Textbook season is the biggest time of year for Amazon FBA booksellers. This article contains everything you need to know about how to get the most profit during the textbook sales rush.
Video: Top 6 Textbook Season Tricks
Textbook season: Twice-annual Christmas for Amazon booksellers
There’s two times a year when textbook sales spike, in August and January. And we call that “textbook season.”
This article will be a complete resource on how to prepare (and profit) before and during textbook season.
Want to learn (almost) everything there is to know about textbooks? Let’s get you there in three parts:
Part I: A recap of what to expect for textbook season.
Part II: Recap of the best articles I’ve written about textbooks and textbook season
Part III: Top 6 most important or least-known ways to profit during textbook season
Let’s get into it…
Part One: Part I: A recap of what to expect for textbook season
As of today, you should already be seeing a spike in sales among two types of inventory:
- Scholarly non-fiction.
(The second one is very overlooked, but very key as I’ll soon explain)
Textbooks sell year-round
To contradict popular belief, textbook season is not “the two times of year when textbooks sell.” Not even close.
Textbook season is the two times per year (In August and January) when textbook sales go up. Big difference.
There is the occasional textbook that has little-to-no demand outside of textbook season. These books do exist. But they are rare. Most textbooks are in fact selling year-round, and you don’t need to take my word for it. Pick any book published at least a few years ago and look at it’s Keepa sales chart. Nearly all of the time, you will see a spike where a book’s demand increases 3x to 5x, yet retains a respectable (and often high) demand the rest of the year.
There is too much variety in higher education for there to be textbooks that only have demand twice a year. Huge myth.
The #1 Rule Of Textbooks
For FBA sellers, this is the #1 thing to understand about textbooks:
Textbooks follow totally different pricing rules than other book categories.
There is seemingly no limit to how much Amazon customers will pay for Fulfilled by Amazon textbooks.
For maximum profits, you must price (and reprice) your textbooks totally differently than other book categories.
Biggest days for textbook sales: Fall semester
Generally the biggest week for textbook sales for fall semester is the third full week in August.
The biggest day for textbook sales tends to be the first Monday of the third full week in August.
Biggest days for textbook sales: Spring semester
Textbook sales see their biggest jump on January 1st (that one is easy to remember).
Sales will pick up after Christmas, but take their biggest leap on January first.
Sales continue to be abnormally high through the 3rd week of the month.
So now you know the basics. But the money is in the details. So let’s get into those…
The most important articles I’ve written about textbooks and textbook season
Rather than rewrite all the material I’ve covered to date, let’s give you a lightning-round of my most crucial material on textbooks and textbook season:
- “Complete Guide To Textbooks For FBA Sellers” (article): This is my magnum opus on textbooks.
- “How To Spot Textbooks In Disguise” (article): This is what I call the “hidden iceberg of textbook profits.” Most textbooks don’t look like textbooks. This will tell you how to spot them.
- “Top 4 Myths About Textbooks” (article): What most sellers get wrong about textbooks.
- “Everything Amazon Sellers Need To Know About Textbook Season” (article): Similar to the the first article, with my textbook pricing formula, and more.
Those are my top resources to get you quick momentum.
6 Textbook Profit-Moves
Let’s get into some old and new tricks and fundamentals to make you the most money from textbooks. These six are a combination of two categories of tactics:
- Under-discussed and little-known tricks.
- Fundamental moves that are extremely important.
Textbook Profit Move #1: Listing On “Access Card Bundle” Pages
This will sometimes get 50% (or more) from your textbooks. You may be doing this anyway. But if you’re not, here’s something that will generate you significant textbook profits.
Here’s a fact: thousands of textbooks have two product pages. For a huge percentage of textbooks published in the last five years, there will be a page for:
- The book + insert “package”
- The standalone book
As covered extensively in other articles, these “bundles” or “packages” are tricks textbook publishers employ to dissuade booksellers (that’s us) from selling used books. Which is why I don’t respect them, but I do profit from them. Let me explain…
If the access card in your copy is used or missing, most sellers do one of two things at this point:
- Don’t list the book (after all, it doesn’t contain the access card).
- List the book on its standalone page (usually for much less value).
Both are mistakes.
I will list it on the “book + access card” page every time.
Nearly all the time, this will yield you at least 20% more for your book.
Here’s an example:
Book + access card page product page. Price: $67
Standalone book product page. Price: $43
You’ll make 50% more listing on the “book + access card” page.
I’ve made my case for why I think this is 100% ethical and 100% victimless on this post, but here’s the bullet points:
- Amazon warns buyers at checkout to not expect access codes or other inserts (this alone should be enough to convince any Amazon seller this tactic is 100% legitimate).
- Common-sense textbook buyers do not (and should not) expect access cards to come with used textbooks.
- If an access code was important to a buyer, they would purchase a new copy.
- Setting all this aside, few Amazon buyers care about access codes anyway.
I don’t promote shady selling practices, or anything that deprives a customer of expected value. For the reasons above, I do not believe this move applies.
So if you’re one of those sellers who never noticed the fine print about the “access card package” and listed your books there anyway, then carry on.
For the rest: Your attention to detail should be celebrated, however in this case it is costing you a lot of money with your textbooks.
Textbook Profit Move #2: Selling Access Cards Separately
This is a trick I kept to myself for a long time, and revealed in an FBA Mastery article about six months ago (which got tons of success-story feedback).
The premise is this:
- Many used textbooks contain “Access Cards” giving the buyer various textbook bonus content.
- Buyers are told by Amazon to not expect access cards when they buy a used textbook, and very (very) few buyers care about or expect access card with a used textbook.
- Many textbook access cards have separate Amazon product pages, and can be sold individually.
- Many textbook access cards have steady demand and high value.
