Selling my e-book on Amazon


After reading Thomas Fuchs’ post, 5 rules to sell thousands of copies of your ebook, and the ensuing Twitter discussion, I decided to share my thoughts on selling my book, SMACSS, on Amazon.

Had you asked me before I wrote this post whether I would sell on Amazon again, I’d have flat out said no. Having researched and compiled numbers for this post, now I’m not so sure. Let’s dive in to see why.

Selling on Amazon

Selling on Amazon is relatively easy. Create a mobi file and upload it. Add a cover photo and a description, set a price, and you’re pretty much set to go.

It’s that setting of the price that initial ruffled my feathers. See, Amazon is trying to drive down e-book prices by creating an incentive to price the book under $10. Normally, you only get 35% of every book sale but if it’s under $10 then you can get 70% of every sale. Sort of.

First, if it’s under $10 then you also have to pay a delivery fee. The larger your book is, the larger your fee is. The other catch is that you only get 70% if the book is sold to someone within certain countries. For books sold to people outside of that list, you still only get 35%.

From the launch of the book in November 2011 up to and including September 2012, I’ve sold 338 books. For those 11 months, 30% of those were sold at the 35% royalty rate. The average royalty per book has been 61.8%.

Comparing 35% to 70% royaltiesIn my case, pricing the book at $9 on Amazon made sense. I sell the book for $15 on my own site but that includes PDF, ePub, and mobi formats and includes screencasts. On Amazon, you just get the mobi version. I felt this was fair.

However, let’s assume that I just had the e-book with no other frills. At $9 getting 61.8% from every sale means $5.56 in royalties. I’d have to sell the book for $16 to make just as much at the reduced price point.

Clearly, it’s better for consumers if I sell for the cheaper price, since I make the same either way.

Versus self-sold

One commenter on Twitter figured Amazon would be worth it based on sheer volume of sales. However, that’s not the case. Through self-marketing alone, sales through my own site have far exceeding anything that I’ve sold on Amazon. I’ve sold almost 6 books on my own site for every book sold on Amazon. Every book sold on my own site makes about 96% of the sale price (and sells for a higher price!).

Showing self-sold versus AmazonBased on this alone, it really doesn’t make sense to push people to Amazon.

Pushing to Amazon

When I first launched the book, I actively encouraged people to buy the book from Amazon. When you went to the purchase page, one of the pricing options was to buy it from Amazon and explained the benefits of doing so. (Namely, price.)

When I released the print version of the book back in May, I changed the way my site presented pricing and dropped any mention of Amazon from my site. Sales dropped off considerably. Looking at June sales on, they were at the lowest they had ever been.

Clearly, this demonstrated that pushing people to Amazon was just not worth it.

No more Amazon?

It was at this point that I said to myself (and others) that I would never bother selling through Amazon again. Why bother?

But then I started compiling numbers for this very blog post and I started to see some trends that caught my attention.

1. Sales on Amazon are climbing

While overall sales are still down, the trend has been climbing since June. Why is this? It’s hard to say for sure but I’m going to chalk it up to one reason: Reviews. I used to only have one review. It was only 3 stars. Not a glowing review by any means. But in September, I got two more reviews that were definitely more positive. I believe these positive reviews have helped increase sales.

2. Sales have closely mirrored my own site

Sure, sales dropped considerably in June on Amazon but having finally compiled numbers from my own site, I realized that sales dropped there, too. Maybe my site wasn’t contributing as heavily to Amazon sales as I originally thought.

Comparison between self-sold and AmazonIn fact, month over month, sales have increased more on Amazon than they have on my own site over the last three months.

In Review

My takeaway from all of this is that Amazon may still be a worthwhile addition to sales that may not be taking sales away from my own site (as I originally suspected). However, doing well (or better) on Amazon means having positive reviews to help push sales. This makes sense. (Maybe you’d like to review it!)

In the end, I’ve made $1882 from since the launch of the book. I’m not about to say no to that! And I’ll continue to sell the book on Amazon for the foreseeable future. More importantly, I’m more likely to recommend Amazon as a viable option for e-book sales as a supplement to regular sales.