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So you are considering becoming a truly global bookseller, and want to extend your business to cover the whole planet. It’s not that difficult, and the rewards can be worth it, both monetarily and in an enhancement to your self-image. To your friends, you can casually drop the names of countries you have shipped to. To your banker, you look a little more prosperous.


In order to keep the scope of this post within a reasonable size, all the information here is directed towards Marketplace sellers, dealing in BOOKS. Specific information for zShops, Auctions, and other media such as CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes will have to wait for future posts.



                          WHY (AND WHY NOT) SELL INTERNATIONALLY


The main advantage of allowing your books to be sold worldwide is in the increased customer base. This results in faster sales and higher prices. There is also a large gain to be made on the shipping of lightweight books (especially MMPBs to Canada).


The disadvantages include slightly more work due to the customs form, and the requirement that all International packages must still be handed-in, even if you print your own postage with SA or Endicia. There might also be a slightly increased level of lost/damaged claims.


Delivery Confirmation is not available to other countries.  


A-Z does cover International shipments.



                                                         AMAZON’S RULES


The selection of International sales is a yes/no choice. You cannot select which countries you want to sell to. It’s either all or none. The list of countries from which Amazon accepts “Amazon Payments”, and therefore are eligible to place orders, is:




Brazil, (GP only available to Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro)






Hong Kong,



Italy,  (GP not available at all)


Republic of Korea, (South Korea)

Mexico,  (GP only available to Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey)


New Zealand,



South Africa,




the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales),


GP means Global Priority.



When you get the SSN (Sold, Ship Now) email from Amazon, it will tell you to ship by Media Mail. This is misleading, since Media Mail only applies to domestic shipping. What Amazon meant to say is “Ship by Surface Mail. More on this later.



                                               WHICH BOOKS TO SELL


For the majority of sellers, most of the books that they have listed are suitable for International sales. However, there will probably be a few that will cost too much to ship. Just leave the International box unchecked on those. Generally, any book that is too big for the Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope, or is over 4 pounds (packed), should not be listed for International.


You can make exceptions for oversize-but-lightweight books (under 1 pound) to be shipped by (Air or Surface) Letter Post.


You can also make exceptions for heavy books (over 4 pounds), if they are high-priced enough to allow for extra to be spent on the shipping. The Post Office provides a shipping method called “M-bags” that can be used for heavy packages. This is still not cheap, but is better than the (Air or Surface) Parcel Post options.


These two special cases are discussed later, but the rest of this post reflects the normal situation of books that will fit the Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope, both in size and weight.



                                         SHIPPING COSTS AND METHODS


Amazon realizes that shipping to other countries costs more than domestic, so it charges foreign buyers more and gives it’s sellers more to compensate for the higher shipping costs. Amazon charges International buyers $9.79 for shipping, keeps $.84 of that, and gives $8.95 to the seller. This is a lot compared to the $2.26 or $5.05 that the sellers receive for domestic shipping, and sometimes it is enough to cover the shipping (with some excess), and sometimes it is not.


The first difference you will notice is that the concepts of Media Mail, First Class Mail, and Priority Mail disappear. They are replaced by Economy Surface Letter Post, Airmail Letter Post, and (Large and Small) Global Priority Flat Rate envelopes. Don’t worry, these will become second nature to you. There are other shipping options for International, but they generally cost so much that they are not useable by us.


Amazon quotes shipping times of 3-8 WEEKS (and up to 12 weeks if there are customs delays) for International delivery. This presupposes transit by Surface (boat, train, truck), and is all you are required to provide. However, if you try this without warning the buyer, you are likely to find that some buyers will be outraged by the long delay, mostly because they didn’t understand Amazon’s description of International shipping. A lot of sellers have resorted to automatically upgrading International shipments to one of the forms of Air transit (Airmail Letter Post, or Global Priority) just to keep the buyers happy. In most cases this is economically feasible, given the amount that Amazon provides for shipping.



                                                     SURFACE SHIPPING


For those sellers who plan to stick with surface shipping in order to maximize their profits, here are the ways to ship (sometimes it is actually cheaper to ship by air):


In general, estimate the packed weight for each of your listings in order to determine the best way to ship it. The prices are maximums. An asterisk (*) means they may be lower, depending on the actual weight within the range. There are slight variations in these amounts by Country. Check the USPS web site for exact amounts.


