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Sell second hand books

How to sell second hand books

Unless it really is completely falling to pieces, there is no such thing as an unwanted book; for someone, somewhere it will prove to be that elusive title that they have spent years searching for! So, before you consign those books that may have spent years gathering dust on a shelf in the potting shed to the recycling bin, have a go at selling them first. Not only can selling your unwanted books be a bit of fun for you and your nieces and nephews or grandchildren, it may even earn you a few pennies (or a fortune if it happens to be a rare copy of Darwin!)

Selling second-hand books

Having made the decision not to head straight for the local charity shops, the first step is to decide where best to sell your second-hand books. This very much depends on the type of books you have, paperback fiction or more collectible items; a large or small quantity; and how much effort you want to expend. Next, you need to consider where and how to sell, the local car boot sale; online or a professional buyer such as a second-hand bookshop or auction house. Having thought through the above, it is now time to market your books. We have listed below some useful hints to help you maximise your chance of success.

’’Selling used books can become one of the easiest ways to make money online. Marketing second-hand books can be an activity which profit margins far exceed 100% profit on many occasions. So then it is important to know “how to do it” because like everything in life, it has its key. Here are some strategies that can help you get an idea of how to sell a used book, online or even some of these are also effective to sell in person;’’

1. Take good pictures

If you have decided you are going to sell your books online, then remember the old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words. Display your books carefully and take your photographs in good light, using the highest image setting allowable by your chosen sales platform. Make sure that any particular features, such as author’s signatures, are also clearly photographed. Importantly, don’t forget to photograph any defects. Strangely, the latter can help sell your book as any potential buyer can clearly see what the problem is.

2. Be accurate in your description

When listing your book(s), please make sure you are honest and accurate in your description. If you have a damp stained, scruffy old copy of an Early Biggles book that has no dust jacket and you describe it as ‘fine’ then you are only storing up problems for yourself. Invariably, this will be returned, at your expense, and damage your online ranking! If you are unsure how to describe the condition, check out other similar online titles to get an idea of how books are described. Don’t wax lyrical, you are not entering a writing competition. As a minimum, you will want to list: the title; the author; the publisher; the date published and a brief description.

3. Presentation, presentation, presentation

Irrespective of whether you are intending to sell online, take it to a second-hand bookshop or auction house you are going to obtain a better price if your book(s) is clean and well presented. This definitely does NOT mean trying to carry out any repairs which, if not done professional, nearly always lead to a decrease in the book’s value. Carefully rub out any pencil annotations, which tend to be common in textbooks, (always test an area first), remove any sticky notes and straighten any dog-eared pages.

4. Research other vendors and markets

However you intend to sell your book(s) it is essential that you carefully investigate the various markets to ascertain what other vendors are offering, as you will learn a good deal about pricing, shipping rates and methods, product classifications and availability. There is clearly little point in offering your copy of Enid Blyton for £30 if there are sixty other copies of the same title being offered for £5!! When investigating other vendors or bookshops do make sure that you are comparing like with like. There is a world of difference between a 1st edition and a book, yours, that is a thirteenth reprint!

5. Pricing

If you have researched the market carefully, you will have a fairly clear picture in you mind as to the approximate value of your book(s). However, at the end of the day a book is only truly worth what a willing buyer will pay for it. Do not be fooled by online prices, these are speculative at best and do not seldom reflect what the book or books actually sold for. Wherever possible try and check actual sale prices not offer prices. If taking your book to a second-hand bookshop or, in particular, an auction house, do not be afraid to discuss with the buyer the pricing if you consider the value being offered or suggested is on the low side.

Good luck.


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  • Josephine Chamberlain
    August 27, 2020

    I have a READERS DIGEST book(Complete Guide to Sewing) brand new plus 10 volumes of SINGERS GUIDE to HOME SEWING and 4 complete ringbinder volumes on sewing all brand new. plus another large book on sewing again new.

    the first b on my email should be lower key cant get rid of these first capitals

    September 9, 2020

    I have a large (relevant to me) collection of history books, softback and hardback covering Roman, mainly medieval to Victorian books. Covering Scottish, English and Irish history. Authors include Roy Strong, Dan Cruikshank, Giouard, Starkey plus many others.
    I could supply a list if it helps. is this something you would consider buying?


    • Sandy Robertson
      November 14, 2020

      The only thing I’d say is “paperback fiction or more collectable items” gives the impression that the former are not valuable. While copies of the latest Dan Brown are worth next to nothing, items such as horror and fantasy paperbacks from the 60s and 70s, especially if they have attractive cover art and are in fine condition can fetch quite high prices. I managed to assemble a complete set of Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult from the 1970s (over 40 titles) and some of the titles are scarce and increasing in value.

  • Stephen Murphy
    September 21, 2020


    Nice article, thanks for sharing. I have an excellent collection of cookery books which I am considering selling. All the usual suspects are there (Jamie, Nigella, Gordon and so on) but there are lots of individual, interesting volumes, making up a total collection of 700-800 books, all in excellent condition.

    Would you be interested in such a collection or do you know where I could sell them?

    Many thanks,

    Ps. I’m only looking at options at the moment as I’m still considering if I can part with my beloved collection.

  • Cheryl Hill
    September 21, 2020

    I have 31 volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica 1983 for sale.There are 19 Macropaedia,10Micropaedia,1Propaedia,1984 book of year events1983.Please could you tell me if you are interested in buying this set and its value.Thank you.Cheryl Hill

  • Allan Green
    September 23, 2020

    I have a complete set of Patrick O’Brians paperbacks of the Jack Aubrey series that I would like to sell. Can you help or advise please.

  • Christopher Starr
    October 3, 2020

    Hello, I’ve been given a copy of Janes Fighting Ships 2019/2020 yearbook it’s unopened and still wrapped i know roughly what’s it’s worth but clueless where to sell it. Any help or an offer would be appreciated. Chris

  • Naomi Faulkner
    October 4, 2020

    Hi. I am moving house and have a large number of books (mostly hardback) that I can’t take with me. The books range in subject: cooking, fact based, puzzle books (tsunami/hanji, enigma, soduko, puzzler), gardening, dictionary sets. There are also sets of ‘mysteries of the unknown’, weather, space. There are a lot. I do not drive and am unable to get them to a post office for posting (disabled) so they would need collecting. Is this something you would be interested in. Most are in excellent condition. Thank you for your consideration.

  • Cory
    October 5, 2020

    I have a large variety of Law textbooks from the last few years, all university level. Some have minimal highlighting in. Is this something you would be interested in buying? Thanks

  • lee thurstans
    October 12, 2020

    Hi there.
    We’ve recently lost our father,and he had a love of books to put it mildly.
    He has left us with a huge collection of all types from cricket to local cornish history,classics,music,history etc.
    Sad to say a large quantity of them need to be moved on but,he had a rather bad habit of signing them and putting in
    an address sticker,even to the point he went back to his old collection and signed them too!
    Could you please give some advise on this problem?

  • lee thurstans
    October 12, 2020

    my name is lee (see above post) regarding my father.

  • Sue
    October 18, 2020

    I have a collection of photography and graphic design/street art books. Mainly hardback.
    Can list if required.

  • Venetia Lynch
    October 20, 2020

    I have the complete centenary edition (1900) of the Waverley novels green leather binding on the spines . They are in good condition but dusty


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