How to sell books on Amazon start to finish
***warning. I am going to outline the FUNDAMENTAL core concepts.
I will mention a lot of things, but I won’t go into detail if I know the information is readily available on YouTube or Google. Message me with questions on any of my social media listed at the bottom of this page.
Also, my name is Avery Romer Martin. I did 83,000 in sales last year (my first year) and I am shooting for 500k this year (I think any aspiring full time Amazon guys should have sales goals of at least 300k). My goal is to have a fully autonomous business that brings in the dough without me. While I am not there yet, I am getting pretty damn close. Hope you enjoy the content below.
A wise man once told me the first rule to business is not to pay for ANYTHING. If I could run my business efficiently without paying for anything, I would. However, in order to operate at optimal speeds, and save myself literally days of work a month, I pay for the following apps/tools. I will elaborate on all of these further down the page.
Disclaimer: these are all my affiliate links. I will get paid if you use them, and I appreciate that. All of these apps help my business run efficiently (I’m not one of those fake “gurus” who search for affiliate links to make a quick buck from their audience, I actually use and believe in ALL of these). Some of the links have extended trials if you sign up through this page, but none of them are at an extra cost to you guys. Thanks, and enjoy!
Also, follow me on platforms of your choice!
The first step to selling books on Amazon is to make a seller account.
A common question is whether or not you need a professional account to sell on Amazon. First, let’s look at the pros and cons of a professional account.
Pros of pro account
No $1 listing fee for each item sold.
Access to all third party apps (scouting apps, repricers, etc.)
Cool business reports
Cons of pro account
It cost $40 a month. This is subtracted from your account balance.
So basically, if you sell more than 40 books a month or plan on using third party apps, get a pro account.
Core steps to selling books on Amazon
- Source: find books with both value and demand
- List: make them available to purchase on Amazon
- Reprice: update prices to ensure sell-through
- Get paid
Anyone who aspires to build a business rather than working in their business should be looking for ways to automate/delegate the above steps. Of course there’s a ton of other bullshit revolving around these steps, and you will likely have to solve these problems on your own as everyone has their unique bowel of shittery. But I will enlighten you to the struggles I have overcome selling on Amazon.
Use FBA (fulfillment by Amazon)
Amazon has a service to store AND ship your book called FBA. When you pack and ship the books yourself, its called FBM (fulfillment by merchant). Many people complain about the fees for FBA, but they make it pretty damn easy to sell shit passively. EVERYONE should be using FBA, and here’s why: you can price your inventory 20-50% higher than merchant fulfilled orders (i.e. you get paid MORE), you sell more often because you win the buybox (the buybox is the online equivalent to having your product put at the window sill of a brick and mortar, it doesn’t guarantee the sale, but a hell of a lot more people are going to see it), and you don’t have to pack and ship the book to the customer (more time to work on business).
Here are the steps to using FBA.
- Put books in box and ship them to Amazon (keep the weight under 50 lbs, that’s the max weight amazon allows, but try to get over 35 lbs as the shipping cost per pound will be reduced)
- Check your sales like a madman
Sourcing (this is reseller lingo for finding shit to resell) apps will tell you whether or not a book is profitable. They subtract the fees from the sales price and even factor in the buy cost you enter. Most people who start out selling on amazon assume that everything available on Amazons sells. For example, they think that just because a book is priced at $22.95 it’s worth that much. A book is only worth what it SELLS for. So, a $22.95 book is worthless if it never sells. In other words, the book must have demand AND value. These apps combine those two factors and make decision for you (by turning the screen green for buy and red for reject). While you shouldn’t rely solely on the algorithmic decisions of these apps, they do make filtering through thousands and thousands of books a day possible. They are an absolute necessity for anyone that wants to become a boss Amazon seller.
Before downloading any fancy software let’s talk about an essential FREE app, the Amazon Seller app. I have all of my scouters AND listers (people that list books for me, we’ll get into that later) download this app because it’s magical. It can scan the COVER of a book. This is helpful for books that have no barcode. This technology is really crazy, it’s a great party trick to show people this app in action.
The above picture shows what you will be looking at after scanning (either the cover or the barcode) a book with the Amazon Seller app. It will pull up the listing for the book. Look at the sales rank for the book. The sales rank is literally the ranking of the book according to Amazon’s algorithm. Sales rank is like golf, the lower the score the better. A sales rank of 1 means that it’s currently the BEST book selling on Amazon. A sales rank of 20,000,000 means its the twenty-millionth ranked book on Amazon. Books between 1 and 1,000,000 are usually pretty good. I’ve heard that a book with a 1,000,000 rank sells about 12 times a year on average, so about once a month.
