready to get set up selling, that’s great. Whether you’ve got a regular Amazon account already, or you’re a total newbie, this part is pretty simple.
Create your Amazon seller account and choose whether you will operate as an individual or a professional seller. It’s free to sell as an individual, but you’ll pay fees per unit you sell. For professional sellers, there’s a monthly account fee.
For new booksellers, it’s probably best to start as an individual, upgrading to a professional account when you sell more than around 40 units per month.
How to list and price your used books
You have a couple of options when it comes to listing your books on Amazon FBA:
- Use the Amazon Seller app to take photos of your books and upload them, creating each listing manually, or
- Enter the ISBN into Amazon’s search bar and select the “I have one to sell” option. This will load the information on that book.
Amazon has very specific guidelines on how to grade and list used books. This includes how you describe the condition of your books.
Amazon’s used book condition categories are:
- Used - Like New
- Used - Very Good
- Used - Good
- Used - Acceptable
For used books, you can also add a “specific condition” note with more information, e.g. “this book has highlighting or a handwritten note on the front page”.
Including these details is hugely important for customer experience and feedback, so make sure you prep your books before selling and check for these things.
You also want to ensure your pricing is smart. It’s the first thing that could turn your customers to you or away from you.
Things to consider when pricing your used books for Amazon:
- The condition: As you would expect, books with less wear and tear should go for more, and vice versa.
- Amazon’s price: Compare the price Amazon is charging versus your competitors and look at their customer ratings. The ratings are a trust signal for customers - if you have less, you need to earn their interest and trust another way. Make sure your pricing makes sense for your presence on the platform.
- Your goal: Would you rather sell the book to the lowest bidder or hold out longer for a potentially higher pay out?
- Multiples: Do you have more than one copy of the same title?
- Amazon fees: Amazon has numerous fees; listing fees, FBA fees, variable closing fees, referrals, per-item fees and more. All those applicable to your sale will be taken after it closes, which will impact your margin. You need to stay on top of these to ensure you make any profit. Amazon statements don’t make that easy, which is where A2X for Amazon comes in (we’ll explore that later).
- The Buy Box: The winner of the Buy Box earns that all important “Add to Cart” spot that most shoppers select when they shop on Amazon. Around 82% of sales are made through the Buy Box, so it’s worth the elbow grease to be in the running. Check out Jungle Scout’s guide on winning it here.
If you do your research, position yourself carefully amongst your competition and adjust your strategy as you learn, you’ll be making sales in no time!
Fulfilment by Amazon for used books
Next up after listing and pricing? Well, hopefully sales - and then comes fulfilment.
You can either manage this yourself or sign up for Amazon’s industry-leading FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) program.
By partnering with FBA, all you need to do is pack and send your books to Amazon’s fulfilment centers across the US where they are stored, picked, packaged and shipped to your customers whenever a sale comes through.
You are charged for this service, but it automates your distribution which takes a huge task off your plate. Your customers can take advantage of those famous Amazon quick shipping timeframes, and as books are heavy, sending them individually yourself might be expensive anyway.
Getting your books to an Amazon FBA warehouse
When you sign up for FBA, Amazon will send you a list of fulfilment centers. Select the one nearest to you, and follow the shipping instructions.
Amazon will generate shipping labels for you to attach to your packages, then it’s your responsibility to get the books to the warehouse and to package them according to Amazon’s requirements. Once they arrive with Amazon and are processed, the rest will be taken care of for you.
The beauty of Amazon FBA is that your customers can benefit from super fast Amazon shipping without the strain on your business. You can focus on other things knowing your distribution is handled by the experts.
Make Your Business One for the Books
No matter your reason for getting into the bookselling business, you need to do a few fundamental things in the beginning to set yourself up for success. Your backend needs to be robust in order to support and expand the front.
Other Amazon FBA guides
- Amazon FBA Business Plan Template
- Tips on Getting Started with Amazon FBA Accounting
- Amazon Taxes: A Beginner’s Guide to Doing it Right
And they’re just the beginning.
Save Time and Money with A2X for Amazon
Remember earlier how we mentioned that Amazon fees are a little complex and varied? That’s an understatement, and sellers need to keep track.
A2X for Amazon integrates with your seller account and accounting software to capture all the details you need so that you never lose track of the money your business takes to run.
Your bank deposits and Amazon statements don’t calculate all those fees for you, your sales tax collected, your reimbursements received or FBA charges - but A2X does.
A2X organizes your books via the accrual accounting method, splits statements out by month and separates the expense and income lines associated with each of your bank deposits into neat journal summaries so that reconciliation takes minutes rather than hours.
You’ll have a more dynamic view of your cash flow, an accurate base for forecasting and a quick reference to the health of your business anytime, anywhere.
Also on the blog
- The A2X Amazon Accounting Hub
- Amazon FBA Warehouse Locations and Sales Tax
- How to Pack Your Products for Amazon FBA
- How to Reconcile Your Amazon Seller Statement
- A Comprehensive List of Amazon Seller Transactions
- How to Find an Amazon Accountant or Bookkeeper
Ready to get started?
Save time, work smarter and get reliable Amazon and Shopify financials you can trust, in a matter of minutes.