SURFACE TABLE            Canada/Mexico      Most other Countries             Japan


1-4 ounces -                        Air Letter $1.35*        Air Letter $3.20*       Air Letter $3.50*


5-8 ounces -                        Air Letter $2.35*      Econ Letter $3.80      Econ Letter $4.05


9-16 ounces -                    Econ Letter $2.70        Econ Letter $3.80      Econ Letter $4.05


1.1 to 2 pounds -               Econ Letter $5.60*      Econ Letter $6.30*   Econ Letter $6.65*


2.1 to 3 pounds -               Econ Letter $7.20*      Econ Letter $8.70*   Econ Letter $9.05*


3.1 to 4 pounds -               Large envel $7.00        Large envel $9.00     Large envel $9.00


“Air Letter” means Airmail Letter Post.

“Econ Letter” means Economy Surface Letter Post.

“Large envel” refers to the Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope.



                                                             AIR SHIPPING


The key to successful International deliveries is shipment by air. Buyers are MUCH happier to receive their books in 1-2 weeks, rather than 3-8 weeks. The methods to do this are Airmail Letter Post, and the (Large and Small) Global Priority Flat Rate envelopes.


The Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope is the same size as the domestic Priority Flat Rate envelope, but is marked differently and has a 4-pound limit. It costs $9.00 to mail anywhere in the world and is a bargain at that price. Since sellers get $8.95 for shipping, it is worth kicking-in the extra nickel and using it in the name of good customer relations. For Canada and (parts of) Mexico, the cost is only $7, and sellers get to keep the extra $1.95. The normal transit time is 4-6 business days, vs the 3-8 weeks that surface shipping can take.


For very small books, the Small Global Priority Flat Rate envelope is available. This costs $5 ($4 to Canada/Mexico), and allows the seller to keep a larger portion of the shipping, while still providing quick delivery. Use this for MMPBs. You want the one made totally of cardboard, not the one with the clear plastic window.


Both of the Global Priority Flat Rate envelopes are available free from the post office in small quantities, or may be ordered in multiples of 10 from the USPS store on their web site (also for free).


In general, estimate the packed weight for each of your listings in order to determine the best way to ship it. The prices are maximums. An asterisk (*) means they may be lower, depending on the actual weight within the range. There are slight variations in these amounts by Country. Check the USPS web site for exact amounts.


AIR TABLE                       Canada/Mexico      Most other Countries             Japan


1-5 ounces -                        Air Letter $1.60*         Air Letter $4.00*      Air Letter $4.40*


6-12 ounces (small)  -         Air Letter $3.10*      Small envel $5.00     Small envel $5.00

6-12 ounces (medium) -      Air Letter $3.10*         Air Letter $7.55*      Air Letter $8.40*


13-16 ounces (small) -         Air Letter $3.75*      Small envel $5.00     Small envel $5.00

13-16 ounces (medium) -     Air Letter $3.75*         Air Letter $8.70*   Large envel $9.00


1.1 to 2 pounds -                   Air Letter $6.35*      Large envel $9.00     Large envel $9.00


2.1 to 4 pounds -                Large envel $7.00        Large envel $9.00     Large envel $9.00





Mostly, whatever packing techniques you have found successful for domestic will work for International. Though he handling is probably not that much rougher than for strictly domestic shipments, the packages are in the system for a longer period and may go through some more primitive postal systems. Extra care in padding and waterproofing can’t hurt.


If you are using one of the Flat Rate envelopes, it’s a good idea to put in as much extra padding as will fit (without exceeding the 4-pound limit). The only tape allowed on the Global Priority Flat Rate envelopes is across the flap. You should be able to get away with one piece long enough to wrap around on the back by an inch at each end.


This is from the USPS :

231.2 Allowable Contents

All items which may be sent as letter-post mail are accepted in Global Priority Mail, provided that the contents are mailable and fit securely in the envelope or box. Items must fit comfortably within the envelope or box without distorting or bursting the container. Do not use excessive tape to keep the envelope or box from bursting. Use only one piece of tape to secure the flap. Global Priority Mail items may contain dutiable merchandise unless the country of destination specifically prohibits dutiable merchandise in letters. Any item that is prohibited in international mail is prohibited in Global Priority Mail. Refer to the "Country Conditions of Mailing" in the Individual Country Listings for individual country prohibitions.

