Shipping Tips

These are tips for using USPS effectively, especially for shipping Amazon sales. You have the flexibility to set your own shipping fees with other sites, e.g. Ebay and Abebooks, but a little gamesmanship is needed to live within the Amazon fee structure.

The most important cost-saving step you can take is to register as a business with USPS. Fill out the registration form at The second is to purchase postage online, either directly through the USPS web site or using the Amazon ‘buy shipping’ link. You can purchase through Amazon without registering as a business with USPS, but it doesn’t offer access to some of the special rates available only to businesses. Just the savings in cost for their tracking service – and you always want to use that for your packages – makes the case for online purchase; for media mail the cost is $.90 at the post office but only $.20 online.

Standard shipping means media mail service; you may remember it as ‘book rate’. It is almost always the least costly way to ship an order. Almost, but not always. If you have something weighing 6 ounces or less, e.g. a cd, dvd, or pamphlet, the first class rate is better. A 4 oz. package sent media mail is $2.69 plus $.20 for tracking; a first class parcel is $2.50 with tracking at no extra charge. This is a classic “win-win” case when you can save money and the customer gets better service.

Expedited shipping means priority mail service. It does not mean, as some confused customers believe, that you are required to ship in less than the standard two-day window. Unfortunately, the shipping fee amazon collects for this service is inadequate for many books. You will attract some buyers by offering expedited shipping but you need to be very selective. Offer it for items that will make a package weighing no more than one pound or that will fit within the flat rate envelope. Offer it for higher-priced items when the profit margin can absorb a few dollars loss. Offer it for textbooks and anything else likely to be wanted in a hurry, and add a few dollars to your asking price to cover the extra postage costs. Do measure a large book against a priority mail medium flat rate box; at $11.30, that is the most you will want to spend except for something very special. Businesses have several more good options for priority mail. The padded flat rate envelope ($5.95) fits a variety of book shapes and sizes. USPS offers several regional rates as well, with boxes sized a little smaller than the flat rate sizes. They can be a good option for books a bit too large for the flat rate envelope.

USPS provides free packaging materials for all levels of priority service. They can be ordered online for delivery. The standard boxes and envelopes are useful when mailing with the basic priority rate. USPS offers one flat rate for small boxes and envelopes, and higher flat rates for larger boxes. The regional rates have their own boxes, too. Each rate has specific packaging. You must use the USPS packaging to receive the special rates. The boxes all look somewhat alike so be certain you are using the correct one for the rate you want. Tracking is included in the price for all priority mail packages.

Priority mail rates (except for flat rates) are calculated according to distance as well as weight and vary depending on how many regions a package crosses to its destination. For example. sending a 3 pound package from Indianapolis to Los Angeles would cost $11.59 for regular priority mail, $11.30 for the medium flat rate box, but only $8.98 for the regional rate box. The same package sent to Louisville would cost $5.49 for regular priority mail, the same $11.30 for medium flat rate, and $5.32 in the regional rate box. It’s helpful to print the Postal Zone chart and the price charts for the priority service rates for easy reference at your shipping station.

APO, FPO, and DPO are overseas military addresses. The postage is calculated at standard US mail rates but you must complete the large customs form (#2976) to accompany the package. You must also deliver the package in person to a postal clerk.

International shipping is very expensive and time-consuming. Every package must have a customs form: 2976A is used on packages under 4 lbs; 2976 is used on packages over 4 lbs. and for all APO/FPO/DPO addresses. And international packages must be delivered in person to a postal clerk. Even so, it can be a pleasure to send books around the world. We do offer international shipping under two condiitons. First, the book with its packaging must weigh no more than 2 lbs. to ship for the amazon fee allowance. And secondly, the book must be priced at $40 or higher to justify the extra time and trouble it will require.

We don’t offer international shipping on very many items but, if someone asks to purchase a book, we try to accommodate him. It’s simple to edit the inventory listing to enable international shipping if the book meets the under two pounds rule; both standard and expedited are covered to that weight. If the book is between two and four pounds, the cost for standard (first class) shipping will be higher than the amazon fee for that level but probably less than the fee for expedited service. In that case, enable only the expedited shipping option. Write to your customer, tell him the cost of first class postage, and explain that you have enabled the expedited shipping. He will have to pay for that service to order, but he still has both delivery options. If he wants delivery by first class service you will refund the difference between the actual amount and the fee amazon collects for expedited shipping. Heavier packages are more of a challenge as anything over four pounds must be sent by priority mail. Your customer might not want the book when you tell him what the shipping charges will be (easy calculator on If he’s still interested, add the additional cost to the price of the book.

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