Whenever I go out shopping for books to sell online, I inevitably get asked the same question by curious people who see me scanning the book barcodes:
“Do you make a lot of money selling these books on Amazon?”
None of these people even consider that I might be selling my books on a website other than Amazon. To them, Amazon is the first, last, and only place anyone can sell books for cash (even eBay is losing popularity as a good place to sell your books online).
Now Amazon is a good place to sell books online for profit – I sell books for as much as $300 regularly on Amazon.com, and a good portion of my extra income comes from my Amazon book sales.
But as the readers of my blog know, Amazon is not the only online book buyer out there. Buyback websites like Textbooks.com, Valore, Chegg, and Cash 4 Books (all of which you can find through Bookscouter) can offer many more options for selling books online.
So I’d like to spend some time answering this question:
Which Makes Me More Extra Money — Amazon or a Buyback Website?
Short answer? It depends.
Most people automatically think Amazon is the best place to sell books online for cash. After all, if you list your book on Amazon, you decide what price you want to sell it for – a buyback website will only give you a non-negotiable price quote for your book.
Moreover, Amazon receives thousands of visitors every day, which increases the odds that someone will buy your book for the price you’re asking.
But before you start listing your books for hundreds of dollars on Amazon, you should know about some of the downsides to selling books on Amazon. (Be prepared, we have a lot of information to cover).
First, while you can list your books on Amazon for any price you want (some of my Amazon books are priced over $600), the odds of someone buying your book depend greatly on the prices offered by other people selling the same book on Amazon.
Example: if there are five people selling a book and the person with the lowest price is asking $50 for his book while the person with the highest price is asking $80 for the same book, you stand an excellent chance of selling your copy of the book for $60 (especially if your book is in better condition than the $50 copy).
On the other hand, if those people are selling their copies for $2 or $5, you’ll have a tough time selling your book if you try to sell it for $60.
(That’s not to say you can’t sell a book for a high price when everyone else is selling their copies cheaply – I’ve sold books for $20 on Amazon when other sellers were asking just $4 for the same book – but I had to wait several months for my book to sell).
Things get trickier when selling textbooks online. Textbooks get new editions and are replaced quickly in universities – so while your textbook might be selling for $100 today, that price might drop to $50 next week as other students start selling their college textbooks on Amazon for cheaper prices in a vain attempt to sell their books faster and make money fast.
Booksellers call this technique “low balling” and it can make valuable books worthless in a short time. I’ve listed textbooks for $200 on Amazon.com, only to find twenty other Amazon sellers listing their copies for only $5 a week later!
Worse news: even if your book does sell on Amazon.com for a good price, Amazon takes out a lot of fees and commissions before you get paid. Here’s a breakdown:
Amazon Fees and Commissions
Currently, Amazon offers two selling plans, a Professional Selling plan and an Individual Selling plan.
People who sell on a Professional Selling plan pay a monthly subscription fee of $40, which waives some of the fees Amazon places on book sales.
People who sell on an Individual Selling plan don’t pay monthly fees, but do pay an extra $0.99 “item fee” for every book they sell on Amazon.com, which can add up if you sell a lot of books on Amazon.
Now, I’m going to assume that you’ll have an Individual Selling plan (since you probably just want to make some extra money selling books and/or sell your textbooks for some extra cash). Here’s what Amazon will take out:
First, Amazon will take a 15% commission from the price you’re selling your book for (so if you sell your textbook for $100, Amazon will take $15 lowering your earnings to $85).
Next, Amazon will charge a “variable closing fee” of $1.35. (Your textbook will now earn you only $83.65).
And finally Amazon will take out another $0.99 for its “item fee.” (Your textbook will pay you only $82.66. Not bad, but not as much as you thought you’d get, right?)
Now Amazon.com will give you a shipping credit (which they get from the person who bought your book) to help you buy postage to send your book to your buyer. The amount of this shipping credit can vary if you offer faster shipping – but most likely you’ll get a standard shipping credit of $3.99 per book.
When mailing books, most sellers use a low-cost postage called Media Mail. A 3 lb. Media Mail shipping label currently costs $3.72, so you might save some money if your book package weighs 3 lbs or less
However, if your book weighs more than 3 lbs (like a lot of textbooks) you might have to spend $4.22, $4.72, $5.22, or more on a Media Mail label – meaning you’ll lose more money on shipping.
Beyond that, you might want to buy insurance for your package (especially if you’re selling an expensive book) which will eat up even more of your profits.
All told, when you subtract all those fees and commissions, you may only get $79 or less for your $100 book!
Selling to Buyback Websites
Well, for starters, buyback companies don’t take any fees and commissions out of their price quotes – what they offer you is what they’ll pay (provided your book is in good condition – please read Is The Book Condition of Your Textbook Good Enough to Make Extra Money?).
Also, all the buyback companies I recommend on my blog (and most that you’ll find on Bookscouter) will let you download a free shipping label that you can print to ship your books. (Many buyback companies offer Media Mail labels, although more and more are offering UPS labels – so be sure you drop off your package at the right UPS store or United States Postal Office).
To use the example above, if a buyback company is offering $75 for your textbook, you might be better off selling it to that buyback website even if you can list it for $100 on Amazon (since we’ve just determined you’ll probably make under $79 for that book once Amazon.com takes out its fees and commissions).
So does this mean buyback websites are the best places to sell your books online?
Sometimes, a buyback website’s price quote for a book is so low compared to what you could get if you listed that book on Amazon that it’s worth it to sell the book on Amazon, even if you have to wait weeks or months for someone to buy your book.
In these cases, even after Amazon takes out all their fees and commissions, I’ve found that the book often still earned me twice what the buyback company would have paid me.
However, if there’s a price difference of only a few dollars between what a buyback company is offering for my book versus what I can make for the book on Amazon – or if I just want to make some extra money on a textbook before its price drops on Amazon – I’ll sell the book to a buyback company.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to sell books online to buyback websites or on Amazon.com – but just be aware that even though it might look like you’re not getting as much for your book from a buyback company, you might still come ahead.
Whew! Lots of information to digest, right? But I hope you learned something from this blog article – and if you’d like to learn more about selling books online for extra cash, please take a second to subscribe to my blog and get more valuable tips for earning extra money.
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