How to Sell Books Online: 3 Things to Do Before Opening an E-Bookstore

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December 14, 2020
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How to Sell Books Online: 3 Things to Do Before Opening an E-Bookstore
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Do you run a small on-site bookstore and wish to increase your sales? Or maybe your shelves are stocked up with used books you’ve never read and never will? In both cases, starting a bookselling business online is just what you need.

According to Statista, the net revenue of the US book publishing industry reached $25.93 billion, out of which $1.2 billion account for audiobook sales and $162 million for e-book sales. 

A large share of sales is generated online and continues to rise: in 2018, the value of e-commerce sales for books and magazines was around $18 billion, up from 13.47 billion U.S. dollars in 2016.

If you want to capitalize on the book-selling trend and get your slice of the pie in this promising online industry, read on to learn how and where to sell books online for profit. 

Choose Which Books to Sell

Just like before starting any ecommerce business, you’ll have to choose which books you’d like to sell. If you’re only starting in an online bookselling business, you might want to target the used book’s niche which doesn’t require purchasing copyrights or actually printing the books of others.

Here are a few ideas you might want to consider.

Second-Hand Books

This category covers all kinds of print books ever owned by someone else (yourself of any other person) sold at a percentage of the original price. These include fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks. The latter are actually the winning option. 

Students remain a price-sensitive group of customers that would largely prefer to pay less for a book even if it’s used. Average student spending on course materials in the US is $415 and has been declining for years all thanks to the used textbook trend. As a result, the higher education used textbook market generates roughly between $5.5 and $8 billion. So the chances are high you’ll both make money selling a second-hand book and save some student.

Collectible Books

Matthew Haley, head of books and manuscripts division at the British auction house Bonhams, defines a collectible book this way:

It [a book] will usually be desirable to collectors because of its subject matter say, chess or ornithology; its author or illustrator, Charles Dickens or E. H. Shepard; when and where it was printed; or something special about the physical book itself like its binding or its previous ownership.

Apparently, old books, limited editions, first printed books may cost a fortune on the market, especially if you choose to target high-end customers. Some vintage cookbooks are worth $200 to $400 on the collectible market, all because they have a historical value. And selling some sought-after fiction reads go to extremes: an early copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone with mistakes and a misprint in the title was sold at $90,000 at an auction.

Obviously, it doesn’t mean that if a book is old, it becomes automatically rare and important. But with the right amount of market research, you may estimate the monetary value of your books and possibly add a jewel to one’s vintage book collection.

Audiobooks 

The number of sold audiobooks has been skyrocketing in the past years. According to the Audio Publishers Association annual survey, audiobook sales increased by 25% between 2017 and 2018 approaching nearly $1 billion in 2018. A rise in demand is caused by technological advancements: with more than 78% of the US population having access to a laptop or a smartphone, audiobooks have redefined a normal way to enjoy the book. 

Entering the niche of digital books, you should always watch out for theft and piracy; but it is worth investing in given that the audiobooks market is poised to grow.

The growth of the audiobook and podcast markets, as of 2020
Source: Deloitte.


Decide on Your Dropshipper and/or Wholesaler

Books are a perfect product for an online thrift store, but where do you get them if your personal library is limited? Unless you’re a writer looking for ways to sell your own book (but that’s a topic for a totally different blog post), you’ll have to find a supplier willing to dropship your chosen books. 

Dropshipping is actually very convenient. Paying a set price to a dropshipper, you don’t have to worry about the shipping costs, which can be booming depending on the size and weight of a book. You can also save up on the cost of inventory management: upon receiving a customer order, you can contact the relevant supplier and request the package to be delivered at your customer’s address. 

Here are a few specialized wholesale book suppliers that may help you sell more books at a low sourcing price:

  • UsedWholesaleBooks offers 6 book categories to sell in bulk – from children’s reads to mixed media. The minimum purchase requirement is 10 gaylords of books (roughly 8,000 books for $150 as a starting price). However, if you’re interested in purchasing specific titles, visit its subsidiary Thrift Books website.
  • Book Depot has one of the largest book selection in the industry and promises to ship the orders in just 4 working days. They also provide their customers with many clearances and sales, so you may save up of your book purchases on special days.
  • Bulk Bookstore sells a minimum 25 books per order at a price of $100 and offers free shipping for about 55% of their books. They don’t ship books outside the US, though, so it may not be the best supplier for you if you plan to run your business globally.


