Why Flipping Books is the BEST Side Hustle There is
It's hard to find a low effort, high margin business like this one.
Welcome! I don’t know how many people will end up reading this, but if you do I sincerely thank you for your time. I wanted to share my new favorite side hustle with anyone who’s willing to listen, and how to get started.
For a bit of context regarding who I am, I graduated with an IT degree in the Spring of 2021 and currently work a remote job. I worked many side hustles in my teenage years to save up as much as possible, from being a soccer referee to driving for DoorDash. I’ve always preferred side hustles to having an actual part time job because I was able to work when I felt like it, and I tended to enjoy the work a lot. Fast forward to a few months ago, and I discovered the greatest side hustle on earth - book flipping.
I found a guide called Book Flipping Mastery by Jarek Lewis (follow him!) through a retweet. To my surprise, I actually knew this person via their journalism work in the eSports industry under a different alias. I used to be skeptical of online courses and using them to make money, but because I was familiar with Jarek’s work as a journalist I decided to take the plunge - and I’m very glad I did. Book flipping is an awesome side hustle that can generate a high profit margin with not a lot of effort.
The best part? You can do it without leaving your house.
My goal throughout these posts is to educate others on why flipping books is so great, and how you can get started for yourself. If you don’t need any more convincing and want to take the plunge, go buy Jarek’s course right now - he’s been doing it for years and because of him I’m on track to achieve things I never thought possible. But if you’re still a bit skeptical on how the process works, I hope that this newsletter will make you at least consider starting an online book flipping business.
The Business Model
Let’s start off with the how the book flipping process actually works. My preferred method of flipping textbooks is buying them on Amazon and eBay, then selling them on Amazon. Yes, you read that correctly - you can buy books on Amazon and then sell them back on Amazon for a profit. I’ll go into why this works a bit later, but for now just know that this business model uses the Fulfillment By Amazon (more commonly known as FBA) service. For those of you that are unaware, FBA is when you source products to sell on Amazon, and then you send those products to an Amazon Fulfillment Center. Once your items are listed and in the possession of Amazon, they take care of the rest - shipping, customer service, and returns are no longer your problem. On top of that, your items will be provided to customers with two day shipping via Amazon Prime.
Because of companies like Amazon, we live in a world where some people get upset if they can’t get something delivered to their door in two days. The sheer convenience of something like Amazon Prime has created a lot of impatient people who are willing to pay double, and in some cases even triple the price of a product in order to have it delivered to their house quickly.
Most of the people you’ll be buying books from on Amazon are warehouse book companies that do Fulfilled By Merchant (FBM) selling, where they send it directly to the customer. They want to have their books listed on several websites at once, which is why they don’t follow this model themselves. They also use something called Media Mail, which is a cheap way to ship heavy books but is also the slowest shipping method offered by the United States Postal Service. In some cases, a book shipped with media mail might not reach your doorstep until two or three weeks after you ordered it. With how heavy some books can be, they can’t use normal shipping methods without losing out on a lot of profit. Book flippers don’t actually need the book for school, so they’re content with waiting a week or two to get the book. That’s the main service you provide in this business - you do the waiting for the customer.
Now imagine you’re a college student starting your first week of a new semester, and you decided not to buy a textbook for a certain class because you weren’t sure if you’d need it. During your first lecture, the professor tells you that you need the book and your first assignment is due at the end of the week. You could go to the campus bookstore and buy the book, but the prices there are ridiculously high. If you want to order from the warehouse book companies online, you won’t get it in time to finish your first assignment. This is where book flippers come in to save the day with prime shipping - You get your book in time to complete your assignment, and the book flipper makes a decent profit.
How Much Can You Make?
How much you can make from flipping books online is usually dependent on how much money and time you can invest into the business - but with the method I’m about to show you, you can expect to make about a 50% return on investment (ROI) for most books that you sell on Amazon.
Here’s an example of a book that I have personally flipped:
I purchased this book on Amazon for just under $35, and then sold it on Amazon for $70. Amazon takes a cut of everything you sell, and for books the fee is usually 20-25% of the sale price. After $17.98 of fees, I’m left with a profit of $17.36 which gives me 50% ROI. A $17 profit doesn’t sound like much, except for the fact that I found this book in about 10 minutes of searching. When you factor in the amount of time I spent finding the book, labeling it, and sending it to Amazon, I only spent about 15 minutes to make that $17 profit. Multiply that by 4, and it comes out to an hourly rate of $68.
That example was only the average. Let’s take a look at one of my more successful flips:
This is a book that I found through watching a video on Jarek’s YouTube channel, where he flipped several copies of this book for a large profit. After seeing that video I tracked this book for myself (I’ll talk about tracking books in another post), and a few weeks later I got an alert for this used copy at a really good price. After a buy price of $97.74, a sale price of $260, and $47.48 in fees I came out with a profit of $114.88. That gives me a whopping 117% ROI, and the book only took 5 minutes of work to flip - all I had to do was buy it from an alert, label it, and send it off to Amazon. There aren’t many other side hustles that let you double your money with such a small amount of effort. When you have alerts set up for hundreds of books, you get emails in your inbox every day for books you can buy at a profitable price. I went from struggling for days to find profitable books to having them literally handed to me through alerts every couple of hours. It does take some work to get running, but it only gets easier once you start.
