Yes, it is possible to get more for a book on eBay than you can on Amazon. Here’s the trick.
Video: The trick to selling books on eBay (for more than you can on Amazon)
Is there ever a reason to sell a book on eBay vs Amazon?
There are a couple of good arguments for selling books on eBay – either in addition to Amazon, or (sometimes) instead of selling on Amazon.
One reason you hear is lower fees. Another is to widen your pool of potential buyers.
One reason you don’t hear is that you can sell books on eBay for higher prices. It’s possible to get more for a book on eBay than Amazon, but its not the norm.
What I’m about to describe is a trick that allows you to do just that: Get more for a book on eBay than you can selling that same book on Amazon.
How? It’s called the “book bundling trick.” And it involves turning books that don’t have Amazon value into cash on eBay…
Why excess books are inevitable for booksellers
To understand how this works, you have to understand that one (or all) of these scenarios are inevitable for Amazon booksellers:
- Stranded / unfulfillable / unsellable inventory that gets returned to you from Amazon
- Accidental purchases (books that looked profitable when you bought them, but the story changes when you go to list them).
- Bulk purchases, where you’re discarding 99.5% of the books.
If you’re a small seller who is “single sourcing” (assessing the value of books individually, before buying), you’re going to be dealing with a lower amount of excess.
If you’re a seller doing bulk buying, the amount of excess books you deal with is going to be huge.
But all sellers deal with excess. And while there are many ways to turn that excess into cash, this one is my favorite…
The trick to get more for books on eBay than Amazon
The secret is to bundle your books by subject, genre, or author and list as a set.
eBay buyers will pay way more than Amazon buyers if you’ve gone to the work of grouping books by subject or author.
More detail in a minute, but the “book bundling trick” involves looking for patterns in subject matter or authors among your excess books, grouping them, and listing as sets (or “lots.”) This will allow you to get way more for your books on eBay than you otherwise could on Amazon.
Why will eBay buyers pay more for books grouped by subject?
Two reasons this trick works:
#1: The “curation premium”
Bundled books command a “curation premium.” (I’m not sure if I just invented a term here, but if it doesn’t exist, it should).
eBay customers are willing to pay more for books bundled by subject or author because you’ve done the hard work for them.
Imagine the effort required to assemble a set of books on snorkling in Hawaii. You’d have to flail around a bookstore or Amazon for hours to find even a handful of Hawaii snorkling books for a cheap price. (Ever notice how Amazon is increasingly burying older and cheaper books in the search results? Increasingly, older books are even “shadow banned,” and don’t show in search results at all.)
This would be a ridiculous amount of work. The time and labor you’re saving the eBay buyer is worth money.
And the buyers don’t need to care about every book in the lot. They don’t even need to ever have any intention of buying any of the books individually. They probably didn’t even know they wanted any of the books in your lot until they saw your listing.
There’s a huge difference between casually taking a chance and hitting a button to get a 20+ books on a subject (or by an author) they’re passionate about for an insane price, and deliberately hunting down 20 individual books. Totally different mindset.
They are paying extra for you to do the work of collecting the books and presenting them in a way and at a price they can’t resist.
#2: The math works out better for eBay buyers
You’re saving the eBay buyer a ton of money (while make more yourself).
Let’s say you list a bundle of 25 martial arts books. As a seller, you get $50 + shipping. Some eBay fees come out of that, but you’re still safely in the $1.50+ profit per book range.
Consider the math from the buyer’s perspective: S/he is getting 25 books for $2 each. These books would have cost at least $5 each on Amazon. And they’re on a subject they’re passionate about. With almost no effort required. You did all the work, and they reap the benefits.
Both the seller and the buyer come out ahead. Win-win.
How the eBay “book bundling” trick works
In three steps:
Step One: Start saving your books
Here’s what I want you to do: Save every excess book you have. It doesn’t matter if its the most worthless-looking romance novel you’ve ever seen. Save it.
For space reasons, this will be harder for larger bulk sellers than smaller sellers. But find a corner of a closet, your garage a tool shed, whatever – just start saving every book that has no value on Amazon.
Step Two: Start looking for subject or author patterns
As you gather “worthless” books, start looking for patterns in subject matter or authorship to emerge.
This will happen slowly for smaller sellers, and very quickly for larger ones. But wait until you have at least 10 copies of books on a very definable subject or a specific author.
20+ books is ideal, but a group of 10+ will work. There’s will be some dispute on the minimum amount for this to be effective. While you’ll see tons of “lots” on eBay with only two books, I don’t recommend this. I think you’re significantly reducing your profit (and increasing your work load) by listing books in such small quantities.
When reviewing your throwaway books, the question you’re asking is:
“Do I have at least 10 books on a specific subject or in a specific genre or by a specific author?”
You want to get as narrow as you possibly can. 20 mystery novels might work. 10 manuals on lock picking is 10x better.
How narrow can you get? The more niche the better.
