Me vs the 1p book vendors – a bit of a rant!

I’m not talking about the hard decisions involved in book culling here. I’m interested in how you dispose of those books once culled.

I am getting better at keeping fewer books once read – and I have a variety of ways of getting rid of them…

  • Giving to friends / our staff room Little Free Library
  • Donating to a local charity shop – where most of them go in the end
  • Just occasionally, one will need to go into the recycling bin!
  • Car boot sales are rubbish for selling books around here – books rarely sell, so I’ve given up taking more than one specially selected box!
  • I have had stalls occasionally at school fairs, but you need a lot of higher-value stock to make that worthwhile too as table fees and commission are high for charity events – it took me 18 months to build up enough nearly new good stock.
  • Sell to mega vendors Ziffit or WeBuyBooks – but it is a lot of hassle to pack, not to mention the cost in tape / petrol to drive to drop off when for the most part they offer 20p per book accepted which is a lot of books to meet the £5 or £10 threshold for a small remuneration.

BUT…  and forgive me for being self-indulgent here, as a non-teacher working in a school, I don’t earn anywhere near a teacher’s salary, so I do like to try and make some extra pennies from selling on the books I don’t need to keep. (Not proofs of course – that’s not allowed). So before they go to any of the list above, first, I check to see if I might make more pennies on Amazon, where I have an individual sellers account.

Me vs the 1p book vendors

This is where you come up against the mega vendors above who can flood the market with cheap copies – those ‘1p books’. They can sell for 1p + P&P, or varations thereon, because they get preferential selling rates from Amazon, they bulk-buy cheap postage and packaging. This is great when you’re buying of course.

When you’re selling as a private vendor – Amazon prices include a £2.80 credit for P&P and they charge you VAT on that, so unless the book is thin enough to go as a large letter, small parcels start at £2.95 (going up soon) before packaging costs, so you’re already out of pocket. Then you have the selling fees of 15% + 50p per item sold + VAT.

All of the above means that it is only worth listing about 10% of the books (and CDs) I am disposing of on Amazon. I can’t compete! If I can’t net £1, preferably more, from Amazon, before any packaging and petrol costs I incur, and get my book for sale showing on the first page of ones for sale, I don’t list them – it’s not worth my time. The good thing about Amazon is that unlike ebay, items can stay in your catalogue indefinitely.

Would you like to visit my Amazon seller’s page?

Click here. You’ll see all the books I’m offering listed on the products tab. Click on a cover and it’ll take you to the list of copies for sale – my vendor name is ‘gaskella2’ here. But even my own seller’s page is tilted towards the ‘1p book’ sellers – it doesn’t list my price and book condition under each cover, it lists the lowest price regardless. AARGH!

Do you ever sell any of your books? How do you do it?

A note about affiliate links too: 

I also have an Amazon affiliates account which I’ve had from 2009. Since then I’ve earned £110 from it, £11 per year of blogging. But lately, it seems that few people’s clicks turn into orders for anything – I’ve earned £0.84 so far this year, which I won’t get until my balance currently at £11 reaches £25 – so another year and a half to go there then! Shiny New Books has earned just £26.50 in nearly five years from its affiliate link to the Book Depository. Would I do better with a Waterstones or Foyalty ac?

Affiliate links for most are not big earners, despite what you may think, so any click-throughs that translate into sales within the cookie timing will be hugely appreciated. Thank you.

I hope you’ll forgive my little rant. I sometimes feel guilty about posting affiliate links and selling on some of the books I’ve been sent alongside my own. I thought it a good idea to state clearly why and how I do this, because it’s really not a big money-spinner.

To anyone who has bought a book from me or clicked through an affiliate link and bought anything, thank you!

18 thoughts on “Me vs the 1p book vendors – a bit of a rant!

  1. Laura says:

    This is such a pain! I don’t really buy second-hand books from Amazon except old Sweet Valley Highs, which I imagine you aren’t selling 🙂 But I will keep this in mind if buying anything serious from them in the future.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      You’re too kind. I’m the wrong age for SVH, so will never have those for sale! 🙂 The Amazon cookies last for a while I think, so if you click through a link on a blog – but then go on to buy something else in any category, that can earn commission.

