Pricing Books: 2 Strategies That Sell

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As an online bookseller, my ultimate goal is to make money and pricing books is a critical part of that. It’s not to indulge in learning all there is to know about books nor is it out of sheer bliss that I sell books online. If I didn’t get paid to sell books, you would never see me driving 4 hours to then load up 20,000 books, drive back 4 hours and then proceed to unload them all for 6+ hours (true story) thus never having to learn pricing books. Knowing that my end goal is to make as much money as possible selling books, one of the most important things you need to know is how to accurately learn the art of pricing books when you are listing. Knowing how to learn the art of pricing books will be a critical factor in your success in online bookselling.

I’m going to look at 2 different strategies you can use in pricing books to accurately set a price you want to sell online. In this post, I’m going to just concentrate on Amazon. All other marketplaces are similar but since Amazon is the most prevalent and is the one that I’m most familiar with much of the discussion is going to be based around Amazon. These 2 strategies all have their place and it is up to you to decide which one you want to employ or to even employ a combination of them. Each strategy is a valid way to sell books on Amazon. They will all make you money but the big difference is time vs. money.

basic supply demand Pricing Books: 2 Strategies That SellAll sellers have different strategies when it comes to trying to generate the most orders as possible but what makes the biggest difference between a penny book seller vs. a rare book dealer is time. We’re all out here to make money by selling our books, but we all don’t share the same kind of patience in how long we want to have our books hanging out there in cyberspace. Penny book sellers deeply discount their commodity used books that they get for nothing or a few cents in order to sell as many as possible as fast as possible. They concentrate on selling quickly and selling often. Rare book dealers, on the other hand, concentrate on quality and patience. A rare book dealer may be ecstatic at purchasing a book for a few hundred dollars if he thinks he could turn around and sell it for a thousand a year later. Do you see the two different extremes here?

With that being said, I’m going to introduce to you 2 different strategies that you can use to either adopt a penny book seller’s strategy or the rare book dealer’s strategy. Each strategy works, but it is up to you to decide what kind of books you want to sell, how often you want to sell them and ultimately how patient you are to wait for a book to sell! These pricing strategies that I will be discussing are:

1. Pricing books to make less money in a quicker time.

So you’ve decided to be one of those shamed and hated penny book sellers, eh?  I understand.  You’re just wanting to make some money as fast as possible, right?  I’m with you.  Pricing to sell books quickly normally comes down to having the cheapest price for the condition of the book you have.  If you’re using this strategy, cheaper is always better.  A cheap price can be on your side even if you have a terrible feedback rating or the condition of your book is just acceptable.  A really cheap price always trumps just about anything it seems for the general consumer.  They say that everyone has their price and the same can be said for the everyday online book buyer.  Even the most stubborn buyer that may also be a seller that refuses to support penny book sellers that he sees as always driving down the price will succumb to price eventually if he wants the book bad enough and the price is substantially lower for either the same or even better condition book.

This strategy works on Amazon because of 2 things; cheap price and high visibility.

  • Pricing books for a cheap price – Everyone wants a deal and if they can pay less money for the same experience, they will every time.  Cheap price is your biggest weapon here especially if you lure a buyer in with a cheaper price AND a better condition.  It’s like tempting a monkey with a banana.  The buyer will almost have no choice but to be lured to your listing and buy.
  • Pricing books for high visibility – A big advantage to putting a cheap price on a book is the visibility you get on Amazon because of the ordering that it does.  Amazon’s listings are ordered by price+shipping cost thus, if you have the lowest price for the book, you always get the top spot whenever a buyer clicks over to look at the used copies.  High visibility for your copy means much better odds of selling even if the price isn’t the cheapest!

To make this strategy work, you obviously have to be able get the books you selling for cheap much cheaper!  Sometimes, this can be easier said than done but for used books, it’s normally pretty easy.  To most people, used books typically have little value.  Used books may have been sitting around people’s houses for long periods of time and they have since forgotten what they had originally paid for them.  They’re now just taking up space so they’re donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill along with the local libraries.  Once the books are donated, they have now been stamped as having little to no value at all because people are giving them away!

