So you want to make money online selling textbooks on Amazon? I can confidently say it can be a very rewarding online business since selling books was how I got started on Amazon.
Thousands of books are listed and sold on Amazon every year, with the platform holding a 67% market share of all e-books sold online.
Textbooks constitute a significant chunk of these books.
Textbooks are an independent subcategory of Books on the platform and you can sell both new and used books on Amazon.
There are a few differences between how you sell other published books (novels & non-fiction books) and how you sell textbooks on the platform.
In this article, I will explain to you how you can get started selling textbooks on Amazon, tell you all you need to know about Amazon book sales rank, and show you how to use Tactical Arbitrage to find profitable textbooks to sell.
Getting Started Selling Textbooks on Amazon
Before we dive into the steps, I want to take a moment to discuss the importance of understanding the category of textbooks.
Textbooks aren’t like regular books. They have a captive audience (college students) and they have seasonal demand (start of the semester).
So when we look at textbooks, we know certain subjects are going to be in higher demand than others. Since colleges require all students to take math and english, there will be a higher demand for those textbooks than a textbook over horticulture.
To get an idea of the winning textbook niches & product listings, you can use the Library search in Tactical Arbitrage and use the “Scan Bestsellers” feature. This feature lets you filter textbooks for category and sub-category.
You will get metrics like average daily sales and average price for each book. This will help you identify the books that are in high demand. Focus on the types of books that make at least a few sales per month.
The lower the rank, the better that textbook is selling on Amazon.
For example, a book ranked #10 on the platform may sell 1,000 copies per month, while a book ranked #500,000 may not sell a single copy for days.
And while you are here, make sure to also take a look at the price history of the textbooks. Prices spike around August and January, since that is when the majority of the textbooks are bought and sold at the start of each semester.
Now – Let’s get to the steps to start selling textbooks on Amazon.
Step 1: Find Textbooks to Sell
Like I mentioned earlier, you can sell both new and used books on the platform. You can source new and used books to sell from your bookshelf, eBay, moving sales, Facebook, and through online arbitrage.
If you are just getting started as a seller on the platform, it’s best to focus on selling used textbooks since they are easier to find and much cheaper to buy.
Below are some places you can get books to sell on the platform:
Your Own Books
Rummage through your bookshelf to find textbooks that are still in excellent book condition that you can sell. Remember, you want to select textbooks that have sufficient customer demand and a good amount of sales per month.
Also check with your kids, friends, and family members to see if they have any textbooks lying around.
It is one of the best platforms for sourcing books online. They have a database of thousands of bookstores in the country, and they advertise new book sales by each bookstore on their platform.
You can narrow down your search to bookstores in your local city.
Auctions & Estate Sales
Estate sales and moving sales provide great opportunities to source textbooks you can sell online. You can buy the entire collection on the lot at very low prices and resell them on Amazon. This is especially helpful if you live near a college town with older professors who would have large collections of textbooks.
Browse Facebook Marketplace to discover used books you can purchase for just pennies and resell on the platform. I used to use Facebook Groups, but Facebook Marketplace is a lot better to use.
Much of the time, people are just looking to get rid of older stuff and find it easier to list on FB to get some quick extra cash. Check about 3 weeks before the end of each semester for some great deals.
Visit thrift stores to find used books you can buy at bargain prices. You can also find new books in these stores at much cheaper prices.
To find thrift stores in your local area, just type “thrift” into your Google Map app, and you will be directed to the nearest stores in your area.
Craigslist and eBay
You can find anything on both platforms, often at good prices. However, finding the right textbooks on these platforms manually may simply be impossible.
It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure you are getting the real book and not some knock off.
This involves buying textbooks from one online marketplace and selling them at higher prices on another marketplace. I will discuss how to do this in detail later in the article.
You should use the Tactical Arbitrage platform to source for the right books.
You can also buy textbooks on the platform and sell them at a higher price. This strategy is particularly effective for Prime sellers.
Many students that order books through Amazon Prime need them urgently and are often willing to pay a premium.
The good thing is that you can also use Tactical Arbitrage to find these textbooks to turn around and sell back on Amazon. You might think that is crazy, but finding the right product listing can be lucrative.
Step 2: Know Your Options
You can sell your textbooks on Amazon which is recommended or possibly other online marketplaces. We will focus on Amazon, but still wanted to mention another option.
Textbook Buyback Sites
Amazon used to have a textbook buyback program but closed it down sometime in early 2020. I have found another site called bookscouter.com and it is what I use now.
You might not get as much as you would if you sold it yourself, but it still could be profitable and help with your cash flow. You would want to check the price differences to see if there is a good profit margin before you purchase the book.
I love this because there are low chances of returns and you can lock in the price before you buy the textbook.
Amazon Registered Seller
This is the preferred way especially if you plan to scale your operation. There is nothing like shipping several boxes of textbooks off to have Amazon handle the fulfillment.
Here you register and list your books for sale on Amazon. You will set the price and handle the shipping. Amazon will also charge you a closing fee for each book you sell.
If you are selling used books to Amazon, there are some conditions your book must meet:
- Your book must be in excellent condition with little wear and tear
- There must be no writing, personalization, or other marks on your book
- There must be no missing pages or covers
- Any supplementary item like a CD that came with your book when you bought it must be bundled with the book
Step 3: Register and Pick an Amazon Seller Plan
Once you have sourced your textbook and check that it meets Amazon’s conditions, it’s time to register for a seller plan.
You have two options to choose from:
1. Individual Seller Account
This is for sellers that plan to sell less than 40 units of the product on offer per month. If you have less than 40 textbooks to sell, this plan is the right choice for you.
