Book sourcing & the “zen” of spotting value: How two FBA booksellers with the same tools & knowledge achieve greatly different results.
Spotting value and the secret of the top 1%
Most FBA sellers online won’t discuss the “how’s” or “where’s” of book sourcing. The reason is: they fear of inviting competition.
Why do I write so freely about these subjects? Without any fear of putting myself out of business? Answer: Because 98% of sellers are going to do it wrong.
- You can take two FBA sellers who know the exact same amount about bookselling.
- You can put them at the same source at the same time.
- One of them will come out with much, much more than the other person – every time.
Maybe 25% more, maybe 300% more. But one seller will always find significantly more – to a degree that can’t be explained by randomness.
After bookselling knowledge is equalized, there is one thing left that gives a seller an edge: Their perception.
As an Amazon seller, your expectation of how many profitable books you’ll find is the single biggest factor in how many profitable books you find.
There’s two parts to this:
- Knowing how to spot what books to resell
- How many books to resell you expect to find
I know this all sounds esoteric and weird. Let’s go deeper…
A Case Study: Two FBA Sellers, Dramatically Different Results
Last year, I had a girlfriend who I got into selling books on Amazon. We agreed to divide up our “turf.” She would hit book sources in the outlying areas 30+ minutes outside town that I never went to. I took everything else. (Sound unfair? Maybe it was.)
But occasionally we would shop the same sources together (usually thrift stores). Once inside, we’d take an “every man for himself” approach. No dividing of shelves or sections – we’d enter a store, and whoever got the most books, won.
And an interesting pattern developed: I came out of every store with 25% to 50% more books than her.
If she got 20 books, I got 30. If she got a box of books, I got two. What was interesting was this: She knew literally everything I knew about the business. She had the same scanning app. The same barcode scanner. She knew what books to resell. Yet somehow, we’d look at the same shelf of books, and I would always see 25% to 50% more profit than she did.
Two FBA sellers can be at the same source, have the same tools, and the same knowledge, and one seller will find much more than the other. What matters is not the quality of the books – what matters is how much value each person sees.
How much you expect to find somewhere will affect how much you do find.
How much value you see before you scan will affect how much value you find when you do scan.
What most FBA booksellers think determines how much profit there is at a book source:
“The quality of the books at the source.”
What actually determines the profit:
Your ability to spot value without your scanner (so you know which books to scan aka a high-level understanding of what books to resell)
Your beliefs about how many profitable books you’ll find, determines how many profitable books you’ll find.
Your competition is blind if they don’t know what books to resell
Here’s an example: I was at a thrift store yesterday that I’d never been to, in a town I’d never been to. It was clear the book section was heavily picked over. Literally every single sticker that covered a barcode was scratched off, indicating a very thorough bookseller had been there before me. I still came out of the thrift store with 40 books, 10 CDs, 5 VHS tapes, 5 DVDs, and two cassette tapes.
Noticing that another seller had been there and taken all the “obvious” books, I was forced to look closer at the shelves and find the less obvious books. I.e. books without barcodes, and other books that didn’t stand out as being profitable. I saw what the last seller didn’t, and came out with 40 books – a pretty good trip.
What’s notable is that most of these books I would not have found had I not been aware the store was “picked over.” I had to train my focus on less obvious books that even I would have missed had I been there with different expectations (i.e. believing I was the first bookseller to visit that store.)
What I looked for defined what I found.
The “Profit-Perception” Equation
Here’s an example of how expectation can shape results:
I was in a thrift store some time ago, and saw evidence that a bookseller has been there before me (again, stickers over every barcode were scratched away). I immediately told myself “This place is picked over. There’s nothing to be found here.” And consequently, I was finding very little.
Until 30 minutes in, when I stumbled upon something worth money. Something clicked, and I was forced to revise my belief that “there are no profitable books here.” Suddenly, something shifted. I realized that last seller who was here maybe wasn’t that thorough.
And as if by magic, I found more books on the next shelf than the 10 shelves before it.
In my Amazon selling career, this situation has been repeated hundreds of times.
Why? It’s pretty obvious. As soon as I expected to find more, I found more. You find what you expect to find.
Limiting beliefs = limiting profit
Its like the girlfriend I mentioned at the beginning of this article: She “expected” to average 20 books per trip. I “expected” to average 40. Consequently, those were our averages.
The human mind is easy to hack when you know how it works.
Expectations shape results
The “profits-expectation equation: is why:
- I can go into a town with the most ruthless FBA competition imaginable (ever been to Salt Lake City?) and still extract tons of profitable books from every source.
- I can go to a library book sale with literally 20 Amazon sellers scanning books, find their blindspot, and make more money than all of them.
- I can go into a used bookstore with another Amazon seller who knows everything I know about selling books, and they declare: “Everything is priced at Amazon prices, there’s no money to be made here.” And I ignore them, and come out with a shopping cart of books.
Next time you go book sourcing, convince yourself you’re going to the most fruitful, untapped, bountiful sources you’ve ever been to. And see what happens.