The Complete Guide: How to Sell Books on Amazon in 2021

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In 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon and started selling books on the platform. According to Statista, Books is the fifth most popular category on Amazon in the United States:

Leading product categories Amazon

As you can see from the figure below, Amazon generated a total retail sales of 258.22 billion USD in 2018. The sales share of the category Books/Music/Video was 11.9%. This amounts to a total of 30.72 billion USD.

Amazon Books

But why am I telling you this? 

There's one simple reason: You can also make money on Amazon selling used (or even new) books.

Selling books on Amazon is a great opportunity, especially if you are thinking about becoming an Amazon seller.

A reason for this is that you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to buy products that you want to sell on Amazon. There is no risk that you will lose a lot of money because books aren't that expensive. You can save up a starting capital that you can then use to launch your first product on Amazon.

You will also gain valuable experience by selling books on Amazon. If you want to start an Amazon business, this experience will pay off in the long run. So it doesn't matter whether you just want to get rid of old books or start a real business on Amazon - it's always a great idea to sell books on Amazon.

If you want to know how to sell books on Amazon in 2021, you've come to the right place. Here's what you will learn in this article:

  • Why you should sell books on Amazon
  • How to find books to sell on Amazon
  • How to get started selling books on amazon
  • Frequently asked questions

Let's dive right in.

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    4 Reasons Why You Should Sell Books on Amazon

    Some people want to get rid of their old books. Others want to start an Amazon FBA business.

    No matter what's your goal - here are the top four reasons why you should sell books on Amazon:

    Reason 1: You Can Make Money Selling (Used) Books on Amazon

    This is the simplest reason: You can make money selling books on Amazon.

    Dave Hamrick from Jungle Scout claims that he has built a lucrative Amazon business that makes thousands a month selling used books on Amazon.

    No matter if you want to sell used books or new ones. In both cases, you can make money.

    Selling books on Amazon is also great to save money for future investments. For example, if you want to sell private label products on Amazon.

    Reason 2: People Want to Buy Books

    Today, there are ebooks, digital magazines, and almost everyone is looking for information on Wikipedia, rather than in an old-school encyclopedia.

    One might think that the demand for books has dropped dramatically in recent years.

    But according to Google Trends, this is not the case. People all over the world search for books on Amazon. Demand hasn't fallen over the last 5 years.

    So I think the demand for books is really huge. In 2019, the net revenue of the U.S. book publishing industry was about 25.93 billion USD. 10 billion USD were generated in bookstores. And as we all know, bookstores sell printed books, not ebooks.

    On average, Americans read 12 books per year and the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.

    Reason 3: Amazon Is a Great Marketplace to Sell Books

    Amazon is the largest online marketplace for products worldwide. 59% of 16-36 Year-Olds head to Amazon before to any other Ecommerce Website.

    Facts about Amazon:

    • Net Sales 2019: 280.5 billion USD
    • Amazon Monthly traffic: 209.7 Mio.
    • Active customer accounts: 300 million

    In fact, if you want to sell online, there's no better option than selling on Amazon

    Some people claim selling on eBay is better, but I wouldn't recommend it. However, you can read our article about selling on Amazon vs. eBay to find out what's better for you.

    Reason 4: Amazon Makes Your Life Easier

    On Amazon, you can choose between three fulfillment options:

    • Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM): You list your product on Amazon, pack it and ship it to your customers.
    • Amazon Vendors (AMZ): You sell your products directly to Amazon.
    • Processing by Amazon (FBA): You list your products on Amazon. Amazon stores, packs, and ships your product to your customers.

    Amazon FBA is a great way to get started as an Amazon seller.

    That's because FBA sellers only have to do marketing for their products. They don't have to worry about storage or shipping.

    When you start selling on Amazon, you can pack and ship products on your own. But as soon as you sell more products, I recommend switching to Amazon FBA.

    How to Find Books to Sell on Amazon

    Since it's not a good idea to buy books on Alibaba or Aliexpress, let's talk about where and how you should buy them. 

    Two things are important when you are looking for books to sell on Amazon.

    Amazon Sales Rank (BSR) and net profit after deducting all costs and fees.

    The BSR tells you how quickly a product sells on Amazon. A higher BSR indicates that a product sells slower on Amazon. A lower BSR indicates that a product sells faster.

    The BSR shouldn't exceed 100.000.

    The net profit after deducting all costs and fees should be at least 2 USD for books - better is 3 USD.

    You can easily calculate the net profit with Helium 10's Profitability Calculator. Here's a screenshot of it:

    Helium 10 Profitability Calculator

    I highly recommend signing up here for free.