Even though the other two types of shipping (Air Letter Post, and Economy Surface Letter Post) have the word “Letter” in them, you can ship padded/bubble envelopes and even boxes that way. They too have a 4-pound limit.


Both the Airmail Letter Post and the Economy Surface Letter Post have size limits of 24” for Length, and a combined Length + Height + Depth of 36”.



                                                 TRACKING and INSURANCE


Delivery Confirmation is not available outside the US. Both the Global Priority envelopes and the customs form have tracking numbers and barcodes, but the tracking of these is not yet implemented.


Insurance is not available for (Airmail or Economy Surface) Letter Post, or for Global Priority. It is available for (Air or Surface) Parcel Post, but is very expensive when the added cost of PP itself is figured in. Parcel Post is not a viable option for Amazon sellers due to its cost.


A Certificate of Mailing is available for $.90, and that should be enough to satisfy Amazon in case of an A-Z claim.


Registration is also available on (Airmail or Economy Surface) Letter Post mail, should you have an especially high priced package that you want proof of delivery on.





All International (and even domestic APO/FPO) packages of 1 pound or more require a customs form on them. Even though packages of under 1 pound don’t have to have them, it is a good practice to include them anyway, to prevent the package from getting stopped by an ignorant postal or customs employee who is not aware of the rule.


The proper form is the green&white PS Form 2976, which needs to be filled-out and attached (self stick) to the front of the package, normally to the right or left of the destination address. The green part stays with the package to it’s destination, and the white part is kept by your local Post Office. Keep a supply of these, and fill them out before you go to the Post Office, since you will need to include the value of the contents, and may not remember that once you get to the PO.


                                                      PREPRINTED POSTAGE


You can use SA or Endicia to print your own postage, just like for domestic packages. It is not recommended that Endicia be used for International, because of the possibility of a printer glitch that will cause the loss of the postage amount. Since there is no DC on International labels, the shipper has no way to prove that unprinted labels were not actually printed and used, so Endicia will not refund for lost postage like it will for domestic. That, combined with the lack of a DC price reduction, and the fact that the seller still has to stand in line for all International packages, preprinted or not, removes the main reasons for preprinting the postage on International packages at all. It is better to just pay for the postage at the counter. That way there is no chance that a printer problem will cost you around $9.





For books that are too heavy to qualify for the Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope, choices called “M-bags” are available. These can be sent by Air or Surface, and are cheaper than Parcel Post, which would have been the other method for shipping packages that are over 4 pounds. The cost varies by destination country, and by weight, with anything up to the first 11 pounds costing the same. The maximum weight for an M-bag is 66 pounds.


Your local post office has these available. They are reusable, and generally well used.


Multiple packages can be placed in the bag, but must all be going to the same address.


Multiple customs forms are needed, one on each package, and one on the bag.


For example, an 11 pound shipment to England would cost $9.90 by “Economy Mail Books & Sheet Music, Publisher’s Periodicals”, or $27.50 by “Airmail Direct Sack to One Addressee”.



                                                           SPECIAL PLACES


So, you have listed your 3 pound + 13 ounce (packed weight) book for International, and are all ready to ship it by the Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope to the first foreign buyer to appear. The SSN arrives, and you notice that the buyer is in Italy. Horrors. Your heart skips a beat since you know that there is no GP service to Italy, and you can’t just pay the $9 to get it there quickly in a Large Global Priority Flat Rate envelope. Airmail Letter Post would cost $23.10. Your choices are now:


1) Apologize, and refund the buyer, lose the sale, risk negative feedback, re-list, and hope the next buyer will be from somewhere else.


2) Bite the bullet, and lose an extra $14.10 ($23.10 minus $9.00) on the shipping, in order to send it by Airmail Letter Post.


3) Send it by Economy Surface Letter Post – that only costs $11.10. Contact the buyer first to see if this is acceptable, or if he wants to cancel.


4) Ask for additional money for the upgrade to Air from Surface. Some buyers are knowledgeable enough so that a request like this will not be a shock, and will be willing to pay the additional amount. Since Amazon only requires you to ship by surface anyway, this request for additional funds is allowed for a shipping upgrade.



                                                             HANDY LINKS


USPS Home page –


USPS Store -


USPS International Calculator -


USPS M-bag page -


USPS Global Priority Mail description -$w262wats





Congratulations – you can now ship all over the world (or at least to the parts that Amazon recognizes). Enjoy the feeling, and make a lot of money.