There are 5 Amazon book distribution portals available to sell books on Amazon and which one to use depends on whether the books you are selling are used (including textbooks), new, self-published, Kindle eBooks, or audiobooks. There is also a wide range of third-party services that can help you sell books on Amazon.
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|
For purposes of using this guide, keep these 2 points in mind:
- 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 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?
SellerCentral is used by individuals, businesses or publishers to sell used or new books (and other products) on Amazon. As a third-party seller, you compete with sellers of the same product, set your own prices, and manage delivery of the order (yourself, or using FBA). There are 2 programs:
- 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)?
With Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) you store your products in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, and they pick, pack, ship, and provide customer service. Your products qualify for Prime shipping. Pricing depends on several factors including the time of year. Learn more here.
Can I use SellerCentral to sell my self-published book?
Yes, as long as you have copies of the book printed and available to ship when customers order them.
What if I have a lot of used books?
It doesn’t matter how many books you have. However, you might be better off considering FBA instead of shipping the books yourself. There are a number of tools and services that can help high-volume sellers.
What is the difference between SellerCentral and Amazon Advantage?
Advantage is for new books only, sold by the publisher. SellerCentral can be used by any vendor to sell new or used books.
Can I use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) ads?
No, AMS is only available to Advantage and KDP accounts. SellerCentral has its own advertising system and it has different features than AMS. Learn more here.
If I sell a new book using SellerCentral, can I submit the book to the Look Inside the Book (LITB) program?
No. LITB is only available to Advantage accounts. Note: LITB is automatic for CreateSpace and Kindle eBooks.
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?
The most important benefits are:
- 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?
You can promote and sell books, calendars, single copy magazines, CD’s, DVD’s, VHS, vinyl LP records, software and video games. It is not intended for individuals selling used copies, or resellers of books (such as bookstores).
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?
One of the contact options in the Advantage portal is to notify them about anticipated marketing events, for example a media appearance that may result in strong reader demand. They will ask for details and tell you how many books to send.
Does Amazon store my inventory of books?
Amazon stores an inventory of books that they feel they can sell, and no more. If you print hundreds or thousands of copies, you’ll need to store them until Amazon places an order. Their software estimates how many copies they need based on how the book is selling. Conversely, if they have books in stock, and the book isn’t selling enough to justify their current inventory levels, they send the books back (unannounced!).
Who pays for shipping books to Amazon?
The publisher pays for shipping to Amazon. Amazon, as the retailer, is then responsible for shipping the book to the customer, and collecting any sales taxes.
How much do I make if they discount my book?
You make 45% of the book’s suggested retail price—a price that you set. If Amazon decides to discount the book, they still pay you based on your suggested retail price. Like other retailers, they can sell a book for any price they choose. This is different than selling on Amazon using SellerCentral where you are the vendor and set the final sale price.
Can I prevent Amazon from discounting my book?
No. Because Advantage is a consignment program, Amazon is the retailer and like any retailer they alone can decide the selling price. However, if they decide to discount your book you are still paid your standard 45% commission.
What is the difference between Advantage and SellerCentral (Marketplace)?
The short answer is that with Advantage, Amazon is the retailer. When a publisher sells on Marketplace using SellerCentral, they are the retailer. Keep in mind that anyone with a copy of a physical book to sell can list it for sale using SellerCentral. The publisher could find itself competing with other owners of their book.
Can I use FBA with Advantage?
No. Click here to read more about FBA—Fulfillment by Amazon.
Who pays to return books to the publisher if Amazon determines they have too many?
Here is Amazon’s response to this question when I asked why I have not seen any return shipping charges applied to Advantage accounts that my company manages:
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?
There are no setup fees; it’s free. Your only costs are when you print a book and have it mailed to you. If you decide to sell your book in the Amazon bookstore (it is optional), your royalty is about 60% of the book’s list price less the cost to print the book.
Can CreateSpace design my book for me?
No. As of early 2018 CreateSpace discontinued their book cover and interior design services. There are many independent companies that provide book design services, including AuthorImprints, a specialist in helping authors establish publishing imprints and publishing books on Amazon. (Disclosure: I am the president of AuthorImprints.)
