Monday, May 23, 2016

Top 7 Tips for Selling Used Books

The stack of books I sold.
Last weekend I thought it was about time to clean out my bookshelves. I've been holding onto a lot of children's books that really didn't hold much significance to me, and I had a pile of new books that needed room. It was time.

Normally, I just donate my unwanted books that I just don't love as much. Usually if I can't remember what happened in the book, or if I have no intention of ever reading it, it has to go. However, this week I decided to go out of my comfort zone and try to sell some of my books to the second hand bookstore. To my surprise, it actually worked out really well. I ended up selling nine books and making twenty dollars in cash or thirty dollars in store credit.

The man behind the counter, buying the books, was incredibly kind. He said that he acknowledges that the books are important to seller, even if they aren't store-worthy, so he treats them with respect. He didn't imply that you were wasting his time with the unworthy books he had to look through. Plus, he was obviously a booklover, because he mentioned how much fun he had looking through all the books people bring in. This experience was so great, and so much more enjoyable than whenever I attempt to sell clothes at Plato's Closet, haha.

During this process, I learned a few things that I wanted to share with you!

1. Research
Before you bring a pile of books into a second hand store take a look at their website or call. You want to make sure that they are actually buying books and if you have to make an appointment to bring them in. The used bookstores in our area had pretty uninformative websites, so I ended up calling, which is really the best method, because you can get more specialized, information that can be changing often (like what books they really want).

Also, it helps to be familiar with the bookstore and the types of books and other materials (like movies) that they carry. It will help you get an idea of which books they'll likely buy or any gaps in their collection.

2. Assess
I got some really good advice from the store employee when I called, and it was this:

"If you would feel comfortable giving the book as a gift, bring it in"

This piece of advice really helped me decide which books would go in the sell pile and which books would go straight to the donation pile. I always erred on the side of the sell pile, but if the spines were cracked in multiple places or there was any sort of stain, it went in the donate pile.

With teen and children's books, it's also important to make sure they're fairly current, especially if they're trendy books (like vampire books or dystopian etc.).

3. Amass Books
If you're going to be bringing in books, you should try to get a good amount to make the trip worth it. The employee that I talked to at the store said that he normally rejects 95% of the books people bring in, so the more you bring in, the more likely you'll have some sells. We got lucky and sold about a third of ours, but that's because I sold some of my more literary school novels.

Talk to the rest of your family and see if there's any books they want to get rid of. My sister and I both emptied our bookshelves and amassed about thirty books between the two of us. If you're family is nice, they might even let you keep the profits!

4. Use Appropriate Storage Devices
 We used bags to carry our books, but I can confidently say that a cardboard box is probably easier. Since I could only find one tote bag large enough, we had to use plastic bags to carry the books. The plastic bags do not stand up very well to having ten heavy books in them, so make sure you double bag them, if you're going to go that route. It's also important to remember that you'll probably have to use the storage device to carry some books home or to the Goodwill.
Here's the bags that we used.

5. Get Yourself to that Bookstore!
 This might sound silly, but half the battle is gathering up your books and going to sell them. It can be a little intimating to have someone judge your books (even your cast-off books), but just remind yourself that nothing ventured, nothing gained.

6. Ask Questions
After we got our quote, I asked to see the books that he wanted to purchase. This is valuable information because it gives you a baseline for how to judge books the next time you want to sell. I even took a picture on my phone, so I wouldn't forget.

Ask about the pricing breakdown. Where some books worth more than others? Why?
I learned that my typography book made up a good chuck on the value, because it was so unique. Now I know to look for those off-beat, coffee table books, because that's what this store is looking for.

Ask about the books they don't take. If you're going to ask anything, ask about this. You need to figure out if the books were rejected because of condition or because of content. By asking this, I learned the outdated children's books tip that I mentioned above. No matter what the issue, you have more important information to use when you're assessing books to bring the next time.

7. Don't Be Discouraged
Sometimes, it just doesn't work out, and they don't want to buy any of your books. That's okay. It doesn't mean that your books aren't good; there are many factors involved in saying no, like what customers are buying and what they already have in stock. You've just got to pick yourself up and try again in a few months.

If you think that certain books are really timeless and were rejected because they were already in stock, put them in the pile to sell again. Don't waste their time by sending in ten of the same books, but sometimes a different time and a different employee assessing to books can make a huge difference in a yes or no.

Overall, I had such a good experience with selling my books that I will undoubtedly be doing it again. I didn't even know that stores bought books until I saw someone coming in to sell on time when I was looking around. If you have excess on your shelf, it's definitely something to look into. Have you sold any books? Do you have any tips? Does this process seem daunting? Let me know in the comments!

Reading: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson
Watching: 19-2
Listening: The clocks ticking in my too-quiet house


  1. This is great! I'm feeling inspired to rid myself (or mySHELF, hahaha... okay) of my old, unwanted children's books now. Your tips are super helpful! Also, I love your "watching, reading, listening" section at the end of your posts. :)

    1. Hahaha, your pun made me laugh! I'm glad you like my little ending bit (feel free to copy it)!

      Let me know if you end up selling anything!

  2. This is a really good post! I've actually been thinking about selling some of my books as I'm going away to uni soon and I can't take all my books with me. This is very helpful, especially since I probably would've just went some where with an armload of books and no prior knowledge of what they're looking for.

    1. Moving always requires a huge purge of books because they take up so much room and are incredibly annoying to move all at once.

      Good luck selling your books!

  3. Hmm, I will think about this if I want to sell or donate any unwanted books!

  4. I haven't ever sold books before! I'd never even CONSIDERED taking them into a used bookstore but omg that's such a good idea. Sunny, you GENIUS. I have a ton of books I'd like to get rid of, but I feel sad about just giving them away...hehe, so maybe I'll look into something like this! I wonder if Australian 2nd hand stores would work the same way.... ;D

    1. I never considered it either, until I saw someone selling. It's definitely one of those things that the average person doesn't tend to think about.

      For your sake, I hope you have just as good of luck in Australia!

  5. These are interesting tips! I've been weeding out a few textbooks and schoolbooks I do not need anymore with the semester ending, but I'm planning to sell them all online. I'm not sure what the pros and cons of it all really are, but I do like knowing that the people who buy my books want them and that I have some control over the price. :)

    1. For textbooks, I'd definetly recommend selling online (the control is definetly a plus) or going to a textbook buyback stand. I think second hand bookstores would be more interested in more average books.

      Whatever you end up doing, good luck!

  6. I have not tried this before. But it seems like an interesting process. If I need to sell some books, I'm definitely referencing back to this post!

    1. It's a lot of fun, especially when you're successful!

      Thanks for commenting:)

  7. As someone who has successfully sold books twice in the past, I wholeheartedly agree with all these tips. I always opt for store credit and purchase required reading books for that school year with the money. It's amazing how discounted some of the books can be for the great condition they are in.

    1. It always amazes me the quality of books I find that are second hand. Most of the books on my shelf are second hand, and you really can't tell the difference between the ones bought used and the ones bought new.

      Thanks for commenting!


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