Updated: Feb 8
Let's set a familiar scene.
Your book is selling well. You’re pleased with your progress. You’ve figured it all out. And then… Out of nowhere… Your book, which is supposed to sell for $12.99 on Amazon, is now selling for $20! And you didn’t change the price!
Worse, it’s almost the holidays–the last time you want your book’s price to mysteriously increase. Who’s going to give your book as a gift if they think it’s too expensive?
We see authors asking questions about this EVERY DAY, and for good reason! It’s scary not to know what’s going on with your own product.
Luckily, we have the answers… And it’s all due to a pesky little guy called the buy box.
Wildly enough, that itty bitty box is the culprit behind all of this confusion. Why?
Because only one seller can “win” the buy box.
As you know, Amazon is full of secondhand and third-party sellers who also want to sell your product. They’re often represented below the buy box, labeled as “Other Sellers on Amazon.” Most people aren’t interested in those other sellers; they’re just going to click the biggest “add to cart” button and make the purchase.
However, if the Amazon algorithm suspects that one of those other sellers is the best retailer for the product, they will win the buy box. That means that they get “add to cart,” with whatever price they’ve decided will make them a profit… And you and your price get downgraded to “other sellers.” 😵
You’re probably thinking, “But that’s not fair!” And you’re right! Unfortunately, an algorithm doesn’t know that those other sellers aren’t associated with you, the author. If another seller gets the buy box, it’s likely because something is going on with your distributor. This is why the buy box tends to disappear around the holidays: that’s when inventory is most unpredictable.
Think about all the chaos that ensues when everyone scrambles to buy holiday gifts. Maybe your distributor had some shipping delays due to inclement weather. Maybe they’re selling your book so quickly that their inventory is running low. Either way, the algorithm will go “I’ll help!” and give your buy box to a different retailer, who may currently have more inventory, higher ratings, or better prices.
Not helpful, algorithm.
We’ll be real with you: If another retailer wins your buy box, it’s not always possible to fix it manually. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of waiting until the algorithm decides to return the buy box to you. There are a lot of factors that determine who gets the box–like volume, price, ratings, and fulfillment method–but eventually, your distributor will be recognized as the primary retailer once again.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things you can try in the meantime!
Here are a few methods that could win you back the buy box:
Ask some trusted people (like friends, family, or launch team members) to give the ‘rithm a nudge. To do that, they can search for your book on Amazon and see who has the buy box. If it’s not you, they can click “[number of copies] new from…” under the “paperback” or “hardcover" prices.
The first option that pops up is usually sold and sent by Amazon. Your friend should then add
that copy to their Amazon cart. (No need to actually buy it!)
Doing that may trigger the algorithm into realizing your distributor has plenty of copies in
stock, and the buy box will (hopefully!) come back to you. We love a free and easy method!
Resubmit the metadata (aka the information you gave Amazon about your book). Log into your distributor's site and edit your book’s information that was sent to Amazon. Then, add a space to the product description, create a new keyword, change a category–anything minor, but significant enough to refresh your listing. This updated data will be sent to Amazon, which will in turn jumpstart the algorithm!
If all else fails, it never hurts to email your distributor! A quick “Hi, I’m seeing this issue on Amazon. Could you please resubmit the metadata?” just might do the trick. Even better, try the resubmission tip above, and then follow it up right away with an email.
Once you try one (or more!) of these methods, there’s nothing left to do… But wait. 🤷♀️
In the meantime, you can try to redirect potential buyers from Amazon to other retailers that carry your book. A good way to incentivize people to do this is to offer them free stuff! Launch a “special limited-time deal” so that if someone purchases the book from your website, Barnes and Noble, or wherever else you're selling your book, they receive a free signed copy, plushie, sticker set, or whatever else you may have on hand. It’s a win-win!
Phew! We know that’s a lot of information on an often-stressful situation. Thanks for sticking with us.
But rest assured: if you're mystified by anything Amazon, we’re here to help. Book a free consultation to let us know what’s going on and discover all the ways we can help you succeed. And while you’re battling for the buy box, check out this FREE video about optimizing your Amazon book description!
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