Selling Used Books

by Marcy Johnson

I have been selling used (and occasionally, new) books online through for over a year. I've learned a few tips that I'd like to pass on to you - my future 'competition'!

I store my books by category and quality in boxes and on shelves in a closet for easy access, along with my packing supplies, scissors, and pens. Once you've taken the time to set up a system, it pays off in time saved looking for a book.

Always rate the quality of your books fairly. gives guidelines for your books, ranging from 'like new' to 'acceptable'. If you overvalue your books, you can get bad 'feedback' (below) and bad feedback will affect your 'seller rating' (below). If you're not positive of the quality, with no reservations, give your book a lesser quality value. For instance, I have books that I think are 'like new' but rate them 'very good' if I think something miniscule, like a fingernail-size dent on the binding, could reduce my seller rating. You can also add 'notes' on your book, i.e. "missing dj (dust jacket) or 'ink notes and underlining'. Buyers appreciate the time you take to be specific.

I go to the post office and buy stamps in many denominations once a month - particularly .55, .70, and .10. If you ship 'Media Mail' you can affix postage at home after weighing the book. (I bought a postage meter - about $25 at Staples - and it lasts forever). Books are shipped 'Priority Mail' and/or 'Media Mail' (that's what Special Standard Mail and Book Rate used to be called. I choose not to mail my books 'Priority Mail' because I don't want to go to the post office often, but choosing that shipping option may get you more business.). Media Mail includes also includes items other than books, i.e. videotapes and compact disks. Ship quickly, the same day, before 5:00 p.m. if possible.

After weighing the book, use the least amount of packing and tape possible to keep the postage down - but tape securely. I 'cap' the ends of the package for extra security. I wrap books with newspaper, slip them inside a plastic bag and wrap with Kraft paper. I also use bubble wrap instead of newspaper on a very good quality or new book, and always tape over the addresses on the Kraft paper so they don't rub off - or get washed off during rain. I sometimes use padded manila envelopes, but rarely because the bubble wrap and Kraft paper works well with no complaints.

I have found bubble wrap, Kraft paper in boxes, rolls of almost used clear package tape discarded, and 20 lb. clean white bond paper on the top of recycling bins and at the curb. Every little bit counts.

I handwrite my packing slips on note pads I buy at the discount store so I'm not using printer ink and paper. Or I print out a packing slip by cutting and pasting and using Microsoft Word so I can use the 'draft' printing option.

Ask your friends and neighbors for their books . People are happy to help. I also buy books at library sales, thrift shops - and best of all, find them walking around the neighborhood.

You can choose to have your checks sent Direct Deposit to your bank so they'll clear faster.

Check your email for orders often. And respond to customers quickly.

Feedback and Seller Rating - All sellers start off with a '5' rating and all of your customers have the option of rating you from a '5' down to a "1" and they can add comments, too. Depending on how much you sell, a poor feedback rating can make you look less appealing to a buyer. If I've gotten bad feedback, I've offered the buyer the option of returning the book or keeping it at my expense. I have also sent free books and written notes to make restitution for any quality mishaps on my behalf when I began selling - though that isn't required. But since taking the steps outlined above, those mistakes have been rare and I have gotten repeat business - selling over 500 items with a 4.9 seller rating!

Marcy Johnson is a writer and used book seller, living in New York, NY.

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