How to sell books on Amazon in 2024

How to sell books online

£25 (excl. VAT) per month + selling fees
How to sell books on Amazon in 2022


The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a massive uptick in book sales in the UK, hitting record numbers not seen since 2012. More than 212 million books were sold in 2021, the highest in nearly a decade. The same year, book publishers reported revenues of GBP3.5 million from print books and GBP3.2 billion from digital books and journals , both indicative of the fact that book sales are currently booming.

So, if you’re interested in starting an online store to sell books, there’s never a better time. In fact, with an increasing number of shoppers buying both physical and digital books (ebooks as well as audiobooks), going the ecommerce route for books is ideal even if you have your own bricks-and-mortar bookstore and want to increase sales.

The number and type of books you can sell online is endless. From new books to used, fiction to nonfiction and textbooks, from horror to thriller to romance to young adult to humour, you can sell any and all kinds of books online. In recent years, comic books and graphic novels have also seen an uptick in popularity, adding to the variety of books available for purchase online.

There are many reasons that could be behind the rise in the number of people buying books online. This includes the convenience of buying online without having to leave your house or go to a physical location – something that has risen in popularity over the past years.

Further, even rare or limited-edition books that are difficult to find physically are sometimes listed online – an added advantage for the enthusiastic book-lover who might otherwise have to spend precious hours, days or longer trying to find a store that has a copy of the book they want. Instead, the whole process becomes much easier when search engines do most of the work of combing through countless websites to find the closest result.

For booksellers and authors, online sales could be the opportunity they need to reach a new, wider or different audience. The ease and convenience with which you can start selling online removes many of the challenges of starting a physical store. And of course, you don’t always have to sell books bought from other retailers: you can sell old books you own, books bought from second-hand stores or even auctions, or books you sell in your physical bookstore.

Whatever your objective is, this guide will explain the entire concept and process of selling books online, giving you all the information you need to help you get started.
What is an online bookstore?

What is an online bookstore?

In simple terms, an online bookstore is an e-commerce website that sells books. Some sites allow you to sell all kinds of books, whereas others, such as Amazon, allow Selling Partners to sell only physical books, but not ebooks. (On Amazon, a third-party Selling Partner is an independent seller who offers new or used items for sale.)

Almost every kind of book you're looking for can be found online. Online bookstores can be divided into 3 broad categories:

General bookstores

These would mostly sell many different kinds of books, from fiction to non-fiction to educational and more. Mostly, they would stock current bestsellers, as well as classics that are always in demand. Online bookstores that deliver within a specific country may offer titles only published in that country, while there are some that offer books from all over the world.

Specialised bookstores

These will sell books that only fall into certain genres or types, such as selling only crime thriller books or romance novels, or self-help books.

Educational bookstores

These specialise in only educational or scientific books, such as school or college textbooks, science journals, and so on.

Online libraries

As the name suggests, these would allow people to ‘rent’ books.
How to source books to sell

How to source books to sell

To start selling books online, most sellers usually start out by figuring out which books they want to sell. Some choose based on genre, such as bestsellers, classics, etc. Others decide based on category, such as selling only non-fiction, or only educational books, textbooks, and so on. Yet others may choose to specialise in second-hand books, books in specific languages, religious books, first editions or rare books.

If you're interested in selling books online, there are a lot of avenues from which you can source books.

Buy from existing retailers

One avenue is to tie up with existing bookstores or retailers and offer their books online. This allows you the potential freedom of not having to deal with what kind of books you need to sell: you simply sell whatever books the existing retailer already offers. The potential downside here is that you can only offer items from their current inventory.

Buying in bulk

You can also buy books in bulk from publishers or retailers, or even attend book auctions, check library discard sales, and so on, each of which presents a variety of books you can purchase. Once you’ve purchased them, they are yours to sell online.

Buying from wholesalers

Wholesalers are also a good source for finding books and buying them in bulk to resell online. You could buy a lot more books for a lower price per book and build a stock.

