If it werenít for Amazon.com,
I would sell only a few books. Iíve put a lot of effort into maximizing
my sales with them, since I donít yet have many other useful sales
channels. (I just signed up with Baker &
Taylor but havenít started working with them; I sell some books by
mail order but havenít figured out a low cost way to accept charge
cards, and I tried using PayPal awhile back but never worked out
the bugs.) Because many good articles in the PMA Newsletter and online
articles have helped me, I thought I should take the time to write
up what Iíve learned about Amazonís three programs. I hope it will
make life easier for other small publishers.
In the Advantage program, you sell on consignment with a 55 percent
discount and pay a yearly membership fee of $29.95. As Amazon sells
the books, it pays you. Why would a consignment arrangement benefit
Because it means Amazon
orders plenty of books and usually has sufficient stock. In our
experience, online retailers that do not buy a book on consignment
donít stock it or donít do a good job of stocking it. If your book
isnít in stock, the chances of making a sale are greatly decreased.
Returns in the Advantage
program are negligible. In the year and a half that Pete Publishing
has participated, weíve had only two copies of There Is Eternal
Life For Animals returned, and they came back because of damage
To optimize your listing as an Advantage participant:
Ask satisfied customers
to write a review. Good reviews sell books.
"Look Inside" program to see if itís right for you.
This allows a customer to search for a subject not only by title,
but also within a bookís pages.
Provide a good description
and table of contents.
Take advantage of
the 20-word editorial quotes Amazon allows you to include.
Pay attention to
ranking. Customers may not watch the ranking system, but Amazon
does, and so will bookstores, libraries, wholesalers, and distributors.
The lower the number, the better. When you get some PR, youíll
usually see your numbers improve for a day or two.
Look at the bottom
of your book listing and youíll see "Favorites."
Create some favorites
and add your book along with a couple of other complementary
Use the "Make
a Recommendation" tool to help drive your sales up.
Review the top 100
best-selling books on Amazon to see if any of them link logically
to your book. Then suggest that your customers recommend your
book on the related booksí pages, and on pages for other related
All they have to do is copy your bookís ISBN, paste it in the
"Make a Recommendation" box, and hit Submit. Lots of
people donít know about your book, so take advantage of this
Use the "Rate
This Item" function on left-hand side of the screen. Ask
your customers to give your book a five-star rating!
Amazon has one of the
best book databases in existence, so even if people donít buy your
book there, youíre likely to benefit by having it listed. Bookstores,
libraries, and customers all go to Amazon to look up books. I had
an acquisitions librarian from the University of Utah contact me
for a review copy of my book. The review that ran in their magazine
recommended it for both public and academic libraries.
This is a referral fee program that you can participate in using
your Web site. Youíd probably provide a link to Amazon from your
Web site for the convenience of your customers anyway, so you may
as well make a referral fee, and recoup some of that 55 percent discount
by becoming an Amazon Associate. Although rates change from time
to time and from product to product, 5 percent is a fairly usual
commission. Once you set up the links, thereís nothing to do but
make money while people click through from your site. Granted, this
may not be a very big moneymaker, but the more traffic you have on
your site, the better the referral fees are likely to be. You can
even make money on the competitionís books.
Some people like to buy
several books on the same subject, and if theyíre going to buy
your competitionís books anyway, you might as well make some money
too. Amazonís reports will show you an itemized list of fees, so
you can see what sells best.
Since Amazon doesnít want you to make your own personal purchases
through your site, try to set up a buddy system with another Amazon
Associate. Make your personal purchases on each otherís sites so
that the referral fees arenít lost.
Using Amazon Marketplace, any person or business with an item to
sell can offer that item directly to Amazon customers alongside the
same item offered by Amazon. You can sell your own books, as well
as other books and products, new or used.
Why sell your own books on Amazon Marketplace?
Itís an ideal place to sell copies that are slightly defective. Sell
them for a couple of dollars less and autograph them to sweeten the
Through those sales you
can build your customer database, since you will obtain customersí names
and contact information. The Marketplace gives you an opportunity
to make contact with a customer. Once you ship the book, you are
required to e-mail the customer to say itís on the way. Include
an order form and business card with each shipment, noting that
youíd love to hear from them after theyíve read the book. Invite
them to visit your Web site. You can ask your satisfied customers
to write an Amazon review, and then you can add the reviews to
your Web site.
You make a little more
money on each book than in the Amazon Advantage program. Amazon
takes a 99-cent fee and 15 percent of sales, and credits your account
with shipping money!
You can keep the sales
going when Amazon drops the ball, and encourage it to stock enough
books so that the screen will display "Usually ships in 24
rather than "Usually ships in 2ó3 weeks," which makes us
can give you valuable insight on what marketing techniques work
best by asking them how they heard about your book.Amazon handles
the credit card acceptance and approval process.
Itís fast and easy to
list and ship books. Just follow the instructions on your bookís
page, over to the right under "Sell Yours Here." When
your book is sold, Amazon will send you an e-mail with a section
containing the customerís packing slip, which you can print out
and enclose with the order.
In our first experience selling There Is Eternal Life For Animals
on Amazon Marketplace, we sold six slightly defective books within
two weeks. Since then, they have been selling faster. These books
yield more money than the "perfect" books because you eliminate
the 55 percent discount. We like to sell perfect books autographed
for $1 less than the retail price, because the lower price is an
incentive for the buyer to click the link that states "Buy X
copies used and new from $$" under the photo of your book cover.
On your Web site you can tell customers to look for your special
Amazon Marketplace offers, and of course, provide the link and make
your Amazon Associate referral fee too.
Hereís an example of how a Marketplace transaction can play out.
By contrast, if you sold
the same book at regular retail price through the Advantage program,
Amazon would get $7.14; youíd get $5.84, plus pay to ship the books
My Overall Evaluation
In summary, thereís almost no paperwork involved and no invoicing.
Amazon will e-mail your Advantage and Marketplace orders (unlike
Barnes & Nobleís snail-mail approach), and you can have all your
payments directly deposited into your bank account.
Of course, every sales channel has its downside. One weak area with
Amazon is that there is no telephone number for contacting a human
being. Another is that Amazon occasionally runs out of stock, although
the Marketplace is an excellent remedy for that.
For details on Amazonís programs, go to www.amazon.com,
scroll down toward the bottom of the page to "Directory of All
Stores," and click on "Sell Items."
Overall, I find that Amazon is easy to work with. Yes, Amazon wants
to make money, and it knows how to do it. And when it makes money,
you make money!
Niki Behrikis Shanahan, a member of PMA and the Cat Writerís Association,
is the author of There Is Eternal Life for Animals, published by
Pete Publishing in June 2002. For more information, visit www.eternalanimals.com or