Nostalgia Helps Sell Discarded Library Books, Bring Big Profits

One source of good used books you can resell online is often overlooked: libraries.

Not just public library books sales put on by the local "Friends of the Library" group.

Local elementary school libraries. Local high school libraries. Local thrift stores that have received a large batch of donated books from these types of libraries.

Although I haven't resold a lot of this type of book, I've often earned very good profits on them.

A recent sale was a very worn children's book. The title looked just strange enough that I thought I'd best check out competing offers on Amazon.


Was I surprised!

These books cost nothing, and they are selling for $15, $75, even $140 each.

I suppose it's the nostalgia of baby-boomers who remember reading these books in grade school that is driving these sales.

Maybe it was the first book they read, the first book they actually owned.

Maybe if was a gift from a parent or an aunt. The book was lost. But the memories weren't.

And, now that they see this title just a few buy clicks away, they buy it.

I sold one title for $14.99. After all selling fees and expenses I netted about $11.

Remember, the book was free. The net was $11. It took all of 3 minutes to list the book. Very low risk. Big payoff.

So don't pass by these types of books -- that is, used library books -- when you're out sourcing inventory.

If you see a title that has an odd title or a strange book cover artwork, and the condition is good or very good, buy it. Don't pay more than 50 cents. It might just give you a nice nostalgic return on investment.

Worst case: if the book doesn't sell, I'm sure there is a young boy or girl somewhere who would love to own that book!

Latest Library Book Sale Haul: 90 Books for $9

I hadn't been to a library book sale in a couple of years. My schedule never seemed to mesh up with the right weekends, when bogs get sold by the bagful for pennies on the dollar (a.k.a. my favorite part of library book sales!).

I arrived at 1 o'clock in the final hour on a Saturday afternoon when they were selling your choice of books at $2 a bag until closing time 2 p.m. I had to pick fast. Here is what I wound up with -- 90 books for $9.00. Ten cents a book. Once I got home the culling process began:

The sale was on Saturday. Sunday I listed about 5-6 titles. Total retail value was in excess of $200. By Tuesday I had sold 2 of the titles: a new copy of "A Course on Miracles" for $14.00 and a copy of a martial arts book for $27.00. After postage, packing, and seller fees, I netted over $30. So all the remaining 88 books are paid in full, free and clear. Anything I make on them will be pure profit.

That's the beauty of library bag sales! FYI, I continued to list select books onto my account through the following week, and wound up donating some of the books to a thrift store because I had picked hastily without resorting to checking current pricing on my smartphone since the clock was ticking and they were ready to close up shop.

What's interesting are all the public domain titles and out-of-print titles I found in the sale, which will be valuable to re-publishing projects I am involved in (note: public domain content can be very valuable; you can use it any way you wish, and repurpose the content for other books, ebooks, websites, social media artwork, etc.)

Summing the sale up: There is still plenty of money to be made at library sales. If you have one coming up in your area take advantage of the good deals you'll find there.

Don't Let Your Business Own You

Used books sold by FBA sellers might be subject to long-term storage fees, according to a recent article by (link is here)

In case you don't know, FBA stands for 'Fulfillment By Amazon'. The lure of this program has always been that sellers find, list and ship the used books from their home office to Amazon's warehouses, and when the book sells, Amazon picks, packs, ships and bills the item, and pays the seller what's left over after they've deducted their fees.

"Longtail books on Amazon are in jeopardy, some sellers are warning, because Amazon FBA is eliminating an exemption for single-unit Long Term Storage Fees," according to the article. "Longtail" refers to the fact that some books take a long time to sell.

I've had this happen myself. I've purchased what I thought was a great book to resell, and it winds up taking up shelf space for 2 years or more. Then, almost magically, the used book sells. You never know what somebody needs or wants any particular point in time, and I think that's what I love about selling used books online.

But the changes at Amazon mean sellers must promptly choose to remove affected inventory if they want to take advantage of Amazon's limited-time offer of free removal fees and ultimately avoid paying these steep storage fees coming in February 2017. (Note: the waiver of removal fees offer expires Oct. 14th, so there's not much time left for FBA booksellers to act.)

The article sounds an ominous warning: "If they don't remove single-unit titles before October 14th, they face the prospect of paying LTSF if the titles don't sell by February."

I must admit such program changes by Amazon are the main reason I've never participated in the FBA program. I liked the sound of this program back in 2010 when I got started finding and listing used books for sale on the Internet, especially on the Amazon Marketplace.

