Why Do People Try To Sell Books On Amazon At Crazy Prices?

Selling Used Books On Amazon

Have you checked your Mass Market book price on Amazon?

If you haven’t, perhaps you should, because you might be in for a surprise. There are some crazy book prices on Amazon. Especially for Amazon used books.

Selling used books on Amazon is not new. It works in a similar fashion to your local secondhand bookstore or thrift stores. Except, in this case, people who have used books to sell look for book buyers on Amazon. It’s a form of retail arbitrage.

First, they need to open an Amazon account and then a seller account to be able to sell books on Amazon. Then, choose between the two ways that used books can be sold on Amazon through Seller Central.

1. Amazon FBA ( fulfilled by Amazon FBA ) means that the books are shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center before the customer orders them. When the customer places an order, Amazon packs the book and ships it.

2. Amazon FBM ( fulfilled by the merchant FBM) means that when a customer orders a book, the Amazon seller packs and ships the book and pays the shipping costs.

It all sounds quite reasonable and fair. Choose a shipping method, get a listing on Amazon and then start selling books. But, of course, the authors and publishers are not entitled to any royalties because the books are secondhand.

To get an idea of how people make money from used books, this article by The Work At Home Wife explains how Amazon fulfilment works.


For an out of print book, all is fine and fair

One of my very early books, which I withdrew from sale and later completely re-wrote, edited and re-published under a new title is still available on Amazon as a used book. As you can see, it is not listed or available in any other form because it is out of print.

Used Book For Sale

As far as the sales price is concerned, it is quite reasonable and legitimate in the first listing. But then the next two are a little ridiculous. I doubt that I would call mine a rare book worthy of paying the higher price of over $40.00.

But it is reassuring to note that the condition of the book is good.

Well, except perhaps for those readers who are devilishly inquisitive and want to read a book that was full of errors and bad writing. Yes, I made some awful mistakes when I first started self-publishing.

Used Book For Sale 2

This is how selling used books works on Amazon, and apart from the two inflated prices, there is no reason for concern. For some readers, finding books that are out of print and at a reduced price is a good deal.

For new authors, however, it is a reminder that if you self-publish in paperback or hardcover, your book can never be totally removed from sale as is the case with ebooks. Anyone who has copies of your out of print book is legally able to sell copies of your books on Amazon.


Related reading: Counterfeit Books on Amazon


But things can get really weird on your Amazon book sales page

However, the fly in the ointment comes when used books are listed for sale on Amazon on the very same sales page as the current book being sold by a self-publisher, small press or publisher.

If you are new to self-publishing and selling books online, there are sometimes some nasty surprises in store.

Ebook piracy, illegal pdf copying, fake and nasty book reviews as well as all manner of scams can and do affect electronically published books and ebooks.

Used book selling on Amazon, which is sometimes called flipping books started becoming popular with selling used textbooks. For some, it is a full time and legitimate business. However, there are some scammers that can be seen at work on any type of book.

One of my titles has a Mass Market Paperback listing on its page on Amazon. As you can see in the image below, the price is, to say the least, surprising.

If you can’t read the image, my paperback price is $13.95. The Mass Market seller has set the price at $2,796.00!

Crazy book price

There is no way this price is a legitimate offer, but I clicked and checked the details of the offer, and here is what it shows.

Crazy book price 2

Well, it reassuring to know that the used copy of my book is in good condition. But at this absolutely ridiculous price, you would think that this scammer could at least offer free shipping.

So why would anyone create a listing for this used book at such an insane price?

The only logic I can see is that this Amazon reseller is preying on someone inattentively or accidentally clicking on the buy with one click button. I suppose accidents do happen.

I presume this seller is using Amazon FBM, so if someone stupidly buys the book at this price, the seller quickly buys a new copy of my book for $13.95 and then ships it to the buyer.

For the inattentive buyer, the first step would be to contact customer service about how to get a refund.

But when you take a look at the refund policy of the individual seller, you can see how the money is made.

Please refer to the Amazon.com Return Policy or contact G******Books to get information about any additional policies that may apply.

To initiate a return, visit Amazon’s Online Return Center to request a return authorization from the seller.

Request authorization from the seller? Now I think I know exactly what the answer would be. It could take a long while for a buyer’s credit card transaction to be reversed, if ever.


What can you do about used or mass market copies of your books on Amazon?

The answer is simple. There is nothing at all that you can do about it.

The business of selling used or secondhand books has been in existence ever since books were first printed.

When a used book or even an antique book is sold, there are no rights or royalties payable or due to authors and publishers. This has been accepted practice for almost ever and for as long as local secondhand bookstores have been part of the literary landscape.

Royalties are only payable on the sale of a new copy of a book, and in this respect, Amazon, like any other retailer abides by the law.

Simply because Amazon has replicated the secondhand bookstore model on its site with used books online, does not mean Amazon is scamming or ripping off authors.

However, whenever and wherever there is money to be made to top up a bank account or even Amazon gift cards, it will attract unscrupulous people.

The only hope is that Amazon takes a firm line with its sellers who are unfairly profiteering, but it is a fine legal line. Selling a used book at any price is not illegal.

