Pricing Books for your Amazon Bookshop, our entry level learning series

Amazon is one of the biggest bookselling venues out there, which makes them a tough competitor to go up against. On the other hand, it also means joining forces with them can be worthwhile. Here are a few tips that have worked for me in selling with an Amazon bookshop.

All sellers have their own ways of acquiring books to resell. Whether you are buying outright or offering a consignment service, it’s good to keep the Rock vs. Diamond idea in mind. A rock is old. A diamond is old too, but it’s also rare and in beautiful condition.

I don’t think it’s possible for a book to be in overly good condition, but if it’s so rare as to be unknown, that’s going to slow down the speed at which it sells. So one hint is to have plenty of clean, climate-controlled, storage space with sturdy shelves. When your treasure finally sells, it will still look like a diamond.

My most unbreakable rule is Always Look It Up. There are too many books out there that are sleepers; no one can memorize them all. Pull up the site for starters, since that’s where you are planning to sell.

If a book has an ISBN, use that for your look-up, because you are most likely to find the correct edition that way. (Yes, you will run across mistakes in the database way more often than you like.) For older books, I type in a couple of key words from the title and the author’s last name. (man sea hemingway). Even though Amazon has been working on cleaning up their database, a lot of books have half a dozen slightly varying entries for the same edition and printing. This is one reason I list my books individually, rather than bulk uploading.

Let’s say you get several possible hits for your book. From what I have observed, the one on the top of the list will be the one with the most recent sale. If your publication year matches, click on that one to get an idea of sales rank.

I use sales rank as one factor in deciding whether to list a book or move it on. A book with NO sales rank means it has never sold through Amazon at all, but to me, that’s not as dire as one with an 8 or 9 million sales rank. If it’s a fairly old book, that ranking might mean it was bought once 4 or 5 years ago by someone who is now listing it as a Print On Demand copy. (You’ll probably see a lot of those when you try to research your older books. It’s the modern version of the old anarchic days of unregulated publishing.)

The next factor to consider is current going price. Here you have to look at the full range of listings to help you make a good decision with your book pricing. There are people who throw a book on at an insanely optimistic price, hoping to take advantage of buyers who don’t do their comparison shopping homework. There are others who use software that undercuts other listings automatically, and a couple of sellers using those can ‘price-break’ a book pretty fast. If you aren’t sure on value, try doing a second look-up on or a similar venue.

My general criteria for listing a book in your Amazon bookshop is for a minimum sale of $3.00, IF it’s a lightweight book I can ship at the lowest media rate (or First Class Parcel for even less!) and IF it’s likely to sell fast (judging by sales rank). Now that we have an actual bricks and mortar shop, I’m more likely to put those $3 and under books on the shelves, rather than online. Amazon’s fees can take enough of a small sale to make it actually COST you money!

Before I forget, I should mention Amazon’s Pro Merchant service. It costs $39.95 a month, but having it waives the $0.99 fee per sale, plus entitles you to a few other perks. So if you sell more than 40 books a month, signing up for it is a no-brainer.

Let’s hypothetically list a pretend book now. I find I have one with a 1,500,003 sales rank where the lowest price from other sellers is $6.99 and there are several other copies within a few dollars of this price. That means we are probably in the ballpark, value-wise, if we join in with the group’s pricing.

On Amazon, I prefer trying for quick sales, because prices can fluctuate in the next five minutes if someone comes along willing to list lower. So if that $6.99 book is rated Good, and I think mine is Very Good, I’m not going to raise my price…much. What I DON’T want to do is trigger any automatic price war software. So I am going to price my book at, say, $7.03. I’m assuming the potential buyer will compare descriptions (and possibly the difference between my 5 star, 100% service rating and that of Low-ball Larry, who has the $6.99 book) and pick me to buy from.

I’m making that my close, for now. I hope people will add comments and share more ideas in the Reply section. Feel free to argue with me too — incredible though it may seem, I am sometimes WRONG about things!