Can You Make Money Selling Books For A Penny?? (part 1 of 2)

Sell books for a penny.One of the most common questions new sellers have is “Why are there so many books listed on Amazon for a penny? How can people make money selling books for one cent???”

Well, they can and they can’t. The truth is that when a customer buys a “penny” book, they’re really paying the one cent plus $3.99 shipping. Amazon collects the $4, deducts their fees, and gives the remainder of the shipping fee to the seller to ship the book. Let’s look at an example, just to make things clearer.

Let’s say I list a book for a penny. Joe Blow in Nowheresville, Il purchases it and pays Amazon the $0.01+$3.99

From that $4.00 Amazon deducts $1.35 as a “closing cost” ($4.00-$1.35=$2.65)

I have an Amazon Pro Merchant account and am therefore exempt from Amazon’s usual additional $0.99 fee.

Amazon gives me $2.65

Assuming I can package and ship the book for less than $2.65, I have made a small profit. (Very small, actually. No more than a few cents.)

Expedited and international orders means larger shipping fees are collected, meaning a slightly higher profit margin. Larger sellers can also save even more if they use bulk rate shipping.

It should be noted that even if you are a Pro Merchant and don’t have to pay the .99 fee, it costs $40 a month for the Pro Merchant account. So even if you sell a couple dozen penny books, if your monthly profit doesn’t exceed $40, you’re still losing money on the deal.

Some people go so far as to use improvised packaging materials, shipping their books wrapped in butcher paper, or even cut-up paper grocery bags.

No matter how far people go to try and squeeze a few extra cents out of selling a penny book, the bottom line is that there’s just no profit in it for non-bulk sellers/shippers, and not much profit even if you do deal in bulk.

For this reason, it seems like traditional penny sellers, those who just try and eke out a few cents of profit per book, even they are moving away from literally selling books for a penny.

Still, there are plenty of books listed for a penny. In Part 2 I’ll discuss some of the different reasons books get listed for a penny, both by small, individual sellers and by larger bulk sellers.


  • Jon

    I personally don’t mind pro merchants selling books for a penny but once in awhile, their condition of the book does not stand up to their “stated” condition. It occurs more often with certain sellers than others.

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  • Luis Diaz

    I think it’s not good for the small business sellers when large hundred-thousand book sellers are selling out-of-print or hard to find books cheap. I know some of them boast they are from charities or are a bookstore somewhere, but it takes out the competitiveness of the market. They make lots of money because they have a large inventory of books. As a seller and buyer I always look for the smaller businesses and rather pay a few extra dollars for them than to those larger sellers.