Ultimate Guide + Real Case studies
Do you have a stockpile of old books that you want to shift? Maybe you’re a writer and want to start selling your painstakingly crafted wares for a profit? Perhaps you’ve just finished university and have a pile of old textbooks cluttering up the apartment?
You might be working for the man, and you just want out? You’ve decided that working for yourself seems like a much better way of living?
There’s a way to get it done on Amazon and this guide will help you start selling books and make some extra money.
Of course, there’s eBay, and pretty much everyone knows how to sell their old junk on that platform. But Amazon seems more formal, more like a real store - surely you have to be a formal business to start selling? They wouldn’t let any old Tom, Dick or Harriet flog their bargains on Amazon, surely?
The fact of the matter is that selling books on Amazon - whether it’s your own Kindle masterpiece, a self-published paperback, or old gems you’ve found at rummage sales - is actually pretty straightforward.
This guide covers 2 ways of selling books on Amazon. These are:
The simplest method of self-publishing is through Amazon’s dedicated eBook creation website, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). You can do this through your existing Amazon account - you don’t need to set up a store to sell an eBook.
Woah there, Cowboy.
First, of course, you have to write your book.
You might already have a burning issue that you’re desperate to explore - writing’s all about creative expression, after all.
The problem for self-published authors, however, is that there are thousands and thousands of them - all battling in the same marketplace.
If you’re telling your life-story, then get it written - but don’t expect it to sell millions of copies (unless you’re Barack Obama). We’re not trying to put you off, here - but it’s important to know what you’re up against.
But, hey - JK Rowling did it. And that was just some dumb book about wizards, right? (OK - I know some people liked it!)
So, if she did it, then why can’t you?
But what do you need to have success selling your own books?If you want to turn your self-publishing empire into a profitable business, you need to do some research.
There’s a bit of an art to identifying appropriate subject niches that sell. But fret not - you can learn this in a few simple steps.
Obviously, if you’re starting from scratch and you haven’t written your book quite yet, you should think about subjects that are of interest to you. If you write about topics that you lack a passion for, you’re embedding your own boredom into your poorly-prostituted words, and no-one’s gonna go for that; regardless of how punchy you make your title.
Find a niche that already exists and has a track record of sales. Dogs, for example. Check the pets category and look at what's popular.
But there's a little more to it than just what's at Number 1 in a particular chart.
If you pick a broad, popular niche, you’re up against all of the current Best Sellers; but at least you know that they’re selling books.Say your chosen niche is Suitcases of Nigeria, for example. Sure - you’re likely to be the only one selling books in this niche - but is there any evidence that there's a hunger for this rather "special interest" subject? Has anyone ever bought a book about Suitcases of Nigeria?
The best way to determine the most popular niche is to refer to the Amazon Best Sellers Rank (BSR) of the Top 5 books in your particular niche.
I’ll explain how you search in a moment, but the golden number is 10,000. Finding titles under 5,000 is a sure fire.
The Amazon Best Sellers Rank tells you how a book has faired regarding sales against all of the competitors. Pick a book - any book - and search for it on Amazon.
Let’s go with The Complete Ketogenic Diet For Beginners: Your Essential Guide to Living the Keto Lifestyle, by Amy Ramos. It just happens to be number one in the Cookbooks, Food & Wine Kindle chart. But go with any book of your choice.
Click on the book and scroll down the page until you reach the Product Details section.
Here we see that this particular title is #104 in the paid Kindle store. That means people are buying books in this niche. If the BSR is below #10,000, then you’re onto a potential winner.On the other hand, Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates, by Ross Guberman is the Number 1 Bestseller in Kindle eBooks: Law: One-L, but the BSR is #65,854, meaning that it might be selling well in that particular category, but it’s not really selling that well overall.
Here you see that it’s #1 in the Law > One-L category, but it’s #11811 in the Nonfiction chart.
So, look for books that have a BSR of less than 10,000.
5,000 to be extra sure.
These are categories that sell well - people are currently buying these eBooks.Before you start to compose your eBook Best Seller, find out what sells - and then write according to market demand.
In the past, if you wanted to get your book published in paperback, you needed a publisher and (usually) a terrible royalty deal.
The good news is that you no longer need a large publishing house to produce hard-copies of your book. You don’t need a big budget. You just need a great book.
createspace.com is an Amazon company, and they Print On Demand (POD). This means that you don’t need to order a thousand copies that you desperately try to flog to bookstores.
You simply set up an account with CreateSpace, post your completed book onto the Amazon store, and wait for the orders to come in.
No copies are printed until there’s an order, so there’s no up-payment to worry about. It doesn’t cost anything to set up, and you get a decent royalty cut.
