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Selling on Amazon
Cashing in by Adding Books
To Amazon's Catalog

by Steve Weber

#77, 18 September 2006

About seven years ago, and Amazon launched a revolution in bookselling enabling anyone capable of typing an ISBN to become an online bookseller instantly. For those of us who started that way, that period seems like the "good old days," a time when buyers vastly outnumbered sellers, and selling prices were good, even for common books.

Today, with Internet bookselling more popular than ever, prices have crashed for oversupplied titles. So, more than ever, one of the best ways to earn money in bookselling is to focus on scarce and out-of-print books. The problem for Amazon sellers is that many scarce titles still aren't in Amazon catalog, so there's never been an effective way to sell many of these old gems on Marketplace.

Until now, that is. For the past several months Amazon has been perfecting a system enabling Pro-Merchant sellers to add missing books to its catalogs. It's already become a great way for part-time Amazon sellers to add value to their inventory, and as we'll see later, it also works for higher-volume sellers, who can use some new automation tools to manage bulk-listing of these scarce books.

But here's the best part: By entering these books into Amazon's catalog you can often sell them at a huge premiums, sometimes ten times the going price on bookseller networks like Alibris and, which many online buyers are still unfamiliar with.

Until recently, I've avoided this, figuring that creating a catalog page on Amazon wasn't worth the trouble. For five years, I've been tossing some out-of-print books into a boxes when I couldn't find them in Amazon's catalog. Recently that stack of boxes reached my ceiling, so I decided to dust off the cobwebs and see what I could do.

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw some of the prices on Marketplace, and I decided this isn't too much trouble after all. Heck, for this kind of money, I'll drag out my digital camera and upload photos of the covers too.

Here's some examples of book detail pages that Amazon sellers have created themselves, and we'll compare the prices to listings outside Amazon using AddALL's out-of-print search.

  1. Children of the A-Bomb: Testament of the Boys and Girls of Hiroshima.

    Three copies are listed on Amazon, all priced at about $148.

    Over at, 11 copies are priced under $50.

  2. The Voyage of the Space Beagle.

    $64 on Amazon.

    $1 on ABE.

  3. Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices.

    Two on Amazon starting at $12.

    On, 40 copies are listed at under $3.

  4. The Paternity Of Abraham Lincoln.

    $257 on Amazon.

    It's $100 less on ABE.

  5. Care for a Merger? Cartoons From the Wall Street Journal.

    $21 on Amazon.

    $5 on ABE.

  1. The Playboy Book Of Humor And Satire.

    $20 on Amazon.

    $1 on ABE.

  2. Jews and Divorce.

    $39 on Amazon.

    $7.50 on ABE.

  3. Father of Supersonic Flight: Theodor Von Karman.

    $13 on Amazon.

    $1.50 on ABE.

  4. The Recently Deflowered Girl.

    $75 on Amazon.

    $24 on ABE.

  5. The Representation Theory of the Symmetric Group (Mathematical Expositions, Volume 12).

    $75 on Amazon.

    $25 on ABE.

Ready to get started, Pro-Merchants? OK, grab a stack of pre-ISBN books. From your Seller Account page, scroll down the center to the section labeled "Manage Your Product Detail Pages," and click on "Create a product detail page in our catalog." That brings you to this page.

On the top left of this page, you'll see a drop-down menu where you can indicate you're searching for "books." Then type in the title and author's last name and click "Search."

Scroll through the results. If you see a match for your book, it's already in Amazon's catalog; you can click through to the page and list. If there's no match, you can proceed to create a new page for the book. In the left column, under the heading "Can't Find it," Click the button "Create yours."

On the next page you'll be able to add a description of up to 2,000 characters. Use this for a general description of the book, not the condition of particular copy you have.

Click "Save & Continue." If all goes well, Amazon will enter the listing into its catalog and assign an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) to the listing. You'll probably find it helpful to keep a list of these ASINs you create for handy reference later in case you want to edit the pages.

OK, now that you've entered the book into Amazon's catalog, you're all ready to list your copy. Go to the product page by searching for the ASIN. Now you can click the "sell yours here" button as proceed as usual.

For those who want a more detailed walkthrough of this page-creation process, here's Amazon's help page.

The fun part is deciding how to price the book. A quick check on AddALL by typing in the title and author name will give you an idea what other booksellers are charging.

But, as you've seen from the examples above, there's no reason to compete on price at Amazon with these other listings if they don't show up on Marketplace.

OK, that covers the manual creation of a book detail page on Amazon. There's also some automation tools to help high-volume sellers handle these scarce books on Marketplace.

GrabIt!, for example, is a data-entry tool for users of BookTrakker, the inventory-management service. This can be a boon for booksellers who already have many of these scarce books listed on other networks, and want to list them on Amazon, often at higher prices. GrabIt automatically matches your books with Amazon's existing BASINs (BASINs are Amazon's method of identifying pre-ISBN books in its database. They all begin with B, followed by 000 and a combination of numerals and letters).

Also, this spring Amazon began offering a new version of its free Bookloader tool, making it easier for sellers to add books to its catalog using UIEE or "Standard Book" upload formats. With previous versions of Bookloader, books that couldn't be matched to items already in Amazon's catalog were listed in the seller's zShop only, not on Marketplace. The new version automatically creates a new book detail page and adds a listing to the page for the seller.

The new Bookloader version remains in beta, and was upgraded last month to fix a technical problem that created "multiple matches" errors when sellers submitted an ASIN or ISBN in their upload file.

Here's more information on Amazon's Bookloader.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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