How To Take Advantage of Used Book Sales

If you own a brick and mortar store or sell books online and want to run a successful business you have to continually acquire new inventory.  Hopefully, you’ll have to do this frequently because your current inventory will be selling so quickly!  Sometimes finding new sources can be a difficult and time consuming task.  Depending on what kind of business model you have, you may be ordering remainders on the Internet, new books from distributors or taking advantage of unwanted used books through sources like yard sales, thrift shops, other used bookstores, etc.  There is also another great source of books for resale  and that can be used book sales.

Book Sale
Book Sale

Book sales can be found all over the place being held by Friends of the Library groups, churches or various non-profit groups.  These sales are a great opportunity to acquire some great inventory but I’d like to share a few tips with you to make your buying experience the best it can be at a book sale.

1. Know what you’re looking for before you get there.

Depending on the size of the book sale, it may literally be acres big.  If you don’t know where you’re going prior then you’ll find your competition blazing past you to get to the valuable genres first.  This is especially true of online booksellers where certain genres are always more valuable than others.  Sometimes the sale will have a map laid out for you ahead of time on the sale’s website.  If not, you could call the person in charge of the sale to ask them for this type of information.

2. Update your book scouting service right before going.

For online booksellers who use book scouting services, always refresh your pricing data right before you go.  Refreshing your pricing data at the last possible moment ensures that the information you take with you is the most up to date market prices from Amazon so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you get there.  You never want to be scouting with out of date prices.

3. Bring a rolling cart.

Depending on how many books you’re looking to buy, you’ll always usually need a rolling cart of some sort.  Bags and boxes are very cumbersome and since the books at these sales are usually selling for so cheap, you might as well load up.  A rolling cart especially the ones where you can stack cartons one on top of the other are great so that you can load as many books as possible without having to go pay, take them out to your car, and come back in.

4. Stand your ground.

Depending on the atmosphere at the sale, it can sometimes get tense.  With hundreds or thousands of people at these big sales, you’ll find some people are simply rude and will try to roll over you in their quest to get those valuable books.  Take a look at one of my latest blog posts about the subject of A**holes at Friends of the Library Sales and stand your ground to not let these people shove you out of the way.

5. Be courteous.

Finally, always be courteous to other customers and especially the volunteers.  The volunteers are typically getting nothing in return to do this and should demand respect.  They are there to help people find the books they’re looking for and generally keep the peace.  The other customers also deserve a level of courteousness because it’s simply the right thing to do.  Don’t be an a**hole like some I’ve seen.  We’re all there to find some great books and there’s enough to go around.

Adam Bertram is a full time tech consultant, part time online bookseller and avid online book-selling blogger.  He has a blog at that discusses all facets of the world of online book-selling and provides training material for others wanting to also start this lucrative business.

5 thoughts on “How To Take Advantage of Used Book Sales”

  1. I didn’t know how much I’d love booksales. My cousins run a yearly “friends of the library” type sale at the small private school their children attend. When the sale was over, they called ‘cousin Chris with the bookstore’ to see if I wanted any of the books. Of course I said I would come and look through everything, I have a minivan and when I left the school, my car was loaded with all the books they had left. All of my seats were folded flat and the boxes were piled high. They were selling the books for a quarter a piece and didn’t want to go through the books again, this had been then the third sale. They had spoken to the donors and mentioned that I might be able to use them for my store. No one wanted the books back so here I was with a car load of books I had no idea if I could sell. I offered to pay for them but neither cousin would take anything. That was the beginning of September. I’ve gone through every book and have listed some on-line and have already sold enough to write the school a check for $50. Which is half of what I’ve sold so far. They agreed to take half of what they sold for minus my listing fees for the school and thanked me for my time, time which none of them would have spent.
    I was greatful for them increasing my inventory and it felt good to give back to the community in that small way.

  2. Check the website for library sales before going. Some prohibit use of carts. If they prohibit carts, they usually also prohibit strollers, so don’t get any clever ideas there. I find a fold up luggage cart works pretty well since it’s designed to be fairly easy to steer. it’s not as big as some carts, so you’ll have to go load the car at some point, but by then I usually want to take a break and clear my head for five minutes, so that’s fine.

    Many sales will allow you to stack boxed books against the wall or store them near the cashier if you’re a dealer. Just ask nicely. They may also be willing to help you load the car, if you make a polite inquiry.

    • And having just gone and read your assholes at FOL sales piece, I have never seen dealers piling the entire contents of a table against the wall and then sitting there with scanners. Usually if you’re getting a huge pile around here, the staff at event will approach you and suggest somewhere to pile your haul near the cashier, so as to encourage you to continue shopping. It works pretty well.

      It may be a regional difference. I’ve also only seen people using scanning devices a few times. I may be there on a different day or be only hitting sales that ban them, but it’s rare to see someone operating one.

  3. Nice Blog,

    I think in this article there are some important points mentioned about used books. That how can we take advantage of used books. Some time we find some books but we did not get, but these used books can help us for finding books. Some books are written to read but somehow their sells are so low, only few people buy these books and they return to the author, for that I think it’s great idea to sell used books. Thanks for sharing this information with me.

    Thanks Again!

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