- You can separate the access card from the textbook, list them separately, and sometimes double the value of your textbooks.
Quick example, recycling the same textbook we used above:
And here is the result for the standalone access card (check the price).
Yes, the access card is selling for more than the actual book.
And if you’re wondering if access cards sell, here’s the sales rank for the access card:
Does this work? Here’s a quick snapshot of the chat box from my recent “Textbook Annihilation” webinar:
Textbook Profit Move #3: Understand How To Spot “Textbooks In Disguise”
Possibly the majority of your textbook profits won’t come from books that look like textbooks. There is a lot of money to be made (and lost) in understanding (or not understanding) these “textbooks in disguise.”
Fact: The vast majority of your books that will sell during textbook season will not look like textbooks. You might (actually, you definitely will-) look what sells this month and often wonder “I sold a lot of books, but most of them don’t seem like textbooks.”
Do not dismiss this observation. The “market” is telling you something. Most of what students buy do not fit the profile of the giant 10″ x 7″ doorstopper-style textbook. Most textbooks are in disguise.
What is a textbook in disguise? Here’s the criteria:
- Sales spike in August and January.
- Predominantly purchased by college students.
- Can still command exorbitant FBA prices.
- Does not look like a textbook.
These are the scholarly non-fiction books that are primarily purchased in academia, but you would only spot with a trained eye.
Some clues to spot these:
- Niche non-fiction with no “real world” application (something no one would care about if they weren’t forced to care).
- Books with those big square stickers on the back, or other markings.
- “Normal” books that have supplemental material like annotations, added analysis, etc.
- Non-fiction that generally appears scholarly and academic
Only a small percentage of books that will sell this month will look like textbooks. The rest are “textbooks in disguise.”
Why is this so important? Two reasons:
- You reprice textbooks & “textbooks in disguise” differently than all other books.
- Over the next few weeks, you will reprice your textbooks super-frequently, and you need to know where to direct your attention.
I’m completely pulling the following statistic out of the air, but I estimate 90% of all textbooks don’t look like textbooks at all – they’re “in disguise.”
Textbook Profit Move #4: Reprice all textbooks frantically prior to textbook season
Once you understand what will sell over the next 3 weeks, and what you should be focusing on, you’ll need to start repricing these books immediately.
Quick recap of two important points:
- The #1 rule of textbooks: “Textbooks follow totally different pricing rules than other books.”
- The category of “textbooks” is largely comprised of “textbooks in disguise.”
Your mission, if you haven’t done this already: Go through all your inventory right now and reprice your textbooks.
What does this mean? It means reprice them to reflect the fact that:
- Textbooks should be priced higher than other books.
- Textbooks have demand that is about to spike.
This means you’re both pricing them higher than other books in your inventory, and higher than you would any time of year. For well-ranked textbooks, instead of being the 1st or 2nd lowest FBA offer, you may want to be 4th or 5th.
Repricing everything, right now, to reflect the current reality of textbook season.
Textbook Profit Move #5: Reprice Daily (or multiple times daily)
This is the least exciting, but most profit-generating item in this article:
Reprice your textbooks daily.
It cannot be overstated: The more you reprice, the more you’ll make this month. This is the secret.
For the reasons covered elsewhere on FBA Mastery, repricing software is not to be trusted for repricing your textbooks. For maximum profits, you should be repricing your textbooks manually. And you should be doing it often.
Reprice them up as needed. Reprice them down as needed. But keep your books priced optimally to reflect your pricing strategy.
Reprice. Every. Day.
Textbook Profit Move #6: Write all textbook condition descriptions to mention “no highlighting,” front-and-center.
Do books with highlighting sell? Yes. But books without highlighting sell better.
There’s no way to know what percentage of Amazon textbook buyers feel strongly about highlighting, but I suspect the buyers that want to avoid highlighted books feel very strongly about it.
This move is designed to address this assumption.
Presumably if you’re selling a book with highlighting, you’ll mention the highlighting. What I’m encouraging here is to mention when a textbook does not.
Here’s an example of how this condition description might read:
“No writing or highlighting. Very good condition. Light reading wear. Free second-day shipping with Amazon Prime.”
Generally I caution Amazon sellers against overthinking their condition descriptions. Beyond covering the basic facts, I don’t think embellishing with details moves the needle on sales too much. However mentioning the absence of highlighting with textbook listings is one exception.
I’ll always mention the absence of highlighting front and center in any condition description for a textbook. Tons and tons of textbook buyers won’t care at all about highlighting. But the ones that do will likely skip over cheaper offers with ambiguous condition descriptions and pay more for the one that guarantees the absence of highlighting.
That’s your textbook crash-course
Between the links and the tips, that is (almost) everything you need to know about making money during textbook season.
Terry Gray says
Great article, Peter. I really wish I could find some way within my own budget and circumstances to tap into the textbook field in a big way; just haven’t figured it out yet; so limited in what I’m able to do. But, your articles definitely motivate me to continue to figure it out somehow.
Gary Young says
At the last webinar, I mentioned my sales for the last 30 days was $7,000.00+
As of today, my sales (nearly all textbooks) have risen to $9,083.81. How? -you ask
I attribute the huge increase to checking my prices daily or more. That works!
My gross sales stand at $43,000 year-to-date. I would warn any newbies: If you want to make
a lot of money, you have to give it a lot of time. Pretty simple.
Terry Gray says
That’s great, Gary. I’m at about 27K for the year, never averaging more than about 500 books in inventory at any one time, and mostly nontextbooks. But, I’m definitely wanting to make most of my future inventory increases in textbooks and other academic books. Just got to find ones other than the typical thrift store Chemistry book from 1975, lol.
You werent kidding about the long term fees… It was rough geez