Why is my book showing as “out of stock” on Amazon?

Whenever a new title is first published and begins distribution, it can take a little while for the stock availability shown on the different book retailer websites to settle down and display in stock.

This is both frustrating and confusing. If your book has been produced as print-on-demand, how can it be out of stock when copies are supposed to be printed to order?

Being out of stock

Initially, your title will show something like:
temporarily out of stock
usually dispatched within 2 weeks
usually ships 2-4 weeks

Even for print-on-demand titles, Amazon like to purchase a little of their own stock. They do this in order that they can provide Amazon Prime next-day delivery.

Once Amazon receive metadata for a new title, their stock algorithms will simply kick-in automatically, without human intervention, to determine whether to stock a title and how many copies to purchase. Until this initial stock arrives the title can fluctuate between in stock and out of stock for a couple of weeks as the algorithms settle.

Getting in stock

Amazon are a shop. The precise way they determine whether to buy stock, display stock, ship and advertise a book is fundamental to their business as a shop. This is not something they will ever be willing to divulge or explain.

Some titles will settle and show in stock faster than others but it is guesswork to determine exactly what factors might influence this. We might assume the Amazon algorithms would work on factors like the topic of the book, seasonal stock, book location etc. However, these are unfortunately not things that anyone will ever have access to or be able to override and tweak for a particular author.

To date, we have always seen a new title appear in stock on Amazon after an initial settling period. If your Amazon listing is particularly important to you, our advice, frustrating as it is, is to allow an additional  2-4 weeks waiting period. This should give you the confidence that your book will be in stock when you start pushing customers to Amazon to buy it.

Anecdotally, the one thing we have perhaps seen that has sped up the process is to place an order for a copy on Amazon before it is in stock. Even though your title is showing out of stock you will still have the opportunity to choose to order now and we’ll deliver when available. By ordering the book it indicates to Amazon that there is demand and they should proceed with ordering in some stock.

The great thing about POD is that when the books Amazon have in stock have all sold, a replacement order will be sent to the printer to produce more to replenish the stock. This is very fast, miles quicker than having to wait for a new large print run, so the stock can be quickly replenished and the book need not stay out of stock very long, if at all before further orders can be fulfilled.

Being in stock on Amazon marketplace

Amazon provides a marketplace where other retailers can sell goods on the main Amazon website. In the case of books, it is very common to see lots of other book retailers selling copies of a book (either new or used). See the screenshot below which shows Amazon’s and three other retailers stock availability for a book.

These other retailers display the availability of their own stock (not Amazon’s) and how quickly they can fulfil the order. In the screenshot below it is clear that three other retailers have the book in stock even though Amazon currently say they don’t. When a new title is initially launched, this is very common.

In the meantime

If we are publishing your book then as soon as the design is completed it will be made available to buy on our website within 24 hours. As the author you can then order copies at cost price, wholesalers can purchase 10+ copies at wholesale price and everyone else can buy a copy at retail price. Books are printed and shipped from the nearest factory to your order in the US, UK or Australia and take around 1–2 weeks to arrive depending on selected shipping options.

In addition, even if Amazon shows your title as temporarily out of stock for a few weeks, other major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Waterstones, Baker & Taylor, Bertram Books, Blackwell, Book Depository, Fishpond.com and Ingram will typically show the book as available to buy much sooner.