Book Sale Resources

Good organization is essential! Get off to a good start.

  • Develop a statement of purpose for the book sale. How will you use the proceeds? By knowing this ahead of time you can use your reason in the publicity.
  • Keep an initial book sale small and simple until you learn more about the amount of work and money involved.
Donation Management
  • Have a written Donation Policy. Be very clear about when and where people can donate books, and what you will and won’t take. (See the the Book Sale Donation policy examples below.) Consider having a consistent time and place for donation drop-off to lessen the burden on the library staff.
  • Book Sale Donation Policies:
  • Donation Acknowledgment
  • Libraries in the Mid-Hudson Library System have sought out off-site storage solutions including: storage lockers (donated); space in the village all; purchase of a shed located on library property
  • Consider having a written sorting and storage procedure to help orient new volunteers.
  • Volunteers should regularly sort books as they are donated to avoid a huge job right before the sale.
  • Try to create a procedure that enables volunteers to handle a book just once, from the donation box into the sort box that it will be carried over to the sale in.
  • Box Tips:
    • Save the good ones!
    • Try to amass many boxes of the same type to help you estimate how many books you have once they are all sorted. This also makes them easier to stack.
  • Look for boxes with:
    • hand holds
    • lids
    • that are stackable
    • or ones that can be cut down to a low height for stacking (good for paperbacks)
  • Boxes that are too big can be too heavy for the average volunteer to lift, so be aware of the weight of a full box.
  • Box sources: Buy them at an office supply store, grocery stores, liquor/wine stores
  • As soon as a box is full of a category:
    • close it and mark it to indicate its category
    • number boxes in a category so you can estimate how much table space that category will take up
    • consider placing colored dots on boxes that correspond with the category contained within to add a quick visual identifier.
  • Categories should be diversified enough to provide easy customer selection but not so numerous as to cause confusion at the sale. Note the categories at a bookstore for inspiration.
  • Be alert for rare, first edition or expensive books while sorting – have someone with special knowledge price them. See the Pricing Section below for leads on finding prices.
  • Consider “display” categories like coffee table books, books about the Hudson Valley, local authors, etc.
  • Book Scanners used in conjunction with web sites like, Better World Books or can help you find books that are worth more than average to sell online.
  • “Almost new” and “gift worthy” books could be set aside for a special holiday sale.
  • What if you didn’t sort? The Guilderland Public Library didn’t sort books into categories at a sale in 2011 and made $12,000!
  • Help people look forward to your sale every year by scheduling it around the same time annually.
  • Is your book sale bundled with other community events?
  • Is your book sale bundled with other library events? (Examples: silent auction, children’s program, antique appraisal day, bake sale, raffles)
  • Is your sale targeted? Examples: Kids and Teen Books; Romance; Mystery Books
  • Involve as much of the community as possible through book donations, sorting and working at the sale. Word-of-mouth is the #1 PR tool.
  • Lead up to the sale with announcements to your patrons through your library’s web site, newsletter and signage in the library.
  • Email list: create an email notification list sign-up opportunity at your sales
  • Have flyers for your next sale at your current sale.
  • Banners, Lawn signs – check out VistaPrint for low cost solutions TV, radio and newspapers.
  • Flyers at local businesses (especially book stores! other ideas: grocery store, post office, laundromat, delis, daycare/nursery schools…)
  • Handbill at the circ desk – Quick ideas for creating handbills below
    • PowerPoint: Generate your info on one slide, copy it to a second slide, print as “handouts, two slides per page”
    • Accucut dies – suggested shapes: book, bookmark, balloon, circle, recycle symbol…
  • Contact local book dealers about your sale, they’ll be first in line!
  • List your sale online:
    • (Some MHLS libraries already use this site: Plattekill, Poughkeepsie, Marlboro, New Paltz, Carmel, and Garrison just to name a few.)
    • Craigslist
  • Volunteer Management Resources [MHLS]
  • Advertising for Book Sale Volunteers Specifically – Friends of the Houston Public Library
  • Sorting and setting up sales are great activities for Eagle Scouts, High School Honor Society students, catechism students and correctional facility work groups.
  • Scheduling Tips: Make charts of shifts for volunteers to work and have their phone numbers/email addresses on the chart. Day of the sale scheduling: Send them a reminder note of their schedule a few days before the sale. Overlap shift times to allow for a smooth transfer of responsibilities. Local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, sororities/fraternities and high school National Honor students can be very helpful. You may want to avoid very young volunteers. Some libraries limit the volunteer age to 16.
  • Provide recognition for volunteers before, during and after the sale. Thank you notes should be sent to all of your volunteers and sponsors immediately after the sale.
  • Be consistent.
  • Mark prices in the same place on each book to expedite checkout during the sale.
  • Take into account the condition, scarceness and popularity as well as the original retail price.
  • Price “better books” higher (published in the last 5 years; good condition)
  • Tiered pricing structure day by day, so, for example: Day 1: $4 for hardcover, Day 2: $2, Day 3: $1
  • “Blackboard Specials”: for a day or an hour offer a % off on a particular category: buy 1 get 1 free, 50% off history books, 3 books for $5
  • Need help determining a price? Check out:,, FetchBook,, and eBay. Or consider selling books on commission through a book dealer.
  • Priced-to-go Solutions: near the end of the sale consider these “priced-to-go options” to move more items out the door
    • $1/$5 a bag
    • 50% off everything
    • Free paperback with every purchase
    • Purchase a canvas bag and fill it for free
    • Invite schools/teachers and nonprofit organizations to take what they would like at no charge
    • “Free but don’t bring it back…”
Sales Tax
  • If you hold 1 or 2 book sales a year you are not required to collect sales tax.
  • If you hold more than 2 book sales you should call the NYS Department of Taxation at 1.800.698.2909 and ask for a ruling.
  • Libraries with on-going book sales should be registered with NYS as a vendor. Use form DTF-17 (Application for Registration as a Sales Tax Vendor);  Instructions for the form. Make sure that sales tax forms are submitted after the sale if necessary.
Friends Pre-Sale
  • Consider holding a “member’s only” pre-sale before the sale opens to the general public. This offers a nice perk to those faithful contributors of your library.
Preview Sale
  • Many libraries offer a “Preview Sale” the evening before the official start of the books sale, attendees are charged an entrance fee to get first crack at the books in your sale.
Day of the Sale
  • Volunteer Training
  • Buttons to make it easy for your customers to identify who is a volunteer that can help them.
  • Sample Book Sale Policies
    • Book Sale Policy [Friends of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System]
  • Tiered pricing for multi-day sales:  lower prices as your sale goes on, for the last day try $1 or $3 for a bag of books.
  • Take pictures to use in your advertising next year!
Selling Books Online



  • “ matches you with rare, collectible and quality books that have been donated to public libraries. The money you spend goes directly to the library that sells you the book. You benefit because you can find quality books at great prices. Everyone Wins!”
  • The Library Store, a division of Rundel Library Foundation: The Rundel Library Foundation, organized to raise funds for the Rochester Public Library, sells used books on the Internet through an agreement with Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Advanced Book Exchange and The Library Store have contractual agreements with Barnes &,,, and The Library Store Internet used book inventory is listed on all of these sites. The Rundel Library Foundation, on behalf of the Library Store, will help smaller libraries sell books online through their organization for a 50-50 split of the proceeds (books must have a estimated value of at least $10.00). “All research and pricing is done by trained volunteers and we have one part time person who does the daily order processing,” says Joan Belgiorno, Director of Development for the Rundel Foundation, “It has been our experience that the key to the success of the program is the selection of the books. For example, the University of Rochester has a very dedicated group of volunteers who are very efficient in selecting books that will be successful. We have recently partnered with a small public library that does not have the same level of sorting experience, but we have been working with them to help them refine their system.” To explore this option for your library or Friends Group contact Joan at
  • eBay Auction site – Fee information
  • is a fixed-price, online marketplace to sell high quality, new, overstocked, remaindered and used products at discounted prices. Unlike auctions, where the selling price is based on bidding, the seller sets the price for items at at the time an item is listed. The site’s expanding marketplace currently includes books, CDs, movies, video games, computers, consumer electronics, sporting goods and trading cards.
  • Advanced Book Exchange
  • Marketplace
Dealing with Discards

Have other ideas? (Other than a bonfire…) Let us know!

After the Sale
  • Have an “after-party” to unwind and thank each other – that was a lot of work!
  • Ask yourselves a few questions shortly after the sale to help you reflect:
    • What was your experience?
    • What did you like or dislike about the process and event?
    • What could make next year even better?


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