A subsidiary of Amazon, AbeBooks operates as an international broker for book, fine art and collectible sellers. But because of its niche inventory, sales won’t move as quickly as with other e-commerce sites.
AbeBooks focuses primarily on niche categories, including a wide assortment of genres and mediums. AbeBooks sellers can list:
Art, print and posters
Magazines and periodicals
Manuscripts and paper collectibles
If you’re not sure which category your item would fall, contact customer service to find out if you can list it.
How much does it cost to use AbeBooks?
AbeBooks charges a monthly subscription fee based on the number of books you have listed, starting at $25 a month.
Number of listed items
Subscription fee rate per month
You’ll also pay an additional 8% commission fee on all sales, anywhere from $0.50 to $40 an item.
Sellers are responsible for shipping costs, and the credit card fees depend on where the buyer is located. Buyers in the US and UK paying with credit cards cost you 5.5% for the first $500, and 3.5% for any amount over. All other buyers cost you a flat 3.5% fee for using a credit card.
Hot tip: Arrange for noncredit card payments to avoid extra fees.
Let’s crunch the numbers
Roberta is a US-based seller and sells a hardcover copy of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll for $600, including shipping, to a buyer in Germany. The buyer opts to pay with a credit card.
Here are the fees Roberta pays for this sale:
AbeBooks commission fee
Credit card fee
Through the Looking Glass $600
$48 at 8%
5.5% for first $500=$27.50 3.5% for $100=$3.50
In total, Roberta pays $79 of her $600 sale, roughly 13.2% — that’s $48 to commission and $31 ($27.50 + $3.50) to credit card fees. Her profit is $521.
Is selling on AbeBooks worth it?
Sellers with large, niche inventories that want to reach a global market could profit from using AbeBooks. However, look to other marketplaces if you’re looking to sell a few used textbooks, as your profits could be eaten up by fees.
International sales. Everything listed on AbeBooks is automatically added to six international markets.
Cross-channel purchasing. Pairing books with art, ephemera, maps and comics can lead to more sales on otherwise hard to move items.
Free inventory management software. AbeBooks makes it easy to upload your catalog and manage inventory with their free software HomeBase.
Item customization. List books the way you want, including with extensive descriptions, photos or a simple ISBN.
Not for small sales. Price breaks for memberships and credit card fees for larger inventories and sales.
Fees. Expect fees for monthly membership, commission, credit card payment and shipping.
Niche seller. Though Amazon owns AbeBooks, but there is little to no cross-platform promotion.
How to start selling on AbeBooks
Signing up to be a seller on AbeBooks is free, but you’ll have to pay the subscription fee before your first sale.
Visit the AbeBooks Seller page and click Create Account after entering your email, password and agreeing to the customer agreement.2. Pick a preferred language, choose a marketplace profile name and enter your bookselling address.
Describe your bookselling business, decide how you’ll submit your inventory to AbeBooks and declare account information. Click Save and Continue when done.
Complete your terms and disclaimers as you see fit for each website that AbeBooks runs.
Declare your country of residence and fill out tax information accordingly. To sell in Germany or Canada you’ll need to fill out additional forms.
Fill out bank information.
Fill out credit card information to pay fees, input your US tax information and sign the remainder of agreements. AbeBooks contacts you to discuss your account and answer questions before you begin selling.
How to price your items
AbeBooks imposes no pricing restrictions, so it’s entirely up to you how to determine the item’s value.
When pricing books, keep these tips in mind:
Condition. A beaten-up old book is worth less than a well-kept book.
Edition. First edition and signed versions are almost always worth more.
Scarcity. If you’re the only one listing an item, list it high. You can always bring it down over time.
Modern hardcovers love dust jackets. Selling pre-20th century books without a dust jacket is fine, but modern hardcover prices sell better with a dust jacket.
Use available tools. AbeBooks has useful guides and glossaries to determine a book’s condition, size and worth.
Consider your overhead, monthly subscription fees and commission rates when pricing your items. Listing more books on Abebooks within your specific allotted monthly subscription lowers the fee per book.
Compare e-commerce platforms
If you want to be able to sell on more than just AbeBooks, an e-commerce platform can help you build your own store and sell through multiple channels.
AbeBooks sellers can decide to accept the following forms of payment:
Visa, Mastercard, American Express
AbeBooks pays sellers weekly by electronic funds transfer (EFT) for most countries. Your subscription fee is offset against the first Friday payment of every month.
How to get paid by international buyers
Since sellers decide how to accept payment they can determine how to get paid by international buyers. AbeBooks handles all credit card purchases and pays sellers weekly, and the fees charged by AbeBooks for credit cards covers international processing as well. But you can also accept payments through PayPal or an international money transfer company.
How to organize shipping
You typically have 48 hours to ship items you sold through AbeBooks. Set shipping options for buyers, including speed and price.
Determine clear shipping terms, especially to international customers, when you create your account, emphasizing:
Shipping speeds. Determine the average speed to ship books worldwide.
Shipping costs. Pay special attention to addons like tracking and insurance for shipping to another country.
Packaging costs. Use insurance when shipping rare and delicate books. Note this in your shipping terms so the buyer can expect the extra cost.
You can use drop shipping or warehouse services when you sell through AbeBooks. But AbeBooks doesn’t cover any damage or mishaps that could occur.
How can I market my AbeBooks products?
AbeBooks offers suggestions on ways to market your products on social media and Google ads, including:
Review your inventory. Specializing your inventory to offer unique products can give you a leg up on competition within your niche.
Better descriptions. Give customers as much information as possible in your listing, including details like ISBN, publication date and binding information.
Add high-quality images. Use custom images that show the quality of the binding, cover and dust jacket. Avoid using stock photos.
Free shipping. AbeBooks promotes booksellers who offer free shipping through email campaigns, special pages and highlighting them in searches.
Offer a sale. AbeBooks runs special sales pages that highlight sellers holding a sale of at least 10% off.
What to watch out for with AbeBooks
Before listing your items with AbeBooks, consider the fees, taxes and duties that can pile up with international sales. Other things to look out for include:
International tax responsibility. Countries like Germany, have special tax rules that could impact your sales on AbeBooks. Carefully read about any tax implications listed during the seller signup process.
Pressure to offer free shipping. Sellers that offer free shipping are more visible on the AbeBooks site. Those that don’t risk being listed as a lower priority.
Seasonal selling climate. Sellers that succeed pay attention to market trends like college dates, holiday interests and media events promoting specific books.
Frequently asked questions
AbeBooks offers multiple free software services for inventory management. Additionally, they offer complete technical support for registered sellers.
Have the following information ready when creating an account:
Contact information (including the name of the business, phone number, address and email)
Credit card information for subscription fees
Bank information to receive payments
Tax information (EIN, SSN, VAT or GST)
AbeBooks partners with TextbookRush.com to offer a buyback service for new books, used books and textbooks. All you need is the ISBN to find out how much they are worth.
Yes. Selling items in a collection can help boost the sales of otherwise difficult to move products. Perform a search for the items you plan to bundle together to see how popular they are on their own before combining them into a collection.
Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder. He’s ghostwritten hundreds of articles on fintech, finding his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Traveling internationally for nearly half his life — and getting burned once by an OTC money exchange — Zak's vowed not to settle for anything short of the mid-market rate again.
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