Should You be a Book Scout or an Online Bookseller

There are a number of a course in miracles that offer to pay you to scout for books. Some even offer to provide you with a cell phone and an Internet account for scouting. The way it works is simple, you type in the ISBN and the book price, and using this information they tell you whether or not to buy the book. If you sign up to be their book scout, you are expected to buy the books they instruct you to buy and promptly ship them to their warehouse.

Overall, the concept sounds good because you are assured of a profit from the books they tell you to buy, but, and I want to emphasize “but,” the number of books they instruct you to buy is not going to be a substantial number of the ones you look up, and since they intend to resell the books they buy from you, your profits will be much smaller, i.e., you are effectively a middle man in the business. You don’t think they are going to pay you what the book are worth do you? They are in business to make money too, and your participation in their grand scheme of things is to provide them with cheap labor to find books they can make money on.

Suppose you find a book that has a real value of $20 and the store you are scouting in is selling the book for $1.99. If you are instructed to buy the book, the service you are working for is going to pay at least $1.99 plus a dollar to have you ship it to them. The $1.00 shipping assumes you will be shipping several books to them in a box to minimize the per book cost of shipping, AND that the service even pays you to ship the books to them – some expect you to pay for shipping to their warehouse. So, now the “service” you work for is into the book for $2.99.

Because most such services market their books online through one of the big marketplaces like, assume they are going to be paying a sales commission of 15% when they sell the book. That is an additional $3.00 they will be paying when they do sell the book, so out of the $20 ultimate selling price, they are left with $14.01. Do you think you will get half of that? Not likely, you are apt to get 10% to 15% of the real value for your scouting service, i.e., $2.00 to $3.00, and they are going to make $11.01 to $12.01 from your effort and their “risk.”

Consider the alternative of selling the book online yourself. You could open your own online bookstore on one of the big marketplaces, pay as little as $5 per month for a wireless lookup service, and decide for yourself if the books you are scouting are worth buying and reselling. Just that one book above would pay for your lookup service and still make you more money than you are going to get scouting for someone else. It only takes about five such books to pay for all of the expenses for your own online bookstore each month.

The numbers are simple, if you find a book that has a real value of $20, you can make $2.00 to $3.00 by being someone’s scout, or you can make $15.00 selling it yourself through your own online bookstore. If you know where to look, how much to pay, and how to know a book’s value before you buy it, you can make even more. Do not be tricked into being a scout for someone else unless you just want assured sales and minimum profits. I hate to hear about people being taken advantage of because they are not aware of their alternatives.

You should also know that if you are scouting for someone else, you are passing up a lot of books that could make you some real money. For example, suppose that the book I used to illustrate above only had a real value of $8.50. Chances are the scouting service would not instruct you to buy the book because by the time they paid everyone they would only make $3.23 (assuming they paid you $1.00), which is probably not worth their time. That same book could make you $5.23 if you bought and sold it yourself.

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