Second-hand books

Second-hand books or pre-owned books – whether your own or bought from others – are also a popular source, because most sites, including Amazon, include entire categories for used books, which are sold at a lower price than new books.

Rare books and first editions

These, though smaller in number, are another specialised category you can offer online if you have the expertise in sourcing and pricing them. Some of these books are highly sought after and can command large prices, but the buyers would need to see a complete provenance of the book being bought – in a sense, this is the same as buying and selling artwork.


If you are an author or writer, you can always choose to sell only your own books in your stores. Many authors do maintain their own websites on which they offer their titles for sale, while some of them also list their books on sites like Amazon. You could even publish and sell your own books with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which allows authors to independently publish their books as ebooks that can be read on Kindle Readers, or have them printed under Amazon’s ‘print on demand’ feature, wherein a book will only be printed if the buyer chooses that option.

Should you build your own website?

Now that you know where to get your books from, it’s time to actually start talking about selling them online.

When it comes to selling online you can go one of two directions, either build your own website and put your books up on it, or list your products that you want to sell on another website, like Amazon. Both options start with putting together the appropriate documents and registration, then you go on from there.

If you are building your own e-commerce website to sell books on, you can use a website building tool, hire a developer, or even put it together yourself if you have the relevant web development experience. Put up the books you want to sell, along with their price, details and information, and then you can focus on figuring out the shipping, delivery, and payment process.

Buying and selling books on Amazon

The Amazon online bookstore sells a wide variety of books, from fiction and nonfiction, to self-help, university textbooks, schoolbooks, health and fitness, and even independently published books. The books on sale span the range from physical and digital copies, as well as audiobooks via Audible and Kindle e-books. However, in the UK, as mentioned earlier, third-party sellers are allowed only to sell physical books, not ebooks or Kindle books (self-published authors using the KDP service, however, can sell their ebooks, as they are the first party or direct sellers, not third parties).

How to start selling books on Amazon

To register as a Selling Partner on Amazon and sell books, you have to create a seller account and provide all the required information. Then, you need to choose an appropriate selling plan, list all the books you want to sell, and then start selling them online via Amazon.

To list books on Amazon, you need to provide the needed details for each book, like the title, description, condition, pictures of the book, ISBN, SKU, and finally, add relevant terms that customers may use to search for the book, to make sure they can find the books you’re selling by using linked terms. The process is explained in detail below.

To sell your books on Amazon, you must first become an Amazon Selling Partner. You can do this by following the beginner’s guide which offers a step-by-step rundown of how you can create your seller account with Amazon, which allows you to register, and offers many seller services. It also has detailed guidelines on precisely what information is required for you to start selling on Amazon.

Understanding selling plans available on Amazon

As a registered Amazon Selling Partner, you have two selling plans to choose from:

The Individual selling plan: this is slightly more basic in its features, and designed for Selling Partners who don't really have a big stock. Fees are only charged under this plan if an item sells. The offered tools for this plan are built for new Selling Partners who are just starting out, and are simplified for that purpose.

The Professional selling plan: this, on the other hand, has more tools and features, and is built to work for larger businesses. Using this plan, you pay a monthly fee even if you do not sell or list any products, and you're given access to more features, such as inventory tools to manage your orders and files.

Selling plans also affect listings: Selling Partners on the professional plan can list bulk or batch items, while those on the individual plan have to list products one by one. There are also some other key differences, which you need to understand fully before you make your choice. Amazon’s pricing page offers more details, including a helpful comparison of both plans, and you can use the cost calculator to better understand and estimate how much you might get charged for various scenarios.

Which books can you sell on Amazon?

Many different types of books can be sold on Amazon. There is an extensive list of genres and categories that are available for you to choose from, and you can sell anything from comic books, to college textbooks, to autobiographies and second-hand books, and more.

