The book industry is competitive, and the answer to the question, “How to make money selling books online?” isn’t simple. You must do a lot of research and work to get a good profit as a bookseller.
While having an e-commerce website is a standard (yet unnecessary) strategy nowadays, sales channel diversification is vital. Knowing and using reliable marketplaces is the second essential thing after diversification.
A bookselling marketplace is designed to meet the needs of individuals and organizations looking to sell books. Its goal is to simplify the process of marketing books by linking you with customers searching for the titles in your inventory. It’s also a means to diversify your sales channels.
Whether you’re a seasoned seller or just starting a bookselling business, you probably approach each new marketplace with caution—and for a good reason. After all, you need to understand several key elements of the marketplace processes and operations before you start working with it. In this article, we’ve covered these elements in one comprehensive checklist.
At BooksRun, we’re proud to have one of the most convenient and efficient marketplaces, but it has its rules. As a bookseller looking for effective ways to sell used books online, however, you may have specific needs. In this respect, having a more or less universal checklist is handy when you decide to re-evaluate cooperation with your current marketplaces and look for new sales channels.
What to Check on a Marketplace
If you don’t know all the nuances, you can’t realistically evaluate the profit and how much you’ll be able to earn.
We’ll go through a list of the most critical points you need to check before starting to work with a new bookselling marketplace and provide examples from BooksRun Marketplace to demonstrate where you can find this or that information on the website.
Pricing and Hidden Fees
The first thing to consider is the price of the marketplace usage and all the hidden fees that you can anticipate. It’s crucial because your cost expectations may not coincide with what the marketplace charges. It’s essential to understand whether you can expect flat fees, either. If you don’t know all the nuances, you can’t realistically evaluate the profit and how much you’ll be able to earn.
You can usually find this information on the main page whether the marketplace features are described; however, for more details, we recommend checking the Terms and Conditions page or something like this. The Terms and Condition page is usually a long read; however, this is exactly where you can find everything from hidden fees and other nuances.
|BooksRun doesn’t practice flat fees. You pay only 15% of the total price (item+shipping), which is deducted from the final payment. There are no monthly or hidden fees—more details on the BooksRun marketplace seller Terms and Conditions page.|
Same thing about payments. Terms and Conditions again and again. Never start working with a marketplace that doesn’t clearly state its payment terms.
|At BooksRun, sellers must confirm orders no later than 3 business days (excluding holidays) from the time they are placed. They must also provide valid tracking information for the order details. Otherwise, orders are considered as not complete and are only subject to payment once the tracking number is specified. |
The payment is issued once every 2 weeks, via check or PayPal (depending on the seller’s choice; check delivery takes 3–20 business days; PayPal is instant). Read more about payment terms on the Marketplace Seller Terms and Conditions page.
Shipping and Return Options
The next few things to check are shipping, compensation, and returns. Many sellers get low shipping rates from mail carriers (e.g., especially in the case of high shipping volume), so understanding whether a standard shipping rate offered by a marketplace is lower or higher than the carrier’s rate is essential to them. So our recommendation is simple: compare the marketplace’s shipping options and decide if they benefit you.
At BooksRun, you can choose to display one or two shipping options:
- $3.99 per item (Standard Mail)
- $6.99 per item (Expedited Mail)
If you don’t want to provide express shipping, you can switch the Expedited shipping support off.
BooksRun Marketplace states that shipping is compensated with $3.99 per item (Standard Mail) and $6.99 per item (Expedited Mail). Both shipping compensation and the total product price are subject to a 15% commission. You can find more information about BooksRun Marketplace shipping on the Marketplace Seller Terms and Conditions page.
Following the earlier recommendation regarding the customer and seller relationship, we insist that you must understand how the marketplace deals with returns. Go to the Terms and Conditions page of the marketplace seller and read it extra carefully.
|At BooksRun, sellers must allow returns within at least 14 days of delivery. If a book is returned due to an error on the seller’s part, customers aren’t charged shipping, handling, or restocking fees and are issued a full refund. However, when a return is no fault of the seller, restocking fees no greater than 15% of the item cost may be charged. Read more about returns on the Marketplace Seller Terms and Conditions page.|
Inventory Systems and Formats Supported
Inventory management systems help sell books on marketplaces and manage inventory fast and efficiently. They alleviate the effort around “how to sell a book online” to a considerable extent. If you have a relatively large bookselling business, you must be using inventory management software—either a custom one or one of the most popular ones—depending on the size of your business and the amount of inventory. However, there’s a chance you don’t match here either because the marketplace you’re considering doesn’t have an integration with the inventory management system you use to list and manage your inventory. Knowing about such things in advance helps avoid potential problems later. If this information isn’t stated anywhere on the bookselling marketplace website, we recommend contacting them directly with the question.