Any books over 1,000,000 deserve speculation. Sometimes 1,000,000 books have NEVER sold. Sometimes 1,000,000 ranked books sell all the time (I know… confusing as shit).
That’s where these third party apps come into play. I use ScoutIQ because the dude who made it, Caleb Roth, is purely a book guy. I learned and continue to learn so much from this man, so I support him by using his software. Head over to his website thebookflipper.com for some platinum nuggets of knowledge. There’s another book scouting app up to par with ScoutIQ called Scoutly. I actually started out with this app. Don’t get me wrong, it works great, but the customer service kinda sucks. They do this thing where they’ll boot you off their software if you sign in to another phone and won’t let you get access to your account for over 24 hours. ScoutIQ has more grace when it comes to logging in different devices with the same account, but they will boot you after a few switches as well. It’s understandable why these softwares do this, because otherwise everyone in the country would use the same login (I know I would for sure). In my experience the difference between ScoutIQ and Scoutly is the response time and flexibility. ScoutIQ will allow you to have 10 active accounts at a deeply discounted rate if you contact customer service and explain your situation to them (maybe you have ten teenagers scouting your city and you want a cheaper rate for each subscription).
Without further adieu, I will elaborate on the power of sourcing apps.
ScoutIQ comes with default triggers starting at $2.50 profit. You can use your phone’s camera with this app to scan the barcodes, but honestly that’s a pain in the ass. Many of the gurus recommend you start scanning with your phone (instead of a scanner) first to get a taste of sourcing , but I completely disagree. If you don’t blow your brains out at your first library or Goodwill at the lack of efficiency of this technique, consider yourself blessed. That being said, I recommend using a Bluetooth scanner. The one I recommend is the Nadamoo, its only $60 right now. Most of the gurus will recommend the KDC 200i and the OPT, but then again most of the gurus have built a business where they are no longer in the “battle front” scanning actual books so they don’t know about the latest gadgets. These scanners are WAY overpriced (currently about 3-4 times the price of the Nadamoo new). You can find the KDC 200i and OPT on eBay for around $99-175 used with the KDC being slightly more expensive. Using a scanner will save you a couple seconds per book. This sounds arbitrary, but 1 second versus 2 seconds quickly changes to 1 hour versus 2. It’s obvious how using a Bluetooth scanner can pay for itself in a day.
Why choose ScoutIQ or Scoutly over other scanning apps?
There are other scanning apps that don’t have downloadable databases and you will spend 2-3 times as much time sourcing if you use them. Having a downloadable database also allows you to scan books in caves, dungeons, and when bars let out in populated areas and everyone is using their phone at once (my friend actually hustled a display book from an Italian restaurant once in New Jersey) . Your phone won’t be restricted to cellular data. It won’t need to look up every damn book on Amazon.
Here is a link to a 14 day free trial to ScoutIQ (I get paid if you sign up through this link, at no extra cost to you). Also, here’s one for the slightly cheaper, and in my opinion inferior, Scoutly. Here is a video of me explaining how to use ScoutIQ. Watch in 2x speed as it makes me sound smarter.
How to read ScoutIQ
I’m only going to go into detail about reading the metrics for ScoutIQ, but they’re essentially the same for the app Scoutly.
The first metric you should have your eyes on is profit.
The projected profit is presented in the top left corner of the screen. Here’s the break down in how this number is calculated.
Sales price: 126.96
Amazon fees: 27.90
- Referral fee: $19.04 (the referral fee is Amazon’s 15% cut. Amazon takes 15% whether you FBA or FBM the book)
- Closing fee: $1.80 (Amazon charges $1.80 for products that sell under the media category)
- FBA Fee: $6.99 (this is paying Amazon to package and ship your books, a lot of people complain about these fees but when you sell FBA, fulfilled by Amazon, you can price your inventory up to 20% higher so you actually make more money whilst doing less work)
- Inventory storage fee: $.07 (Amazon ain’t storing your books for free)
- Inbound shipping: .25 x 7.65lbs (expect to pay between .20 and .30 cents per lb when shipping your books to Amazon… the closer you get to 49.9 lbs the cheaper… fun fact: I use to ship 80 pounds of books and I thought I was a genius because of it… little did I know my account could’ve been banned in an instant)
This leaves us at $95.65 profit.
However, projected profit is only worth a damn if the book will actually sell at that price. Now were going to take a look at the two demand metrics, the metrics that determine whether or not the book will sell, sales rank and escore.
We briefly touched on how the sales rank is an ambiguous demand metric earlier, but the escore, which I’ll get into next, is a much better demand metric.
