Guest post by Steve Rajeckas from Flip Those Books
The world of selling books on Amazon FBA can be tough to navigate without any guidance. There are tons of helpful tips and secrets you can only learn through experience… or by learning from the experiences of someone who sells books on Amazon FBA full-time.
That’s where I can help. In this post, I will share with you every useful tip I’ve uncovered during my years of selling books on Amazon FBA.
Tips for Finding Book Sources
1. Check BookSaleFinder.com for book sales and other book sources
If you sell books you probably already know this, but it’s too important to ignore.
BookSaleFinder is hands-down the best website on the internet for sourcing books. It’s a comprehensive database of book sales and book stores in all 50 U.S. states.
I suggest checking this website for new sale announcements on a weekly basis, as new sales are advertised all the time.
2. Check BookSalesFound.com for book sales BookSaleFinder doesn’t have
BookSalesFound is a decent complement to BookSaleFinder. Though much of the sales on these two sites overlap, I’ve found a number of sales on BookSalesFound that weren’t on BookSaleFinder.
Finding a “hidden” sale on BookSalesFound is particularly lucrative because most other booksellers only bother checking BookSaleFinder for sales ‒ which means there’s a good chance you’ll be the only bookseller at a sale that’s only been listed on BookSalesFound.
Now, there is a definite downside to the BookSalesFound database ‒ it isn’t free. It costs $27/month, which is a sizable fee for access to a mere database.
But finding a single “hidden” sale can pay off that cost many times over. I suggest trying it for a month and seeing whether the exclusive access to additional sources is worth the money.
3. Check library dumpsters
This is a weird one, and I admit I’ve never actually done it. I know a guy who does it though, and he’s made thousands sifting through library dumpsters for valuable books they’ve thrown away.
It might be easier (and cleaner) to just ask the library to give you any books they’re going to dispose of, but the dumpster-diving option exists for those who want free inventory.
4. Plan your book sale schedule months in advance
Some of the best book sales make you sign up online to secure your spot. By planning out your book sale schedule months in advance, you can make sure you get into these sought-after sales and avoid missing out.
Planning your sales ahead of time will also let you scout out other sources near the sale (or on the way to/from the sale) and exponentially increase your day’s profit. These sources might include:
- Thrift stores
- Ongoing library sales
- Used book stores
- Estate sales
- Yard sales
- Flea markets
5. Source books online
If you want to add another dimension to your Amazon FBA book-selling business, I highly recommend sourcing books online.
The process is simple:
- Get some online book arbitrage software
- Use the software to find low-priced books on Amazon
- Buy the book and get it shipped to your house
- Send the book into Amazon and sell it at the higher FBA price
- Profit the difference
I’ve made a lot of money doing this, and my time investment is extremely minimal compared to all the driving and manual labor that local sourcing requires.
I’ve written a lot about online book arbitrage elsewhere, so I won’t go too in-depth about it here. If you do want to give online book arbitrage a try, I recommend using Zen Arbitrage. It’s the best book arbitrage software for a number of reasons, which I lay out in this review of Zen Arbitrage.
6. Advertise locally that you buy books
Advertising in your local community that you buy used books can be a terrific way to build a steady and easy source of inventory.
There are dozens of ways you can get the word out. Here are a few of the most effective methods:
- Make a website and direct people to it
- Post in local Facebook groups
- Make business cards and hand them out
- Post on Craigslist
- Make fliers and pin them to bulletin boards
- Use word of mouth ‒ bring it up in conversation
7. Visit thrift stores whenever you get the chance
Thrift stores are an excellent source of inventory. Aside from book sales, they’re my best and most consistent source, and you should be taking advantage of them wherever you’re located.
The easiest way to find thrift stores near your location is to type “thrift” into the Google Maps app. The app will show you all of the thrift stores near you, along with their opening hours and phone number.
This strategy for finding thrift stores is particularly helpful when you’re in an unfamiliar area. I often do this before book sales to find extra inventory while I wait for the sale to start.
8. Contact cleanout companies in your area and tell them you’ll buy the books they find
Cleanout companies are typically hired to remove stuff from the homes of the recently deceased and homes that have been foreclosed on.
Building a relationship with a local cleanout company is an excellent way to source inventory untouched by other sellers.