And what’s even better is that your POD paperback is listed as an Amazon Prime product, which means that your customers get next day delivery.
If you have a completed manuscript, you can get published in paperback in 48 hours!
But how to do this?Follow the following simple steps:
Go to CreateSpace.com and click on Sign Up.
The first page asks for all the usual data - email address, password, name details, country, and some simple to answer questions and tick-boxes.
Next, agree to the obligatory Service Agreement terms. Read them first, obviously! Followed by an email verification process. All pretty standard. All super-easy.
Click on Set Up Your Book Now. You’ll have the option of using Guided Set-Up or Expert Set-Up. Go for Guided Set-Up, because it’s mostly self-explanatory.
The system applies the all-important ISBN code that gives your title its official place in book history.
And that’s it.
The most complicated part of the process is setting up your tax account. If you’re based in the US, you input your straight-forward tax numbers; if you’re based in the UK or elsewhere, you have to sign a declaration to say that you pay tax in your country of residence, and then you complete your tax details.
No. As long as you have an active Amazon account (just the type that you use to buy goods), that’s all you need.
If you’re thinking of setting yourself up as an Amazon seller - making money from selling new or second-hand books - you’ve come to the right place.
What you need to understand before you start is which method of fulfillment will work best for your new company.
Sure, you can list your books on Amazon easily enough (the rules coming up!), but are you going to sit up every night packaging up your orders and spending half the morning at the Post Office the next morning?
There are three principal methods of selling and fulfilling your orders on Amazon.
Fulfilled-by-Merchant (FBM) - you create the listing and ship your orders yourself. If you have an existing fulfillment infrastructure, then this is the option for you.Amazon Vendors (AMZ) - you sell your inventory to Amazon directly through their central vendor services. If you have a huge amount of inventory that you need to offload rapidly, this could be your option.
Fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA) - you set up the listing of your product, but Amazon store and ship your products on your behalf. Your products get to be part of Amazon Prime (which is a major bonus). Additionally, Amazon handles your customer services: dealing with refunds or problems on your behalf. Sound good? That’s why it’s the most popular option for total beginners.
So, you need to make a decision about your fulfillment. More about all of those options a little later.First, you need to set up an Amazon Store.
If you read the section on setting up a CreateSpace account, you’ll see how straightforward it is. Setting up an Amazon Seller Account is just as simple.
To create a seller account you will need to visit services.amazon.comIf you’re starting out, select “Sell as an Individual” to avoid paying an extra $1 per sale. "Professional" costs (at time of writing) $39.99 a month, but you don’t pay the $1 fee for each item. If you’re unlikely to list more than 40 units a month, go for Individual. If you’re selling more than 40, it pays to use the Professional Plan. You can change your choice at a later date if you need to.
If you’re handling hundreds of titles, it can be a nightmare to keep up with your sales and your stock. Fetcher integrates directly with your Amazon Seller Account - it helps you keep adrift of your profits.
Fetcher provides a plethora of services that will help you keep track of what’s coming in and what’s going out.
Sign in to Amazon Seller Central, click on the Inventory menu and select “Add a listing."
You can enter each ISBN into the search field, and the details of that publication will appear.
Then Click “I have one to sell" You’ll need to give an honest description of the condition of the book.There are five conditions that describe the state of the title:
Depending on your chosen fulfillment method, you might ship your inventory to the nearest Fulfillment Center. It’s really straightforward - pack them up in a box and send them using one of Amazon’s chosen carriers.
What are you going to sell and where are you going to find your stock? Are you going to work within a specific niche or are you planning to become a general bookstore?
This all comes back to that BSR - the Best Seller Rank. You want to find books that you know are going to sell well. Check out Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or your local shop window to find out where there’s a yard sale because people always sell books.
If you sell by FBA, then your item will be listed as an Amazon Prime product; providing next day delivery, making your book more appealing to a buyer.
We’ve covered the basics. FBA is where you send your books to Amazon, who store them in their one of their vast warehouses. When somebody orders your product, Amazon picks it and packs it. Then they ship it.
They also provide customer support - dealing with customer issues, refunds, and replacements.
FBA provides a seller with access to millions of Amazon Prime customers.
Amazon Prime customers are statistically much more likely to order a Prime product because of the faster turn-around time.
But there are costs (The so called "Amazon FBA fees")
Nothing comes for free - Amazon is an international business, after all.
There are a number of fees associated with selling your books through FBA.
You pay for shipping. Use the Fulfilment by Amazon Revenue Calculator to find out how much it will cost. The more substantial the size of the item, the more Amazon will charge you for packing and shipping.The product dimensions and weight are taken into account, as is the speed of delivery. The FBA Revenue Calculator provides a clear breakdown of costs associated with shipping and packing your book, including confirmation of net profitability.
