Book Shipping 101

book selling packing and shipping May 25, 2021

If you are you thinking about selling books online, one thing that may be stopping you is shipping. It can be intimidating learning how to ship, so let's go over some info on shipping books so you can dive in and start making money:

First, know that you do not need to wait in line to buy postage nor do you need write out labels! As long as you have a printer (mine is a black and white laser printer) and a postal scale you can create shipping labels from home.

If you do not have the money for a printer and postal scale yet, you will need to go to the post office so they can weigh the box for you. Write the shipping address on a piece of paper with a Sharpie and tape it to the box, seal it, then head to the post office. 

Just Do What You're Told

No matter if you are selling on eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, or invoicing through Paypal, they all have a way for you to ship your orders. On Shopify there is a button called Create Shipping Label when you click on an order. On Etsy there is an icon of a Post Office truck you click on.

Once you click on the link to ship the item, you will usually just enter the weight of the package and the dimensions of the box and you will get a drop-down menu of shipping options (Priority Mail, First Class, Media Mail, etc). You choose your option, pay for it, and then print the label and packing slip.

Packaging

I use boxes and bubble mailers to ship books. If an order is for just one book, a bubble mailer is usually the best choice. I often ship 5-10 books in one order and those require a box. I buy boxes from Staples or eBay and bubble mailers from eBay. I also reuse boxes from Amazon orders. Important: when reusing a box from Amazon, use extra tape on the bottom. Do not trust the one strip of Amazon tape to be strong enough to hold books.  

For years I faithfully used Bandit tape to seal boxes. But I've recently switched to reinforced tape because it's a lot stronger and I can use much less. 

I wrap all books either in bubble wrap or brown kraft paper

I cut down boxes so the books fit snuggly inside. This step is very important. For example, if you are using a 10 x 8 x 8 box but the books only take up 5 inches, use a box cutter to slice down the corners of the box so it folds into a 10 x 8 x 5 inch box. This prevents the box from breaking if another box is stacked on top of it. 

Shipping Services

Most people use Media Mail to ship books. Media Mail is a special rate from USPS just for books, CDs, and other media. It's a cheap, flat rate service that makes it affordable to ship heavy books. The price is the same no matter where in the US the books are going, which makes it easy to factor the cost of shipping into your pricing so you can offer your customers free shipping. 

The problem with Media Mail is that it takes longer (3-9 days) and on some platforms (Paypal) you have to pay for tracking. There is also no included insurance. Media Mail also has a higher rate of lost packages, especially during the pandemic. For that reason, I have been using Pirate Ship to upgrade many customers to Priority Mail. Sometimes the price is the same as Media Mail and sometimes it's much higher - depends on weight and distance. It's worth checking, though!

It Takes Practice

You will get better at shipping over time. I've made every mistake possible...you can read about some of them here. Do not let confusion about shipping stop you from setting up shop. Just DO it and learn as you go. 

 

 

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