Image by Garry Knight.

Everyone needs to make a little extra money to keep squeaking along at the moment – the problem is, it often seems like the old saying true; you need to have money to make money.

Most traditional options for investing, saving and lending are only available once you’re already fairly comfortable. That’s no help to ordinary people like you or me at all!

Fortunately, there is a fairly simple way for those in the know to make a little extra cash on the side. ‘Book barns’ are large warehouses that collect and sell many types of book for very low prices. They typically get the books for nothing or next-to-nothing, because it’s often cheaper to offload the books than to destroy them.

The aim for the book barn is then to sell the books as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible.

Typically they will have a section where you can pick up quite valuable hardbacks for a single pound, dollar or euro. This is where you can step in!

If you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to make a profit of between 1000% and 2000% per book. It doesn’t usually end up being a huge amount of money, but for the time and money invested it’s a great little sideline. It tipped me over the mark from barely scraping by to having to go to Choose Your Accountant for help managing my tax returns!

For reference, one example of a book barn can be seen here.

Here are three things to keep in mind while buying books from book barns, to ensure that you can sell them on for more.

1. Don’t Go For Classics

Classic works of literature are instantly recognisable, and there are often some very old hardbacks in book barns, up to around 150 years old and counting. However, unless they’re a first edition, or have some other historical value, they’re almost certainly worthless.

Trust me, you will not find a first edition in a book barn* – they have their own people to check for things like that! We’re here to make a handy couple of hundred a month, not hope for a hundred thousand that we’ll probably never see.

It seems counter-intuitive, but the more popular (and in some cases the better) the books in book barns are, the less likely it is that they will end up making you money.

There are millions of copies of Dickens out there, but if you can find a mediocre Victorian potboiler, or an edition of a moderately well-known historical-figure’s diary you’re much more likely to have stumbled upon a rare slice of life that somebody out there would really like to get their hands on.

*OK, you might find a first edition in a book barn on occasion, but the chances are vanishingly small.

2. Make Sure It’s Not Part Of A ‘Series’

For the same reason, make sure the book you have your eye on is not from a well-known literary series of books. Everyman’s Library and similar organisations made a lot of money by selling books in high quantities, on the cheap.

Many Everyman’s Library editions, and editions from Everyman’s competitors, will also be classics. A double-foul.

It’s worth being sceptical, as a book in the Everyman’s Library series, or similar, is almost invariably as good as worthless.

3. Look For Historical Value

Novels and textbooks can, in some cases, if you know what you’re doing, hold some value.

The main reason that these books hold value, though, is that they are interesting in some historical context.

Academics of many kinds, not just historians, are often looking for primary sources and interesting texts that shine a light on what life was like in some small way.

The letters of an eccentric minor scientist might hold some real interest for a modern scientist, a professor of English Literature interested in science fiction’s origins, a psychiatrist might be interested in accounts of exorcisms… the list goes on and on. Seemingly unimportant books can be worth a fairly decent chunk of your rent to a surprisingly diverse array of people.

Journals, letters, essays and polemics can all be sold on for much more than you bought them for. Seek these out, place them on an online bookselling site, and see if anyone’s interested.

The signs of high value are fairly obvious when you know what to look for. The golden rule, if you’re not quite sure, is to see if you can use an internet café, or if you have one your own computer, to check how much your latest find is worth.