Ever since companies started making money online, I was intrigued. I graduated from high school in 1996, just when the internet was starting to come out of obscurity. By the time I got into college there were always stories of online companies raising millions in IPOs on the stock market.
This whole frenzy played a huge part in my decision to go into finance and business management. I was fascinated by the ability of the companies to sell products online. It was just such a new concept back then.
I just had to have a piece of the action!
It actually wasn’t until about 2001 or 2002 that I finally took leap into selling online. Of course, the big player in those days (I suppose still is) was eBay. By this time, it wasn’t quite as big a deal to buy and sell stuff online; however, I had never actually sold anything and I was fascinated with the subject.
I was in college and I was a cheapskate. So, obviously my investment wasn’t huge, but I decided to sell used books online. This is how I made my first buck online.
How I Bought and Sold Books Online
Essentially, I would go to thrift stores like Goodwill and others and look through the used book shelves and find book that I could sell on eBay. However, its slightly more complicated than that (although not much).
The key to success in buying and selling used books is to know how much money you can sell the book for before you buy it. Even though you could buy books all day long at $1 a pop at most thrift stores; doesn’t mean you should. You should only purchase a book if you know you can make some money on it. I usually only bought a book for a $1 if I knew I could sell it for $5 or more.
How to Check Selling Prices on eBay
Most of you may already know how to check completed listings on eBay; however, if not, its pretty simple. There is an option on the left sidebar that says “Completed Listing”. Simply check this box, and then only the listings for the particular search topic you have entered that are completed will show. By doing this kind of research, you can find out pretty quickly how much you can expect to sell a book for.
Chances are that you are not going to find any real “gems” in the used book section. You probably won’t find any books worth thousands and probably not even hundreds of dollars unless you are really lucky. However, you can certainly find some books valued in the $10 to $20 range.
What Kind of Books to Look for?
When I first got started, I really didn’t know what kind of books to look for. So after doing a little bit of research, I discovered that modern day first editions are collectible! A modern day first edition is simply the first edition of a recent publication (in the past 30 years or so). First editions for books older than this will typically command even higher prices.
If you don’t know how to tell if a book is a first edition, its not always easy. But here is a good guide that explains how: http://www.emptymirrorbooks.com/collecting/firstedition.html
With my limited knowledge of what books to look out for, I probably missed a few good ones; however, I did find a few decent modern day first editions. One book that I sold for about $50 was the first edition of The Firm by John Grisham.
I also found a few other books that sold for $20 or $30. However, the majority of the books that I found sold for around $5 to $7. Still not too bad for a $1 purchase.
I only kept at it for about 3 or 4 months. I would go book hunting on the weekends and sell them online and mail them during the week. Because I was in school and trying to get my future wife interested in me, I didn’t spend too much time or effort on it. However, I did manage to make a few hundred dollars here and there.
The problem with selling books this way, is that the margins are so low for the amount of time that it takes to find the books, creating the listing, respond to buyers, pack the books, and take them to the post office. I was probably making way less than minimum wage on my little venture. However, I think there really is some potential for someone who gets serious about it.
One of those people is from sellyourbooksonline.com . In fact, he rarely sells his books on eBay (only the more valuable ones that people will bid up). Instead, he focuses on selling used books on Amazon.com. He claims to have worked out a system where he makes over $5,000 a month just from selling used books on Amazon.
I haven’t personally read his course, but I have been on his email list for a year or so, and he appears to really know his stuff. He has a forum setup, and is always sharing some great free tidbits on where to find used book deal, where to buy used books in bulk, and other relevant information.
He says he can even make money when his books sell for $.99! I guess it works out that he can make about $1 on the shipping costs and he is sourcing his books for pennies. So, his margins may be ultra thin on some books, but he does a huge volume every month.
So, if you are interested in learning more about how to sell used books online, I would recommend trying his course out. He seems to be pretty legit from what I have seen in his forum and emails.
My Future with Selling Used Books Online
To be honest, every once in a while I still get the itch to go hunting for used books and to start selling them online. If I had some more time, I would LOVE to do this! I enjoy the hunt more than anything. Its kinda fun to find a first edition book selling for $1 at a thrift store.
So, who knows maybe this will become one of my future niche projects that I will document on this website. I am always looking for new ideas, but I’m certainly willing to revert back to something I have tried before.
Let me know you thoughts below! This could be one of my Niche Pursuits that I document for 90 days right here on this blog. So let me know what you think. Have you sold books online? Do you think this is a good niche business?