If you are a small press or self-published author, all you can do is worry about what you can control.

Make sure your book is as perfect as it can be, attractive to book buyers and priced competitively. Then promote your book as widely as you possibly can to maximise on your book sales potential.

There will always be sharks, scammers, crooks and schemers on Amazon and the Internet, but spending your time worrying about them is a waste of time.

Am I worried about my book being offered at $2,796.00? No. But I did waste five minutes of my time laughing about it.


Further reading: What Are The Best Ways To Sell My Books Online?


Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

18 thoughts on “Why Do People Try To Sell Books On Amazon At Crazy Prices?

  • October 6, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    I don’t fully understand the economics of the scam, but I know it’s a scam of some sort. And Amazon allows it to flourish. The author is powerless to do anything about it. An old edition of one of my books showed up as “used” by three sellers who appear to all be the same guy. I sent him an email explaining his selling of an older version of my books was confusing my customers and asked him to please remove it for sale. Instead he raised the price. As I said – I don’t fully understand the economics of the scam, but I know it’s a scam.

  • August 30, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I suspect the seller is using an algorithm to determine the pricing. If the algorithm decides the book is rare, or very rare, it will increase the price accordingly. It cannot (and no offense intended here) distinguish between ‘rare’ and ‘sought after’. This happens very often – including to me with self-produced cds. They frequently list for over £100 when they can still be bought for £5 on my website. Of course they never sell…

  • June 4, 2018 at 5:34 am

    For the person who commented and said you were screaming (which you weren’t) and that it is no big deal to sell used books this way, I disagree. It is really discouraging to offer a book for a low price because you don’t believe in gouging people and then see that someone left you a 1 star rating because they felt unhappy with paying 80$ (for something I offer for 8 dollars) and wants a refund….asking in their rating if you will give it to them. So, I wish there was a way to block people from being able to list your book as “used” and to ask for more than the new listing price. As for why people buy from those sources, I think sometimes it has to do with whether the book can be shipped from amazon to other countries. So, people who can’t get the book through the normal amazon channels start looking at the use or more expensive sources??? Not sure though.

  • May 18, 2018 at 3:43 am

    When the out-of-print first edition of my book appeared on my Amazon Author Page for $3,000+, I called Amazon and spoke with Author Services. They removed the book from my Author Page and gave it a separate listing. This made it harder to find and made me feel a whole lot better :)

  • May 16, 2018 at 12:31 am

    Stuff happens! Anyone who would buy a book at those prices, unless it’s a rare antique, deserve all they get.
    What did concern me was when I saw a copy of one of my books on sale at an inflated price when I hadn’t yet sold a copy.

  • May 15, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Happened to me and still happening. I laugh.

  • May 15, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    I desperately needed an item one time and settled to buy the overpriced listing on eBay, but the seller contacted me and said the item was out of stock and they were sorry. I asked why it was listed and why I was able to purchase it, and they replied that they just put an exorbitant price tag on it when they are out of stock until they restocked because it’s easier than relisting the item. Perhaps that’s the case with your book in that particular seller. Regardless, though, it’s capitalism at work… Buy it cheap; sell it for more.

  • May 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    I had this happen to my paperback book. In fact, the used book was listed prior to my book listed through CreateSpace. I was assured by Amazon the ad was a legitimate seller and further assured for this seller they had to purchase it through Amazon first and I would get my royalties. The ad a few days later was linked to my product page appearing that the buyer had the option to purchase from more than one site. In addition, this listing was a price almost double for my selling price. Weird, thank goodness two weeks later, it was taken down.

    • May 15, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Chuck. But Amazon’s assurance of ‘legitimate seller’ is not easy to define. Legitimate scammer, perhaps? Glad to hear that your problem disappeared quickly though.

  • April 15, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Christine. I wouldn’t say I was screaming. But I thought it was worth alerting new authors to what goes on with their books on Amazon. As I showed in my two examples, there are reasonable resellers, and clearly, some scammers. My only hope is that Amazon takes action against these scammers as they have done with paid and fake reviews. Not an easy job, but Amazon does have the tools when it deems fit, to use them.

  • April 15, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    I fail to see what all the screaming is about.

    Second-hand shops are a fact of life, and I routinely stretch my book-buying budget at used-book shops, and by borrowing at my public library. I do buy new books when I can afford them.

    If a second-hand bookseller on Amazon is listing a “used” copy of my book (at no matter what discounted or inflated price), although the bookseller doesn’t own one, when the second-hand bookseller gets an order which is going to be fulfilled-by-merchant, the bookseller must buy a copy in order to fulfill the order. That means I will get a sale (reported by Amazon), and receive a royalty for it, which will be paid according to the agreement that exists between my print-on-demand provider, Amazon, and myself. Of course, I would not get a royalty based on an astronomical price (if anybody was foolish enough to pay it), but I will still have the agreed-upon income from that sale. Moreover, the second-hand bookseller’s customer will get a newly printed book instead of a used one, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win situation. (To click-happy customers, all I can say is “caveat emptor.”)


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