This is it: Everything there is to know about selling textbooks on Amazon. A guide for FBA booksellers.
Do textbooks sell on Amazon year-round?
Yes. But there are two times a year when textbook sales go way, way up. We call these periods (just before each semester) “textbook season.”
Every August and January, Amazon textbook sales explode. This is where small decisions can lead to big losses (and profits), so here’s almost everything I can think of on the subject of what anyone selling textbooks on Amazon can do to profit during textbook season (and year round).
Textbook season is a myth, long live textbook season
Part of me regrets whatever role I had in promoting this idea of “textbook season,” because most Amazon booksellers get it totally wrong.
Here’s how most Amazon sellers look at textbook season:
“The two times a year when people buy textbooks.”
How Amazon sellers should look at textbook season:
“The two times a year when textbook sales go up.”
This is important, because there is a big misconception that selling textbooks on Amazon are a seasonal business. They are not.
Sales going up twice a year is not the same as textbooks not selling the rest of the year. These are very different things.
The reality is more glass-half-full:
Textbooks on Amazon sell all year round, and a couple times a year they sell even more
There was a time when higher education operated on a rigid schedule – school started in August, it got out in May, and that was that.
Today, between online courses and a general diversification in academia, textbooks are selling on Amazon all year round.
(For what is worth, the only uniformity in higher education is that no one is in school in mid-to-late December. Textbooks sales plummet on Amazon in middle of the month.)
For all of these reasons, textbook season is real – and its a myth.
Peak days of textbook sales on Amazon
Everyone wants to know: What’s the Amazon textbook season sales peak?
I just went back and looked at my last two years of Amazon sales, and it confirmed what I already knew:
For fall semester the peak of textbook season is the third full week in August.
For spring semester, the peak of textbook season is around January 10th (with sales taking a huge leap up on January 1st).
When does textbook season end?
For fall semester: By September 7th, textbook sales on Amazon have mostly returned to normal.
For spring semester: After the 3rd week in January, textbook sales have mostly returned to normal.
Things FBA sellers shouldn’t worry about with textbooks
What doesn’t matter as much as with other books:
Textbook inserts don’t matter that much
Students don’t care that much. I seriously don’t think may students use these, at all.
People purchasing used textbooks aren’t naive, and understand they’re probably not getting the CD or access code. On top of that, Amazon warns them on the product page that used textbooks are likely to not contain inserts.
Together, this means you shouldn’t get worked up about knowing if your textbooks contain all the original inserts. It just doesn’t matter that much.
Textbook condition doesn’t matter that much
Another thing students buying on Amazon don’t care that much about. Not to be mistaken for “none of them care about condition at all,” and not to be mistaken for “cut corners on your grading.”
What it does mean is: don’t get too concerned about your 19 year old customers judging your books too much. They’re only buying your book because they have to. They just don’t care that much.
What does matter: The absence of highlighting
To the extent that a student does care about condition-related issues, its probably highlighting. What students are looking for more than anything is the absence of highlighting.
That does not mean highlighting is a death sentence for your book. A lot of students won’t care. Some even prefer highlighted books (someone else has done the work for them).
How can this detail make you some money on Amazon right now? FBA sellers will likely get a sales boost if you mention “No highlighting or writing” in your condition description. This is an important distinction for a lot of students.
And what’s better, almost no megasellers take the time to offer specific condition notes on books (just the generic ones). So you’re likely to find Amazon buyers skipping past megaseller offers to buy your textbooks – because you can specifically guarantee “no highlighting.”
So if you’re selling textbooks on Amazon, I suggest adding this “no highlighting” mention to the beginning of every condition description. This detail matters.
Textbook pricing and repricing strategy: Where the money is
The biggest thing to know is that you should be repricing your FBA textbooks every day during textbook season. The rest of the year, you can relax a little. But every day counts during textbook season.
When a book is not competitively priced (repeat: this does not mean “lowest priced”), it’s the same as that book not being for sale at all. Repricing brings these as-yet unsold books back to life.
Starting on the first day of textbook season, reprice your FBA textbooks and “scholarly non-fiction” every day.
Every. Single. Day.
