Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world, and it has a significant share of the global ecommerce market. With a customer base of over 200 million Prime members, it is also one of the most popular places to buy and sell books. Whether you’re looking to build a business or make some extra cash, selling books on Amazon can be a profitable side hustle. That is, when it’s done right.
This article covers how to sell books on Amazon, from picking the right book niche to shipping your customer orders. As a bonus, advertising expert Prabhat Shah breaks down everything you need to know about taking your book sales to the next level with Amazon ads.
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Why Should You Sell Books on Amazon?
Selling books on Amazon can be a lucrative side hustle. Books are one of the most popular product categories on the platform, as it started as an online bookstore. You, too, can start your ecommerce venture by selling books that are in demand and inexpensive. Eventually, you can grow your ecommerce store to include other items.
Amazon booksellers get access to its global user base and logistics network. With low setup costs and minimal risks, there’s money to be made selling books on this marketplace.
Plus, by buying and reselling second-hand books, you’re contributing towards the circular economy and a more sustainable future.
How to Find The Most Profitable Books to Sell on Amazon?
Not every book is worth listing on Amazon. You want to put your efforts and money into books that are profitable to sell. Some ways to research book ideas include:
Research on Amazon
Start by having a look at the Amazon Best Sellers in Books list. There you can see the most popular books based on sales. The list is updated hourly. Pay attention to the titles and genres of the books that dominate the list. This way, you get an idea of popular niches. Then, dig deeper into the niches that interest you or that you have access to. Identify the best sellers in each book category. You can see which book titles are in demand by looking at the sales rank.
Ideally, you want to choose book titles with high demand and a relatively low supply.
Book Scanner Apps
Another good way to find profitable books is by using book scanner apps. Scan a book’s barcode or type in its ISBN; the app will give you pricing and sales data. The free Amazon Seller App has a product-scanning function that can help you find the best books to sell. Once you scan a book, you will get historical Amazon product sales data and profit estimates.
Use a Tool
Free tools like Product Research by Amazon can help you find the perfect book to sell. Product Research is easy to use, with an intuitive interface that makes the research process smooth and straightforward, even for newbies. You’ll find many explanatory tips inside the tool.
Where to Source Books to Sell on Amazon?
When you know the type of books you want to sell, the next step is finding them. Here’s where you can source books to sell on Amazon for a profit:
Keep an eye out for sales in your local bookstore and library. If you live in the US, use the Book Sale Finder to find upcoming book sales in your state. You can also find cheap used books in thrift stores and yard sales.
You can purchase books online for a low price and resell them on Amazon for a higher price. This is online arbitrage, and it’s completely legal. To find book deals online and in your area, check Brickseek and similar sites.
Bulk purchases require a bigger upfront investment. However, this way, you can purchase new books directly from distributors or publishers and earn higher margins. One downside of this method is that you don’t fully control the book titles you buy. So not every book in bulk might be profitable.
Sell your own books
Alternatively, you can write and sell your own books on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. 31% of ebook sales on Amazon are self-published books. When publishing with KDP, you get to keep the author rights of your book and earn up to 70% royalties when the book is sold in select countries.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an Amazon Bookseller?
To become an Amazon bookseller, you only need the money to buy books to sell. You can even start for free simply by listing the books you already have! But what about Amazon fees? You can structure it such that you only pay Amazon for every book you sell.
For example, you first need to create an Amazon seller account. Here, you can choose between an individual or professional seller account. The individual plan doesn’t require an upfront investment. As long as you sell less than 40 books per month, you pay $0.99 every time you make a sale. Once your sales surpass 40 items per month, you can switch to the professional account that costs $39.99 per month. Therefore, you can create an Amazon seller account for free and list your products in just a few minutes.
You may also have to pay a sales percentage to Amazon for referrals, order fulfillment, and advertising. But don’t worry; you can work those fees into your book-selling price and still make a decent profit. For an in-depth dive into this topic, check out “How much money do you need to start selling on Amazon FBA.”
Essential Steps to Start Selling Books on Amazon
1. Create Your Amazon Seller Account
First, you have to decide between opening an individual or professional account. Then, head to Amazon seller central to sign up for your Amazon seller account. You must provide a valid ID, credit card, bank account, phone number, and tax information during the registration process.
2. Find Books to Sell
In the above sections, we’ve gone over the following:
- Choosing a niche/book genre
- Picking profitable book titles
- Sourcing cheap books
Follow the above tips, and you’ll have your first batch of profitable books to sell on Amazon.
3. List and Sell Your Books
- Head to your Amazon Seller Central account
- Go to “Catalog” in the upper left corner and press “Add Product.”
- Enter your book’s ISBN and fill in the rest of the product listing page, including a product description, information on the fulfillment method, and the product price.
Remember to use Keyword Wizard for Amazon to get keyword ideas that will increase the visibility of your books. Audit and optimize your Amazon product listing page using the Listing Quality Check for Amazon tool. Besides adding new listings, you can monitor your sales activity on Seller Central, update your listings, and communicate with buyers.
Boost Your Book Sales with Amazon Ads
“Amazon advertising for books is an excellent way to reach new customers. Advertising allows targeting relevant keywords and books and targets interested shoppers within your genre of books”, Amazon advertising expert Prabhat Shah.
Use the steps below to launch and optimize your ad campaigns and generate more sales.
Automatic Amazon Ad Campaigns for Books
Advertising expert Prabhat Shah recommends creating an auto campaign at the start to learn more about converting and non-converting user keywords. There are two options to generate auto campaigns— standard ads and custom text ads. Start with option 1, and once you see some results, test option 2.