Build Your Online Bookstore

Once you’ve stocked up on books and established collaboration with a supplier, it’s time to build your online bookstore. Your choice of a platform – online marketplaces, social media, or website development agencies – should be based on your ecommerce needs and budget.

Here’s a list of some most popular platforms to start selling books from the comfort of your home.

Amazon

Amazon has been the obvious choice for many as the platform offers to take care of your shipping and marketing depending on your selling plan. After setting up an account on Amazon’s Services page and choosing the country to sell to, you’ll have to face a few dilemmas that will influence the fees to maintain your e-bookshop:

  • FBS vs FBA. Choosing Fulfillment by Seller (FBS), you’ll have to pack and ship your book orders yourself. With Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you’ll ship all your books to Amazon for it will take care of packaging and shipping when an order is placed. 

Note! Fulfillment fees depend on how much inventory you’re sending and how long the products sit there before selling. The prices vary from $1.97 for FBA small and light unit to $46.50 for FBS international expedited shipping.

  • Individual vs Professional. Individual plan will charge you $0.99 per unit sold, and Professional plan will cost you $39.99 per month. The former is better for those selling less than 40 items per month, and the latter will work perfectly for those who wish to advertise. 
  • Referral fees. In addition to fulfillment and plan fees, you’ll have to pay extra percentage of the total price to the company. For books, the referral fee is 15% + $1.80 closing fee.
Amazon books website

Amazon will work perfectly for you if you plan to sell a lot of second-hand books in good condition. Otherwise, you’ll have to stand a lot of competition with little revenue.


Decluttr

Decluttr is a web- and mobile-based platform to sell all kinds of crafts, including books. Upon setting your selling account, you’ll have to add or scan your books’ barcodes. The process of running it is almost free of charge – you’ll have to pay only for the box, the shipping itself is free. Once a customer places an order, you will be paid via PayPal, direct deposit, or a charity donation.

Decluttr seems an easy-to-use and cheap option to start your bookstore. It has its peculiarities, though, which may affect your choice of this platform:

  • Minimum number of books: your basket must contain at least $5 worth of items and include at least 10 media items; so if you plan to add more books even when your store is already running, you’ll have to stock up some items beforehand.
  • Low value of books: Decluttr is really popular with selling used tech gadgets, so books lose their monetary worth on the platform.
  • Return policy: if your items are rejected for some reason (like, unfavorable condition of your books), Decluttr will not ship them back to you but rather recycle the products.
Decluttr website screenshot

As the name suggests, Decluttr will suit best those who really want to get rid of their books that may not be in the best condition. You can earn some bucks selling your home library, but don’t expect to find fancy clients for some of your vintage reads there.


Your Own Online Store

Building your own online bookstore is the best option to beat competition and gauge demand for your books, especially if you plan to scale your business in the future. Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento are some of the biggest ecommerce platforms allowing online store owners to create their unique brands and deliver a fast shopping experience to their customers. BookPal is a perfect case in point: Magento helped to create a 25% lift in Average Order Value for their books, with a $340+ lift per order.

BookPal website screenshot
BookPal website running on Magento. Source: BookPal.

Some of the key advantages of a custom-made online store include but are not limited to:

  • Customizable design: make your bookstore recognizable in the eyes of the customer with unique bookshop website templates and user-friendly navigation.
  • Support for multiple languages and currencies: if you plan to sell books globally, you may localize your website in different languages and integrate various payment options to bring your bookshop closer to the customers.
  • Robust marketplace of extensions: track your customers’ behavior data, add customer review platform, and optimize your store for the search engine – all to bring more traffic to your website and increase sales in your bookstore.

To build an online bookstore from scratch, you’ll have to hire a team of developers who are paid an hourly rate based on the scope of your project. It may seem like a huge undertaking at first, but this investment is worth it if you plan to run a serious bookselling business.

Afterthought

Selling books online is quite easy with the right amount of planning and well-established supplier connections. The platforms to build your e-bookstore listed above is surely not exhaustive: be it an Amazon account or a Decluttr book selection, you can offer great reads to bibliophiles around the country (or even around the world if you’re ambitious enough).

If you’re looking forward to creating a unique book brand, at Elogic we can help you build a website that will catch the breath of any bookworm. Tell us more about your idea and turn your book pages into cash now!

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