Every trick I used to profit over $1,000 from the worst library book sale in the world, and how to find books to resell in even the least favorable sources.
The worst library book sale I’ve ever attended
It was an Amazon bookseller nightmare.
Here’s all the ways that would make a library book sale “bad”:
- Book prices over $1 (less room for profit)
- All fiction books (the least profitable book category)
- Advertised on BookSaleFinder.com (every Amazon bookseller within two states will be there)
- At a library that holds frequent sales (this sale was held every month = same books sale after sale = heavily picked over).
This sale was all four.
You really couldn’t have created worse circumstances for an Amazon seller to find books to resell.
I didn’t know any of these things before I went to the sale, or I wouldn’t have gone. But every week I do a Google search that goes like this:
“book sale + (any county within an hour) + library.”
And the sale popped up, unexpectedly. And I had already planned on heading up that direction to do some other book sourcing, so I added the library book sale to my list.
How bad was this book sale? Entering FBA seller hell
Upon walking in, all four of those aforementioned sale-killer factors became apparent within seconds.
- It was clearly an all-fiction sale.
- All books were $2 and up.
- There were two other scanners tearing through the books.
- And a sign on the door indicated the sale happened every month (and there was no way they were filling up a room that size every month, so most of the books were leftovers from previous sales.)
There was one sign told a more promising story: The following day was their “bag sale”: all the books you could fit in a bag, for $5.
Giving a quick look before abandoning this sale
Apparently the bag sale is not done monthly, and was more of rare event. So while I was planning on leaving without even giving the sale a look, for this reason I decided to give the sale a quick survey. My mission was to determine if returning the next day for the bag sale was worth my time.
A couple things offered a hint of promise…
The weird world of reselling poetry books
One, even though the books were all fiction, they were categorized by sub-genre. This was very good, because there are sub-genres of fiction that can be profitable, if you don’t have to wade through all the Grisham books to find them.
Two, one of the book tables was a rather large poetry section. Poetry books are a strange category. Of all the fiction sub-categories, they hold their value the most. A vastly disproportionate number of poetry books have value in the $10+ range, which is rare for fiction.
On the flip side, you will rarely find a poetry book with an Amazon Sales Rank better than 1 million. Even better than 2 million is pushing it.
Three, another section was all “classics.” This is another category that holds a lot of profit. Especially when you get into literature anthologies for college students, Norton “Critical Editions,” and so on. There were multiple tables of these “classics.”
This key detail – of all books being sorted by genre – made me feel this book sale would be worth a return trip the next day.
I scanned a few books and confirmed that I would happy to pay a few pennies for many of these books.
A bad library book sale gets worse
The next day I was at the book sale 10 minutes before opening.Doors opened, and everyone flooded in.
I quickly realized his library was more heartless than I thought, and didn’t cut any breaks. In addition to the world’s worst regular library book sale, it was also the world’s worst bag sale.
There are only two ways for a library to ruin a bag sale:
- High price-per-bag.
- Making you use their (small) bags.
This one did both.
The price per bag was $5. This isn’t an uncommon price, but it’s just about the high-end of any price you’ll ever at a library book bag sale. And as far as bags, at the door they gave you those super-small plastic grocery bags. Like I said, they just weren’t cutting anyone any breaks.
Aaaaaand it just got worse: There were even more Amazon booksellers there than the day before.
But I had a plan to subvert all of them.
My three-part strategy to profit from the world’s worst book sale
I grabbed a huge stack of bags and went straight for the poetry section. Then I did a move many would consider unsporting, but I stand by it: I shoveled every single poetry book into my bags. There were no survivors. I took every book.
Poetry books are generally in the 80 to 130 pages range, so I was fitting 30 or so books per bag. That comes to about 17-cents per book. I didn’t care about scanning anything at this price, especially in a high-value category. I just wanted to beat the other sellers. I filled eight bags and stashed my bags in a side room.
Then I went for the “classics.” With these, I wanted to use my scanner but still move fast. After years of doing this, I have that trained eye that allows me to size up the books at a glance and tell me which ones were worth closer inspection.
The other people there trying to find books to resell didn’t seem to share my analysis of the situation. All of them were over in the “General fiction” section. So I had the classics to myself. I scanned all three tables quickly, and filled six bags.
As I always say: 99% of your competition has no idea what they’re doing.
Then I did a rather quick survey of the other sections, and filled another bag. That brought the total to 15 bags.
And with that, I was out.
I spent that night scanning and listing, and these were my totals….
Totals from the world’s worst library book sale
- 15 bags.
- $75 spent.
- 191 books with Amazon value.
- 140 books discarded.
- Total Amazon listing price: $2,131
- Expected profit (eventually): $1,276
- Average Amazon sales rank: 1,962,733
I feel like I need to justify this average rank. As I’ve covered in other writing about Amazon Sales Rank, even a rank of 1 million isn’t that bad. It’s not good either. 2 million is much worse. But consider that the majority of the books I bought, I didn’t even scan first. Then consider that I paid under 25 cents per book on average. And, most of these were poetry books which (again) rarely have an Amazon Sales Rank better than 2 million, but are valued high.
If your Amazon IPI score and inventory limits are a concern, this approach may not appeal to you. For me, I can keep my score high while still having a percentage of my inventory being “long tail” (having a poorer Amazon sales rank).
I also bought quite a few of “the classics” that were ranked well, and pulled the average down a little.
Under normal conditions, when I’m trying to find books to resell, most of these were not books I would have introduced into my Amazon inventory. But at pennies per book, I’ll take them.
Takeaway lesson from the world’s worst library book sale
There is one point worth highlighting: Despite operating under the worst imaginable conditions, sometime before I die I can expect to profit roughly $1,200 from this book sale.
Pretty good for “the world’s worst library book sale.”
Do you stick with media or do you sometime dabble in toys, grocery, etc. I bought your recent ebook and the Amazon Auto pilot and I agree with your POV on the long tail approach, but I also mixe my product line with non media goods that will bring near term cash flow. Luckily where I live I have a few wholesalers and hesitant to deal with groceries since I feel the money is by creating the 2,3,4 packs of the same product or a special bundle. And it takes time to put those together.
Any insight would be great. Love your website.
I sometimes will buy toys if the margin are good enough and I can buy multiples to increase my profits.
Thanks for sharing your story. It is very helpful as always.
Christina Parker Brown says
I love your stuff! Well written and tons of tidbits through out your article. Well written and encouraging.
Murat Kucukdugenci says
Good story, good read and good tactics!