How Much Do You Need To Get Started?
In Jarek’s guide, he says you should start with as much money as you can live without. Any extra cash that’s sitting in a checking account is a good start to build up your capital for flipping books. If you want a more specific number from someone who started from scratch recently, I’d personally recommend the minimum starting amount to be somewhere between $500-$1000. You can definitely start with less, but this amount gives you enough wiggle room to afford making some mistakes and invest in good equipment to make things easier for you.
There are two subscriptions you must have no matter what in this business. The first is a professional Amazon Seller account. This subscription costs $40 per month, and gives you access to many features you will need to run a successful Amazon store.
The second subscription service that you must have no matter what is a software known as Keepa. Keepa tracks the sales data for pretty much every product on Amazon, including price history, how many people are selling an item, and how often the item is getting sold. I’ll talk more about how to read Keepa charts in another post, but just know that having access to Keepa is really important. The subscription costs 19 Euros per month, and since the value of currencies tend to fluctuate you won’t be paying the same amount every month. On average, you can expect to pay $20-$24 per month on a Keepa subscription. There are other subscriptions you can buy to make things easier for yourself, but these two are absolute must haves.
How Do I Find Profitable Books?
I plan on making a more detailed post on some different methods you can use to source profitable books, but for now I’ll give a quick rundown on how the general process works.
First, you want to go on Amazon and search for a niche subject and then add “textbook” - an example would be “epidemiology textbook”. Then, start going through the books you find.
The first thing you want to look at is if you actually have permission to sell the book. You check this by logging into your Amazon seller account and going to “Inventory > Add a Product”. From there, you search for the book’s ISBN number. If there’s a button that says “Sell this product”, it means you’re allowed to sell it on Amazon. There are certain kinds of books you can’t sell (at least not right away), but I won’t be going over that in this post.
If you have permission to sell a book, you then want to take a look at the sales ranking. Sales ranking is a metric that tells you how often a book is being sold. If a book has a sales rank of 1, it is currently the best selling book on Amazon and is likely selling thousands of copies a day. Jarek’s guide recommends staying under 250,000 sales rank for most of the year and under 500,000 for the “busy season” (basically the first few weeks of the Fall / Spring semesters), but you can adjust your target numbers based on personal preference. I personally prefer books that average between 30,000 and 100,000 sales rank since they tend to sell somewhat frequently, but there aren’t so many people selling them that pricing gets too competitive. I don’t restrict myself to this range, its just what I personally have had the most success with. You don’t want to sit on books for more than a month or two so the lower the sales ranking, the better. Go to Keepa.com (or use the browser extension) and put in the IBSN to look at the data.
The sales rank in Keepa charts is represented by the green line and the scale on the right side. In this example, the book we’re looking at usually fluctuates between 25,000 and 200,000 sales rank and reaches 4 digits in the busy season. That means that if you can find this book at the right price, you won’t have an issue selling it. So now that we know this book is going to sell, let’s check the pricing. You want to first check the FBM prices, and then compare them to the FBA prices.
As a rule of thumb, generally you want to buy a book for half the price you’re going to sell it in order to make 50% ROI. You also want to be priced as the lowest FBA price so that you can sell your book quickly. In this case, the lowest prime used price for this book is just under $50 meaning you’d want to buy it for $25 or less. As you can see from the screenshots, the cheapest FBM used book is $40 after shipping costs so this book isn’t a good Amazon to Amazon flip.
This is where eBay comes in. While some companies also sell their books on eBay (some Goodwill stores do this), what you’re usually trying to look for is students who want to get rid of their old books and don’t know just how much they’re worth. Let’s try searching for the same book on eBay using its ISBN and see if we can find it any cheaper.
Funnily enough, when searching for the book on eBay the very first search result is a used copy that’s right at our $25 target price.
As you can see in the picture, the book does look a little beat up but the reading content should be unaffected. This would be a solid flip to make a quick $10-$15 depending on fees.
One last thing I want to mention about eBay is listings that accept offers. If you see a listing that says “or Best Offer” under the price, it means that the seller is open to selling the book below the listed price if you make them an offer.
In some cases, sellers have had their books listed for weeks or months and get to a point where they just want it gone. If you come across one of these listings, always offer a lower amount and see if they take it - the worst thing they can do is say no. This is one of the most underrated methods when it comes to book flipping, and can turn a listing that isn’t very profitable into one that is. I won’t buy this book, so here’s a free lead for whoever manages to read this post first (you’re welcome).
This process might seem a little complicated, but after putting some time in you can get really efficient at it. I can go through this whole process in under a minute, which allows me to go through a lot of books. I can’t stress how simple this process is, and how much you can make with a relatively small time investment.
There’s so many things I could’ve talked about in this post, but I didn’t want to overload it with too much info since I plan on making more detailed posts in the future. Hopefully I’ve convinced you that book flipping is an awesome side hustle and you want to try it for yourself. I can’t recommend Jarek’s guide enough as it has truly changed my life for the better. I plan on making more posts like this one talking about other books that I’ve flipped, how much I’m making, as well as some more detailed tips and tricks you can use to improve at the book flipping process. Feel free to post questions, and I wish you all good luck on your book flipping journey.