2021 Guide to Selling Books on Amazon

Published on: Wed Jul 28 2021

Written by Tony Do

When Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994, he started with books! Learn why books are the best products to source and sell on Amazon and build an empire like Bezos.

In 1994, a young Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, started his multibillion-dollar company starting with a single product: books. When asked why he would start his company with books, his answer was simple: diversity. Books are the most diverse product in the world, every culture has its own set of scripts with endless genres, authors, and stories. Bezos explained that there are more types of books than there are product categories. By starting with books, he created a diverse collection of desired goods to start his empire. Now almost 30 years later, books continue to be one of Amazon’s top products, accounting for almost 10% of Amazon’s revenue.

Books are still one of the major products within Amazon’s marketplaces and bring a diverse inventory of profitable products for Amazon third-party sellers to take advantage of. In this blog, we’ll be discussing how you can start selling books on Amazon and build your Amazon business like Bezos.

Why Do People Sell Books on Amazon?

A common question we often see from sellers is, why should I even bother selling books on Amazon? Well, if you already sell other products on Amazon, selling books is not much different! In some ways, sourcing and selling books on Amazon can be even more profitable than other products.

Like other products and business models, selling books on Amazon requires similar steps. You have to have an Amazon Seller Central account, you have to source your books, list your products on Amazon, and find a way to ship your books once you make a sale. But as Bezos mentioned, books provide an endless field of profitable, high-demand products.

While the world moves towards digital screens rather than physical books (see Amazon’s Kindle series), books are still in demand. Books aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and they can provide sellers a new avenue of sales and profits if done correctly.

Is Selling Books on Amazon Profitable?

Another common question we get about selling books on Amazon is, how much does it cost, and is it profitable to sell books on Amazon?

Like any other product, our answer is: it depends. Books can be extremely profitable like other products, but it will be determined by the cost to source your products, the selling price, the demand, and fulfillment fees.

To calculate the estimated profits, you’ll need to determine a couple of things:

  1. What selling plan are you using? (Individual plan @ $0.99 per unit sold or Professional plan @ $39.99 per month)
  2. Referral fees (Amazon charges a 15% referral fee + $1.80 closing fee per book)
  3. FBA fulfillment fees (Depending on weight and size, can range from $2.16 to $5.68 per unit)
  4. Other costs (storage fees, PPC, etc.)

Remember, books aren’t much different than any other product. Before you source your books, calculate the potential profit margins for every potential product. To learn more about Amazon’s fees, click here.

How to Source Books for Amazon

The best part about selling books on Amazon is that books are much easier to source than traditional products. Unlike most other products, both new and used books are quite popular and sell very frequently on Amazon. Many booksellers on Amazon don’t even sell new books but make a fortune selling used books they find at a discount and sell for a huge profit. Because books can be sold used, this brings more opportunities to source products. Here are some of the most common and popular methods to sourcebooks to sell on Amazon:

1. Sell Your Collection:

Many sellers have their collection of books that haven’t been touched in ages. Rather than let those books continue to collect dust, many Amazon sellers sell their used books on Amazon. Because you’re selling from your inventory, the cost to the source is essential $0! This means whatever you have left after Amazon takes out fees, is entirely profit!

2. Book Lots:

You may run into uncommon situations where you can buy a high quantity of books for a cheaper price. Like sourcing wholesale products, the more you buy, the cheaper it is. Some booksellers use this tactic to buy a ton of books for a low price and then resell it for a profit online.

3. Book Sales:

Book sales are quite common, especially at brick-and-mortar book stores. In some cases, you might be able to buy an expensive book for a couple of cents on the dollar! This is often referred to as “arbitrage,” where you can buy books at a deeply discounted price and resell it for a huge profit on Amazon!

4. Online arbitrage:

Rather than brick-and-mortar stores, some sellers rely on online arbitrage to source their products. They find great deals on high-demand books online and buy them for cheap. They can then sell it back on Amazon for a profit.

5. Second-hand books:

Some sellers buy popular second-hand books as well. Because you can sell used books and still make a profit, sellers can easily purchase books from garage sales, thrift stores, or even used books from online sellers from Facebook Marketplace or eBay. These second-hand books come at a huge discount and can be resold for a profit on Amazon.

6. Free books:

Who doesn’t love free books? Books are plentiful nowadays and it seems like people and businesses are giving away free books left and right. Why not collect some of those free books and see if you can resell them on Amazon? Tons of booksellers are using this strategy and sell their free books for 100% profit.

These are some of the reasons why books are still one of the most sold products on Amazon today, even near 30 years after Amazon was founded. There will always be an endless demand for books, and because plenty of customers buy both used and new books, it provides sellers with an endless well of products and multiple ways to source books. Some of these methods are extremely profitable, costing $0 to source and resold for 100% profit.

Creating Your Book Listing with ISBNs

As we mentioned, selling books on Amazon isn’t that much different from selling any other product. Before you can start selling your books, you will need to determine your pricing plan, fulfillment method, and create your Amazon Seller Central account. If you haven’t created your seller account yet, that will be your first step. Don’t worry, we can help! Head to our blog on 7 Steps to Activate Your Amazon Seller Central Account and create your account today. This blog will guide you through the beginning steps of creating an account and determining the best model for your business.

Once you finish creating your account, the next step is to complete a product listing and set a selling price!

The first step to creating a product listing is to find your book on Amazon.

The best way to find your book is to identify your book’s ISBN or “International Standard Book Number.” Your book’s ISBN can be found on the back of your book above the barcode. The ISBN should be a 10 to 13 digit code. For example, we’ll be selling “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.

We flipped the book over and found the ISBN: 978-0062301253 right above the barcode.

From here, we were able to go on Amazon and find the book’s listing with the matching ISBN.

Now, we want to focus on the different offers for the book under the Buy Box, where it lists “Other Sellers on Amazon” We saw that this book in new condition, it is being sold for $10 to $18.

We go to Amazon Seller Central, and create a new product listing with the information we’ve collected. We have the ISBN and the price range, and now we can move forward to adding our information.

When creating the product listing, make sure to add all of your book’s information including the book’s quality. Amazon has 5 condition categories including “New,” “Like New,” “Very Good,” Good,” and “Acceptable.” Click whichever one best fits your inventory and choose a price based on the condition. You can see your competitor’s list and use that as a reference to determine your selling price.

Going back to our example, our book in “New” condition was selling for $10 to $18, but a used copy of the book barely sells for $2 to $8. Considering fees and the cost of the product, it may not be profitable or even worth considering selling this book used.

This is why we encourage all sellers to calculate the profit margins before sourcing any new or used book.

Book It Like Bezos

Looking back at Amazon’s growth over the past 30 years, much of the success was driven by Amazon’s humble beginning as an online book store. Now in 2021 as a multi-billion dollar company. Amazon is still much connected to its roots with books. Books aren’t leaving anytime soon, there are still countless stories to be written and loaded history of literature from the past. If you’re looking for a product to launch your Amazon business empire, you might want to look to build your future.

If you don’t want to just rely on books to build your business, you’re in luck! Sellgo’s Product Tracker is an amazing tool to find and source profitable, high-demand products that can drive your sales and increase your profits!

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