The options to sell books on Amazon can be organized into 3 categories:
- SellerCentral: anyone can sell any physical book in new or used condition.
- Amazon-owned book distribution portals: Advantage, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).
- Third-party distributors/aggregators.
This guide is organized into these 3 sections with sub sections for each of the Amazon book distribution portals and FAQs for each. Here’s a quick reference guide to book-selling options by book format:
|Book Formats||New Books||Used Books|
- It is written primarily for individuals, self-publishers and small publishers based in the U.S. International residents might also find it useful for selling their books in the U.S.
- I often use “book” to refer to eBook, Kindle eBook, and audiobooks, not just paperback and hardcover printed books.
- Selling used and new books using SellerCentral, including information about Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
- 4 Portals for selling (new) self-published books, including Kindle eBooks and audiobooks.
- Using third-parties to sell books on Amazon (some are wholesalers).
- How to combine options to meet your goals.
It’s super simple for anyone to sell books on Amazon, new or used, all you need is a free SellerCentral account. If the book or textbook you own is not listed on Amazon, you can add it. You need to decide on a price, describe the condition, and arrange to ship it to the buyer when sold.
Although SellerCentral is more commonly used to sell used books, there is no reason why publishers—or individuals that own a new book—can’t use SellerCentral. (Nor can a publisher stop an individual from selling a book.)
Defining key terms:
- Marketplace: Amazon Marketplace is an e-commerce platform owned and operated by Amazon that enables third-party sellers to sell new or used products in a fixed-price online marketplace alongside Amazon’s regular offerings.
- SellerCentral: Amazon SellerCentral is the portal that sellers use to list a product on Amazon Marketplace. Sellers are referred to as third-party sellers.
- Vendor Central: Amazon’s Vendor Central is used by distributors or manufacturers to sell their products to Amazon for resale—similar to how most of your neighborhood stores acquire and resell products. You can tell which products are provided by Vendor Central partners because there’s often a notice in the description that reads: “Ships from and sold by Amazon.”
- Fulfillment by Amazon: “FBA” is an Amazon service that uses their warehouses to store, and then pick, pack, ship, and provide customer service for a product sold using SellerCentral. A key advantage for third-party sellers to use FBA is that their products qualify for Prime shipping.
7 SellerCentral FAQs:
What is SellerCentral?
- A free Individual plan; ideal if you sell fewer than 40 products per month.
- The Professional plan has a $39.99 monthly subscription fee but lower selling fees.
What is Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)?
Can I use SellerCentral to sell my self-published book?
What if I have a lot of used books?
What is the difference between SellerCentral and Amazon Advantage?
Can I use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) ads?
If I sell a new book using SellerCentral, can I submit the book to the Look Inside the Book (LITB) program?
Amazon has 4 additional ways, or portals, to sell new self-published books (besides SellerCentral).
- Use Amazon Advantage for new books printed by a service other than CreateSpace or KDP Print.
- Use CreateSpace for paperback print-on-demand (POD), as well as CDs and DVDs.
- Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):
- Kindle eBook publishing to Amazon stores world-wide.
- KDP Print. Launched in 2017, KDP Print offers many of the same benefits as CreateSpace.
- Audio Creation Exchange (ACX). For publishing audiobooks.
Many books are listed on Amazon by using a third-party, rather than through one of Amazon’s book distribution portals. Scroll down to learn about third-party options.
Advantage is a consignment program used by one-book publishers, and publishers with hundreds of books. There is a $99 annual fee and Amazon pays the publisher 45% of a book’s list price.
Amazon arrives at their 55% commission by adding the usual book store commission of 40% to the usual wholesaler commission of 15%. That may seem like a lot, but it was the standard for selling books long before Amazon came on the scene and is in the range of discounts many non-book retailers receive from their vendors.
A publisher/self-publisher uses Advantage to sell new books. You can also sell new books using SellerCentral (to sell in “Marketplace”), but if you do, you are essentially a third-party seller competing with other sellers of your book. Scroll down to the FAQ about Advantage vs. Marketplace.
11 Amazon Advantage FAQs:
What do I get for my $99?
- As the publisher, you control how your listing looks and reads.
- You are most often the default seller featured in the Buy Box.
- Your book is eligible for Prime shipping.
- Amazon manages all customer service.
- You can submit the book for inclusion in the Look Inside the Book program.
- You can use Amazon Marketing Services to advertise your book.
What can I sell on Amazon using the Advantage program?
