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.

Is Procrastination Holding You Back From Sourcing New Inventory?

I've been guilty of allowing procrastination to keep me from searching and finding good deals on books, magazines and old record albums. I kick myself for all the money I passed up by missing book sales or making time to attend estate auctions in my area or getting sidetracked on a book project that I go weeks without sourcing new product. The result? Slowing sales. It's an avoidable problem. But it takes persistence to overcome procrastination, and persistence to build your business. Napoleon Hill, in his monumental classic, Think and Grow Rich, lists procrastination as one of 31 major causes of failure. He stated that failure stems from us waiting for everything to be right before we take action, every piece in place, every task checked off the 'To Do' list that never seems to get done, before we get started doing the things we must do to reach our goals. His advice:
Do not wait. The time will never be 'just right.' Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
This is true. We shouldn't be waiting for free time; we should make time to find new sources of good sellable books. We shouldn't be waiting for the funds to buy the latest gizmo to scan books to see if they will be profitable; we should just do with what we have now and collect the good deals, post them and allow them to find a buyer searching for that great deal online. We shouldn't be held back by the bad habit of procrastination; we should persist in chasing our dream, all the time, everyday. Take the time now to affirm this and make the time to get the books, magazines and products laying all about in this big old world to build your business and keep making easy money.

College Students Getting Schooled On Saving Money; Told To Buy Used Textbooks Online

Even places like is telling college students the best way to hold down the cost of college is simple: buy used textbooks.

Their article, "The Quick Guide to Cheap Textbooks," offers both basic and specific ideas on how to buy used college textbooks online, like this selection from their article on their website, posted in early September 2014:

On a site like Amazon Marketplace, where you can see used book options from other sellers, evaluate the book’s condition and shipping times prior to purchase. To reduce shipping times, choose a seller that’s in your region. Students should also checkout the local, independent bookstores around campus, which often have stockpiles of used books from last year’s classes.

Here is the link to their article:

Amazon Marketplace has made it just a tad bit more difficult for us indie home-based booksellers to compete in the crowded arena of buying and reselling textbooks ... especially if their is an online access pass or a CD-ROM included in the original textbook that is now missing or not accessible because of prior use.

There is indeed money to be made in the textbook market. But be warned about new selling rules, and be advised that heavy college textbooks cost more to ship, especially if you opt to send the book in ways other than USPS Media Mail. Some sellers offer this option because the students need the textbook fast and classes are starting soon.

Amazon Changes Rules For Selling Higher-Priced DVDs On Its Website

Amazon is changing the way sellers list DVDs for sale online. The new procedures and restrictions and hoops to jump through means I will likely not list DVDs for sale any longer. I never have really had much luck selling pre-owned DVDs I've found at auctions or yard sales in the Amazon Seller Platform; usually, I've had more luck reselling them on Ebay. But, nonetheless, here is an email I received the other day from Amazon, notifying me of upcoming changes, and the steps I'd need to take if I wanted to keep listing and selling DVDs with retail prices suggested by the manufacturer (MSRP), or else I'd lose that privilege. The email reads:
As part of our ongoing efforts to provide a great shopping experience, beginning November 17, 2014, only approved sellers will be eligible to list DVDs with Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) of $25 or greater. We are implementing this restriction because these products may have a higher risk of authenticity issues.

Based on your current performance, you are eligible to apply to sell DVDs with MSRPs of $25 or greater. The application process is described below. You will not be eligible to list DVDs with MSRPs of $25 or greater after November 17 unless your application is approved. Your eligibility to list DVDs with MSRPs of less than $25 or Blu-rays is not affected by this restriction. (Underline is mine to show the exception of their new rules.)

Any listings by unapproved sellers for DVDs with MSRPs of $25 or greater will be removed on November 16, 2014. Relisting products you are not approved to sell or creating duplicate listings may result in the immediate suspension or removal of your selling privileges.

If you apply and you do not have an account with a Professional selling plan, you must agree to sign up for a Professional selling plan within 30 days after your application is approved. A Seller Support associate will follow-up to request additional information to complete your application. At that time, you will need to provide the following to the Seller Support associate:

1) Your primary source(s) of inventory
2) A minimum of three (3) invoices or purchase orders for inventory with MSRP greater than $25 that you plan to sell
3) A written summary of processes you have in place to prevent inauthentic goods from entering your inventory

Your application will be evaluated based on the information you supply.

If you use Fulfillment by Amazon, you will need to create a removal or disposal order for any DVD products you have not been approved to sell after November 17. We will waive fees for any removal or disposal order for these products starting now through January 16, 2015. For assistance creating a removal or disposal order, please review this Help page:

Note that removal or disposal orders received in the fourth quarter may require additional processing time.

As a reminder, sellers are responsible for ensuring the quality of their products and should carefully review all sources of inventory. For more information, see our policies:

Customers trust they can always buy with confidence on, and this listing restriction is intended to help preserve that trust. Seller feedback is important to us. You can provide feedback by emailing

To complete a preliminary application, please click the link below.

Thank you for selling on Amazon.

So, Amazon has apparently decided to implement some CYA for itself when it comes to sales of used DVDs. For me, I'll pass and adjust the way I resell DVDs, even music CDs, from now on.

I would recommend that you check out the websites where Amazon spells out policies for quality standards, as well as review the 'Help' page topics. Most of the stuff you'll find there will answer just about any question. You can always contact Seller Support via their online contact form; however, many times the responses are off-base. It seems like they merely scan your email and reply with a standard reply. If they are way off mark and you still need a solid answer, contact them again, tell them no, that reply did not answer my question, and politely ask for a clarification.

Post your personal opinion in the comments of this new DVD policy by Amazon. I'm curious what you have to say on the topic.

Vintage Magazines Yield Treasure Trove of Old Dr. Seuss Tales, Articles Compiled Into New Book

Here's a tale about someone discovering old magazine stories in 1950's copies of Redbook Magazine, and turning them into a new Dr. Seuss book that just hit the market this Fall:

Yet more proof that there is treasure in old magazines. Be on the lookout for old, collectible:

  • Vintage ads
  • Unique historical photos and articles
  • How-To features
  • Celebrity news that has been forgotten
  • War heroes
  • Little-known facts

These are treasure to collectors and historians, and can provide a steady source of profits to you.

Check out our latest e-book on "How To Make Easy Cash With Old Magazines: Make Money Finding, Listing & Selling Used and Vintage Magazines In Your Spare Time!" -- available over the next 60 days for you to read for free if you are a current subscriber in the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program, or you can buy it for just $2.99 as a Kindle Book right now... about the price of a cup of coffee at your neighborhood cafe.