Full bookshelves are cool — there’s no doubt about that. There’s something about that colorful Instagram-ready aesthetic that screams “I’m educated and I’m not afraid to show it!”
But let’s face it — a lot of those books are just collecting dust.
Whether you’ve got a pile of novels you read once and have no intention of reading again or a stack you’ve never read in the first place, it’s time to look at how you can make money by selling your used books online.
Here’s what you need to know about the most popular platforms to help you sell used books online:
The obvious choice for many is Amazon, but selling on this platform is also a little more complicated than the other options on this list.
How to Sell Books on Amazon
First, set up an Amazon seller account. You’ll need the following items on hand: business and contact address, mobile or telephone number, chargeable credit card and identity details (drivers license or passport).
You’ll be asked where you want to sell your product. Amazon sells to several countries, but if you’d only like to sell in North America, Japan and/or Europe, simply check the boxes, then click next.
Then you’ll be asked to choose a fulfillment method. Amazon offers two ways:
- Fulfillment by Seller (FBS): You’ll pack and ship every book that someone orders from you.
- Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA): You’ll ship all your books to Amazon, and when an order is placed, Amazon handles the packaging and shipping.
FBS requires more work on your part, because you’ll be responsible for packing and shipping the books as well as calculating the cost of shipping based on the product’s weight, but you’ll also have the freedom to choose your own shipping service.
How Much It Costs to Sell Books on Amazon
Amazon offers two plans:
- The Individual Plan: This costs $0.99 per unit sold, and it’s best for people selling fewer than 40 units a month.
- The Professional Plan This costs$39.99 per month and is best for people selling more than 40 units a month who also want to advertise.
For every item sold, Amazon sellers pay the company a referral fee, which is a percentage of the total price — including item price, shipping cost, and any gift-wrapping charges — or a minimum amount, whichever is greater.
For books, the referral fee is 15% in addition to a $1.80 closing fee. You’ll pay that in addition to the selling plan fees.
Fulfillment Fees: FBA vs. FBS
These depend on which fulfillment method you choose:
- Amazon FBA: Your monthly fee for storing your goods at an Amazon Fulfillment Center depends on how much inventory you’re sending them and how long the products sit there before selling. In addition, you’re responsible for fees associated with packing and shipping your items to the warehouse. If your books are slow to sell, you may be subject to long-term storage fees and removal order fees. More information can be found here.
- Amazon FBS: You’ll have to pay your own shipping costs upfront, but Amazon will also charge a shipping fee based on the product category and shipping method, which will then be passed on to you as a shipping credit. For books, the shipping fee could be anything from $3.99 for domestic standard shipping to $46.50 for international expedited shipping. The full details can be found here.
In addition to the charges above, you may end up with refund fees, high-volume listing fees and a rental book service fee of $5 per rental if you’re renting textbooks rather than selling them. A full breakdown of the other costs can be found here.
What You Need to Know Before You Start
These tips will set you up for success when selling used books on Amazon:
- Choose your plans wisely. Many sellers don’t think FBA is a good option for a small seller — it’s too much of a hassle for someone looking to just make a little money off a few books.
- Follow Amazon’s listing guidelines. Experienced sellers suggest new sellers adhere closely to Amazon’s guidelines for grading a book’s condition. If a title is even slightly used, don’t list it as new. Be as specific as possible with what’s been damaged so your customers know what they’re buying and won’t be surprised when their package arrives.
- Be honest. If you grade a book incorrectly, you’re more likely to get negative feedback. After too many bad reviews, Amazon will ask you to remove yourself from the platform.
- Figure out your prices. Many sellers recommend adding up all of your costs — postage, packing materials, your time and the Amazon selling fees — and compare that total to the book’s original value.
Who Should Sell Used Books on Amazon?
If you have a lot of new or gently used books to sell, Amazon may work for you. However, if you’re only trying to sell a few books, you may want to look elsewhere.
AbeBooks is a global digital marketplace for used books, fine art and collectibles.
Sellers who use AbeBooks are responsible for setting up their own listings, storing their inventory and shipping their own items. You’ll also set your own shipping rates and speeds.
How to Sell Books on AbeBooks
First, you’ll need to decide if you want to pay for a professional account or just sell a few items through the website’s Book Buyback section.
To do the latter, you then have to choose a partner website to work with. You have two choices: Ziffit or TextbookRush, the latter of which is best if you’re selling — you guessed it — textbooks. Let’s assume you’re selling used books that are not textbooks, which means you’ll select Ziffit.
