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How To Sell Used Books Online: All You Need To Know in 2024

Ana Marković Ana MarkovićWebsite Development Expert
If you want to sell your old books, online marketplaces like Amazon and Decluttr may seem like the obvious choice. After all, these platforms make it easy to list your used books and get exposure. However, most of these sites also take a cut from your sales, and some may restrict how many books you can sell.

Having your own online store for selling used books gives you complete control over how you display and sell your book collection. Whether or not you plan to start a full-fledged book reselling business, creating your own store can help you stand out and attract more buyers. Also, you’ll benefit from direct transactions and direct contact with readers.

Even if you have little experience with online store building, many beginner-friendly platforms have easy-to-use setup tools. For instance, a dedicated e-commerce platform like Shopify provides a variety of prebuilt, book-oriented templates to help you get started. Additionally, you get built-in features to market your online business.

Aside from choosing the right platform, there are other steps to take, from researching competitors to creating a catchy name. I’m here to share all the information you need to sell used books online for a profit.

How To Sell Used Books Online: The Basics

To build an effective online store and sell used books, you’ll need to do some research. It’s essential to determine what books you’ll sell while taking a good look at the market to help you determine pricing. Also, you’ll need to map out the costs to be able to budget accordingly.

Choose a Niche or Genre To Build Your Audience

Alibris Textbooks
Sites like Alibris specialize in selling new and used textbooks
While all books have value, there’s a greater demand for specific niches and genres, which makes them better suited for reselling. These typically include non-fiction books, such as textbooks, self-help books, religious books, art books, and cookbooks. Literary classics and limited edition or first edition books belonging to popular franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter can also be valuable.

With this in mind, you can evaluate your stack of used books and decide on your niche. Narrowing your focus can help you attract more customers, as people tend to search for specific books rather than randomly choose what to read. Also, if you decide to sell used books long-term, zeroing in on a niche can help you build your brand.

Research the Market To Help You Set Prices

BookScouter Search Results
BookScouter shows you what websites will currently pay for the books you want to sell
It’s a good idea to look at what similar resellers are doing to help you price your books fairly. You can use a website like BookScouter to compare the buyback prices of the books you want to sell. This will also give you an insight into how profitable your book may be.

To check the prices of your books on BookScouter or similar websites, you’ll need a book’s International Standard Book Number (ISBN). You’ll find this number on each book’s back cover, next to the barcode. I checked the selling price for The Outsiders and learned that $0.30 was the best deal I could get. On the other hand, my copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep could net me $3.02, which isn’t bad.

BookScouter also lets you check each book’s pricing history. You can see how much your book cost in the past and decide on the best time to sell it.

The price of your book will also depend on its condition, edition (first editions go for much more), and rarity. Rare books are typically pretty expensive and belong to a different market. If you believe you have a particularly rare book on your shelf, it’s best to have a specialist evaluate it before you put it up for sale.

Handle Legal Matters

If you plan to set up your own store, you should be aware of the legal requirements. You’ll need a federal tax ID number for your store, and you’ll also need to register your business name. It’s essential to get informed on all legal duties you have before you start your online business.

Calculate the Costs

When devising a plan, it’s crucial to consider all your expenses, including packaging, shipping, and subscription fees for your online store. Additionally, remember that you’ll need to allocate funds for registering a custom domain name for your website – more on this shortly.

Additional Book Sourcing

You can start by selling your own stack of used books, but if you choose to turn a one-time gig into a proper book dealing business, you’ll need additional stock. You can visit local thrift stores to find second-hand books at low prices. Also, public libraries may offer free old inventory.

Additionally, yard sales and house clearances are good places to look for second-hand books. However, if you want to buy used books in bulk, you can check out sites like Thriftbooks or auctions held on eBay, which offer collections of books for a set price.

Extensive book collections take up space. As your business grows, you will probably have to increase storage and make more room for your inventory.

How To Prepare Used Books for Selling

Aside from taking care of the business side of things, there are certain steps you need to take to prepare the books themselves.

Clean Your Books Properly

It’s essential to clean your used books thoroughly before you put them up for sale. Be sure to get rid of any dust, mildew, smudges, or grease stains. It’s a good idea to look for any insect damage. If you do find a culprit, it is advisable to inspect your entire collection.

Be Honest About Book Condition

Failing to describe the actual condition of your book won’t help sell it (and will damage your reputation in the process). Your used books should be in the best possible condition, but you should explicitly mention any shortcomings. If the book has worn corners or contains highlighted text, say so.

Also, when describing books, provide as much information as possible. You should include the publisher, year of publication, and ISBN number.

