How To Sell eBooks On eBay

How To Sell eBooks On eBay Explained

Since digital media has only recently gained popularity web-wide, I revisited eBay recently and got to thinking: what would it take to sell eBooks on eBay? Paper books may still outsell eBooks four to one, but digital book sales are still a thriving industry. 

eBooks have some significant advantages. They have less overhead costs than physical books and require no shipping. It seems like a ripe business venture for a budding entrepreneur, but I wanted to know how practical selling eBooks on eBay really is. You might be wondering the same thing.

If so, I have good news. I already went down the rabbit hole for you.

Here is what I found on how to sell eBooks on eBay.

Quick Facts About eBay

The online marketplace titan eBay dates back to the early days of the internet. Founded in 1998, it exploded in popularity during its first few years. By 2001, it had the most extensive user base of any e-commerce website.

It was a sales revolution, and empowered merchants had a new platform they had only dreamed of before. Using an auction format, anyone could sell unwanted items or start a proper business based around the site.

The rise of Amazon and Craigslist gave eBay a lot more competition than it used to have, but it is still one of the most popular e-commerce platforms. Customizability and creative freedom make it a pretty ideal site for e-commerce newbies.

Am I Even Allowed to Sell eBooks on eBay?

If you want to sell eBooks, your first question is likely this: am I even allowed? After all, why bother posting a digital item for sale if it just causes your account to be suspended or deleted? Though there are some restrictions, the answer is yes.

Digital items are tricky to sell, and a lot goes into determining how to sell digital downloads on eBay. There is nothing inherent about the medium stopping a merchant from copying an item indefinitely and potentially making an endless profit. Naturally, intellectual property owners are not always pleased with this possibility. eBay’s policies attempt to keep this at bay. 

Unless a seller is eBay approved, digitally delivered items are restricted to a small subsection of the website called Information Products in the Everything Else category. Items listed must be listed using the Classified Ads format.

So no problem, right? You can use the approved format and section. Unfortunately, classifieds on eBay have a few shortcomings. For one, you won’t get nearly the same quantity of views and clicks on your posting. 

If you manage to make a sale anyway, you can’t get profile-building feedback that might entice future customers’ trust. Lastly, the sale won’t happen on eBay, but rather as an independent transaction facilitated by the site.

In all likelihood, those looking for ebooks would turn to Amazon or proper eBay listings. That isn’t to say it definitely won’t work, but you’ll be fighting a more challenging battle for sales.

How Can I Sell eBooks on eBay?

If you want to make a proper listing, there are two workarounds to avoid the Classified Ads section. You can either sell a piece of physical media with the eBook downloaded to it, or you can get eBay approved.

The first option might feel a little dated, but it’s a simple way to avoid breaking the rules. Download the eBook files to a flash drive or CD, then mail the item to the buyer. Should you choose this method, you must include the following phrase in your listing: “I will send this eBook by postal mail. Sending it by email or by any other digital delivery method is not allowed and violates eBay policy.” 

Buyers might not care for this method, however, especially since one of the most significant benefits of purchasing an eBook is being able to receive it immediately.

Let’s say you want to bypass all of this physical media nonsense. After all, if you’re going to buy something that has to be shipped, why not just buy a book itself? Your other option is to get eBay approved.

Unfortunately, more goes into this than you might expect. Sellers will have to verify ownership of the digital goods or authorization to offer and sell digital goods on eBay specifically. If the eBook you want to sell is your own, no problem. However, if you’re going to sell someone else’s, you’ll either have to convince them to permit you, or you’ll have to purchase an eBook that includes reselling rights. 

I’ll go more in-depth on that later.

Avoid Rule Breaking and Keep Your Listing Active

If you manage to get verified, the issue doesn’t stop there. There are several rules to follow in order to avoid breaking the agreement in your actual listing and potentially getting your listing removed or your account deleted, making it impossible to make money.

In your listing, eBay requires you to explicitly list all requirements a potential buyer needs to receive the digital files. These vary from listing to listing, but common ones include the need for a United States credit card, terms and conditions needed for acceptance, or any separate online accounts that will need to be created. 

You need to be an eBay seller in good standing with a valid account with a registered United States Address and must be verified on PayPal to confirm your identity. You must also accept responsibility for post-transactional support if the buyer doesn’t receive the file or the file doesn’t work as expected.

Erotic fiction is a top-selling category for eBooks, but if you wish to sell books of this genre, you’ll have to comply with eBay’s Restricted Adult Items Policy. You’ll have to list it in the Adult Only category of the site’s Everything Else subsection.

