Before Amazon sold Instapots and garlic presses, it started as an online bookstore. Decades later, there are still people making serious bucks selling books on the platform. Here’s how to do it, whether or not you want to sell used books on Amazon or new books on Amazon.
Related Reading: How to Publish Your Own Book on Amazon
What Types of Books Can You Sell on Amazon?
You can sell almost any type of book on Amazon, whether it’s paperback, hardcover, ebooks, comics, or collectibles. You can sell books by other authors, or you can also write your own and self-publish through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). In this article, we’ll focus on the former.
However, there are books that you can’t sell on Amazon, and if the system detects these books, they may be restricted in one sweep. These include
- Books with illegal or infringing content. Amazon doesn’t allow companion books based on copyrighted works to be published outside the US without written permission from the copyright holder. These include study guides and summaries.
- Books with offensive content. While the actual book itself is not harmful, there are ideas that are. Books that contain pornography or promote terrorism, for example, are prohibited.
- Books in unacceptable condition. Amazon doesn’t allow certain books like advanced reader copies (ARCs), those that have missing pages, and those with unreadable text.
As for the book condition, Amazon does allow used books to be sold, even those that have markings. Here’s a summary of the kinds of conditions you can sell books in:
|New||With cover and original protective wrapping. Does not include books with labels such as “Bargain.”|
|Used – Like New||Have minor cosmetic defects but without notes or highlights. The dust cover, if there is any, should be intact. May have remainder marks.|
|Used – Very Good||Have minor cosmetic defects. Dust cover and set cases may be missing. May have remainder marks.|
|Used – Good||Pages may include limited notes and highlighting, but all pages and the cover should be intact. May include “From the library of” labels. Shrink wrap, dust covers, or the boxed set case may be missing.|
|Used – Acceptable||All pages and the cover are intact, but shrink wrap, dust covers, or boxed set case may be missing. Pages may include limited notes, highlighting, or minor water damage but the text is readable.|
If you’re planning to sell used books, check out our guide for selling used items on Amazon.
You can also sell collectible books, i.e., those that have features that make them more valuable to collectors, such as when it is signed by the author. But take note that collectibles don’t follow the conditions of ordinary books. The table below summarizes their acceptable conditions:
|Collectible – Like New||All pages and the cover are intact. The dust jacket is intact, if applicable, with no noticeable or very minor nicks or flaws. Spine has no signs of creasing. Book may have very small but virtually unnoticeable flaws.|
|Collectible – Very Good||Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. Spine shows no sign of creasing. Dust jacket, if applicable, shows signs of some rubbing or chipping.|
|Collectible – Good||All pages and the cover are intact, including the dust jacket, if applicable. Spine may show signs of wear. Generally, books in Good condition are not considered to be collectible grade.|
|Collectible – Acceptable||A readable copy showing significant wear. Dust jacket may be missing. For all but the rarest items, books in Acceptable condition are not considered to be collectible grade.|
How Much Can You Earn from Selling Books on Amazon?
As with any business, how much you earn depends on how much you actually sell. And when you choose to sell using FBA, how fast you sell your product also matters (those storage fees add up quickly).
There are people who make only a few bucks every now and then, especially when they’re just decluttering or working on the business during their spare time. Others, however, take the business seriously. For example, raikenprofit_official made $8,000 a month selling books on Amazon.
@raikenprofit_official This is how I make $8000 a month selling used books on Amazon part time #sidehustle #workfromhome #makemoneyonline #amazon #garyvee #ecommerce #books ♬ original sound – Raiken Profit
On the other hand, those who sell their own books through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) can earn either 35% or 70% in royalty, depending on whether or not they meet the requisites for the higher royalty rate. Some authors earn as much as $10,000 a month. This author gives a breakdown of his earnings from self-publishing, making around $2,000 each month.
Where to Find Books to Sell on Amazon
Finding items to sell takes up a huge chunk of time of booksellers on Amazon. It usually involves a lot of legwork and a little bit of luck to find profitable books. Here are some of the places you can check out:
Your own house. Let’s start with the obvious. If you want to get rid of those things that no longer spark joy, try listing your books on Amazon. This is also a great way to ease into the business.