But I chose to keep my online bookselling business simple by fulfilling the book orders myself. It works for me. My schedule allows me the time to pick, pack and ship the books myself. If I happen to be working on projects out of town or I'm on vacation, I simple put my account on vacation, fill any current orders before I leave town, then re-activate the listings when I'm back home.

Sure, it's more work. Sure, it turns off the sales while I'm busy out of town. Sure, I don't get to reach the lucrative Prime customers who tend to spend more money more often.

But it works for me.

We each have to create a business that fits us.

There is no rule that you must sell FBA. Many, many booksellers have found the program very lucrative. Quite a number of them claim they've quit their jobs and have gone full-time by using the FBA program. I'm glad for them. But I've decided for now, that manual fulfillment works better for me.

I think what it really comes down to in this business is to find and list books that have a higher return on investment (ROI); i.e., buy them cheap, sell them high, and do the work yourself.

Will that limit your income?


Will that allow you to sell every book you find?


Will that work for your situation?

I don't know. It might. It might not. It depends on what you want out of your online bookstore.

The point I'm making as I wrap up this post is simple: Don't put yourself at the mercy of another firm. Don't get backed into a corner if/when they decide to change the terms, the policies, the way they do business. I think this change in the Amazon FBA program underscores that unless YOU have control of your business -- and that means NOT putting all your eggs into one basket -- you won't own a business. A business will own you.

Adapting Your Bookselling Business To Stay Profitable, Stay Viable, Stay Alive

"Business is a process, not an entity. Successful businesses are those that continually adapt to changes in the marketplace, the industry, the economy, and the culture. They behave more like organisms than organizations, shifting and growing and dividing and combining as needed..."
-- from "The Brand Gap" by Marty Neumeier

So how is your online bookshop adapting to changes?

Are your shifting? Growing? Combining?

Do you think of your used book business as something you own? Or does your business own you?

The peculiar nature of selling on new online platforms, where you are a third-party seller -- i.e.,,,, your local Facebook yardsale group -- means you have to keeping evolving, adapting, improving.

Are you regularly reviewing how you can improve? How you can buying books cheaper? Source better books with higher margin? Ship book orders for less? Avoid duds? Add new lines of merchandise? Diversify?

If you're not getting ready to quit, you need to get started growing.

Someone was quoted once as saying: "Life is like a wheelbarrow -- it stands still unless someone pushes it."

You are the one who will push your business. You are in charge of the heaving lifting. You are the only one who cares.

And, that's a unique opportunity that you can grab onto today, to push your business into new territory, to lift your business to the next level, to make it take you to where you want to go.

It's not easy. As they say, "The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work."

But it is worth the effort.

Source more books at better prices. Cull out old books that have turned into penny-book duds. Tell everyone you meet that you are adding to your collection. When you are at a yard sale, say these words: "Do you have any other books for sale?" You'd be surprised how often they'll bring out boxes and boxes of good quality books you can resell for good profits.

Post your used book inventory as soon as you buy it; don't delay and get behind. It costs you money when you have inventory boxed up, unlisted, in your basement, your garage, in the corner of your office. Go to work. Get them listed. Sell them asap!

And, never give up. Sometimes it might get discouraging when sales lag and you think nobody's ever going to buy another book. But that feeling will pass with the next used book you sell. Remember, this is a process. You are learning, growing, adapting and expanding. Keep at it. You will succeed.

Keep this advice in mind as you go forward: "The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way you used them."

Here's How I Turn 'Penny Book Duds' Into Solid Gold

Nearly every sourcing trip for used book sellers like me results in a few duds... that is, books which are selling for less than a dollar on Amazon. I seldom post books for sale on my Amazon Seller's Account for less than $14 anymore. But every once in awhile, I do purchase used books that don't fit that parameter.

Why? you ask.

Simple. I use the books myself. Since I'm usually only spending 25 cents per book I can pick up books on topics that appeal to me. It might compliment an e-book project I'm doing research on, or it might be on a history subject that interests me.

I usually figure that I might derive a few dollars worth of insight for just a quarter. So I toss those 'duds' into my shopping basket and take them home.

Recently I paid a little higher amount - a whopping two dollars! - to take home this complete set of speaker's and toastmaster's hardback library books, published quite awhile back by Jacob Braude.

I figured I could use the compilations of speech openings, human interest stories, toasts and remarks of famous people work for me in blog posts, of which I am guilty of avoiding like the plague!

I further figured that just one simple quote, story or common folk saying I stumbled across would help spark my blog writing.

