How to sell books on Amazon in 2019-2020
Selling books on Amazon marketplace remains one of the best ways to start an online business for both beginning and experienced entrepreneurs. Still, while the process is easier than many other online businesses, there’s plenty to learn in order to be successful.
This guide will help you navigate your way through online book-selling and show you how to create a profitable venture that can provide you with income for years to come. You'll learn all the tips and strategies you need to get started and receive inside information to help you gain an edge on the competition.
You’ll learn how to build your business the right way, including:
You won’t need any equipment for this type of business, but you will need to have a few things in place. While not all of these are required to start selling books on the Amazon site, we highly recommend having all of the items below to give yourself the best chance at success:
An Amazon seller’s account
A subscription to AMZScout
A total budget of roughly $1000
If you're interested in learning how to make money selling books on Amazon, keep reading and follow the steps below to find out the best way to get started in 2019 and 2020.
What Kinds of Books Sell Best on Amazon?
The first thing you’re probably wondering is “What kinds of books should I sell?” This can be a difficult question to answer, since there or so many formats, categories, and genres that books can come in.
So let’s take a look at Amazon’s best selling books:
Physical Books vs E-Books
To start we’ll break books into two main categories: Physical books and e-books.
By 2011, e-book sales out-performed print sales for the first time, which had many people believing it was the beginning of the end for physical books. However, print sales remain very high, with a high number of buyers still preferring to own a hard copy of their favorite titles. In fact, recent data indicates that print books are making a comeback and are outperforming e-books in some areas.
Basically, the moral of the story is that both types of books sell extremely well. It seemed for a while that e-books were the future, but there is clearly still a market for physical books as well.
New vs Used Books
When it comes to physical books, there are two different options: New books and second-hand books.
New books are obviously the bigger seller, as many people prefer to receive a product in perfect condition. The problem for sellers is actually acquiring new books, which involves doing business with wholesalers and publishers (we’ll cover this in greater detail later). While certainly doable, this can be a tall task for beginning sellers.
This is why many people prefer to sell used books. With this strategy it’s easy to start selling your own books. While this market isn’t as big as the new book market, Amazon Canada, UK and Australia sell millions of used books.
The best thing is it costs nothing: Just list your old comic book or whatever you’re selling and get some cash in return. If you’re thinking “I could sell Amazon books on my website,” you can do that as well, but you’ll never get as much traffic as you will on Amazon.
Best-Selling Genres and Categories
So, just what genre of books sells better on Amazon? Here’s a quick look at the top-selling books on Kindle:
Science-Fiction & Fantasy
Humour and Satire
Romance dominates fiction (and all nonfiction categories as well for that matter), but mystery, historical novels and science-fiction also sell extremely well.
Biographies and Memoirs
Health, Fitness, & Dieting
Religion & Spirituality
Self-Help and Business books
As mentioned before, while nonfiction sells more as a whole, the most popular fiction books sell the most. So while these categories are very popular, their total sales numbers aren’t as high as the four fiction categories listed above.
Another popular category is textbooks. Most students get rid of these books when they’re done with them, meaning there are always plenty of them available. And with new students enrolling in classes all the time, the demand is also equally high.
Moreover, it’s very easy to sell textbooks on Amazon. But best of all, school books generally sell for more than regular books, which means you’ll maximize your profit margins. So selling university books on Amazon is a great option.
Another area that’s quickly gaining in popularity is audiobooks. While not quite as popular as written books, audiobook sales are continually rising and the market is growing rapidly. Amazon sells audiobooks through their company Audible.
By the way, did you know who is the highest- selling author on Amazon? And what is their bestseller? Check this Amazon page to see Top 10 most popular Amazon authors!
Is it Worth it Selling Books on Amazon?
Now that you’ve seen all the costs involved, you’re probably wondering whether it’s worth it selling books on Amazon FBA. Can you actually make a profit, and if so, how much money can you actually make?
Yes! Selling books on Amazon can definitely be profitable if you do it correctly. When selling physical books you should be able to make about $5 per book. For e-books, while your profit per book will probably be less than a physical book (depending on how much you sell your books for), if you market your book properly your volume will more than make up for it. These are digital books, so your inventory is endless and you can sell an infinite number of them. With the Amazon Prime program, you’ll even get paid when someone reads a page of your book. In fact, there are some self-published books and Amazon published books that make over $10,000 profit per month or more, so the potential is definitely there!
It’s far more profitable than the Amazon Associate’s program, which only gives you a small percentage of each sale. Because you’re selling your own product there’s far more earning potential in this type of business.
