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I've been using Amazon to sell used books but USPS shipping costs cause my net earnings to be nearly nil. What am I doing wrong?
August 30, 2010 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I've been using Amazon to sell used books but USPS shipping costs cause my net earnings to be nearly nil. What am I doing wrong?

I'm selling books for $7-15 but shipping costs through the post office often come to about $10. Amazon gives me a $3.99 shipping credit. So, a $9 book gets sold, and after shipping I make $3. What am I doing wrong? I'd rather keep the book than make $3.
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Work & Money (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Send your books via Media Mail.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:34 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, wrong link. This is the correct one. Media mail is for books, CDs, DVDs, and others. This is what the shipping credit is keyed toward.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:36 PM on August 30, 2010


Also, make sure you're shipping through a real post office and not, say, a UPS store or something. Apparently they have a markup on shipping costs, even if your package travels through the Postal service.
posted by redsparkler at 9:40 PM on August 30, 2010


How are you mailing right now? Media mail is the way to go. I just got through selling a bunch of books on Half.com that I had lying around.

The way I did it was I packed the book into a large padded manila envelope, brought it to the post office and asked for Media Mail. I believe I generally paid somewhere between $2 and $3.50 for postage.

If it's after hour, you can also pay for Media Mail at the APC machine that is in a lot of post office lobbies. There is no explicit option for Media Mail, but find out how much postage you owe by checking on the USPS website, and purchase a stamp in that amount. Then write "Media Mail" on the package in red sharpie or something visible.

To show you what you should be paying, a book sent Media Mail that is not over 2 pounds only costs $2.77 to ship. Here is the full list of Media Mail prices.
posted by rancidchickn at 9:42 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I believe Amazon says somewhere not to use media mail. However, I know a few people who do this pretty regularly and they all use itl. It would be pretty ridiculous not to, given amazon's shipping credit.
posted by wayland at 9:48 PM on August 30, 2010


You can't really make much money selling used books and stuff that small on the internet, unless you're selling on a huge scale, unfortunately. You can try to slim down your expenses by either paying for shipping online (via usps.com or some other site), sending media mail, buying packing supplies in bulk, and so on, but generally it won't end up being worth your time. Generally in order to make any sort of real money on the net selling used items you need to fulfill at least one of these:

high-dollar items
huge profit margin
huge volume
zero or very low cost
incredibly automated shipping setup

And it doesn't sound like you can really hit any of those. It's up to you if you want to continue, of course, but if I had to sell off my books I'd either use Craigslist or just dump them on a used book store at a quarter apiece or whatever I'd get, rather than trying to move them one by one at a dollar or two apiece.
posted by Slinga at 9:58 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can't use media mail on amazon anymore because they want tracking info.

copy and paste your ISBNs into powells.com - ship 'em off and profit. No hassle.
posted by k8t at 10:08 PM on August 30, 2010


You can't use media mail on amazon anymore because they want tracking info.

From the Amazon website:

Sellers are expected to ship all orders within two business days of the date the order notification is made available by Amazon. When you offer a certain shipping option, you can deliver your order using any carrier and method, as long as the buyer receives their package within the expected timeframe for the shipping service they selected.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:17 PM on August 30, 2010


Uh, you can totally use media mail with tracking. You can get delivery confirmation separately at the post office (I think it's a lime green label) or you can use Paypal's shipping service and it automatically gives you a tracking number for like 20 cents.
posted by calistasm at 10:19 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, medial mail. I use it to ship books all the time and even with tracking, the total seldom exceeds $3.99. At the post office, just ask, "What's the cheapest method of shipping this?" and be sure to mention it's a book.
posted by mnemonic at 11:18 PM on August 30, 2010


When I was doing this, I found that I could break when sending by media mail if the selling price was at least $1 for any book lighter than a text book (i.e. more than an inch thick, hard cover). As my primary goal was to unload the books into a continued useful existence, this was fine. I listed every book within ~5% of the lowest listed price, unless it was otherwise exceptional--if such was below $1 or maybe ~$3-5 for the heavy books, I would toss it in a bag for donation to my local used bookstore/coffeeshop.
posted by zachxman at 6:03 AM on August 31, 2010


If you are just trying to rid yourself of some books, check out Powell's books in Portland, OR. You can send them a list of ISBN's and they will reply with a tally of what they will pay and a prepaid mailing label. The caveat is that they do not buy junk. They want books in good condition that they can sell at a profit.
posted by justcorbly at 3:40 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


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