Frankly, selling books online is one of the easiest ways to make money. It’s also a great flexible business for people looking to take up a side hustle or just do something on the weekends.
Got a pile of old books lying around, gathering dust in your attic? You could turn them into a hefty profit.
With online retail, purchasing books became so easy that it is now one of top selling categories on the internet. All people need to do is choose a title, enter their credit card or PayPal details, and voila, the book will be shipped to their address.
Besides ease of purchase, ecommerce has also made it easy for publishers and merchants to sell books online.
In fact, a lot of publishers have already capitalized on the opportunity, with the American Associated of Publishers reporting that publisher revenue from online retail exceeded revenue from physical outlets with online sources generating $8.83 billion and physical channels generating $6.90 billion in sales.
So if you’re a book fanatic and have been wondering how to sell books online for a long time, now is the right time to get started.
This article is an in-depth guide that will educate you on the best ways to get into this business. I will discuss all of the routes you can take to make money with book retailing.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to learn how to sell books online or a person looking to sell a ton of used books, I have no doubts that you’ll find guidance in this article.
What Types of Books Can I Sell Online?
At this point, you may be curious about the most profitable books for your business. While the outcome will depend on market demand and the way you promote it to consumers, there are four types of books you should look for.
- Out of demand print books
- Antique or Rare and Collectible books
- Modern first edition books
You can sell both new and used variants of these books. Also, you can use a book scanner app to judge the profitability of whatever genre you choose to sell.
Scanner apps like ScoutIQ can give you a fair idea of a book’s buying cost, the price you can sell it for, and the potential profit you could make.
Such apps work best if you’re looking to resell books on marketplaces like Amazon.
Even if you’re planning to open up an online bookstore, metrics like target price and profit can give you a fair idea of winners and losers.
How to Build an Online Bookstore?
You want to know how to sell books online for a maximum profit, don’t you? This means setting up an independent bookstore where you don’t have to pay any commission on sales.
I recommend using Shopify for the setup. It supports a range of templates that are ideal for online bookstores.
Most of the themes also contain a plethora of other features that new booksellers can leverage.
For instance, you get the option to integrate the site with social networks, make your product pages SEO-friendly, display a slideshow on the home page of your store, and more.
Shopify themes also look great on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, so you’ll get the opportunity to make money from mobile shoppers.
To get started, check out my detailed post on how to start a Shopify store in twelve minutes.
I also recommended that you take steps to fulfil all the legal requirements of starting an online bookstore, such as registering your business name and getting a Federal Tax ID number.
Doing so will help you avoid legal complications down the road.
Most guides on how to sell books online don’t talk about the legal aspects of the business, so be careful as you can get fined for conducting commercial activities without registration.
Also, get a custom domain for your bookstore. This can be done through Shopify or independent domain sellers like GoDaddy. It would cost you $10 to $20 at most.
Promoting Your Online Bookstore
Marketing is an asset to any entrepreneur learning how to sell books online.
With a Shopify-powered bookstore, you can capture the emails of potential customers so that you can send them a weekly newsletter with links to your product pages.
You could also run competitions on social media, as well as share discount coupons with your loyal customers. Be sure to leverage referral marketing when you take either of these routes.
For example, you can ask people to tag their friends on your bookstore’s Instagram account for a chance to win a free product. This is a great way to expose your brand to a number of new audiences.
Another way to get more eyeballs is to upload high-quality images on your product pages.
Make sure to use a good camera (you’re covered if you have an iPhone) and capture an image of the book from all angles.
Perhaps you have a couple of books with five different covers? In this case, share an image of each cover and use the product description area to tell customers that the book is available in various covers.
Besides all of that, I encourage you to partner up with social media influencers.
Social media influencers are people who have good engagement on social networks.
You can ask them to do a detailed review of your book and share the link of your store with their followers.
In return, you can give them a commission on sales that come through their store. However, most influencers will just do a review if you send them a free copy.
You can find social media influencers on Facebook, Instagram, as well as on YouTube.
YouTube should work best as the influencer can make a detailed video about your books. Let’s not forget; it’s also the second biggest search engine after Google.
Whatever you do to promote your bookstore, keep the momentum going.
If you find the capacity to offer a discount, do it. Big sites like Amazon run discounts and promotions all the time.
Fortunately, Shopify makes it easy to create and manage discounts. Here’s a video that explains how it’s done:
Feel free to use all of these techniques to promote your store and don’t be shy in doing so.
