Urgent information for FBA Sellers!

By Sharon Fussell, July 26, 2011

This week I received a really scary email from Amazon stating they were going to bill me for over £1400 next month for duplicate ISBN listings.

I was quite perplexed – ever since I have known about the new charges I have downloaded various reports and not noticed any duplicate listings on the system. Had Amazon made a mistake?

All FBA Sellers should be aware of Amazon’s long-term storage charge, which came into force on the 15th August 2011.

At first I understood the changes to mean that Amazon were to make a charge on any book stored in their centres for 365 days or more and panicked.

Then I interpreted the change to mean that books with the same ISBN but separate SKU’s would be okay. (Which would mean I would be unaffected by the changes).

However, this is not the case!

Amazon allows FBA Sellers to have only one ISBN stored in their facilities

If you list another book with the same ISBN, the new long-term charges come into play – so, if the first listing goes unsold for 365 days, you would have two copies with the same ISBN stored at Amazon’s fulfilment centre and would therefore incur a charge.

In fact Amazon intends to have bi-annual culls of duplicated stock stored in their centres that has gone unsold for over 365 days.

  • Why make this change, surely Amazon are moving the goal posts regarding using FBA?
  • How much is this change going to cost, is it still cost effective/worthwhile selling via FBA?
  • Are Amazon holding FBA sellers to ransom by forcing a change that leaves them feeling let down and confused?

Amazon’s space in their fulfilment centres is not infinite: many sellers have hundreds – if not thousands – of copies of the same ISBN taking up room. Most of these titles are low value and it is just not cost effective for Amazon to store them in return for a storage charge and a nominal fee (which is all down to the low selling price many FBA sellers place on their books).

I guess it could also be said that if you haven’t managed to sell one copy within 365 days, you are unlikely to sell two or indeed hundreds of copies of the same book.

Amazon claims – based on a survey – that most sellers expect to sell their stock within one year. I would guess this does not relate to books sellers as unlike other types of stock, how quickly a books sells cannot be predicted, especially if it is a very niche title – it could take months or years to sell.

In the future Amazon will charge to return/destroy duplicated listings over 365 days old. But, this time – at least – Amazon has extended their promotion to remove these items for no cost up until the 31st August.

So, if you think you may be affected by the change go to your Amazon reports in your seller account. Download the report that recommends books to be removed. (These will be duplicated ISBN’s listed for over 365 days).

If you are affected, Amazon should send an email to inform you of this fact and you will be directed to download a report and prepare a removal of stock. If this is the case remove any duplicate listings dated 15th August 2010 or older.

If you are selling using FBA you will most certainly be affected by Amazon’s long-term charges change in the future. I have no idea if Amazon will have a free removal period in February 2012 and indeed for any further future culls.

How to avoid future charges

When you are listing a book, click on the link for ‘new and used copies for sale’ on the description page. Scroll down to see if you have any copies of a book listed for sale. If you do, do not list your duplicate copy, instead wait for the original listing to sell or discard the duplicate.

Remember, you can have a single copy listed without charge for as long as you like (unless Amazon move this goal post in future of course). But, bear in mind if you already have more than one copy listed you may only see one copy displayed on the sale page as Amazon tend to hold back duplicate copies waiting for one to sell before live-listing another.

You could take the chance that one or indeed both copies will sell before the 365-day period and list the duplicate anyway. If you do not sell the oldest listed copy within this period you can pay to have it removed before the long-term storage charge comes into play.

It is recommended that you download your recommended removal listings frequently as you may be able to take action a few weeks/months before an item is due to be removed, for example by reducing the price to encourage a quick sale, thus only leaving one item on the system which you can leave at a higher price until sold.

Although this change is a pain, it does make sense to cull unsold stock frequently. Fresh stock and refreshed prices can increase sales, which is good news, especially since Amazon are now restricting how many books you can store.

Of course, removing unsold sock will inevitably pose a future cost for me, but I will counter this by being stricter in my listing practices and making adjustments to prices to sell off older stock in order to restrict removal payments to Amazon. I fully intend not to fall into the trap of paying long-term storage charges!

NB: Storing low value fiction titles does not lend itself to this method. So hopefully, the changes will prevent some daft FBA sellers from listing hundreds of those low value books which devalue our own stock as we try to compete to remain on the first selling page…

**Please note these charges will not affect items listed and stored at home.


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