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Selling Books On Amazon

Updated on April 8, 2013

© ccphone 2013

Why Sell Books?

If you're looking for a way to make money from home, selling used books is an excellent place to start. Why? The two biggest reasons are that the learning curve for selling used books online is not too steep and it's a business you can literally start for free. There are millions of used books in the world and if you start paying attention you will see them everywhere. But you don't need to rush out and start purchasing books to sell. You can make your first sale from books you have in your home. Another good reason that this is a great business for online beginners is that the online marketplaces for selling used books are very user friendly. There are a number of places to sell books but the best place to start is Amazon.

Why Sell On Amazon?

Selling your used books on Amazon is the best way to get into the online book selling business for a number of reasons.

  • Amazon is the largest online book marketplace with over 20 million titles for sale.
  • The Amazon interface is easy to understand.
  • There are no up-front fees to list your books on the marketplace.
  • Amazon takes their commission from the sale, and will also give you a percentage of the shipping cost that the buyer has paid.
  • You are able to purchase shipping directly from your sale funds so you don't even have to worry about paying for shipping out of your own pocket (before you have made a profit).
  • You generally don't need to worry about taking and posting pictures of your inventory. Everything you need in the listing is already on Amazon. You simply decide what you want to sell and how much you want to sell it for. A few clicks and it's listed online!

Amazon has a number of different programs for selling books, for beginners it's best to focus on the simplest method - utilizing the "sell on Amazon" button. Taking it slow and simple when you first start out is the best way to begin building your business and learning the ropes.

Listing Your First Book

You have nothing to lose by listing your first book on Amazon so let's get started! First, you will need to register on Amazon if you don't have an account already. Chances are you have already purchased something on Amazon so you are already halfway there. If not, you will be prompted to create an account when you try to list your first book.

Grab a book from your home...any book! We will go over what books are worth checking and which ones aren't, but for now just grab any book. Next, you are going to check to see if it's worth trying to sell it. Type in the ISBN number or the title into the search box on Amazon. The ISBN number is usually located above the barcode on the back of the book. Sometimes it is on the copy write page. If there is no ISBN number, just type in the title. If it's a one word title or a more popular title, you can type in the name of the book plus the last name of the author in the search box. This will bring up the search results - most likely the book you are searching for will be listed first or second. Click on the title - this will bring you to the listing page. Double check that it is the same book by comparing the information on the title page with the information on the listing. This information needs to match.

There are 4 things you want to consider when deciding if a book is worth selling.

  • The condition of the book.
  • The number of used books currently offered for sale.
  • The Amazon ranking number
  • The price of the current offers.


A quick check of the current offers will give you a basic idea of whether the book is worth listing, There are thousands...maybe millions of books that are sold for a penny on Amazon. These are sold by large operations that are content to make a small profit on postage. They can do this because they sell in bulk and therefore are able to get discounted postage. THIS METHOD IS NOT FOR YOU! Only you can decide what type of profit you would be happy with, however if you try this method you will lose money. If there are some on for $2.50 and may be worth listing.


Amazon offers various condition types to help you describe your book. Their full description of what each of these condition types include is listed on their seller help pages. This is a general overview of each category for used books which are as follows: New, Used-Like New, Very Good, Good and Acceptable. A general rule of thumb is if your book falls somewhere between two condition categories, list it under the lower one. It's much better to under promise and over deliver to the customer. This is good practice and will help you achieve great feedback. Look at the book objectively and follow the guidelines that Amazon has set forth for book descriptions. New books can be listed as new. These REALLY need to be in just bought from the bookstore new. The other condition guidelines are as follows:

  • Used - Like New: Dust cover is intact, with no nicks or tears. Spine has no signs of creasing. Pages are clean and not marred by notes or folds of any kind. May contain remainder marks on outside edges, which should be noted in listing comments.
  • Used - Very Good: Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
  • Used - Good: All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
  • Used - Acceptable: All pages and the cover are intact, but the dust cover may be missing. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting, but the text cannot be obscured or unreadable.
  • Unacceptable: Includes missing pages and obscured or unreadable text. We also do not permit the sale of advance reading copies, including uncorrected proofs, of in-print or not-yet-published books.

Once you decide on the condition of your book, the next thing you want to check is the Amazon ranking of the book.


Amazon's ranking system is a bit mysterious, however for general purposes, all you need to know is the higher the number, the less chance that book will sell quickly. A book ranked at number one will fly off your shelf...A book ranked at 5,000,000 will most likely sit for years. A good rule of thumb when you first start out is to try to list books with a ranking under 1,000,000.

4. The last thing to consider is how many used books are listed. If a book has 255 used copies for sale, you may want to donate that book instead.

Listing Your First Book

If you find a book worth listing, it really is as easy as following the directions. Amazon guides you through the process...all you need to do is click on the "Sell on Amazon" button. The process takes under a few minuets and your book will be listed live on Amazon immediately! After listing your book, put it in a safe place so you will know where it is when it sells. When it does sell, Amazon will deduct their selling fees from the total of the sale.

Amazon Fees for the Casual Seller

Amazon will deduct the follow fees from the total of the sale.

  • 15% referral fee
  • $1.35 closing fee
  • $.99 per book sold fee

You, as the seller, will also receive the shipping compensation as well. The following is an example of a book selling for $10.00.

The buyer pays $10.00 plus $3.99 in shipping. Total sale is $13.99.

$13.99 - 15% referral fee = $11.00

$11.00 - $1.35 closing fee = $9.65

$9.65 - .99 per book fee = $8.66 total to you the seller.

After these deductions, you will still need to pay for postage and a mailing envelope.

$8.66 - $2.50 postage (ex) - .30 mailer = total profit of $5.86

There is another program for individuals who plan on selling more than 40 items per month. Under this program the .99 fee per book is replaced with a standard $39.99 per month no matter how many books you sell. When you reach a point where you are selling more than 40 books per month, it would make sense to move over into that program.

Books That Sell and Books That Don't

This is a quick overview of the types of books that generally sell well on Amazon. Don't be fooled by people saying that the physical book is "dead" and that people only buy for ereaders. While the online book business has gotten tougher, it is still very possible to make good money selling books. In general, books that sell well include - self help, religious/spiritual, recent textbooks, collectible novels, odd books (when the subject matter is not mainstream), philosophy books, science fiction and children's books. Books that don't generally sell well are run of the mill novels, paperback novels, book club editions, old best sellers, encyclopedias.

Whether you are looking for a fun way to make some extra cash or you are hoping to build a viable business, selling books online offers a number of possibilities. There are other tools and guidelines to learn about when you are ready to expand, but the best way to get started is to just...get started!!


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    • ccphone profile image

      ccphone 4 years ago

      You're welcome!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 4 years ago from San Diego California

      This is good information, something I have not considered. Thank you.