Guess what?

I was right!

I was able to craft a simple blog post on another blog I publish for self-published authors, aimed at giving them inspiration to keep keeping on, even if their sales and writing production had gone off track. The post took me a few minutes to write. I gave credit to the who had written the quotes or provided the insights, of course; but having those little books near my laptop gave me the self-motivation and self-confidence to tackle an unpleasant task (one I had been putting off for over 3 months) to feeling good about myself for accomplishing something I'd wanted to try out for a long time.

No, I'm not going to plagerize anyone. Giving credit where credit is due is foremost in my mind. But as I thumbed through the topics, a message formed in my mind that needed to be sent to my audience, and the relevant quotes seemed to almost magically appear as I turned the pages.

Writing, editing and posting the blog entry was done within 30 minutes.

And, to add to that achievement, it inspired me to write THIS blog post entry to my audience here -- those who recycle and resell used books online -- to show what to do with little treasures you find but cannot resell in your usual channels.

Perhaps there are other ways (like writing self-help posts?) you make them earn their keep; or, maybe a good quality used book would make the perfect present to a friend or family member. I've seen plenty of 'how-to' or 'what-to-do' books in the 6 years I've been selling used books online that have become gifts to those who need a little help, a reminder to stay on the sunny side of the street, to those who need inspiration, or those who are deep into their own hobby who enjoy a new addition to their collections.

In closing, perhaps those little 'duds' we pass on when out sourcing used book inventory, are really little gems that might make life a little easier.

In any case, I've got 8 little helpers on my desk now that should keep me busy keeping my blogs updated. To me, that's solid gold! (p.s. -- this blog post only took me about 30 minutes to write as well, then about 5 minutes to edit the formatting and add the photo of the books from my smartphone.) So the question really is: is this a good option for you as well? Could you turn 'Penny Books' you've picked up over the years to use by re-purposing them, allowing them to give you ideas and inspiration to add to your own blog posts? I believe everyone can find 30 minutes a week to communicate with your readers, and this is an easy way to stay positive and prepared to get your good posts done quickly.

If you'd like to read the post that I wrote so quickly, and see how you might be able to do the same thing on your own website, blog or social media posts, click here:

Another Thrift Store Score: Nice Return After Snagging These 4 Used Books I Bought For Only $1.75

I found these paperbacks (condition: used very good) in thrift stores close to my home while out sourcing inventory in November 2015:

"White Horse Force" by M.A. Meehan
Purchased for 50 cents
Lowest price listed is $13.52
Will list mine for $12.99

"Beware The Third Circle" by Harriett Ford
Purchased for 50 cents
Lowest price listed is $39.88
Will list mine for $37.50

"National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual"
Purchased for 50 cents
Lowest price listed is $38.16
Will list mine for $34.99

Update 9/26/2016: This book finally sold after 10 months. I had to lower my selling price down to $17.50 due to competition for this title. I didn't make as much profit as I original projected, but I'll still make a nice ROI on this book, as I only paid 50 cents for this paperback edition.

"Through Alien Eyes" by Wesley H. Bateman
Purchased for 25 cents
Lowest price listed is $15.59
Will list mine for $14.99

Update 6/21/2016: This book finally sold after 7 months. My selling price went down to $11.50 because of competition. I'll still make a nice ROI on this book, since I only paid a quarter for the paperback.

UPDATE: Even though 2 of the books still sit on my bookshelf 10 months later, this is a nice return on my $1.75 investment!

These four paperbacks represented a 1:30 ROI when I bought them. I had to drop the price to match competition. They still represent the good quality used books you can source quite readily and easily from thrift stores in just about any market. Even though I've had to drop the initial listing prices to get them sold, I still made a nice profit. You just never want to get disappointed and quit when the competition gets rough. I guess that is the lesson I'm trying to make in this post.

Big Surprise Hidden In Thrift Store Purchase

I'm always up for a surprise. Especially when I find it stashed away in something I already want to buy.

Here's a plastic file folder box that I found recently in a thrift store near my home -- a store that has a decent used book section I check about once a month. These little plastic boxes are a great way to store handing file folders for projects I'm working on. This one was marked $2.00, so I picked it up and added it to the items I was buying that day.

It felt a little heavy. Maybe something good inside, I thought. I opened the lid. I didn't find used books. Instead, I found vintage video games.

Ca-Ching! I take a couple of the games out. They were sold by Intellivision, probably back in the early 1980s. The packaging is decent, and the stickers and game instructions are still inside.