    Every book you want to sell on Amazon must meet these two criteria.

    Method #1: Search Offline

    Searching offline for books to sell on Amazon is a very popular method. It's like retail arbitrage.

    You should search for places where you can find heavily reduced books. Book prices should be between $1 and $2 per unit.

    Here are some examples for such places:

    • Bookstores (often offer heavily reduced books as well)
    • Book flea markets
    • Libraries

    A great strategy to find heavily reduced books is to ask bookstores if there are any special events, fairs, etc...

    Once you've found some good places to buy books, you need to find books that meet the criteria mentioned above:

    • BSR lower than 100.000
    • Net profit over 2 USD

    You should use Helium 10's Profitability Calculator to calculate the net profit.

    Searching offline for books can even be fun. You will see that there are a lot of books on a lot of interesting topics.

    Method #2: Wholesale

    That's another way to find books to sell on Amazon. Instead of searching for individual books, you can also buy them in bulk. Of course, you won't have much control over what you buy. Yet, you can buy books at a much lower price.

    Here're some places to buy books in bulk:

    • Farm sales
    • Real estate sales
    • Bookstore closings

    At such events, you can always get very exciting stuff for a few buckets.

    Dave Hemrick of Jungle Scout reports that he was able to buy books for $0.25 this way. Not bad. However, Dave has been stuck on a few books, so he ended up paying $1 for each unit.

    Method #3: Online Arbitrage

    Online arbitrage works like retail arbitrage with one important difference. You don't buy books offline, you buy them on other online marketplaces like eBay.

    Here're some examples:

    • eBay
    • Craigslist
    • Letgo

    Here's a great article about Online Arbitrage.

    How to Get Started Selling Books On Amazon

    Step 1: Choose a Method to Search for Books

    The first thing you have to do is choose a method to search for books:

    • Are you creative? Then the offline method is the right choice for you.
    • Are you a tough businessman? Go for the wholesale method.
    • Do you like to do business online? Try online arbitrage.

    Step 2: Buy the Books

    If you go for the offline method, check out libraries or bookstores. You can also talk to the staff to find out whether there are other places where you can buy books.

    If you want to go for the wholesale method, I would also talk to the staff of a library or a bookstore. Of course, you can also search on Craigslist, Facebook, or Google for places to buy books in bulk.

    If you want to buy products online, check out these marketplaces:

    • Walmart
    • eBay
    • Jet
    • Craigslist
    • Facebook Marketplace

    Step 3: Create an Amazon Seller Account

    If you want to become an Amazon seller, you'll need an Amazon seller account.

    There are two types of seller accounts:

    • Individual Seller Account
    • Professional Seller Account

    With the Individual Seller Account, you need to pay a $0.99 fee per sale. With the Professional Seller Account, you need to pay a $39.95 flat fee per month.

    So if you sell more than 40 products per month, a Professional Seller Account is totally worth it.

    I highly recommend checking out this article about Amazon FBA Fees.

    Here's how to create an Amazon Seller Account:

    1. Go to Amazon

    2. Next to the search field, you can create a normal Amazon account.

    AMazon Sign In

    3. Once you're logged in, your name will appear in the field next to the search box. Click on this field.

    4. Scroll down and click on "Your Seller Account".

    Amazon Seller Account

    5. You will be redirected to the next page. Click on "Start Selling".

    Bildschirmfoto 2019 11 17 um 09.11.49

    6. Now you have to decide whether you want to have the Individual- or Professional Seller Account.

    If you can afford it, I recommend creating a Professional Seller Account right away. If not, switch to one as soon as you can.

    Step 4: Use a Tool to Analyze Costs and Profits

    You probably won't remember how much money you've spent on each book. Accordingly, you won't know which books make money, and which not.

    You can't analyze and optimize your Amazon business if you don't know what makes money and what costs money.

    I recommend using a tool to analyze the costs and profits of your bookselling business. Here are my recommendations:

    Jungle Scout Sales Analytics

    Jungle Scout Sales Analytics tool organizes and tracks all your Amazon sales data in real-time so you can focus on profitable and cost-saving strategies and make more money.

    Price: Not available individually, $49 per month with Jungle Scout.

    Helium 10 Profits

    Helium 10 Profits analyzes cost and profits. Finally, you need to minimize all the negative factors that cost you money. With Helium 10 Profits you can get the maximum profit out of your Amazon business.

    Price: $37 per month with A la carte plan, otherwise with Platinum Plan $97 for per month.