To unlock the power and destroy the ambiguity of sales rank we are going to use a tool called the Keepa graph. Here’s a couple screenshots of Keepa graphs. Keepa is integrated with ScoutIQ and you can also view it on your computer by downloading the chrome extension.
The keepa graph above shows a low demand book while the one below is high demand. The green line represents the sales rank (demand) while the black line represents price.
Let’s look at the top graph. Every time that green like spikes means the book sold. The location of the spike is the price it sold at.
The bottom graph is a super high demand textbook. You can see the green line stays super low (meaning it sells a shit-ton) during the month of January (start of spring semester). When a book sells a ton the sales rank stays “low”.
The escore is the more telling demand metric. While the sales rank is a screenshot in time and can fluctuate in a matter of seconds, the escore is a more grounded number that looks at the number of times a book sold over the last 6 months.
For example, if a book sold 22 times in the last 6 months, the e score will be 22.
The above book sold over 151 times. Why Caleb chose 151 as the cut off I have no idea, but knowing him there’s probably a pretty damn good reason. Which leads into the next topic regarding the “decision making” properties of ScoutIQ.
ScoutIQ triggers are based off of profit, not sales price. If you use the default triggers, you’ll probably do pretty good. I recommend raising your floor profit to $5. The reason why I advocate a high floor profit is because if a $2.50 profit book fluctuates $5 in price, and yes books do fluctuate in price (look how much the black lines move in the Keepa graphs above), then you’re at a net -$2.50. If an $8.00 profit book fluctuates $5 in price you still make $3 profit.
In a nutshell, if there’s high profit and demand, the screen will turn green, meaning accept. If there’s low demand the profit must be higher for the app to justify a “ding” and vice versa.
Beginner’s can stop reading here (scroll to next section) and refer back to the “slightly more advanced shit” section later.
Slightly more experienced guys, if you refer to the picture above, you will see that there are four columns. The two on the left are for used prices and on the right new. The columns that say “all” look at both FBM and FBA prices. The columns saying FBA only look at FBA. The FBA columns will almost always be empty, and the reason why is because Amazon only let’s third party apps see the lowest 15 prices on Amazon. This is bad news for repricers, which I’ll get into later… but it doesn’t really affect scouting decisions too drastically.
Most of the time there are at least 15 merchant offers. This means that the FBA offers won’t be visible. As FBA sellers, we should be making our buying decisions based off FBA offers, not FBM. I have sold an FBA book for $100 more than the FBM offer. It doesn’t matter if the FBA offer is one penny, you could probably still sell it FBA for over $20.
The scenario where you are likely to leave money on the shelves is when there are no FBA offers, but the demand is really high. Say there are 15 FBM offers for $5 with an escore of 151 and no FBA offers. When comparing to the buybox, the app will show no profitability for the book. However, if you bought the book and listed it for five times the FBM price via FBA you would likely win the buybox and get the sale.
ScoutIQ, however, is smart enough to use new offers as a price comparison when demand is super high. That’s why I don’t recommend changing the triggers too much when starting out because the creators of the app did a good job of thinking out the default triggers.
A lot of beginners wonder why ScoutIQ bases profit based on the new price and the reason is simple. If there are no FBA offers available and the buybox price is low (which means either an FBA guy is cutting himself short or there aren’t any FBA offers), the app knows you can get more but its not sure HOW much more. A blind guess (e.g. basing profit off of new price) is better than no guess.
However, if there are super low FBM offers, no FBA offers, and NO new offer for ScoutIQ to compare against… the app probably won’t “ding” for you. THIS is the scenario you should be double checking the app for. My theory is that books that match the scenario above are most commonly left on the shelves by scouters.
Alright, now that we’ve gone over the scouting apps, where the hell do you find the good books? Hopefully, you’re blessed with a profitable book city. I have actually traveled all over America scanning books, so I know which areas have good books and which don’t. If you’re in New England, consider yourself blessed. That’s the mecca of books. Anywhere else really depends on the city and level of competition. Nashville, for example, has really good books, but the competition is so fierce you can’t walk into the bathroom of a Goodwill or bookstore without crossing laser scanners with competition . Seriously, the old hags at a huge bookstore hear in Nashville literally talk shit to me when I show up. The book game is fierce, be prepared.
Map out every damn library, thrift store, and bookstore in your city I use google mapmaker it’s pretty dope. I recommend color coding libraries and calling them before hand to make sure they actually have books. Almost all libraries in the North East have books, but in the South and other parts of the country it’s hit or miss, so call ahead and don’t waste your time.