How much money can I make on each book? What is my royalty?
Your royalty is about 60% of your book’s retail price, less the cost to print it. Printing costs vary depending on the dimensions of the book, number of pages, and whether the interior is color or black and white. Click here and then click the tabs Royalties and Buying Copies for specific details.
Does CreateSpace print hardcovers?
No, this is not an option. Consider IngramSpark for hardcover printing.
What is Expanded Distribution?
When you select the optional Expanded Distribution, your book is automatically made available to other online stores and bookstores. Amazon has a relationship with Ingram Content Group, the parent of IngramSpark, that makes this possible. However, unlike IngramSpark, you have no way to manage discounts and other terms expected by the bookstore trade.
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?
Yes. Click here and then click the tab Buying Copies for specific details. You’ll need to enter the size of the book, number of pages, and whether it has a color or black and white interior.
Do I need an ISBN to use CreateSpace?
All print books sold online need an ISBN. CreateSpace has 3 options:
- 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?
No. There are Kindle reading apps for virtually any device including iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac and Android devices. Of course, you can also read Kindle eBooks on Kindle reading devices, and Fire tablets.
Can I sell a Kindle eBook in other (non-Amazon) stores?
Yes, if the online store allows you to upload a Kindle file. The most common Kindle file format is called a Mobi file. When you upload a Mobi file to the Kindle store they do special processing to make sure it works on a wide range of Kindle reading apps, Kindle devices, and Fire tablets. Amazon can also apply copy protection, called DRM, to help inhibit piracy. This is not offered by other stores. The reality is that very few online eBookstores sell Kindle-compatible files.
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)?
Yes, there are no restrictions or limitations. This is sometimes confused with KDP Select which is an optional marketing program available to books published via KDP. You do not have to use KDP Select to sell your eBook on Amazon, but if you do, the term is 90 days.
After this 90 day term you can list your eBook in other online stores.
How do I make my eBook available in other countries?
This is easily done when you add your eBook to the store. Amazon will automatically calculate prices based on your US price. You can adjust these on a store-by-store basis. There are currently 13 online stores, including the US (Amazon.com). Residents outside a country-specific store can buy from one of these stores and you are paid a royalty based on their location.
Do I have to use KDP to list my eBook in the Kindle store?
No. There are other ways to list your eBook for sale on Amazon. This is done using what’s called an aggregator. Examples include Draft2Digital and IngramSpark. Scroll down to Third-Party Distributors to learn more.
Can you use an Apple iPhone or iPad to read a Kindle eBook?
Yes, just download the Kindle reading app. Keep in mind that to buy Kindle books using an Apple device you will need to visit the Amazon website to make the purchase. The reading apps do not support in-app purchasing because Apple demands a 30% commission on those sales.
How much do I make when I sell a Kindle eBook?
Books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 receive a 70% royalty less a fee Amazon charges to deliver the file. Books priced outside this range receive a 35% commission. Click here for details about pricing and royalties for the Kindle store.
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?
Sales reporting for paperback and Kindle eBooks is combined on KDP. Otherwise you need to visit KDP and CreateSpace to track and report sales. A major second difference is that Expanded Distribution is not yet available to KDP Print authors. There are a few other minor differences so be sure to read the fine print. Keep in mind that KDP Print is still in beta; I expect differences will disappear over time.
Can a KDP paperback be distributed to the same countries that CreateSpace ships books to?
In most cases, yes. As of this writing KDP Print books are not being distributed to Canada but unlike CreateSpace books, they can be printed in Japan. I expect this to continue to evolve.
Can I sell my paperback in stores besides Amazon?
Not automatically like it would be if you were using CreateSpace, which has the Expanded Distribution option. However, you could use IngramSpark to print and sell your book in non-Amazon online stores.
Is “Expanded Distribution” available with KDP Print?
No. Expanded Distribution is only available when using CreateSpace.
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.
* Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. That means I may receive a small commission if the product is purchased. This does not change what you pay, I have no record of the names or contact information for anyone who clicks a link or what they may purchase, and I receive no royalty if you sell books on Amazon. If you do buy a book or product, thank you. This helps me continue to offer advice like this for free.