An Amazon FBA Roadmap to Success: The 100 book weekly challenge

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A quick backstory:  About nine months ago I made the decision to start approaching my book hobby as a real, legitimate business.  I had dabbled in selling books on and off for nearly a decade, but a friend of mine finally encouraged me to take the FBA plunge (I’ll explain more of those reasons in a future post).  My initial goal was to make enough money selling used books to pay my monthly mortgage.  This seemed like a rather daunting task, so to make it more manageable I broke it down into a simple goal:  to source, list, and ship 100 books each week to Amazon’s warehouses.  I had a full-time marketing job where I traveled roughly 30% of the time, so I had to carve out time in the evenings and on the weekends to accomplish this goal.  My initial experience with books indicated that it would take some time to build a sizable business, since books are more long-tail in nature.  For example, if I listed 100 books in the first week, I may only sell 2 or 3 of them by the next week.  As I built up a larger inventory of books over time, the sales would steadily increase to the point where I could be making some decent income.  It’s an incremental, cumulative business model that rewards you for persevering. Before starting out, I created a simple spreadsheet to help me estimate what my sales might look like a few months down the road.  Here were those initial assumptions:

  • 100 books listed each week
  • 2.5% inventory turnover per week
  • $1.00 average cost per book
  • $20.00 average selling price per book
  • $0.50 per pound in shipping expenses to ship to FBA warehouses
  • 60% of my sales dollars would be profit after factoring in all of Amazon’s fees

Based on those assumptions, this is what my initial sales estimates looked like:

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.53.56 PM

(note: every third month above contains 5 weeks, which is why there are sales spikes in months 3, 6, 9, and 12)

The first month projected a loss of $300, which was due to slow initial sales coupled with inventory and shipping costs.  Month two projected a modest profit, and then the sales really started to accelerate!  By month six, I estimated that I would net nearly $2,000 in profits – in a single month!  By the end of the first year, the total profits could potentially exceed $20,000.  This was definitely some life-changing revenue, especially for a part-time venture.  With these goals in mind, I set out on my FBA journey.

The 100 book weekly challenge:  Based on the above figures, I challenge you to source and list 100 books a week for the next year.  If you can set aside a few hours a week and a few hundred dollars of initial capital, you will be well on your way to some significant supplemental income.  (Disclaimer:  The above figures are NOT intended to be a guarantee of your financial success.  Individual results will vary.  My results so far have been even better than estimated above, and I hope yours are as well!)

Tortoise or the hare?  You won’t get rich quickly selling books on Amazon, but you CAN build a sizable income stream with just a few months of calculated work.  You won’t be able to quit your day job next week, but if you stick to a solid plan you could bring in a solid part-time (or even full-time) income within half a year.  This blog is designed to help kickstart your path to financial freedom with a step-by-step guide to help you scale your Amazon FBA book business.  Whether you are just starting out or already have a sizable FBA book business, it is my hope that this blog will make your business even more profitable.  I am by no means an expert book seller, but I look forward to sharing my experiences with this community.  I know that I will learn even more through interacting with each of you!

Future blog topics:  Here is an outline of what I plan to discuss over the coming weeks and months.  If the topic appears in blue, click the link to jump to that specific blog post.

  • Why sell books?  Why use FBA?
  • What tools do I need to get started?
    • Scouting apps and scanners
    • Listing software
    • Office supplies
  • How to interpret sales rank
  • Which categories of books have value
  • Where to source books (Part 1)
  • Pricing strategies
  • Repricing strategies
  • Dealing with customer feedback
  • Hiring others
  • Online sourcing
  • Sourcing while traveling

If you have any topics you’d like to add to the above list, comment below and let me know!

If you would like to receive email updates, please enter your email address in the toolbar on the top of the page.

Happy Flipping!

60 Comments

  1. This sounds wonderful! I’m a stay at home mom and i love books…and i have a book buying problem so this might help with getting some pocket change and keeping my stock low. I think i’m curious about where you found your books to sell as well.

    • Awesome! Whether you are looking to replace an income or just make a little spending cash, I’m confident you will learn lots along the way. Welcome aboard! I will share about where I find books soon.

  2. Thanks for taking the initiative to start the blog! Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures in the 21st century book selling business! 🙂

  3. Your original plan included an average sourcing cost of $1.00 per book. Is your actual average higher these days?

    • Good question – my average sourcing cost is $1.16 and my average sales price is $22.56. Not too far off of my original “guesstimates”!

      • are these prices doing online FBA arbitrage or scouting offline sources?
        What would these averages be utilizing eFlip and FBA arbitrage?

  4. I just found your site. Thanks for the inspiration. I would like to see some photos or videos on how to properly pack books for shipping. That has always been my reservation about this business. Thanks!

    • Welcome to The Book Flipper Community! I will definitely include some photos and/or video when I get to the listing/processing posts. For now, you can find a few helpful videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHKsSaFb7Qw. A few tips – use a smaller box (16 x 12 x 12 is a great size) and fill it like a brick… basically, try to fill as much of the box as possible with books so you don’t have to use many other packing supplies. Think of it as your own real-life version of tetris! If you can, put larger, hardcover books on the bottom and edges of the box as it will protect other books. If your books are used (nearly all of mine are), don’t stress too much about keeping them in pristine condition. They are going to get rattled around a bit during shipping, and once they hit Amazon’s warehouse they will definitely get knocked around and dinged up as they are unpacked, stored on shelves, rearranged, and eventually picked and packed and shipped to your customers.

  5. Hi I recently started increasing my fba inventory. When you price your books, is it always based on what others are selling theirs for? And if there are no other fba sellers, do you have a minimum that you will price your books?

    • Hello! Ah yes, the art and science of pricing… this WILL be the topic of a future blog post (or likely a series of posts). Pricing is extremely important – price too high and your item won’t sell, price too low and it’ll sell too quickly and you won’t extract the maximum amount of profit from your item. As a general rule, I price based on other FBA sellers. If there are some outlier prices (i.e. $8, then it jumps up to $19 and $20), I’ll ignore the low-ball prices and price closer to the “resistance” pricing of other FBA sellers. When there are no FBA sellers, I base it off lowest used price, lowest new price, and Amazon’s price. Amazon’s price is the ceiling, and I usually price close to the lowest new price if that seems reasonable. For a penny book with a strong sales rank, I will price around $14.95 or $19.95 if I’m the only Prime seller.

      Stay tuned – more pricing info to come!

  6. Thanks SO much for the advice to search for free books on Craigslist! WOW! I immediately checked and found a nearby university was giving away history books (about 300 of them!) I scooted on up there and came home with four boxes full of books, that sell from anywhere from $8 to $250! (my scanner went crazy when I scanned that one!). What a haul!
    Awesome advice, thanks!!!

    • Congrats, and nice work on the haul! I’d be more than willing to take a small commission from your sales (kidding!). Keep up the great work! Did you scan the books on the spot or just take everything home?

  7. Very inspiring! I have sold a few books on Amazon and a couple on Ebay. Your numbers make sense to me except for the $20 average selling price. My question is, how many books to you think you scan on average to find a book that will sell for that price? I ask because my experience is about 1 in 30 to 40 books to find a book that sells for more than $15.

    • You’re looking at a ~3% scan rate to find a book worth more than $15. I’ve found that my scan rate is closer to 8-10% for books that hit my desired price points. Are you looking at Merchant Fulfilled prices or FBA prices? That fact alone will make a huge difference in your success rate. Some sources are already picked over or just have a poor book selection and I can scan 1,000 books and only find 10 winners. Other sources are much better and I may scan 1,000 books and pull 150. It depends on the day! The more you scan, the better you will get at detecting winners even before you scan them.

      • Thanks, Caleb. I am looking forward to your blog post on pricing. I am sure that is the piece I am still missing.

        • Coming soon to a blog near you! That’s a tough nut to crack – I’m not an expert there but I’m happy to put together some guidelines to share what I do know. Hopefully a video as well since it’ll be easier to explain my thought process.

      • Hi Caleb, when you say “you’re looking at a 3% scan rate to find a book worth more than $15” , do you mean that approximately 3 out of 100 books you scan will be listed at or above $15?

        • Yes. With the caveat that the lowest MF and FBA prices may be lower than that, but I will plan to list around $15. My average selling price is a bit over $22 for the past year, and I sell a lot of $8-12 books which add up. There are also some $50, $100, and $300 books in there that sell occasionally and bring up the ASP.

  8. all the time i used to read smaller articles that as well clear their motive, and
    that is also happening with this article which I am reading
    at this time.

  9. I love the data on your blog, like the scan rate. It is really encouraging to know what other people are experiencing. Do you mind if I ask if you accomplished your projected goal by the end of the year?

