Is Amazon Worth It for Indie Publishers?

Last month we launched the first of the Anomalous Press chapbooks at AWP and it was a huge success. The next step, after all the AWP madness wrapped up, was to get our online store up and running, and after working out a few bugs that is now live. And next was to fulfill all our amazing Kickstarter backers rewards. So while in the midst of all that, one of our lovely authors’ family members emailed to ask if we would be selling the books through Amazon.

I confess, I had considered and dismissed it, and not for the usual Amazon-is-killing-indie-publishers/bookstores reasons. Actually because it just seemed too complicated. But out of fairness to our authors—I really want to make sure they have as broad a reach as possible—I decided to look into it.

So tonight I spent over two hours of my really crunched time setting up a seller store on Amazon, verifying a lot of information, and finally hunting through the forums and FAQs looking for the answer to what I thought would be a relatively simple question: how much does Amazon charge in seller’s fees?

Well, I finally found it. It turns out there are three kinds of fees Amazon charges to the seller for each sale:

  1. Commission/Referral fee (15%)
  2. Closing fee (variable, $1.35 for books)
  3. Closing fee ($0.99 per item)

Anyways, I dusted off my limited math skills and started to work. We sell the books for $10, which is as little as we can possibly afford to sell them for. So in order to get $10 per book, I’d have to sell them for $12.34 (not including the 15% fee) Once I did some high school algebra to figure that out (ok, actually, Matt did it), I calculated the final purchase price would have to be $14.53, not including shipping.

Also, I learned during this that sellers selling books do not get to determine shipping fees. I think. I’m still not sure about how that works, and if I move forward about it, maybe there’ll be another post on it.

Anyways, what I wonder is if anyone would actually buy a chapbook of experimental literature for $14.50 on Amazon? Also, I wonder if there will be any real gain in audience by having the books for sale through Amazon. Of course Amazon reaches a bazillion people, but are any of them the kind of people who would buy a chapbook of poetry at all, much less experimental poetry, bu an author they’ve probably never heard of? These are not rhetorical questions – if anyone out there has thoughts I’d love to hear them!

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