Cash in your bookcase – How to sell second hand books


Do you have a love of books? If you have, then why not turn that hobby into a paying business. You won’t become a millionaire overnight (unless you stumble across a fab antique), but with perseverance, you can make a great second income from it.

Designate a room to storing your inventory, and invest in some jiffy envelopes for packaging the books. A computer is essential; not only for selling online but also for keeping records of sales, as well as a word-processing programme to create professional-looking stationery.

You can set up seller’s accounts with numerous sites, and may choose to use just one if you have a preference. Only when the business gets off the ground will you need to think about dedicating more time and money to sourcing books and buying and creating your own business stationery.

A groaning bookcase full of dust-coated tomes is a good place to start your selling, and will provide you with your initial ‘stock’. Have a rifle through and make a pile of all the books you no longer read and that you think have a good chance of being purchased. Don’t be tempted to hoard any that you haven’t read for years, on the off-chance you might need it again soon – you can always search online for a second-hand copy if and when the need arises.

A quick browse on websites like Amazon, eBay and GreenMetropolis will illustrate the unlimited selling potential. Although popular books with high circulation fetch little more than a penny, there are also those scarce books that fit into a particular niche (e.g. fly fishing) that someone would potentially pay a hefty sum for.

Niche is the keyword here, and it is important that you don’t just acquire books because they are newly published or have a celebrity on the cover to endorse them – these are generally the books that don’t sell very well. Have fun tracking down much rarer ones and you will reap the rewards.

Good places to look for cheap books that fall into very specific categories are charity shops. Browse through the shelves until you find something you feel could be valuable, and ask an assistant if they have any excess stock out back that isn’t on the shelves.

Libraries are also great as they more often than not have a ‘for sale’ shelf that could be housing some real gems should you know what to look for. It can be extremely helpful to have access to the internet on your mobile phone whilst browsing, as this allows you to check how much books are being sold for online and you can then gauge if it is worth buying and if you’ll make a profit.

Although selling online is far easier and less time-consuming, it is worth considering the more traditional side of book selling. Boot sales have been around for years, and, weather permitting, some people enjoy getting out and interacting with people whilst doing something they love.

If you have surplus stock that you are having trouble shifting online, rent a stall at a specialist book boot sale, or go along and search out more stock if you have the time, the patience and the transport. The one advantage of selling here is that you can save valuable time by not having to package anything up, and at the same time get cash in hand.

Needless to say, selling second-hand books won’t make you a millionaire overnight, and an interest in or love of books is pretty much a requisite to get full enjoyment from the venture. But with perseverance and a keen eye for the books that sell, it won’t be long before you are making a decent monthly profit.


  • Designate a room to store stock and stationery – next to your computer is ideal.
  • Set up sellers’ accounts with your preferred websites, and make use of their selling guides.
  • Get off to a flying start by selling your own unwanted books
  • Keep a record of your sales to ensure you are making a profit.
  • Buy second-hand books for stock at charity shops, libraries and boot fairs.
  • Avoid buying books that are listed on sites for pennies; this means there are too many copies and too few people wanting to buy them.
  • Regularly browse online to see what kinds of books are selling well.

Joanne Ward

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