How to Make Money Selling Books Online

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Online bookstores make selling used books easy.
Online bookstores make selling used books easy. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Selling used books online is not difficult, but making money off those transactions takes some strategy. The problem with online book sales is that availability drives the market. Often times, widely available titles such as paperback novels are sold for mere pennies, as sellers know that consumers tend to buy at the lowest price. The more profitable avenue for used books consists of hardcover titles, especially collector's editions and textbooks.

Collect any books that you are interested in selling online. If you are interested in selling more than just the books you currently own, check garage sales for additional inventory. Hardcover and rare books make the most money. Complete sets, especially older sets such as 1960s science fiction novels, often attract the highest sales prices.

Make an inventory of every book you intend to sell online. Create a spreadsheet with the book title, author and ISBN. ISBNs are particularly important with textbooks, as they provide an easy way to differentiate between other similar editions. Your spreadsheet should also include a column for list price, shipping cost and the website where you intend to sell each book.

Research multiple online bookstores to determine where you want to sell your books, but also to learn the prices your books are going for on various sites. If a particular website has several copies of your book, list your copy on a different website with fewer copies available.

Determine your strategy for selling books. Selling all of your books on a single website allows you to accrue seller feedback and gain a reputation for the quality of your transactions. If you are serious about selling books for money and intend to continue selling books, you may want to create your own website. Developing your own website takes time, money and expertise, so you should plan considerably before taking that step.

Look for any promotions or seller assistance that a particular online bookstore might offer. For example, some online bookstores offer to contribute to shipping and handling. Other stores require a certain percentage of the sales price for each transaction. Consider all options and weight the different expenses or benefits associated with each. If you are unsure, diversifying your inventory may make sense in the short-term, until you have a better idea of what features you need and which websites can provide them.

Prepare to ship your books before they sell. Doing this step ahead of time allows you to make an accurate estimate on shipping and handling fees and prepares your books for quick shipment after they sell. If selling large quantities of books, save money by purchasing shipping materials in bulk.

Review shipping addresses before finalizing orders. Shipping mistakes can derail your reputation as a book seller and may hurt your ability to secure future transactions. With book sales, customers expect that the condition of the book is as described on the website, that shipping occurs quickly and some care is shown in the shipping process. When shipping a collector's edition book or a hardcover, additional steps should be taken to prevent damage while in transit.

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