Starting an Online Business – Part 1 – Selling Books on Amazon

Friend calling on the phone:  “What are you doing?”

Me:  “I’m working.”

Friend:  “Doing what?”

Me:  “Today I’m photographing so I can get more listings up.”

Friend:  “Ok.  I’ve got to run some errands so can I drop the kids off since you aren’t busy?”


How many of you that work from home have those kinds of conversations?   A little frustrating isn’t it?

Running your own business is not for the feint of heart.  It is not for someone that is easily distracted or for someone that wants to stay home and watch television all day.   You have to work the business for it to pay.  That means putting in full time hours listing, shipping, and marketing.

I run an online business selling goods.  I sell products I make.  I sell products I buy and even some of my art every now and then.

I thought I might share my business journey this year with our PBN News readers.

My husband and I get up every morning and check our online shops first thing.  If there are sales we print them out and work on locating and packing everything to go out.  He will run to the post office around lunch time.  That sounds great, right?  Wake up to sold product?

Let’s talk about what happens next.  One of the keys to selling stuff online is listing stuff online.  That requires photographs, descriptions, condition notes (we sell a lot used goods) and finding a good spot to keep each item so we will be able to find it quickly if someone buys it.

In our case, we sell books on Amazon and two Shopify stores as well as vintage goods on two Shopify stores, an Etsy store and an antique mall.  We also sell products I make on one of the Shopify stores and Pagan Markets (a marketplace for Pagan businesses).

This adds the complication of making sure that when an item sells we remove it from the other selling channels, so we don’t oversell.

I could fill up a book with all the little things we have to do to keep the business running and paying bills. So, we’ll start at the beginning.

Selling books on Amazon

Let’s start with Amazon.  We sell books on Amazon.  If you were going to set up to sell items on Amazon you will first need to know how much it will cost you so you can ensure that you are making money when you sell something.   Since we sell books I will be using details about selling books here.  There are other products you can sell on Amazon.  I will leave it up to you for those choices.

Cost to sell books on Amazon

If you only have a few books to sell the Individual Selling Plan would probably be the best choice.   The formula works like this.

+  Book Sale price

+ Shipping collected from customer by Amazon

Minus 15% referral fee

Minus $1.80 closing fee

Minus .99 listing fee

Equals the money you get from Amazon.


So, let’s say you have a $10 book with standard shipping of $3.99

The customer pays $13.99.

Then Amazon takes 15%, which is $2.10 in referral fee as well as $1.80 for a closing fee and .99 for a listing fee.  That leaves you with $9.10.

But wait!

You still have to ship the book.  Now you have the cost of the packaging if you don’t happen to have packaging to ship the book laying around as well as the cost of postage.

If you pay retail for shipping envelopes you can easily pay around $2.00 per envelope.  We have found that when we purchase our shipping labels through Amazon for media mail they usually run around $2.63 – $4.00 depending on the weight of the book.  That is cheaper than taking it to the post office and having them post it.  The postal service gives discounts to companies like Amazon to encourage us to all use printable postage from home so they do not have to staff the counter with as many employees.

So now your $9.10 has decreased by anywhere from $2.63 to $6.00 leaving you with $3.00-$6.50.

If you are only going to sell a few books these number might be the best for you.  Keep in mind that you don’t pay those listing fees until something sells so you aren’t paying up front for something that doesn’t sell.

For more information see Amazon’s Fee Schedule.

The next plan up for selling on Amazon is the Professional Plan.  This is the plan we opt for because we list hundreds of books.  This plan eliminates the .99 per book listing fee.  We pay $39.99 a month instead of the individual .99 per book fee.  So, if we sell 40 books in a month it is covered.  The rest of the numbers above still apply.

Listing Books

Now that you have chosen which plan you want to use it is time to list your books.  There are several different ways to do this but we will just go over the simplest for now.

The first step is to type in the ISBN code in the search bar on Amazon.  When the book comes up choose which format you have (hardcover, paperback, etc.) and bring up the offers that are already up on the book.  That will give you an idea of how much to price the book.  You want to be able to price it so it comes up on the first page of offers.  Mass market books will not leave any room for profit due to the .01 sellers.

Once you have decided on your selling price click on the “Have one to sell?” link just above the title and photo of the book.  This will bring up the listing page.

You will need to choose a condition.  This is very important.  If you mark the book in better condition than it really is a customer may report you and your Amazon seller account could be suspended.  We always opt for a lower condition if we are unsure.  We keep the Condition Guidelines handy when doing listings.  There is a special section on books at the above link.

There is a space for Condition Note – buyers are more likely to buy from someone that fills out this note.  Include any details you have about the condition of the book such as previous owner’s name written on the first page, some minor scuffing on the cover edges, page corners curling, etc.

Next field for individual sellers is the quantity.  Keep in mind the quantity is for that book in that condition.  If you have one in Very Good Condition and one in Acceptable condition they need to be listed separately and do not mix them up when shipping.

You can upload photos but there is generally a stock photo already up.  I generally do not add photos unless I am listing a book that is not in Amazon’s catalog.

Next you need to put in the price you want for your book.

The last line is the SKU line.  Because we have created an inventory system to deal with the thousands of different products we sell we put our own SKU in that section.  Many individual sellers do not.

Find a safe place to store your book so you can find it quickly if it sells.  There is nothing worse than selling an item and having no idea where to find it.  Amazon wants you to ship within 24-48 hours of the sale when possible.

When you sell the book you can print out the order, a packing and even purchase postage directly from your seller dashboard.

This concludes selling books on Amazon.  Stay tuned for segments on Etsy, Pagan Markets, Shopify, social media marketing, selling on multiple channels and more.

About the author:  Charissa founded the Pagan Business Network, North Georgia Solitaries and sits on the board of directors for Universal Society for Ancient Ministry.  She co-owns Pagan Markets with Sadie Odinsdottir of Sleeping Gryphon and co-owns Silver Pines Gifts, Charissa’s Cauldron and Kit’s Flea and owns Sacred Grove Radio.