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 Ken of NJ
    February 9, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    I think some of the absurd pricing on commonly available used books is either a form of money transferring or money laundering.


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