This might be a no-brainer, but your digital files can’t include spam, malware, spyware, or cookies, which can be used for malicious purposes like violating privacy. Honestly, though, if this is your intent when selling eBooks, I’m not interested in helping you anyway.

Lastly, You’ll need to comply with the eBay User Agreement. eBay specifies on their Digitally Delivered Goods policy that the most relevant parts of this agreement are the Seller Representation and Warranties and Indemnity sections. 

The first bit essentially restates that you must be legally allowed to sell the material. The latter part promises not to hold eBay as a company or any of its employees responsible for any legal or other third-party fees that might result from issues with the transaction.

Can I Make Any Real Money Doing This?

Here’s the million-dollar question: is it worth your while? The answer, as it always is in this complex world, is that it depends. eBook marketing is an entirely separate category that’s worthy of its own article. 

Still, the short answer is that you will need to know what sorts of eBooks people want to buy, and more specifically, which types of eBooks people already buy on the eBay platform.

Take a moment to examine an eBay search for eBooks. Depending on when you search, different eBooks will be popular, but the process remains the same regardless. Listed in red beneath the price, you’ll see the number of copies sold. Considered in conjunction with the price, you’ll easily be able to tell which of these listings is profitable. 

Bear in mind that even a modest profit can be worthwhile considering the small amount of work involved.

Two things immediately sprung to my mind when doing this research. The first was that nearly all books are listed at $.99. You might see this and think it too cheap to make a profit from, but this is a strategic price point.

Any reader remotely interested in the book’s contents likely won’t balk at spending less on an entire book than they did on their morning coffee. Many of the listings have sold hundreds of copies, too, which is a respectable amount for a passive income

The second noteworthy part of these listings is that most of the popular ones come with full master resell rights. In other words, anyone who buys these can do precisely what you’re doing. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s bad because you are potentially selling your product to a competitor who might turn around and start selling it too. 

It’s good for two reasons. One, you might sell a copy to someone with no real interest in the subject matter who wouldn’t buy it without resell rights. Secondly, you can do this too. If you spend one dollar on a book with resell rights on eBay, you can add a book to your repertoire and profit from it yourself.

eBay is not the only site where you can purchase an eBook with resell rights. On the contrary, it might be worthwhile to buy them elsewhere so that you aren’t competing on eBay with others selling the same book. Many ebook websites include a subsection of books that come with rights, so you can pick and choose which ones you think you can sell. 

An issue you will undoubtedly encounter is competition. The best way to avoid selling the same eBooks everyone else is to choose the newest books possible and to put them up before others can. Some websites feature memberships in which you can download the latest eBooks with resale rights. With a little persistence, you can check these websites weekly or daily to mine for digital gold. Be the first to offer them and see your sales spike quickly. 

Just be sure to check the files thoroughly before making your listing. Don’t just check that the eBook is really there. Most files also include a Master Resell Rights Certificate, which is necessary to prove that what you are doing is legal. You can choose whether or not to include this certificate in the files you send to your own customers.

Regardless of your method, the vast majority of ebooks with resell rights available are non-fiction, usually related to self-help and business building. Luckily, these types of books have enduring popularity. Considering you are reading this article, maybe you can learn something from them too.

You Have an eBook to Sell. What Next?

It’s time to make a listing. Your best bet is to model your listing off others that are currently successful. eBay will give you the option of copying a template, which you can then apply your new information to. Format a title the same way, being sure to include resale rights, bonus eBooks, or any other features that might entice a purchase.

Most eBooks will come with a book cover, so add that and any other images included in the file in your listing. Add the genre. Under description, use whatever blurb or description the eBook comes with. Be sure to read it thoroughly. Some include original price tags that you’ll need to update. 

You also should uncheck the boxes that allow offers and schedule a listing start time since you’ll be offering your ebooks for instant purchase. Lastly, make sure shipping is free and double-check your PayPal email address.

When you start to make sales, you’ll want to upload the eBook files to a free file hosting service. Then, you can easily send customers a link to download the book.

What Next?

eBay has a longstanding reputation as a good source for side hustles, and selling eBooks is no exception. Follow the general rules for marketing, and you might be able to turn selling eBooks on eBay into a thriving business.

The rules may seem numerous and restrictive, but they break down pretty easily. You have three choices: sell and ship the ebook as physical media, use the Classified Ads section, or get verified. If you choose to get verified, agree to their legal terms, clearly specify any pornography, don’t scam people, and confirm your identity. Though detailed, these checklist items aren’t unreasonable.

I hope you’ve found this enlightening and helpful, but now it’s time to get to work and sell some eBooks!

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