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How to Start an Online Bookstore

By Edited Oct 20, 2015 17 29

Make Money at Home With Your Own Online Book Business

Are you looking for a low cost, relatively easy to start online business venture?  If you answered yes, then perhaps starting an online bookstore is the right thing for you.

My husband and I stepped into the eBay game by chance back in 2000, when we sold my brother’s vintage Johnny Lightning metal lunch box for almost $70.  We were hooked instantaneously on how a hidden treasure brought so much cash (and my brother gave the money to our daughter, who was so excited!)

After our twins arrived, I went full blast with eBay, selling things around the house, from my mother’s house and what I found at yard sales.  Diapers and special formula for my preemie twins were a fortune, and I was not returning to full time work.

Passive Income With an Online Bookstore

Along the way, I discovered Friends of the Library book sales, where local branches sold withdrawn and donated books to the public.  I bought many for the book lots I sold, and when the bag sale came on the last day, I loaded my mini van up with hundreds of titles.

After weeding out the winners for eBay listings, I still had lots of inventory left over.  It was then that I decided to take the plunge and start listing these items on Half.com.

My business was born!

Where to Find Your Inventory

Look no further than your home!

As I mentioned previously, Friends of the Library book sales were a great place for me to find lots of books for very little money. If you are a member, you can go on the preview night, but be warned that the professional booksellers will be there with an army of help and their scanners. They are on the hunt for textbooks, which can be resold for a lot of money. My husband and I actually sold his 1980’s textbooks, which were propping up the décor on top of the cabinets, for some easy cash.

Your home, of course, is a place for finding books to sell.  You might be happily surprised at what you find on your shelves or in cartons where they are stored.  Some of my Early Childhood books, which are no longer in print, made me some great diaper money back in the day!

Another source for books are from other people.  A young man who worked for my husband had a wife in graduate school.  At the end of each semester, we sold her books and gave him half the profits (we told him to sell the books himself, but neither her nor his wife wanted to be bothered).  

Yard sales are another place to find hidden book treasures.  Once you acquire a certain knowledge base, you will be able to see what is really a great out-of-print book.

My favorite place to where I have found books is the curb!  Several years ago, my husband and I took the double stroller out after dinner to walk and pick up our older daughter from cheerleading practice.  A person had a huge carton of books on the curb for trash day!

We loaded up the stroller basket and later listed the books, almost all of the self-help variety. The next morning, one had sold for over $25.00!  Later that day, two more sold for similar amounts.  From that time forward, I have always checked the curb for treasures!

How to Store Your Books

When I began my online bookstore, storing the books was easy, as I only had a few.  As I acquired more and more, I needed to create a system where they were stored safely and my kids could not get to them, as well as be found quickly and easily.

My husband devised a system of storage bins in our basement storage room.  We had ten, divided alphabetically, based on how many books we had. When we were emailed that a sale had been made, one of us pulled out the book and placed it in the envelope to be mailed. This worked out for us for many years.

How to Package Your Books

The first impression a buyer will have is how you package your book.  After all, a customer spends her hard earned money to buy your product, so do not cheap out on mailing it properly. It needs to packed in a protective envelope and labeled clearly so that it can be delivered as it was intended.  If you do a poor job packaging your book, it can get damaged along the way.  This in turn, will turn into a poor buyer experience which she will gladly share online with other potential customers.  Your business can be harmed because you did not want to spend a few cents on a good envelope.

The Right Mailers Make All the Difference

Amazon Price: $16.02 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 20, 2015)
Do not get cheap with your packaging...it will damage your book and your online reputation. Padded mailers are the way to send books both hardback and paperback. This small investment will yield great returns.

What's Your Price Point?

What is your time worth?

Once you get your books home, you will need to see if they are valuable or only worth 75 cents, the lowest price you can sell an item on Half's website.  I made the decision to list it at 75 cents because there were very few books listed or the ones at that price point had little competition in that book’s particular condition.  With the postage, I was still making a profit of over one dollar.

Yes, I sold many books to make a buck.  Why?