Many cleanout companies simply throw away any books and media they find and would welcome a bit of extra cash from your purchasing their finds.
9. Find estate sales near you at EstateSales.net
Estate sales are an underrated way to source inventory for your Amazon bookstore. I admit, they can be hit or miss ‒ but when they hit, they hit big time.
The best thing about estate sales is that you can scout for inventory using the pictures of the sale listed on EstateSales.net. You can qualify the sales ahead of time and avoid wasting time on sales that have a poor selection of books.
Estate sales are also great if you sell on eBay. You can buy tons of valuable used stuff to sell on eBay after checking the books.
10. Check Craigslist for cheap textbooks and book collections
Craigslist is another excellent way to get your hands on books that other sellers haven’t touched. You should also make a Craigslist listing advertising that you buy book collections. Just make sure you aren’t getting another seller’s duds.
11. Check Facebook Marketplace for cheap textbooks and book collections
Browsing through the Facebook Marketplace offers from time to time is another good sourcing method. Many people sell their books for far less than their true value, so it can be quite profitable to scout through this online source and score some quick and easy profits. Again, double-check that the person you’re buying from isn’t another seller so you can avoid buying a batch of duds.
Tips for Sourcing Books
12. Go to every book sale you can
Book sales are my number one source of inventory, and it’s not even a close contest.
I don’t think there’s another source where you can consistently find thousands of books that haven’t been sifted through by other sellers.
Hitting up every book sale within driving distance is the best way to build up a solid inventory quickly at minimal cost. You should prioritize these above all other sources.
13. Get to book sales at least an hour before the sale starts
Getting to book sales early is incredibly important. A spot near the front of the line can be the difference between making $300 and $1500.
If a sale has a cluster of expensive textbooks confined to a small area, the first few sellers in line will take the lot, while the rest of the sellers are forced into less profitable sections.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made $500+ in the first minute of a sale because I was first to the textbooks.
Because I quite like making hundreds of dollars in mere minutes, I try to get to every sale at least three hours beforehand. This might not be feasible for you, but do what you can to get to sales as early as possible.
14. When you arrive at a book sale, ask if the sale gives out numbers to hold your spot in line
Some sales determine the line order by who places their box down first, while other sales give out numbers at a predetermined time before the sale starts.
If the sale determines line order by numbers, you need to know so you can be present to collect your number when they and them out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped my box off and left, only to return to find the sale gave out numbers while I was gone. It’s a frustrating experience, and I’ve included this tip in the hopes that you’re able to avoid making this annoying mistake.
15. Don’t just scan books ‒ many non-book products are valuable too
Many sellers get tunnel vision for books and completely ignore all other valuable products when they source. This is a mistake. Be on the lookout for these non-book items, and scan them when you find them:
- Board games
- Puzzles (Only buy these if they’re factory sealed)
- DVDs (You need approval to sell these on Amazon, but you can still sell them on eBay)
- CDs (You need approval to sell these on Amazon, but you can still sell them on eBay)
- Vinyls (You need approval to sell these on Amazon, but you can still sell them on eBay)
16. Look for “hidden textbooks”
“Hidden textbooks” are textbooks that don’t look like they’re textbooks.
You can tell if a book is a hidden textbook by checking the Keepa graph for a noticeable dip in sales tank during one of the textbook seasons (typically January and August/early September).
If you find one of these, consider holding it until the next textbook season so you can make some extra money on it.
17. Learn to scan with your eyes
Instead of blindly scanning through each and every book, use your eyes to identify the most likely books of value, and then check those individually.
There are a number of tells that a book might be expensive. Here are a few of them:
- Publisher: As far as non-fiction goes, university/academic publishers are always a good bet. I’m talking Princeton, Harvard, or any other college.
- Subject matter: the more specific the better. If I have to choose between “An Overview of American History” and “An Anthropological Study of Post-Revolutionary War Siblings,” I’m going with book number two every single time.
- Dust jacket quality: Newer hardbacks will often have a sleek, glossy quality to their dust jackets. This isn’t always indicative of value, but it’s enough for me to check the book.
- Used stickers on the spine: I’ve found that books with used stickers on their spines are often valuable. More often than not, they’re textbooks in disguise.
- Spiral-ring binding: I’ve found spiral-ring bindings are most often found on textbooks, so I scan every spiral-ring book I see.
