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Let’s face it, flipping books from thrift stores is not a scalable business model.
I spent years scanning books at thrift stores and flipping other items on both Amazon and eBay and struggled to grow my store beyond low six figures annually.
What’s more, I was putting in tons of work!
I had left behind a decent healthcare job in the hopes of owning a business. Instead, I ended up simply losing my insurance and being self-employed. Even if I tried to hire people and delegate tasks I couldn’t outwork the bottleneck in my business.
I needed more inventory.
Well, actually, I needed an entirely different method of sourcing inventory. I could only go to the same few thrift stores so many times, there were only so many library sales, and I could only hit up so many yard sales.
So, like many booksellers, I started looking into buying wholesale lots of books.
Buying books by the gaylord to sell seemed to be the most logical step if I wanted to build a business that was not constantly throttled.
But where (and how) could I go about buying pallets of books? It turns out that there are tons of ways to get scammed when buying to resell.
So, if you’re in the same boat that I was in a couple of years ago, hopefully, this guide will make everything a bit easier and you’ll be able to buy a few wholesale book pallets without going broke or getting scammed.
5 Places To Buy Gaylords Of Books
The life and profitability of your business is entirely dictated by the quality of inventory that you can source. If you’re going to put extra effort anywhere, this is the most obvious place that will give you outsized returns.
Spend the time upfront to find a decent seller rather than the first person that shows up on google.
Many people are willing or able to do their due diligence when it comes to choosing a supplier. If you are both willing and able you’ll have a competitive advantage right out of the gate which will afford you better inventory, a better working relationship with your supplier, and higher margins.
While every location will differ, this list will give you a good idea of where you should start to find gaylords of used books near you!
If you’ve never experienced the waste of the public school system, just know that it’s horrifying.
However, it does leave lots of room to make money.
Schools of all types (from preschools to universities) routinely turn over tons of school supplies (including books) for reasons ranging from them being outdated to the teacher simply wanting new ones.
This gives booksellers the opportunity to buy entire classroom sets (usually 20-50 copies of the same book) at firesale prices.
The real problem here is that there is the real possibility that the books may be entirely worthless.
A year or two ago I bought two gaylords of books for a total of $36. It was well over 2,000 pounds of books and I ended up making a grand total of -$36. There were so worthless that I didn’t send a single one to Amazon and simply ended up donating them all.
However, if you do your research beforehand then you can end up with dozens of copies of the same book to send in which is a great way to scale your bookselling business!
Libraries sales can be a goldmine for booksellers. Or, at least, they used to be. These days you have to be to the sale an hour early and choose your one little section to scan because there will likely be two dozen other booksellers there.
So here’s how to go about it: buy out the library sale.
There are a couple of ways that people have successfully gone about this:
- Buy before the sale. Get in touch with the person who runs the sales and let them know that you’re willing to buy pallets of books at any time. Often they end up with excess books between sales and would be happy to unload them for a nominal price.
- Buy at the sale. When you get to the sale, just start picking up boxes and packing them to the checkout. Buy them one at a time until they tell you that you’ve hit your limit. Sure, you’ll end up with some duds but that’s the price to pay if you want to beat all the other book scanners trying to beat you at your game.
- Buy after the sale. It’s probably not shocking to you that a bunch of good books gets missed at book sales. Leave your name with the sale manager and offer to buy everything that’s left at a huge discount. Often it’s all going to be donated/recycled anyway so they’re fine with you having it for free if you’re willing to box it up and transport it out of their hair.
Buying pallets of library books is typically not a high-reward activity as there are so many mass-market paperback books and out-of-date duds but it can be a cheap gateway into scaling your book business.
Just be sure to have a plan for all the unsellables that you’re sure to accrue.
3. Discarded Business Inventory
If you’ve ever seen pallets of “new” books for sale, odds are they came from Barnes & Nobel or a similar book retailer. Books that don’t sell have to be moved on quickly and they’re typically boxed up and wholesaled on a pallet.
However, the odds of you being able to negotiate a deal with Barnes & Nobel is extremely low unless you’re willing to buy literal truckloads of books.