Why you should never use repricing software to reprice textbooks
I have to repeat this for newer sellers who haven’t heard my oft-repeated editorial on this.
Third party repricing software (yes, all of it), cannot “see” many FBA offers. So you’re taking a blowtorch to your profits if you’re using third party repricing software.
I’ve repeated this so much, I won’t belabor the point. But there is literally no way to lose more money faster than using repricing software on FBA textbooks (short of creating a disposal order or dynamiting an FBA warehouse).
Don’t do it.
How I reprice FBA textbooks during textbook season
This method is tedious, but absolutely necessary.
First, you should have all your SKUs coded to denote the textbooks. (I just put the word “text” in mine). Now you can go into your FBA Inventory page and bring up just the textbooks.
Next, I check the box to “Show ASIN/FNSKU.”
Then I click on every (text)book, and do two things:
- See competing FBA offers.
- See Amazon sales rank history in Keepa (you should have this extension installed).
Amazon sales rank history is important because it defines how I set my price. The higher the demand, the more boldly I’ll price.
And how do we price in relation to other FBA offers?
How to price FBA textbooks
Since I’ve covered this extensively before, let’s cover this from a new angle.
First, we need to accept one fundamental: If textbook sales are going to spike, it’s pretty foolish to simply match the lowest FBA offers, since those will be first to sell.
So how many FBA offers should you price above, going into textbook season (meaning today)?
Of course, this is defined by the book’s demand. The more copies you expect to sell, the further down the page you can position your FBA offer.
In the absence of any FBA offers, how should you price FBA textbooks?
Let’s take a fantasy scenario where you’re the only FBA seller selling textbooks on Amazon in the world. So there’s no competing FBA offers. Realistically, you won’t encounter textbooks with no FBA offers very often. But if you did, here’s how I would price them…
When a book holds an average sales rank (in the off season) of:
1 to 30,000: Price $50 to $100 above the lowest non-FBA offer.
30,000 to 150,000: Price $40 to $70 above the lowest non-FBA offer.
150,000 to 300,000: Price $35 to $50 above lowest non-FBA offer.
300,000 to 600,000: Price $30 to $40 above lowest non-FBA offer.
600,000 to 900,000: Price $25 to $35 above lowest non-FBA offer.
Since we’re not likely to encounter this situation very often, the bigger question is: How many FBA offers do we price above?
How to price textbooks when you have many FBA competitors
What follows is how I price going into textbooks season. As textbook season progresses, I reprice to get more conservative (while still not caring if my textbooks don’t all sell, because of course they won’t).
With the understanding that this is totally subjective and merely my personal guidelines, here is what I do:
When a book holds an average Amazon sales rank (in the off season) of…
1 to 30,000: Price your FBA offer as the 5th or 6th lowest.
30,000 to 300,000: Price your FBA offer as the 4th or 5th lowest.
300,000 to 600,000: Price your FBA offer as the 3rd or 4th lowest
600,000 to 900,000: Price your FBA offer as the 2nd or 3rd lowest.
You could probably get more aggressive than this. I consider this formula to be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between “risk averse” and “insanely bold.”
Remember, this is how I do it going into textbook season. I’m still repricing daily during textbook season. After we clear the peak of Amazon textbook sales, then I want to reprice to get all but my most high demand FBA textbooks somewhere in the bottom 3 or so (depending on the Amazon sales rank).
This is how I do it. It’s definitely a “delayed gratification” formula. But as I always say, I’m here for money, not “sales.”
What if all your textbooks don’t sell?
They won’t all sell during textbook season. And it doesn’t matter.
Bottom line: If anywhere close to all your textbooks sell, then:
- You aren’t pricing aggressively enough.
- You don’t have enough textbooks.
Your textbook season cheat sheet
- For fall semester the peak of textbook season is the third full week in August.
- For spring semester, the peak of textbook season is around January 10th (with sales taking a huge leap up on January 1st).
- Don’t get hung up on textbook inserts.
- Reprice your textbooks every day during textbook season.
- Price above the lowest FBA offers going into textbook season.
- Get less insanely bold with your prices after textbook season peaks.
- It doesn’t mater if all your textbooks don’t sell (they wont’)
And that’s almost everything there is to know about selling textbooks on Amazon for big profits.