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How to Sell Books on Amazon in Four Easy Steps

Threecolts
Emma Ritson
Published
February 3, 2023
Modified
May 7, 2024
Sell books on amazon a how to guide

Starting an online bookstore is an excellent opportunity for making cash on the side, especially with the increasing demand for physical and digital books, e-books, and audiobooks. Selling books on Amazon is the best way to sell books online, since you'll not only make money, but learn a) how to start your own Amazon business and b) about the types of books that sell best on this huge marketplace.

The variety of books you can sell online is vast, ranging from new and used books, fiction and nonfiction, textbooks, comic books, graphic novels, and more. The convenience of buying books online, the ability to find rare books, and the potential to reach a new audience make online bookselling an attractive option for booksellers and authors.

This guide covers the complete process of selling books online, providing all the necessary information to get started.

Before you begin, you’ll have to do three things:

  1. Decide which fulfillment method (FBA or FBM) you’ll use
  2. Decide if you want to be an Individual seller or a Professional Seller
  3. Decide how you will source your inventory

Once you’ve done all this, you can start listing your books on the platform.

Let’s break it down further:

1. How to fulfill orders?

Amazon offers sellers two ways to fulfill their orders: Fulfillment by Merchant (FBA) and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBM).

Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)

When using this method, the seller—after a sale is made—will pack and ship the book themselves using a delivery carrier of their choice. FBM sellers must store their own inventory, and can't use Amazon's warehouses to do this.  

When working out the total costs, the seller must include the storage fees in this equation—unless they’re storing books at home. Sellers also need to figure out the shipping and handling costs, as well as the time it takes to pack and ship the orders that come in. There is a lot to work out if it’s worth doing the work.

Sellers use FBM mainly if they have a small number of orders to carry out or a large enough business—so the cost to ship books is lower than that it would be on Amazon. And again, sellers need a place to store their books, so if you’re thinking of going for this system then be aware.

Hand holding books up in the air

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

If you choose to use FBA to sell books on Amazon, whenever you make a sale, Amazon picks, packs, and ships the products on your behalf and also look after customer service. With this method, you can also store your inventory at Amazon's Warehouse, so you won’t need to pay storage, shipping or handling fee, or labor costs. instead, you pay an all-in-one fee to Amazon that covers your inclusion in the FBA program.

Sellers generally use FBA if they have a lot of orders to carry out and their operation isn't big enough to pay lower shipping costs than the requisite FBA fees. Remember, you can store your books as Amazon’s fulfillment center until you make a sale, so you won’t need space to store them yourself.

2. Choosing what type of Amazon seller to be

There are two types of Amazon sellers you need to consider when signing up for Amazon.

Individual sellers

If you're an individual seller, you typically sell less than 40 products per month. This is the recommended method for those selling on the side as a hobby or with only a few products for sale. With this method, you have fewer FEES to pay

Professional sellers

Professional sellers trade more than 40 products every month. If you have a large number of products to sell and are interested in regular monthly income from your Amazon products, then this is what you should go for.

3. Sourcing books to sell

Most people who sell books online sell ones they already have in their possession. You can also source books from several different places if you want to grow your book sales on Amazon. Here are some popular ways to source books:

Sell your own

One of the most straightforward ways to source books is in your own house or garage. You need only to look around in your home—and even beyond—and you’ll realize how easy it is to sell and find books.

If you're wondering what types of books to sell, know that there is no limit. You can consider selling comic books, rare books, textbooks, recipe books, art books, and children's books. Make sure you check out the FAQ section on Amazon for more detailed information.

Book sales

Another great way to source boxes is through book sales. You can take some time to go to book sales and you might even enjoy it—as it's a little like hunting for treasure. You can always find a book sale somewhere on a weekend, too, such as at a school fair, a garage sale, a sidewalk sale or an estate sale.

Make sure you take a book scanner with you so that you can find out which books are most suitable to list on Amazon. If you use a Bluetooth scanner—along with a book scanning app–-you will be able to locate which books are more profitable and will sell faster than others.