Library sales are another great place to find books. When I first found out about booksalefinder.com I would travel across the seven seas to make it to a sale… but then I went to a library sale that WASN’T advertised on booksalefinder.com and I cleaned out. Be prepared for some gnarly competition at these sales. I saw people literally dumping books at a library sale in New Jersey the other weekend. It wasn’t pretty, it was some Black Friday four AM type shit.
A rule of thumb and common theme in general when it comes to business is always ask for MORE. When you go into a library ask for MORE information. Ask when the next sale is… if you can scan the books in the back… are their other libraries that have sales… can you go to their house and scan their books. Seriously, the squeaky wheel gets the damn grease. Keep pushing. Same goes for thrift stores… take them as far as they are willing to go. I had a library in California scanning and packing books for a while, but that ended up falling through.
You can list for free using the Amazon Seller App, here’s a video of me explaining how. Once you start moving big boy weight, however, this method becomes a nightmare. I use a third party app called Accelerlist to list my books fast. It allows me to batch processes to maximize efficiency while also keeping track of some essential inventory metrics.
Why I chose Accelerlist
I switched from Scanlister to Accelerlist in June because my laptop broke, and all I had was a Chromebook (which has 4 times less storage space than my phone). I was 1,000 miles away from home living in my car (here’s a video), and I realized it would probably be best to have a web-based listing software so I could list books off of strangers laptops in Starbucks if worst came to worst and my Chromebook died.
However, I’ve delegated most of my listing overseas and Accelerlist has proven worthy for DELEGATION (which is the name of the game if your trying to build a business).
Here’s a video of me explaining how I list books when on the road, I’m constantly innovating my processes, subscribe to keep up with my journey. FYI zero splits doesn’t exist anymore.
Metrics Accelerlist gives weekly
Below is Accelerlist’s dashboard showing some core metrics you should be analyzing weekly including the following:
ASP (average sales price… side note: the price at which Amazon pays you exactly half of sales price is around $14. That means when you sell a $14 book, the payout is $7 (50%). When you sell a $10 book the payout will be lower (around $3 give or take, which leaves you with only 30%). When you sell a $100 book, however, the payout will likely be over $80, so you’re keeping 80%. Everyone should aim for a higher ASP because that means you’re getting paid a higher percentage of your sales. Some people brag about 10,000 sales a month, but if their payout is only 10% of that, that means they only got paid $1,000.
Sell through rate (what percent of inventory is selling monthly I’ve heard you should aim for around 20%)
Average sales rank (are your books going to sell now or when you’re in the nursing home?)
Units listed (how much inventory are you actually sending in?)
Basics to Accelerlist
Link amazon seller account to Accelerlist.
Enter address you’re shipping from in settings.
Create a batch, enter appropriate information.
To make a batch you simply select “create a batch”.
Here you can enter the batch name. I usually make it something really stupid or a combination of the date and city I’m in. I use custom SKUs, which I’ll get into in a moment.
Next, scan in or enter ISBNs.
When I’m on the road I have Amazon label the books, but you can also label the books yourself and save 20 cents per book. If you’re at home I recommend labeling yourself or delegating this to someone else immediately. 20 cents a book turns into $200 for every thousand books listed pretty quick. You’ll need to set up your printer in the settings. I use the Dymo 4xl because it prints both FNSKU labels (the label that Amazon uses to identify the book) and shipping labels. I’ve also heard this printer prints slightly faster than Dymo’s smaller Turbo (which only prints FNSKU labels).
Now let’s take a moment to appreciate the dope ass custom SKUs Accelerlist auto generates. Look at the screenshot below of the book I just sold. From left to right, I bought the book in Baton Rouge, LA for $3.80 in “good” condition during Jan listed it for $25 and it was the 79th book I listed! What?! And it was AUTO GENERATED. Coming from a disorganized shit like me, this type of organization gives me goosebumps. You can set up custom SKUs in the settings and select exactly the metrics you want.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I recommend doing FBA. Refer back to the very top for a refresher on FBA.
I use private mode to list. Accelerlist pings to Amazon for every book you list and attempts to get no split shipments.
Side note: Split shipments are Amazon’s way of testing if sellers have grit, guts, and the will to persevere through adversity. Seriously, starting out splits will drive you crazy. Learn from my mistakes and use one of the listing methods I will elaborate on next to save yourself hours and hours of frustration. Split shipments are exactly what they sound like, shipments that have been split up to different destinations. For example, lets say you list 100 books, Amazon may decide to send 40 to California, 10 to Memphis, 2 to Chicago, 8 to Atlanta, and the rest to Raleigh. This can be confusing as shit if you are as disorganized as I was starting out. It use to take me full days to send out shipments, but I have some efficient techniques for various situations (on the road vs at home and having no space vs an empty garage)
Live mode, on the other hand, goes ahead tells you exactly which warehouse the book is going to from the get go. This can be helpful, but from my experience it results in way more splits so I use private mode.
