Joshes and Joshettes today's post serves as an intro to this week's podcast episode. Going forward I will be releasing the episode on Friday and on Thursdays this kind of post will be published. Get ready to learn about selling books on eBay for profit.
Before you ask episode 55 is going to be different from this post; however, this post is related to the episode. Episode 55 is titled Trying To Hustle, and selling used books on eBay was going to be one of my hustles. For new readers, I take on hustles (side endeavors) to increase my cash flow. Before my injury, I would help manage a couple of businesses and assist on construction sites. Currently, my schedule is a bit out of wack, so I wanted a hustle that would work around my schedule. So I came up with the idea of selling used books on eBay. I would build an inventory through cheap finds at the local Goodwill, salvation army and thrift stores. On certain days there are sales and books can be picked up for thirty-five cents. Sounds like a great idea right? To answer that, we need to take a deeper look at the process.
For those of you reading that have never heard of eBay, it's a website that allows users to purchase items at a fixed price or bid on items. Anyone can sell on the site but if you are selling many items it's recommended/required to have a business account. The listing process is simple and in a few minutes, you can have your item available for purchase. Since eBay is a business, it needs to make money, which it does with fees. They have fees on certain listing features (such as more pictures than what is provided) and sellers fees (aka a commission and they are percentage-based) which are all billed at the end of the month. Other than the eBay fees, I would also have to pay PayPal fees (PayPal is a more secure checkout platform and the preferred way to pay). To be completely honest, I don't know the exact percentage and I used an online calculator for my research.
I'm going to continue talking about the costs of this endeavor before talking about the potential profits. After you sell an item you have to ship it to the buyer. You can either have the buyer pay for the shipping or you can have it come out of your profit. The postal service offers a service called Media Mail which offers reduced rates for shipping certain parcels. A one-pound package would cost $2.75 to ship through the program as opposed to $7.50 for a small flat rate box. The reason I am comparing the price to a box rather than an envelope is that books should be shipped in boxes. If shipped through an envelope, the corners of a hardcover can become damaged and a softcover can become bent. If I want to ship a book correctly with a box, then I need to purchase boxes (you cannot use the free flat rate boxes). The cheapest I was able to find the boxes were fifty-eight cents a box. I also wanted to include custom bookmarks for my book that advertise this site. This would add another fifty-six cents a book. Those are all the monetary expenses for this hustle, there are other expenses such as time (to package and ship the books) and storage (store the books while waiting for them to sell).
Now let’s talk profits, how much can I sell these books for? Many of the books I’ve checked ranged from three dollars to five dollars. Let’s say that I sell a book for four dollars and the buyer plays shipping, after fees I will make approximately, $3.18 (according to the first eBay fee calculator on Google). Now if we subtract the cost of the box and the bookmark ($1.04) we are left with $2.14. I stated earlier that books can be purchased for as low as .35 but that doesn’t happen all of the time. To make a return, the most you can spend on a book is a dollar. That leaves you with $1.14 not counting paying taxes on the profit during tax time. I also left out that the post office is a twenty-minute walk away. If I sell a book at three dollars the profit before paying taxes is 27 cents. Don’t worry the hustle idea gets worse because the bigger sellers are selling books for three dollars and offering free shipping. I can’t compete with that and even if I charge shipping the potential profit is not worth the amount of work and traveling that this hustle requires.
How is it possible for these sellers to sell books for cheap and offer free shipping? They are not using Media Mail but weighted costs (basically stamps but reduced because of enterprise discounts) and they are not using boxes to ship. This cuts down on their total costs and allows them to turn a similar profit to my situation. I’m not saying that you cannot make money selling books on eBay, the way I want to sell books on eBay is not profitable. If you have an eye for classic, rare or first print books you can make a killing on eBay. Not everyone ships books in boxes or with bookmarks, but as an author I can’t do that to a book. This has been my own personal finding on selling used books on eBay. I have sold electronics on eBay and made decent profits but selling books is a whole different ballgame. Let me know in the comments about your own personal experiences selling used books.