selling books on Amazon - tips for more profit

Just a few things I've learned about selling books on

I started by selling all our unwanted books, then the bug had set in and now I buy books in to sell, I get them from boot sales, charity shops and in bulk at auctions. It's not only just books that Amazon sell second hand, you can sell DVDs, PC games, CDs and even household items and electrical goods. Here I have described selling books but the same information pretty much applies for CDs etc

get started

If you don't have a sellers account you will be asked to fill in your bank details etc and there are a few security things that they go through but nothing too arduous.

The way to list a book for sale is to click the BOOK tab and from there go to ADVANCED SEARCH, key in the ISBN number and it will take you to the page where all the other identical books are, go to SELL YOURS HERE and fill in the details.

You have to choose a description of the book's condition -like new -very good etc and then you have a space for a few more descriptive words. I always put in 'smoke free home' (if it is!) and 'same day dispatch' because these make a book stand out from the rest. There are a number of sellers from the USA with books listed on the UK site so you might want to add 'UK seller' to the description - and anything else that is truthful that you can think of to make your book sound a better deal than the others, there is lots of space so you can get creative with your description.

When you list a book for sale there is no photo needed or fee charged, it's only when you sell the book that you have to pay (out of your takings) so you can have a book listed for months for free.

Also when you list the book you will see the price that others are charging for the same book, you might want to get yours sold quickly and undercut them or you could decide to stick it out for a better price, check them all out and see what you think is a realistic price for that particular book, you will see some extremly low ones and ridiculously high ones.

The condition of the book is important to get the best price so watch out for creases and bends etc also gift inscriptions, you will have to mention them all in fairness to the buyer and you don't want any awkward emails later or poor feedback in your ratings. This may make your book less attractive than the others but if it's a sought-after book it may sell even if it looks a bit tatty so it's worth listing it to try it out

If the book doesn't turn up using the SEARCH it may be by a different publisher or be from a book club, you can still list it but you must state why yours is different to the others in the description but it may not sell for the same price as the others.

The buyer is only charged £1.24 for the p&p on a DVD so you may want to mention this in the description as a selling point because the buyer may assume that it's much more. I think that it could be used as a selling point with big heavy books as well, again the buyer may be unaware that the p&p is only £2.75, so let's tell him!

selling fees and postage allowance

There are fees when you sell the book, these are made up of a fixed amount of 86 pence plus a percentage of it's sale price. You get to see what these are when you list the book, it shows you what the charges will be, and what you'll be paid so you can see if this is acceptable to you before you commit yourself to selling it, having said that you can withdraw it at any time. Amazon gives you £2.32 to go towards the postage of the book and if it's a light paperback there will be a little money for yourself left over on just the postage allowance alone, this is how you can sell a book for as little as 1 penny and still have a small profit.

The opposite is true with heavy books - the postage allowance of £2.32 will be paid regardless of the book's size so it may cost you over £4.00 to post it, if you can get a really good price for the book then this will balance out but check your weight carefully, if it is over 1 kilo have a look at the Standard Parcel chart on the Royal Mail websire (address below) this will be cheaper but it's a day or so slower than 1st or 2nd class.

postage costs

The critical thing to bear in mind when you look at these figures is how much the postage will cost, this could mean your profit will get severely dented if you get it wrong.

When you list the book check the weight on kitchen scales, add a little on for a padded envelope then look at the Royal Mail website to see how much it will cost to post, second class is OK if you send it the day that it sells, if it goes the next day then it will have to be first class. You will need to get a Certificate of Posting from the PO just in case it gets lost and you need to claim.

If you are lucky enough to sell a book with a value of over £30.00 you will need to send it by Special Delivery so that the full value is covered if it goes astray, you will need to built the extra cost of this into the price of your book, it will be at your expense not Amazon's.

tax - are you now a trader?

On the subject of buying books etc to sell for profit you need to bear in mind that, like with ebay you are straying into the world of trading and you may find yourself in a taxable situation so take advice from your local tax office and be sure to keep all your reciepts from the books, packing materials and the post office.

where is your information stored?

All your 'open' and 'closed' listings are to be found on the 'seller account' page. From this page you can look at 'recent transactions' and 'account summary' this is your imformation hub, all your coming and goings are here.

You can close the sale whenever you want if you change your mind and also you can edit it later to change the price and details if you like, you will find that other sellers will be undercutting your prices so you could decide to reduce and undercut them or sit tight and let their book sell first giving yours a clear run.

after a book sells

When your book sells you will get an email with a packing slip and address to print out and the money will be paid to your bank account at 2 weekly

On occasion you may get an email telling you that the sale is pending - this is usually because there is a problem with the buyers credit card. You are advised to wait 72 hours, if they haven't sorted the snag out by then you are free to re-list the book. A few sellers contact the buyer (you will see their email address on your transactions page) and ask if they are likely to be able to resolve the problem, if not the book can be up for sale again before the 72 hours are up.

wrapping your book to post

You will need some light padded envelopes for postage, get them anywhere but the post office, they are so expensive there, you will see some on ebay or if you need loads then viking direct is the place to look, they have nectar points too if you register your card with them. Other suggestions for book wrapping have featured in this thread, they are all great so I'm putting them into this post to save you having to look through all the posts.