|BooksRun Marketplace supports two inventory management systems: Monsoon, Art of Books, and three inventory formats: Amazon tab-separated format, HomeBase 2.x format, and UIEE format. You can also expect full integration support and engineering help to integrate with your chosen custom inventory management system. Alternatively, you can utilize the FTP method for BooksRun Automated Order Processing and upload your inventory files via FTP. Check the details on the BooksRun Marketplace and the Marketplace Seller Automation Guide pages.|
Next, you must check whether a marketplace states any selling limits on your inventory. Also, check whether they have fees for creating or renewing a listing. This information is usually available somewhere on the marketplace’s website.
|BooksRun has no selling limits on the number of items you can upload or the frequency of these uploads.
However, BooksRun Marketplace only allows listing items with ISBNs, from new and used fiction to trade books to textbooks. In short, “Items must be listed by the ISBN printed on the product by the publisher.“ You cannot list an item without an ISBN. Check the Prohibited items section on the Marketplace Seller Terms and Conditions page for a list of prohibited items.
Website traffic is an important metric for understanding how to sell books online and make money. To check this parameter, you need to get into the details of marketing, web, and SEO analytics. Why is this important? Website traffic refers to the volume of users visiting a website, which is, in other words, the indicator of whether a marketplace attracts many (or few) potential customers. If you know the given marketplace’s traffic and performance, you can compare it to competitor results, analyze the potential, and decide upon the strategy regarding this given marketplace. To understand how much traffic the marketplace gets, you can run a check on them by using the following tools: Ahrefs, Semrush, Serpstat, etc. Here is the example from Ahrefs:
|At BooksRun, we want potential booksellers to understand who they’ll do business with. If you’re considering BooksRun Marketplace as one of your sales channels, you can get this information by contacting us directly. We’ll provide you with our traffic volume data (and other information you may need).|
Another essential metric is the marketplace’s target audience. Check this information to ensure you choose the marketplace where your books will be in higher demand. You must understand the size of the target audience and who these people are. If a significant part of your inventory is rare or antique books, your store won’t be exactly popular in the marketplace, with 70% of customers being students buying textbooks. If you want to better understand how to sell comic books online, you should be looking for marketplaces where comic book lovers are frequent customers.
While you can check website traffic yourself, getting information about the target audience by external means is way harder. However, you can still review the website/marketplace pages and check the main book categories. You can also read reviews on various customer ratings and review websites such as ShopperApproved, Trustpilot, etc., to get an overall impression of what kind of users this exact marketplace attracts.
Also, you can request information about the target audience (and anything else you need to know) by writing directly to the marketplace.
|BooksRun Marketplace is ideal for varied sellers with a varying inventory range. The reason is that we aim to engage all sorts of users—not just one specific category. Among our target audience are various book lovers searching for cheap offers, college or grad students, and their parents, to name a few. We also have a buyback program that is quite popular both among professional booksellers and amateur book scouts.|
Communication with the Client
While a bookselling marketplace handles the orders for you and you won’t be communicating with customers directly all the time, disputes and refunds are always bound to happen. Indeed, you cannot predict every situation, but you can try to understand how this or that marketplace communicates with sellers and customers.
The first way to get this information is to check the marketplace’s Terms and Conditions page and the section about seller responsibilities (especially the parts about compensations and returns). All in all, a trusted marketplace provides a detailed and clear description of operations and processes and dispute handling.
You can also try to understand how marketplace sellers communicate with customers. For instance, Amazon has its own Buyer-Seller Messaging Service that serves as a means of communication between customers and sellers. At the same time, many independent marketplaces use email and phone to communicate with customers.
Amazon also offers A-to-z Guarantee, which “protects you when you buy items sold and fulfilled by a third-party seller.” In other words, it’s a guarantee that covers both the delivery and item condition. In cases when a user either can’t or chooses not to resolve the issue directly with the seller, they can make a claim to Amazon and request a refund. Convenient as it is for a user, such disputes usually affect a seller rating negatively—both in terms of performance and account health (we’ll get to seller ratings later in more detail). Therefore, we recommend you learn about the practice and the frequency of such cases in a new marketplace in advance.
