Help me sell some books for fun and slight profit.
January 5, 2008 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to make a little pocket money off selling books on What should I know?

I started out by listing a bunch of my old books on, and in the last two weeks, I've made about $150. I'm not looking to make a living at this, but it might be nice to make a little money to pay for movies and DVDs and CDs and whatnot.

What can you tell me? What sugggestions or experiences do you have? What should I absolutely do? What should I absolutely not do? Impart your wisdom, MeFi!
posted by santojulieta to Work & Money (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Partly is depends what kind of books you have? Pop fiction or harder to find stuff.

You might want to try Amazon instead of half...or try Alibris.

How many books do you have to sell? A hundred? A Thousand? A lot depends on that as well.
posted by UMDirector at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2008

Response by poster: Right now, I have something like 120 books listed. Some are popular fiction. Some are older. I also have a lot of classics (like Great Gatsby) listed as well.

I'm interested in checking out Goodwill and Salvation Army shops to find some books to list as well.
posted by santojulieta at 10:22 AM on January 5, 2008

I looked at both Half and Amazon when I started selling textbooks, and it looked like Half took less off the top of sales than Amazon did. For Half, I'd say, if you haven't already been doing so, check what your books are generally going for from other sellers, and keep in mind that Half's reimbursement of shipping fees usually doesn't quite cover everything (especially on expedited shipping orders).

Half shares user accounts and the feedback system with eBay, but I've found that out of my buyers so far, only 1 out of 4 has thought to leave feedback, and since a seller derives their reputation on Half pretty much entirely from feedback, in the future, I'll probably include the little packing slip printout that includes a little reminder to leave feedback to show appreciation if they think the deal went well.

Other than that, I appreciate being able to flip an old textbook here and there, and find that I magically have $40 more in my bank account in two weeks. So kudos to you,
posted by stleric at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2008

My wife and I sold used books on Ebay for a several years. Here are some tips:

1) Learn how to grade books and accurately describe their condition.

2) Learn what a "book club edition" of a book is, and avoid them.

3) Learn how to find out a book's printing history by looking at it.

4) Goodwill and Salvation Army used to be gold mines, but I think they've gotten a lot smarter about putting out the Heinlein first editions for a buck (that was a real good day). Library sales are where the real action's at.

5) Paperbacks can sell well if you organize them in good lots (e.g., a big lot of horror novels, or a big lot of sci-fi, etc.), but your margins are going to be a lot lower, and it can be really hit-or-miss.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Your biggest decision should probably be whether to go with or Amazon Marketplace. Some googling can turn up a lot of opinions, including this one.

Also, make sure to check out the different fees that you will be paying at each one for various kinds of items. Here are good calculators for and Amazon.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:38 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just a warning - Expedited shipping on does not come close to covering the cost of sending a hardback, especially textbooks.
posted by metahawk at 11:28 AM on January 5, 2008

Best answer: If you start selling more books or want to sell on multiple channels you might want to check out some software to make your life easier...something like allows you to sell multichannels, track whats sold etc, integrates shipping and generally makes your life easier. Might not need anything like that for 120 books, but if your turn over on those becomes enough or you anything it could help.
posted by UMDirector at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would avoid advertising/offering Expedited Shipping if you plan on selling a lot of big, heavy, hardback books. (Basically anything that you can't fit into a Priority Mail Flat Rate box.)

Get tracking numbers on EVERYTHING you ship. It's to protect you as much as the buyer.

Learn your Post Office rates. There's a certain size/weight under which Media Mail is actually more expensive than FCM, but sometimes the Post Office people (or the machines) won't tell you and will just let you screw yourself. Learn the rates and the break-even points for various services.

I've found it convenient to have an electronic label printer (a Dymo LabelWriter) so I can just copy/paste names and addresses and print them, without worrying about accidentally mis-copying the address and having a package get misdelivered as a result. However, I wouldn't go out and spend $150 on a printer unless you have other reasons for buying it. And I personally am not that sold on the concept of e-postage (why bother when you can just stick the appropriate number of stamps on it? all you really need is the scale and a rate chart, unless you're doing a lot of volume).
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:31 PM on January 5, 2008

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