Couple things in this post:
- The interview.
- I filmed myself sourcing books for 8 hours & need input on what to do with the footage.
The $30,000 library book sale score interview
How this interview came about is pretty simple: In an unrelated email, Caleb (the interviewee) casually mentioned he made an expected net profit of over $30,000 – in two visits to one book sale.
I asked him if he’d give us a quick interview about it, he agreed, and here we are.
It’s an exceptional score, but not that exceptional.
It’s obvious Caleb is good at this (there is so much more to
What I mean is, the story is relatable. This kind of success is not terribly exceptional if you found a book sale with above-average quality, and below-average competition (or none at all). He beats my record for expected profits from a single sale, but I don’t see anything here that is too out of the ordinary (besides Caleb’s willingness to invest in poorly ranked books that he’ll probably sit on for a while before selling).
That should be encouraging for the rest of us. It’s a totally relatable score, and not too far outside the realm of what an
So here’s the short story of making an expected profit of $30,000 off two visits to a university book sale.
Give a little about your background with
Caleb: I’ve been selling on
You had $30,000 in expected net profits from a book sale and follow up sale shortly after. What was the sale?
Caleb: I was fortunate enough to find a university library sale in my hometown where I had free reign of the books. The sale wasn’t advertised locally, so it was primarily students looking for a book or two and a random adult who happened to stumble across the sale.
How did you find it?
Caleb: The college just happened to be my alma mater – I know the librarian and she told me the sale was coming up. I took the morning off of work just to be there.
Were there other sellers there?
Caleb: There was only one other scanner at the sale and he wasn’t able to stay for long. It was virtually competition free!
If you had to guess, how many books were there?
Caleb: 5,000 give or take a few hundred. In the past, this sale consisted of a single table full of books. The library is currently making room for study areas and is culling thousands of books, so this was their largest sale ever!
What types of books were there?
Caleb: 95% ex-library books. These were mostly culled books with a handful of donated items from the community.
What was your equipment setup (software & hardware)?
Caleb: I use an Opticon 2002 Bluetooth barcode scanner (available on
What was your buying formula?
Caleb: Books were $1 for softcovers and $2 for hardcovers, so I wanted to find books that were selling FBA for at least $8 (softcovers) or $10 (hardcovers). I only accept books with sales ranks under 2MM at those prices though. Once I get to 3MM, I want to see the lowest price at around $30, 4MM needs to be around $40, etc.
It was a week-long sale and all books were free on the last day. I couldn’t risk another seller finding the sale before Saturday rolled around though, so I was content to buy all the books I wanted on day one.
How long did you spend at that first sale?
Caleb: Around four hours. Two hours in the morning and then I came back after work in the evening for an additional two hours.
How many books did you end up buying that first day?
Caleb: I walked away with 304 books. Their sales rank when I listed them was a hair over 2MM – a bit higher than I would prefer, but these were mostly on niche topics with high dollar values. My average list price was around $35, which is quite a bit higher than my average list price of $22. If you do the math, 304 books x $35 =~$10,500 from a single source!
How much did you spend?
Caleb: $445 + $116.89 in shipping fees to send them to FBA = $561.89.
Did you track your profits? How long has it been since the sale, and what have your profits been?
Caleb: I’m a bit of a numbers nerd and have an unhealthy obsession with spreadsheets… which means I track lots of metrics. My books hit
How long did it take you to break even?
Caleb: My first book sold on January 17, and I broke even 7 days later on January 24 by selling 19 books for $757.13. After
We can look at percentage of books have sold?
Let’s look at sales each month:
after month #1: 18% had sold
after month #2: 27% total had sold
after month #3: 35% total had sold
after month #4: 39% total had sold
after month #5: 44% total had sold
after month #6: 48% total had sold
I expect that 60% of the books will eventually sell. I don’t use a repricer and I’m happy to have a few books sell over time. Every week it’s nice to have a small stream of residual income trickle in from that single sale.
You mentioned you also attended a follow up sale, where you did even better.
Caleb: This library is still in the middle of their massive purge. They held a slightly larger sale just three months after the first sale. I was able to purchase nearly 700 books at that sale for a total list price of just over $20k.
What do you think you did differently that other sellers wouldn’t have done? Why were you so successful?
Caleb: Most of this was being in the right place at the right time, and having just enough knowledge of books to be dangerous. That being said, I’m not afraid of books with higher sales ranks. The prevailing sentiment among book sellers is to avoid books with a rank over 1MM. This is absolutely absurd! They may not all sell within a month, but there are some amazing books out there with lower demand that may only sell 10 copies a year. I’m happy to pay the two cents a month in storage fees to wait for that next sale.
Any more lessons you can offer?
Caleb: Great books are out there. A single stellar source can add some significant upside to your business! I love hitting up hole-in-the-wall thrift shops, garage sales, and estate sales. That being said, nothing compares to the quality of books you can find at a university sale. This is a small college campus (around 1,200 students) but they have over 130,000 books in their collection. At least 90% of these books are non-fiction – much better than you will find at a public library sale. This is a recipe for major profit as a reseller!
On another note, I was able to get a spreadsheet of every book in this university library and run them through some software to find out their current selling prices on
Let’s do that. Thanks Caleb.
Looking for your input on something.
I had a friend follow me around book sourcing for 8 hours – with a video camera. It was one of those days where everything clicks, and the day ended with an expected net profit of over $1,000, and we got it all on video.
That’s the good news: We got about 6 hours of usable footage of me in nine different sources (including a dumpster). The actual mechanics of what I’m doing isn’t that valuable.
The cool part (hopefully you’ll agree) is that I narrate everything going on in my head while I’m doing it. I.e. why I pass on certain books, why I’m picking up others, and just about every “mindset” morsel I can spit at a camera.
The bad news is that…. It’s six hours.
I want to put this footage out there, but honestly I have no idea if anyone will watch something that long.
The alternative is to edit it down to a tidy 90 minutes. It’s more “entertaining” and digestable that way, but of course you lose out on 75% of the content.
So I’ll put this dilemma to you: If you don’t mind, take (literally) one second and cast your vote.
Update: I released the footage in full.Also, claim your free book: