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    An “Alternative” for Your Book

    Amazon is king of print on demand, but sometimes it isn’t right for your project. For example: Amazon (actually their printer, CreateSpace) doesn’t print hardcover books. Or books with special packaging, like a CD enclosure. And there are trim sizes and papers options, etc., that Amazon doesn’t print, either.

    So what do you do if you have an unconventional project? You may still need the three things Amazon provides so well: internet search presence, payment processing, and fulfillment. A listing on Amazon is certainly helpful compared to selling from your own website, but it is the carefree billing and order fulfillment that makes Amazon so invaluable to authors.

    Can you use any printer you choose, and make a custom book, without the limitations of print on demand? Yes. Even if you don’t use them for printing, you can still use Amazon for payment processing and distribution of hardcover books, custom books with odd trim sizes, CDs, and other media products as well. This is a lesser-known method called Amazon Advantage.

    Courtesy of Carl Malamud under Creative Commons

    To the buyer, Advantage looks just like every other Amazon offering, but there’s a big difference: they don’t print the book “on demand” when the customer orders it. Instead, you provide the product, printed in advance, for them to sell.

    Here is how it works: Send them a box of your books that you printed with someone else, and they’ll list, sell and ship them. Amazon will warehouse the book for you. They’ll stock as few as two copies! So long as you provide copies, your book will be listed as “in stock”.

    One strong feature of Advantage is that your book is eligible for Super Saver Shipping and Prime Shipping. (Many Amazon buyers, and I am one, only search Amazon with the “Prime Eligible” filter checked – why pay shipping if you don’t have to?) Advantage books, since they are conveniently warehoused by Amazon, are shipped free in two days with Prime, a distinct selling point.

    What is the downside? Instead of the 40% takes from each print on demand book sale, Advantage takes 55%, leaving you far less profit per sale. There is also an annual $29.95 member fee. And you have other costs that print on demand authors don’t face:

    • You pay to print the books
    • You pay the printer to send the books to you
    • You pay to ship your books to Amazon

    Books are heavy and therefore expensive to ship, so this is not an inconsiderable cost. It is tough to price your book competitively with these added costs.

    When might this be right for you? Desirable, specialized books can command a high list price. For example, I recently designed a comprehensive, 460-page training manual. This would be purchased by students and instructors, and so it has a different pricing model, competitive with other textbooks. The cover price is $120. In this case, Advantage’s greater cost is acceptable, as there is a greater margin for profit.

    Is Amazon Advantage the only alternative to print on demand? No. Are there other ways to achieve internet search presence, payment processing, and order fulfillment if you’re self publishing a book? Yes. (That will have to be another blog.) But Amazon Advantage is certainly the easiest, most direct way. Also, I should mention that we can set up this type of account for you, if you need help with it.

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