Stephanie Nelson | 

How One Stranger Taught Me the Secret to Making $12K per Year Selling Books

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It was just another normal yard sale at my house until this stranger showed up and tossed a stick of dynamite at me. Okay, not really, but sort of! A retired gentleman made a beeline for a table of books I was selling, pulled out his cell phone, and scanned each and every book. He was determined, focused. I tried not to watch him, but I was totally curious! Why was this guy shamelessly scanning my books?!

When he was done, he brought over one of my husband’s college textbooks and casually asked if I’d take two dollars for it. Being a hardcore deal finder myself, I could tell this guy was convinced he was getting a deal. He tried to keep his cool, but his excitement was spilling out all over my driveway.

After I accepted his offer, I asked what he was going to do with an “Intro to Anatomy” textbook, and he showed me his cell phone. I saw the title of the book and a number next to it: $43.50. My heart dropped into my toes. He just made a lot of money on a book we thought was worthless!

Turns out, this guy makes around $12,000 per year by simply buying and selling used textbooks. I don’t want it to cost you $41.50 to learn this lesson, so I’m here to spill his secrets. You’re welcome.


Step 1: Find used books.

Go yardsaling.

Step 1: Find used books.

Browse yard sales, thrift stores, or flea markets. Or your friend’s garage! Textbooks, novels, classics, non-fiction, you name it. You’ll make the most money on textbooks, with best sellers as a close runner-up.

Check Craigslist.

Step 1: Find used books.

Some college students or grads simply want to get rid of their books. I found a chemistry book for sale on Craigslist for $10. I looked up the ISBN code online (more on that in Step 2) and found out I could sell it for $94.62!

Tip: Find and sell textbooks at the end of the semester in May and December in order to get a higher dollar value. Offload that textbook before the next edition comes out and makes your copy obsolete!

Buy wholesale lots on eBay.

Step 1: Find used books.

Buy books by the lot on eBay. Simply contact the seller and request a list of ISBN numbers for the items you’re considering. This guarantees your return on investment before you buy.


Step 2: Sell your books.

Step 2: Sell your books.

If you have a book that’s worth money, there are a lot of buyers who want to take it off your hands! Let’s cut through the noise and do a few real-life scenarios with a textbook from a photography class my husband just finished.

Tip: Buy-back prices vary daily. If you see an offer you like, jump on it, and make sure you can ship in the very near future. I checked prices for this book the next day, and they were different by a couple dollars.


Step 2: Sell your books.

BookScouter is a vendor aggregator website. (A what?) Just enter a book’s ISBN, and BookScouter finds and lists all the vendors willing to make an offer on your book. The best offer is at the top of the list. You don’t have to do the work of visiting each bookseller website and entering your ISBN number. Vendor aggregators like BookScouter (and others I’ll introduce you to in a moment) do your legwork and present you with the best options for buyback. Plus, get BookScouter’s free mobile app so you can scan ISBNs on the go. The app gives you the luxury of choosing to pass on used books that aren’t moneymakers and snatch up the high dollar ones while you’re out and about.

In this scenario, I’m choosing SellBackYourBooks ($22.30). See how it comes in just a few dollars more than BookByte and BuyBackExpress?

Tip: Once a vendor aggregator like BookScouter has found you the best offer on your book, you’ll finish your transaction with the bookseller you choose. Click “sell” and you’ll be transferred to the vendor’s website to check out.


Step 2: Sell your books.

BuyBackTextbooks is like Bookscouter, another vendor aggregator, trying to find you the best deal for your book. They also have a mobile app. For my photography textbook, buyBackTextbooks also shows that SellBackYourBook has the highest offer at $22.30 with Bookbyte in second at $17.75.


Step 2: Sell your books.

BookFinder, a third vendor aggregator shows up with Bookbyte’s price as the highest offer. Unfortunately, BookFinder doesn’t have a mobile app I can use to scan books while I’m at a yard sale. Huge con!


Step 2: Sell your books.

Bookbyte is one of many direct vendors. Some book retailers only buy textbooks, so watch out for that. Vendors like Bookbyte give you a straight quote with no price comparison. In fact, Bookbyte’s offer will show up on one of the aggregate sites like BookScouter, BuyBackTextbooks, or BookFinder. So when you look at Bookbyte’s site, you’ll see the same amount you already saw on BookScouter. See? It’s coming in at $17.75. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Tip: Some booksellers only buy textbooks and not novels or literary books. So be aware of that as you shop for the best offer on your books!

Amazon Textbook Trade-In

Step 2: Sell your books.

Amazon is another bookseller, but it’s important to know, you won’t get cash for your books, you’ll get an Amazon gift card. If you’re a student, this could work in your favor, as you may be able to turn around and put it toward your next semester’s books. But I want cash, so this isn’t my preference. Plus, Amazon isn’t offering a comparable price.


Step 3: Ship your books.

Print the prepaid shipping label to avoid shipping fees.

Step 3: Ship your books.

Vendors email a shipping label for you to print and use. But there’s one catch: some vendors have minimum amounts you must meet in order to get free shipping–except Amazon, which has free shipping with no minimums.

Ship multiple books at once when minimum value is required.

Step 3: Ship your books.

Let’s say I had 4 books to sell but most vendors only wanted to buy one: All the Light We Cannot See (highest offer from Bookbyte was $5.40). I found one vendor, Book Monkey, who would buy all 4 books, but the catch was that their offer was only $4.75 for All the Light We Cannot See.

Ideally, I wanted to sell the three cheap books to this place called Chegg Books, and the one more valuable book to the Bookbyte, who’d pay me the most. But I couldn’t sell only the three books to Chegg because they only totaled $5.75, which is under their $10 minimum for free shipping. So, in order to sell the 3 books no other vendor wanted, I chose to take a $0.65 hit on All the Light We Cannot See and sell all four books to Book Monkey. It’s totally worth it because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to make the sale and get free shipping!

Package your books well so they don’t get damaged.

Step 3: Ship your books.

Vendors will be trying to resell your book, so if it’s damaged when they receive it, you chance losing money. Double check with each vendor to be sure you’re meeting their requirements for damage threshold. Most vendors are fine with minor damage, but read the fine print to be sure.

Cash out through PayPal.

Step 3: Ship your books.

If you choose to get paid via PayPal, your account is credited the day after delivery and processing of your shipment (it will be included in your overall PayPal balance, like shown above). Otherwise, it’s 3-7 business days after they’ve processed your shipment before they issue you a check.

What’s the most money you’ve made from a book sale? Tell us how it’s done in the comments!


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