Since these books now have little value to their previous owners or usually to anyone in the local area, they’re sold for extremely cheap so that whoever owns them now can just get rid of them for a few cents or a buck.  Does the Friends of the Library sales ring a bell here?  You’ve now got a source for super cheap books that you can sell for a super cheap price online!

I always like to give personal examples so here is a great example of this strategy that I use.  I get books for close to nothing (<5 cents) so I have a ton of room to wiggle when it comes to pricing a book.  I sometimes use this to my advantage so that I can remain competitive for just about any book I list without the fear of losing money.  Because I’m able to get books for so cheap and want that high visibility and to offer a cheap price, I undercut ALL offers for books that I have listed over $50 by $5 every time.  I don’t even pay attention to condition here.  All I care about is having the cheapest price along with having that top spot.   If I’m selling the book for $50 and I got it for 5 cents, why be greedy?  This means that even if I have a Like New book listed alongside a Good condition book, I’ll undercut the Good condition book by $5 every time.  Sure, I might make some more money by not doing this but I’m OK with making a 1000% profit vs. a 1200% profit.

2. Pricing books to make more money in a slower time.

pricing a book 280x300 Pricing Books: 2 Strategies That SellYou’re more of a relaxed kind of guy not needing the money that badly at this time and just want to see how much people will pay, aren’t you?  Well, then this is the strategy for you!  I’m sure you see these types of sellers all the time.  Ever notice that book you’re looking for that everyone else has for a dollar to 2 dollars and then you got this crazy whacko trying to sell his for $10?  Did you know that it can actually work!  Sure, there are many more people snatching up the cheap books by sellers using the strategy above but there are still people willing to pay much more for the exact same book.  Why?  Here are 2 reasons:

  • The Perception of Cheap – Do you think that generic drugs are less quality than their name brand counterparts?  What about designer clothes or, for you ladies, purses?  Do you think that even though it doesn’t have a designer pasted on the front of that Gucci bag that’s it’s automatically lower quality?  This is the exact same perception that some book buyers have!  How could a book selling for a penny be of any quality at all?  There’s got to be a reason why it’s so cheap even though the condition and description both look fine.  As the buyer, I’m going to buy the higher priced one because that one has GOT to be better because you get what you pay for, right?
  • Good Feedback – This is a very important factor if you want to utilize this method.  You will hardly ever get away with charging much higher prices if you have terrible feedback.  It also doesn’t work if you’re a new seller that has no feedback.  A potential buyer won’t want to purchase a book from you if they either can’t trust that they’ll get the book that they’ll receive or not in the same condition as you described or have no idea who you are and if you’re a reliable seller or not.

For a personal example of this strategy, I want to tell you a small snippet of how I reprice my books.  For some books I use this method because I think I could get more for some books and I’m willing to wait a little longer to sell them.  I usually have enough cheap books to balance the more expensive books that I price higher.  Whenever I have a book that has a pretty low sales rank, I’ll typically try to NOT be the cheapest price.  This is because the Amazon sales rank is an indicator of market demand and when market demand is higher, sellers can command higher prices.  It’s just typical business supply and demand.  You know that a book is in demand and will sell so why would you leave money on the table and vie for the cheapest price?  It’s not a matter of if it will sell quickly, it’s when it will sell quickly.  I’ve found that this is the best strategy to use to get that little extra dough when the book sells.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how you want to price your books to sell.  As you can see from my personal examples, I utilize both methods.  I don’t choose to use either strategy exclusively because I believe that some books lend better to each strategy.  I am always performing a balancing act to be in the middle of supply and demand.  If you keep up with market prices and really pay attention to how you’re pricing books and when they’re selling, you will reap maximum profits from your books and enjoy a profitable online bookselling business!