Choose The Right Platform To Sell Used Books

Shopify Free Trial
Shopify offers tailored solutions for book businesses
There are several ways you can showcase and sell used books online. One option is to use a specialized platform, such as a prebuilt online marketplace. You can also sell on social media or create your own online store.

Specialized platforms include online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay or book-specific sites like BookDeal. Selling used books on ready-made platforms can be convenient because they give your books exposure.

That said, prebuilt online marketplaces also have some limitations. For example, if you sell used books through Amazon, you’ll have to pay monthly fees and commissions on top of your shipping costs. Amazon’s wide reach also means steep competition, so you may struggle to win sales.

Similarly, eBay involves a bidding system that may work well for rare and collectible books but isn’t ideal for general trade books. Platforms like BookDeal are more straightforward to use, but they don’t let you set your prices, and some require you to sell a certain amount of books with them before you can receive your money.

If you want greater control over pricing and selling used books online, you can try selling on social media platforms. For instance, you can sell used books on Instagram by setting up an Instagram Shopping account, which includes a product catalog. You can set your own prices and promote your products on Instagram Stories.

Shopify Homepage
Shopify has integrated tools for selling and promoting your books
But while selling on social media is a great way to get started, you don’t get many options to customize your online store and make it stand out.

In contrast, if you decide to build your own online store, you get complete creative, pricing, and marketing control. Not only will you be able to create a storefront that matches your style, but you can also add social media links to your site for cross-promotion.

You can still sell books on eBay, Amazon, and social media with a site builder like Shopify. Instead of creating separate accounts on these platforms, you can manage everything from a centralized dashboard.

With step-by-step instructions, I’ll show you how to create a store for selling used books on Shopify. The great thing about Shopify is that it offers a 3-day free trial, so you can test its features risk-free.

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Choose a Catchy Name for Your Book-Selling Business

A catchy name can go a long way in helping you stand out from the competition. The name of your online store will also serve as the foundation of your domain name – a unique name that functions as your site’s home address on the Internet.

A domain name includes a website name and an extension, such as “.com.” It’s the first step in establishing an online presence and helps search engines find you. It’s also one of the first things a potential customer notices, helping you gain credibility as a seller of used books.

A good domain name for an online store that sells used books should be specific and appeal to your target audience. If you sell textbooks, for example, you’ll want to speak to college students. If you sell cookbooks, you may want to use culinary terms to appeal to cooking enthusiasts. Keep your domain name short, unique, and easy to spell.

What if you’re out of ideas? Shopify features a domain name generator to help you set up your custom domain in a few easy steps. If the particular domain you’re looking for is taken, Shopify will offer alternatives that are a close match. You pay for the domain separately from your subscription, but it’s a low yearly fee.

Customize Your Book Store

Shopify Signup Process
Shopify lets you choose the channels you want to sell on
You can set up an account with Shopify in just a few clicks – all you need is your email address to get started. Shopify will also ask about your business plans to provide the right tools to build your book-selling website.

Shopify Interface
Shopify’s interface is easy to navigate even if you’re a beginner
Immediately after signup, Shopify will take you to the dashboard. Shopify has a clean interface, and all its features are easy to find and use. The left sidebar contains all the tools you need to build, manage, and promote your online store.

Once you explore Shopify’s interface, you can start customizing your store’s design. Shopify has over 135 themes, and the books, music, and video categories contain plenty of book-focused designs you can modify to suit your needs. I chose the minimalist Publisher theme, which works great if you want to launch your store quickly.

Shopify Free Themes
You can see a quick overview of key features under every Shopify theme
Shopify is famous for its high-quality, mobile-responsive themes that allow your products to take center stage. The Publisher theme, for example, offers various navigation styles (sticky or mega menu, for example), and features like product slideshows and videos.

Shopify Theme Settings
Click on icons in the upper left corner to change your store’s design
As far as customization goes, you can change your theme’s colors, fonts, and layouts. Even Shopify’s free themes include 2-4 alternative color palettes. You can also add a logo to your store to make it more memorable.

Shopify Layout Settings
I changed the colors and text and added an image from a free stock library
In addition to colors and fonts, Shopify lets you modify your site’s content by dragging and dropping content blocks onto the page. You can add blocks for text, images, featured products, newsletter signup forms, and more.

Add Your Books as Products

Shopify is an e-commerce website builder, so adding products to your store is straightforward. Just navigate to Products on the left sidebar and click the Add Product button to start adding books to your site.

Shopify's Interface for Adding Products
Shopify doesn’t overwhelm you with too many product options
You can easily add a book title, description, and schedule availability for each book. This can be helpful for garnering interest and creating anticipation before a book officially appears on your website.

Shopify's Interface for Adding Products
Shopify lets you organize your books into categories and collections
In addition to titles and descriptions, you can add images and videos to your book listings to give potential customers a better idea of what they can expect. You can also set prices and shipping parameters (e.g., domestic or international).