There is a buyer for every micro niche subcategory. And the more niche, the more passionate the audience and the more money you’ll get for your eBay bundle. A collection of 25 books on 9-11 conspiracies will net you way more than a lot of 25 western romance novels.
Example: One time I bought out an entire library from a small church. Among a dozen other bundles, I was able to sell a set of Baptist cookbooks. What is baptist cuisine? I don’t know, but this set sold on eBay for way more than they would have on Amazon.
Recap so far:
- You need a set of books on a narrow subject or a single author.
- You need at least 10, ideally 20+ for best results. (list fewer at your own risk)
Step Three: List the sets for sale on eBay
List them as a “lot” on eBay.
This isn’t an “eBay 101” tutorial, but you know the deal: Clear photos showing the covers, subject matter clearly conveyed in the title, etc.
What are the advantages of bundling books for eBay?
This method gives you three advantages over selling on Amazon:
Advantage #1: Your books will sell faster on Ebay
Selling 20 books individually, that may or may not have strong demand on Amazon, could take months (or longer). You would need to make 20 individual sales on Amazon to get rid of those books on Amazon. On eBay, you only need to make one sale.
Advantage #2: You’ll get more profit per book on eBay
Why? 20 low-end books might net you 40 cents each on Amazon (or more likely, a negative number as an FBA seller). On eBay, there’s a good chance you’re netting $1.50+ per book. (And in some ways it’s an apples-oranges comparison, because you’re doing much less work to get the single eBay sale than you would to get the 20 Amazon sales.) eBay = less work, more money.
Advantage #3: Buyers on eBay don’t care about Amazon Sales Rank
When they’re buying your book collection, they are searching by keyword on eBay and getting a set based on the subject matter. The demand for the individual books is irrelevant, and has minimal impact on getting an eBay sale.
On Amazon, it’s a different story. Searching by subject on Amazon biases the search results to only the most high demand books. Buyers aren’t likely to ever see a book ranked 5 million unless they go many pages deep in the results.
On eBay, the demand for individual books is irrelevant.
The #1 mistake to avoid selling book lots on Ebay
If you group your books by too broad of a subject, expect your results to suffer.
Example: A set of 20 hardcover mystery novels may sell (or it may not). But you’re not going to get a good premium for a set like that. A mistake a lot of eBay sellers make is thinking they can cobble any books together on the broadest of subjects and still find a buyer. Its possible, but you won’t profit much.
I’m repeating myself, but you want to go as narrow and niche as possible.
This works for more than just books
Charging a “curation premium” on eBay works for anything – not just books.
Video games, DVDs, and just about anything with no value on Amazon can be bundled and sold for a profit on eBay.
And how you get more profit than if you sold those same books on Amazon.
I have an eBay account, but have never used it. Actually wouldn’t have the faintest idea right now how to do anything on eBay, lol. But, this appeals. Would it make sense to actually buy books/media for this purpose, as opposed to just doing it from the duds you accumulate? One appealing part is that no matter how much you niche down, the odds are still almost impossible that you would ever come up with the same exact items for a set that someone else has.
Peter Valley says
I this I would definitely be profitable in the technical sense (if you had an eye for categories people want) but I also think this would fall on the bad end of the effort/profit ratio.
I sell specialty books that a collector might want on eBay, including signed and inscribed copies.
Many foreign language books especially those in Spanish do better on eBay. Also, if I feel that a book might sell well outside the U.S. I might list on eBay.
Very often I find that the Amazon listing looks poor. It might not have a good listing picture and it won’t publish a better one if I try to upload it.
If the book title has multiple, duplicate or similar listings on Amazon, I might sell it on eBay so my book listing doesn’t get “lost.”
Sometimes a book might not precisely match the available Amazon listing. The publication year might be different or it might be a hardback and the listing only shows a soft cover version and this makes eBay a better option. An eBay buyer often just wants a book title and is less concerned about about buying a particular edition.
Peter Valley says
Great tips here. There’s definitely a type of book (as you describe) that I know I *should* sell on eBay, but in the end, if there’s profit either way, I always take the lazy route and go with Amazon.
“What is Baptist cuisine?” 😂
Peter Valley says
I still don’t know.
Another reason for selling a book (or anything else for that matter) on eBay vs. Amazon is when Amazon won’t allow you to sell it!
Peter Valley says
Absolutely correct. Great point.
Early-ish pandemic I accidentally discovered my eBay bookselling niche.
I picked up a lot of books from a couple moving out of town, a bunch by one author, a few others with solid barcodes.
I discovered the bundle trick, which I sort of knew, but was really emphasized when I realized I had a nearly complete set of Preston + Child, only the newest book scanned well, but the lot was a good hundred bucks on ebay.
The other was when I scanned Outlander and saw the amazon book cover was different.
That’s when I realized I had a first edition, and I sort of got hooked.
I have moved a lot of books with no bar codes that I would have never sold on amazon in the past that are rare/interesting/first edition, occasionally signed.
My next plan is to start an instagram and see if there’s something to be a rare/antique book influencer. Wish me luck!