Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Sell Used Books Online: Part I - What to Sell

This is part 1 of a multi-part series on selling used books online. Please watch each week for a new installment. Thanks!

Do you like books? Do you really, really, REALLY like books? Are you looking to make a little extra money from home? Then selling used books online might be for you!

I sold used books online a few years ago, when my last child was small. Now that she is older, there are more demands on my time, so I don't do it as often. But it was a good way to bring in some money and enjoy books at the same time.

In this series, I'll share my experience of how my business worked, what worked for me, and what did not. This is not a complete guide on selling books online, only what I personally know about. There are many resources on the Internet that can give you a more complete picture.

What to Sell

The most important thing I found was that the laws of supply and demand were incredibly important. If there is a small supply of books - either a smaller printing for a less-popular book where demand has increased, or soon after a blockbuster book was sold and there are very few used copies available - the higher the price. Once used copies of a book are plentiful, prices drop as low as they can go. The idea is to sell books that are in high demand and commanding higher prices. But how do you pick the right books to sell?

In my experience, these are the kinds of books that I sold:

Adult hardcover fiction - there is a great demand for hardcover fiction when books first come onto the market. People look online to get a better deal than they can get at the store or by buying new online. The demand drops and supply grows as the book has been on the market longer, as people who bought their books new want to sell them to get back a portion of the price. Once the book is printed in paperback, the demand evaporates.

Adult softcover fiction - I found that the best adult fiction sellers were books that were originally printed in softcover. In particular, I found that books read by book groups were very good sellers. These were often books that had smaller printings at first, so there are fewer used copies available online.

Adult trade paperback fiction - usually a poor seller. One exception I found were books that might be read by college students for literature classes. These sold very well at the beginning of school semesters, as students looked to get better deals than could be had at their school bookstores.

Adult nonfiction - this was a hit-or-miss category. Some books languished forever without being sold, others sold almost instantly at a good price. Some nonfiction becomes out-of-date, and thus worthless. Sometimes selling several books on the same subject in a book lot worked well.

Children's nonfiction - in general, these books did not sell well. One exceptions would be books recommended by homeschool programs. Homeschooling parents often look to the Internet to find books to supplement their curriculum.

Children's picture books - Individually, a poor seller. But in book lots by author or by age level, these often sold well.

Children's chapter books - these are the kinds of books I specialized in. I'll have an entire post just on this subject coming up in the future. Individual books do not sell well, unless they are rare books in a collectible series. For instance, there are 131 books in the Baby-Sitters Club series; the last several books in the series can be hard to find, and thus command a premium price. The earlier books are plentiful and won't be needed by a hard-core collector. Book lots sell very well, especially if they are sold by series or by grade level.

Part 2: How to Find Books

Check out Frugal Friday @ Life as MOM, Frugal Friday @ Stockpiling Mom, Tuesday's Tip Jar, Madame Deals, Money Saving Monday, and Tightwad Tuesday for more frugal tips!

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Canadagirl January 26, 2010 at 10:34 AM  

Thanks for all these good tips ! I have never sold anything online yet.


Rebecca January 26, 2010 at 11:07 AM  

I've never sold books online, but it sounds like a good idea. Thanks for the tips!


Paula January 27, 2010 at 6:32 PM  

I'm a homeschooling mom and have bought and sold books online through a homeschooling board. I've often wondered where the "dealers" got their books to sell and how profitable they were. I look forward to reading more! Putting you on my bloglines!

Sarah @ Mum In Bloom January 28, 2010 at 5:22 PM  

I currently use Paperback Swap but put my account on hold for a while as I need a break from running to the post office so much to mail the books people requested :( Really good tips above! Thanks for the great post.

Madame Deals January 29, 2010 at 9:58 PM  

Great post! I didn't realize there was a demand for certain books. I always sold my textbooks but never thought of selling our other books. Thanks for linking up to Making Dollars out of Change!

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