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How I Make Extra Money Selling on Amazon

Updated on October 25, 2012

Shhh... It's a Secret!!

My name is Heather. I am a single mother of two children. And I am about to share with you a secret- my secret of how I earn $300 to $400 a month selling used books, part-time, on Amazon.

In an effort to keep this article as brief and direct as possible, I am not going to go into the ends and outs of how to sign up for a seller’s account on Amazon, as that process is very simple. I will not guide you step by step on how to list books for sale on Amazon, as the site will do that for you. What I am going to do is tell you all the tips and tricks that I have learned in my (almost) year at Amazon. What I will share are the things that no one told me- the tricks that made me successful.

Now, let me clarify something for you. I do not in any way benefit from sharing this information with you. I get nothing if you decide to start your own home based business with Amazon. In fact, all I get is more competition in the world of internet selling. So why then would I share this information with you? It’s simple- because I am a single mom of two. I know what it is like to struggle to not only buy the things your child needs, but also the things they want. I know the shame and failure you feel as a parent to have to tell your child no at the store over and over again because you know you don’t have the money in your pocket to buy them that toy or piece of candy that they want. I am really hoping that the information I share here will help another parent become successful, so that they can do all the things they wish they could do for their child. There could be no greater satisfaction for me, than to know that this information I passed on, helped better someone else’s life. So let’s begin.


Almost Doesn't Count

I noticed the biggest difference in my earnings when I decided, months into selling, to start listing only the books that I could describe as “New” condition. So, do yourself a favor, and start with this mindset. Do not waste your time listing books as “Like New” or “Good” condition. Yes, these books will sell eventually, but they take longer, and you won’t get nearly as much for them. Stick to book that are in “New” condition with clear, crisp white pages, and no rips or writing inside them.

Fiction or Non-Fiction

When I started doing research on becoming an Amazon seller, everything I read said to avoid any and all books that were fiction. Do NOT listen to this advice, as it is only half right. I have found that a large portion of my income comes from the sale of fiction books. You do want to avoid the mass-produced fiction works. You know which ones I am talking about- those small, thin, paperback romance style books that you can find in any dollar store. Although some of these books will sell (and it seems to take months for that to happen), the majority of them will not be worth your time and effort. Stick to fiction books that aren’t mass-produced, but definitely allow some fiction books into your inventory.

Always Build Up Your Inventory

Do not go charging into your local Walmart to fill your shopping cart with books. When you are first starting out, begin by selling off the books you already have in your home. Not only will this get you started without spending a dime, but these books will be great practice on getting familiar with how to list on Amazon.

Once you have listed every book in your home (and hopefully made a sale!), then you will need to find more inventory. For this, you want to hit up your local thrift store. Many thrift stores are overloaded with books, so they sell them for cheap to get them off their shelves. You can find books for as little as $.25. Avoid the larger chain thrift store such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army if you can for now. These are large corporation thrift stores, and they charge more for books. Wait until you have some experience and know which books sell quickly, or for more money, and then come back to these stores.

Also, a library sale will be like Christmas morning for you. You can load up on all types of books, and spend next to nothing. I went to my local library sale and spent $9.00 on 42 books. Then I brought these books home and when all was said and done, my profit was $312!! Always know what is going on at your local library!


Don't Go Under $5.00

As a new Amazon seller, you do not want to list any book you sell for less than $5.00. Even that may be pushing it depending on what you paid for the book. Remember, your profit off the book is what’s left after you factor in what you paid for it, what Amazon deducts as their cut, and what shipping wasn't covered by the reimbursement. When you list books for less than $5.00, you run the risk of those expenses cutting into your profit, or even worse, end up paying out of pocket!

Keep it Simple

Anything you read online will tell you not to mail off the books you sell in just brown paper. Everything says wrap it in bubble wrap or cardboard or whatever. Don’t listen to that bull. You want to make money, and to do that, you need to keep your expenses down. Bubble wrap and whatever cost you money. Cardboard you can get for free, but remember- your shipping charge is based off of weight, and all of these make your book weigh more. So, just stick to the brown paper. I can purchase a roll of it for $3.49 at my local Walgreens, and one roll last for a ton of books. Wrap it up like a Christmas present, write your address and the buyers address on it in permanent marker, and head off to the post office. That’s how I've done it from day one, and I have never received a complaint about the packaging.

Shipment

It will be in the best interest of your business to ship your items through your local post office using Media Mail. Media Mail is offered for items like books and movies. This service is almost ALWAYS cheaper than other shipping options. In fact, I’ve only ever had one book that didn’t ship as Media Mail, because Priority Mail was cheaper, and that was a very tiny, light weight children’s book.

