It’s a good feeling to get your house cleaned up and the clutter removed, disposing of things you don’t need or don’t use any longer. And books — those dusty relics taking up space on your bookshelves or squirreled away in boxes in the attic — often become the target of most house de-cluttering campaigns. How long has it been that you’ve read that book? Do you really need it any longer? Why not get rid of it?
But, before you haul those used books off to the dump, take a little time learning about how to sell or donate used books to help local charities raise money, to recycle resources, and even earn some extra cash for your family.
Used books are hot sellers online. Websites like Amazon.com, eBay.com and CraigsList.org are filled with listings of used books. Some popular titles are no longer in print, so their value keeps skyrocketing. Some niche titles are collectible or hard-to-find. Some titles contain in-depth ‘how-to’ information people are searching for online. And, some titles simply help people save money by buying used over pricier new books.
In any case, take the time to follow these 7 steps to check typical pricing of used books before you dispose of them.
Step 1 – Gather your books you want to get rid of in one space, preferably one that has a large table for your to work. Your dining room table will do just fine.
Step 2 – Separate out fiction from non-fiction. The best titles to sell online are non-fiction, ‘how-to’ titles.
Step 3 – Sort the fiction titles into two boxes: Keep and Yard Sale. In the “Keep” box, I would put early or first editions of famous writers like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Rudyard Kipling. In the “Yard Sale” box, I would put popular fiction by authors like Dan Brown, Nora Roberts, Stephen King or Sandra Brown, plus anything from book clubs, slightly damaged books, recipe and cooking books, weight loss books and the stacks of magazines you want to get rid of fast.
Step 4 – Sort the non-fiction into two boxes: Keep and Yard Sale. In the “Keep” box, I would put biographies, history, how-to, pet, religious, UFO alien and crop circle books (big sellers!), relationship books, travel books, homeschooling topics, and any other books which look to be of a limited press run or contain unique content. Sometimes even small booklets on health topics sell very well online. In the “Yard Sale” box, put in Time-Life, Rodale Press, or Reader’s Digest books (these seldom sell online for enough to cover your shipping costs), books that are heavily marked up with writing or highlighting, outdated college textbooks, and heavily used children’s books, dictionaries, or self-help reference books.
Any damaged books, moldy books, or those titles that have torn, crinkled covers or are missing pages, throw them away now.
Step 5 – Sit down in front of your computer. Log onto Amazon.com with your “Keep” box on one side of you, and your “Yard Sale” box on the other side of your chair. Take the first book from the “Keep” box and set it next to your computer keyboard, face down. Somewhere on the back cover you should see an ISBN (“ISBN” stands for “International Standard Book Number,” which since the mid-1960s has helped the publishing industry keep track of millions of books).
Type that book’s unique 10-digit (sometimes a 13-digit) ISBN into the search bar at the top of the Amazon.com webpage. If you cannot locate the ISBN on the back cover or on the book publisher info page, then simply type in the title of the book, as you might very well find it that way too. Scan through the results until you find the book that matches the front cover of your book.
Now, click on the image or the book title, find the correct format (hardcover or paperback) and then select “Used” pricing. Your used book results page should deliver several pages of book listings for sale right now.
Don’t be surprised if the first few books are priced a $.01. Scroll down the page. If by the 5th or 6th listing you start to see pricing rise up to $6, $7, $10 dollars, keep it and list it for sale later. You’ll earn anywhere from $3 to $7 each when these sell. If you see the first two pages containing nothing but $.01 books, then place your book in the “Yard Sale” box to the side of your chair. Click back to the Amazon homepage. Pick up the next book. Repeat until you’re finished.
Step 6 – When you’re done, your “Keep” box stack will be quite small compared with your “Yard Sale” boxes (yes, you will have more than one by now!). Pack those boxes tightly, tape them up well with packing tape, and store them in a closet or corner of a room in your home that is dry, out of the sun, and has low humidity. When springtime comes and you hold a big yard sale to dispose of unwanted items, unpack all your “Yard Sale” fiction and non-fiction book boxes, set them out on a long table, spine facing up, and sell them for 25 cents to $1 each. On the final day of your sale, offer up a “bag sale” — that is, let people stuff a shopping bag full of books into a bag for $2. You’ll be amazed how many books will fly off that table!
Step 7 – When the yard sale is done, take the remaining fiction and non-fiction books to your favorite local non-profit thrift store or church charity shop to donate them. These old books often have a long lifespan, kept alive by browsers who frequent these stores looking for bargains and wanting to help support the non-profit. Ask the store manager if you can get a donation tax receipt before the books get unloaded. I have done this in the past, and I’ve gotten a generous tax deduction on books I would otherwise have had to haul off to the recycling center. Remember first to dispose of any soiled, moldy books, otherwise you’ll be burdening the charity shop instead of helping them.
Now, somewhere in the steps between when you checked the online price for your used books and you haul the unwanted old books off the charity shop, you’ll want to keep busy in your spare time by listing the books left over in your “Keep” boxes at online websites to raise extra cash.
I recommend listing on the Amazon Marketplace, then expand to other websites if you need to. Start slow, learning how the system works, and price your books competitively to move them quickly.
By considering the sales rank of your book, you’ll have a fairly decent idea of how quickly it will sell. If it is in the top 100,000 of Amazon sales, it should sell within 1-3 months. If a title is selling used for $7.50, price yours at $6.99. If a title is selling used at $20 or more, drop yours to $12-$15 for a quick sale.
My advice is that you not list your “Keep” books at less than $5.99, as you won’t earn much more than $2 each, and you’ll be running yourself ragged running back and forth to the Post Office. Likewise, I would not bother posting a book that has a sales rank above 5 million, as this book likely will add to your clutter forever, instead of leaving your home more open and less crowded — your ultimate goal in your home improvement housecleaning exercise in the first place.