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How to Start Your Own Online Used Book Store


A Fun, Profitable, and Low-Risk Home Business

You can sell used books, music CDs, and educational videos to anyone, anywhere across the country or around the world if you choose.

By Steve Johnson

Running your own home book store is fun and profitable, and it is an ideal choice for many people who want to start a low-risk home business. You can start part-time, avoiding the high cost of storefront rent, yet at the same time you can sell used books, music CDs, and educational videos to anyone, anywhere across the country or around the world if you choose.

Funding A Home-Based Used Bookstore

The actual number of books you need to get started with your own home-based book store varies by how fast you want to get going. You could start with 100 books — you’ll probably sell 10%–15% of the books you list within the first month — so if you want to sell more and grow your business quicker, then it will be better to have 1,000 or more used books on hand before you start. Don’t be afraid to start with the books you already own, but stay on the lookout for more quick sellers to expand your business.

Start-up funding will likely be a bootstrap venture in most cases. Two-thirds of all business start-ups like a home book store get funded by credit card cash advances, tapping into savings accounts, or borrowing from a rich uncle in the family.

Tip: Sell things you don’t need any longer — furniture that’s in the way, clothes you don’t wear any longer, or maybe hold a garage sale one weekend and clear the clutter around your house — and reinvest the proceeds into building your home book store. You don’t need much money to get started.

If you’re starting out on a shoestring, start with whatever you have. List your books, CDs, or DVDs on the Amazon Marketplace, and begin learning what sells and what doesn’t. You’ll learn valuable experience in how this business works. You can then parlay that experience and profit into a larger business as you add more used book stock to your inventory.
Getting started selling is easy. Just log onto the Amazon website and get your seller account up and running in a matter of minutes.

Stock Up On Merchandise That Sells

Next: Give yourself a goal. For instance, plan on spending two hours every weekend for the next three months, scouring yard sales and thrift stores to locate at least 25 books, while paying no more than 50 cents each. By month four, you will then have found 300 or more good books, and you’ll only have invested about $150, some gas for driving around, and $50 for a couple sturdy bookshelves to hold your new inventory.
Tip: Use your cell phone with Internet access to pull up Amazon used book pricing when you are scouting out books for resale. If the pricing for like books is good — $7 or more — buy the book. You’ll very often be able to list it and sell it for more than $10–$15.

If you do come home with books that you want to get rid of that you can’t use in your home bookstore, take them to a local used bookstore and ask the owner if they’ll trade for books you can add to your inventory. Sometimes if you’re lucky, the owner will buy your unwanted books by offering store credit for books he or she doesn’t want to carry any longer.
Another goal: Show up for work! Get out your calendar. Write in daily goals. Set aside time early each morning or late at night when you get home from your job, log into your account to check orders and e-mail messages, and go to work listing or revising your listings.

Where to Start?

Right now, start with the books you already own, and add to them by attending library book sales and fund-raisers, estate sales, and thrift stores, and even search for them online or through newspaper classified ads. You’ll be surprised to find good used books are all around you.

Post your own free classified ad stating that you buy used books, and list the subjects you are most interested in, but don’t be surprised if the people who contact you have an inflated value of their books’ worth. Be in control. State that you can pay a flat fee for their entire lot of books — example, $25 for a lot of 50 books. Make sure those 50 books contain at least $500 in retail value.

Concentrate on buying trade paperbacks in the non-fiction arena. These sell well in almost all condition. If you specialize in certain fields like architecture, history, how-to, UFO’s or the like, keep adding new titles to your stock at all times. Write newspaper and magazine articles related to your expertise. Publish press releases for local media about your new venture.

Post your finds to your Facebook friends or your Twitter followers. One cool feature of posting books in the Amazon Marketplace is that with one simple click of a button, it allows you to automatically post your new listing to Facebook or Twitter, saving you lots of time.

If you do wind up concentrating on buying and selling First Editions, do your homework first. Become an expert in the field. There’s a lot to know and you should know that on Amazon, the typical used book seller is not even permitted to list collectible books, so that avenue is closed to you until you prove some authority or certification.

Learn These Basics of Bookselling

To get started in your new venture, here are six simple tips to keep in mind:

1. Learn the book trade and terminology. Study everything you can and add to your knowledge each day.

2. Do make sure you have a sufficient number of titles. The more books you have to sell, the better. People want to buy now. They won’t wait around until you find the title. They’ll just move on to the next Internet seller.

3. Be thorough and accurate in your descriptions, revealing any and all flaws in the condition of the book. Don’t be afraid to list your book one step down in condition to stay on the safe side (example: if you have a book in “Very Good” condition, consider listing it in “Good” condition so as to delight the average book buyer, and not disappoint the discriminating book buyer.

4. Do your homework. If you describe a book as a First Edition, be sure that it is one. If you don’t know how to tell for certain, then don’t add this detail.

5. Learn the basics of how publishers insert the bibliographical descriptions in the front section of books. These identify to collectors the year of copyright, the print edition, the publisher, the ISBN (10-digit ID number for books that you will use often to search up values and availability of books), and more.

6. Determine where to purchase used books. Negotiate for the best pricing.

These are your keys to making maximum profits in your own home book store. With time and effort, you can learn how to make money in this simple home business. HBM

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