Thrift stores and garage sales. There are gems hidden among those piles. You just have to figure out which books are going to take in enough profit to make the trip worthwhile. To do that, you’ll need an Amazon scanning app to determine immediately how much you can possibly profit from these books.
Liquidation pallets. You can buy or bid on boxes of books. Luck plays an important role in this, however, because you won’t be able to pick which books you will get.
Clearance sales. You can go to your local bookstores and find great deals there. Profit from the discounts using arbitrage.
Facebook Marketplace. One of the first places people list their books in when they’re decluttering is Facebook. There’s also a good chance you’ll get a great deal since people mainly just want to get rid of their books.
Write your own book. Just because you aren’t represented by Penguin or HarperCollins doesn’t mean you can’t be a published author. You don’t even have to come up with a full-length novel to start selling. You can write short children’s books, for example, and publish them through Kindle Direct Publishing.
We actually have a book published through KDP, which you can check out if you want to go beyond casual selling on Amazon.
Donations. You can contact family and friends who may want to donate their books. You’ll be helping someone declutter while earning in the process.
How to List Books on Amazon
Once you have your books ready, it’s time to list them on Amazon. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Create an Amazon seller account.
Apply to become a seller on Amazon. Don’t worry. You don’t need to have a company in order to start listing products.
Step 2: Decide between FBA and FBM.
How do you want to fulfill your orders? If you choose Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM), you’ll be the one to process orders, either in-house or together with third-party logistics (3PL). On the other hand, with FBA, you are automatically Prime eligible, and Amazon will handle all your shipment. However, there are other fees involved. Use our FBA calculator to find out how much you can expect to pay.
Step 3: Decide between a Professional and Individual account.
The rule here is simple. If you’re planning to sell more than 40 units per month, go for the Professional account (pay $39.99 per month). If it’s less than that, go for the Individual account (pay $0.99 per unit sold).
Step 4: List your books.
Now that you have a seller account set up, it’s time to add your books. If you’re not familiar with how Amazon listings work, take note that you can’t create multiple listings for one product. For example, if someone is already selling Essentialism by Greg McKeown, you can’t make another listing. All you can do is to add your product to that existing listing.
Go to Seller Central → Inventory → Add a Product. It will take you to this page:
You can then enter the book’s title, ISBN, or ASIN on the search box. You can find the ISBN at the back of the book. But take note that the ISBN was devised in 1967, so if you’re selling books printed before that year, they may not have it.
The ASIN, on the other hand, can be found in the listing’s URL and under Product Details.
After finding the right listing, click on “Sell this product” and fill out the details, including the book’s condition and your price.
Step 5. Create your shipping plan.
If you’re using FBA, you need to tape over the original barcodes so Amazon will know which book belongs to which seller. So you need to print FNSKU labels and cover the original barcodes with them. Refer to our article on creating a shipping plan for this step.
Fees Involved in Selling Books on Amazon
Aside from the cost of the book itself and your FBA or 3PL fees, Amazon also collects other fees from sellers:
- Monthly seller fee (for Professional) and per unit fee (for Individual)
- Referral fee (15%)
- Closing fee ($1.80 per item)
So make sure that whatever app you’re using to determine the profitability of your books will consider these fees.
Best Practices for Selling Books on Amazon
Seek out niche books. Books that are hard to find sell well. There are tools like Jungle Scout that have features to help you determine which books will likely sell.
Avoid disappointing customers. To keep selling on Amazon, you need to meet its standards when it comes to customer service. So reply promptly to any questions and make sure you’re honest about the book’s condition. A good practice is to indicate a condition that is one tier lower than what it actually is.
Check the book’s BSR. A good way of knowing how fast a book will sell is by its Best Sellers Rank (BSR). The lower the number, the more chances it’s going to sell faster. You can find the BSR under the Product details.
Jeff Bezos started with books when he built Amazon because according to him, “there are more items in the book category than there are items in any other category by far.” So you have a lot of options, and on top of that, books tend to have a huge profit margin (especially when you’re getting them for free from family and friends).
Selling books on Amazon requires a lot of legwork and patience. You might spend days combing through thrift store shelves, but this business can be very lucrative.