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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 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
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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