There are four types of keyword targeting options with auto ads:
- Close Match
- Loose match
So, it is best to target all these options during the trial phase. Then, you can choose how much to pay per click with automatic targeting. Start with lower-than-suggested bids.
After a couple of days, you can analyze ad performance. The search terms section (screenshot below) shows a list of user keywords along with metrics like clicks, impressions, the number of orders, and the cost of sales. Add any keywords or ASINs generating wasted clicks into negative to prevent further clicks/wastage.
Manual Amazon Ad Campaigns for Books
With manual Amazon campaigns, you must enter the keywords you want to target manually. Target keywords of competing/similar books. You can discover new and competitor keywords using a tool like Search Insights for Amazon. Targeting competitor books results in your book appearing on the targeted book page as ‘sponsored related ads’ This is often a cheaper way to generate traffic to your book.
Lock Screen Ads for Kindle Books
Lock screen ads appear on the wake screen and home pages of the targeted kindle readers. These campaigns demand a minimum lifetime budget of USD 100.00, so this may not be a choice for everyone. Target the relevant genre and bids along with the custom text, as seen in the screenshot below.
Measure The Success of Your Book Ads
Measure the performance at the campaign level to find out the most cost-effective campaigns and the ones generating the most revenue. For example, in this screenshot, the campaign with 14% ACoS is the most cost-effective, and the campaign with 61 orders is the highest revenue campaign.
You can then further optimize these campaigns. For example, in the campaign below, figure out the search terms generating wasted clicks and add them to the negatives.
You can easily set up profitable book ad campaigns using the Semrush PPC Optimizer for Amazon. The PPC Optimizer will analyze different aspects of your campaign and automatically optimize them with ROI in mind. You can also choose to optimize parts of the campaign manually—you decide how involved you wish to be.
Amazon Book Ads: Additional Tips
Prabhat Shat emphasizes that book advertising generally works well if the book has some reviews, so invest time to gain early reviews via your existing contacts. Keeping the price low at the start will help to sell more, and the chance of getting more reviews is higher.
Learn more about Amazon Advertising, take a look at Prabhat's A to Z guide to Amazon Advertising.
How Will You Ship Books to Your Customers?
You can ship books to your customers two ways: the do-it-yourself (FBM) or the done-for-you (FBA) route. Every time you create a new product listing on Amazon, you will choose between FBA and FBM for that product. You can later change your choice by editing and updating the listing.
Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM)
Formally known as the Merchant Fulfillment Network (MFN), this is the do-it-yourself fulfillment route. You, the merchant, are responsible for storing, packing, shipping orders to customers, handling returns, and providing customer service. Alternatively, you can outsource this process to a third party that is not Amazon.
With FBM, Amazon keeps a standard shipping fee from your order, no matter how much you pay to ship it. So make sure to account for any discrepancies in the product price.
FBM Amazon sellers can use Prime shipping after a trial period if they adhere to Seller Fulfilled Prime requirements, including shipping over 99% of orders on time and having a cancellation rate under 0.5%.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
For a fee, you get access to Amazon’s logistics network. List books, make a sale, and send your inventory to an Amazon warehouse. Amazon is responsible for storing, packing, and shipping the order to your customers. They also cover customer service and returns. When using FBA, you pay a fulfillment fee per order and a monthly inventory storage fee.
Orders sent through FBA are eligible to be shipped through Amazon Prime. They display a badge that incentivizes customers to purchase from you over a competitor that does not offer Prime shipping. However, FBA sellers must make their books ready to be shipped by Amazon. For a more detailed breakdown of this process, read how to ship to Amazon FBA warehouse.
Additional Tips and Tricks for Amazon Booksellers
In addition to everything discussed above, here are some additional tips and tricks to help you succeed as an Amazon bookseller.
Type of Books that Sell Best on Amazon
Not all book genres sell profitably! More lucrative categories include:
Rare and Collectible Books
First-edition books or books signed by authors have a high value. There is a low supply and high demand for such books so that you can price them higher. You may stumble upon these types of books in thrift stores or yard sales.
Comic books are a niche yet popular book category to sell on Amazon. You can sell first-edition comic books and collectible issues for a high price.
Hardcover Books vs. Softcover
Hardcover books are sold at a higher price than paperback editions. You can charge a premium for special editions with rare or artistic cover designs.
Textbooks are typically expensive, and they are always in demand, especially during the fall and spring seasons. They make for one of the most profitable types of books to sell on Amazon.
Avoid Children’s Books, Cook Books, and Popular Books
These book categories tend to perform poorly on Amazon. Children’s books sell for low prices, so you can’t make a decent profit from them. There’s a high supply of popular books, making it a competitive category with low margins.
Choose the Right Genre
Pay attention to the book genres that perform best. Look at the Amazon Bestseller list. Which book genres dominate it? Aim to sell niche genre books with high demand and relatively low supply.
Use Barcode Scanners on Your Phone
Barcode scanner apps are game changers. They help you pick profitable books in an instant. Start by downloading the Amazon Seller app on your phone. It comes with a barcode scanner feature. Plus, you also get to manage your seller account from the same place.
When done right, selling books on Amazon can be a profitable side hustle. You can get started in minutes with little setup costs. However, becoming a successful bookseller is a bit more complicated. You have to do your research and pick profitable titles and categories. You also have to hunt for bargains and find low-cost book suppliers. Finally, you must set up your Amazon seller account, shipping method and start running ads on the platform. Any new journey has a learning curve, but the end result is always worth it. Our tips and tricks have already given your book-selling journey the best start!
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Once you have experience selling books on Amazon, you can switch to other product categories. Read our Amazon dropshipping guide to start and expand your side hustle on the platform.