Monday, January 3, 2011

Tips for Selling Your College Textbooks Online

Without a doubt, selling used college textbooks online beats any other method. Selling your used textbooks to a college bookstore is the easiest way, but you get next to nothing for your books. Similarly, online buying services are easy but also give you very little back, sometimes even less than the bookstores. Classified Ads are another popular method. Unfortunately this method has two major problems. One, they reach a relatively small buying audience with a lot of seller competition. Two, you have the hassle of having to make arrangements to send your book and collect the money from a total stranger. Selling online gives you a global buying audience of millions of people, simple automated systems to make it easy and quick to list a book and most important of all, the potential to get you the best price for your books anywhere.

If Selling Online Is So Good Why Doesn't Everyone Do It?

One of the reasons many students don't sell their books online is because they think it's too much trouble. Without the right information to guide you that might be true. As an ex-teacher and experienced, online book dealer I will share all my knowledge and resources in this post to not only make the task of selling textbooks online easier and more profitable. You never know. The experience could even grow to become a nice, second income while in school.

Let's Get Started 

The first thing you want to do is take stock of what you're selling and to get a better idea of the competition in the marketplace. The best place to do this is to log on to Amazon using the ISBN number in your book which sometimes has 10 digits or 13 digits (these usually start with 978). Using ISBN numbers are more accurate than identification by title and author because ISBN numbers will also identify the correct edition, extremely important in selling textbooks. If you have trouble finding the ISBN numbers, look for them either on the back cover or the reverse title page where all the publishing information is. Picture below shows examples of 10 and 13 digit ISBN numbers.

After you get a better idea of the competition and what you're books are worth it's time to jump in and start selling. If you presently don't have an Amazon account go here for all the info you'll need to set it up. It only takes minutes. You will have to list a checking  account, credit card, billing address, phone number, etc. After you set up your Amazon account get ready to start listing your books. But first you have to clean them up to make them look as presentable as possible. Here are some tips:

Clean 'Em Up

You'll need: Paper towels, Windex or other quality window cleaner, hairdryer with hot heat setting, label remover like goo gone or lighter fluid (which is much cheaper and works better). Optional items cleaners would be Fantastic or something similar and graffiti remover (usually in a spray can).

1. Provide good ventilation

2. Start by cleaning front and back covers with clean paper towel and window cleaner. Dry  thoroughly

3. Remove all stickers by hitting them with hair dryer on hottest setting. The heat will melt the label adhesive. Pull label off slowly with hair dryer heat directly over it.

4.Check pages for writing, underlining, notes, stray marks, dog ears, etc. If you can't erase marks just leave them. Marking in textbooks is usually acceptable as long as it is listed as such and properly graded as either "good" or "acceptable" (see recent post, Grading Books for Online Sales).

5. If you have a lot of textbooks to sell and you don't want to stand in line in the post office to mail them consider a home-based post office account. They're easy to use, relatively inexpensive and work off of any printer, Windows or Macs. My favorite is Endicia. I've been using it for years. It's only $16 a month and you could stop it anytime. There are others such as and even Pay Pal which I use occasionally.

Good Selling Strategies

1. Think in the long term.  Don't just view each listing session as a means to an end to dump a book and get paid. Begin to establish a reputation in the seller community. A good feedback rating will stand out from the competition, eventually get you a higher price, sell your books faster and is something money cannot buy. A seller account in good standing is worth its weight in gold. It will always serve to be a valuable resource for the future whatever you need to sell, not just textbooks. 

2. When you begin listing, you'll type the ISBN number in the Amazon search window. Click book title. This will bring you to the Amazon product detail page. Check the reverse title page of the book you're listing. Check the following information: title, author(s), publisher, date of publication and edition number. It should match the product detail page. I can't stress enough the importance of accuracy when selling textbooks online. If the information isn't a match I can almost guarantee you'll be issuing a refund.

3. When you receive your e-mail from Amazon acknowledging your sale, get the book out ASAP to the customer. No more than two days. I try to do it the same day. (My highest feedback comments are from buyers thrilled with the speed in which they received their books).

4. Pack it well. My suggestion is use either book mailers or A Flute, a cheap, single sided corrugated roll that looks good and protects the book in transit. I get mine locally from M&G Packaging 1-800-240-5288. Enclose the book and invoice in a large, plastic baggie(this will help weatherproof it during transit) and wrap book twice, both horizontally and vertically in A flute. See steps below.

Spread Your Listings

After your items are listed on Amazon look to other good, selling channels for textbooks. Although chances are you'll probably sell the most on Amazon additional listings elsewhere will further increase your chance of sale. I recommend Alibris, E Campus, and Valore Books. At the time this was written they all offer free listings like Amazon.

Important Resources

The links below will take you to the different components of Amazon's textbook Selling Guide. A fabulous resource designed for new sellers. Good luck and let me know how you make out. Your comments are appreciated.

Some more related sites that might be helpful: