Selling Books on Amazon—Are They Ripping Me Off?

It can be frustrating selling books on Amazon.

These 15 FAQs address misunderstandings and misconceptions about book retailing, the book business in general, and Amazon’s own policies.

Is Amazon Ripping Me Off

Selling Books on Amazon—Are They Ripping Me Off?

FAQs about Amazon business practices and policies for self-publishers selling books using KDP, Advantage, and Seller Central

The public’s association of Amazon and books is so entrenched that many view Amazon as a public utility when it comes to bookselling. It is the first, and sometimes only, book-retailing outlet new publishers and self-publishing authors use to sell books and Kindle eBooks.

So when it comes to the business of selling and promoting books, many indie publishers are aghast at what they consider “unfair” or “usurious” Amazon business practices. The reality is that many of these policies and practices can be found throughout retailing and publishing, subject to the commerce laws of the country where the retailer is selling products.

Granted, in some cases publishers and book sellers are subjected to policies and practices that go outside what we consider the bounds of fairness. Amazon does have a stranglehold on book selling and is not shy about using that market power (see question 5, below).

In an effort to clear up misunderstandings, address misinformation, and manage expectations, here is a list of frequently asked doing-business-with-Amazon questions we receive from individuals new to selling books on Amazon.

Frequently Asked Questions

As the publisher, you set the suggested retail price of your book. As a retailer—and this is true for all retailers (in the US, at least)—Amazon can choose to discount it or not. The royalty you receive doesn’t change. A discount simply means Amazon makes less profit.

But also keep in mind that Amazon policies for KDP state that if you offer your book at a lower price elsewhere, Amazon has the right to price-match it, and this could impact your royalty. More here on how to price books. Also see Amazon’s digital book pricing page.

How do I stop Amazon from discounting my book? Do they pay royalty on List Price, or discounted price?


This is a publishing industry standard and not unique to Amazon. The standard discount you need to give a bookstore to stock your book is at least 40%. Wholesalers take an additional 15%. In this case, Amazon simply says it is acting as the retailer and wholesaler, so it requires 55%. This is the same discount you will select when making your print book available to retailers through wholesaler IngramSpark.


If you plan to sell books to bookstores, be prepared to receive 45% of the retail price for your book. From this, you will pay for all expenses, including the cost to print your book.


Note that the alternative is to use Seller Central. You miss out on some publisher-specific benefits, but you control your pricing and retain most of the margin. Read our comparison of Amazon Advantage vs. Seller Central.

KDP is both a printer and distributor—it makes your book available in the Amazon retail stores.


  • As the printer, it receives payment to manufacture the book.
  • As the retailer, Amazon receives a selling commission of 40%, as noted in question 2, above.

The difference between the cost to manufacture and the 60% you receive is called the royalty. For more about these calculations, see our Guide to Amazon Fees and Royalties for Kindle eBooks and KDP Print.

Similar to eBay or any number of used bookstores, Amazon provides a marketplace (Seller Central) for anyone to sell used (or new) books. As long as your physical book has an ISBN, anyone can sell it on Amazon. This is consistent with US federal laws.

Okay, this one cannot be explained other than to say, “because they can.” We believe it is rooted in the origins of the Kindle reader ecosystem when the early devices included free 3G wireless book delivery, a revolutionary concept at the time. There was a definite cost to delivering books this way, so Amazon simply passed that cost on to the publisher. See Amazon’s digital book pricing page, section C.


Note that this applies to anyone using KDP to sell Kindle eBooks on Amazon. Other businesses that submit eBooks to the Kindle store—for example, the Independent Publishers Group, IPG—do not pay this fee.

Research and experience have shown that providing samples is an important promotional tool. This is an example of trying to duplicate the experience of a physical retail store where you could conceivably read the entire book without buying it. Amazon’s default sample size is 10% for Kindle eBooks and 20% for print books.


To change the amount of book that is showing, see this Amazon help article: Look Inside the Book.

Like any other retailer, the person that buys the book is the retailer’s customer—in this case, Amazon’s customer. If you want to build a customer list, you will need to become the retailer of your own books. Alternatively, you can use Seller Central to sell print books, in which case you receive customer purchase information.

The short answer is that like any retailer, Amazon promotes stuff that sells, or stuff they have been paid to promote. The trick for indie publishers is to create enough activity and purchases so that the Amazon algorithms show your book to shoppers.


Amazon promotions include bestseller lists, Hot New Release badges, email newsletters, adding the book to additional categories, and so on. For Kindle eBook self-publishers, you can also join KDP Select, which has three self-service promotional options. See Should You Use Amazon KDP Select or Distribute Your Book Wide?

Advantage is a consignment program, so they stock only enough books to satisfy demand. All bookstores work like this. The more books you sell, the more they order. Conversely, they return books that don’t sell (a potentially expensive proposition!). Also see 10 Things Author-Publishers Should Know About Amazon Advantage.

Several factors influence the Amazon search engine with regard to where books show up in search results. Most importantly, it depends on how many copies you are selling. Like any retailer, Amazon makes money when it sells something, so it stands to reason Amazon promotes products that sell.

Books that sell lots of copies naturally show up higher in search results.

Secondary factors that influence search results on Amazon:

  1. How closely the search term matches words in your book’s title, subtitle, author, and (to a lesser extent) publishing-imprint fields.
  2. The keywords you enter when listing the book for sale.
  3. How closely the search term matches words in your description, especially the headings in your description. (See our KDP description formatting tool for help creating headings for your book description.)
  4. The number of customer reviews your book has.
  5. The number of competing books with information that is the same or similar to all the elements listed above.

Indeed, this seems unfair for some books, especially long books with lots of images. It’s another example of Amazon using their market dominance (see question 5, above) to encourage sales and build market share by incentivizing self-publishers to price books between a certain range to get the 70% royalty ($2.99 and $9.99). They know that lower prices matter to customers.

One might take solace in the fact that customers never own eBooks and cannot resell them, thereby eliminating the used market. Also see, Kindle eBook Royalties: 70% vs. 35% and 6 Essential Things You Need to Know.

You can’t. They used to have a program called Kindle MatchBook that provided a discount on an eBook if the customer bought the print book, but it was discontinued.


The only way to do this is to make the sale outside of Amazon. For example, you send an email to your mailing list offering a discounted print book if they send you a receipt for their purchase of your eBook. You then mail them a copy of your book.

Yes, but you must pay the full price. For print books in KDP, you may buy author copies at a discount, but there is no such thing as author copies of Kindle eBooks.


Some authors will reduce the price of their Kindle eBook to the lowest price possible, usually 99 cents, and buy several gift copies at that price before raising the price back again. You can email those gift copies you bought at 99 cents to anyone with an email address.


Can I give a copy of my Kindle eBook away as a gift

If you use Amazon KDP’s free ISBN for your paperback or hardcover, you must use Amazon to print your book. You are not allowed to use any other printer besides Amazon. To avoid this and keep your options open, you must buy your own ISBNs. Learn about self-publishing book imprints and how an imprint name is used.

You might be confusing KDP’s paperback and hardcover publishing option with KDP Select, which is only for eBooks. KDP Select is optional and if you enroll your eBook, it must be exclusive to Amazon for 90-days. (See question 8, above.)


Amazon does not prohibit you from selling your print book in any other store. In fact, they make it very easy. Just click the Expanded Distribution checkbox on the final book setup page in KDP.


If I use KDP Print, is my print book exclusive to Amazon? Can I sell it in other bookstores?

18 thoughts on “Selling Books on Amazon—Are They Ripping Me Off?”

  1. My biggest problem with Amazon is that they only remit royalties when they reach $100. Like most POD authors I sell very few copies, this means that Amazon can withhold my royalties for months, or possibly never pay them. It’s virtual theft.

  2. If you elect to get paid by check, you are right. But who does that!? All of our clients get paid via EFT to their bank so that if it is even a dollar, that’s the royalty they get deposited. No waiting for $100 so no virtual theft.

  3. Paul and Phyllis Gibson.

    My book was self published by me on xlibris, in the first year I got 11 dollars.
    Now Amazon has been prompting my book but they did not get permission from me.
    I just saw my book there when I looked for the title:AN UNSUNG ANTHEM:
    I have not been able to contact them for any information,
    What should I do?
    I never even heard from them, I just saw the advertisement on their web site.
    I am angry, My husband co author is recovering from an operation.
    I wish they had contacted us.
    We had not the money to publish by the thousands.
    They wanted 2000.dollars to publish 500 books.
    We deserve an explanation.
    Qur names Paul and Phyllis Gibson.
    Phone 786 506 5581
    2903 Point East Drive Apt K312 Aventura Florida

  4. This is not an Amazon issue. You need to take this up with the publisher, Xlibris, and read your contract with them. The parent company is Author Solutions, another company you can contact. If you get the rights back, or publisher another book, it’s a snap to setup your own author imprint so you be listed as the official publisher and avoid situations like this. That’s how we help authors and they retain 100% control at all times. Best of luck Phyllis.

  5. EFT payment is not available to Canadian authors. So, no choice but to wait for $100 in royalties. ALSO, books sold on are printed by Createspace in the US and actually shipped by, which makes Canadian purchasers pay exchange rates and Canadian sales taxes. So the Canadian customers get hit twice.

  6. I find dealing with Amazon Advantage a nigntmare. Their recent two-part verification system hung me up from viewing my orders for four days since I did not have a second “backup” phone number and the program would not let me move on. Upon relating this to whomever is at the other end of “contact us,” I received one incomprehensible set of instructions for authenticating in a different way, clearly written by someone with a tenuous grasp of the English language; when that didn’t work, I received a second, even more baffling email. Finally I supplied a friend’s phone number

    Now, after I confirm orders, I am not given a label to print out. Naturally enough, there is no phone number or human being ever to contact about these issues. I would love to be shut of them and use a different service, if there is one. (B&N?)

  7. It is clear to me that Amazon offers unmatched visibility and access to buyers but also has serious potential pitfalls, so I would very much appreciate your guidance.
    I recently finished a photo book which is being published in Colombia (South America), where I live, and printed at a high-end press in Spain. The publisher has no international distribution so I am considering sending 100 copies (from the print run of 1,000) to Amazon under their advantage program for distribution in the USA and/or Europe. The list price of the book in Colombia is equivalent to US$40.
    I would be happy to pay Advantage’s annual US$99 fee and 55% of royalties in return for a trouble-free selling process. The ideal solution would be to send the 100 copies to a single address and let Advantage do the rest, selling it close to the retail price.
    My question is whether — and how — I could achieve this. As I understand it, Advantage could: set the purchase price so low that I might end up losing money after all the fees; require that I send unspecified numbers of copies to several different distribution centers at unspecified intervals; send out copies to buyers for unspecified shipping charges that I would have to pay; charge unspecified storage fees; send back copies at any time, again for unspecified shipping charges.
    There may be solutions to all these snags, but right now I am not sure what they are or where to find them.

  8. There are Advantage programs for different countries, not one that serves the world (US, CAN, UK). So you can’t get worldwide distribution from one account setup.

    You set the price but they can discount. Regardless, you get your price.

    But the biggest issue is you can’t send them 100 books. You send them what they ask for. An alternative is SellerCentral and you can use FBA. I have another article on my personal site here:

    It may take some research but it seems to me that it would be better to partner with a US based publisher, one aligned with the subject matter and your goals. They can do warehousing and have distribution relationships.

    Best of luck.

  9. Amazon discredit one of my month’s earning;Sighting that my books are being read in sequence. My nephew at his university helped to promote my books,and convinced at the campus that they were easy to read,which is true because they’re poetry most of them,so them sat in the campus library and read them on their system,but amazon was not pleased with the books being read so quickly in such high numbers from start to finish I believe and that month,they disqualified my payment;They were obviously not pleased. This time I told the readers to not read all the books so quickly but take their time,and only read one or two but not all in one go,hopefully that will help,I do feel ripped off and confuse though.

  10. I do not know how many copies of my book “Why me?” have been sold on Amazon as yet. I have not received any royalty payment until now either. Can somebody guide me in resolving these issues please? Thank you!

  11. So funny how amateur writers that couldn’t get published as a pro have all these complaints. You’re lucky there’s even a place to do something like this, let alone whine about it.
    There is SUCH a huge difference between published writers and Amazon self-published garbage. It is pretty rare to find a self-published book that isn’t pure junk.
    I stopped even trying to read self-published work a while back. Amazon isn’t going to have this feature available forever. Either use it or don’t. You have zero negotiating room. You’re not under a professional published contract with a publishing house and never will be. Stop complaining.

  12. Well said, Renee. There is a general feeling by a percentage of self-publishers that Amazon is responsible for their book. But I also know there are commercially competitive self-published books (basing that on sales rank and reviews). These writers hire developmental editors, copyeditors, and make other necessary investments. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  13. Michelle R. Britto

    My books are all over, after I uploaded to Amazon. I am not seeing nor did I give permission for my books to be retailed In various other places and NO royalties. Why and how does Amazon take advantage of self-publishers?

Comments are closed.