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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to sell books online(2)

The business essentially works like this:

1. Buy used books (new too if you have good sources).
2. Grade the books, e.g., Good, VG, Like New, etc.
3. Determine the online value of the books.
4. List the books with an online marketplace.
5. Pack and ship the books when they sell.

The key to being successful is to know the value of the books you are considering for your inventory BEFORE you buy them. The process of finding good books is called book scouting. It involves the use of a cell phone or PDA to look up the book values using a scouting service, and determining if buying them will be profitable. The last thing you want to do is go out and buy a bunch of books, lug them home, and find out they only have a firewood value. Book scouting does not require any expensive tools to do either, just an Internet enabled cell phone or PDA and a service that allows you to enter an ISBN (or title/author for pre ISBN books) and this will cost about $10 per month for a good service. Don't get too wrapped up in the $10 per month cost, the service can easily pay for itself ten fold in a single one-hour scouting adventure. Yesterday, I picked up a book that another dealer had passed over because the scouting service they were using was not a very good one. I paid $1.99 for the book and it currently sells on for $194.42. Just selling this one book can pay for my marketplace listing fees and my scouting service for over three months, and it wasn't the only good book I found.

Once you have an inventory of 200 - 500 books, you can start a marketplace account and efficiently sell books online. This requires that you enter your books into a database or spreadsheet and upload them to one of the marketplaces. Not too difficult, but it does require that you learn to price and grade your books, and there are acceptable standards for grading as well as some marketplace rules regarding the conditions that can be listed.

So, now you can start to recover the small investment that you have made by receiving orders from the marketplace with shipping instructions. You package your books and ship them to your customers. Payment to you is for the most part automated. Some marketplaces have direct deposit features, and some will mail you a check each week/two-weeks/monthly, depending on the marketplace.

This is no time to relax, you need to keep scouting for more inventory to replenish the books you sell online and to grow your inventory to a level that provides the income you are looking to make.

There are many other nuances of the business that are easy to learn without having to do everything by trial and error, but you need to enjoy books, being around people that enjoy books, and spending time in places where they sell books if you want to enjoy this business.

The best part about the idea is that you don’t have to take my word for it, you already know about the online marketplaces that books are sold through, and you know they are legitimate. You can become a successful online bookseller, selling your books online through these marketplaces as a third-party seller too.

Michael E. Mould is the author of "Online Bookselling: A Practical Guide with Detailed Explanations and Insightful Tips," ing. If you would like to learn more about online bookselling, please visit: or send Mike an email at:

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