Video: The 7 Least Profitable Book Categories On Amazon
Longer article below, but if you prefer video:
What books you avoid is as important as the books you don’t
The bottom line with sourcing books to resell on Amazon is: You can’t scan everything.
In most instances, you have more books than time, and you have to narrow your focus. That’s what this article is about: Avoiding the least profitable books to resell, so you can focus on the most profitable.
The purpose of this list is to inform your FBA sourcing in two ways:
- What sections to avoid when you’re sourcing books in contexts where books are categorized (like library sales and bookstores).
- What titles to avoid when you’re sourcing books in contexts where nothing is organized.
Again, this is all assuming you have more books than time (usually the case). It goes without saying that every book category has books you can resell for a profit.
If the potential FBA inventory you have access to is so finite that you can scan / look up the value of every book, then by all means – don’t be selective.
But for most of us, in most contexts, knowing what to avoid gives us more time to focus on the most profitable book categories. More efficiency means more money.
“Opportunity cost”: The power of knowing what books to avoid
Recently, I watched a 9-figure internet business mogul get asked the #1 most powerful concept he’s learned in 20 years of business. His answer: “opportunity cost.”
The idea is this: For every decision you make about where to spend your time, you are also sacrificing every other thing on this earth that you could have done with that time.
As an extreme example: A bad marriage isn’t just a bad marriage. It’s an opportunity cost: You’re also giving up the opportunity to meet every other person on earth you could have a happy life with (sorry if this hits too close to home for anyone).
Anyway, here is how this is relevant to selling books on Amazon:
- For every bad book you scan, that’s a good book you didn’t scan.
- For every minute looking for profitable books in a bad section, that’s a minute you didn’t spend in a good one.
Not knowing what to avoid is expensive.
Disclaimer: There is profit in every book category
Stating the obvious, but this is just a list of categories to give lower priority to. Not a mandate to avoid them completely.
Every book category has profitable books – even romance. (Though, personally the only romance novels I’ve ever sold for a profit on Amazon are in the “urban romance” niche).
The top 7 least profitable books to resell on Amazon – by category
In no particular order…
Least profitable books to resell #1: Hardcover fiction
The bad news is: Hardcover fiction is just about the most abundant category of books. These saturate almost any source. But these are rarely (very rarely) worth money. Fiction itself isn’t a great category, but hardcover fiction is the worst.
Hardcover fiction titles hit the market, are popular for 8 weeks (if at all), then disappear into obscurity – never to be sold on Amazon for a profit for the rest of eternity.
Since hardcover fiction is so abundant, this is the single highest-impact book category you can avoid. This one bit of knowledge could increase your book sourcing efficiency by 30%.
Least profitable books to resell #2: Mass Market Paperbacks
These are the small “romance novel” size books (their dimensions are 4.25 x 6.87 to be specific).
Also abundant. And also rarely can they be resold for a profit on Amazon.
To make this book category even worse, usually the barcode on the back scans as the UPC code, not the ISBN. You have to open the front cover and scan a different barcode to get the ISBN (if it even has a second barcode). That makes this the least efficient book category to source in.
Interesting sidenote about this category is that when you find a (rare) exception, the exceptions are often very profitable. But you really have to know what to look for (I’ll save this for a future article).
Least profitable books to resell #3: Computers
Almost didn’t include this category, since computer books don’t have a big presence in the used book market. But if you come across them, you can pretty much dismiss them entirely if the book looks more than a few years old.
Things change faster in the world of computers faster than probably any other book category. Which means computer books become obsolete (and unprofitable) very fast.
I think I’m still bitter that in my early days selling on Amazon, I drove 45 minutes to pick up a box of computer books listed on Craigslist for $20. They were all 10 years old and totally worthless. My fault for having no idea what I was doing, but it still stings.
Least profitable books to resell #4: Romance
Whether in the aforementioned “mass market paperback” format, or not, romance is among the least profitable book categories to resell on Amazon.
Your odds go up if you find niche romance titles (Christian, “urban,” etc). But you can write this entire book category off almost entirely.
Least profitable books to resell #5: Travel
Like computers, another book that goes obsolete quickly. This causes older titles to quickly lose their value on Amazon.
You can safely avoid any of the major travel book publishers, such as Lonely Planet, Frommers, Frodors, DK, Rough Guides, Moon, etc.
Again, if you come across one published in the last couple years, you probably have some profit there. Otherwise, avoid.
Least profitable books to resell #6: Children’s Books
There’s a few factors that make children’s books among the least profitable books to resell on Amazon.
The biggest issues are:
- Low cover price: Most children’s books are cheap even when purchased new. If you can buy a book new for $10, you’re probably not going to be able to sell them profitably on Amazon used.
- Narrow spines: Since children’s books are usually short, if you’re sourcing in an environment where all you can see are the spines, there’s almost no info you can glean about their profitability. You just have to pull out every book and scan it. Not very efficient.
I generally avoid children’s books in every book sourcing environment.
This one is most heartbreaking to newer Amazon sellers. I remember when I started, I was sure the profit was going to be in the big mainstream authors whose books can be found everywhere.
The reality is the opposite: If an author is a household name, there are probably so many used copies of their book out there that the market is saturated. Celebrity authors publish a book, there’s a flood of sales, the market gets saturated, and its quickly impossible to sell them for a profit on Amazon.
John Grisham, Dr Phil, Brendan Bruchard, and on and on. If it’s a name you or your parents know, and it wasn’t published in the last 12 months, you should pretty much ignore it.
The categories covered here might represent 40%+ of the entire used book market. Avoid these, and your efficiency (and profits) will go up accordingly.
PS: If there’s a big book category I missed (that you personally avoid), jump in the comments below.