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Welcome to the next installment in my used book business series. To recap, we first talked about how to make money selling used books where I outlined the methods you can use to sell used books, and why I chose Amazon FBA. The next post talked about how to start a used book business online including how to set up your Amazon Seller account, how to find books for the best prices, which free app to use to decide if a book is worth buying, and how to use the app. Now, we’re going to assume you already purchased books, and now have to get them ready to sell. The books must be prepared for sale, and these are the tools you need to do it.
Supplies we use to prep books in our used book business
Here’s another great thing about selling used books: the basic supplies you need to get the books ready are cheap. You may even have some of them at home already.
When I talk about prepping books, I mean getting them clean and ready for sale. Used books often sit on shelves for a long time, collecting dust. Unfortunately, thrift stores don’t usually treat them with much respect either. They arrive dirty, and the bins and carts the thrift stores shuffle them around in make them dirtier. Sometimes when we leave a thrift store I feel like I might need a shower just from handling all those books. =(
Here are the supplies we use to make our books nice and clean:
- Clean, dry cotton rags (preferably white or very light in color)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Pencil eraser
- Scotty Peeler
- Goo Gone
Scotty Peelers are used to remove any old stickers off the books. This could be price tags, colored dots from the thrift stores, stickers that cover the bar codes, whatever. They should all be removed. Scotty Peelers are nifty little corner lifters that help get the stickers off without damaging the book. I tried finding them elsewhere but was only able to find them through Amazon. They look like this:
They come in metal and plastic. We use the plastic ones and they’re great; you can get 3 of them for $5 on Amazon. They have a very thin edge so they can get under the stickers but because they’re plastic there’s less chance of a klutz like me damaging the book (or myself!) than with the metal ones. Other things like palette knives, box cutters, regular knives just aren’t quite right for the job. They might be successful but it will probably take more work and care on your part to not damage the books.
With really stubborn sticker residue you want to use Goo Gone. Apply it to your clean rag (not the surface of the book) and then to the sticker, gently blotting up any excess. Let it sit for awhile (a few minutes to 20-30 minutes) and then wipe with a different rag. Next you can use the Scotty Peeler to lift off the sticker and wipe down the book one more time. (***NOTE: You should only use Goo Gone with shiny covers. Don’t use it on the pages of the book or cloth/leather covers. It will leave an oily stain.***)
The pencil erasers are self-explanatory.
The rubbing alcohol is used to clean any dirt, markings and last bits of stubborn sticky residue off the book cover. Use a clean rag (not one that has Goo Gone on it) and wipe the book off. Then use a dry rag to remove any leftover alcohol. As with Goo Gone, don’t use rubbing alcohol on untreated paper, cloth or other more porous covers. Also, on books with cheaper covers, the alcohol may remove or smear some of the print or colors.
If you have a book that can’t be cleaned with rubbing alcohol, you can simply use a dry cloth to wipe off any dirt or residue. If you see covers that are in bad shape and hard to clean, you probably should avoid buying them because they will go into the “acceptable” listing category. Unless a book has a VERY good sales ranking and is very valuable/popular/rare, you probably won’t have much luck selling books listed as acceptable for decent amounts of money. They will also sell slower than other books.
In the used book business is there are probably 3 main types of customers:
- Those who want a book in new or near-new condition at the best possible price;
- People who just want the cheapest book and don’t have a preference about the condition;
- Customers that don’t read descriptions about book condition and expect their products perfect when they receive them
No matter what, if you find books in the best condition possible and make them look as good as they can, then you will please all three types of customers!! If they buy your book and are satisfied or even pleasantly surprised by the quality of the book, they will leave you a good review and maybe go back to you as a repeat customer. Even customer #2, who just wanted something cheap, will be happy to receive a book in good condition at a fair price.
Ryan is really, really good at taking a book and making it look great. We often get library discards. He takes off the cheap plastic book jacket from the library, then cleans off all the stickers and tape. He makes a previously mediocre-looking book appear pretty fantastic! I think a lot of people might not bother going the extra mile of removing the plastic dust jacket. But he does and by going that extra mile, he is sure to win customer appreciation. Those who are paying attention will soon see the difference between buying a book from us versus buying one from another seller who sends off the library discards as-is. The customer who buys from the other guy may then wonder: why they didn’t just go to their local library and read it for free?!
Upcoming posts will discuss more about pricing strategies and how to add inventory and ship to Amazon. I will also talk about optional apps, software and gadgets you can use to make your life easier when working on your used book business.