How to list books on Amazon

Once you have created your account, figured out what kind of books you want to sell, and sourced the items you are going to put on sale, it’s time to start listing your products.

On Amazon, there is usually a listing already available for numerous books, especially popular or famous ones. So, in that case, you can just find the existing listing by doing a title search and then adding your description. This saves Selling Partners the hassle of having to provide full Catalogue data for existing books, because the data, provided by the publishers of those books, is already present on the system.

If you can’t find a listing for a book you're selling, you can register a new listing for that specific book or books. There are again detailed book listing guidelines you can follow.

Once you are done, your listings will be available on your store for shoppers to see. Make sure to list each book within the correct categories and provide a good book description, with its physical condition, genre, author(s) details, versions, formats (hardcover or paperback) and other important distinctions.
You will also need to have each of your books identified by specific numbers used in the publishing world. As a Selling Partner, you'll need to become familiar with these 3 terms:
  • ISBN (International Standard Book Number): This number is specific to each book and works as an identifier, it’s standardised worldwide and books are often found by title or ISBN.
  • SKU (Stock Keeping Unit): This type of number attached to a product is intended for inventory keeping purposes, and will help you keep track of your stock as a bookseller.
  • ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number): This number assigned to your products is used only for items sold on the Amazon website. It generally, but not always, matches the book’s existing ISBN.
After your listing is complete, Amazon will also prompt you to set the book price and select the fulfilment channel for your book order (MFN or FBA).

How to price your books

Once you've made your decision on all the above, you should probably figure out the pricing of your books before you register, list them, and start selling.

When you sell on Amazon, you are the Seller of Record. This means that you decide the customer price in your sole discretion. You can take many different things into account, but three factors that you may want to consider are:
  1. The condition of the book
  2. Whenever you sell books online, it may be preferred to mention the condition it’s in. Amazon, for example, has detailed guidelines that apply to both new and used books. In general, condition types are broadly as below:
    • A New book should be fully intact, complete with original cover and protected with wrapping. Books that are marked in any way, or labelled "bargain", “remainder” or anything similar cannot be listed as a book in "new" condition.
    • For a book to be considered Used- like new, it must have an intact dust cover, clean pages with no writing or markings. Minor defects like wear or bends are acceptable, books marked as "remainder" on the outside edge are acceptable, and the book can be missing some bundled media. In this last case, it is important that, in addition to the accurate description of the book’s condition (Used - Like New, etc.), Selling Partners include a description of exactly what is missing – e.g. “The book is in great condition but missing the bundled CD”.
    • A book may be considered Used - very good if it has minor defects like wear and marks, while the dust cover, boxed case, and bundled media can be missing, and the book can have "remainder" marks on the outside. This should be mentioned in the listing details on the site.
    • A book is considered in Used - good condition if the cover page and all other pages are intact. Signs of wear may be visible on the spine; some notes and highlights on pages are acceptable. May be labelled "From the library of __". Dust cover, shrink wrap, boxed set case, bundled media can be missing.
    • A Used - acceptable book must have all pages and cover intact. However, the boxed set case, shrink wrap, and dust cover may be missing. Limited notes are accepted on the pages, along with highlighting, and minor water damage with readable text. For this category, it is alright if the bundled media is missing.
    • Unacceptable books are any books with missing pages, or text that is obscured or unreadable. Additionally, selling books that are not yet published or those that are in-print, advanced reading copies including uncorrected proofs fall under this category, as do counterfeit copies or books that are published in violation of an existing copyright.
    Those are general guidelines and do not apply to collectible books. Because collectibles are generally considered more valuable, it is important to assess your books and check if any of them are confirmed first editions, limited editions, or anything similar.
  3. The shipping, packing and sales fees
  4. You should keep in mind the shipping and sales fees, and any other additional costs that may apply, such as storage costs, taxes, and so on.
  5. The original price paid for the books
  6. As with any product being sold online, you will want to think about whether the customer price you have chosen covers all your overheads, including the costs you spent on originally procuring the products – in this case, the books.
Even though you can change the customer prices of your listed products later, it’s a good idea to set them before you start selling through careful calculations and consideration, which may help you cut down on possible losses.