Online arbitrage

Don't forget that on the internet, the world is your oyster. You can source books on websites to sell on Amazon—often, you will find lower prices than what you're paying on Amazon. You buy the book from a website for a lower price, then sell it on Amazon for a higher price. The term for this is online arbitrage.

Bulk purchase/wholesale

You can also buy books in bulk online for much less than you would on Amazon on websites such as eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook. If you are buying in bulk from these websites, make sure that the books you purchase have not previously been sorted or scanned. If they have been, it would mean that you are purchasing an Amazon seller’s failed books and therefore, they won’t be in any way profitable on Amazon.

Estate sales

Estate sales and moving sales are excellent ways to find cheap books in large quantities. Usually, people are eager to move these books and will often take good offers. Don't be afraid to ask for a bulk discount.

Free books

Even though nothing in life is free, it turns—well, actually, sometimes it is. If you check out Craigslist, Gumtree, or Facebook Marketplace, you might find people desperate to get rid of all their old books if they are, say, moving house or selling a place. All you have to do is go get the books and haul them out.

Write your own e-book

Sell your e-books globally by self-publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP allows you to keep control over your rights, set your own prices, make updates at any time, and earn royalties on sales. Start reaching a wider audience today.

Finding the right books to sell on Amazon

Anyone can find books to list on Amazon, but finding the right book at the best price means that you don't waste your time listing book that nobody will buy. It’s very important to know which books are the best for Amazon sales.

Here are a few tips:

Check the book’s Best-Seller Ranking

Each product on Amazon has a best-seller ranking. The lower the best seller ranking, the more often that particular product makes a sale on the Amazon Marketplace.

As an example, a book that is ranked number one will sell 1500 copies monthly on Amazon. but a book ranked number 1 million will not sell many copies at all.

You can find the books BSR on its page listing in the product details section.

Note: The Amazon Best Sellers Rank you need to focus on is the BSR for the Books category. You can ignore the BSRs for the subcategories.

It's best in my experience to sell books whose BSR is beneath 100,000  this means you have a pretty good likelihood that the book will sell within 24 hours

A book library in a neighborhood

Estimating how likely the books will sell

You can use various tools and software to estimate the likelihood of a book selling on Amazon on. Most booksellers use a scanner to help them search for inventory. You can always use Amazon's mobile seller, too, as it comes with its own scanner that provides you with the product price, BSR, and other official Amazon stats.

You can also use an app like Scout IQ to scan books (available for iPhone and Android smartphones), allowing you to download the entire book database to your device and scan books at a rapid pace. You can also access the database without Wi-Fi or cellular connection. ScoutIQ outperforms other database solutions like Neatoscan and FBAScan, offering better data to make your scouting easier and more effective. A monthly membership costs a little money, but you can pay less by paying upfront or purchasing multiple licenses.

4. Listing your book on Amazon

So now you have registered to sell on Amazon, that means you can start listing your books.

What is the easiest way to list your books? Go to the actual product detail page for the book you want to list. That’s right—you can actually list your books from the Amazon page itself instead of creating an entirely new listing. Then, once you list your book, it appears on the same page.

Here’s what we mean:

An Amazon shopping page

To find the product listing page, look for the book’s ISBN (ie: the book’s registration code) and log it in Amazon’s search bar—just as you would do when searching for something to buy.

You will find the ISBN on the barcode or somewhere within the book’s actual dust jacket.

An ISBN barcode

Take note, booksellers, if the book was created pre-1970, it won’t have an ISBN. If this is the case, then you will need to type in the title manually.

Once you are at the product listing page, you can look for a gray button that reads “Sell on Amazon,” which lies a little below the Buy Box.