On average, Amazon takes around a 15% cut on all sales by FBA. This, minus the fulfillment fees might reduce your profit margins considerably.
Any time an Amazon employee handles your product, there’s an associated fee. There are storage fees and weight-based fees for shipping. If you have products that haven’t sold within a year, there is a Long Term Storage fee.
If you think that FBA is going to eat into your profits, then you might consider FBM - Fulfilled-by-Merchant.
If you want to stay in control of your stock and lower the fees associated with FBA, this might be your route.
With FBM, you receive your order through Amazon.com and pack the item and arrange the shipping yourself. You provide your customer services and deal with returns and complaints - all of which could affect your seller rating.
But, it puts you in the driving seat.
Yes, it’s pretty difficult to give a definitive top selling items list because it’s always changing.
What you should know, though, is that book sales on Amazon are still massively fruitful. Founded in 1999, Amazon was the original online book retailer, but they've expanded exponentially into a store that sells just about anything. Amazingly, Amazon sales currently account for 43% of all online purchases. 25% of all US adults are Amazon Prime customers, and they ship 1.6 million packages every day.So when a company is that successful, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?
If you’re starting your book-selling business, Amazon’s Best Sellers page should become your regular haunt. Use the page to ascertain what’s hot and what’s not.But don’t just rely on the principal list that appears on the first page - explore your niche category.
The Best Seller lists not only provide up-to-the-minute insight into what’s selling, but it also tells you how much other sellers are charging. So, if you can access popular titles for a decent price and can afford to sell cheaper, then it could be your meal ticket to a million dollars.
Remember - this list is alive.Just because a particular title is at #1 today, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to stay there. Play the long game and observe trends as they happen. If you’re an FBM seller, you can more immediately respond to trends because you don’t need to wait for Amazon to receive the products before your item goes live.
Why would anyone spend all that time to write a book, and then give it away for free?!
It’s not as crazy as it seems.
Kindle distribution doesn’t cost you anything if you’re giving your book away for free. Offering your title for no return is an excellent way of creeping up the BSR.There are plenty of examples where books that started out as freebies became extremely popular - jumping up the charts and obtaining lots of positive reviews. And once a book h’as become popular, the seller has introduced a price tag.
The advantage of making your publication part of the Kindle Unlimited program is that Amazon actively promotes your book to KU subscribers, who are likely to take a punt on a title if it catches their eye. This can help increase your BSR, bringing you closer to the top of the chart. And each time somebody downloads and reads your book, you get a fee.
Amazingly, $131.6Million was paid to authors participating in the KU program in 2015. The fee that an author receives is based on the number of pages actually read by the subscriber.
However, the reality for the author isn’t always particularly great. You might sell a 150 page eBook for $2.99; after Amazon’s cut, you’ll make $2.09 on that sale. However, if someone reads your entire book under the KU scheme, you’ll make just $0.75.
As a new virtual bookstore owner, you’re going to be spending LOTS of time scanning book sales, library sales, thrift stores, and your own (or your friend’s) bookshelves.
Once you’ve found your favored scanner app, allowing you to check the current price of a title by scanning the barcode or ISBN code, you’ll be studying books all the time.
You’ll be constantly looking for cheap books that sell for a higher price on Amazon. Cross-referenced to the book’s current BSR, you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to whether that title is worth a purchase.
There’s a fair amount of controversy regarding Amazon reviews - there are some unscrupulous types who pay freelance writers to write favorable reviews about their products.
But we wouldn’t do that!
Honest, constructive reviews is one of the things that makes Amazon tick. When you’re considering a purchase, you check the reviews! We all do it.Amazon’s Vine Voice program provides free products to genuine reviewers with an excellent reputation for honesty and regularity. Once you’ve received the product, you write a review and keep the product. Simple as that.
The Vine Voice program is only available to good reviewers.
When another shopper reads your review, they get to comment on whether that review was Helpful. The more “Helpful” votes your review gets, the more likely you will be to be considered a good reviewer.
If Amazon considers you a consistently helpful reviewer, they’ll send you an invite to the program.
Becoming a seller on Amazon is much less complicated than you might think. Consider how you want to fulfill your orders - either by sending out your products yourself (FBM) or by getting Amazon to do all the hard work for you with their FBA program.
If you’re selling second-hand books, get out there and find your stock. Rummage sales, thrift stores, and library sales are all excellent sources for product. Take your scanner out on the road with you and check every title’s BSR. Buy your product at a low price so that you can resell it for a higher amount in your Amazon bookstore (arbitrage).
If you have any comment, question or doubt, feel free to leave a comment below. I’m always around, so I reply quickly.
All the best! I look forward to hearing your success stories selling books on Amazon.