During that period of my life, I sold on eBay regularly and was even a Power Seller at one time.  I had to make three or four trips to the post office each week, sometimes with a double stroller loaded down with cartons and a diaper bag full of sweet treats to keep my kids quiet. It was no big deal to add one more package, as I was going to mail other things I had sold anyway.  

Once I stopped selling on eBay, I kept my bookstore fully stocked.  But then something happened…I got annoyed at making a trip to the post office for a dollar.  It was no longer worth my time.

So I removed those items from my inventory, made book lots and sold them on eBay.  The remainder were donated. Now every book I have in my storage room is valued at $10.00 or higher, which is worth a trip to the post office for me!

Creating your own online bookstore is easy and a way to make money without too much time and effort.  It is a simple way to create another passive income stream.  Once the book is stored in your home, you do not have to do anything until you pack it up and mail it at the post office.  It really is an easy way to earn money online!



Jun 9, 2014 7:52am
Thanks for all the info, really interesting story!
Jul 9, 2014 11:22am
You are welcome!
Jun 21, 2014 5:15am
Thanks for this. Fantastic.
Jul 9, 2014 11:22am
You are welcome!
Jul 7, 2014 6:44am
Great article, thank you! Thumbs up
Jul 9, 2014 11:22am
I appreciate it!
Jul 7, 2014 7:33am
The biggest problem I would have is that, if I picked up a bunch of books, I would end up keeping them all. Even if I wasn't going to read them.
Jul 9, 2014 11:23am
That would be a problem! I am all about the money-books can be borrowed from the library!
Jul 7, 2014 11:58pm
Sounds like a great idea, for some extra income.
Jul 9, 2014 11:23am
It really is!
Jul 7, 2014 11:59pm
Sounds like a great idea, for some extra income.
Jul 8, 2014 3:25pm
You make it sound easy, but I bet you're highly organized, which is a gift many people don't have, myself included.
Jul 9, 2014 11:24am
It truly is easy. Get bins, list the books. put them in the bins and wait for the sales to come in!
Jul 10, 2014 8:00am
I love the info it provides.
Jul 15, 2014 9:17am
Thank you!
Jul 10, 2014 3:54pm
hanks for sharing such a great idea. It only proves that there is money to be made online if one is resourceful and bothered enough to take action.
Jul 15, 2014 9:17am
You are absolutely correct!
Jul 12, 2014 5:56pm
Mommy: This is a great article for any book-lover to read ad utilize. I have been collecting scores of books over the years so maybe I can start an online store as you suggest. Thanks for the info two big thumbs and a rating from me.
Jul 15, 2014 9:17am
You might be surprised at how valuable some of your titles are! I know I was!
Jul 19, 2014 10:03pm
Great ideas. I have boxes of books around the house. Why not make some extra money.
Jul 21, 2014 1:08pm
I am all for making extra money from the comfort of my home!
Jul 28, 2014 6:53pm
Your article is very encouraging, Thank you for sharing
Jul 29, 2014 3:33pm
You are welcome!
Jul 29, 2014 2:29pm
Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I have sold my own textbooks on Ebay and Amazon, but have not thought about continuing to do it so that I can make a little extra money on the side. Would you recommend Ebay over Amazon? Why?

Thanks again!
Jul 29, 2014 3:35pm
I have not sold on Amazon so I cannot comment on that. Half.com is easy. As long as you are the cheapest, you will sell a book that is needed., I sold book lots on eBay. I occasionally sold an individual book that had a high asking price.
Aug 3, 2014 8:22pm
great article best practical advice i have read on starting a on line business.
Nov 20, 2014 11:01am
A really good read. Perhaps you could go into detail and write an ebook on starting an online book store... list out the step by step in much greater detail.
Nov 21, 2014 3:45am
That is an excellent suggestion. I am not one of those scanner people who go to every sale and are quite pushy... I go by what I know.

I have pretty much gotten out of this business for now and am selling what stock I have left. It is worth it...I had a $20 book sell this week. That was a worthwhile trip to the post office!
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