When Selling Used Books on Amazon Always
Maximize Price Elasticity

By Joe Waynick
September 18, 2014

One of the biggest problems with selling used books on Amazon is the mistaken belief new booksellers have that they must be the low-price leader in order to make money.

If you’re the lowest price on the page then yes, you’ll make more sales faster — but, those sales won’t be as profitable as those you make by being just a bit more patient.

For example, rarely am I satisfied with being the low-price leader on books I list on Amazon when the sales rank is less than 50,000. And if the rank is less than 25,000, I’m never the low-price leader.

Why do I make such a specific distinction? Because at the better ranks I’m content with allowing lowball sellers to sell through their inventory and waiting for the market to come to meet my Amazon selling price.

I can do that because better ranked books sell dozens to hundreds of copies daily and so long as no single or small group of sellers have a large number of multiple copies the sales velocity will clear the field of low ballers and allow me to sell my inventory at decent margins.

Use Your Price Advantage

Another phenomenon often overlooked when selling used books on Amazon is the price advantage you have as an FBA seller. Most FBA sellers are content with simply adding $3.99 onto the lowest listed price and putting an extra couple of bucks into their pocket.

But in reality, many Amazon buyers specifically look for books that are sold directly by Amazon (in the case of new books), or they look for FBA sellers when they’re in the market for used books.

Buyers are willing to pay more because Amazon has gone to great lengths to build a sense of trust with their customers. Many buyers simply don’t trust third-party MFN sellers.

Recently, I purchased a series of computer books from various third-party merchant fulfilled (MFN) sellers. Each book was supposed to come with a CD with sample code so that I didn’t have to rekey the exercises contained in the lessons.

As it turned out, at least half of the books I received didn’t come with the CD. I was highly disappointed. It wasn’t until I complained to the sellers about the missing CD when I became upset. Most of them were either unresponsive or expected me to return the book at my own expense if I wanted a refund.

Don’t Accept Poor Customer Service

Needless to say, all of the uncooperative merchants selling used books on Amazon who sent me books with missing CD’s got the lowest negative feedback possible accompanied by equally negative comments.

After that experience, if I know the book is supposed to have the CD, I vowed never to purchase from any seller that didn’t specifically mention the existence of the CD in their listing description. In addition, I vowed never to purchase from third-party sellers who didn’t use Fulfillment by Amazon so long as the FBA offer had a “reasonable” premium above MFN sellers.

Because of my new purchasing criteria, I forced myself to search beyond the first page of the catalog for FBA sellers.

Also, I had to search even further to find listing descriptions that contain specific mention of the presence of CDs.

As a result, I pay far higher prices for the books I want than those offered by MFN sellers. And I’m happy to do it.

I’m not unique in my feelings about MFN sellers. It wasn’t until after my bad experience that I fully understood and appreciated the raw emotional attachment buyers have with wanting certainty in their purchases.

When I’m selling used books on Amazon I keep those types of discriminating buyers in mind. Used book buyers just like me.

Price Higher When Selling Used Books on Amazon

Delivering that certainty commands a premium price tag. You can demonstrate your ability to deliver superior customer service by being as explicit in your listing descriptions as possible so that buyers understand exactly what they’re getting.

If a CD is supposed to come with a book then gosh darn it, mentioned that in your listing description! If you’re selling a multivolume book set, then mention the presence of all the books in the set in your listing description. Then tack on a premium to your listing price and believe me, it’ll sell.

The reason it’ll sell is because the vast majority of your competition will fail to make the mention. It may take a little longer than being the low-price leader, but the additional profit will be well worth it.

These are just a couple of really good reasons that explain the price elasticity that exists when selling used books on Amazon. There are others and we’ll discuss them in follow-up articles.

There are many great books chock full of ideas about how to profit from selling used books online. To find them just click the “GO” link next to the Search box below and you’ll be shown hundreds of titles like the sample books you see pictured:

Joe Waynick is author of several eCommerce books covering the bookselling and publishing industry. His books are available on Amazon.com.You can also follow him on Twitter @JoeWaynick.

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