4 Best Wholesale Books Suppliers and Distributors Worldwide
If you’ve settled on an online bookstore, the next step is to look for wholesale book distributors and suppliers.
This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of running a book-based business. Purchasing inventory at wholesale rates will allow you to keep a good margin, which in turn will boost your profits.
Plus, you get discounts from wholesalers once you’ve developed a good relationship with them.
Below, I have compiled a list of 4 high-quality book suppliers from whom you can source all kinds of books at a low price.
UsedWholesaleBooks has over 7 million books for sale at any given time.
You can buy books from a range of categories, including hardback wholesale books, mass market fiction books, kids soft cover books and more.
The stock is packaged in big, durable cardboard boxes called “gaylords” for customers to pick up. Here’s a snapshot of the price list:
Each box carries between 800 to 1200 books depending on the binding and size of each book.
Every book has been analyzed for merchantability, which means they’re in excellent condition to purchase.
Bulk Bookstore offers up to 55% off retail book prices with free shipping.
Users just need to enter the author name, ISBN or title to check the book’s availability. The online catalog consists of thousands of titles that are sold in both paperback and hardcover.
If you have a list of book titles, the wholesaler makes it easy to save your cart as a “quote” to be paid later. Alternatively, you can email your list to the company and they’ll reply with a quote.
This is cool because even Amazon doesn’t work with title lists or provide quotes.
Whether you’re looking to buy modern first edition books or general textbooks, you can be sure to find a suitable copy on the website.
Buy Bookstore sells a minimum of 25 copies per title or $100 total order minimum.
Book Depot offers one of the largest selections of bargain books for 75-90% off of list price, which means great titles on your product pages at a fraction of a cost.
The company’s inventory comprises of publisher excess titles, which may have been held a few times but are all genuine and guaranteed to be in great condition.
You can find books in almost every category, including antiques, biography, young adult fiction, games, foreign language, philosophy, drama, and medical.
There’s also a range of “blowout titles” on offer where Book Depot picks a portion of its inventory and sets it aside as blowouts. These books have a minimum order quantity and greatly reduced cost.
Blowout books come without dusting and sticker removal, so if you don’t mind doing some cleaning, this can be a great way to save money.
BetterWorldBooks offers bulk books and media stock in a range of categories. Topics include fiction, non-fiction, best sellers and even religious texts.
You’ll find a variety of books on sale ranging from mass market paperback and vintage books to playaways and leather bound books.
Pricing depends on whether you’re planning to buy a box, a pallet, or a container, as well as the type of the book.
A box of pre-ISBN vintage books, for instance, costs $95, while a box of playaways costs $40.
In addition to finding wholesalers, I recommend hunting up deals at yard sales, discount racks, and offline distributor outlets.
You’d be surprised at how much you could save by purchasing from these places. Bargain and you could even buy stock for as low as 10 cents a book. Crazy.
Aspiring entrepreneurs who’re looking to sell first edition books and textbooks can also explore marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist for reasonably-priced books. The books can then be resold on another marketplace for a profit.
This technique works best for books that sell for $30 or more.
How to Sell Books Online as an Author?
If you’re a writer, you may want to sell your own books instead of someone else’s.
This not only requires good knowledge of self-publishing and marketing, but you also need to handle all the shipping.
Which can be a stretch if you have a full-time job. Fortunately, there are platforms that’ll take care of your needs.
One example is Blurb.
Writers exploring how to sell books online can use it to create, publish, promote and sell their work in various formats.
With Blurb, you can transform your work into:
- Photo books
- Trade books (paperbacks and hardbacks)
If you’re looking to sell hardbacks and paperbacks, you can ask Blurb to handle the shipping and fulfillment on your behalf. This service is available for both print-on-demand and volume printing.
Publishers also get a free bar code and ISBN for all kinds of trade books.
To print a book, you can choose from Blurb’s list of pre-made templates. Pick the one that best resonates with your genre, and then upload your writing.
You can also build blank templates with Blurb’s Adobe InDesign plugin, but this won’t be needed as there are plenty of beautiful templates available to complement a wide range of industries.
Once you’ve created a book, go to the “Sell and Distribute” section to set its price. Make sure to keep a good margin if you want to make money in this business.
Another thing you should do is set up your promotional channels. This is crucial because you need to get the word out about your offering.
Embed the book page onto your Instagram page as well as your website. Doing so can result in higher sales for your business. Put some effort into marketing.