    • Hey Courtney – data is a wonderful thing!  If you can measure something, you can then manage it 🙂  I was able to accomplish my goals and then some by the end of 2015.  I’m very blessed to be flipping books full time now with my wife at my side!

  10. Caleb,
    You said your average buy price was $1 and sell price $20. With your e-flips what are your averages?
    Thanks!

    • In the first week, I purchased over 700 books, and my average buy cost was $8.01 and the average list price was $44.88.  I repriced aggressively to move them quickly, and my average sale price on that first batch was $34.93.

  11. Awesome! Thank you!

  12. Hi caleb,

    I’ve been doing this plan for about 4 months now. I am entering 5 months in march. The only month that I passed the sales prediction was month 3. Do you have any advice on what I should be doing to get more sales? Like, how often should I reprice or anything else? I look forward to your reply. Also, I absolutely love your blog and your stories. It always make me feel so motivated.

    • Hey Sophia – congrats on sticking with your book business for 5 months already! The hardest part is getting started. If your items aren’t selling as quickly as you’d like, I would recommend two things – try to find better books (higher prices or better sales ranks), and examine your pricing philosophy. Perhaps you’re pricing too high. The other challenge is that February is the slowest month for book sales on Amazon, so stick with it, make some tweaks along the way, and see what happens!

  13. Just signed up for the newsletter. What do you do when you find a book that someone has written their name inside the front cover? I find a lot of books that are in great condition only to find writing in them, usually in pen. Do you think placing a plain white sticker over them would be better than leaving it as is?

    Thank you.

  14. Hi Caleb,

    I’m BRAND new at this. I sold six of my grad school textbooks on Amazon this week and now I’m addicted.

    I also posted about 45 books I’ve had on my shelves for the past few years and NONE of them have sold even though I priced them competitively.

    I don’t understand what kind of books you can sell on Amazon for $20 used besides textbooks which I have no idea how to find now that I’ve posted all of mine.

    What am I missing here?

  15. I am confused about your 5 book a day plan which I plan to follow. Your spreadsheet is based upon a buy price per book of $1.00 and a sell price of $20.00.
    How do you average paying only $1 when the .$99 books have a $3.99 shipping cost added to them? What am I missing?

  16. I’m very new to this book selling but am adamant to make it work been selling through FBA for about 3 months, haven’t turned any big profits but that’s ok I will continue. Question I really have a hard time with the listing page on Amazon its self, on the inventory page once my book has sold what should I do with it? Archive it, Delete it? I have all these books on there and every time I add new books for the next shipment I have to go through and figure out what are my new ones, there has to be an easier way that I’m missing. Please any help and suggestions would be welcome.

    • Traci, welcome to the bookselling world! As you scale your business, you may want to look into using a listing software that can help you figure out if you already have the book in your inventory. InventoryLab has this option, but is $49 per month. AccelerList is $19.99 per month, and I believe they are working on this feature as well. As far as cleaning up old inventory after it sells, I don’t know if that’s even necessary. Best wishes on growing your business!

  17. I have been selling on Amazon for 1 month and have made $50. I sold on MF for a while until I sent to FBA, been making 10 sales a day with just books from around the the house. The FBA cost well worth not having to do all the work. Passive income. Can really see the potential of having a larger 1000+ inventory on FBA. Shipment #2 on the way.

  18. Hi, I am brand new to book flipping and I bought and used the scanner app today. Every book except one was rejected (and I looked at hundreds of books today). That makes me think that finding books to sell online is like finding a needle in a haystack. It has me concerned. I thought that if I found enough decent well-liked books and I followed all of the FBA steps regularly, this could be a profitable side business. But if every book that is scanned comes up as “reject,” maybe it won’t work out. Am I not understanding my scanner. Should I buy and resell some of those rejected books anyway? Thanks, Trish

    • Hey Trish – it sounds like you’re using FBAScan? If so, the Accept vs. Reject banner is set up within the app, and it’s not reliable as it only “sees” MF offers, not FBA offers. You can either change those settings on the back-end of the app, or you can just ignore them and analyze the books on your own.

