Friday, September 19, 2008

Selling Books Online with Amazon, Half and eBay

One of my income streams has been selling used books, CDS and DVDs through Amazon and I have also sold antique and novelty books through eBay. I've been wondering if there were any tips or tricks I was missing, so I recently purchased The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site by Steve Weber. Using ideas from his book I've been evaluating my own business.

And that is part of it right there - I need to decide whether or not I want this to be a part time business or just if it is just a way to clear out extra books and make income. What's the difference? Inventory. Most of my inventory so far is from my own collection or generously donated from friends and family. I also have a fair number of books from a Free box I rescued off the street. I am now up to the point where I am selling on average a book (or CD or DVD) a day, so eventually my stock is going to run dry. That is where the decision needs to be made - do I purchase more books to resell (which in my opinion makes this a business) or do I cash my checks, dust off my newly emptied bookshelves and walk away?

If I do decide I want to keep this going, one of the things I liked about "The Home-Based Bookstore" was a whole chapter on where to find books. There were the obvious places I had thought of like estates sales, used book stores and garage sales, but there were also a few I hadn't thought of. He also talks very openly about what sells, what doesn't, and what will make you money. Just because something will sell well, doesn't mean it is going to put folding money in your pocket.

For example, most of the books in the Free box I found were popular science fiction. Fortunately for me, they were all in very good condition. Those books are flying off my shelves - I even had one that I posted and was sold within an hour! But, the downside is that they don't sell for much. Because the books are so popular, there are a lot of them on the market and that means that Amazon and Half are oversaturated with copies. I am listing these books for somewhere between $.80 and $.90 - and once Amazon and Half take their commission out and you pay for shipping, we are talking about making pennies.

Is it worth it? Maybe. I believe that out of pennies, dollars are made - and I am getting regular checks from Amazon and Half, small as they may be. However, I didn't pay anything for these books. Had I purchased them, even for $.25 a piece, I'd be loosing money.

There is one other reason to sell books like this though, I am building up my feedback scores. Feedback scores have always been important on eBay (who owns but lately Amazon has been pushing theirs too. If you make sure to give great customer service you'll get good ratings - regardless of the amount of the sale.

The author of "The Home-Based Bookstore" recommends staying away from fiction all together, since it is just too volatile. He also recommends picking an area that you yourself have an interest in and concentrating on those types of books - cooking books or childrens books, for example. I, for one, love cooking so I could see how that could be kind of fun - and if they didn't sell, at least I could get some great recipes!

For me, one of the best parts about "The Home-Based Bookstore" was the wealth of information on other sites I can use. Not just for book selling, but also pricing books. He recommended using websites like and Both of these sites let you look up book and see the pricing at hundreds of sites - which is great particularly when you have something a little more unique. I didn't even know those websites existed! The author also gives some ideas of places to sell unusual books, which was good because the only outlet I knew of was eBay. Speaking of which - it looks like eBay is making a move to get more of the media listings - they are offering discounted listings on media starting September 16th.

If I were to review the "The Home-Based Bookstore" I would say it is easy to read, full of great tips and resources. The downside is that much of the financial data is dated - postage rates and commission fees have changed since this book was written in 2006. Also, some of the website info is changing - I haven't found any links that he provided that didn't work, but for example at the time of his writing had been pretty much forgotten, whereas now it is a viable player (though 3/4ths of my sales are still through Amazon.)

If you are considering a making online bookselling a business, it is also worth checking out the information he has on accounting, taxes and inventory systems. It is something I am thinking about a lot!

More Stories of My Online Book Selling:

Books Selling eBay vs Half vs

Night Slave DVD with Claudia Udy

Book Selling Online

EDIT: Looking for more information on online book selling? I am compiling all my articles about my experiences in one place. Check them out at The Online Bookseller.

Photo by: Lin Pernille


*Kristal* said...

happened upon your blog while trying to research selling options for used books on Ebay versus Amazon. Thanks for sharing your ideas & the book you read. We too are in the midst of a short sale and/or foreclosure. Long story but I too am trying to find ways to make some money from home since we have a 5 yo & a 6 month old. Hubby is determined that I need to bring in some money. I've been agonizing over what to do exactly & then had an idea that since I'm forever with my nose in a book & seem to hunt them down anytime I go to a yard sale or junk store, why not try to sell them? Just don't sure if I can pull in enough to help out. But I will definitely be back to visit you & see how things are going. Good luck to you!

Dawn said...

Hi Kristal! Welcome!

Selling books hasn't made me a ton of money, but it has been steady and it is a good way to start making some extra funds and clear the clutter. And you can certainly add to it and do other things as well - eBay sales or type of work around it. Please let me know how you do!