You can also check the marketplace rating on various customer rating and review websites such as ShopperApproved or Trustpilot, etc. You can compare the rating of the marketplace in question with the ratings of other marketplaces. Going through customer reviews allows you to get a better picture. With the right approach, you can make some conclusions about the marketplace’s interaction with customers. You can also gain a few insights regading the best ways how to sell a book online. While the review websites we’ve mentioned earlier mostly demonstrate the buyer-seller interaction leaving out the marketplace part, you can single out the bits you need by paying attention to those reviews that focus on order handling, service convenience, and communication with the client in the first place.
It makes sense to learn as much information as possible to be ready for situations when you’re responsible for any case of customer dissatisfaction (even when the customer hasn’t read the terms properly). That’s Amazon’s practice, for instance, and it’s wise to know what to expect from a new marketplace in advance.
|At BooksRun Marketplace, all communication between a seller and a user is carried out via email and phone.
BooksRun Marketplace makes the seller obliged to reimburse customers for any damage to the item, order loss, late shipment or late delivery, or any other issues that occurred with the order. Since sellers can communicate with customers directly, they can solve any problem immediately without opening a dispute (e.g., as in the case of Amazon disputes).
To better understand how BooksRun communicates with sellers, check the Marketplace Seller Terms and Conditions and the Marketplace Sellers FAQ pages.
To get reviews about BooksRun, check the ShopperApproved page.
Here’s an example of one of the emails for booksellers:
Ideally, a good admin panel should be intuitive. At the very least, it should be convenient and user-friendly. It should provide easy access to such things as
- Inventory upload and management
- Viewing orders and statuses
- Track number assignment
- Refund handling
For instance, making a refund must be easy. It shouldn’t be rocket science involving twenty-something steps. By choosing to work with a complex and poorly structured system, you choose to face constant problems and errors that will cause even more problems in the future.
Seller Rating and Representation on a Marketplace
One more thing you must check while considering a new marketplace is a seller representation on a marketplace. A reputable marketplace makes the following information (among other things) easily accessible to all users:
- Seller contact details
- Seller description
- Seller return terms
A reputable marketplace usually has its rating system, where each seller is rated on the basis of several factors and metrics. For instance, Amazon’s seller rating is based on customer service performance rate, account health, and seller’s policy compliance, shipping performance, to name a few.
|At BooksRun Marketplace, we rate our sellers based on the number of orders fulfilled (as opposed to the number of total orders): a good seller must confirm and ship at least 80% of all orders.|
Though, you should understand that different marketplaces can use different sets of metrics to rate their sellers. Quite often, you can’t evaluate these metrics or trace them externally. We suggest you contact a marketplace and ask them about the factors they use in their rating system.
If you have a large inventory, work with several marketplaces, and especially if you sell the same inventory on several channels, it’s essential to understand how quickly the integration works to avoid simultaneous sales on different platforms. While you can’t directly check this parameter, you’ll be able to see it upon making a test order.
|While the speed of the inventory information upload depends on your inventory management systems, at BooksRun Marketplace, you can check the order information as fast as it appears.|
Universal Seller Tips—How to Sell Books Online for Profit
Avoid Marketplace Dependency
By marketplace dependency, we mean sticking to one or just a few marketplaces and not trying to find any other sales channels. You should avoid this mistake unless you’re not planning to grow your business.
Diversify Sales Channels
Sales channel diversification is another answer to the question, “How to sell used books online for profit?” Diversifying your sales channels can avoid marketplace dependency and reduce your reliance on one or several marketplaces you’re used to. There’re many ways to expand your sales channels, from opening your e-commerce store (if you don’t have one) to using social networks, etc. Adding new marketplaces is also one of the ways.
Keep Competitors in Check
What we mean is that you should not underestimate your competitors at all times. If they’ve found a new marketplace, you should also closely examine it. Chances are that if they’ve decided to sell their inventory there, it may also be a perspective place for you. Getting back to the earlier recommendation, it’s about diversifying your sales channels, but it’s also about having a presence everywhere where your competitors do.
To sum it up, while trying to understand how to sell your books online more effectively, never underestimate new sales channels, always remember about the importance of diversification, and thoroughly check every new marketplace. This will allow you to achieve optimal results for your business. We hope this list of recommendations will be helpful in your choice of the next bookselling marketplace. Stay tuned for more tips!