Subscription for the plan is free, but you will pay a fee of $.99 for each textbook you sell on the platform as an Individual Seller.
2. Professional Seller Account
This plan has a subscription fee of $39.99 per month. It is for sellers that sell or plan to sell more than 40 units of the item on offer per month.
You won’t have to pay a fee for each book you sell, and you will also get access to a range of tools to help you better manage your business on the platform.
One other bonus to having a professional seller account is having access to data and APIs. This is required if you want to use Tactical Arbitrage to source, so it is also an investment to help you find more books to sell.
Step 4: Set Prices for Your Books
Setting a competitive price is critical if you want buyers to discover your book on the platform.
Competitive pricing is one of the key factors that Amazon’s algorithm uses to rank books that make it to the Buy Box.
The best way to figure out the right price for your book is to check out how other sellers are pricing their textbooks. You want to at least match or price higher than the competition.
The prices for each listed book are on the product details page of each book. You can manually check this and calculate the profit using the Amazon Seller Revenue Calculator.
Your goal is to make money, not to run a charity (unless you are actually trying to run a charity).
Step 5: List and Sell Your Books on Amazon
The final step is to list your textbook for sale on the platform. Provide accurate information about the condition of your book and set your price.
You will also select a shipping method for your book. You have two options – Fulfillment By Merchant (FBM) and Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA).
More information about both methods later in the article.
If you are a new seller, it’s best to start with FBM. You only have a few books to sell and shipping each item should be easily manageable.
Using FBA at this stage can be expensive. You will have to pay a service fee, along with packing, storage, and shipping fees. When you scale your business, move to FBA to ease your workload and leverage Amazon’s excellent logistics ecosystem.
For each textbook you sell, Amazon will take a 15% cut as a referral fee. This excludes the media fee and the $.99 per item for Individual sellers.
What You Need to Know About Book Sales Ranks
The Book Sales Rank shows the current sales for a book. It is the sales ranking for that specific period and it’s not an aggregate ranking.
The number of books sold in that period and the historical stability of book sales are the two key factors that determine a book’s sales rank.
The rankings change regularly, and a book can have different rankings within a 24 hours period.
Books with lower-numbered rankings (30,000 or better) have a larger demand, books between 30,000 to 100,000 can sell one or two copies per day, while books with rankings higher than 100,000 may not make any sales for a month or so..
The rankings are shaped by supply and demand. Depending on the type of book, a book can have a high rank and sell only a few thousand copies a month.
Generally a good rule of thumb while you are just starting out is to use these four rank groupings to help you get a feel of how rankings are for textbooks during peak and low demand seasons.
5,000 or less
These are the most successful books with very high demand. You know that if you are competitive & profitable with your pricing that it should sell fairly quickly.
5,000 to 30,000
Books that fall under this category are also very successful. They can sell 5 to 25 copies per day, but this is adequate for a merchant selling textbooks on the platform.
30,000 to 400,000
Books that fall here sell copies regularly, but they are not popular with most buyers. They sell only one or two copies per day. This also usually means there are fewer sellers, which could play into your advantage.
400,000 and above
Avoid books that fall under this category when you are just getting started. They may not sell for weeks or only sell a few copies in a month.
To find the rank for the textbooks you plan to list on Amazon, check out the ranking for the book on the platform.
Search for the book on Amazon and go to the book page. On the page, go to the “Product Details” section.
Scroll through the list and you will find the book’s Best Sellers Rank at the bottom.
An exception to this advice is if you get free books or books for really cheap. Just be aware that if you send them into Amazon FBA, that you will incur storage fees and the book could take months if ever to sell.
It might be best to list these as FBM if you have room to store them.
Amazon FBA Vs FBM (Merchant Fulfilled) to Sell
As highlighted earlier, FBM and FBA are the two shipping methods available to sellers on Amazon. Each method has its own unique process and I will explain below:
The merchant is responsible for packaging and shipping the item to the customer. You are also responsible for customer care and returns.
You can ship through USPS, FedEx, UPS, and others.
Here you ship your books to Amazon, and the company handles packaging and shipping. Amazon will also handle customer service complaints on your behalf.
You will have to pay a fee, but it is very convenient since you can focus your attention on other areas of your business like sourcing books to sell. Using Amazon makes it easier to scale.
Using Tactical Arbitrage to Find Textbooks to Sell
Online arbitrage is one of the most effective ways to source textbooks you will sell on the platform.
The crude way to identify books for online arbitrage is to search for them manually. However, this is time-consuming and often ineffective.
The best way is to use arbitrage software for your search.
Tactical Arbitrage is the way to go!
Tactical Arbitrage is the best software for online arbitrage and finding profitable textbooks to sell.
The software sources books and other products from all the major online bookstores including Amazon Books, Abebooks.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Valorebooks.com, and Booksamilion.com.
You will use the Library tool to search for new or used books and you can set it to continuing searching while you sleep. The software will source great deals for you and notify you when the search is completed.
There is also the Reverse Search tool that lets you check if a textbook you plan to offer for sale is selling cheaper on other marketplaces so you can buy it.
Here is the time-saving process in a nutshell to get you ready to sell books:
- Use Tactical Arbitrage to source and buy cheap textbooks online
- List the textbook at a higher price on Amazon
- Make your sale
- Ship the textbook to the buyer
- Repeat the process
Selling textbooks on Amazon can be a profitable and rewarding experience if you master how to cheaply source books and resell them on the platform at a profit.
Tactical Arbitrage can help you optimize your book sourcing process and maximize profits.
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