Shopify Product Listing
Prominent buttons encourage site visitors to take action
When you publish your store, site visitors can click on your book listings to see information about the books you offer and buy them by clicking on Add to cart or Buy it now buttons. Also, thanks to Shopify’s image zoom feature, your customers can zoom in on your photos to examine your book’s condition in more detail. The higher the quality of your images, the more readers you’ll attract.

Update Your Store Settings and Payment Information

You can access and update all the information about your business by clicking on Settings in the lower left corner of your Shopify dashboard. From there, you can manage shipping, delivery, and taxes, update payment information, customize checkout, and more.

When it comes to paying for your subscription, Shopify accepts all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. You can also use debit cards that are co-branded with these companies. In some regions, you can pay your Shopify bills using PayPal or Shopify Balance.

Shopify Payment Settings
All your store settings are neatly situated in one place
Customers can pay for their books by credit card or various payment gateways, including PayPal, Stripe, Google Pay, and more. Accepting payments via globally available digital wallets allows you to build an international customer base.

Preview and Launch Your Online Bookstore

Before launching your online store, it is crucial to thoroughly test all the features on your website to ensure they work as intended. Take the time to preview your site on desktop and mobile screens to ensure the content shows correctly across different devices. You should also test navigation links, buttons, search tools, and e-commerce functionalities, including online checkout.

Shopify Store Homepage
My online store for selling second-hand sci-fi novels is ready to go live
Depending on the size of your book collection, your online store may contain many images. In that case, you’ll want to run a speed test to ensure your site loads quickly. You can try out a tool like PageSpeed Insights to get a good picture of your website’s loading speed. PageSpeed Insights will also recommend opportunities to improve loading time.

Start Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay, and Social Media

Regardless of your Shopify plan, you can sell your books on various channels, such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Instagram. You can add cross-shop functionality during the signup process or later through the Shopify App Store.

Shopify Multichannel Selling
Shopify app market allows you to connect your store with 17 online selling platforms
You can manage all your sales channels directly from your Shopify dashboard by navigating to the Settings tab. The great thing about selling on other channels through Shopify is that you can use Shopify’s exceptional marketing tools to promote your books across all platforms.

Promote Your Online Bookstore

Shopify’s built-in tools make promoting your store on social media easy. Aside from linking your social media profiles to your store, you and your customers can share individual product pages directly to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest.

Shopify also lets you optimize your online store for SEO. You can modify your book titles, descriptions, and categories and include keywords to help your online store rank higher in search results.

Shopify Email
From your Shopify dashboard, navigate to Marketing > Automations to access email templates
As your book reselling business grows, and you attract more subscribers, Shopify’s stellar email marketing features will come in handy. The built-in email marketing tool (Shopify Email) allows you to send up to 10,000 monthly emails for free.

You can choose from ready-made email templates that automatically pull your logo, products, and store colors. You can send automated emails to welcome new subscribers, notify them about abandoned checkouts, and more.

Overall, promoting your online store for selling used books is a long-term investment that requires time, effort, and careful planning. If you’re just starting out or don’t have the time, you can hire an expert to help market your store. Some freelancers build and promote online stores for a living, offering a valuable service at a very affordable price.

Your Book-Selling Journey Begins Now

Building an online store for selling used books requires research and commitment. Preparing your books for selling, choosing a platform to sell on, customizing your store to reflect your style – and finally, promoting it – demand planning.

If you have long-term plans for selling used books, you must account for your business’s growth. Consequently, you’ll want a website builder that will make it easy to upgrade when needed. You’ll also have to regularly update your online store with new content to sustain your customers’ interest.

The first – and most important step – is to create your website and get your book-selling business up and running. As you get the hang of things, you can always make improvements along the way.

FAQ

What is the best way to sell second-hand books?

Prebuilt online marketplaces are popular choices for selling used books online. Still, they have limitations, especially regarding creative freedom and pricing. But building your own website gives you a chance to develop your brand. For instance, an e-commerce platform like Shopify enables you to easily create an effective online store that integrates with your social media channels. Plus, it allows you to sell on other online marketplaces, too.

What type of books sell best?

Some books that are typically in high demand include textbooks and niche non-fiction books, such as art books and self-help books. Researching the market for trending niches can help you find your target audience.

How do you create an online store on Shopify?

All you have to do is sign up for Shopify’s free trial. Then, choose your preferred template design and add products to your store. You can customize your site’s design and connect it to social media and other platforms.

What is a good domain name for an online store that sells used books?

A good domain name for sites specializing in used books should be short, memorable, and aimed at your target audience. If you run out of ideas, Shopify can help you find a domain name and connect it to your store for a low price.

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