The Cheapest & Best Way to Ship a Book!

You might think that the cheapest way to ship a book is through media mail.

Nope.

In this article I’m going to tell you that absolute cheapest and easiest way to ship a book, from the wrapping to the postage. With these tips, you won’t ever overpay for shipping again… and that means more money in your pocket!

Where is the cheapest place to ship a book?

It’s no surprise that United States Post Office has the cheapest shipping, unless you are getting a large volume discount from another shipper. So, if you’re selling smaller volumes, stick to the USPS.

What type of shipping should you use?

This is easy: If the item is under 13oz then it’s always cheaper and quicker to opt for the 1st class mail rate. It will cost less than media mail and your customers will get their books faster – which is good for your ratings!

If the book is heaver that 13 ounces, then the media mail rate is cheaper.

If you’re selling on eBay, you’ll notice that can’t use the media mail rate for shipping choices. As a matter of fact, the many different options you can get if you walk into the post office aren’t available via eBay. But you can get the media rate if you go directly to the USPS website and print out your own label. The only problem with this is the discount on the tracking isn’t as good as on eBay plus eBay will automatically attach the tracker to the item sold so that you don’t have to go back later and do it by hand. So, the lesson is: If it’s a light package then it makes sense to print an eBay shipping label.

Amazon doesn’t have the mail printing option on it’s site, so it’s going to be just you and post office.

The Cheapest (and greenest!) Way to Package Books

For my $10,000 worth of books that I sold online, I wrapped each and every one of them with recycled grocery store paper bags. I encourage you to find some and keep them on hand for wrapping. The only tools you need are:

  • Heavy duty shipping paper or grocery store bags
  • Packing tape gun (the kind movers use) & tape
  • Scissors

Smaller books, CDs or pamphlets (yes, I sold those, too) can be shipped in envelopes, either padded or regular. Stock up on a variety and keep them with your paper bags. It’s cheaper if you buy envelopes in bulk.

But won’t my books get damaged if I don’t use a box?

Out of all the books I personally sold, I only had about .01% of the books get damaged in shipping. The money I saved in using cheap wrapping versus boxes and the cheaper shipping more than made up for the small number of unhappy customers. I had more complements on the wrapping than anything! But in the case someone was unhappy, I would immediately compensate the buyer a few bucks and that would fix the situation.

Be a cheap but fast shipper!

I suggest that you ship your packages the next day so that you will have happy customers. Find a post office close to you and get in the habit of stopping there everyday (or the day after each sale) on your way to work or back. (I would simply stop by the post office on my way to work so that I didn’t go out of my way for this.) Just make it part of your routine and it won’t see like such a hassle.

Watch out for mistakes… they happen more often than you think.

Have you ever sent something or received something in the mail that took three times longer than normal? Chances are someone typed in the wrong postal code when processing the package. As a seller, you cannot risk this happening to your customer; you may have to give a refund and also risk a bad rating. So, how can you prevent that from happening?

When you drop off your packages, bring a list of the addresses you’re shipping to with you on a separate piece of paper. You can double check your receipt with your list before you leave. There have been many times when I had to have them change the address because it was entered in wrong. If you let it go, the package will get sent to the wrong distribution center which means it will be delayed a couple of weeks.

Not all post offices are the same.

There is this USPS location in my town which was notorious for losing packages. I lost approximately 5% of my packages at that location. When I switched post offices, I didn’t lose any more packages! It turns out that they had a reputation (among other postal workers) of being sloppy. I decided to go to a smaller USPS location in a small town which was nearby to avoid this problem. It wasn’t as crowded and the customers were friendlier which meant the clerks were friendly and better clerks. Try to work with a postal location where the clerks are friendly and helpful… and maybe they won’t toss your packages in the garbage.

Don’t be a jerk to the postal workers.

If you want your packages delivered on time for the cheapest price, develop a relationship with your postal worker. In return, they will go out of their way to steer toward the better shipping options.

There are often nuances about the charges which you may not benefit from if the clerk doesn’t tell you about them. Very often the rate is up to interpretation in some cases. I can’t tell you how many times I had different clerks charge me from $1.10 to $1.98 for the same exact package in the same week. Make an effort to be nice and that will go a long way toward being more profitable in the end!

Happy shipping,

- Frank

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  • Choosing a Method of Shipping
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  • Shipping Internationally: Some Tips

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