Don’t miss out – buying and selling second hand books to make a profit

By Sharon Fussell, October 12, 2011

I have a little confession to make and it involves buying and selling second hand books, I admit I am not proud of this, but here goes:

I hate other people looking for books in charity shops at the same time as me. I find myself watching in case they are about to pick up the book I may want – luckily in these situations most buyers tend to pick out Cath Cookson books or something of that ilk, which I don’t mind.

However, if they do start to hover over shelves I have not had the chance to scan first, I feel like pushing them away crying, “go away until I have finished picking out the books I want”.

Of course, I don’t do this, and other people are perfectly entitled to look and buy books at the same time as I am, I just feel so possessive.

I especially hate it when I have already picked out books and piled them at my feet until I’m ready to take them to the till, and someone takes a fancy to one of my titles and stretches out their hands to view it…

“Excuse me,” I say very sweetly, “but I am about to purchase that book, I am very sorry”.

I see their look as they glance at what can sometimes be piles and piles of books – they probably think I am one of the staff or volunteers, tidying shelves or restocking.

Sometimes they say incredulously, “Are you going to buy all these books? Gosh! You must love reading!” (I always smile at this).

The feeling of possessiveness becomes very strong once I have picked out the books I want to buy – it is quite bizarre I know. And I would be completely useless in a situation where I had to compete to buy books, say a book sale or a first-come-first-grab sort of event. I am like a child with a toy, no one is allowed to touch it unless I’ve finished with it!

Niche titles…buying and selling second hand books

I always feel quite attached to my books too and once purchased I like to pack them into a bag myself – I’m so afraid the shop assistant will crease the cover, or ruin the carefully picked out books for their condition and appearance. I wince as they force books into carrier bags and I want to grab the bag from them and say “let me do it, you are ruining my books”, (of course I don’t actually say anything). To counteract this I usually take my own reusable bags and explain that I prefer to pack the books myself. Luckily they are usually happy to oblige.

My favourite situation is when I am asked to buy from the back rooms/stock rooms in charity shops: no competition! I like to take my time, check the condition of each book carefully and then pack them into bags myself once they’ve been counted and a sum of money has been agreed upon with the staff member. I usually can’t wait to get back home and check out the prices of some of the more unusual books I have found.

I am often amazed at the quality and type of books left in back rooms yet the shop shelves are always stacked high with quite tatty fiction books. Sometimes I am asked not to buy from shop shelves as they have just spent time restocking them. I am led to the back rooms bursting at the seams with the most wonderful niche titles you can imagine. Even better when I pay 25p or less per book: it’s a akin to being led into a treasure trove. Wonderful.

FBA Forum

I have discovered a forum for FBA sellers (, it is from the USA, but you can learn loads from reading some of the posts.

To find out more about this forum, how to use it and how to get the best from it, head here –


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