- Three-ring binders: If you see an unmarked three-ring binder, there’s a near 100% chance the binder contains a loose-leaf version of a textbook. Some of my most valuable books have been in unmarked binders that a bunch of other sellers overlooked.
18. At book sales, know which sections you’re going to hit before you start
If the sale has a map, use that to plan your initial moves. If not, try to scope out the interior of the sale before it starts.
An easy way to do this is to ask if the sale has a bathroom. Many sales won’t let you in to scout ahead of time, but they will let you use the bathroom, which you often need to walk through the sale to access.
19. Pick up less profitable books that other sellers might skip
Many sellers avoid books that sell for less than $15 because they aren’t willing to put in the extra work to process them.
If you’re willing to put in the extra hours, picking up those sub-$15 books can net you a few hundred extra every sale.
My general rule is that I’m willing to spend a dollar for every dollar I make.
As most sales sell books for $1-$2, this means I pick up every normal-sized book with a sales rank under 1,000,000 that sells for at least $11.
It does add to the amount of work I’ll have to do, but I’m okay with it.
I justify my decision by looking at the amount of time I invest in each book compared to the profit the book brings me.
In my experience, each book takes less than two minutes to deal with.
- Five seconds to scan it and put it in your box.
- Three seconds for the volunteer to add it to the tally.
- One minute to grade and list it.
Even taking into account the additional shipment boxes you’ll have to deal with from the extra inventory, the time spent dealing with each book is well under two minutes.
If I’m making the bare minimum of $1 every two minutes, that’s still $30 an hour — a pay rate that might be low for a good bookseller, but is spectacular compared to the other jobs we’d be working if we weren’t doing this.
So if you’re willing to put in the extra work, pick up those dollar profits.
Just remember that size and weight plays a role… if a $1 book that sells for $14 is roughly the size and weight of a mid-size sedan, it’s best to leave it on the shelf.
20. Scan books that other people normally ignore
You know the books I’m talking about. The sections other sellers avoid like the books contain contagious diseases:
- Childrens’ books
- Trade fiction
- Science Fiction/Fantasy
- And probably a dozen more I forgot to mention.
Here’s the truth: every single section has profitable books.
I’ve pulled books worth $50+ from every single section I just listed.
The profits are out there. Sure, they’re rarer and smaller than the lucrative non-fiction sections, but they exist nonetheless.
In my experience, while the profits from these sections are smaller, they’re still quite consistent.
I pull a lot of books that make me $2 – $10 from these “unprofitable” sections… and that adds up quick when you’re the only person scanning through them.
Look at it this way: five minutes into a sale, you should absolutely be looking for the expensive non-fiction stuff. No question.
But two hours into the sale…
…it’s probably smarter to scan through the untouched trade fiction instead of becoming the 37th person to rummage through the desolate remains of the textbooks.
Tips for Prepping Books for FBA
21. Get rid of price markings with erasers and label removers
Many buyers would be understandably annoyed to find the book they paid $80 for cost you $1. To safeguard your feedback rating against this kind of unhappy buyer, you should remove all traces of the bargain basement price you paid for your books.
There are two primary ways people mark books with prices:
- Writing it with pencil on the corner of the first page
- Slapping on a label sticker with the price on it
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to deal with both of these.
You can get rid of any trace of pencil-written prices by using a high-end eraser. I’ve been using these 5-star rated Pilot Foam Erasers since I started selling books over two years ago, and they’ve proven to be one of the most durable purchases I’ve made. I bought three of them about two years ago, and I’ve still using one of them.
As for label stickers, they also have a pretty easy fix. I use a set of Scotty Peelers to remove all of my labels. The set comes with a round plastic peeler for easy removal tasks and a metal blade peeler for stubborn stickers that won’t come off. I find the metal peeler, in particular, to be invaluable for labels that usually tear and leave residue, like the pesky Goodwill price labels.
22. Use Accelerlist as your listing software ‒ it’s significantly cheaper (and faster) than the alternatives
Accelerlist is my preferred Amazon FBA listing software. It has an insanely fast workflow and is cheaper than its primary competitor (InventoryLab) by $15/month.
If you’re not already using this, I highly recommend switching to it as soon as possible.
