How to organize a book sale

I can still remember the very first book I bought with my own money. It was Stephen King’s Thinner, which I paid for with money from my paper route. Since then — and that was quite a while ago — I’ve continued to acquire books at an alarming rate.

Today, I buy both paper and digital books and enjoy them all. The former can take up a lot of room, though, and I shudder at the thought of throwing a book away unless it’s significantly damaged. As a result, I end up selling or giving away most of the books I’m never going to read again so they don’t clutter up my shelves. (And we’ve talked about giving away books numerous times on the site, so today I just want to focus on selling them in a book sale.)

Like many people, I have a difficult time letting go of books. Some books are like old friends. Have you ever come across a title you read years ago, and find yourself suddenly smiling and reminiscing? I sure have. That sentimental connection has the possibility of making the parting that much harder, but, instead of letting it, I use it as motivation for purging. I recognize that a lthe next person who has the book will experience that same feeling. Knowing I’m sharing that emotional response with someone else makes the parting easier.

Next, sort the books you have that you plan to sell: author, genre, etc. At this stage it can be fun to invite others to participate, like neighbors, family, or friends. A joint book sale or a large donation can be a lot of fun.

Pricing the books is your next activity. There are a few things to keep in mind here, like condition, paperback vs. hardcover, and original price. Grab yourself some pricing stickers, or simply make a sign that covers what you’ve got, like, “Hardcovers $2, paperbacks $1.” Looking on at the used book prices from non-Amazon sellers can also give you a good idea of how much people are willing to pay for specific titles.

Displaying your wares offers more challenges than you might think. People want to get a good look at what you’ve got, so if you stack your books neatly, expect potential customers to root around and mess them up. Lay them out on a table so the cover can be seen and the book easily picked up. Also, think like a book store and put your best options aside with a label like “Our Picks” to draw attention to them.

Will you offer volume discounts? I recently attended a book sale at my local library, where I found several old Star Trek paperbacks for $2 each. I offered to take the lot, which got the price down to a buck a book. If you goal is to offload a large number of books, this could be the way to go.

Finally, have a plan for the leftovers and the money you make. Many libraries will take book donations for their own book sales. Also, you may decide you want to donate the profits from your sale to your local library or another good cause to help you fight the urge to spend your profits on even more books to fill your shelves. Good luck with your book sale or giveaway and remember, you’re giving the next person the opportunity to fall in love with that title, too.

3 Comments for “How to organize a book sale”

  1. posted by Abby on

    My parents gave us books like they were candy. Every birthday, holiday meant a new book.

    When my mother decided to have a yard sale which include getting rid of unwanted books, she priced them as follows: 1 = 15 cents, 2 = 25 cents, 10 = $1. My mother, always encouraging reading.

  2. posted by Michael De Groote on

    A few years ago I had a contest with a fellow book-aholic to see who could get rid of the most books. It was fun and we learned a lot about decluttering principles. I wrote about it here: “Book end: Contest reveals the secrets of demolishing cluttering”

  3. posted by Susan on

    I’ve never sold anything I wanted to get rid of. It just seems easier to call Goodwill or SA for a pick-up or bag it all up and take books to Friends of the Library or Goodwill in person. Plus I probably couldn’t sell fire to a cavewoman!

    That and I have a sloped front yard with 20 steps up, making it probably not worth the effort for most people to have a look at what I was selling. But when I decluttered, I left tons of stuff on the curb for people to take.

    Books are also hard for me to unclutter. I have built-in bookshelves all over my house and I’ve at least organized the books so they’re not all haphazardly thrown in there, and I have gotten rid of a good many of them. I continue to cull probably 8-10 books a week at a pretty leisurely pace.

    Re-organizing my books helped me “re-discover” many books I had forgotten I had, so I’m re-reading many of those!

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