Click “preview shipments”
If there are no splits, accept shipments.
What to do if there are splits? If there are splits there are a couple options.
The first is you can send the books where Amazon wants you to send them. However, if you send only 2 books to a warehouse you’ll be paying quadruple the shipping so I don’t recommend this option unless you can get each box of books over 35 lbs (this weight and up is where you get the cheapest shipping per lb).
Another option is to move the books into Accelerlist’s “holding area” and physically place the books that are part of the smaller shipment into a box.
The third option is to pay Amazon to send all them all to the same warehouse. You will end up paying around 30 – 50 cents a book which can add up fast.
One box method
With the one box method, you will list books into one box until it is filled. Then, you will preview shipments and either pull the splits out of the box or pay for inventory placement. The beauty of this method is that you don’t have to do the “box contents step”.
“The box contents step” is telling amazon which books go into which box. If you list 300 books in one batch and THEN preview shipments, you’d have to tell Amazon which of the 300 books are in which boxes (or you can pay them 10 cents a book to let Amazon figure it out). Since the one box method only has one box of books (usually around 20 books), it eliminates the need for this step.
This may be the fastest method, but it’s far from the simplest and requires a little more space.
Virtual Assistant Method
The idea behind the VA method is to delegate any online portions of the shipping overseas to free up time for myself to focus on other aspects of the business. Sure, I could make the shipment myself on Accelerlist, but that would take an extra 15 minutes per batch. In four batches I’ve saved myself an hour and only paid $4.
I send my virtual assistant the name of the batch (e.g. Chicago-1) along with a fake address, usually my Airbnb or the Fedex where I plan on dropping off packages (Fedex always has the cheapest shipping and FREE pickups). I don’t do pickups on the road, but I do at home. I only have my VA enter the metrics I give two shits about which include buy cost, supplier, and date listed. Everything else she doesn’t touch.
After providing her with the vital information, I scan all of the books into Google Keep. I use Google Keep because it allows the ISBN to be scanned in without interruption (Google sheets will jumble the ISBNs because there is too much going on in the background). Google keep also allows me to go back, so if i accidentally delete all the ISBNs all I have to do is select “back” and they reappear.
So she copies and pastes all the ISBNs into Accelerlist. She know what condition to list them at and when to change source information because I interrupt the list with instructions. Here is an example of what I send her.
Start with condition “good” and “supplier” Chicago
Change condition to acceptable
Change source to Virginia
When it comes to pricing, I match the current buy-box (Accelerlist automatically lists my book at buy-box price, you can set this up under the work flow tab).My VA eyeballs anything with sub $5 profit. Anything with sub $5 profit she’ll list at $499 (this overpriced book will float to the top of my inventory in Seller Central and I can manually price it). Most of the time sub $5 books have no FBA competition, so I’d like to price strategically rather than matching a merchant offer. Refer to the “slightly more shit” portion of the sourcing tab where I elaborate on ScoutIQ triggers for a refresher on this concept/opportunity.
I’m waiting on Accelerlist to roll out the option to price any books where the low merchant is within 20% of the buy box it auto lists at $300. There’s a lot of money left on the table by matching the buy box, but it’s simpler and results in quicker turn rates.
Guys, if your not using this spreadsheet, hop on it ASAP. You could also create your own, but that would take several decades, so paying the one time fee of $185 for some VALUABLE metrics is well worth it. This spreadsheet will tell you how much profit (or loss, side note I lost 5k this past textbook season due to using a repricer, which is no longer one of the tools I use so you will not see it on this list haha) for each and every book you list. It factors in returns, disposals, books that exploded in the warehouse (I’ll get more into tools I use for this problem next). Here is the link to the spreadsheet, your CPA will thank you.
Refunds manager is a service that opens cases on your behalf for lost inventory. Amazon has human workers, they lose stuff. Don’t complain about it, get paid for it. There’s really now reason not to utilize this tool. Personally, I’m too lazy to monitor which books did or didn’t get checked in. I let refunds manager do it for me. Yeah they take a hefty percentage (somewhere between 30-40% I believe), but that’s money I otherwise wouldn’t have pursued. It’s always nice to wake up with an email that $150 has been reimbursed to your seller balance. Click here for link.