All You Get is $3.99

* All You Get is $3.99

Amazon does reimburse you $3.99 to help cover your shipping cost. When you ship a book, you must also do delivery confirmation, so you can prove to Amazon that this book has been shipped. That $3.99 will not cover a thick, heavy book. And you went into business to make money, not lose it remember? So, when you are hunting for new inventory, keep the “I only get $3.99 to ship this” thought in the back of your mind, and try to find books that are light weight, so you can undercut Amazon’s reimbursement rate. That means more pennies in your pocket. Most of my books that are shipping “Media Mail with Delivery Confirmation please” cost me $3.32, and I pocket an extra $.67 per book. It may not be a lot, but it certainly adds up!!


Don't be Duped!

Every now and then Amazon will display an ad for something called a “Pro Sellers Account”. When you are first starting out, put this ad aside. You will be coming back to this later though. Amazon has this annoying little $.99 fee for every book you sell. A “Pro Seller” waives this fee and gets a few extra incentives with a monthly subscription of $39.99. When you are just starting out, a “Pro Seller’s Account” can be tempting because you think “I’ll get an extra dollar for every book I sell”. It’s a good thought, but not worth it financially until you are consistently selling 40+ books a month. Otherwise, you are paying them $39.99 to remove $20.00 worth of charges. Wait until you are selling a lot and it is a financially sound decision for your business, and then go ahead and upgrade.

The Dreaded Taxes

Begin your business right, and start keeping detailed records for taxes the very first day you start your business. You may want to consult a tax professional in your area, because what you can claim may vary some. But, from my experience, this is how it works: Keep receipts for every book you buy, every pen, every roll of brown papers, because these are business deductions. Those annoying Amazon fees? They become a business expense and can be claimed as a deduction. Anything beyond that $3.99 shipping reimbursement is an expense and a deduction. The gas in your car, or the mileage of it, can be a deduction. Everything all the way down to the new book shelves you buy and the square footage of where you store your inventory is a deduction. But you have to keep receipts for everything, because without those- nothing is a deduction!

And just to be safe, set a certain percentage of your profits aside every month just in case the IRS says you need to pay. If you do, you will already have that money sitting in a bank account somewhere. And if you don’t, then… you just received one hefty bonus!! I will tell you that most experts say that small business owners should set aside 15% of their profits for tax time. I went extra and set aside 25%, so that my bonus would be bigger, but it is up to you to decide what you want to do.


One Last Time

So to recap all this information: Hunt for a store that you can buy books for the cheapest price. Only purchase the books that you can list for new and are light weight and never sell them for less than $5.00. Make your packaging simple and use only media mail to undercut your $3.99 reimbursement. Track all of your expenses and profits monthly and include the smallest details. When you are up and going, and financially it becomes the smart decision, then go ahead and upgrade to the Amazon Pro Seller’s Account.

Good Luck and feel free to contact me if you have any questions!!


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    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 4 years ago from Texas

      Great information, thank you. Voted you up and awesome.

    • Conleys Review profile image

      Conley Stallard 4 years ago from Florida

      Great information for selling on Amazon!

      This overview, from experience, is much better than providing the "how-to" Amazon details.

    • lhale profile image

      lhale 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for this info; very easy to understand. I do have a couple of questions. How do you sell library books as new when they have the library stamps in them? Also, I have tried to sell a load of books via Fulfillment by Amazon, please look at my hub http://lhale.hubpages.com/hub/Fulfillment-by-Amazo... to see what I mean. I have sold over $80 worth of books, and am about to get a huge $3 check for my profit! I was led to believe that if I tried to sell with individual acct, as you must be doing, all the FBA folks would beat me out due to shipping costs, etc. Please clear all this up for me. Am very confused!

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      Ihale... You managed to touch on the one aspect of amazon that I am not all that familiar with because (just like you guessed) I do not use this. I am just an individual account. I have never seen the point of sending Amazon my books for them to turn around to send customers. When I first signed up, I read the same thing you read about being beat out by the bigger guys. And while that may have an impact on you at first, as you build up your inventory and your feedback score, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

      As far as the library books go, you can not list any book as new if it has a stamp of any sort. Unfortunately, you can't list them as like new either according to Amazons rules. But list them as very good condition, and in your comment, tell them it is just like new but has the markings of a library book. Many customers don't seem to mind getting a book that has the old library barcodes on them.

