How to Sell Books Online

Our independent research projects and impartial reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. Learn more

For all the talk of digital dominance, the humble book remains both a popular source of entertaining ideas and a lucrative business opportunity. According to a report by Statista, a whopping 675 million print books were sold in the US last year alone.

However, there’s no skimming over the fact that the book industry is competitive, and that selling books requires thorough research and hard work. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your book-selling venture could be pulped before you know it.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. If you’re looking to capitalize on this literary opportunity, our practical guide to selling books online will take you right to the top of the bestseller list.

1

Source Your Books

The first step to selling books online may seem obvious, but requires serious thought – you need to procure some books. So, assuming the dusty tomes in your attic will only go so far, let’s take a look at the different avenues you can explore to find books to sell.

Book Sales or Estate Sales

A book sale is an event organized by a church, library, or fundraising institution, or even just a family or resident in the local community. While you’re unlikely to find the exact books you’re looking for, there is one major upside – books found at these types of events are typically available at ridiculously low prices. To find book sales happening in your state, try searching BookSaleFinder.com or EstateSales.net.

Estate Sales website to procure books
Estate Sales website to procure books

Thrift Stores

Regularly stocked thrift stores are among the most reliable sources of sellable books, and they often offer books at even lower prices than local sales. Make sure to visit them every once in a while, and keep your eye out for recent releases at bargain basement prices – the world is full of voracious readers with no space for finished books!

However, one downside of buying your books from a thrift store is that they won’t usually be in pristine condition, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sell all of them using a more esteemed seller like Amazon. That means you’ll have to rely on other channels, such as eBay or your own website. Plus, you’ll be responsible for fulfilling any orders on your own.

Private Collections

There are people out there who will be willing to give away books from their private collections, although finding them – and convincing them – can be difficult. First impressions can make all the difference, so it helps to be prepared with legitimate aspects that add to your credibility: make sure you’re at least armed with a business card, a website, and professional attire.

Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Explore book sales, estate sales, and thrift stores in your area
  • Ask friends and family if they know anyone with a private book collection
  • Acquire some books to add to your inventory

2

Decide Where to Sell Your Books Online

Now that you know how to source some great books, it’s time to explore the different platforms you can choose from when it comes to selling.

Social Media

Social media communities such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are great options for selling books. For example, you can source, then resell textbooks quickly at times when college semesters are just getting started.

On the flip side, not all types of books can be sold profitably on social media, as the buyers in these communities are usually looking for the cheapest deals.

Book Marketplaces

Online marketplaces such as Amazon need no introduction. They give you the ability to reach a larger audience than any other platform, so your books are more likely to sell quickly at decent prices.

Book listings on Amazon
Book listings on Amazon

However, the trade-off for this extended reach is the potential for profit. If you’re not careful, you may end up paying a lot in shipping, commission, and other fees to Amazon, not to mention having to compete with a wealth of online bookselling competition.

Your Own Online Store

If you’re seriously considering selling books in the long run, building your own online store is by far the best option. Sure, you won’t attract buyers as fast as you would from book marketplaces, and it will take some time to build an audience. But the upshot is that most of the profit will be yours to keep, and you’ll get the chance to build your own brand with a loyal customer base.

Moreover, platforms such as Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify make it easy for anyone to create an eCommerce store, without requiring extensive technical knowledge or a high-end budget. So there’s nothing getting in your way!

Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Explore the different places where you can sell books online
  • Pick the platform you’ll use to sell your books

3

Showcase Your Books

The way you display your books is the key to selling more of them. The most important factors to keep in mind here are clear, engaging images and comprehensive book descriptions.

Book Images

Whether you’re selling on an online marketplace or from your own eCommerce store, photos can make or break the sale. Don’t shy away from posting several pictures that allow buyers to see your book from all angles, including the front cover, spine, back cover, illustrations, and any other highlights.

Example of details on the front and back cover of a book
Example of details on the front and back cover of a book

Image Source: 99Designs

Book Descriptions

Provide as much detail as you can when describing the book, including:

  • The date of publication
  • The complete title and subtitle
  • The author’s name and credentials (if relevant)
  • An honest assessment of its condition

If it’s a relatively modern book, you should also list its ISBN number. This is a unique ID number associated with the date of the book’s publishing and format.

Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Take photos of your books from different angles
  • Write catchy and detailed descriptions of your books

4

Price Your Books Fairly

To estimate a fair price for a book is both a science and an art. The following tips will set you in the right direction:

Look at the Competition

Your pricing should allow you to successfully compete with similar sellers. For example, if you’re selling a popular title that’s already being sold by several other sellers, you can’t price your book too high.

There are, of course, exceptions that you need to consider. For example, if your book is in mint condition, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Plus, you can always adjust the pricing in time, if you’re not selling as many copies as you expected.

Consider the Book’s Rarity

Antique and rare books belong to a different, more specialist market than the rest of the book trade. The pricing of a rare book is affected not just by the book itself, but also by external factors, such as the state of other investment markets.

We’re not saying you need to be a finance prodigy. But if you have reason to believe that a book you’re about to sell has special value, we recommend taking some photos and showing them to an auction house or specialist book trader to get their opinion, before posting them up for sale online.