    Step 5: List Your Books on Amazon

    To list your books on Amazon, enter the ISBN of the book into the Amazon search bar. Then click on "Have one for sale".

    How To Sell Books on AmazonYou will be guided through a simple process where you have to provide some information about your book.

    You must also provide information about the condition of your book. There are five possible conditions, which are explained below:

    Amazon conditions books

    You can learn more here.

    Step 6: Use Amazon FBA to Sell Your Books

    If you don't want to pack and ship your books by yourself, you have to use Fulfillment by Amazon. In this case, you have to send your inventory to the nearest Amazon department store.

    You can learn more about Amazon FBA in my guide on how to sell on Amazon for beginners. Here's also an article on how to ship to Amazon.

    Step 7: Analyze Your Costs and Profits

    Once your books have reached the Amazon department store and as long as you correctly rated your books and selected only books with a low Amazon Sales Rank (BSR), your books should sell immediately.

    From your start, you should track your profits with Jungle Scout Sales Analytics or Helium 10 Profits.

    Step 8: Care About Reviews

    With books, customer service is a bit easier than with normal products. Since you didn't write the books yourself, you don't have to worry about reviews.

    But what you should do is to care about Amazon reviews regarding the quality of your books. 

    You need to state the condition of the book correctly. If you indicate a better condition than the actual one, then you will probably get bad reviews.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Where Else Can I Sell Old Books?

    Donate Books

    One of the easiest ways to get rid of your old books is to donate them. All you've to do is to call a non-profit organization like the Salvation Army and they will send a truck to pick up your old books. In return, you'll get a recipe that you can write off on your taxes. You won't get much cash but this is one of the easiest ways to get rid of your old books.

    Used Bookstores

    Another option to consider is to sell your book to used bookstores. The benefit here is that it requires no effort and you'll get some cash. The drawback is that used bookstores only pay a small amount of money even for awesome books.

    Sell Books on eBay

    Of course, you can also sell your books on eBay. However, I prefer selling books on Amazon because I had more success with it. This is mainly because there's more demand on Amazon and you can make use of metrics like the Amazon Sales Rank (BSR) to determine how likely a book will sell.

    What Types of Books Sell Best on Amazon?

    • Textbooks
    • Niche books
    • Comic books
    • Collectibles
    • Non-fiction
    • Hardcovers

    What Types of Books Don't Sell Well on Amazon?

    • Fiction
    • Children's books
    • Cookbooks
    • Mass market paperbacks
    • Popular new books

    How Much Does It Cost to Sell Books on Amazon?

    Like most online marketplaces, Amazon charges fees to sell on their platform. Here's an overview of all the fees you've to pay if you want to sell books on Amazon:

    Fees for Amazon Seller Account

    You've to pay fees for your Amazon Seller Account. There are two types of Amazon seller accounts:

    • Individual Seller Account
    • Professional Seller Account

    The Individual Seller Account comes with no monthly flat fee. Yet, you need to pay a fee of $0.99 per sale. The Professional Seller Account comes with a monthly flat fee of $39.99, but there's no fee per sale.

    Finally, which plan you should choose depends on the number of books you sell on Amazon per month. If you sell more than 40 books, the Professional Seller Account is absolutely worth it.

    Referral Fees

    Referral fees occur when you make a sale through Amazon. This fee is 15% for books.

    Closing Fee

    Media products such as books, DVDs, CDs, and Blue Ray come with a flat fee of $1.80 per sale.

    Shipping Costs

    There are two ways to sell on Amazon: Fulfillment by Merchant and Fulfillment by Amazon.

    If you go for Fulfillment by Merchant, you need to pack and ship products on your own. You'll then have to pay the shipping costs of your carrier, the resources you use, and the cost of labor.

    On the other hand, if you go for Fulfillment by Amazon, Amazon will handle all of this for you. You'll therefore have to pay a fulfillment fee to Amazon.

    In most cases, this fulfillment fee is lower than the normal costs for shipping. However, you've to check whether Amazon FBA is worth it for your business or not.

    Can I Sell Books on Amazon for Free?

    Yes. Amazon has a program called Amazon Trade-In. It allows you to exchange your old books for Amazon credits. Yet, the downside is that Amazon is very picky about what they accept and you won't get many credits for your old books.

    Conclusion

    To finish this article, let's repeat the most important things learned:

    • Books should have a lower BSR than 100.000
    • After deducting all fees and costs, a book should still make in $2 profit
    • You can search for books offline and online
    • You need to buy books for a low price
    • Enter the correct condition so that you won't get bad reviews 

    And most importantly, save the budget to launch a private label product.

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