Instead, talk to smaller bookstores and retailers (often they’ll be used bookstores) and offer to buy their old books at wholesale prices.
This is especially effective in older shops where the owner doesn’t sell online and is faced with pretty much giving away or recycling their old inventory.
Just be sure that they don’t use this opportunity to pawn off all their worthless books on you.
You can also purchase pallets of books from stores that simply don’t have the manpower to sell them. Goodwill is a great example of this and you can often buy full pallets of books at Goodwill Outlets or at one of the many Goodwill eBay Stores.
4. Recycling Centers
It happens all too often that good sellable books make it all the way to the recycling center.
Recycling centers make pennies on their books so most jump at the opportunity to sell pallets for what they view as a premium price.
Be sure to call around before going as some centers like keeping their business streamlined and won’t sell one-offs.
An alternative is to ask if you can go through their pallets and simply pay for the books you want as this will leave you with far less garbage to unload when you’re done scanning.
This one is the last one for a few reasons (low margins and high risk of getting scammed) but it’s also the option that most people reading this article will try.
Why? Because it’s easy.
So, if you’re not lazy, scroll up and choose one of the other options. If you’re willing to put in some uncomfortable work that others are not you’re going to outgrow them.
But I digress.
There are several places online to buy wholesale gaylords of books. Typically this is from people who have done one of the above things and are looking to unload some of their inventory.
Knowing exactly why they’re selling their books can provide you with some good insight into whether or not it’s a good buy for you.
There are several reasons why middlemen would choose to sell gaylords of books:
- They have excess inventory. For many wholesalers, the more you buy the better deal you get. Some middlemen are Amazon sellers who buy by one or more truckloads to get the best deal possible and then unload some of their excess inventory that they can’t handle to other sellers.
- They simply choose to sell b2b. Many people hate labeling and sending in books. So they decide to add value by doing the legwork – by sourcing the books and then selling them at a markup to those who want to sell to consumers.
- They’re scammers. There is a whole spectrum of scams that are run on unsuspecting Amazon sellers looking to source books. Some sellers will cherry-pick out the best books and then sell everything else in a gaylord. Others will go as far as taking out everything sellable and then selling their garbage to some poor person looking to make some extra money.
If you’re going to be buying from a random person that you found online be sure to at least look over the merchandise before buying. Or, if not possible, buy a single pallet. There’s nothing quite like being stuck with a truckload of garbage books that you have to pay someone to take off your hands.
Because I typically don’t buy from middlemen, I can’t recommend any specific places. However, a quick google search will turn up a dozen of sellers who are looking to sell you pallets. Just be sure to do your own due diligence before forking over your hard-earned dollars!
Also, remember, you’re basically paying someone to source for you so you’ll have lower margins here.
However, it’s probably time we talked about lowering your expectations as a whole if you’re getting into the game of buying book pallets.
Is Buying Pallets Of Books Worth It?
When thrifting, it’s not unusual to find books that you can sell for 10x your money or money. In general, you can expect to double your money on a decent pallet. So if the thrill of selling books is in turning $100 into $1,000 then you’ll want to stick with thrift sourcing.
With that being said, anytime you want to scale a company that deals with physical products you’re going to be looking at lower margins.
Even though your buying power increases you’re producing more waste, being less efficient, and hitting the limit of “good” books that are easy to source.
That’s just the nature of the beast.
So, if you’re looking at growing your Amazon (or eBay) book-selling business into a real cash-generating machine you’ll have to realize that your expenses are going to take a huge jump when you start buying pallets and you may never leave your label printer’s side again.
You just have to ask yourself, “Would I rather have a business that does $300,000 in sales and gives me $100,000 in profit or a business that does $100,000 in sales and gives me a $50,000 profit? Food for thought.
Finding pallets of books for sale really isn’t that hard. The hard parts are making sure you’re not getting scammed and having the stomach to move to a lower-margin business model for better long-term growth.
If you’re ready for it, start small. While I wouldn’t buy a pallet rather than pay my rent, this is the way forward if you really want to scale your book-selling business!