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I feel your pain Annabel and I’ve experienced the same issues. It infuriates me that Amazon is flooded with what are in so many cases junk copies – I’ve had so many bad purchasing experiences that I tend to be a bit more circumspect when I buy. As for selling, it’s hard because of the charges. I have sold on eBay but there are the same issues there too. Nowadays, I tend to just donate if the market seems flooded with copies, and restrict the selling to books that are likely to sell at a reasonable price. Frankly, for £1 or less it’s not worth the hassle… 🙁

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Exactly. 🙁 These days I wouldn’t even consider putting a book on ebay. I am proud however, to support my local Hospice through donating bags full of books to them frequently. I am lucky to live in a bookish town, so they do well.

  3. joulesbarham says:

    Thank you so much for this, Annabel. After trying to help me sort out duplicates etc my daughter did suggest I try to sell some – but a quick look on some sites suggested that even the obscure titles would only get a few pennies. So I’ll carry on as present – leaning towards Oxfam as they sell some of the more valuable ones from their online shop so they do get sorted out. It does seem daft they I have spent some money on these books with no real return, but if they raise some money for others I suppose that may help. One our churches organises sales every six months or so, but we can only charge 50p a book and even then we are left with so many!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It’s bloomin’ difficult isn’t it? The mega-seller websites will offer decent money for brand-new books, but anything more than about 6 months old gets 20p if that. I’ve found Amazon is the best, despite the fees. Everything else I give away or donate to the charity shop. Good luck! 🙂

  4. cath says:

    It does seem odd to me that the market for second-hand books seems to be slumping. We have a book-stall at our annual fete that used to be a big money-spinner for the charity, but over the last two years people just don’t seem to be buying. A lot of the people who stopped by the stall said they now only read on kindle, but surely that can’t be the whole answer.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      That’s a shame. There’s a real appetite for physical books locally where I live. The opportunities for individuals to make a few pounds out of their discards are few and far between though – to charities’ benefit, whcih I totally support, I’d just like to sell a few more personally!

    • vacuouswastrel says:

      Partly it’s ebooks, certainly – particularly because ebooks make it much easier to find recondite titles, so the sort of people who might be browsing second-hand stalls for rarities to read may now have found them in e-form. My impression – though I’m not a bookseller or anything – is that interest in physical books is becoming more focused on the physicality of the book as an asset. If you just want the words, they’re online… so to get the book, people often want a little more. There seem to be a lot more ‘gift’ and ‘collector’ editions out now, and more artistic coverwork, for things that previously little attention would have been paid to in that respect. Which probably means the appeal of old, perhaps a little dogeared, second hand books has probably gone down faster than the demand for books per se.

      It’s also probably in part because of, as Annabel says, the easily availability of second-hand books online for only the cost of P&P. This is where I get most of my books now. It’s often cheaper than a second-hand stall, and even when it isn’t, I can buy the book I actually want to buy, when I want to buy it, rather than having to browse random things on the offchance.

      [to be fair, I do stop to look at book stalls when I pass them, and it wasn’t long ago I ended up buying a whole backpack full from one place. But I’m much less likely to do that now than I might have been in the past…]

      And, of course, it’s also the economy. We might not be crashing at the moment, but there’s a lot of indications that people are feeling a squeeze, real or imagined, on their discretionary spending. People may still be spending on the big and necessary items, and on special luxuries, but I think it’s getting harder to get them to make the sort of regular impulse buys that a second-hand bookstall needs…

      • AnnaBookBel says:

        Agreed – partly, but few of my books for sale are in anything less than As New condition. Many are first editions. Few are titles that would compete against the e-book versions. The SH book market is flooded by tattier copies that are often underdescribed and don’t meet condition guidelines for Amazon marketplace from all those big vendors, (and I am consistently disappointed by condition when I buy them for whatever reason) They sell so many they can afford to make a tiny profit margin.