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  • Brent

    Adam, what do you consider alow sales rank at Amazon?

  • Brent

    Adam, what do you consider alow sales rank at Amazon?

  • http://www.sellyourbooksonline.com/ Adam

    In what context?

  • http://www.sellyourbooksonline.com Adam

    In what context?

  • Brent

    In this article you said that when you have a
    lower sales rank, you don’t put the price as low.
    You mentioned it isn’t if it will sell, but when
    it sells. I was wondering where you draw the line
    with sales rank. Are you talking about under 1,000,
    10,000, 100,000?

    Thanks!

  • Brent

    In this article you said that when you have a
    lower sales rank, you don’t put the price as low.
    You mentioned it isn’t if it will sell, but when
    it sells. I was wondering where you draw the line
    with sales rank. Are you talking about under 1,000,
    10,000, 100,000?

    Thanks!

  • Adam

    Ah, OK, sorry about that. When I mention a lower sales
    rank I usually refer to sales ranks below 100,000.
    You never really know when a book is going to sell
    but I’ve found that around 100,000 or lower, the book
    will sell within a week or two.

  • Adam

    Ah, OK, sorry about that. When I mention a lower sales
    rank I usually refer to sales ranks below 100,000.
    You never really know when a book is going to sell
    but I’ve found that around 100,000 or lower, the book
    will sell within a week or two.

  • TC

    One thing that you didn’t mention is the repricer,
    who simply won’t let you be the lowest price.
    I think a lot of the new folks don’t realize that
    the book they price as the lowest may be
    underlisted by a cent in only a few hours.

  • TC

    One thing that you didn’t mention is the repricer,
    who simply won’t let you be the lowest price.
    I think a lot of the new folks don’t realize that
    the book they price as the lowest may be
    underlisted by a cent in only a few hours.

  • http://www.sellyourbooksonline.com/ adam

    You’re partially right because it just depends. It depends on the other sellers of that book and the repricing rules they have setup. It doesn’t mean that 100% of the time if you undercut a competitor by a cent then he’s going to undercut you. It depends on if the seller is using a repricer and has it set to always undercut by a penny or the seller that you undercut may not even be using a repricer.

  • http://www.sellyourbooksonline.com adam

    You’re partially right because it just depends. It depends on the other sellers of that book and the repricing rules they have setup. It doesn’t mean that 100% of the time if you undercut a competitor by a cent then he’s going to undercut you. It depends on if the seller is using a repricer and has it set to always undercut by a penny or the seller that you undercut may not even be using a repricer.

  • luella

    How do you sell your own book through Amazon

  • luella

    How do you sell your own book through Amazon

  • http://www.sellyourbooksonline.com/ adam

    Check out the Amazon Advantage program.

  • http://www.sellyourbooksonline.com adam

    Check out the Amazon Advantage program.

  • Joey

    You say 100k or less is good for books but what about CD's and DVD's—- What is a good rank for these items. As an average are most items loosing value over time— I been finding that my sales have been slowing because i have been waiting for prices to come back up on my Items….Is this just wishful thinking?

  • adbertram

    I'm not that familiar with the sales rank of CDs. If you're waiting
    for prices to come back up you're going to be waiting for awhile. As a
    general rule prices will always go down if sales are slow because
    sellers will constantly drop price to meet demand. That's not to say
    every time this happens though.

  • adbertram

    I'm not that familiar with the sales rank of CDs. If you're waiting
    for prices to come back up you're going to be waiting for awhile. As a
    general rule prices will always go down if sales are slow because
    sellers will constantly drop price to meet demand. That's not to say
    every time this happens though.

  • adbertram

    I'm not that familiar with the sales rank of CDs. If you're waiting
    for prices to come back up you're going to be waiting for awhile. As a
    general rule prices will always go down if sales are slow because
    sellers will constantly drop price to meet demand. That's not to say
    every time this happens though.