How Does Selling Books on Amazon Work?

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If there’s one book marketplace that dwarfs the competition in terms of both complexity and potential, it’s Amazon.  I’ve been selling books on Amazon for more than two years now, and I’ve written this article to give you a thorough overview of how selling books on Amazon actually works.

Selling books on Amazon works like most other online marketplaces, with a few notable differences.

  • Amazon gives you the choice to fulfill orders yourself (fulfilled by merchant, or FBM) or let them fulfill orders (fulfilled by Amazon, or FBA).
  • Books on Amazon sell for considerably more than other marketplaces ‒ especially if they’re fulfilled by Amazon (FBA).
  • There are a ton of useful software tools designed specifically for selling on Amazon that other online marketplaces lack.

The rest of this article will go step-by-step and explain exactly how the process of selling books on Amazon works.

  • Phase One: Signup
  • Phase Two: FBA or FBM?
  • Phase Three: Listing your books
  • Phase Four: Selling your books
  • Phase five: Getting paid

Phase One: Signup

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you already have some books to sell.

Before you do anything with your books, you’re going to need to make an Amazon Seller account. You can do this by going to this link and completing the signup process.

At some point during the signup process, you’ll need to decide if you want an individual seller account or a professional seller account.

If you choose an individual account, you’ll have to pay a flat $0.99 fee for every item you sell. This fee is in addition to the other fees Amazon charges.

If you choose a professional account, you’ll have to pay $40 per month to sell an unlimited number of items. You won’t have to pay the $0.99 per-item fee.

The professional plan also lets you use third-party software to quickly list your books, automatically reprice your inventory, and perform other useful tasks.

If you’re selling books in any kind of significant volume, you should sign up for the professional plan. It’s cheaper, and the software tools it enables you to use will save you a ton of time.

Phase two: FBA or FBM?

Now that you’ve got an Amazon Seller account, you’ve got to decide on your order fulfillment method. Do you want to fulfill orders yourself (FBM) or do you want Amazon to fulfill your orders (FBA)?

Here’s a quick comparison of FBA and FBM:

  • If you sell FBM, you’ll have to store your books and fulfill orders yourself.
  • If you sell FBA, Amazon will store your books and fulfill your orders.
  • FBA costs more in fees than FBM
  • FBA eats up less of your time than FBM
  • Books sold with FBA get Prime shipping, which means they sell for more than FBM ‒ this usually offsets the higher fees.

How FBA works

FBM doesn’t require much explanation: you store your books until they sell, and then ship them to the buyers. It’s basically like selling on eBay.

FBA is a bit more complex though. You should at least have a basic understanding of how it works.

Amazon has a bunch of warehouses all around the world. These aren’t normal warehouses though. They’re some of the largest, most efficient warehouses on the planet. Amazon calls these robot-driven warehouses their “fulfillment centers,” and your books will be stored in a number of these fulfillment centers if you choose to sell them via FBA.

Though Amazon has fulfillment centers in many countries, you’ll typically start off by storing your items in a fulfillment center located inside your own country. Amazon makes it easy to expand to international markets though, though I stick to my own country (the U.S.) as there are more than enough book buyers here for me to even think of going global.

When your books arrive at a fulfillment center, Amazon employees will take them out of the box and scan them into their system. They will then send each book into storage ‒ which might involve sending it to another fulfillment center.

Once your books are checked in to the fulfillment center, they will be available for purchase on Amazon’s website. It typically takes about a week for a book to be ready to ship once it arrives at a center, but buyers are still able to purchase the book before it’s ready to ship. They just have to be willing to wait a bit longer to receive their item.

When someone buys one of your books, the item is pulled out of storage and shipped to the buyer.

One of the best things about FBA is that Amazon takes full responsibility for the fulfillment of the order. This has a few key benefits:

  • If the item is damaged in transit, or if the buyer receives their item late, you’re not liable to compensate the buyer ‒ Amazon will cover it.
  • If the buyer leaves you negative feedback related to order fulfillment, you can get that feedback removed with a single click.
  • If the buyer wants to return an item, you don’t have to send them a shipping label or deal with the return yourself ‒ Amazon will handle every aspect of the return.

Phase Three: Listing your books

Now that you have a Seller account and understand your fulfillment options, it’s time to list your books.

I’m not going to dive into the specifics of listing books here. I’ve written a step-by-step guide on the book preparation process, so read that if you want to learn the minute details involved in listing books on Amazon.

Here’s an overview of the FBA book listing procedure:

  • Sign up for some book listing software. You can list your books from Amazon Seller Central, but I find that takes far too long compared to the streamlined listing software options available.
  • Sort your books by condition
  • Scan your books into your listing software, setting prices and condition notes as you go.
  • Stack your books inside shipping boxes
  • Send those boxes to Amazon via UPS.

Phase Four: Selling your books

Once your books are listed for sale on Amazon, the waiting game begins.

Depending on how in-demand a book is, you could be wait anywhere between a day and a few years for it to finally sell. The speed at which your books sell will also be determined by your repricing strategy. If you’re using automated repricing software and manually reviewing prices on a regular basis, many of your books are going to sell much faster than if you weren’t repricing at all.

If you’re fulfilling orders yourself, you’ll have to make sure you ship your books to your customers within one business day of the order being fulfilled. If Amazon is fulfilling your orders, you can just kick back and watch the numbers go up.

Phase Five: Getting paid

Now for the fun part: getting your hard-earned cash deposited into your bank account.

Getting paid actually takes a while with Amazon. They hold your money for three weeks after a sale to make sure there aren’t any problems with the order. Once Amazon is pretty sure the customer is satisfied and isn’t going to be making any returns, they will release the funds to your bank account.

Amazon likes to send payments in semi-regular batches. You can avoid this and get your money as soon as it’s available by requesting a transfer in the Payments summary window.

You should know that if your account is suspended for some reason, Amazon will hold your money until the suspension is worked out. If you manage to get permanently banned from Amazon, they will keep the money. This isn’t a huge deal, as you have to really mess up to even receive a temporary suspension. But it’s something you should be aware of.

Related Questions

Where can I get books to sell?

There are a ton of places you can find cheap books to sell online. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Book sales (go to
  • Estate sales (go to
  • Thrift stores
  • Ongoing library sales
  • Flea markets
  • Craigslist/Facebook Marketplace

Should I sell books on Amazon or eBay?

The short answer is Amazon (it’s way better). The long answer can be found in this article: Should You Sell Books on Amazon or eBay?

Steve Rajeckas

Hi! I'm Steve. I've been selling books using Amazon's fulfillment service for more than two years. I love learning new things about the online bookselling world, and I hope my tips help you build and expand your own bookselling business.

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