Last week, Amazon terminated the contracts of all their Maine-based Affiliates and Associates. See the email from Amazon in its entirety HERE. No, we were not affected, thank goodness.
In a nutshell, Maine says companies like Amazon must start collecting sales tax in Maine because they have affiliates and associates in Maine. Affiliates promote books and other products, linking directly to Amazon. Thus, affiliates are no different than a commission-based sales force for Amazon’s products. Associates are other individuals or businesses who sell directly through Amazon (those new and used books you see on their book pages).
Rather than simply collecting and paying the sales tax, Amazon has chosen to terminate the accounts of all their Maine-based affiliates and associates. They’ve done this in other states as well (California, Minnesota, Illinois, North Carolina – the list keeps growing). While there is much debate online and off about the issue of Internet sales tax, that isn’t what this article is about. This is about the risk associated with giving one store the power to put you out of business.
AMAZON AFFILIATES AND ASSOCIATES – THE RISKS
Some individuals and small companies have built their entire businesses around Amazon’s affiliate and/or associates programs. They’ve found ways to successfully utilize Amazon’s affiliate links, and the ability to list new/used books for sale on Amazon’s book pages, and have earned quite a bit from doing so. But, this is a huge risk. What if Amazon decides they don’t want to do business with you anymore? Yes, this has happened to thousands in the past. Amazon has terminated the contracts of affiliates and associates for a variety of reasons with little notice. The sales tax email at the link above only gave 10 days notice that the accounts would be terminated. People who have been sending Amazon business for years will suddenly have their Amazon revenues drop to zero, through no fault of their own.
Imagine spending months or years writing articles and creating/updating websites to promote your affiliate links on Amazon. With the click of a button, Amazon can kill all your efforts, and completely cut off your income.
Imagine spending months or years visiting used bookstores, buying and storing old books, and reselling them on Amazon under the associates program, shipping them to customers as they are ordered. You have a nice little side business going that provides a bit of extra income for your family. Then, imagine having Amazon terminate you in one fell swoop. You’re essentially put out of business with little to no notice. I personally know someone this happened to. His income went to zero with the click of a button.
In both of these examples, the businesses and individuals put all their eggs in the Amazon basket, leaving themselves 100% vulnerable to a large corporation that isn’t likely to listen if they complain about being put out of business. What could they have done differently?
For starters, the associates should have run ads for their books on more than one online store. While Amazon is the most popular bookstore in the world, there are plenty of others who accept these types of used book sales (see list below). If it were me, I’d obtain accounts at a variety of online stores, and I’d list the books on all the sites on my list; not just on Amazon. If you sell the copy through one store, you can always remove the listing from the other stores you’re working with.
For affiliates, I would first and foremost promote links appearing on my own website only so I can change those links if I need to (if Amazon decides to terminate my account). I would also give my readers a variety of links at which to buy the book(s) mentioned in my article(s) and/or blog(s). That way, my customers can click on a different link if the Amazon one stops working some day. Simply put the logos and links at the bottom of the article with a statement about buying the book at any of the listed stores.
If I’m writing for a third-party website, I would provide promotional links to my own website, and then provide redirects or direct links to a list of different bookstores for the book(s) I’m promoting in that article. When you write for a third party, they aren’t going to update links in your old articles down the road but, if you only provide links to your own website, you control where the redirects and direct links go at all times.
In our book 90 Days of Promoting Your Book Online, we recommend always referring others to your own website first so you will permanently control the end sales link, whether that link goes to Amazon, your own shopping cart, your publisher’s page for your book (or any other book), and/or other online retailers.
Where else can you sell used books, and set up affiliate accounts?
SELLING USED BOOKS
Alibris.com has resale programs for “casual sellers” and they also have a “gold professional plan.” Read about both HERE.
I, myself, always check the prices at Ebay for out-of-print titles before buying from a large online retailer because I can usually find a great deal there, even with very reasonable or free shipping. Go to ebay.com and click on the “sell” button at the top.
Powells buys used books outright and they pay for the shipping. You can type in the ISBN on their site to obtain a quote for each book you want to sell. Click HERE to sell used books directly to Powells.
Like Powells, just enter the ISBN and find out how much they’ll pay for your books. And, like Powells, BookScouter pays shipping, too. Click HERE.
BlueRectangle.com is also very similar to Powells and BookScouter. Enter the ISBN and get a quote from them. Also pays shipping.
BARNES AND NOBLE
BarnesandNoble.com’s affiliate program is HERE.
Alibris.com allows used book sales, and also has an affiliate program. Click HERE.
AbeBooks.com’s affiliate program is HERE.
Biblio.com claims to be “the largest independent marketplace for quality used, rare, and out-of-print books.” Their affiliate program is HERE.
Pays 5% commission on purchases of $500 or more; $25 for purchases over $500.
The affiliate program for BooksAMillion.com is HERE.
If you are promoting a specific book on your blog or in an article, I recommend including links to at least three stores under your blog post/article to give readers a choice. While one reader may not have an account at BooksAMillion.com, they might at BarnesandNoble.com. If some of your readers are Canadian, they will appreciate the Chapters/Indigo link. Whatever you do, don’t put all your eggs in the Amazon basket, or that of any one store, because you never know when one of them might cut you off. If one link doesn’t work for your readers, they’ll try another one, so you won’t lose out on that sale.
This is another reason you might NOT want to publish your book with CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon. If Amazon decides to terminate your book or your account for any reason, you might find you are royally screwed because nobody will be able to get a copy of your book, including Ingram, the world’s largest book distributor. Read more reasons on why you might want to avoid CreateSpace HERE.
Never, ever give one retailer the power to put you completely out of business.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
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Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
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