Monday, February 22, 2010

Selling Used Books Online: Part 4 - Book Lots

This is part 4 of a multi-part series on selling used books online. It is based on my personal experience and is not a complete guide.  Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the series. Please watch each week for a new installment. Thanks!

So now you've collected a large number of books to sell online.  You've identified which ones might sell well on,, and  But what of the others, which according to your research won't sell as single books?  How can you make a profit on them?

Well, some books might just not sell, no matter what.  But others might sell if you package several of them as a book lot on eBay.

Which books are good for lots?  Since you'll be shipping a large package, I find it best to sell only paperback books, or at least as many as possible, to keep the weight down and thus the cost of shipping the books (and keep your back from hurting as much!).  When deciding how much they want to pay for a book lot, buyers will keep shipping costs in mind, so you'll want to keep that as low as possible.

To sell books in lots, you'll need strong boxes to hold the books.  The most frugal way to do this would be to reuse boxes you already have.  If you do this, you'll want to cover or black out any corporate logos and remove any postal stickers from the box.  However, I don't recommend this, as I don't think it is very professional, and you run more of a risk of a box breaking.

So you may want to find new boxes, but how to do this frugally?  You can look for coupons and sales at office supply stores, or join the store's membership plan.  Better yet, check around to see if there is a box manufacturer in your area where you can buy them at wholesale prices.

You'll want to ship the book boxes via the U.S. Postal Service's Media Mail service.  This is far, far cheaper than priority mail or parcel post.  For instance, for a 5-pound package, according to the USPS calculator, priority mail would be $13.50, parcel post would be $10.94, and media mail would be a low $3.94.  The only downside is that Media Mail must be processed by a clerk; you cannot use the automated machines at the post office.

Now, for the books themselves.  First, most likely larger lots will sell better than smaller lots.  Larger lots have more of a chance of having the particular book or books that a buyer might want.  Also, shipping will be a much lower percentage of the sale price, so it will seem like more of a bargain.

You'll probably want to group your books on a common theme.  It is possible just to sell random books grouped together, but I think it will be easier to find buyers interested in your books if you find a theme that buyers are searching for.

You can group books by author, for instance.  This might work well if the books are part of a collector's series.  For instance, someone might want to own all the alphabet mystery books by Sue Grafton.  Maybe you don't have all the books in your lot, but if it's affordable enough, a buyer may get your lot, then purchase the missing ones individually.

You can group books by subject.  A single, older printing of a vegetarian cookbook might not sell individually.  But collect ten such cookbooks and sell as a lot, and you might find people wanting to create an instant library of vegetarian cookbooks.

One thing that has worked for me well is to find reading lists recommended by experts of various fields and collect books from those lists.  For instance, financial guru Dave Ramsey has a list of books (his and others) that he recommends.  I've collected some of the older books on his list and offered it for sale as a lot. 

Part 5: Children's Book Lots

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

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Tina February 23, 2010 at 10:01 AM  

Very timely post as I am sitting here with stacks of books...trying to figure out what to keep what to sell and how to do it all! Thank you for taking the time to detail it out.

IllinoisLori aka Serenity in the Suburbs February 23, 2010 at 4:29 PM  

Very good series, thank you so much!

PS: My TWT is posted over at

Coupon Teacher February 25, 2010 at 3:30 PM  

Media Mail is a must! I didn't know about it for a long time, but it saves a ton of money!

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