Yeah! My lucky day I think to myself!

So I head to the checkout table. An elderly lady tallies up my used books and this plastic file box. She picks it up; she feels the extra weight. She unbuckles it. She looks inside, then scoops them up. She turns to her helper like I'm trying to steal them blind.

"What about these?" she asks her cohort, giving me the nod like I'm a klepto.

Young Girl says, "If they were not marked they all go together."

I like her point of view. She is quite sensible.

But Mrs. Stingy is not. She eyes me like a pickpocket thief.

I plead my case. "I didn't put them in there. I thought they all went together."

I stood my ground. If she was going to squash the bargain, I was wondering if I would argue or walk away. Tick-tock, tick-tock went an old clock on the wall above the cash register. It was a standoff.

Finally she relented and put the games back into the box and grudgingly took my cash. I thanked her and she looked at me like I'd taken food out of the mouths of needy children.

I packed my treasures -- old used books I was going to resell on the Amazon Marketplace, plus my vintage video games that would eventually be listed for sale on Ebay -- into my car, and I wondered if I was a smart entrepreneur, a greedy bastard, or just a keen thrift store shopper.

I knew in my heart I was a little of each.

But thinking back to this experience, the small entrepreneur needs to be greedy, hungry to find bargains that will bring a decent profit margin, and to push for good deals all the time. I'm sure there are some workers in thrift stores who look at me as somehow "cheating" the system. Oh well. Let them think like that. I've got more places to seek out great bargains to buy and resell.

Who's Making Money From Penny Books Anymore?

While I'd never do it, there are examples of booksellers who do make a small profit from selling penny books on Amazon.
Who are they? How.... and why... do they do it?
Here's an article that delves into this mystery:
"Can you really make a living by selling used books on Amazon for a penny?" on the website.
Like I said earlier: I'd never do it. But some people are making money doing it. It's an interesting read. I especially like the story of how one seller got started with free book inventory.
I'd like to try that!

45 Minutes Sourcing, 5 Books Discovered. Value $175.42. Cost $1.75.

Yesterday I had a few minutes to check out used books for sale at a local library book sale stand, plus stop in at a nearby thrift store that's been good to me in the past.

In total I spent 45 minutes checking through the used paperbacks and hardcovers.

I spent less than $2 and wound up with 5 books in good or very good condition. When I listed them for sale last night in my Amazon Marketplace account, I undercut the lowest price of each title to gain top listing if and when somebody goes shopping for those 5 books.

If all 5 sell, gross sales would be $175.42.

My net revenue after Amazon fees and shipping & handling costs would be about $120.00, more or less.

If any one of them sell, I'll have recouped my investment of $1.75 and made a little profit.

Here are the 5 books I found and purchased for pocket change:

"The New Concise History of the Crusaders" - Paperback. Cost 25 cents, listed for $14.97

"The Shankill Butchers: The Real Story of Cold-Blodded Mass Murder" - Paperback. Cost 25 cents, listed for $21.50

"King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton" - Paperback. Cost 50 cents, listed for $76.00

"Achieving Compatibility with Handwriting Analysis: Understanding Your Sexual Relationships - Vol. 2" - Paperback. Cost 25 cents, listed for $17.95

"Klandestine: The Untold Story of Delmar Dennis and His Role in the FBI's War Against the Ku Klux Klan" - Hardcover. Cost 50 cents, listed for $45.00

You can see how these show up as lowest price in this screenshot I took:

Update: The paperback on the history of the Crusaders sold within a matter of days for my asking price of $14.97. Ka-Ching! My entire investment of $1.75 was paid in full, my customer was happy as a lark, and I made a small profit. Three of the other books eventually sold as well: "Klandestine" sold for $9.70; "Sing of the Delta Blues" sold for $49.00; and "The Shankill Butchers" sold for $14.50. The only book I have left over from this sourcing expendition is the "Achieving Compatibility" paperback. But even if it never sells, I made my money back and then some! A rough estimate is that I grossed about $88.00 on my total investment of $1.75 plus a few minutes checking out used books. Truly easy money!

Learn how you can do this too. My e-book tells all. Click here to read how others are learning to make extra money, working from home selling used books...

Sourcing Books With Pocket Change

Would you do this for 5 minutes if you could earn $30?

I would. I did.

