Selling used books online

I love books so when I stumbled across a blog post about creating your own online used bookstore, I read it and then googled some more and then read some more.  Supposedly there are people that scout for books at estate sales, thrift stores and used bookstores and then sell those books online.  Sounds kind of fun.  Spend all day looking at books, find treasures and sell them.

What I can’t figure out is how they make much money.  Let’s assume you want to make $50K/yr.  You’d have to make $2K/wk which
means you’d have to sell 20 books a week at $100 profit (how many of those can
there be??) or 200 books at $10 profit (still not a lot) or 400 books
at $5 profit (most likely.)  That means you’d have to find 400 books/week!! 

How many estate sales and garage sales would you have to go to to find 400 books worth $5 used?  Even if you found two $100 books and 100 $10 books, you’d still have to find another 160 books that were being undersold by $5.  That’s a lot of books.

It sounds like a better hobby than a career.


So I thought about this some more and realized that I was wrong because I forgot about inventory.  From what I’ve read, you can assume 30% of the books you list sell in the first month and that each month you sell 10% of your inventory.  That makes $50K/year much more realistic.  Here’s the logic:

  • To make $50K/year, you have to make $1K/week.
  • Assume 4 weeks/month for simplicity reasons.
  • If you find $4K/month (in profits, regardless of what the books sell for), you’ll sell $1200/month of that.
  • You’ll put the remaining $2800 into your inventory.
  • Assuming your inventory has $28K in profit, and you sell 10% a month, you’ll sell $2800/month of that.  And the stuff you found this month that didn’t sell will replenish that.
  • So you:
    • found $4000
    • sold $4000 ($1200 of what you found plus $2800 from your inventory)
    • maintain an inventory of $28000

So all is good.  And finding $1000/week in profits sounds hard but much more doable than my original assumptions.  Assuming you work five days a week, you can find 20 books a day for a dollar that will sell for $11 or you can find 2 for a dollar that will sell for $101.  Not easy but perhaps possible.