Here's a common problem people encounter when starting an online bookselling business to sell used books on Amazon. A new bookseller starts off strong making lots of sales during the busy holiday season, averaging about $ 100 a week in sales, then finds the sales taper off to only about $ 25 a week a few months later.

Yes, holiday shopping drives book sales as gifts, and people are a little more flush with cash and they treat themselves by buying used books. Once the holidays are over and the credit card bills start arriving, however, the spending spree slows down.

It's worth noting that Amazon is not the place to sell books that are selling cheaply online if you are trying to deal with slowing sales. You won't make enough margin to stay in business if you do.

One way to know if the book you are planning on buying is worth the cost in cash, time, money and effort is simple: Search for the book you have in question using Amazon's own search engine.

If the results bring back page after page of books priced at 1 penny, better to not buy the book, place it back on the shelf, and look for another one.

If you already own the book, then go ahead sell it at your annual summer yard sale for 25 cents, or donate it to a local thrift store and get a tax deduction. Use that extra money to buy better books. Yes, it may be hard to let go of your treasures, but culling out dogs and adding in some new, fresh inventory is the best way to keep your book sales clipping along and staying profitable.

Selling used books on Amazon will always be a learning game. Finding and listing quality used books that can make you money will always be more important than having thousands of books listed for sale online.

Initial Sales Not Whole Story

When you start out, remember that your more desirable books will sell quickly. Perhaps you price them too cheaply by trying to be the low-price-leader. Or maybe you just get lucky and the right person is shopping for your book at that time.

I once sold a mass market paperback book on UFOs from the 1970s, and was shocked at what a huge profit I made on it. Hoping lightning would strike twice, I later found and purchased a couple more copies of the same titles for 25 cents each, and they have waited patiently in my inventory for the better part of a year, awaiting a new home. Their wait continues. But having only 50 cents tied up in these two books won't break the bank. If I'd overpaid for them, then I would probably be trying to sell them off for what I paid and be done with them.

I've learned that buying your inventory stock in bulk is usually the quickest way to get your bookshelves loaded down with cheap, unsellable books – unless you carefully cull through what you buy right after you buy it.

I've bought a truckload of used books at estate auctions, and when I've gotten home to sort through them, I've often tossed away 20-25 percent of them. Although even experienced booksellers have ways to sell off their cheap books rather than send them to the recycling center like I have, they almost always will confide with you that you'll need to avoid tying up your cash in slow-moving books whenever you can .

You can scroll through your inventory in your Amazon Marketplace Seller Account, and re-price slow-moving books, maybe dropping your pricing 10 cents under the low price leader. This might be a good option if you purchased the book for 50 cents and it's selling in the $ 10- $ 15 price range.

Beware that your competitor likely will do the same, and you'll get into a price bidding war that will drive the profits for both of you down even further. Sometimes, my experience has been to go ahead and list the book for what I need to make a decent profit and let it ride.

Weed Out Low-Profit Inventory

But if a similar book as yours is selling for $ 1 or less – or worse, 1 penny plus shipping and handling fees (which won help you make any money, it will barely cover your postage and packaging supplies) – consider the best way to rid yourself of the book.

See, it doesn't often happen that printed books selling for next to nothing can be sold at $ 5 – the lowest selling price you'll want to aim for if you want to stay in business – unless you are a glutton for punishment and don 't mind using up your free time for very low return on investment.

It is a much better use of your limited time and resources to just resell those books at a yard sale instead of listing it on Amazon.

It seems obvious that Amazon Marketplace 'penny prices' are a symptom of too many books chasing too few buyers, as some titles generate far more listings of books than the shopper demand calls for. Prices spiral downward.

There seems no way around it. Buy in bulk and you will have to weed through a pile of 1-cent books. But you can decide not to waste your time listing them. Hopefully, you'll find enough gems in the bulk lot which will pay for the entire purchase, and you can get rid of the rest.

When you do "get stuck" with non-sellers, don't waste time listing the item with wishful thinking that someone will scroll down 3-4 pages into the used book section to buy yours. Instead, consider these options:

  • Keep it if the topic interests you enough to read the book.
  • Donate it to your local library.
  • Give it to a friend who likes to read about that topic.
  • Have a "Bag Sale" at your next garage sale – $ 2 a bag will excite lots of people attending your sale and you'll get rid of a lot of books fast.
  • Bundle up your 'dogs' and donate them to your local thrift store, and ask for a tax deduction receipt for your taxes.

Solving the all-too-common problem of what to do with cheap, unprofitable books you wind up with when you are just starting your online bookselling business selling used books on amazon will put you miles ahead of your competition who will jump in, flounder, and fade away when they get frustrated with slowing sales. Don't follow their path. Make a decision to list only quality, high-profit books, and enjoy making money selling in the Amazon Marketplace.


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