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The Problem with the Amazon ADD TO CART Button and What You Can Do

Thank you to guest blogger Amy Collins for this week’s post on the issues with the Amazon ADD TO CART button and what authors can do. Amy is the owner of New Shelves Books, one of the fastest-growing book distribution, sales and marketing companies in North America.

Let’s see…. What shall we talk about this month? What is on author’s minds more than anything else right now? Well, if you are reading my email, here is an item that is worrying authors at the moment. For this month’s DO THIS NOT THAT we will focus on the Amazon ADD TO CART button and what we can do.

What Is Bothering Some Folks About the Amazon ADD TO CART Button

More and more authors are seeing that the ADD TO CART button does not place an order with the author/publisher like it used to. This is not a new phenomenon, but for the last year, Amazon has been awarding the button to the lowest-priced seller and that is often not the author. This has, in some cases, resulted in a dramatic drop in their Amazon sales.

How Is This a Thing?

Amazon’s computer brain reviews books every day and takes retail price and shipping speed into account when awarding the precious BUY button. The person who can make an Amazon customer the most happy AND make Amazon the most money will win the button. So retailers, knowing this, take a look at new books released each week and look them up on INGRAM to see if they can order at a 20% discount or more. If an author has put their book up on IngramSpark or KDP Expanded Distribution, then their book will be available to ANY retailer at a 20-40% discount.

All the retailer has to do is list the book, drop the price a bit and when an order comes in, grab the book from Ingram. Please understand that most of the retailers listing a book 20 cents below the retail price do not actually have the book.

How Does This Affect Authors?

If a book is purchased on Amazon directly from the publisher/author, then the publisher/author will make almost TWICE as much profit as if they sell the book to a retailer through Ingram.

KDP gives an author 60% of the retail price of the book when selling to an Amazon customer, but only can give the author 45% of the retail price of the book when the order and printing goes to IngramSpark. When you factor in the printing costs, that will often mean the difference between $4 profit and $2 profit.

In addition, the book’s front and center positioning looks weak when going through a third party retailer because the book shown has a button that may not offer overnight or PRIME option.

Another problem with this scenario for authors? Once these guys get an order, they will need to order, pay and have the book printed and shipped to an Amazon customer. This will often cause grumpy readers.

What You Should Do

If this is happening to you, I recommend that you shut OFF Expanded Distribution. If you want to open YOUR OWN IngramSpark account (and I highly recommend that you do), then you can set the discount you want for other retailers. YOU are in charge of what competing retailers get from Ingram (and that feels good….)

You can set the discount to 30% which will mean that retailers will not get a 20% discount when buying your book and they will not want to list your book.

Amazon will still have your book available from KDP and you will make more money on each sale.

Things To Keep In Mind

If you want bookstores to stock and sell your books, then you will have very little choice but to offer the full 55% discount to Ingram Wholesaler so that bookstores can get the 40% discount that they require. This means that ALL retailers can get that discount and you will be right back where you started.

For a lot of authors, the loss of profits from Amazon is NOT worth the bookstore sales that come from a full discount relationship with IngramSpark. For some, bookstores and other retailers ARE worth the Amazon button loss…. It is a decision for us each to make individually.

Second item to remember? This only works with paperback. Remember that KDP does not offer hardcover books at the moment.

Another thing to keep in mind? It is NOT Ingram or IngramSpark’s fault that Amazon awards the button to the best priced book option. And it is not their fault that retailers will use that fact to gain more sales. Heck it is not even the retailers/third party button stealer’s fault that this system works in their favor. They are just trying to sell books.

Remember that YOU STILL GET PAID for every book that Amazon sells no matter WHO owns your button. The stores that get the order that you feel belongs to you will STILL have to order the books from Ingram and you will still get paid. Just not as much as if you had gotten the order from KDP directly.

(Updated April 2019 to reflect the merger of CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing.)