Another good idea is to get some positive reviews for your books. Consumers make buying decisions based on reviews, so send some free copies to potential buyers and ask them to leave their thoughts.
When it comes to money, Blurb sends you the payment for any sale you’ve made at the end of each month, either by check or PayPal.
However, there’s a minimum threshold of $25 for each creator.
How to Sell Books Online on Amazon?
If you’d rather sell your book on Amazon, you can still use a third-party website for its design. Amazon just requires the ISBN and the book will be prepared for self-publishing.
You’ll also get an author profile, which will be associated with all the books you’ve listed for sale and authored.
Also, every book will have its individual landing page where you can shed more light on the narrative.
After the author profile is set up and running, set the price for your book. Make sure to account for Amazon’s fees as well as how much it costs to prepare your book.
The ecommerce platform has a 30-day window where customers can return the book or ask for a refund.
Once 30 days are up, Amazon will count the sale, process the profit, and send you the money within 15-45 days. The minimum payout threshold on Amazon is also $25.
Alternatively, you can sell third-party books via Amazon FBA.
In this business model, you’ll need to buy the stock and send it to one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
Fortunately, that’s pretty simple to do. Put the books in a box and send them away via one of Amazon’s recommended carriers.
Amazon will take care of the packaging, handling and shipping, which means you won’t need to worry about anything.
Don’t forget to account for the shipping costs when you set the list price for your books though.
Also, offer good customer service to ensure that the sales keep coming in. One way to do that is to follow-up with your customers to see if they’re happy with their purchase.
If you’ve listed the books properly, you’re likely to get positive feedback from your customers. Be transparent about the book’s condition if you want to make loads of money by selling books online.
How to Sell Books Online: 5 Best Places to Sell Them
While you might be able to make good money by selling books on Blurb and Amazon, there are plenty of other websites that can help keep your sales engine running.
Let’s take a look at 5 best places to sell your books. Featured below are platforms for selling paperbacks and hardcovers, as well as textbooks.
Half Price Books is the biggest family-owned bookstore in the US with more than 120 outlets across the country.
If you live near one of their stores, this is a great way to sell your books.
You just need to pack up your stock, take them to an HPB outlet, and then wait for a representative to appraise your book.
Half Price Books will then make you an offer on all of the books you bring to them.
If you’re happy with the figure, take the cash and enjoy your hard earned money.
The company pays the most for collectibles and recent bestsellers, but it’s also interested in paperbacks, hardbacks, and books of other types, new or old.
I recommend watching this 3-minute video where an HPB Buy Guy provides tips on items you can sell to the company.
Book Scouter will tell you what different companies are willing to pay for a given title.
This can give you a good idea of the potential profit up for grabs.
However, the rates are constantly changing, so it’d be wise to make book-selling a short project.
To see the pay rates, plug in a given book’s ISBN number to the website. A pro tip is to write down the titles that get the best offers on a note pad before you make your final decision.
Keep in mind that all of the companies present offers on what they think they can resell the book for, so titles with higher demand will generate better quotes.
If you only have a few books to sell, consider using AbeBooks’ buyback service.
The company claims to offer the largest web-based buyback catalog, and says it will beat your local college bookstore on the payout.
However, your stock should have a minimum $15 worth of titles to sell, and they should be in pristine condition.
So don’t make the mistake of sending worn-out textbooks to the company. If you do, they’ll get recycled, and you won’t get anything at all.
Powell’s, like Half Price Books, allows you to take your stock of books to one of their outlets for appraisal and sales, but if you can’t find out nearby, you can sell through their website.
However, the company takes titles in excellent condition.
Which means you can’t sell them books with highlighting, tears or broken bindings.
The company’s site offers a visual explanation about the issues that would make it reject a book.
If Powell’s does accept your titles, you’ll get paid in the form of store credit or PayPal.
The initial impression people get from textbooks.com is that they only buy textbooks.
However, the company also deals in used books that are sold directly to students and even offers a guaranteed cash back on certain titles.
So if your stock has a range of college textbooks, this site can help you earn a decent sum of money.
What’s unique about this website is that the titles don’t need to be in a top-notch condition. You’re fine if the book has some creased pages or highlighting and writing.
Whew. We’ve finally reached the end of this how to sell books online guide.
If you’ve been looking to create an online bookstore or find places where you could sell your books, remember the above tips and resources.
They will help you avoid any complaints or unforeseen issues when you begin to sell books. Cheers.