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Can You Still Make Money Selling Used Books on eBay?

April 9th, 2007 by Skip McGrath

Used books are big sellers on eBay and this is a very easy business to start. There are dozens of sellers on eBay making over $1000 a week selling used books.

Books are a huge and very profitable category on eBay. Although many sellers sell new book, used books are actually the most profitable and this is a very easy business to start.

Unless you are an expert, forget about novels, literature and rare expensive books. Any used book store owner will tell you their daily bread & butter are non-fiction books on art, antiques, collectibles, photography, crafts, cooking, history, regional subjects, sports, cars, trains, motorcycles, music and children’s books. The same is true on eBay. You can buy plenty of these books at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores.

The best books to sell on eBay are the large "coffee table" editions on transportation and sports. I recently purchased a beautiful history of Ferrari racing cars at a local thrift shop for $1.00. It sold on eBay for $29.00. I was browsing the closeout table at Barnes & Noble just after Christmas and bought a brand new marked-down History of The Superbowl for $5.99. It sold on eBay for $17.50. This illustrates one of the advantages of selling used books –you  can routinely earn markups of 100% to 300% or more.

Stay away from book club editions and series books such as The Time-Life books, unless you have a complete set in perfect condition. I once found the complete Time-Life Photography series at a used bookstore for $65.00. I sold it on eBay for $122.00. That was less than I hoped to get –but still a nice profit.

Other good books are the “How to draw” or How to Paint” instructional books, Children’s pop-up books (only in perfect condition) and hardcover books about crafts such as woodworking, quilting crocheting and so on.

You should only buy only books in good condition, preferably with an intact dust jacket. Never pay more than 25% of what you think they will sell for, and no more than 20% of the original cover price. You can find plenty of books at garage sales for less than $2 that will sell on eBay for $10 or more. Stay away from books that would sell for less than $10, otherwise you will have to sell dozens of books every week to make a decent income.

A great way to find books to sell is to place a small classified ad in your local paper that says:

Local dealer will pay top dollar for used non-fiction books in good condition. Call Sarah at 666-555-1111

Other places to find books are thrift shops, book fairs (buy in bulk to get good prices), local auctions, estate sales, library sales and used book stores.

Used book stores sell books at close to the value they would sell on eBay, but they always have bargains if you know what to look for.  For example, people who live in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest collect books on regional subjects like local history, geography, American Indians from that region and Eskimos. 

If you find a book in a book store on those subjects in Chicago or Pittsburgh it will sell for very little because there is no local interest.  But when you put those books on eBay people from Washington, Oregon and Alaska will buy them for top dollar. 

I once found a beautiful book on the history of Rodeo in a used  book store in Boston that I bought for $5.00 –I guess not a lot of people in Boston follow Rodeo.  I sold the book on eBay for $37.00 to a collector in Arizona.  He emailed me back and told me that book sold for over $50 used in Tucson bookstores and he was all excited to get it for $37.00.

I often see great books selling on eBay that go for much less than they are worth because the seller didn’t describe it correctly or used the wrong keywords in the title or had the auction end in the middle of the night when no one was awake.  So if you want to maximize your final values take the time to learn something about the book you have for sale and describe it with enough detail to attract the right buyer.

Selling used books on eBay is such a great business that I am working on an new book on this subject.  Stay tuned as I hope to have it for sale in May.

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