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How to Start Selling Books on Amazon

a book on amazon displayed on a mobile phone next to a stack of books

It’s hard to remember a time when Amazon was just a bookseller. But in 1994, when Bezos hatched his idea for an online store, books were nothing short of a godsend. 

Books not only promised high demand and low costs, but a large variety of titles to choose from. Sure enough, within just two months of launching Amazon, Bezos was earning $20,000 a week—purely from book sales. 

It stands to reason that books remain near and dear to Amazon’s heart, and continue to ring in a hefty load of sales. Today, Amazon accounts for more than 50% of the entire U.S. market in printed books. The book category still earns one of the highest average profit margins (25%), according to JungleScout’s 2021 State of the Amazon Seller Report, making it an attractive product category for sellers. 

If you’re looking to sell on Amazon, books are a great place to start. Here’s a quick guide to selling books successfully on the marketplace. 

How to find books to sell on Amazon 

Amazon allows you to sell books in a variety of formats (hardcovers, paperbacks, or ebooks) and conditions (new or used). Of these, printed books still outpace their virtual counterparts. While Amazon is tight-lipped about the breakdown of its book sales, it’s projected that ebook sales only make up around 21% of total book sales, consistent with industry-wide statistics. 

When it comes to finding books to sell, you can source inventory by…

  • Purchasing new books from wholesalers, distributors, or publishers that sell these in bulk
  • Collecting used books from thrift shops, library sales, local books stores, estate sales, and/or other online marketplaces like eBay 
  • Dropshipping books through providers like AliExpress, which can ship items directly to your customer 
  • Publishing your own ebook through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Before purchasing inventory, make sure to check Amazon’s best sellers lists for an idea of popular titles and genres throughout the years. You may additionally want to consider sub-niches, like bookmarks, that could complement and increase your book sales. 

Picking the right delivery method

After you’ve compiled a list of books to offer, you can start selling them through Amazon’s third-party marketplace (aka, Seller Central) or first-party portal (Vendor Central). Vendor Central is currently invitation-only and is reserved for merchants who can sell to Amazon in bulk. Amazon will then list, price, and promote your products however they want, retaining all the profits from sales.

Seller Central is attractive to most sellers because of the level of control it provides. You can better define the messaging around your products in addition to the pricing (though to win the buy box, you’ll need to price competitively). 

As a third-party seller, you also have the option of fulfilling orders in one of several ways:

  • Package and ship items from your own warehouse 
  • Tap a third-party logistics partner (3PL) 
  • Participate in Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) 

FBA is by far the most popular option of the three. A whopping two-thirds of Amazon sellers use FBA, both because of the convenience it provides and the competitive advantages it offers. By using FBA, you can earn the coveted Prime status on your listings and gain priority when competing for the buy box. 

Note that FBA isn’t as simple as hauling your inventory to one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers. FBA has strict criteria for how to properly prep your items for storage. Should you fail to meet these criteria, you risk additional fees, delays, or rejection of your shipment.

This is where services like MyFBAPrep come in handy. MyFBAPrep can handle the prep process for you so that you can safely offload logistics and remain compliant with Amazon’s detailed requirements. 

Read: A list of essential FBA prep services and how they work

Setting up your book listings

A good book listing needs a good cover. In other words, you’ll need to take some time to compose an Amazon listing that’s worthy of first-page status. Just like Google, Amazon has its own algorithm for ranking products. 

There are several best practices to follow when it comes to optimizing your Amazon listings. But keep in mind that if your book is already being sold by another Amazon seller, then you’ll likely be joining his/her listing and have to request content changes via a support ticket. 

Monitoring sales and trends 

It goes without saying that your job isn’t done once your books are listed for sale. You’ll want to establish a process for tracking your sales over time, and identify which products are worth restocking versus retiring.

One of the best ways to keep up with new trends is by following a book club or forum. See which genres, authors, and titles excite people and/or are being marketed heavily by their publishers. Tools like JungleScout can further help you to estimate sales based on a product’s performance across the entire site.  

What to do with old stock

At some point, you’ll likely have to figure out a plan for getting rid of slow-moving inventory. If you’re an FBA seller, a contingency plan is especially important for avoiding long-term storage fees or removal fees.

As a first line of defense, try adjusting your price. Sometimes lowering your price by even a few cents could be the difference between earning the buy box and losing it, or landing a sale versus zero movement. 

Although Amazon doesn’t allow books to be the primary item of a bundle, you can include it as a secondary item to add value to your bundles. So if you sell items other than books that relate to your titles, you can bundle them together to create a unique SKU, or even give a few books away for free to encourage purchase of old stock. For example, you may want to throw in a yoga book with a yoga mat (the primary item).

Alternatively, you could experiment with Amazon PPC ads to draw more attention to your products. If all else fails, then consider donating books or selling them at wholesale prices to another reseller. Avoid hanging on to stagnant inventory for too long and losing out on opportunities to sell more popular books. 

Wrapping up — Selling books on Amazon

With at least half of all books sold on Amazon, this category is an excellent one to invest in for all Amazon sellers. Follow our tips above to pick the best books to sell, find the right delivery method for your business, and even use books to enhance your other listings.