Amazon page for products

Click on that button, and—assuming you’re permitted to actually sell this book—you should then have this screen:

The Amazon page for KDP

Now, please type in the following:

  • SKU: This is your unique identifier for the book, which can be anything of your choosing that assists in the recall. If left blank, Amazon will automatically assign one for you.
  • Price: We suggest determining the book's price based on its condition. For instance, books in "Acceptable" condition tend to have a lower sale price than books in "Very Good" condition. Avoid aligning the price with the lowest option, as it may lead to a price war. If the book is in good condition, it will still sell, even if a cheaper, lower-quality option is available.
  • Quantity: If you have several book copies, type in the total amount here. Otherwise, the system will automatically write one unit if you dont specify.
  • Condition: On Amazon, books can be listed under five conditions: "New", "Like New", "Very Good", "Good", and "Acceptable". For Collectible books, options include "Like New", "Very Good", "Good", and "Acceptable". It's not advisable to list a book as "New" even if it's in perfect condition, as it may result in a report from the publisher or a request for an invoice by Amazon.
  • Fulfillment Channel: FBM or FBA—choose your fulfillment channel.

Once the information is entered, one of the following will occur:

  • If you choose to sell the book as FBM, your book listing will appear on the product page within 15-30 minutes, and you just have to wait for a sale.
  • If you opt to sell the book as FBA, it must be shipped to Amazon for preparation. It usually takes 1-2 weeks for the inventory to reach the fulfillment center. Then, it will take Amazon's staff 3-7 days to unpack and distribute the inventory across their network. During busy periods, such as the holiday season, this process may take longer.
  • Sometimes, mistakes happen and things go missing in as big a place as an Amazon warehouse. In that case, you can track down your inventory easily and make sure that you are paid for it if it goes missing for good.

You may also decide to place the book for sale in your Seller Central account.

Frequently asked questions

Remember, if Amazon isn’t right for you, then you can always choose to sell books on eBay.

In our opinion, Amazon is the better platform to sell books than eBay. Here are a few reasons why:

  • With Amazon FBA, you don't need to store your own inventory, as Amazon keeps it for you and handles shipping.
  • Amazon provides each book with a best-seller ranking which can be used as a reference for its selling potential, saving you time.
  • Amazon has more online traffic than eBay, with only a fraction of the number of sellers, offering more opportunities for sales.

What types of books sell best on Amazon?

Textbooks, niche books, comic books, collectible books, non-fiction, and hardcover books are generally considered to be the most popular and sell well on Amazon. These books tend to have high demand and high prices, making them great choices for reselling. However, remember that some publishers may restrict sales of certain textbooks, and certain fiction books may lose value faster than non-fiction books.

What types of books don’t sell well on Amazon?

  • Which types of books have low sales on Amazon? Fiction, children's books, cookbooks, mass-market paperbacks, and popular new books have low sales on Amazon due to factors such as high print runs, low cover prices, competition from Amazon itself, and low sales prices.

Key to success: On Amazon, the performance of a used book is primarily determined by supply and demand. If there is high demand for a book but limited sellers, the book is likely to perform well.

How much does it cost to sell books on Amazon?

Like most e-commerce marketplaces, Amazon charges certain fees to sell on its platform.

Here are some fees you should know about.

Individual fee or subscription fee

Individual sellers on Amazon are defined as those who sell 40 or fewer items per month. If you fall under this category, you will not be required to pay the professional seller subscription fee, but you will have to pay a $0.99 individual per-item fee for each product sold. This fee, similar to the referral fee, is deducted from the sale proceeds and does not have to be paid upfront.

A phone with an Amazon screen

It is important to note that, as an individual seller, you will still have access to all of Amazon's tools and resources, including the platform's customer base and fulfillment services. The individual per-item fee provides a flexible and cost-effective option for those who only plan to sell a small number of items each month.

On the other hand, professional sellers who sell more than 40 items per month are required to pay a monthly subscription fee, which provides access to a broader range of tools and services to support a higher volume of sales, taken from a credit card or the account balance. A professional seller does not have to pay an individual fee for each sale (they will probably need to spend money on software that helps them with their customer queries, though). Ultimately, the choice between individual or professional seller status will depend on the number of items you plan to sell and your business needs.