Use AMZScout to Estimate Your Revenue
If you want to get a realistic idea of just how much money you can make from selling books on Amazon, AMZScout Pro is a great tool for this.
Use this link to download the Google Chrome extension and then go to Amazon.com.
From there, head to the “Books” section. Do a search for the genre you’re interested, or have a look at the best sellers list.
Once you have your results, click on the AMZScout app icon in the top right corner of your browser. Here’s an example of the info you’ll be able to see:
You can view the average monthly sales, average revenue, average selling price and more. This should give you an idea of the profit potential of any genre or category you might be thinking of selling in. Just make sure to factor in any fees Amazon will charge you for each sale when estimating your potential profit.
As you can see from the example above, when done right selling books on Amazon is definitely worth it.
Where to find books to sell
Once you have your business plan in place it’s time to actually start finding books that you can sell on Amazon. There are a number of places you can look and strategies you can use to source your books.
Below are some of the best ways to build an inventory of books that will sell.
Buying Used Books
Selling used books on Amazon is how many internet entrepreneurs get their start. This is because they are generally easy to find and there isn’t a huge upfront cost, depending on how many you decide to buy.
There are multiple places you can look for cheap used books that you’ll be able to resell:
Sales at your local used book stores
If you’re really looking to get a good deal, and you have a sizable budget, consider buying books in bulk. Try to find sellers who need to unload a large number of books and give them an offer for their entire collection.
If you want to know how profitable a book can be, you scan it with your phone using either the Amazon Seller App or the Scoutify App. By scanning the bar code or ISBN number you’ll instantly find out how many sales that book has on Amazon.
Generally, books that are rare, collectible, antique or autographed will be the most valuable, although you may need to go through the ungating process to sell in such categories.
Poetry generally doesn’t sell well, so avoid these types of books if you can.
Buying New Books
While a little more complicated than sourcing used books, you may decide to purchase new books for reselling on Amazon. Of course, if you buy new books at retail prices you’ll never be able to turn a profit. So, if you’re wondering where to source new books, we have the answers.
There are three options for sourcing new books:
Wholesalers: They buy high quantities of books from publishers at extremely low prices they’re able to resell them for below retail value.
Distributors: While they don’t offer the same low prices as wholesalers you may still be able to work out a deal that will allow you to make a profit.
Publishers: They only sell in extremely high quantities, so this is an expensive strategy. However, this is also how you’ll get the lowest per-book cost.
Keep in mind that all of these sellers only sell books in bulk, so you’ll need a fairly large budget in order to buy from them.
How to Find Books that Will Be Profitable
It’s all well and good to find books to add to your inventory. But what kind of books sell best on Amazon? The last thing you want is to buy a bunch of books only to have them sit in a warehouse and collect dust. You want books for making money!
If you’re going to run a successful business you need more in-depth data to make sure you’re selling the right kinds of books. This is where AMZScout is extremely effective.
Here’s an example of how AMZScout can help determine which categories will make you the most money:
Using AMZScout Pro we compare search results for “Children’s Books”:
And for “School Books”:
By analyzing the data, you’ll be able to determine which category is most profitable. As you can see from the examples above:
The overall sales for Children’s Books are higher than School Books,
However the average sale price for the School Books category is higher,
As a result, the margins for the School Books will be better, making this a better category to sell in.
AMZScout also offers a Niche Score metric to help you determine how profitable a niche is. In this case, Children’s Books has a score of 4 while School Books has a score of 7. This is an easy way to quickly see which niche will provide you with the best earning potential.
You can also drill down into a specific category and find the best books to sell on Amazon.
For example, in the School Books category, “Student's Book of College English” is the best performer. AMZScout also provides you with a detailed analysis to let you know why a book may or may not be profitable.
Also, with AMZScout Pro you can:
Sort results to find a book which is best seller in its category
See how many books are being sold within a month
Get a recommendation about niche potential
Check the product score of each book to find the best performers without complicated calculations in Excel sheets.
By using this tool before sourcing your physical books, or creating your e-books, you’ll have a much better chance of selling books people will actually want to buy.
How Much Does it Cost to Sell Books on Amazon?
Before getting started, it’s important to know what kind of expenses you can expect. That way you can budget ahead of time and there won’t be any surprises along the way.
To start with, you’re going to need to determine what kinds of books you’re going to sell, as the expenses for physical books and e-books vary.
Amazon Membership Costs
In order to sell on Amazon, you first need to become a member. This cost will apply to you whether you’re selling physical books or e-books. Sellers have two choices: Become an individual seller or a professional seller.
How Much Does it Cost to Sell Physical Books?
