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Amazon Marketplace: Myths and Making Money With It
I'm on several publishing discussion lists, and I see a fair number of unhappy people talking about
Amazon's Marketplace. Common questions I see are:
"Why is Amazon allowing people to sell used books on my selling site?" "How did these people
get my books when they've just been released?" "One of my review copies is being sold on
Amazon-what can I do about it?"
Well, I think I can answer those, and a couple more.
First, let's define terms. A "Marketplace" seller is someone who is selling just a few items on
Amazon. They don't do a lot of business. A "Z-Shop" is a dedicated on-line and/or brick and
mortar store with an Amazon presence (and probably Half.com and eBay as well). For ease of
use, we'll refer to all of these sellers as "Marketplace sellers."
Now, say you sell some books to a bookstore that retails used and new books. You drop by one
day and discover they have a worn copy of your book at a discounted price shelved right next to a
shiny new one being sold at full price. That doesn't bother you, does it? You know that people
who like new books are going to buy the new one. Folks who like a deal will buy the slightly
scuffed one. At one point or another, the scuffed one got paid for, so you aren't out any money.
You could wish everyone bought new, but they don't.
Same thing with the Marketplace system. Yes, we'd all prefer that Amazon hadn't done this, but
there's a brisk business in used books-always has been, always will be. This is a situation where
they are fulfilling a market demand. This works out even better for you than the bookstore
example above: you get paid twice for every used book sold. Somewhere along the line you sold
the book-perhaps directly to that Marketplace seller. If the buyer goes through your link to buy
your book from them (you have to be an Amazon Associate to do this. See "How 'Associate'
Links Can Pay for Your Website-and More!" on this same fine website) you'll get 2.5% of the sale
of that book.
Now, how did those little devils get your book new? It is with 98% surety that I tell you they got
the book through Baker & Taylor or Ingram. Some booksellers specialize in new release books on
the internet. They subscribe to one or both wholesalers' new releases program; when a new book
comes out, they buy it or simply list it, opting to purchase the book only when they have an order.
They can sell for lower because they aren't paying the 55% you are. BUT, they paid for the book.
It's sold and you got the money! Don't worry about it. And, as I said, you often get a percentage
of their sale. You really do get the last laugh.
What about those galleys, advanced reading copies and review copies that show up on the
Marketplace? Well friends, those are flat illegal in the Amazon scheme of things. When
Marketplace vendors sign the contract to sell on Amazon, one of the things they promise is never
to sell galleys or review copies of books. You have every right to zip off an e-mail demanding that
the book is withdrawn or you will report the violation to Amazon (perfect security is not an
Amazon hallmark). Don't write an angry righteous letter-they probably don't even know what
they're doing is wrong. Compose a businesslike e-mail calmly explaining the consequences of their
actions. Nine times out of ten, the offending book will disappear from your Amazon page within a
day, sometimes sooner.
Now, let's make some money! I don't know about you, but I end up with a small percentage of my
books getting dinged in transit, sometimes I get returns that are scuffed and once I had a fair
amount of books left over from a previous edition. Shazam! I became an Amazon Marketplace
seller! Instead of filling up a landfill with unwanted books, I turned my trash books into cash!
Here's wishing you success!
Jacqueline Church Simonds
Beagle Bay Books
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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