The cheapest wrappings are the free pieces of bubblewrap or foam that supermarkets use to cushion fruit and veg, the book gets wrapped in this then put into a sturdy envelope. The foam underlay for wood laminate floors will work in the same way. Pound shops are a good place to look for bubble envelopes, you may be able to get an assortment of sizes for very little cost. Thick sturdy plastic has been suggested as a covering for the bubblewrapped book too, this is very good if the book is larger than a normal A4 envelope.

If your book doesn't sell after 60 days the listing will close and you will get an email to tell you of this, it's easy to relist, you just click on your list of closed listing on your Seller Account page, they will all be there, you can edit them if you want and click to relist. If you don't do this within around 2 or 3 weeks the listing will be lost and you have to start from scratch.

sell overseas?

You can choose to sell your book to overseas buyers - you can select this option when you list you book but you need to be really sure of your postage costs because even though you are given an extra allowance you can go seriously astray with your profit if you get this wrong.

If the the parcel is worth over £30.00 in value it won't be covered if it gets damaged or lost when it is sent by normal Royal Mail air or surface mail. You can send it by either Airsure or International Signed For (depends on the destination which is used) - these are both Royal Mail services and you can read the details on the website. For example a parcel to the USA can be covered to £500.00 for the normal cost of the airmail + £4.30 so you will need to add in that extra £4.30 to your figures.

if you're a real pro

If you find yourself selling quite a number of books per month you may want to consider taking out Pro Merchant subscription, this means that the 86 pence standard fee is waived and you never have to relist a book again - well not for 3 years at any rate, the monthly fee is £28.75 so if you can sell over 33 books you're up on the deal. You can cancel at anytime and only be billed for that current month.

what sells best?

I have kept my very best tip to the end - the books that I've found to be the best sellers are paperback self-help books on any kind of off the wall subject you can think of like angels, reincarnation, astral travel, psychic stuff, stopping smoking etc. These are harder to buy from High Street shops like WHS so they sell well second hand. I bought a book last Wednesday on time managment for 49 pence at a charity shop. I listed it as soon as I got home, the lowest price of the others that were for sale was £7.20 so I undercut for £6.90 and sold it within 2 hours. After postage costs there was a profit of over £4.00...:j

charity shops

A few sellers have been a bit reticent about buying from charity shops to make a profit, I don't have a problem with this, the shops need the cash in the till, not unsold books on the shelves and from my own experience the books that sell well on Amazon are the ones that won't sell in a little charity shop...example...I bought a book on the practice of anaesthesia, a medical student that needs this book is not going to even consider looking around the local charity shops for such a specialist book, they will just go straight to amazon for it. I'm sure the staff at the charity shops assume that a book like that will never sell so they are delighted when they do. Even if you are buying mainstream books you are still putting money in the till and you might buy something else as well while you are there. Win win I call it, everyone gains.

and to finish

Good luck with your selling, don't be disheartened if you go for days without a sale, just when you feel that it's all gone pear shaped you will get a small flurry again to keep you going.
Please join in the discussion thread, it's all about sharing ideas and experiences, everyone is welcome.


  • mrsmab59
    mrsmab59 Posts: 166 Forumite
    Thanks for all the tips apprentice tycoon (your name seems quite appropriate after reading this thread :) )

    I've sold books on ebay before but never thought about trying Amazon. It sounds reasonably straightforward so I think I'll be giving them a go in the near future :)
    Use words that are soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.
  • Do you mean the 'tycoon' bit or the 'apprentice'? at almost 50 I'm too old to be an apprentice and tycoon is apt but only if it applies to people who think that £4.00 profit is very good :eek: ;) so it was wishful thinking when I chose that name!
    I was hesitant to use the word 'profit' but it's how I earn my crust so other people have wages, I have profit, but it all adds up to baked beans on the table whatever you call it.
  • Loadsabob
    Loadsabob Posts: 662 Forumite
    This is really useful to read, from an experienced seller, thank you for posting! I have yet to sell on either ebay OR Amazon, but I think it'd be a good thing to do to get a little extra coming in!

    I have bought from Amazon sellers, and have always been very happy with the books for my own use, but had bad experiences with sellers describing a book as "new" or "as new". I was buying one for a gift, so really needed mint condition. The book arrived clearly yellowing at the edges, spine creased, and indentation marks where someone had written a shopping list resting on the front cover!! I wrote to the seller, who was very prompt in offering a refund, and very friendly. The book was in very good used condition, and would have been more than fine for me, but it wasn't "new". It wasn't even "as new", and I knew the person I was giving to wouldn't appreciate that. I bought the same book from another seller, asking them first "Is it actually shop-bought new condition?" and he said it looked that way to him, and he'd refund and let me keep the book if it wasn't. It wasn't. It was again in great condition for a used book, better than the first, but had obviously been sitting on a shelf for years, and slightly yellowed. I didn't take him up on his offer, because clearly he was confident, just misguided. I in fact gave my own copy as the present (in slightly better condition!), and kept this replacement.

