Authors know that getting their books listed at Amazon is crucial for book sales. More and more readers are making Amazon their first place to go to purchase books, and with Amazon’s free shipping options and the convenience of shopping from home, that trend is not going to change. But Amazon offers different options to authors to sell their books, which can be both confusing and time-consuming to unravel. Here are some simple ways to maneuver through that process.
Amazon offers basically three ways to sell your book at its online store: 1) listing the book at Amazon and then shipping copies to Amazon, 2) having a seller’s account, or 3) selling your book for Kindle. I will focus on just the first two options, which relate to printed rather than digital books.
What are the differences between having Amazon sell your book and your creating a seller’s account to sell your book yourself at Amazon? Time and money. As an author, you will have to decide whether time or money is more important to you in working with Amazon, or you can balance out both ways at least until you decide which works best for you. Below are explanations for how to do both and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
List Your Book for Amazon to Sell
How: This requires creating an “Amazon Advantage” account, perhaps aptly named because Amazon rather than the author receives most of the advantage. To join, you need copies of your book, an ISBN, and a bar code. Then visit Amazon Advantage. Follow the steps but read the fine print. Amazon charges an annual fee ($29.95 currently and nonrefundable whether or not any of your books sell) and its commission is 55% of your retail price. Amazon will notify you to send books and how many. You pay the shipping and have no say over the number you send. If Amazon wants fifty, you pay the shipping on fifty, even if the books don’t sell. If Amazon only wants two at a time, you may find yourself making frequent small shipments which can be time consuming and more costly than one large shipment if your book is selling steadily.
Advantage: Once Amazon receives your books and starts selling them, you don’t have to deal with mailing out individual orders.
Disadvantages: Not only do you have to pay an annual fee to be listed, but Amazon’s 55% commission is very high. For example, a book priced at $25.95 would mean a profit of $11.68 for the author. Remember you also need to figure in the cost of shipping the books to Amazon so your profit will be even lower.
Be an Independent Seller Through Amazon
How: You can’t sell your book independently on Amazon until it is listed there, so regardless, your book needs an Amazon Advantage account. You can follow the steps above, become an Amazon Advantage client, and then later tell Amazon the book is no longer available, or if you are traditionally published, published by a subsidy press, or sign up with a distributor like Ingram, your publisher or distributor will create your Amazon Advantage account for you and pay the fees, just giving you the royalties you agreed on with the publisher or distributor. Today, many independent printers and book design firms will also list books at Amazon for self-published authors and simply charge a small flat one-time fee (usually around $50) to list your book for you. The book can be listed as out of stock, meaning Amazon has no copies, and you don’t need to send them any.
Once your book has a listing at Amazon, you can open a seller account with Amazon to sell your book independently. First, look up your book title on Amazon. On the right side of the screen for your Amazon listing is a little boxed area with the question, “Have one to sell?” followed by a button to click on that says, “Sell Yours Here.” Click the button and follow the steps to list your book and your information. You can list as many copies available as you like, provided you have that many copies in stock. Customers can now buy the book directly from you rather than Amazon. You pay nothing to Amazon until the book sells.
Advantages: The advantages are many, especially in terms of your profit. Rather than take 55% in commission like with an Amazon Advantage Account, Amazon takes something closer to 25%. Amazon also gives you a $3.99 credit to ship your book, which should pay the cost of shipping if you ship via media mail. So for example, that $25.95 book we used as an example previously and which weighs about one pound, will cost you $2.77 to mail. Amazon pays you $23.71 for the sale, including the $3.99 for shipping) which means your profit is $20.94 (about double the $11.68 minus shipping had you sold it through Amazon Advantage).
Another advantage to an individual seller account is that while Amazon may list your book at retail of $25.95, in your seller account you can list it slightly under that price so it appears less expensive to customers. You can also list the book, not only as “New” but include that it is autographed by the author and personally shipped by him or her. Even if you sign the books you ship directly to Amazon, Amazon won’t advertise for you that they are autographed, so listing your books on your seller account as “signed by the author” may be an advantage for you. Many readers will feel an autographed book is of more value than one that is not.
A final advantage is that you get your buyer’s address and email information, so you know more about your customer than you would if Amazon had sold the book. You can retain that information for future marketing mailings or updates to the customer when your next book comes out. Eventually, you might persuade the customer to buy directly through your website rather than through Amazon, thus giving you a greater profit in sales.
Disadvantages: You must ship the book within 48 hours of the order, and you are responsible for packaging and shipping, which means if your book is popular you will be making frequent trips to mail it, but it’s worthwhile if the book is selling.
Another disadvantage is that Amazon customers cannot receive FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders of $25 or more if a product is from an Amazon Seller rather than Amazon directly. This might make the customer less likely to buy your product, but if readers really want your book, they probably won’t mind paying a few extra dollars for shipping. However, if Amazon is also selling your book, customers will most likely opt to purchase that copy rather than looking at copies available from sellers.
As an author, you need to determine which selling option at Amazon is most beneficial for you. In my opinion, listing yourself as an independent seller is the better choice and Amazon’s best kept secret, but as I said, you can do both and experiment until you decide which one provides the greatest monetary return for your time and financial investment.