23. Sort your books by grade ahead of time ‒ don’t grade each one as you’re listing it
It’s easy to place all your books right next to your computer and just go through them one-by-one, grading as you go.
While this may be the simplest way to do things, I don’t recommend it. The smarter method is examining your books and sorting them into condition-specific piles before listing. It will save you a lot of time when you actually start putting your books through the listing process.
If you use Accelerlist as your listing software, you can pre-populate the condition and description fields ahead of time. By sorting your books by condition ahead of time, you can breeze through the listing process because each batch of books will have the same condition and description.
This drastically cuts the time needed to list each book and removes a lot of the workflow bottlenecks that grading while you list can cause.
24. Use Clorox wipes to clean dirty covers
Many of the books you buy will have ugly smudges or layers of dust on their covers.
Fortunately, most book covers are made to repel water and protect the pages inside ‒ so Clorox wipes are a safe and effective way to get rid of this dirt and improve your books’ conditions.
Be careful when handling older books though. Their covers might absorb the Clorox liquid instead of repelling it, which will leave your book in worse overall shape.
25. Package older books with fragile dust jackets in polybags
Older hardcover books can have fragile dust jackets that don’t play nicely with Amazon barcodes.
When I sell a book like this, I’ll typically protect the cover by putting the book in a plastic polybag. I find a 10 x 13” polybag mailer is big enough for the vast majority of books I send in, so that size should work for you as well.
If you need poly mailers, I recommend the PACKZON brand, which can be found on Amazon.
There’s nothing special about them when compared to other mailers, they’re just surprisingly cheap when purchased in bulk.
26. Use removable labels for your Amazon barcodes
Nobody likes non-removable labels that take five minutes of picking and scratching to get off entirely. It’s annoying, the label doesn’t even come off entirely, and you’ll usually end up damaging the book in the process.
Your primary focus when prepping a book should be making sure the customer who ends up buying your book is as happy as possible with their purchase. One of the best ways to do this is to use a removable label that doesn’t piss the customer off when they try to remove it.
I use these removable DYMO-compatible labels from Betckey. They stick to books like glue but peel off easily when you pull at a corner. And they’re size 30334, so they’ll also work seamlessly with the Accelerlist and Inventorylab label requirements.
27. Smell your books to see if any smell like mould/cigarettes
Some books seem like they’re in great condition when you check them with your eyes. But you (and your customers) also have noses, and you should use them to confirm that your finds are in sellable condition. If a book smells like mould, cigarettes, or some other unpleasant scent, I suggest tossing the book instead of risking negative feedback by attempting to sell it.
28. Use a special SKU prefix for textbooks
Textbooks are special in that they spike in price during so-called “textbook seasons”, which is what the book-selling community calls the period of time before college semesters start when students buy their textbooks. To maximize your profit, you’ll want to hold on to your textbooks until the next textbook season comes around.
This can be a challenge if you use an automated repricing tool to keep your prices competitive. The repricer will reprice your Amazon books, including your textbooks ‒ unless you tell it not to.
This is where adding a special SKU prefix comes in handy. If your repricer is good, you can tell it not to reprice books with SKUs that start with a certain set of characters.
For example, I put “TX” at the beginning of my textbook SKUs, and I configure my repricer not to touch books with SKUs that start with “TX”. This way, I don’t accidentally sell my textbooks before the textbook season price spike comes along, and I make more money overall.
29. Mention the benefits of FBA in your book description
Your book description is also an advertisement for your listing. Using benefits-driven copywriting is a great way to stand out from the crowd and make your offer more appealing to buyers.
While condition-specific benefits will vary from book to book, one factor will always remain the same: your offers are all Fulfilled By Amazon.
Use that to your advantage by mentioning the benefits that come with buying an FBA offer in your description:
- Fast shipping with Amazon Prime
- Guaranteed tracking number
- Amazon’s hassle-free return policy
Alright, that’s a wrap on this post. Best of luck selling books on Amazon FBA. Check out the links below to read more from me.
*Originally published here
About the author:
Steve Rajeckas has been selling on Amazon FBA for over two years now generating $172,000 in sales along the way and learning a lot about selling books on Amazon. Through his website FlipThoseBooks.com, Steve shares selling tips for new and experienced sellers.
Read more from Steve: