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  • Food, Sorting, Pricing, Boxing

Contained in these four words is the core of your book sale.

Each component is important in the execution a successful sale.

The decision to sort then price, or price then sort is an individual one. Depending on how your committee works, determine the process that works best for you. Sometimes, a pricer will price many books and the sorters will follow and sort them. Other times, sorters will categorize books, and then the pricer will price and box the books.


Food may seem an unimportant topic when discussing a book sale. It is not. Light refreshments, sometimes more, and beverages are essential throughout your sale preparations and your sale. When you have your pricing and sorting “parties”, coffee “and” is a nice touch, and people appreciate it. During your sale, especially if people are working long hours, and, if you have a small group, this may happen, you must provide a light lunch to keep them going. There are some libraries where people work through the whole sale. These are incredibly dedicated people who help make your sale the success you hope it to be. They deserve to be taken care of. This does not mean expensive, gourmet meals; it means nice, simple, food to thank them.


As stated, when the books arrive, there will be many in various conditions. The very first task is to discard those books that are moldy and damaged. That being said, look at what you are discarding carefully. An old moldy, falling apart signed Mark Twain will still be worth quite a bit of money. However, you will find yourself the recipient of many books that are obviously not saleable that should be relegated to Book Heaven. Book disposal is addressed above.

Important when sorting is deciding the categories under which you will sort your books. Obviously, you will not sort your books into the categories of fiction and non-fiction, although, at times, it may seem the best course to follow. Your fiction is usually categorized into Science Fiction and Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, and General Fiction. Some purists will refine these categories even more; however, you have a good delineation if you use just these categories.

Children’s books are best classified into Children’s and Young Adults. Non-fiction is a bit more complicated. Of course, you will have your general categories of Art, Cookbooks, History, and Biography, and Religion. And then it begins. If you have Religion as a category, then you are probably going to want to sort it into Christian, Jewish, and Other. If you have History, you start dividing that into Civil War, Military History, American, and World History. See what we mean. General categories will work well if you are holding your first book sale; Medicine can include psychology; Family and Children can include couples and relationships; Self- help can include diet and exercise. Decide on your categories and post them on your sorting shelves. Sometimes your donations will drive your decision to create a new category or two. However, when people ask where a specific book might be and you can point them in the correct direction or category, they will search.

You might visit a book sale or two to get an idea of the various possibilities for categories and use their lists as a basis for yours.


There are many philosophies concerning pricing, and each established book sale has some standard; however, these standards are subject to change as well. Again, a visit to a book sale or two will give you some idea of pricing, and you may adopt your pricing policy around this.

Generally, mass-market paperbacks are 50 cents. It seems like a very small price for an $8.00 book, but that price has been established for a long time. You might try charging $1.00, and you may set a new standard, but for now this has been a standard. In fact, there are a few books sales that charge twenty-five cents for these paperbacks (definitely not recommended for your sale), and then people do complain at the 50-cent price.

Hardcover fiction is generally priced at $1.00 or $2.00. Given the high cost of a hard cover book, $2.00 seems quite an acceptable price. New fiction, books that are four years old or newer, will bring $3.00 to $4.00. Children’s books can range from 50 cents to $4.00. A book under $5.00 is 50 cents; a books $5.00 to $8.00 is $1.00; books $10.00-$20.00 range from $3.00 to $4.00 depending on popularity and condition. Harry Potter books and other such popular titles can bring in $5.00.

Non-fiction is more of a challenge. Generally such books range from $2.00 and up. Pricing a book one-sixth of its original price is a good starting point. You can price up or down depending on topic, condition, and popularity of the subject matter.


As stated it is important to have a very diverse committee. Anyone familiar with books, an amateur collector, even your true book lovers (aren’t we all?) might call attention to a book that appears special. There will definitely be times when you come across a book that you notice is old, signed, appears unique, something that gives you a sense it is special.

You might establish a committee of one or two who might research these possible “special” books. Sites such as www4.addall.com will help you identify if a book might be included in your box of “specials”. Even if you just have a hunch, it is a good idea to look up these books. It is wonderful and amazing to see what treasures have been donated to you.


When the books have been priced and sorted, you will box them to store before your sale. It is very important to box your books carefully, whether they are stored for a few weeks or a few months. Books should be packed flat, and, if books are packed on their spines, the spines should be down, yes, down. Pack tight and carefully so boxes can be stacked on top of each other for storage. It is very important to LABEL the boxes with their specific category.

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