Understanding online payments for books

Amazon and most other online bookstores accept payments made by credit or debit cards via a payment gateway. After the payment has been made by the customer, Amazon will then process the payment to you. Your Payment Dashboard will tell you when and how much you will be paid.

Understanding the fulfilment process

Just as with any online business, order delivery – also called fulfilment – is a key aspect when it comes to physical items – in this case, any kind of book that is not an e-book or an audiobook. As a business owner, you will be responsible for purchasing your stock. After that, you will need to think of storing it, managing the inventory, and handling delivery and shipping when customers order from your online store. Then there’s the matter of handling any returns, and ensuring reliable and trustworthy customer service in case of any delayed or wrong shipments, damaged goods, etc.

This is why you need to decide on who is going to handle the fulfilment process: you or a trusted third party. As an Amazon Selling Partner, you can do both: use Fulfilment by Amazon, or do it yourself – Merchant Fulfilled Network. There is also a third option: Dropshipping. All three are explained below.
  • FBA: The Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service is offered to Amazon Selling Partners, under which Amazon handles all the storage, packaging, shipping and delivery of products, both locally within the UK as well as in Europe and internationally. In order to use FBA, you need to:
    • Sign up for FBA
    • Purchase your stock of books
    • Package and ship your books to the nearest Amazon Fulfilment Centre
    After this, the Amazon FBA team will handle the entire fulfilment process on your behalf. This includes storing, packaging, shipping, and handling any returns or customer service requirements. All you have to do is keep up with your inventory and monitor your sales regularly.
  • MFN: Your alternative is Merchant Fulfilled Network (MFN), where you as a Selling Partner are in charge of handling the entire fulfilment process. This means you are responsible for the storage of your stock of books, inventory management, packaging the products, and sorting out the delivery either using your own employees or other shipping or dropshipping partners. This is usually ideal for Selling Partners who either have their own delivery or logistics networks in place.
  • Dropshipping: This is yet another alternative in which you, the Selling Partner, don’t hold any products in stock and instead outsource the procurement, storage and delivery of items to a third party. This is used by some Selling Partners who want to keep overheads low by only being responsible for selling the products online, while a dropshipping partner handles everything else. In case you plan to use this fulfilment method for your bookstore, you will need to abide by Amazon’s Dropshipping Policy.
So, in terms of fulfilment for your online bookstore, you need to think carefully about what you want for your business and what will work best for you. Some Selling Partners on Amazon also choose to use a mix of different fulfilment methods, such as using FBA for certain types of books, while opting for MFN for other types, and so on. The final choice you make depends on your individual requirements and preferences.

Growing your business with Amazon

Once you set up your online store, you need to have a plan in place to popularise it and attract new customers. If you are an Amazon Selling Partner, you can easily get access to a host of additional services that are specifically designed to help you grow your business, reach a wider audience and manage your orders better.

Seller University offers a lot of information on the various tools available, and helps you navigate them and use them better. Using Amazon’s advertising options, you can attract more shoppers to your store and possibly boost sales and grow your reach.

These tools help you keep track of your sales and check how effective your ad campaigns are. You need to be aware that, to start using some of these additional tools, you need to have an active Professional Seller account, whereas for certain other services like Sponsored Displays or Brands, you need to be on the Amazon Brand Registry.
Tips to become a better bookseller online

Tips to become a better bookseller online

Now that you know how to set up your store, it’s time to look at what you can do to increase brand awareness, attract new customers and build loyalty so they keep coming back to you as a trusted Selling Partner. Here are a few simple tips.