  19. Just checking your site. This is my 3rd month in the book business (My fist month was mostly goodwill etc. stuff), I’m happy with my results. I hope these results helps somebody to understand the market:

    1. Month (July) SALES : $2.508
    *AMAZON FEES: : $1.0342
    Profit: $1.166

    2. Month SALES (August-Textbook Season): $7.083
    *AMAZON FEES: $3.042
    Profit: $4.041

    What is AMAZON FEES:
    FBA Inbound Shipping Cost (shipping to amazon warehouse)
    MFN Shipping Label Cost(if you sell mfn)
    Pick & Pack Fees
    Weight Based Fees
    Order Handling Fees
    Amazon Commission
    Selling Fee Refunds
    Refund Administration Fee
    FBA transaction fee refunds
    Variable Closing Fees
    Subscription Fees(for amazon $39.90)
    Inventory Placement Service Fees
    Removal Order Fees.

    Of course I have scanning&listing apps costs around $100/month.
    Working home office.

    I have around 500 books on fba inventory, and here after putting 100 books weekly, and I’ve sold 233 books/items in 2 months. Avarege item sold price: $41

    …Adam…

  20. I have just started on FBA. Only sold one book this month but have only sent in a small amount of books. What has me so concerned is that there seems to be a certain seller, and we probably all know who it is, that is at the top of almost every book search and the price is usually around 4.30. My question is how do they sell so cheap in FBA? I found out they are one of the top book sellers on fba. Are all fba fees the same? With all the fees they are losing money. How can I ever sell a book with this kind of competition? Help??? I am so excited about this business but am I missing something???

    • Jenson Books, eh? Yes, all FBA fees are the same as far as storage, outbound shipping, Amazon’s commissions, etc. But, larger sellers can send books to Amazon on pallets and pay 2-5 cents per pound, instead of 20-40 cents per pound. That’s what helps them cut down inbound shipping, but other than that their costs are the same as yours. They are running bulk operations and making small amounts of money per book but attempting to make it up in volume. Part of their strategy could be to drive out other sellers by scaring them with low prices. That’s not a sustainable model for them, but it could be a piece of the puzzle. Or, if you’re not into conspiracy theories, perhaps their repricing algorithms aren’t all that smart!

  21. Hi, I live in Europe and I would like to try reselling books and using your software. But since I live out of the country, can you recommend some warehouse or company that can manage my orders and send them back to my Amazon shop?

  22. Hi Caleb,
    Love the blog! Just curious as to what you would consider a good sales rank when sourcing for fba books. I know there are quite a few variables, but in general what do you suggest? Also, do you print your own labels or reccomend letting Amazon label each book. Thanks for all the great info.

    • Rank is just a snapshot in time. Average rank – or looking at a Keepa chart – would be more helpful in seeing the sales history of a book. Most people say avoid books with a rank higher than 1 million, but roughly half of my books are ranked higher than 1 million. You’ll have to develop an eye for reading the charts or recognizing books that are niche and still relevant, but medium- to long-tail books can be extremely profitable if you manage them properly.

  23. Hi, am I reading this right that you began by putting $800 up front for your first 100 books?

    Because of the $500 sales left you $300 in the hole still..

    Curious how much up front it would cost to start this challenge.

    Thanks

    • Edit…for the first 400-500 books (realized that was first month numbers, not first week)…

      • It was about a buck a book for 400 books… so $400 cash outlay, plus inbound shipping at around 25 cents a pound, minus Amazon’s fees when books sold. Those figures were looking at guesstimates for cashflow.

  24. Love this page. Getting me inspired to start. Just got a scanner. thank you. Hope you continue to contribute to this page and subject.

  25. Hi Caleb. I live in Africa and run my business in between South Africa and Nigeria. Over time I have been able to collect over 5,000 unique books ranging from: History, Business & Finance, Novels, Literature Classics, Health Books, Christian Books, Motivationals etc. I just read your blog and would like to know what to do to resell most of my collections. Also advice me on a company that can manage my orders and logistics towards delivery to my Amazon shop

    • Hey Chigozie – that sounds like quite the collection! Hopefully you still have room in your home for other important things? Haha. If you want to resell your books, you should research local options in Africa, similar to Amazon or eBay or Craigslist. Good luck!

  26. Great Post!. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Hi Caleb! I’m anxious to get started in my FBA biz and don’t have a lot of cash to get started with so definitely interested in the book route. Came across your page (super helpful and inspiring!) and am curious what you recommend as far as starting supplies. I ordered a label printer and Scotty peelers, I have a scale. What are your thoughts on scanners? Am I ok just using the Amazon seller app or would you say it’s worth it to use ScanPower or another monthly service? Thanks!

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