How Much is My Book Worth?

Hi. My name is Danica. I am a contributing
editor at and today I wanted to talk about a really quick and
easy guide to valuing books. So I’ve been working on a used book store for almost
10 years now, and one of the things that I did there was valuing books. So I have
some tips I want to share but I wanted to start off with two disclaimers. One is
that I am NOT an expert. This wasn’t even most of my job. I just kind of
dabbled in it. If you want a real book valuing, especially for something like
insurance reasons, you need to go to a professional who has a lot more
experience. Secondly, I wanted to say that there’s a big difference between what a
bookstore can get for a book and what you as an individual can get for a book,
especially if you’re trying to sell it to a used bookstore. Generally speaking,
if you value a book at $100 and you take it into a used bookstore, you might be
getting half of that and store credit. It really depends not just on how much the
book is worth but how quickly they can sell it. You can also try selling it
yourself, of course, online but that’s gonna be a lot harder if you’re selling
it as an individual because you don’t likely have a long history of positive
reviews. It can be a little bit harder to get people to trust that you are selling
what you say you’re selling, especially if you’re trying to sell a two thousand
dollar book and this is the first thing that you’ve ever listed online. So enough
of the disclaimers, into the tips. The most valuable site for valuing a
book in a really easy way is Abe book. That’s a-b-e If you have a
newer book, like from the 80s up to the present, it will probably have an ISBN.
And that’s an individual number given to a book that makes it really easy to look
up and value. Let’s say we’re trying to value this book, the lesbian national
parks and services guide to North America. So I can see on the back that it
has a barcode that starts with nine seven eight. So I know that this is an
ISBN. It also just says ISBN on it. Or I can look on the copyright page and it
will list the ISBN there. For an older mass-market paperbacks, they’re sometimes
on the spine and it’ll usually be the ten digit ISBN so it probably won’t
start with nine seven eight. So on abe, if I type in the ISBN for this book, only four listings come up and they start at like $127. So that’s
pretty good cuz I only paid $30 for this. On the left sidebar, you’ll also find a
bunch of ways that you can filter it. So by dust-jacket, if it’s signed, if it’s a first edition. You also really want to look at
condition. So if you have an ex-library book, that’s probably worth half or less
than if it’s in very good condition. Also if you’re looking at condition, good is a
little bit of a red flag. A good condition book could be ex-library, it
could be a pretty rough-looking. Generally if you’re trying to sell a
book for a substantial amount of money, you want to start at very good unless
it’s really rare. So it’s looking pretty good for my valuing of this book. But
because I came up with so few listings I’m going to double check that by just
searching for the title. This is a book that’s not gonna share a title with a
lot of other books so it’s pretty easy to just search for it. And by searching
the title without the ISBN, I do come up with another listing and it’s
one for $85. And the $85 one is in like new condition and it’s signed. So that
book is definitely worth more than my book. So I’m starting to get an idea of
what I might be able to get for this book if I was selling this in a
bookstore. Another tip that the book buyer gave me at my bookstore is that
you basically want to drop the bottom and top listings when you’re looking at
a book. There’s likely gonna be someone trying to sell it for a much less than it’s worth. There might be something that you’re
looking at that you’re like,, hey, I think this was worth $500 and you look at
someone selling it for five bucks. That’s probably because it’s not an actual
person. It’s just a computer program or they’re just selling everything for five
dollars. So you don’t really want to pay attention to that. And in the same way,
there’s probably gonna be someone listing it for a thousand dollars. And
again, that’s not really a reasonable price. That’s not something you need to
take into consideration. So you’re more gonna be looking at the median prices.
But for my next step, I definitely want to check Amazon as well. So when I look
this up on Amazon, there’s still not a lot of listings. So that’s good.
There is one starting at 81 dollars but it’s an ex-library book. So I know that
mine is worth more than that. And the next one start at $200. You might notice
that the signed copy is listed on Abe and not Amazon. So some booksellers only
sell on one. That it is good for me if I’m trying to sell this online because
it means that even though this isn’t worth as much as a signed copy, if I put
it on Amazon it’s going to sell probably faster than the ex library copy and it
doesn’t have to compete with the signed copy. So I might be able to sell it for
$100 on Amazon because it looks like a pretty good deal on Amazon even though
it’s not a great deal on abe. But since more people use Amazon, I have
a pretty good chance of selling it there instead. Another really helpful thing
about looking it up on Amazon is that you can check their sales rank. So every
book on Amazon will have a sales ranking. And basically that tells you which book
they sell the most of at any given time. So the number one book on the sales rank
would be a their best-selling book at this very moment. So this book is ranked
about four million two hundred thousand. That’s not very surprising because this
is an obscure title. It’s also expensive and there’s not very many listings of it.
So of course they’re not gonna be selling very many copies of it. But
generally speaking, at our bookstore our cutoff was at about a million. If it was
above a million and ranking it meant that we could probably sell this book. If
