Most of us have ordered books from Amazon. But just because you shop from there, (and I try and shop from independents first) does that mean you should have your books printed by them?

You may know that many books purchased via Amazon are fulfilled by Amazon. By that I mean Amazon print the books ‘on demand’ and then send them out to the buyer on behalf of you, the author. This means that you don’t need to worry about allocating a room in your house to store all of your books; you don’t need to have the upfront printing expense or have the hassle of traipsing to the Post Office every time someone wants a copy and buys directly from you.

A God send after all of your hard work writing the damn thing, right?  You can just sit back and relax, reap the rewards of authorship and not worry about any of the fulfilment side of being an author.

But, at what cost?…and what do you need to do to get your book to this stage of Amazon fulfilment?

First, let me explain how Amazon Fulfillment works.

You have to send your files (book interior and book cover) to Amazon via their online system; KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) which used to be called CreateSpace. Don’t let the Kindle bit confuse you, I’m still talking about paperback books.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

  • Before you do this though, your files need to be typeset (i.e. laid out to print specifications, with proper margins, correct pagination, table of contents etc.) and converted into a specific file type to be accepted (High res PDF). You also need to ensure all editing and proofreading has been done, as they won’t do this for you.
  • Amazon are very strict with their measurements (called submission guidelines); you have to convert your files with the correct bleed, and make sure you conform to their strict formatting requirements – they will spit it back at you if it’s just mm off.
  • Once you’ve done that, they will then check it for internal review. If there are any issues, you’ll get a notification and the issues will need to be fixed before they send you a test copy.
  • To be fair, their help desk is pretty good.

What’s the quality like?

Good question! The quality isn’t consistent, the paper stock is cheap, the cover can look dull and sometimes a little blurry if you’ve not used a good image. If you were to select 10 books from your bookcase and lay them out, I think you could easily identify those that have been supplied via Amazon fulfilment. This may not bother you, but I know I want my authors to be impressed as soon as they receive their books

But who are ‘they’?

If you use Amazon to fulfil your orders, you’ll never know who’s buying them. All you’ll know is how many copies you’ve sold and to what part of the world. You’ll not know their gender, their name, their contact details – you’ll have no opportunity to interact with them, ask for reviews or sell them future products or services.

So, if you’re writing your book as a lead generator, Amazon KDP for your paperback probably isn’t the best option.

If it’s not a lead generator and you’re not bothered with who is buying your book, then this could be the easiest option for you.

How do you get copies for yourself?

You’re going to need copies for the three F’s – friends, family, and freebies, so if Amazon are fulfilling your orders, you’ll have to buy them yourself. You can buy them at a ‘reduced price’ – just make your book cheaper, and you’ll get some money back from your sales royalties but it makes it rather costly for you. Plus, they are printed in the States, so it’ll take a bit of time, and you have to pay postage.  

I have a client who was invited to do a book signing at an event in his home town, he had to buy the books from Amazon himself, in advance, not knowing how many he was going to sell and then sell them at a higher price to the list price on Amazon to cover his money and his time!

How much will you get from each sale?

I’ve taken the following information direct from the Amazon KDP website but have changed dollars to GBP, there’s also a calculator to download:

Amazon distribution channels

KDP offers a fixed 60% royalty rate on paperbacks sold on Amazon marketplaces where KDP supports paperback distribution. Your royalty is 60% of your list price. We then subtract printing costs, which depend on page count, ink type, and the Amazon marketplace your paperback was ordered from. 

(Royalty rate x list price) – printing costs = royalty 

For example, your list price is £15. Your book is a 333-page paperback with black ink sold on the US marketplace: 

(0.60 x £15) – £4.85 = £4.15

So, your £15 book will earn you £4.95 if you go through Amazon fulfilment.

Now if you were to fulfil all orders yourself, (i.e. print the book yourself and fulfil yourself, charging your buyers postage) the calculation looks a lot healthier:

List price:                                 £15

Postage:                                   £2.80 (UK – which you charge for)

Printing cost:                        -£1.25*

Your profit:                            £16.55

You’ll obviously need to consider all the costs associated with getting your book to print (coaching, typesetting, editing, your time, proofs, etc) but that’s an example including your print costs.

However, there are more options:

Amazon Advantage

You need to become a member first, and this costs $99 dollars a year, but that’s all. The advantage to listing your book on Amazon Advantage is you get to have your book listed on the world’s biggest online bookshop. You get a notification when a book is sold, and you then send your book to Amazon (who then fulfil for you) but you control over the quality of the books.

Consider using Seller Central (Marketplace)

As well as used books, Seller Central can be used to sell new books. You don’t get all the same benefits as Amazon Advantage, but you do make more money, control your pricing and get to know who’s buying every copy. Your book can also be sold alongside your Kindle eBook and you can choose to use fulfilment by Amazon or to post the books yourself! However, the cost of this is £25 a month, so you need to make sure you’re selling enough of your books to warrant that expense.

There’s so much to think about, isn’t there?

What do I suggest?

I don’t like Amazon’s quality, and I certainly don’t like their royalties %. However, for some authors this is the best option – you upload your book and technically don’t have to worry about any of the fulfilment. However, the upload process can be tricky, and if you’re not good at formatting then this is where you’ll have issues.

I advise my clients to do both. So, get several hundred books printed locally (much better quality) and sell direct, and then list the book on Amazon through the advantage option. That way you’re on Amazon’s site, but you’re driving sales to YOUR website, and ultimately making much more profit on the front-end sales, but you’re not missing out if anyone finds you on Amazon.

If all of this just seems like too much to take in or you just want to go through your options then get in touch. I am here to help, it’s what I do!

Book a discovery call today

Publish your way to more clients - Alexa Whitten

*prices vary and increase / decrease depending on the volume of books purchased.

Should I use Amazon to fulfil my book orders?
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