    Sorry, a boring ramble there, but it stresses the importance of people doing as you do, and disclosing any marks or blemishes.

    Thanks again!
  • jordylass
    jordylass Posts: 1,078
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary
    Thanks for this, I have sold off nearly all of our books, videos and CD's through amazon as they are so easy to list compared to ebay.
    There were some good points in there, especially on the weight of books, from books I have had in the house as long as the weight is OK, I get more from them than I would from eBay or a boot sale (10/50p, I have wondered about buying to sell but have quite a few books which just haven't shifted so have been wary of getting more that do the same.
    There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
  • I think you are right, some sellers are a little blind to what the book REALLY looks like and just glance at the overall impression of the book rather than a proper scrutiny.

    For buyers to be aware of - there are some words that sound a leeetle bit better than others such as....'tanned' sounds better than yellowing or 'showing shelf wear' sounds better than scuffed read between the lines (is that a pun)

    Also don't forget audio books (good money to be had on some there) videos, DVD's and household electrical stuff can all be sold on amazon
  • Lillibet_2
    Lillibet_2 Posts: 3,364
    Combo Breaker First Post
    Another tip is to keep checking your listings every few days & make sure your price remains competitative, other sellers have a habit of listing new stock & undercutting you & you're stock drops off buyers radar as it slips down the list. For soem books I add "ships from the UK" too as many suppliers are based in the USA and this adds considerably to the delivery time.

    Post Natal Depression is the worst part of giving birth:p

    In England we have Mothering Sunday & Father Christmas, Mothers day & Santa Clause are American merchandising tricks:mad: Demonstrate pride in your heirtage by getting it right please people!
  • mrsmab59
    mrsmab59 Posts: 166 Forumite
    Do you mean the 'tycoon' bit or the 'apprentice'? at almost 50 I'm too old to be an apprentice and tycoon is apt but only if it applies to people who think that £4.00 profit is very good :eek: ;) so it was wishful thinking when I chose that name!
    I was hesitant to use the word 'profit' but it's how I earn my crust so other people have wages, I have profit, but it all adds up to baked beans on the table whatever you call it.
    You're never too old to be an apprentice or a person who is learning their trade ;) And as for the tycoon bit, £4 is better than nothing...all you need is another few hundred thousand profits like that and you'll have to consider dropping the 'apprentice' part :cool:
    Use words that are soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.
  • Milky_Mocha
    Milky_Mocha Posts: 1,060
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    I sell on ebay and had never considered selling books until I decided to clear the loft! I had several expensive textbooks as well as cheper novels and the "how to" books like BSM theory test, interview questions, the list went on. I found that the textbooks sold very well on amazon and the others just hang in there for months, even over a year. Also many of my books could not be found on amazon (the book should exist in their stock file before you can sell unless you use amazon auction which is more expensive and inconvenient to use).

    So I gathered the remainder and dumped them all on ebay mostly for a penny each, hoping to make the money off the postage. In some cases I offered free postage to attract more "watchers". This was a bit of a risk as on ebay you incur fees whether you sell or not. To my amazement 90% of the books went within a week. Most went for more than expected. One particular book by Sidney Sheldon went for just under £3 when I listed it at 1p free postage and described it as old, lined and yellowing. Looks like people like honesty mainly because it creates certainty.

    My point? In my case I needed a combination of Amazon and ebay and it worked out perfectly. readpb.gif
    The reason people don't move right down inside the carriage is that there's nothing to hold onto when you're in the middle.
  • filigree_2
    filigree_2 Posts: 1,025 Forumite
    I'm a recent convert to Amazon selling. I only did it to de-clutter, some of my books are over 30 years old and all I do with them is dust them once a decade!

    I buy my padded envelopes from the pound shop, and I always use second class post because in my experience it arrives within two days anyway. I strongly recommend getting a Proof of Postage certificate, it costs nothing and if a book goes missing you can try to claim compensation.

    For my more expensive books I put in the description "price includes Recorded Delivery" because I believe the buyer is reassured that their £50 book will arrive safely!

    Being cynical, it pays to be EXTRA diligent and efficient when you are a new seller ;). Use first class post and plenty of packaging. I put little notecards in my parcels thanking them for their custom, the cards cost me nothing but people like that personal touch you might not get from a professional dealer. You are more likely to get favourable feedback, and good feedback encourages prospective buyers.

    I don't buy books purposely for selling on, I don't want the clutter, but I'm pleased when my 69p charity shop book sells for £4.99! I even sold on my copy of Bernadine Lawrence's "Feed Your Family for £5 a Day" - I wonder if it was someone from this forum :wave:
  • gigglebox
    gigglebox Posts: 24 Forumite
    I too have only ever tried to sell on ebay........ never gave amazon a thought. I have plenty of books i don't need any more............ hmmm, might have to give that a go. icon7.gif

    Thanks for all the tips. icon10.gif
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