1) Finding Reliable Sources - This is the number one concern of all online book selling enterprises whether you are a seasoned veteran or just starting out in the trade. Most online book sellers got their start cleaning out their own home inventory of books and then posting it on Amazon. With the success of this initial listing, most sellers venture out to neighbors, yard sales, church sales, and library sales for inventory sourcing needs. The key is to find sources which can provide a steady stream of books for your business. You may need to develop a schedule of visiting local discount book shops or permanent book sales (thrift stores, like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc..) so that you can get the timing down of when the new inventories tend to come in. Also, be aware of the competition in your industry. The internet might be a relatively new phenomenon, but there are plenty of people out there with online book selling businesses. If you see someone leaving with a book scanner and boxes of books, do not expect to find much left for you to find. At the later stages of the business, try to set up connections with wholesale remainder sellers, church sale managers, and library sale managers, to arrange to purchase their excess inventory in bulk. If you can swing it, you may end up with an extremely profitable regular stream of inventory.
2) Creating Space for Inventory Expansion - The more saleable books you have the more potential for profit. Simply, right? But there are some important decisions you have to make while you are growing your business in order to ensure expansion can go smoothly. Space is one of those issues that tend to affect the online book seller once they have reached about 250-500 books in inventory. Where do you store them? If you own a house, consider creating an office and/or storage space in your basement. If you do not have this ability, try renting an old garage for a cheap monthly fee. Better yet, find a friend who has the extra space and offer them some compensation. Plan ahead! Do you always want your business to stay the same size? I assume most sellers would like to grow their business if they can. Space becomes a primary concern as you grow.
An alternative to finding physical storage space on your own is participating in the Fulfillment by Amazon service. Here you ship large boxes of your inventory off to Amazon where they handle the shipping, processing, and storage of all of your inventory. This can be an excellent way to make your life MUCH easier, however, keep in mind that there are fees associated with storing your books. Make sure that you only send books that have a good sales ranking i.e. that will not spend too much time sitting on the shelf (and cutting into your profits).
3) Re-Pricing Your Inventory - Have you noticed that your sales have declined recently despite the quality and sales rankings of the books you have listed? If the overall economic climate is not the issue, chances are your inventory prices are out of date. Some books can go from $5 to $0.01 over night based on sudden shifts in supply. Especially for books that are in short supply and have limited demand, prices can vary wildly while the market searches for the true market price. Set up a schedule for re-pricing your books, either weekly or monthly. If you simply have too many books, there are software packages available which can help you define the conditions for automatic price adjustments. But for the early stages, it makes sense to do it manually.
What is more, you may find that some books are being listed below where they should be. For example, an excellent how to guide for sailing (in great condition) is $5 under the same book from a different seller listed in the same condition.
4) Customer Service - In a world of myriad small and mid sized used book operations, all competing with the big guys, there is not much that lets your product stand out from the pack. A book is a book, right? Yes, but there are a few tricks (more like common business sense) that you can utilize to give you that competitive edge to boost your sales. A) Provide detailed and accurate descriptions of your product.This will lead to fewer returns as will as more confident buyers. B) Promise quick processing of the customer's order. Amazon.com allows up to 48 hours for a seller to process and ship the order, but that does not mean you need (or should) wait that long. So long as you actually live up to your promise, this is a great way to boost sales. C) Create a professional auto-response email for when you ship out books. Especially if you are a small seller, this gives you a sense of legitimacy that can parallel the big competitors.
In an industry where "a book is a book" these little steps can help you compete with the larger operations that do not have the time or energy to give attention to these details.
5) Books That Will Make You Rich - Certain books sell better and for a better price than others. By now you should know that fiction is generally a poor source of inventory. That said, this is a general rule and there are always exceptions. If you have knowledge of a particular niche within fiction, you may be able to find the books that will fetch a decent price. Things to look for in the non-fiction category are specialized books, how-to guides, and books that are generally highly "useful". For example, pyrotechnics and books having to do with fireworks are a highly profitable niche. Don't be afraid to experiment with different niches. For some people, non-mainstream poetry can make a great profit, but a higher level of inventory is needed because these books tend to sell slower. If you do not have time for the whole "niche hunting", invest in a book scouting service (like ScoutPal) which you can use with a handheld device (or often a smart phone) and simply scan the bar codes of books at a book sale to ensure you are getting only saleable books for your inventory.
Best of look and Happy Selling! For more information on selling books online, read my previous article on InfoBarrel entitled Tips for Selling Used Books Online.