A lesson in books with bad Amazon sales rank, and how to “see” hidden value in books no other Amazon bookseller would touch.
Finding a stack of books with terrible, bad Amazon sales ranks
I took a road trip to Iowa recently. On the return trip I made a few stops to source FBA inventory. One library I stopped at had an ongoing book sale, where I found a collection of books that presented an interesting test for any Amazon seller.
The test was this: Is there a way to look at a book with a bad Amazon Sales Rank and tell that it will sell?
To put another way: Is there a difference between books with a bad Amazon Sales Rank that you should not buy to resell, and books with a bad Amazon Sales Rank that you should buy?
The books in question were a series of spiral-bound titles on homeschooling your child. On the surface, this seemed like a no-brainer for any Amazon seller: Stay away. No reasonable Amazon bookseller should touch these books.
The three reasons no Amazon seller would touch these books
- Four of them had an Amazon Sales Rank of zero, aka no Amazon Sales Rank. Meaning they had never sold a single copy on Amazon. Ever. You can’t get lower Amazon Sales Rank than zero.
- The other six books had Amazon Sales Ranks between 6 million and 8 million. Meaning, these hadn’t sold in a loooong time. Years. 8 million isn’t as bad as it gets, but close.
- These books were $6 each. That’s much higher than most sellers are used to paying for individual books, myself included.
In the eyes of almost every Amazon seller, these were horrible, worthless books. With bad, bad bad Amazon Sales Ranks.
What did I do?
I bought all ten books
Am I insane? Probably. But there is a method to my madness. Here’s why I knew these books would sell, and sell at a profit…
Three reasons I knew the bad Amazon Sales Rank didn’t tell the whole story
Reason #1: Every book was published four years ago. These books weren’t exactly new, but they weren’t old. Being published recently is not in and of itself an indicator that a book will sell on Amazon, but in this case it was the most important factor in my decision.
Reason #2: The books emanated “quality.” Experienced Amazon booksellers know what I’m talking about. At a glance, you can tell if a book is a low-quality hack job, or something that offers real value and high-quality content. These were the latter.
Reason #3: None of the books had any current offers on Amazon. Every Amazon product page stated “This item is not available at this time.”
Together, these three factors indicated to me the bad Amazon Sales Rank didn’t tell the whole story. In fact, it told the wrong story.
I suspected pent-up demand (not no demand)
Based on all the information, my theory was that there was a pent-up demand on Amazon for these titles. Put another way, there were people who wanted to buy these books, but couldn’t because there were none listed. It was a risky theory, but not that risky. Just sixty-dollars-risky.
I put down the $60 and bought all ten books.
Testing my theory
I listed them on Amazon for $49.99 each.
Generally, I would list any book for which I was the only seller at $99.99, then sit back and wait for a buyer. In this case, I had some money tied up in them so I wanted a quicker return on my investment. And the bad Amazon Sales Rank’s were so bad, I felt $99.99 was just slightly too bold.
The results (Spoiler alert: I was vindicated)
All ten books sold on Amazon within a month. One buyer bought five in one purchase, and the rest sold almost as quickly. That’s about $400 profit on books with a bad Amazon Sales Rank that most other sellers would tell you “will never sell.”
It feels good to be right.