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

Sell 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.

Used books on Amazon are nothing new. It works in a similar fashion to your local secondhand bookstore or thrift stores.

Selling used books on Amazon

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.

Of course, the authors and publishers are not entitled to any royalties because they are secondhand books.

To get an idea of how people make money from used books, this article by The Work At Home Wife explains how Amazon fulfillment 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 who are devilishly inquisitive and want to read a book 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 out of print and at a reduced price is a good deal.

However, for new authors, 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 can legally sell copies of your 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 appear for sale on Amazon on the same sales page as the book that the self-publisher, small press, or publisher is selling.

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 bookselling on Amazon, or flipping books, became popular at first with selling used textbooks.

For some, it is a full time and legitimate business.

However, you can see scammers 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?


What’s the logic?

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 reversal of a buyer’s credit card transaction, 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 the first printed books.

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 make 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 worry about is 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 maximize 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.

Does it worry me that someone is offering my book at $2,796.00? No.

But I did waste five minutes of my time laughing about it.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

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

  • Avatar for Lothar Scholz
    March 2, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Yes it’s automatic pricing AI, keeping the listing and greed. But also using the Amazon price finding algorithm. Amazon is not interested in creating a lower price market. It changed about 10 years ago (at the same time USPS stopped surface shipping). From this days on i rarely bought 2nd hand books anymore. Especially from US Amazon. The shipping is adding another level of price gauge compared to multi-book orders from normal warehouses.

    It is sad because as a Nostaligic Computer Nerd i would love to buy more old vintage computer books, but Amazon and the millions of hobby retail arbitrage people makes it impossible and killed the thrift stores and impulse buys of used books.

    And as always: Just don’t do business with Amazon unless you have too. Jeff Bezos is evil.

  • Avatar for Alex Markson
    October 16, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    I’ve seen this both on Amazon – for other things, as well as books – and also on eBay. I remember reading an article sometime ago that theorised it may be nothing to do with the actual article for sale, but linked to money laundering. Someone puts an article for sale at a ridiculous price, already knowing that an accomplice will buy it. It will be one step in turning dirty money into clean money. It sounds plausible, but I don’t know if there is any truth in the story.

  • Avatar for Robert David Graham
    April 11, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    When you devote your life to seeking wisdom and learning the skill of writing, and you finally bring your end results to the book market, it is exasperating, aggravating, and insulting to see more used copies than you have sold new — in “very good” or “like new” condition. As to future sales of future works based on rip offs of my current work, that’s like thanking a pick-pocket for making you aware that you did have some cash in your wallet. No author would agree to the comments of the seller on this page.

  • Avatar for Jae-Lex Linsey
    March 25, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    I self-published my book only a few days ago. I just happened to check on Amazon, to see whether it had found its way onto Amazon yet. (I used an independent self-publishing website, instead of Amazon’s Create Space website.) I was surprised to find that already someone is selling the book as new for almost £4 less than my RRP and the same seller is offering at used. How they’re able to do this beats me. But if it’s going to affect my book royalties, then I am concerned.

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      March 25, 2019 at 5:20 pm

      It is always a nasty surprise for new authors, Jae-lex. But if you refer to the long comment by Ryan earlier, he explains how Amazon book resellers operate. But it beats me how they can offer your book at a lower price.

  • Avatar for ROYA ROSTAMIAN
    March 13, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    The screaming happens when you sold only seven new book copies while people selling thousands of used copies of your book on amazon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The screaming is about those other sellers who sell replica of your book and don’t order it from amazon and the author never gets paid!

    The screaming is about old editions of a is book sold as new,

  • Avatar for Emily
    March 9, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    I would really like to hear from either Ryan Crenshaw or Derek on my following question.

    I haven’t sold nearly the number of paperbacks being offered by 3rd-party sellers on one of my novels (I haven’t sold ANY in YEARS). My DH says their model is probably to wait for an order, then buy a paperback from Amazon (it’s KDP Print, so I’d get a royalty from it), then turn around and ship it to the customer, thus allowing both me and the seller to make a few dollars from one sale.

    HOWEVER, my understanding of “mass market paperback” is the size. Well, back when I arranged for POD (from CreateSpace at the time), I sized the print books a bit larger than the “mass market paperback.” So it seems to me that if someone is trying to sell a Mass Market Paperback of my book, then they have pirated my content and are creating their own print books.

    Is this true, or am I just being paranoid? If the latter, then what the HECK does Amazon mean by “Mass Market Paperback”? Because there are supposedly sellers selling my print novel “used” and “new” underneath the plain-old “Paperback” button with the amazon prime symbol. So why the distinction?

    Thank you so much! I’ve been really upset about this for a few days.


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