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Don’t Start Your Summer Reading List With Amazon

This article is brought to you in partnership with our friends at Book Mart on Main St. in Starkville.

Summer means humidity, lemonade, lakes, shade, hammocks, beaches, and... reading lists.

Do you shop local? Then skip Amazon. Support the quirky store around the corner. Not only does it keep your money local, it also helps writers who are published by small and traditional presses.

If you’re scratching your head over that last statement, you aren’t alone. This is where the somewhat murky world of royalties comes into play. Writers published by smaller presses are usually paid a royalty based upon net revenue: what the publisher receives after wholesalers and retailers take their cuts. The writer earns a percentage of that figure and not the price printed on the cover.

This is where Amazon hurts more than your local bookshop. Although Amazon offers a fairly generous royalty for books published through its own self-publishing options, those calculations don’t apply to books published by traditional or small presses. Amazon takes a hefty cut for those books (which can be 30-40%), leaving a drastically lower net revenue received for the publisher. This means that 10-15% royalty earned by the writer on the sale of a $15 paperback through Amazon drops to pennies. Literally.

It gets worse. Even this calculation assumes that the book bought on Amazon was purchased directly from the press or distributor, and not a third-party reseller. If purchased through Amazon from a reseller, there’s a chance that the author ends up with no royalty at all.

Although Amazon makes it easy to get that summer reading list delivered to your doorstep, it doesn’t support your local economy or most writers. When Amazon pays $0 in federal taxes, that’s hardly even patriotic for your July 4 holiday reading material.

Here is where independent bookstores come back to the rescue! Most bookstores have the ability to buy directly from the press or through traditional distributors (other than Amazon). Buy eliminating Amazon and its 30-40% share, these mom & pop shops of the literary world help writers while bringing you all your favorite stories.

So, head down to your local bookstore (or call ahead) and let them help you build that summer reading list.


John W. Bateman is a writer in Starkville, MS. His debut southern gothic novel, Who Killed Buster Sparkle?, is scheduled for release by Unsolicited Press ( on June 12. Visit for more information.

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