In the previous post, I told you about some ways to get value for your used homeschool books. In this post, I’ll give you some tips for choosing which books to sell (compared to giving away), how to price them and how to package them for shipping. [This is beginning to look like another series].
Which books to sell
1. Books that you don’t use
This tip seems obvious but get rid of books that you no longer use. This is difficult for some of us, especially if we paid an arm and a leg for an excellent resource. You’d be surprised but some people think they’ll save great homeschool resources for their grandchildren. (Don’t tell anyone but I’m hanging on to my Five in A Row volumes and go-along books, but I swear, they’re the only ones 😉 )
Seriously, though, if you haven’t used the book in a year or two and think you might use it a few years down the road, let it go. This goes for books you picked up (new or used) that you heard were great but have been sitting on your shelf waiting for that day. Let it go!
2. Books in good condition
I’m a little insane about keeping my books nice. People don’t want books with pages that are yellowed, smokey, moldy, ripped or written in.
I have sold books with identifying information in the front but I usually scratch that out and am up front about it in the listing.
Save mutilated books for crafts, the trash or to give away.
3. Classic or popular titles
Another obvious tip: Books from publishers that people know will sell better.
You’ll get to know the most popular and high-quality resources. These will tend to sell well regardless of the publishing date or the edition. Books like “The Well Trained Mind“, “Story of the World” volumes, Saxon math books, “The Three Rs” by Ruth Beechik, anything Apologia, IEW, “Five in a Row” (I know). You get the idea.
We’ll talk about pricing next but you can quickly determine whether it’s worth your time to try to sell something by looking it up on ebay or Amazon.
How to price your books
1. Let the market decide
Market demand will usually determine how to price your book. If you price it too high, it won’t sell. If you price it too low, it might not be worth the time and energy to list or you could lose out on some cash.
The publishing date and the edition number will likely affect the amount you can charge. This is another reason to unload a title as soon as you’re finished with it. While a few titles will retain as much as 75-90% of their value regardless of the publishing date, it’s not true for most books.
The good news is that an earlier edition might be in higher demand and turn over more quickly if a new edition is more expensive. Just be aware of the going price for the newer edition.
2. What’s your goal?
It’s important to decide what your goal is. Do you want to get the highest amount regardless of time invested in listing or do you want to clear shelves and make some money quickly.
If you don’t mind a title taking up space on your shelves and have the time to wait for the best price, you can hold out. If you want something to move quickly, price it competively.
Sometimes it can be hard to sell an expensive resource for a deep discount. If you paid a lot for it and got multiple uses, it no longer has value sitting on your shelf. It’s actually costing you money to store it. Not to mention the mental energy if you’re short on space. If you made a mistake by buying an expensive resource that you never or barely used, cut your losses and get rid of it. The discomfort of losing money on a barely-used book will make you more discerning in the future.
3. General listing tips
If you’re going to list on a yahoo or facebook group, I suggest listing one title at a time. I know it’s tedious but unless you have multiple titles in a certain category or from a particular publisher, I wouldn’t post lists of books for sale. I just haven’t had much luck doing that unless I’m selling books as a bundle. On the flip side, I tend to scroll past large lists of posts.
Amazon only allows single listings. Ebay accepts lots but for keyword purposes, lots will or should be related.
I found that listing on Thursday and Friday works best on group message boards.
If you post on a board, you might have to comment on your own post or “bump” it to keep it near the top.
Clearly identify your title according to the guidelines of the group. General titles like “Great homeschool books” or “Excellent resources” won’t get your post looked at in a large group.
Bundle books if appropriate. Sometimes a single title won’t be worth your time to photograph and/or list the details. I’ve had luck bundling these type of books. It’s a good way to get rid of a bunch of books and you’ll also save time packing and shipping. Make sure the buyer is paying for shipping in this case.
Packing and Shipping
Media mail is usually cheapest. You can ship bound books (not comb-bound), DVDs and CDs (not home produced). No magazines or publications that include advertisements. Tracking is about $.90 additional which can be paid by you or the buyer.
If you have an extra heavy book (like an Usborne Encyclopedia), find out how much it weighs by scrolling down to the bottom of the Amazon listing for it and use this shipping calculator to make sure you’re estimating the correct postage price before listing a book.
Don’t ship a book until you receive payment (including postage). It’s easy to sign up for a paypal account but there are other online payment platforms. You can accept personal checks but you have to wait until it clears and you risk paying fees if it bounces.
To save money on supplies, you can wrap books in brown paper grocery bags and hand write the address right on it. I would secure it with a good packing tape, especially around the edges. Otherwise, you can send a book in a bubble mailer or a large business envelope. For smaller books, the flat rate envelope could be cheaper than media mail if it’s going across the country. You’ll have to play around with that. I have found postal employees very helpful in helping me choose the cheapest method to ship.
If you get lucky and start selling lots of books, do yourself a favor and specify one or two days during the week, spread out, that you plan to ship. Amazon and ebay have guidelines but you usually have between 1-3 business days to process a shipment. It can get burdensome and time-consuming running to the post office every day and you might get discouraged or burned out. That happened to me.
I’m confident that you can earn some money, have fun and learn a little about selling used things online. There’s a learning curve and you’ll make a few mistakes (paying more for shipping than the title is worth). Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed.
Next week, I’ll give you some tips for selling books off line (at book sales, yard sales, etc.)
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