You have two ways to search for books in Ziffit’s database: through its website and using its free app. You’ll either type the barcode into numbers into the field on Ziffit’s homepage, or you’ll use the app to scan the barcode with your smartphone.
Once you find the book you want to sell in the database, the service will display an offer. For example, I typed in the barcode for my hardcover copy of Lindy West’s “The Witches Are Coming” and it gave me an offer of $2.22.
The website has a minimum $15 total item value required for every trade in, so if I were to go through with my trade, I’d have to enter several more book barcodes until the total hit $15.
Every book must meet the following standards:
- Have an ISBN number that matches the ISBN you submitted.
- Include all original supplements (such as CDs) and its dust jacket (if it had one).
- Has a cover free from heavy damage and no water damage at all.
- Has all pages intact with no writing, annotation or discoloration.
After your books have all been valued and you’ve reached the $15 minimum, hit “complete the trade” and you’ll be given the information you need to package and send your items securely.
How Much It Costs to Sell Books on AbeBooks
If you want a professional AbeBooks account, you’ll have to pay $25 or more a month. Plus, you’ll have to apply for it.
The cheaper (i.e. free) option is to sell through the website’s Book Buyback section, i.e. either through TextbookRush or Ziffit.
Neither TextbookRush or Ziffit require you to pay for postage — every book buyback gets a free trackable FedEx shipping label — but you’ll have to provide your own box, so if you don’t have one to reuse, you’ll have to buy one.
What You Need to Know Before You Start
- Keep your shipping receipt. You’ll want to keep it as proof of shipping so you can use the company’s free drop-off service at your nearest FedEx.
- Sell frequently. Those who choose Ziffit through the Book Buyback section of AbeBooks get paid either to their bank or PayPal account, and the payments come in weekly if you continue to sell. So if weekly payments sound good, sell as frequently as possible throughout the month.
- Use the app. If you’re on the go or deep in the trenches of your basement bookcase and want to quickly scan barcodes rather than type in the entire ISBN, Ziffit is available in app form on Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Who Should Sell Used Books on AbeBooks?
Several seller reviews on Trustpilot said the service is great at paying sellers promptly, so if getting your money quick is a priority for you, consider AbeBooks.
You already use it to shop cute hand-made goods, but you probably didn’t know there’s a whole community of people selling books on Etsy.
How to Sell Used Books on Etsy
First, you’ll want to create an account. You can either use Facebook or Gmail to quickly create one, or you can make one using your email address.
Next, you’ll be guided through a process to set up your shop, which will include choosing a name for your shop, the currency you’ll accept, and what items you want to sell (including photos and descriptions).
You’ll also have to decide how to handle shipping. You can choose to make shipping free, or they can choose to have sellers pay for it. If you pick the latter, you can make it a rate you choose, or you can have it automatically calculated for you by Etsy.
You can opt to include a handling fee and select where they’re willing to ship to. You’ll also need to decide how your customers will be billed and how you’ll receive that money.
The Seller Handbook has hundreds of articles for anyone who is starting out.
How Much It Costs to Sell Books on Etsy
It’s free to set up an account on Etsy, but there are a few other costs associated with actually selling items on the website.
- Listing fees: You’ll be charged a listing fee of $0.20 for each item you put up for sale through your account. (A listing lasts for four months or until the item is sold.)
- Transaction fees: When you make a sale, you’ll be charged a transaction fee of 5% of the price you display for each listing (which includes the amount you charge for shipping and gift wrapping).
- Advertising and promotional fees: You have the option to purchase paid advertising on Etsy through the Advertising Dashboard in Shop Manager. Read You can learn more about those fees here.
- Subscription fees: Etsy sellers in good standing can join Etsy Plus, an optional subscription package offering tools for sellers who are growing their brands. The fee for this subscription is $10 per month.
- Shipping fees: Etsy offers sellers in certain areas the chance to buy shipping labels to fulfill their orders. The cost of the labels depends on the shipping carrier as well as the origin, destination, weight and dimensions of the package. (If you’re not in one of those designated areas, you’ll have to pay for your own postage.)
What You Need to Know Before You Start
There are several ways to determine how much money you can make off your books. For example if you choose to make shipping free, you’ll take the brunt of that cost yourself, which will only be worth it if you’re selling several books that cost the seller more than it costs you to ship.
You can also browse the website and other websites/apps on this list to see how much other people are selling their same title for, and if your book looks like it’s in better condition, bump your price a little higher than theirs (the same for the opposite, so if yours is more worn, sell it for less than that person listed theirs for).
