This is an interview with two top Amazon FBA booksellers, James R (pictured left) and Andrew S (pictured right) discussing how to sell books on Amazon, sourcing tips and secrets, how COVID-19 has affected their FBA business and more! Ready to get started?
When did you start selling on Amazon and why?
James: We began selling books in the early part of last year (2019), though Andrew had been selling online for a while.
Andrew: I’d mostly been selling clothes on eBay, flipping designer clothes.
James: We both love books, both of us are big readers, and it wasn’t long before we were exploring the internet to see if there was a market for second-hand books
Andrew: Turns out there is.
James: There certainly is.
How to Sell Books on Amazon
Why did you choose to start selling books?
James: Aside from our joint love of books we both wanted a side hustle… I’m a writer, I spend a lot of time locked in my room working making up imaginary people.
Andrew: And I’m an actor.
James: So he spends a lot of time actually being imaginary people. We wanted a job that we could do over the weekend, one that could grow of its own accord and give us a decent side wage.
Do you sell any other products or plan to in the future?
James: I occasionally sell board games as well. I’m a big retro nerd, so if we’re in a charity shop and I see a 1990s game, I’ll pick it up – but that’s it. Andrew sells loads of stuff on his own.
Andrew: I’m a huge fan of The Repair Shop. I follow a lot of antique dealers on YouTube which means I’ll pick up other things and sell them on eBay.
James: Weird things. Like Victorian teeth.
Andrew: A pair of Victorian masticators in their original leather case.
James: Which is disgusting….
Andrew: Yeah… but also profitable. Bought for £10 in South London, sold for £100 to someone in the US.
Selling on Amazon
Do you use FBA? If so, why?
James: We exclusively use FBA. We did merchant fulfil for about two weeks, but for us it was too much hassle and interfered with the rest of our lives. We buy books. We box books. We send them in and then we forget about them and try to do as little as possible.
Do you sell on other marketplaces and/or your own website?
James: We occasionally come across niche interest books, so we’ll put those on eBay. If we’ve got first editions or signed copies they tend to go on eBay too.
Andrew: We bought a load of autograph books early on, took them to an auction house to be valued. We got a disappointing email and then sold them for four times as much as the auction house estimate on eBay.
What’s the most important aspect of selling on Amazon?
James: The most important thing is being able to source good quality books as fast as you can. We’ve learned in the last year very quickly how to do this.
Andrew: We made loads of mistakes early on, everybody does, but we’re much better now and much faster and more efficient than we used to be.
James: We can get through an entire charity bookshop in about an hour these days with a mix of me scanning with my eyes and Andrew scanning with his phone.
How much do you expect to make from selling on Amazon this year?
James: You should never ask a woman her age, or a business person their profit margin!
Andrew: We’re growing our business every month and have been since we started, so it’s going to be difficult to guess until we reach a sales ceiling.
James: I will say that this side hustle is fast becoming a main hustle in terms of profit. It grows very quickly and we’re still having fun, for us that’s the main thing.
Book Sourcing Tips
How many hours do you spend every week running your business?
James: We book hunt all day on a Saturday, we list and box up on a Sunday and then the books are gone first thing Monday morning. This means we can both just crack on with our lives and other jobs. I was manually repricing for about an hour each morning until recently.
Andrew: We never wanted a full-time job, we both wanted a part-time side hustle.
James: I think when the business reaches a ceiling, when we’re selling more books than we can put in, then we’ll talk about adding more time.
Andrew: Or employing other people and having more time free.
James: Yeah. Something to discuss by this time next year.
When sourcing, do you use any special tools?
James: I use my eyes. They aren’t special tools but they’ve become very specialised over the last year. You learn to recognise what titles are likely to be worth looking at and what titles aren’t. If we’ve got a big load to do, I’ll often pre-scan with my eyes and hand Andrew the books we should scan. It’s different to how the Americans do it with their magic Bluetooth scanners and beep-fest, but I think it needs to be. I think the UK and US book markets are different and the volume of books per shop is different. Every seller finds their way, and this the way that works for us.
Andrew: I’m pretty good at using the Amazon Seller app and making a judgment. I do most of the decision making on whether we’ll take a book or not.
James: And I’ve got a massive suitcase.
Andrew: He does. We look like hitmen. God knows what the charity shop managers must think.