Do your research before you start

The more popular and better-selling your products are, the more you're going to sell. So, make sure to closely analyse what genres, titles and categories of books sell the most before buying your stock. There are multiple sources online to help you do this research. Look closely at local retailers, bookstores, yard sales, publishing houses, and more, and try to make most of your stock focused on books that rank really well sales-wise.

Honesty and transparency are key

With books, every single detail matters. So make sure that whatever information you have entered about each book is 100% accurate. This goes for everything from the book’s title and author’s name, its ISBN, SKU and ASIN. For physical books, you will need to provide exact information about its condition, the exact dimensions and weight of the book, state of the dust cover, if the book is hard back or mass print, or any scratches or damages that can be seen. In general, if in doubt, it is always recommended to be conservative in your descriptions so as to offer the best possible experience for your customers. Post actual pictures of the book – particularly second-hand books or collectibles.

Focus on marketing and advertising

Don't underestimate the potential that advertising and promotion give any vendor. Taking the right steps in marketing your online bookstore can help boost your book sales greatly and increase traffic to your store.

You can use different means, including social media campaigns, collaborations with authors or publishers, or even hiring the use of an external agency to help you with this. If you're selling via Amazon, then you get access to a wide range of advertising tools and features, such as Sponsored Ads, Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Displays. Amazon also allows you to target different countries with your ads.

Storing books effectively

As a bookseller, you need to have a proper plan in mind for how you are going to store your books. If you are not using FBA, you need to carefully plan how you are going to store physical books to prevent them from damage. You may need to rent a warehouse or other storage space, and invest in storage shelves or boxes to keep the books in. Especially if you are dealing with old or rare copies, you may need to arrange for hermetically sealed storage, as well as individual wrapping for each book to protect it from damage.

Ensure you have a robust fulfilment plan (for physical books)

As we’ve mentioned before, fulfilment is a crucial aspect of online sales. You need to have a robust plan in mind for how you are going to get the books from your storage location to the customers’ location. If your customers receive delayed shipments or damaged books, this can result in negative reviews for your business.

This is even more important when you consider collectibles and rare books, which have to be packaged and shipped with a lot of care and attention – not only because they are very valuable, but also because they could be quite old and, therefore, fragile.


How can I sell books on Amazon?
To start selling books, you first need to become a registered Amazon Seller. After that, you need to list your books, select your pricing, choose your fulfilment method and create your store. Then, you can start selling.

If you want to sell books that you have written yourself, you can look at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Can I sell books on Amazon for free?
No, there are fees you must pay to Amazon for selling on the website, and they depend on your sales plan and pricing.
How much does it cost to sell books on Amazon?
The cost of selling books on Amazon depends on your selling plan. An individual plan means you pay per product sold, a professional plan means you pay a standard fee per month.

For books there is a referral fee of 5.1% for products with a total sales price below £5.00, and 15.3% for products with a total sales price greater than or equal to £5.00. In addition, there is a fixed Closing Fee that is charged per book sold (this can range from £0.50 to £1.00 per item).

In addition, you may incur fulfilment fees or other costs, depending on the exact nature of your store and the business you do.
Do I get charged VAT for selling books in the UK?
Books are zero-rated for VAT in the UK, but other services, including Amazon fees, will incur VAT charges.
What books can I sell on Amazon?
You can sell all kinds of new and used physical books on Amazon. These can be across multiple genres and categories (fiction, non-fiction, educational, self-help, etc.).
Can I sell second-hand books on Amazon?
You can sell used or second-hand books on Amazon as long as they are in an acceptable condition, always ensure that you add a highly accurate description of the condition the books are in.
Can I sell textbooks on Amazon?
Yes, you can sell school, university, and any other textbooks on Amazon.
How often do I receive payments from selling books on Amazon?
You will receive payment every 7 days.
Which Amazon selling plan is best?
Both sales plans offered by Amazon have their perks, and it depends on your preferences as a seller. You can compare sales plans here.

Start selling on Amazon today

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