Have you checked your Mass Market book price on Amazon?
If you haven’t, perhaps you should, because you might be in for a surprise. There are some crazy book prices on Amazon. Especially for Amazon used books.
Selling used books on Amazon is not new. It works in a similar fashion to your local secondhand bookstore or thrift stores. Except, in this case, people who have used books to sell look for book buyers on Amazon. It’s a form of retail arbitrage.
First, they need to open an Amazon account and then a seller account to be able to sell books on Amazon. Then, choose between the two ways that used books can be sold on Amazon through Seller Central.
1. Amazon FBA ( fulfilled by Amazon FBA ) means that the books are shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center before the customer orders them. When the customer places an order, Amazon packs the book and ships it.
2. Amazon FBM ( fulfilled by the merchant FBM) means that when a customer orders a book, the Amazon seller packs and ships the book and pays the shipping costs.
It all sounds quite reasonable and fair. Choose a shipping method, get a listing on Amazon and then start selling books. But, of course, the authors and publishers are not entitled to any royalties because the books are secondhand.
To get an idea of how people make money from used books, this article by The Work At Home Wife explains how Amazon fulfilment works.
For an out of print book, all is fine and fair
One of my very early books, which I withdrew from sale and later completely re-wrote, edited and re-published under a new title is still available on Amazon as a used book. As you can see, it is not listed or available in any other form because it is out of print.
As far as the sales price is concerned, it is quite reasonable and legitimate in the first listing. But then the next two are a little ridiculous. I doubt that I would call mine a rare book worthy of paying the higher price of over $40.00.
But it is reassuring to note that the condition of the book is good.
Well, except perhaps for those readers who are devilishly inquisitive and want to read a book that was full of errors and bad writing. Yes, I made some awful mistakes when I first started self-publishing.
This is how selling used books works on Amazon, and apart from the two inflated prices, there is no reason for concern. For some readers, finding books that are out of print and at a reduced price is a good deal.
For new authors, however, it is a reminder that if you self-publish in paperback or hardcover, your book can never be totally removed from sale as is the case with ebooks. Anyone who has copies of your out of print book is legally able to sell copies of your books on Amazon.
Related reading: Counterfeit Books on Amazon
But things can get really weird on your Amazon book sales page
However, the fly in the ointment comes when used books are listed for sale on Amazon on the very same sales page as the current book being sold by a self-publisher, small press or publisher.
If you are new to self-publishing and selling books online, there are sometimes some nasty surprises in store.
Ebook piracy, illegal pdf copying, fake and nasty book reviews as well as all manner of scams can and do affect electronically published books and ebooks.
Used book selling on Amazon, which is sometimes called flipping books started becoming popular with selling used textbooks. For some, it is a full time and legitimate business. However, there are some scammers that can be seen at work on any type of book.
One of my titles has a Mass Market Paperback listing on its page on Amazon. As you can see in the image below, the price is, to say the least, surprising.
If you can’t read the image, my paperback price is $13.95. The Mass Market seller has set the price at $2,796.00!
There is no way this price is a legitimate offer, but I clicked and checked the details of the offer, and here is what it shows.
Well, it reassuring to know that the used copy of my book is in good condition. But at this absolutely ridiculous price, you would think that this scammer could at least offer free shipping.
So why would anyone create a listing for this used book at such an insane price?
The only logic I can see is that this Amazon reseller is preying on someone inattentively or accidentally clicking on the buy with one click button. I suppose accidents do happen.
I presume this seller is using Amazon FBM, so if someone stupidly buys the book at this price, the seller quickly buys a new copy of my book for $13.95 and then ships it to the buyer.
For the inattentive buyer, the first step would be to contact customer service about how to get a refund.
But when you take a look at the refund policy of the individual seller, you can see how the money is made.
Please refer to the Amazon.com Return Policy or contact G******Books to get information about any additional policies that may apply.
To initiate a return, visit Amazon’s Online Return Center to request a return authorization from the seller.
Request authorization from the seller? Now I think I know exactly what the answer would be. It could take a long while for a buyer’s credit card transaction to be reversed, if ever.
What can you do about used or mass market copies of your books on Amazon?
The answer is simple. There is nothing at all that you can do about it.
The business of selling used or secondhand books has been in existence ever since books were first printed.
When a used book or even an antique book is sold, there are no rights or royalties payable or due to authors and publishers. This has been accepted practice for almost ever and for as long as local secondhand bookstores have been part of the literary landscape.
Royalties are only payable on the sale of a new copy of a book, and in this respect, Amazon, like any other retailer abides by the law.
Simply because Amazon has replicated the secondhand bookstore model on its site with used books online, does not mean Amazon is scamming or ripping off authors.
However, whenever and wherever there is money to be made to top up a bank account or even Amazon gift cards, it will attract unscrupulous people.
The only hope is that Amazon takes a firm line with its sellers who are unfairly profiteering, but it is a fine legal line. Selling a used book at any price is not illegal.
If you are a small press or self-published author, all you can do is worry about what you can control.
Make sure your book is as perfect as it can be, attractive to book buyers and priced competitively. Then promote your book as widely as you possibly can to maximise on your book sales potential.
There will always be sharks, scammers, crooks and schemers on Amazon and the Internet, but spending your time worrying about them is a waste of time.
Am I worried about my book being offered at $2,796.00? No. But I did waste five minutes of my time laughing about it.
Further reading: What Are The Best Ways To Sell My Books Online?