it was lower than a million then we have a pretty good idea that this is gonna be
hard to find the right customer for. So I could probably price this at a hundred
dollars but how long am I gonna hold on to this book before I find the right
person who will actually buy it at a hundred dollars? And the other thing to
check for on Amazon is if it says anywhere that they’ll offer you a gift
card if you sell it to them. So on Amazon a gift card is basically a golden ticket.
If Amazon is offering a gift card for a buck, it means that they know that they
can immediately turn that around and sell it so that is a really good sign.
You know that if you see a gift card, this is a great book. You can definitely
sell it right away. So that’s the general process of valuing a book with an ISBN.
Some things to keep in mind are just common sense questions. Like is there
anything particularly special about this edition of the book? Because sometimes an
ISBN will come up as being worth a lot more than another edition of the book
but the two editions are actually almost indistinguishable. Or the more expensive one has a worst-looking cover. So just because the
computer says that it’s worth more doesn’t mean that a real human being
will actually buy it for more money. So that’s valuing books with an ISBN. So
that’s kind of valuing books on easy mode. At the bookstore we have a program
or you can just scan it in and they’ll give you all of that information on one
page. It’s a lot harder to value a book without an ISBN, older books. So let’s say
I’m trying to value this book, I’m a stranger here myself by Ogden Nash. I
know it’s a bit of an older book and I don’t really know anything else about it. If I
look it up, I definitely start with Abe. Amazon tends to mash together all of
the different editions of a book or they do that as much as possible, which makes it
really hard to value certain editions. So the first thing to look at is the
condition and the dust jacket. So I don’t have a dust jacket for this so I know
immediately that the price that it’s worth is about cut in half probably,
often even more. Other than that, it’s in pretty good condition. There’s some Sun
fading. Somebody has drawn in pencil in the back but I could erase that if
it was worth a lot of money. So to value this book, I’d go to Abe books and I’d
start at the Advanced Search page. I’d put in the title, the author and then
also the date range. So for this book it was originally published in 1935. This
edition is 1938. I could just put in 1938 as the date. But if I only looks at that
I might end up accidentally pricing this higher than the 1936 or 1937 copies and
nobody is specifically looking for the fourth edition over the third edition. So
that wouldn’t make any sense. I can also put in the publisher to narrow it down.
And once I do that I can immediately see that there are pictures of books that
look identical to mine that are listed for about a dollar and quite a few of
them. It’s not like there’s a few people who don’t know how much they’re worth.
There’s a lot of ones for really cheap so I know that this one isn’t really
worth a lot of money. Now if I had a book that I did think was worth lot of
money, like if I had an old dr. Seuss book with a dust jacket —  I valued kids
books in case you can’t tell — one trick that I use is to look at the most
expensive listings on abe books for that title. For instance if I look at
expensive listings of happy birthday to you by dr. Seuss, it will say in the
description first issue with white dots on page beginning today is your birthday. So I know that if my copy doesn’t have those
dots on that page, I don’t have a true first edition. One other thing it might
specify is the title that is listed last on the dust jacket. So these listings are
usually done by professional booksellers with a lot of experience valuing books.
So you can kind of crib off their knowledge by looking at these really
expensive listings and seeing what are they looking for, how do they know that
this book is worth a lot of money. And then a few more miscellaneous notes. If
you click the first edition box on Abe books, it will not come up with every
first edition. It’s only if it’s listed a certain way on Abe. So don’t rely on
that. Of course you can always google guides to tell if you have an expensive
version, a collectible version of something like a Roald Dahl book. And
these are just the most basic steps. Sometimes you have to get a little more
elaborate. Some books are only listed on a libres or eBay. As a general rule,
especially with something like eBay, just because someone is listing at that price
doesn’t mean anyone’s actually buying it at that price. So keep that in mind as well. If you’re valuing a book with a
signature, that can be even more difficult. But basically you want to
think about how popular is this person and how common is their signature? And
finally, it also depends on context. So there’s a lot of books that are listed
for a dollar or a penny on Amazon that we could reliably sell in the store for
20 or even $50. And on the other hand just because something’s listed for
$1000 on Abe doesn’t mean like I said a real human being will actually buy that
book if they saw it in the store. So I find valuing books are really
interesting puzzle. So these are some of the tips that have helped me. This is
really a guide to kind of just figuring out is this worth pursuing, is it worth
money or is it not worth money and not worth pursuing. You would have to do a
little bit more work if you’re dealing with something that’s actually worth a
lot. Let me know if you have any other tips and tricks to figure out how much
your book is worth and thank you for watching.

3 thoughts on “How Much is My Book Worth?

  1. Thanks for sharing! This would have been so helpful when I found some old books from my grandma I was trying to sell. Definitely referring back to this in the future!

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