  5. Elle says:

    This is so interesting. I used to have an Amazon seller’s account until I started working at Heywood Hill—apparently it qualifies as an attempt to compete with my employer, which my contract specifically mitigates against, so I had to give it up. (Makes perfect sense, tbh.) I never made any money from it either, really, and never particularly expected to. Now I just take a bag of unneeded books to the local Mind shop every fortnight or so—they don’t pay me for them, but I get Gift Aid and a warm fuzzy feeling. (Though I am the first to admit that warm fuzzy feelings don’t pay the bills.)

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      If I earned a bit more, I’d take all my books straight to the charity shop, nuff said. But as I don’t, it is nice to get a little back now and then. I don’t expect to make more than the occasional tenner, but it is increasingly difficult to be able to list books that’ll make a quid or two, let alone more.

      • Elle says:

        I definitely get it – I started listing books as an amazon seller when I was waitressing because I was making very little money there. It’s bloody difficult.

  6. Rebecca Foster says:

    I share your frustrations with Amazon marketplace selling in particular, and with things losing value almost instantly in general — books, cars, clothing, whatever. Earlier this year I noticed that Amazon weren’t including the VAT in the estimated profit calculation, so on several occasions my actual profit ended up significantly lower than expected. Really sneaky of them! This has meant that unless a book is a very recent release or slightly rare, it’s not worth me putting it up on Amazon.

    WeBuyBooks and Ziffit have worked out pretty well for me recently, though. I’ve found that WBB in particular give good offers (~£5) on brand-new or pre-release books — so sometimes, even speculatively, I’ll have a look at what they might give me for a book I might not read, or might not want to keep after I’ve read. The offers then stay good for weeks, as far as I can tell. And then I always wait for one of their frequent extra 10% or 15% deals to actually complete a sale. Since I work from home I can have WBB collect from me any time and it’s very convenient. I investigate all these options (including musicMagpie) and discount any 10p or 5p offers before I decide to donate books/CDs/DVDs to the charity shop, free mall bookshop or swap shop instead.

    I didn’t work out my total for last year, but in 2017 I earned £300 from reselling books, which is not an insignificant sum for a freelancer. The only thing I’ve done that maybe you haven’t is to sell through bookstores: there’s a couple I’ve sold back to directly in the States, and then whenever I get to Bookbarn International in Somerset (once a year or so) I take them my more antiquarian-type material to sell on my behalf.

    I had wondered whether doing affiliate links was worthwhile, but I’m not sure I can be bothered for so little profit. Monetizing a blog sounds like more work than it’s worth.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      The affiliate link is actually very easy to manage and takes virtually no work – the toolbar makes generating the links simple. If you can gear up friends and relatives to always shop on Amazon via your affiliate link, you can reap the commission, but in practice they always forget!

      I shouldn’t complain really, as I did quite well last year on Amazon and my daughter’s school Christmas fair combined, but as I’m trying to downsize my book collection it would be nice to be able to generate more cash from it.

  7. Mystica says:

    I think it’s fair to want to sell. I can’t sell here at all. I try however give them to those that would like to read. My historical interest books however find very few readers.

  8. Sly Wit says:

    I used to do pretty well selling my academic books from time to time on Amazon, especially those in French. However, about a year ago they requested my social security # (i.e., my tax ID) to continue any selling whatsoever, even though I sold so little I didn’t have to legally report the taxes. In fact, I fell under Amazon’s own reporting benchmarks for sellers, but they said they needed the tax info “just in case.” I told them there was no way I was giving them such sensitive information for no reason and with no assurance it would even be secure, and they suspended my selling privileges. At least in the US, they’ve done everything they could to push out individual/personal sellers. In fact, I try to avoid buying from them in general because there are more and more scam artists because of these policies.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Luckily it’s not that bad in the UK. If you’re not VAT registered, and pass their money-laundering threshold you can sell as an individual!

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