I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, or just a down-turn in our collective economies, but I’ve been getting more questions about how and where to sell collectible books, and how to go about figuring out the asking price.
It’s never an easy thing for a book collector to let go of their prized possessions. I’ve, many a time, contemplated which of my books would need to get sold in order to pay the bills during a particularly lean month. (And I’ve had a few as a freelancer.) The good news is, you have something of value that you can sell.
How Do I Figure Out My Book’s Value?
This is always a hard question, mainly because the market is always changing and there’s no simple, uniform answer. The way I go about figuring out the market value of any of my collectible books is by doing some leg work. I visit different online marketplaces (Abebooks, Amazon, eBay) and search for the edition & printing of my book title. I read through the listings and look at the seller images to determine if their book is in similar condition to mine, and (as hard as it may be) I weed out the anomalies. Anomalies are those listings that are asking an outrageous price for a book in poorer condition. It’s easy to think, “well, MY copy is in far better condition than that! I should list mine at a higher price!” (which, of course, you can do. Just be prepared to not sell your book if that is the case.)
In general, I average the high and low costs and adjust my price based on how my book condition compares to those listings. There’s a little gut instinct involved too. If there are a lot of copies similar to mine being offered, I’ll ask less (or opt to sell a different title altogether.) If there are only a few copies and I know mine is in better condition than those already listed, I’ll ask for more. If there are no other copies, then I ask for what I think I can get. An example: right now I’m looking for a first printing of Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. It’s very hard to find. So much so, that books in “good” condition (meaning they have visible wear and have been read so many times that their bindings are all loosie-goosie), when they appear, are listing for $150 at the absolute cheapest. So you just need to be aware of your market.
Where Can I Sell My Books?
Here’s my quick run-down of where to go when you need to sell your books:
- eBay: [free] It’s not the most reputable place to buy collectible books, but it has the potential for the quickest sale at the best price—especially if your listing is detailed & shows pictures of your collectible book. They’ll charge a 10% commission on the final sale, which is lower than other online marketplaces. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to set up a seller’s account.
- Abebooks: [$25 / month] You’ll have to pay for a seller’s account, but it’s a reputable market place. You’re more likely to reach other book collectors and get your asking price. BUT it may take longer to sell your book, depending on the price point and the amount of competition. The higher your asking price, the more I’d lean toward this marketplace. Just keep an eye on the recurring monthly fees, especially if you don’t sell your book right away.
- Amazon: [free] It’s the most highly trafficked site, so you’ll get more eyes on your listing—but collectible listings are harder to search. Most people on Amazon are looking for cheap deals & steals. You’re more likely to sell if your book is the cheapest listing displayed. They charge a 15% commission on book sales (which is fairly standard). How to start selling on Amazon.
- Barnes & Noble: [free] I don’t love their website, but some people are more comfortable shopping B&N over Amazon. I tend to avoid them as a seller, unless there is very little competition for the title I’m listing. They charge a 15% commission on sales and have a cap on the amount you can charge for your book ($2,500). They have a lot of other rules to, so you might want to read through How to start selling on bn.com.
- Your local Independent bookseller: Not every town has an independent bookseller that specializes in collectible books, but they can be a good resource if you do have one. They may also be able to offer you quick cash for your books. Just be prepared to only get 1/2 to 1/3rd of the asking price.
- Craigslist: [free] You’re not going to get the best price here. No where close to it. This is where people go to get deals so good they’re probably counterfeit. It’s also regional, so if you’re not in a metropolitan area, you’re less likely to get much interest in your listing (which will get buried after a couple of days). The benefit? You don’t have to have a credit card or bank info to post a listing.
What Should I Include in My Listing?
The more detailed information you can provide when listing your collectible book online, the better. I suggest taking clear pictures of the front cover, the spine, the back cover, the copyright page, the title page (if signed), and any issue points or condition points related to your copy.
Information to include:
- Full title
- Published date
- If it is signed by the author
- Edition AND printing (give the number line as it appears on the copyright page)
- Any edition points specific to your title (ie: “Page 7 displays an error in line 10, in which the line is broken incorrectly after the word ‘the,’ specific to the first printing.”)
- Price on dust jacket flap (if there is one)
- Note any scratches, bumps, marks, tears, stains, etc. to the text block, the book boards & spine, and the dust jacket (including remainder marks)
- Does the book lean when you stand it upright?
- Does the book come from a non-smoking house? (odors reduce the value)
- Is there a dust jacket?
- Is the dust jacket price clipped?
- Is the jacket covered with protective mylar?
- Pictures of your book
In the end, it is better to be completely forthright about your book’s edition, printing, and condition. You should also be available to answer questions. We’ve all been on the other end of buying books, so we know how it feels when we’ve gotten a good deal or been hoodwinked.