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Amazon provides a great opportunity for self-published authors to sell their books on equal footing with traditionally published authors, but choosing how to do that can be a bit confusing.

A client had questions about the best Amazon option as she looked to plan her distribution and marketing for a book we had ghostwritten and designed for her. I realized what she needed to know was something many others need to know, also. Some people think that if they already have an Amazon account they use for buying books or selling their old stuff like the jewelry they no longer wear or the books they’ve already read, then they are good to go. But not necessarily. It depends on how you want to sell your books, including how involved you want to be in the process, and whether you have other products you also sell. Amazon Advantage and the Amazon Marketplace are the options most often considered.

While you can sell books in both places, there are key differences that determine which one is right for you.

When looking at deciding if you want to offer your book through the Amazon Marketplace or Amazon Advantage, I generally advise Advantage.

Amazon Advantage or Amazon Marketplace?

Here is why: Offering your book through Amazon Advantage allows your book to look like any other book on Amazon’s virtual bookshelf. That is because your book is a part of Amazon’s inventory and gets treated like other books, including those from traditional publishers. It gets marketed by Amazon through its programs such as the “People who bought this book also bought this book” marketing program. Amazon ships out the books, so you don’t have to worry about running to the Post Office every time a book order comes in.

Where Amazon Advantage handles all parts of the sale for you, in the Marketplace program, you do all the work. You market the book yourself. You ship it yourself. And it gets treated a bit differently, in that your book will show that it is being sold by a third party. That is because the Marketplace is made up of many vendors. Also, both new and used products are sold in the Marketplace. Amazon Advantage is only for new merchandise.

The financial details are different also. With the Advantage program, you pay an annual fee of about $30 and Amazon receives a 55 percent discount. With Marketplace, there is no automatic upfront 55 percent discount, but there are various fees on each sale.

The Advantage discount, while it may sound steep, is similar to what you may find if you go with a distributor. The discount also allows Amazon the flexibility to offer promotional pricing to encourage buyers to purchase your book. And don’t forget, with Advantage, you get Amazon’s distribution, fulfillment, and customer service. That means you don’t have to deal with individual book buyers, shipping costs, or returns.

With Marketplace, you are selling directly to the public, so you handle your own fulfillment, shipping, and customer service. While I generally prefer Amazon Advantage, some sellers who want to be more hands-on and who sell lots of other products in addition to books may prefer the Marketplace because they may want to handle their own order fulfillment. Also, with the Marketplace, you get to set your own price. With Advantage, you don’t. Remember what I said about the promotional discount? Amazon can set a price different from the list price you have on the back of the book if they are trying to generate more interest and sales for your book.

A word about CreateSpace

Amazon has many other programs as well, including CreateSpace. CreateSpace is different from Amazon Advantage and the Marketplace in that CreateSpace actually creates the product. With Advantage and Marketplace, you sell from your inventory of books that you have had printed. With CreateSpace, you are using print-on-demand publishing to print a book only when a customer buys that book. So no inventory.

Some authors choose CreateSpace, but I see this only as an option if you are publishing your book as a hobby or as a test product. That is because when books are printed one by one only when someone orders them, it severely limits how you sell the books.

POD publishing services are popular with some authors who don’t want to invest anything upfront in the production of their books, which makes it ideal for hobbyists. But if you plan to publish your book and treat it like a business, you will need to invest in the production of your book by paying appropriate editing, design, and printing costs. Keep in mind that another reason why POD should only be considered if you are expecting to sell a few books is that it will get expensive over the long run if you use it in the event you need to order a lot of books. That is because you can get a better per unit printing rate when you order an inventory of books from a printer. But this isn’t a post about print-on-demand. That’s a post for another day. The main thing to remember about POD is that it’s not for selling a lot of books.

If you find that POD is the way to go for you because you don’t want to invest in book production costs upfront and don’t expect to sell a lot of books, then CreateSpace may be ideal. The publishing process is simple and you don’t have to be concerned with storing books. As for the money you earn through CreateSpace, there are several fees — sales channel charge, fixed charge, per page charge — deducted from the sale price before you receive your cut.

E-book publishing on Amazon

If you publish an ebook, then Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing — KDP — program is the way to go. You get a choice of royalty rates based on where you want your book sold. The platform is easy to use and makes your ebook available for download on the Kindle.

Choose what works for you

This is a brief overview of some of the Amazon vendor options for book publishers. Amazon Advantage may work for you if you don’t mind the 55 percent discount and loss of control over setting the sale price on Amazon and you want someone else to handle the sales. With Advantage, you don’t have to concern yourself with customer service, order fulfillment, or returns. The Marketplace may be a good option if you do want price control, don’t mind being responsible for customer service and order fulfillment, and don’t mind the fact that your book won’t be able to participate in some of Amazon’s good marketing programs. CreateSpace can be an option if you don’t want to invest anything upfront in production costs and don’t think you will sell many books. And KDP is the way to go if you are publishing an ebook and want it available on Amazon.

What Amazon program are you using to sell your books, and why?