Can I sell digital content, such as MP3 downloads or eBooks?
What if I’m planning a big marketing push? How do I make sure Amazon has enough books?
Does Amazon store my inventory of books?
Who pays for shipping books to Amazon?
How much do I make if they discount my book?
Can I prevent Amazon from discounting my book?
What is the difference between Advantage and SellerCentral (Marketplace)?
Can I use FBA with Advantage?
Who pays to return books to the publisher if Amazon determines they have too many?
Although we have not charged you for return freight costs in the past, this term is a longstanding part of the Advantage Member Agreement, and vendors will be responsible for return costs going forward. These costs will be automatically deducted from your monthly payments and can be found in your payment reports.
Publishers and self-publishers use CreateSpace to print paperback books as customers order them from Amazon. Called print-on-demand, or POD, it has 3 important advantages over printing lots of books in advance of knowing how many might be bought:
- There is no up-front investment required to print all those books!
- That means you don’t need to store them (in your garage, basement, or at a fulfillment company).
- The book is automatically available for sale on Amazon. No need to use Amazon Advantage or SellerCentral for that matter.
The tradeoffs? Yes, a few. Each book costs a more to print, you have limited shape and paper options, and quality can vary from book-to-book because they are produced individually, only when there is an order.
7 CreateSpace FAQs:
How much does it cost to use CreateSpace?
Can CreateSpace design my book for me?
How much money can I make on each book? What is my royalty?
Does CreateSpace print hardcovers?
What is Expanded Distribution?
Offering a book to bookstores also means you make less money. Click here and then click the tabs Royalties and Buying Copies for specific details.
Can I buy books at a discount for my own use?
Do I need an ISBN to use CreateSpace?
- They can provide a free ISBN. Use if you don’t mind them being listed as the publisher.
- You can buy one at a discount. The cost is $99, a slight discount from the office source, Bowker, aka MyIdentifiers.com.
- You can enter your own ISBN as long as it has never been used. These are purchased from Bowker, aka MyIdentifiers.com.
See my book below (Register Your Book) for more details. Or click here to learn about the pros and cons, and how to protect your writing investment.
KDP is no longer dedicated to publishing Kindle eBooks. As of 2017 the portal was expanded to include paperback books, essentially duplicating the capabilities of CreateSpace. I count KDP as 1 way to sell books on Amazon, albeit 2 different formats of the same book.
Let’s first look at KDP for Kindle eBooks, and then KDP Print.
KDP for Kindle eBooks
KDP isn’t the only way to sell a Kindle eBook on Amazon, but self-publishers get the highest royalties when they use KDP. Alternatives to KDP involve submitting eBook files to the Kindle store using firms called aggregators. Read more about this under the Third-party sellers heading below.
Another reason to use KDP—rather than use an aggregator—is to take advantage of Amazon’s book marketing programs. Examples include KDP Select, Amazon Marketing Services (pay-per-click ads) and Goodreads Giveaways.
8 KDP (eBook) FAQs:
Do readers need a Kindle device to buy/read my eBook?
Can I sell a Kindle eBook in other (non-Amazon) stores?
Is there a charge or fee to list my Kindle eBook for sale on KDP?
If I use KDP, can I sell my eBook in other stores (like iTunes or Barnes & Noble)?
After this 90 day term you can list your eBook in other online stores.
How do I make my eBook available in other countries?
Do I have to use KDP to list my eBook in the Kindle store?
Can you use an Apple iPhone or iPad to read a Kindle eBook?
How much do I make when I sell a Kindle eBook?
KDP Print (Beta)
As of 2018, using KDP to sell paperbacks on Amazon is essentially the same as using CreateSpace. The notable differences as far as selling are:
- KDP Print does not currently support Expanded Distribution; you need CreateSpace for this, or you’ll have to use IngramSpark. Click here to learn more about Expanded Distribution.
- KDP does not currently support paperback distribution to Amazon.com.au (Australia), Amazon.com.br (Brazil), or Amazon.nl (Netherlands).
- Additional details about the program are available here on the Amazon website.
4 KDP Print FAQs:
What are the key differences between KDP Print and CreateSpace?
Can a KDP paperback be distributed to the same countries that CreateSpace ships books to?
Can I sell my paperback in stores besides Amazon?
Is “Expanded Distribution” available with KDP Print?
Once again Amazon is not only the largest seller of audiobooks—via Amazon and Audible—it also owns the dominant means of publishing audiobooks to those platforms.
Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) is a marketplace where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other rights holders can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and other Producers capable of producing a finished audiobook.
Also see third-party alternatives below under Third-Party Distributors
I couldn’t possibly list every single third-party or method for listing a new self-published book on Amazon—there are just too many. However, I can share several popular methods used by self-publishers and explain key considerations.
Why would a publisher/author use one of these services rather than setting up a direct relationship with Amazon using one of the above services (e.g. CreateSpace, KDP, ACX)? The reasons to fall into 4 categories:
- Because they offer a service Amazon doesn’t.
- They offer alternative terms.
- Fine print; the self-publisher did not understand consequences.
Let’s look at each of these 4 points and then the popular third-party services. But before we do, let’s be clear about two key terms:
Book wholesalers are the “middleman” between retailers and the publisher (or their distributor). They do not proactively market books to retailers, they make books easy to order. Most retailers will prefer to order from a wholesaler, not the publisher. Examples include Ingram and Baker & Taylor.
Book distributors sit between the publisher and the book wholesaler. They proactively call on stores and other buyers to order books (which are sent to them by the wholesaler). They are highly selective, and work with publishers that have multiple books supported by national media outreach (PR). Distributors are rarely an option for self-publishers.
A publisher with one eBook to manage can easily keep track of where they are selling it. If they need to make a change, for example change the description, they visit KDP and perhaps their aggregator (read my article about eBook aggregators here). But if the same publisher has several books, or books from several authors, this becomes cumbersome. It’s much easier to visit one place where you can make a single change, even if you must pay for the service or give up a portion of your royalties.
Getting services Amazon doesn’t offer
As of 2018, Amazon’s CreateSpace no longer offers book design services. If you are looking for a company that offers both design + distribution, you might turn to Lulu, Blurb, or Bookbaby, each of which can also help you sell books on Amazon. If you want a more personalized service, consider a company like AuthorImprints who can produce a professionally designed book and uses Amazon, IngramSpark, and other distributors to make your book widely available. (Disclosure: I am the president of AuthorImprints.)
Audiobook terms in particular are fluid as of early 2018. In early 2017 Apple and Amazon agreed to end their exclusive audiobook deal to comply with European antitrust findings. Distributors of eBooks also offer different terms, although the reason for choosing these usually fall under the heading of Convenience, as noted above.
Fine print and consequences
A recent consulting client was interested in getting more reviews for his Kindle eBook. When I suggested using the Goodreads Giveaway program he was dismayed that he couldn’t because his book was distributed to the Kindle store by IngramSpark.
Draft2Digital offers eBook distribution to the Amazon Kindle store, but you can exclude this and still take advantage of their extensive eBook distribution.
These are just two examples where an extra measure of research, or advice from someone knowledgeable about self-published book distribution can save money, time, hassle—and perhaps even improve sales opportunities.
Just because we’re talking about self-publishing doesn’t mean it isn’t complex. And it’s getting even trickier to navigate around the fringes of Amazon’s reach. Especially if your goal is to keep options open and protect your rights.
Putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket—as large as it is—may not be the wisest decision.
Popular third-party book wholesalers
Each of these can help you sell books on Amazon, as well as other online stores. As noted above, it pays to read the fine print and do your homework.
Also keep in mind that services and capabilities can change over time—for better or worse!
- Blurb: hardcover, paperback, eBook
- Bookbaby: hardcover, paperback, eBook
- Bookmasters: hardcover, paperback, eBook
- Draft2Digital: eBook, audiobook (Findaway Voices)
- eBookIt: hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook
- eBookPartnership: eBook
- Findaway Voices: audiobook
- IngramSpark: hardcover, paperback, eBook (IngramSpark is a division of Lightning Source, itself a division of Ingram Content Group)
- Lulu: hardcover, paperback, eBook
With so many different options to sell books on Amazon, it’s become a challenge to choose a single approach, or use only Amazon. Every book is different, and authors have varying goals, budgets and capabilities.
That’s why I offer 2 simple options to help authors and businesses decide the right path for their unique needs. If your questions are limited, I offer per-minute sessions via Clarity. Or choose my Self-Publishing Consult to discuss strategy or more involved situations. Click here to learn more about both.
Do you have a question that isn’t answered here? Send me your question for possible inclusion in a future update.
Need help with specific questions? Click here to choose from per minute consulting, or a self-publishing consult.