Who Should Sell Used Books on Etsy?
As with Amazon, using Etsy to sell used books requires more of a time investment, so it’s a good option for people who have a room full of titles they’re trying to sell, rather than trying to sell a shelf’s worth of novels.
It’s also worth considering Etsy if you’re selling rare books that are also in great condition. Liz McCrory, of Houston, said she buys books from Etsy all the time, especially when looking for a first- or second- edition paperback she can’t find at her local indie bookstore.
Decluttr is similar to AbeBooks in some ways, as the platform uses both an app and a website to sell all sorts of used goods, but several key differences between the platforms — specifically how to get started and how to navigate them — might lead you to prefer one over the other.
How to Sell Books on Decluttr
First you’ll either download the app or go to Decluttr’s website and click the “Sell CDs, DVDs, Games & Books” tab.
Next, you’ll enter your book’s barcode, either by typing it into the website or scanning it using the app, and click “Add” to see how much the website will offer you for your item.
This is where things get more complicated. To complete your order — which is how Decluttr describes both items you’re selling and items you’re buying — your basket must contain at least $5 worth of items and include at least 10 media items or one tech item. For example, when I put in the barcodes for the books “Becoming” and “Shrill,” it didn’t give me the option to check out yet because the two-item basket was only worth $1.46.
After you’ve met the criteria, you’ll check out. You’ll pick one of three options to get paid: direct deposit, PayPal or donate to charity.
Finally, print your free UPS shipping label, pack the books in a box and put the label on the box. Your box is ready to be dropped off at a UPS Store, Customer Center or Authorized Retail Outlet. (You can even hand it to a UPS driver.)
How Much It Costs to Sell Books on Decluttr
Decluttr is one of the cheapest platforms on this list because it’s nearly free to use, including shipping. The only thing you have to cover is the cost of the box to pack your books in, and that cost can be eliminated if you already have one.
What You Need to Know Before You Start
With Decluttr, the only way to make more money is to sell more books, so dig into the back into the closet and the depths of your basement to make sure you’re not missing any potential novels to sell.
Who Should Sell Used Books on Decluttr?
It’s not a bad idea to use it if you’re doing exactly what the name intends — to declutter your house — but don’t expect to make much more than a few bucks.
Decluttr is also useful for people who want to sell technology and other pieces of physical media like DVDs. You’ll probably make more money if you use it to sell old gadgets rather than books.
Letgo is, in many ways, the simpler, more modern version of eBay. You pick the price you want to sell your book for, then you wait for a nibble.
How to Sell Books on Letgo
You’ll create a free account, then select the category of what you’re selling. Books aren’t listed as a category, so you’ll need to select “Other” — and drag a photo of what you’re selling into the designated box.
Choose a price for the item (or you can give it away for free), create a title for the product listing and write a description.
Then wait for someone to reach out via the app and say they’re interested.
When someone contacts you to say they’d like to make a purchase, you determine how/when/where the item will be delivered to the buyer and how the money will be exchanged.
How Much It Costs to Sell Books on Letgo
Letgo’s website says it doesn’t charge “most” sellers a fee for posting their listings. They don’t take a percentage of any user’s sales, but sometimes charge a “nominal posting fee” in a “few select locations and categories to ensure a better experience for both buyers and sellers.”
Creating an account is free, and when I tried out the site by posting a book, I was not required to give any money to Letgo.
The biggest price difference between Letgo and other platforms is that it’s completely what you make of it. The platform also doesn’t facilitate any monetary transactions. If you’re selling to someone nearby, for example, you can meet up to exchange the product and its payment, bypassing shipping costs. This is how most sellers end up using the app, particularly because the app uses a shopper’s geographic location to show items for sale in their area.
What You Need to Know Before You Start
Stay organized and alert. Being able to sell and receive payment completely on your own terms (think: platforms like Facebook Marketplace) is liberating, but it can also be risky and you could get ripped off.
Make sure you’re taking extra steps like verifying your buyer is a real person and double-checking the payment method you’ve agreed on. If you’re going to meet up in person for a transaction, do so in a public place with a friend or family member present.
Who Should Sell Used Books on Letgo?
If you’re an experienced seller looking to make a little money by selling to people in your immediate region, this could be a great platform to you.
But if you don’t have much selling experience, you may be more at risk for being taken advantage of, and you may want to opt for a platform like AbeBooks or Decluttr.
Niki Kottmann is a contributor to Codetic.