This is an interview with two top Amazon FBA booksellers, James R (pictured left) and Andrew S (pictured right) discussing how to sell books on Amazon, sourcing tips and secrets, how COVID-19 has affected their FBA business and more! Ready to get started?
RepricerExpress: When did you start selling on Amazon and why?
James: We began selling books in the early part of last year (2019), though Andrew had been selling online for a while.
Andrew: I’d mostly been selling clothes on eBay, flipping designer clothes.
James: We both love books, both of us are big readers, and it wasn’t long before we were exploring the internet to see if there was a market for second-hand books
Andrew: Turns out there is.
James: There certainly is.
How to Sell Books on Amazon
RepricerExpress: Why did you choose to start selling books?
James: Aside from our joint love of books we both wanted a side hustle… I’m a writer, I spend a lot of time locked in my room working making up imaginary people.
Andrew: And I’m an actor.
James: So he spends a lot of time actually being imaginary people. We wanted a job that we could do over the weekend, one that could grow of its own accord and give us a decent side wage.
RepricerExpress: Do you sell any other products or plan to in the future?
James: I occasionally sell board games as well. I’m a big retro nerd, so if we’re in a charity shop and I see a 1990s game, I’ll pick it up – but that’s it. Andrew sells loads of stuff on his own.
Andrew: I’m a huge fan of The Repair Shop. I follow a lot of antique dealers on YouTube which means I’ll pick up other things and sell them on eBay.
James: Weird things. Like Victorian teeth.
Andrew: A pair of Victorian masticators in their original leather case.
James: Which is disgusting….
Andrew: Yeah… but also profitable. Bought for £10 in South London, sold for £100 to someone in the US.
Selling on Amazon
RepricerExpress: Do you use FBA? If so, why?
James: We exclusively use FBA. We did merchant fulfil for about two weeks, but for us it was too much hassle and interfered with the rest of our lives. We buy books. We box books. We send them in and then we forget about them and try to do as little as possible.
RepricerExpress: Do you sell on other marketplaces and/or your own website?
James: We occasionally come across niche interest books, so we’ll put those on eBay. If we’ve got first editions or signed copies they tend to go on eBay too.
Andrew: We bought a load of autograph books early on, took them to an auction house to be valued. We got a disappointing email and then sold them for four times as much as the auction house estimate on eBay.
RepricerExpress: What’s the most important aspect of selling on Amazon?
James: The most important thing is being able to source good quality books as fast as you can. We’ve learned in the last year very quickly how to do this.
Andrew: We made loads of mistakes early on, everybody does, but we’re much better now and much faster and more efficient than we used to be.
James: We can get through an entire charity bookshop in about an hour these days with a mix of me scanning with my eyes and Andrew scanning with his phone.
RepricerExpress: How much do you expect to make from selling on Amazon this year?
James: You should never ask a woman her age, or a business person their profit margin!
Andrew: We’re growing our business every month and have been since we started, so it’s going to be difficult to guess until we reach a sales ceiling.
James: I will say that this side hustle is fast becoming a main hustle in terms of profit. It grows very quickly and we’re still having fun, for us that’s the main thing.
Book Sourcing Tips
RepricerExpress: How many hours do you spend every week running your business?
James: We book hunt all day on a Saturday, we list and box up on a Sunday and then the books are gone first thing Monday morning. This means we can both just crack on with our lives and other jobs. I was manually repricing for about an hour each morning until recently.
Andrew: We never wanted a full-time job, we both wanted a part-time side hustle.
James: I think when the business reaches a ceiling, when we’re selling more books than we can put in, then we’ll talk about adding more time.
Andrew: Or employing other people and having more time free.
James: Yeah. Something to discuss by this time next year.
RepricerExpress: When sourcing, do you use any special tools?
James: I use my eyes. They aren’t special tools but they’ve become very specialised over the last year. You learn to recognise what titles are likely to be worth looking at and what titles aren’t. If we’ve got a big load to do, I’ll often pre-scan with my eyes and hand Andrew the books we should scan. It’s different to how the Americans do it with their magic Bluetooth scanners and beep-fest, but I think it needs to be. I think the UK and US book markets are different and the volume of books per shop is different. Every seller finds their way, and this the way that works for us.
Andrew: I’m pretty good at using the Amazon Seller app and making a judgment. I do most of the decision making on whether we’ll take a book or not.
James: And I’ve got a massive suitcase.
Andrew: He does. We look like hitmen. God knows what the charity shop managers must think.
RepricerExpress: How has COVID-19 affected your Amazon business?
James: At the time of doing this interview, Amazon has stopped shipments of books going in. This means that we’re only selling books that are already in their warehouses and we can’t replenish any of our stock.
Andrew: Charity shops are also shut, which means we can’t buy new stock.
James: We’re sitting on a shipment of about 150 books, all labelled and ready to go in, but until Amazon open their doors and change their shipment policy, there’s nothing we can do.
Andrew: It’s not been terrible though.
James: More people are stuck at home, which means that more people are reading books. For us, sales haven’t dropped… but obviously that’s not going to carry on forever if we can’t send in new stock.
Andrew: When they’re gone they’re gone.
James: It’s given us a bit of time to sit back and explore directions for our business model though. You can sometimes get caught up in the day to day running and forget to do this.