      Hope that helps!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I have some books just sitting around. I may try to sell them. Thanks for all the great advice.

    • lhale profile image

      lhale 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks so much for your quick response! Really, I guess I can't lose selling as an individual. Right now Amazon is storing my books that have not sold, and I'll eventually have to pay them for that too. Do you mind telling me, on average, how many books you have on sale at a time? I would love to make an extra $300 a month. Definitely appreciate your article, you give me hope!

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      I sell about 10 books a week. I always aim for setting my price right in the middle. So if the book I have is selling for $6.00 to $10.00 on Amazon, I price it at $8.00. You do NOT have to be the lowest price for your book to sell.

      What I earn on Amazon is just by putting in part time hours. I am lucky anymore if I get to the thrift store once a week, because my life has been crazy hectic.

      And as a single mom, I seriously value my time. I can't afford to waste it. There is definitely money to be had in this. If I can do that with just part time hours, imagine what you can do with full time hours!!

      Oh, and I didn't put it in the article, but if you really want to make money with selling books online, check out Half.com too. I sometimes list books on here as well. Half.com is run by eBay, and also is completely safe. It has less fees associated with it, which is great, but doesn't seem to get the traffic that Amazon receives. It is a great second site to put your books up on. They also do a direct deposit into your back (twice a month as opposed to Amazon's every week). You can list the same book on both sites, just remember to pull the book for the other site when it sells!! (I forgot to do that once, and had to contact the buyer. Not a huge deal, but always best if you can avoid it!

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      Very interesting article! I am going to have to try this. I have a ton of books at home right now to sell. Voted up!

    • lhale profile image

      lhale 4 years ago from Georgia

      You have gone beyond the call of duty answering my questions. This may be the most helpful hub and answers ever. Thank you so much!

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      You are very welcome! Good luck with your selling!

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      I was just wondering, how many books to do you usually have posted online for sale with Amazon?

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      Right now, I believe I'm down to about 300 books listed. But, like I said its been a while since I've been shopping to build my inventory back up. (I've been moving so just haven't had time). I try to keep between 400 and 500 online for the most part. Sounds like a lot, but just pick up a few here and there when you can and it adds up pretty quick.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      This is very useful information. I might just have think about trying something like this. Voted up.

    • profile image

      timewarnercablenc 4 years ago

      interesting, too bad the shipment cost from my country will really ruin the overall cost :)

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      Well... there could still be a way around that. Perhaps you could still try it, but by selling only the books that will sell for $50+ such as college textbooks and medical reference books. If you could find a specific type of book that sells really well, you could maybe still compensate for the shipping.

    • kathleenkat profile image

      kathleenkat 4 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      How may books do you sell per month?

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      I generally sell about 10 books a week, so roughly 40 books a month. Sometimes that is more, and I hear around Christmas sales go up tremendously, and there have been a few months that I've sold less. The key is to maintain a few hundred books, and ALWAYS try to build up your inventory.

    • Kalux profile image

      Kalux 4 years ago from Canada

      Very useful. Never thought of selling books on Amazon, don't know why! I have quite a few I could sell. Voted up, thanks for the hub.

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      LOL... This is one of those ideas that once you read it, it all comes together, and you think "Well, duh." Or at least in my case that's what I did.. It's a really simple idea that can bring in a lot of money if you work it as a business. From what I have seen here, the earning potential is only limited to the amount of time you are willing to put into it!

    • a-bary profile image

      Ahmed Abdelbary 4 years ago

      great article and enjoyable reading..thanks

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Fantastic article which was well written and very informative. I have bookmarked to refer to in the future. Thank you so much.

    • John-Rose profile image

      John-Rose 4 years ago from USA

      Now that was a great read. I'm going to give it a try soon. Any extra money is a good thing. Thank you for the idea. John

    • lhale profile image

      lhale 4 years ago from Georgia

      Do you use all that book scouting stuff when you look for books to sell? You know, go with the scanner in your hand that's loaded with the Amazon database of info? Or just use your judgment? Thanks again for all the tips!

    • Heather Tripp profile image
      Author

      Heather Edgens 4 years ago from Georgetown, Delaware

      I have an app on my iPhone called ibookseller. I use it on occassion if I'm really not sure about something, but for the most part, I get the books that I myself would actually buy. I've bought a few duds that ended up not making me anything, but the more I've done it, the better my judgement has gotten! Practice makes perfect as they say!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the great tips. We'll soon have some textbooks to unload. Best of luck to you on HP.

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