If you’re going to sell paperbacks and hardcovers then your first step will be to acquire books that you can resell. The key here is to find books that you can purchase cheap enough that you’ll be left with a good ROI.
The ideal price point for a book is $1, as that should leave you with plenty of room to make money on each sale. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find books for even less than that, but when creating a budget for your business it’s a good idea to assume each book you purchase will cost you roughly this amount.
On top of the cost of purchasing your inventory, Amazon also charges a 15% referral fee and a $1.80 closing fee on each sale you make. This is why it’s so important to keep the cost of your books down because you need to make sure that you’re still left with a profit after Amazon takes their cut.
How Much Does it Cost to Sell E-Books?
Selling e-books can be very profitable, but there are a lot of upfront costs involved that you need to be aware of. Unlike physical books, you can’t resell other people’s e-books (unless you’re going to repurpose a public domain book). So, if you want to sell an e-book you’re going to have to create your own from scratch.
Here are the costs associated with writing an e-book:
Writing your book: You can either write it yourself for free or hire a ghostwriter to write it for you. You should be able to find a quality writer for around $750 - $1000.
Designing your cover: If you’re a talented graphic designer you can also do this yourself for free. Otherwise, you’ll need to hire someone to create an enticing picture for your book. Expect to pay $50 for a good professionally designed cover.
Selling fees: Amazon will charge you fees for selling on their platform. Books priced below $2.99 and above $9.99 are charged a delivery fee of $0.15 per megabyte. So, the bigger the size of your PDF file the more you’ll end up paying. You can opt for a 65% commission fee instead of the delivery fee, but unless you have a really large file the delivery fee will likely be cheaper. For books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon charges a 30% commission fee.
These are the minimum costs required to self-publish your own e-book. However, you may choose to spend additional money on an editor, beta readers, and sponsored ads to promote your book and pre-sell it. If you plan on using any of these services make sure to factor that into your budget.
There are a few other costs you’ll need to consider when it comes to fulfiling your orders. For example, if you’re selling physical books you’ll need to pack and ship the books to your customers. Prices are even higher for international shipping.
You could use Amazon FBA to fulfil your orders and ship your books directly to Amazon. But there are still costs involved in shipping your products to Amazon. Then there are the Amazon FBA fees to consider as well.
You can use the Amazon Vendors program and just sell books to Amazon to avoid all of this. However, when you sell back books to Amazon for credit you generally don’t make a lot of money.
And while not a cost per se, don’t forget about tax. You’ll need to remember to pay taxes on all of your income from your book sales.
Keep these costs in mind when you’re setting up your business.
Tips and Secrets for Selling Books on Amazon
If you’ve mastered the steps above you should have a good understanding of the basics of selling books on Amazon. However, we’ve compiled a few more tips and tricks below to help you ensure your new business is a success.
When is the Best Time to Sell Books?
Book sales are strong all year round, so unlike some other products there’s no real best month to sell books. That being said, sales generally pick up in November and December leading up to the holidays. If you use AMZScout Pro software it might be helpful to check rankings and sales history to know the season with highest profits.
The one type of book that does have some seasonality to it is college books. These books will sell better at the beginning of school semesters, which are generally September and January. Keep this in mind when selling textbooks.
When pricing physical books, the first thing you need to consider is your cost. Add up the amount you paid for the book, plus Amazon’s fees, to determine your break-even point. Your sale price will need to be higher than this if you want to make a profit.
Most of the books you sell online will already be listed on Amazon, so you can see what other sellers are selling it for. If you’re a new seller with little or no reviews, consider pricing your books a little lower than the competition to encourage people to buy from you. Having the lowest price also gives you the buy box. This is a huge advantage, as it means when someone just clicks “Add to Cart” your book is the one that they’ll purchase.
When it comes to pricing your e-book, you’ll generally want to price it between $2.99 and $9.99, as this allows you to receive a 70% royalty (books priced below $2.99 and above $9.99 only receive a 35% royalty). If you want some more specific advice, use the KDP Pricing Support tool when uploading your book. This tool will analyze the length of the book and your genre and create a graph showing you the most profitable price point for your book.
When it comes to audiobooks, prices generally range from $20 to $30. If your book is on the shorter side price it closer to $20, and if it’s longer you should be able to get away with pricing it closer to $30.
Selling books as a start of Amazon business
Whether you’re an experienced internet entrepreneur or looking to start your first side-hustle, selling books on Amazon is a great choice. The upfront cost is relatively low compared to other business opportunities, and if done correctly it can be quite profitable. If you follow the steps above you should have a successful online business in no time.