A simple trick to sell books on eBay for more than you can on Amazon.
FBA booksellers and the “throwaway books” problem
If you do medium-to-high volume book sales on Amazon, it’s inevitable: You’re going to end up throwing away a lot of books.
Maybe you buy a lot of of 500 books on Craigslist and only 30 have value on Amazon. Or you buy a pallet of books at a thrift store auction, leaving you with hundreds of unwanted ones. Or, maybe someone is holding a garage sale and sells your their whole library for $100 and there’s only FBA value for 10% of it.
(All three of these have happened to me in the last year).
Some would donate unwanted books to a thrift store. Some would just recycle them.
Both are fine. But here’s a trick to sell books on eBay, that nearly all FBA booksellers overlook…
The one way to make money from books on eBay
Most booksellers believe you can rarely get more selling books on eBay than you can selling those same books on Amazon.
They’re mostly right. But there is a circumstance in which selling books on eBay will get you more than if you tried to sell the same books on Amazon.
It’s possible, if both conditions apply:
- You have a medium-to-large lot of books (20+)
- The books are on the same subject, or in the same category.
These two things are a recipe for eBay profit. Here’s where I’m going with this….
Ebay users will pay more for large book lots of a single subject
And they will often pay more than if you sold the books individually on Amazon.
But only if you take the time to group the books by subject, and if you list them as a single lot.
Do both of these, and here are the advantages you will receive selling on eBay over Amazon:
- You will find buyers more quickly on eBay than on Amazon, and-
- Ebay buyers will spend more per book than those on Amazon.
Here’s why this gets you more for books on eBay than Amazon
Essentially, eBay buyers are paying you for grouping the books for them. The extra amount you get paid per book is sort of a “curation fee.”
They will bid on your lot of books on UFOs, and bid high, because you have taken the work to aggregate the books and put them together into one tidy auction. All they have to do is click and in one week a giant box of books (on a subject they are passionate about) will arrive at their door.
Now, consider the opposite: If you pile together romance novels, Steven King thrillers, old biology textbooks, and children’s books into one chaotic mess of an auction, you’ll get almost nothing. Almost no eBay buyer wants a set of random books like that.
But a curated set of books on a niche subject? That’s a recipe for eBay book profits.
They could comb through Amazon and purchase each of those books for $4 each. Which is possibly less than they’re paying you on eBay. But its unlikely any of them have the time or interest to do this.
You did the work, and you’re being rewarded by eBay buyers by offering something Amazon can’t: A giant box of books on a subject they love.
What the eBay bidder doesn’t know or care about
The eBay buyer doesn’t care that this lot of 50 books on the JFK assassination are just your throwaways. They don’t care each one has an Amazon Sales Rank of worse than 2 million. They don’t even car that on Amazon they’re selling for $2 each. They’re not thinking about that.
They just want them all the books together in one tidy package. And they’re going to pay you extra for that.
How I organize my throwaways for maximum profits on eBay
First, if it’s a mainstream book that there are literally thousands of on Amazon and eBay, I get rid of it.
Ebay book lots are for very niche or very specific subjects only.
From there, I look through my throwaways for patterns to emerge: Did the person I bought 500 books from on Craigslist have a lot of titles on boating? I start to put the boat books in their own box.
Over several months, I start to see subject-specific lots form. And when I have enough titles (20+), they go up on eBay.
I’ve done this many many times and am almost always glad I took the time to organize my throwaways by subject.
Just remember the crucial factors:
- Sell books in lots (20+).
- Group books by narrow subject matter.
That’s the secret to selling books on eBay – and getting more than if you sold them on Amazon.
Hi Peter. first off, thanks for posting your experiences and great tips. when selling in lots, on ebay, have you experimented between auction and buy it now and at what price point have you found best to start at ( listing in either category )?
Peter Valley says
Good question. Generally when I eBay my leftovers, I just want them out the door. So I’ll choose the auction format and let “the market” decide what they’re worth. I’ll start my auctions at a penny to let bidding-momentum build. Because anything I put on eBay is essentially worthless to me, anything I get I consider to be gravy and I’m happy to just get it out the door to someone who will appreciate them more than the recycling center.
Hi Peter. I’m new to FBA bookselling and am curious about how you handle ‘leftovers’ in general. You mention a 500 book lot, where 10% are FBA worthy…let’s pretend you paid $100 for the lot:
How do you calculate your cost of goods sold? Do you say you paid $2/book for the 50 sellable? Or do you say they are $.2/book for all?
What do you do with the leftovers that can’t be bundled? Do you donate them? If so, do you keep the receipt and take th etax writeoff?
Sorry to bombard you with questions – it is difficult to find out how others are handling these details…
Peter Valley says
I don’t get concerned with calculating cost of goods or many other metrics. I just keep my margins high and the rest takes care of itself.
As for leftovers, I’ll list them as a lot on Craigslist and price them to move.
Thank you for this advice. I enjoy reading your posts and benefiting from your insights. When you post your eBay auctions, do you list what individual titles are in the lot? Or perhaps include photos showing the titles? Or do you just let the buyer enjoy the surprise?
Peter Valley says
I take good photos that show many of the book titles, but don’t list individually.
Larry Sparks says
Just want to let you know that I am excited to be using Zen Arbitrage! First shipment to Prime goes out tomorrow cost less than $400, Prime listing prices at almost $1700….all textbooks…Have another inbound pile coming this week w/about the same cost/sale ratio.
I plan some single subject searches next, e.g, self improvement, Catholicism, sports biographies, etc….
I think this will be a real money maker. Beats the heck out of chasing garage sales all Summer, but I will probably do that, too!
Thanks for all!
Question for you. I have not sold on eBay, but I have had an account for several years. If I sold a Lot of books on eBay wouldn’t the weight (say 40 pounds) eat up any profits? How do you account for the weight of the books so it wouldn’t affect profits. With Amazon we utilize FBA for heavy/large items and we use Merchant Fulfillment for our lighter weight products.