Account for Shipping Costs

Books are heavy, which means they incur significant delivery costs – along with considerable amounts of scotch tape and bubble wrap! Good quality packing and fast delivery are essential to keeping your buyers happy, so make sure to price your books in a way that covers these expenses in full.

Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Look at how much your competitors are charging for books similar to yours
  • Create an estimate for your packing and shipping costs
  • Come up with a realistic pricing structure for your books

5

Set Up Your Online Bookstore

As we discussed above, you can sell your books via social media, book marketplaces, or your own online store. Let’s look at how to get started with each of these platforms, starting with social media.

Selling on Social Media

Social media communities – such as Facebook Marketplace – offer a convenient way to connect entire spheres of new buyers with your enticing book collection. To get started, simply navigate to Facebook Marketplace and click + Create New Listing.

How to create a new listing in Facebook marketplace
How to create a new listing in Facebook marketplace

Next, select Item for Sale as your listing type. Finally, add images and details of the book you’d like to sell, and click Post. All done!

Selling on a Book Marketplace

To sell books using a marketplace such as Amazon, you’ll need to register as a seller, then list the books you want to sell. The easiest way to list a book on Amazon is to find that book in the Amazon bookstore. Then, on the book’s product page, you’ll find the Sell on Amazon button below the Buy Box.

Sell on Amazon button on book’s product page
Sell on Amazon button on book’s product page

From there, you’ll be able to enter the book’s details and get it listed among other sellers.

Setting Up an Online Store

Building an online store is really easy these days, thanks to ecommerce website builders such as Shopify, Wix, and WooCommerce. You can pick from the following options:

  • Opt for a Shopify or Wix premium plan (an all-in-one solution with domain and hosting included)
  • Purchase the domain and hosting separately, then install WordPress along with WooCommerce, an ecommerce plugin
Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Pick a platform to sell books online.
  • Follow the instructions to set up an online store using the platform of your choice – whether that’s a website builder, or a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Drupal.

6

Package and Ship Your Books

Understanding how to pack and ship your books efficiently is crucial to success. Let’s take a closer look at both of these routes.

Packing Your Books

To pack your books securely, you’ll need a few basic supplies:

  • Shipping boxes that can hold the books securely
  • Packing tape
  • Corrugated cardboard roll
  • Stapler and scissors
  • Clear plastic bag or bubble wrap

To pack a book, put it in a clear plastic bag or bubble wrap. Then fold and tape the open ends in a way so that no part is left exposed. Next, wrap it in the corrugated cardboard roll. Finally, staple the open ends of the cardboard roll and put it in a shipping box.

Shipping Your Books

When it comes to shipping your books, there are many solutions you can pick from. These include:

USPS Priority Mail: USPS Priority Mail is a fairly fast and affordable option that comes with insurance of up to $50 and free pickup.

USPS Media Mail: USPS Media Mail is designed particularly for shipping items such as books, CDs, and audiotapes. The cost is determined by the weight of the package.

Amazon: The ecommerce giant offers access to a reliable delivery service with the ground and air transport facilities.

Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Gather the supplies you need to pack your books
  • Pick a delivery solution best suited to your needs and budget

7

Invest in Marketing

Once you’ve procured books, set up shop, and handled the logistics, you can just sit back and relax, right? Not so fast! Your bookselling business can’t take off without adequate promotion. Based on how you’ve chosen to sell your books, different marketing strategies will come into play.

If you’re selling your books via social media, for example, you’ll want to keep your social account active by posting fresh and interesting updates every day. Moreover, your organic reach will be limited in the beginning – so you should also consider investing in some form of paid advertising.

Similarly, if you’re utilizing a bookselling marketplace such as Amazon, your book details should be optimized for Amazon searches accordingly.

Amazon SEO strategies
Amazon SEO strategies

Image Source: AMZ Scout

You’ll also want to offer huge discounts and deals in the beginning to garner positive reviews, and to build up an impressive seller rating.

Finally, if your primary sales platform is your own online store, marketing channels such as SEO, PPC advertising, and email marketing will make the most sense.

Things to do before moving on to the next step:

  • Pick the best marketing channels based on how you’re selling your books
  • Learn more about your chosen marketing channels

8

Learn From Your Mistakes

It’s certainly possible to make money by selling books online, but the journey is rarely going to be easy. As you can see from the steps we’ve covered here, there’s a lot to learn to succeed in what’s an undeniably saturated market.

 Understandably, you’ll often make mistakes, and feel like your venture is going nowhere. But don’t let the setbacks hold you back – learn from your inevitable early mistakes, and move on.

 One of the biggest differences between sellers who make it and those who don’t is their level of persistence. The more you learn and improve over time, the more books you will sell – and the more money you’ll make!

How to Sell Books Online: Summary

The book industry is growing, and showing no signs of slowing anytime soon. So there’s no time like the present to start selling books online.

By following this step-by-step guide to selling books online, you’ll be ready to get your dream business up and running. To recap, here are the steps we’ve discussed:

Steps To Sell Books Online

  1. Source Your Books
  2. Decide Where to Sell Your Books Online
  3. Showcase Your Books
  4. Price Your Books Fairly
  5. Set Up Your Online Bookstore
  6. Package and Ship Your Books
  7. Invest in Marketing
  8. Learn from Mistakes

So get to work on each step one by one, and take your ability to sell books online to the next level.