This past November election was the first time I've ever cast my ballot in 'Early Voting' and when I parked at the courthouse, I decided to stop into our local library across the street to check out their used book offerings. There were new 'Withdrawn' books on the sale table (our library has three shelves in the lobby where discarded and donated books are always on sale, all year long). I browsed for less than 5 minutes, and located these two titles by Big Game Hunter Robert Ruark:

Using my smartphone, I discovered the hardcover was currently listed for sale on for $41.99 and up, while the paperback was listed for $21.99 and up. I checked the library's used book pricing poster on the way: $1 for hardcovers, 50 cents for trade paperbacks. Just $1.50 for both. I paid for those two books at the counter with pocket change and left to go stand in line to cast my vote.

When I listed those books the next day, I priced the paperback at 10% under the lowest price of $21.99 (I set mine at $19.97). So far, so good. But I was disappointed to find out next that my smartphone search in the Amazon store had given me incorrect data on the hardcover book. Instead of the hardcover selling for $41.99, I'd found a hardcover copy from 1966 that was selling for a measly $10.99 and up. Oh well. I posted my copy for $9.97 -- 10% below the competition -- and chalked up my mistake to being in a hurry.

Anyhow, if both sell at those prices, I'll have turned $1.50 into more than $20.00 in net profits after Amazon and the Post Office take their cut.

Why am I rehashing this? It's not to brag. It's simply to counter some folks' comments online that there is no money to be made from selling used books online anymore, and specifically on Amazon. "Too many 'Penny Books' for sale," they say, or "Too much competition." They complain about people scanning and taking the good stuff at Friends of the Library sales. They make excuses for not jumping in and making money buying, listing and shipping used books. Too much work for too little return on investment is their message.

Everyone has an opinion. Not everyone is right. I know from experience -- from this experience I profited from in 5 spare moments, and from dozens of others over the past four years -- bargains and deals and excellent profits are waiting to be picked up for a song. Like I said in the headline, they are available for pocket change.

Granted, you need to know what you're looking for. That's why I wrote "How To Make Easy Money Selling Your Old Used Books on Amazon." It's a good primer (starter ebook and paperback) telling what to look for, what to buy, what to leave behind, and how to find the diamonds in the rough that will put cash in your pocket.

Sure.... you won't get rich buying and selling old used books. But there are still plenty of profits awaiting you. All you need to do is focus and find them.

Finally, think of the future of printed books. With the digital ebook age in full bloom, I can envision a time when good quality used books, manuals, how-to paperbacks and historical research tomes will make even better profits in the future, as publishers are turning to POD (Print On Demand) systems to avert risk of printed bunches of books that don't sell. Good books that you find now and save for a future sale date could bring even bigger returns down the road.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people will quit wanting physical books. You never know. I only know right now, today, that you can still find cheap good books for not a long of money, and people are still willing to pay for them. Yes, you may have to leave them in your inventory for a year, perhaps three years, before they sell. I know; it's happened to me that some books I picked up with I got started back at the end of 2010 have sold just this year. I'd even forgotten that I had the copies in stock. But they sold. And it felt good to make money while knowing I'd made somebody else happy they'd found just what they were looking for online.

If you're just getting started, read my ebook free; it's available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers on Amazon, so you can download it if you are a member and get all the info you'll need for free. You can also look through the posts on this page. There are plenty of Facebook groups that will help you learn about buying and selling old books too. One I really like is "Thrifting For Profit." The members in that group are very supportive of Newbies, and they can even offer advice on taking your bookselling business to new levels by tapping into the Amazon FBA Program (Fulfilled By Amazon) and let Amazon inventory, sell, ship and reward you with profits. The beauty of this is that you can reach the profitable "Amazon Prime" customers.

But for now, I'm content to keep my book business close to home and simple to operate in my spare time. You can too. Don't let anyone discourage you. You can do this. Learn all you can before you burn through your cash, and build your home-based business slow as you grow. Good luck. Now... get out there and make some money with your pocket change!

Update: The paperback copy of "Horn of the Hunter" sold within 3 days of posting it for $19.97. Better yet, about 5 weeks later, the hardcover book sold -- and by that time I'd adjusted the retail selling price upwards to about $20.00 for that book. Deduct Amazon's cut, the cost I paid for both books ($1.50) and USPS Media Mail postage and a large envelope for each shipment, and I cleared a profit of more than $30.00 for just a few minutes of "work" -- and more proof positive that good used non-fiction books, both paperbacks and hardcover copies, can make you money when you know what to look for. Don't let anyone steal your dream of working from home selling used books. You can still find my book on the subject to learn how to get started in this fun, profitable business with minimal investment and practically no risk.