Getting Started with RepricerExpress
RepricerExpress: Was it easy to get set up?
James: It was very easy to set up. We made the business decision to trial it for a month and off we went. I watched lots of YouTube videos and then set up my rules… and we were away.
Andrew: I did nothing.
James: You watched.
Andrew: I did watch.
James: It’s a little bit odd getting it all set up, you’ve got the power to create whatever rules you want, but you realise that you’ve got very few ideas of what rules you should use. Every seller is different, every situation is different and suddenly you’re asked to play God with your prices and make sure you get the rules right.
RepricerExpress: Did you find the support team helpful?
James: I should’ve used them more. I really should’ve done.
Andrew: Go on… tell them.
James: I got one of the rules wrong, and we sold a £120 book for £30… It was entirely my fault and I should’ve seen what was going to happen, but I didn’t. Someone got lucky.
Andrew: So I didn’t speak to him for a week!
James: He’s lying. It was fine. Although we could’ve got more for the book, we only paid £2.99 for it in the first place. Easy come, Easy Go.
RepricerExpress: How much do you pay each month? Is it worth it?
James: We have between 1000 and 2500 SKUs.
Andrew: Which are rapidly diminishing in this Covid world.
James: So we are on the most basic package. Is it worth it? Well…. Our sales went up by 79% the first month we used it…. So yeah, it’s been a game-changer for us in terms of sales. Before this, I was manually re-pricing on a daily basis. It was getting unmanageable.
RepricerExpress: Do you use any specific tactics when repricing books?
James: Not really. Certain high price books we exclude from repricing because of our initial experience…. We also don’t try to compete with the super bulk sellers like World of Books. We hunt for more esoteric titles in the first instance and work from there.
RepricerExpress: Do you have different pricing strategies for different types of stock, and time periods in which you must sell the stock?
James: Only the super expensive stuff.
Andrew: And the stuff we can’t shift.
James: Oh yeah, we have a trigger so that in the final month before something is about to be hit with long term storage, we’ll drop the price significantly to try and shift it.
Results From Using RepricerExpress
RepricerExpress: Why did you choose RepricerExpress?
James: It was destiny! Fate!
Andrew: Yeah, he doesn’t know, because I was the one who suggested RepricerExpress in the first place.
James: He follows a lot more people online than I do, I hate social media, so Andrew is much more in touch with the bookselling community.
Andrew: So we got RepricerExpress from watching a lot of sellers online and listening to their recommendations. RepricerExpress has a great reputation online and in the bookseller community.
RepricerExpress: What features do you use within RepricerExpress?
James: Like with most of our business, once we’ve set something up, we like to walk away and leave it to do its thing. We’ve set up rules and we’ve got a few triggers in place. About once a fortnight, I might check-in and see if anything untoward has happened, but for the most part, it’s laissez-faire… we’re just happy with how it works now.
RepricerExpress: Are there any new features you would like to see added to RepricerExpress in the future?
James: I’d like to see some way of categorising books by title or by genre, so we could see at a glance what type of books are selling and when.
Andrew: I don’t think anyone would be able to do that.
James: I can dream. There was a lot of misinformation out there from gurus about what types of books will sell well, and what types of books will sell badly. It would be great to have access to that information and be able to draw a more scientific conclusion.
RepricerExpress: Would you recommend RepricerExpress? Why?
James: I definitely would. We’ve seen a huge growth in our sales in just a single month. It did exactly what it promised to do.
Andrew: I think your business will reach a size where you can’t reprice manually anymore.
James: Says the man who doesn’t do repricing!
James: He’s right though, I was reluctant at first to get a repricer because I thought I could handle the repricing and it seemed like an unnecessary cost for our business. We were supposed to be growing and keeping expenses as low as possible… but as Andrew pointed out, that’s what the free trial is for. If it hadn’t worked, we could’ve ended it.
Andrew: But it did work.
James: It did… and now we’re doing an interview about how it worked.
Other Amazon Software
RepricerExpress: Apart from RepricerExpress, is there any other software you would recommend for other Amazon sellers?
James: We also use Scanlister, and we have done from about week two. That’ll cut down the amount of time you’ll spend faffing around trying to list books.
Andrew: We also use Keepa.
James: We do use Keepa, that’s pretty handy for snapping up those online arbitrage bargains.
Andrew: Like when an idiot prices a £120 book for £30 because he doesn’t want to ask for help in the chat function?
James: I learned my lesson! Always ask for help people. Aside from that we just use the Amazon app. I think it’s better to be able to do all the book selecting and mathematical decision making in your head. It makes the job a lot more fun. And we are still having fun and enjoying working together. That’s the most important thing. I’d hate to be like a lonely beeping Bluetooth cyborg in a shop on my own. Making money is important, but so is enjoying the job.
RepricerExpress: Have you anything else to add that you feel would be important to an Amazon seller when considering RepricerExpress?
James: Ask for help. If you’re unsure of the rules and triggers that you’ve used, ask for help and use the offline function. Do not just wing it and hope for the best.
Not Just for Booksellers
Whatever you sell, you can benefit from using an automated repricer. We can’t promise you that your sales will increase by 79% during the trial but you should see an increase in sales, profits and Buy Box ownership by the end of your free trial. Get started on your repricing journey today, no credit card required.