Referral fee

The referral fee on Amazon is a charge that is deducted from the sale price of a book. It is calculated as 15% of the sale price and is deducted from the proceeds after a sale is made. For instance, if you sell a book for $10, the referral fee would be $1.50. It's important to note that the referral fee does not have to be paid beforehand, as it is taken out of the sale proceeds automatically.

Closing fee

The closing fee is a fixed fee of $1.80 that is applied to media products, such as books, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray, for each sale. This fee is only relevant for sellers specializing in these types of products.

The closing fee, like the referral fee, is deducted from the sale proceeds and does not have to be paid upfront. This ensures that sellers only pay the fee after a sale and the funds have been received.

Shipping costs

When selling on Amazon, there are two main options for fulfilling orders: Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) or Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

If you choose to sell using FBM, you will be responsible for shipping your products to customers after making a sale. Your shipping costs will vary depending on the shipping carrier you use, the resources required for shipping, and any labor costs involved.

Alternatively, if you choose to sell using FBA, you can use Amazon's fulfillment network to store, pick, pack, and ship your products. This comes with an FBA fee, which replaces the costs you would normally incur for shipping, packing, and storage.

A word of caution: FBA fees tend to be much lower than the potential cost to ship your own books. Since Amazon also does all the work for you, it’s a great option.

Example

Let's consider a scenario where we sell a second edition copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion for $100. In this case, we choose to fulfill the order using Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM), and are classified as an individual seller.

Here, Amazon deducts $15 for the referral fee, $1.80 for the closing fee, and $0.99 for the individual per-item fee.

We use an old box and some packing peanuts to ship the book through USPS Media Mail, which costs us $3.86.

We bought the book for $10 at a yard sale, which also needs to be factored in. Once all the fees and shipping costs have been deducted, we're left with $76.07.

What books are you planning to list on Amazon for sale?

Now that you know how to sell books on Amazon, it’s time to get up to date about the latest e-commerce trends and resources. Check out our suite of products that make selling effortless and easy. Keep an eye on our blog and social media channels and sign up for our newsletter below.

About us

Threecolts acquires, launches, and grows e-commerce software with a robust suite of offerings such as SellerRunning, SmartRepricer, SellerBench, Tactical Arbitrage, Bindwise, RefundSniper, ChannelReply, and FeedbackWhiz.

Reach out to SellerBench for help with shipment reconciliation and FBA fee reimbursements; it's the most robust profit recovery platform for Amazon and Walmart. Because 99% of FBA sellers are owed money. Get your free audit today.

If you are more interested in the #1 Amazon Arbitrage software, try TacticalArbitrage. With over 6,000 users, TacticalArbitrage will help you discover profitable products to resell on Amazon.

SellerRunning is an entirely new way of selling on Amazon. Discover a global network of Amazon marketplaces for seamless listing, smart pricing strategies and increased profitability. Outdo the competition and win the Buy Box with prices that are automatically updated according to your rules.

Bindwise will help you to identify costly issues with your Amazon seller accounts. Receive instant Bindwise Alerts about everything related to your store on Amazon.

RefundSniper is an international Amazon reimbursement service that runs audits on both Vendor Central and Seller Central. Find out how much you are owed by Amazon today.

Try effortless, instant and automated repricing today with SmartRepricer. It's the world's #1 repricer to safely automate your Amazon pricing, win the Buy Box, and increase your sales.

If you're looking for a way to streamline multi-platform e-commerce support, ChannelReply has you covered. Cut your customer response time in half by having all your customer information in one hub.

FeedbackWhiz is an Amazon sellers management software that helps merchants scale their business by automating email campaigns, improving seller feedback, getting more product reviews, monitoring listings, and analyzing profit and accounting data.

Browse through and read our other blog posts that are data-driven insights with our very own proprietary data and learn more on Mother's Day trends and best practices, Easter sales, price elasticity of demand, Amazon FBA fee changes, Amazon product title optimization, winter seasonal products, Amazon end of year sales, Valentine’s Day trends and best Amazon fulfillment centers by location and throughput.

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