Amazon Book Sellers Panic Over Seasonal Book Restrictions

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


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UPDATE 1-19-2024

The seller who originally posted about this issue in the Amazon community says two days after receiving the email, nothing has been removed or made inactive, leaving them in the dark about what is really going on.

2 days later, after receiving the email.. Still nothing has been removed from my inventory, nothing inactive.

Blind decisions made from the top, and we are just left to wonder...

I find it funny that they always open their email stating that the purpose is to provide a "Better Customer Experience." The irony is... the result will NOT provide a better customer experience at all. Because when Amazon restricts sellers from selling a product, the price shoots up! With less competition.. Is that a better customer experience?

We've reached out to Amazon for comment - stay tuned!


Amazon book sellers were sent scrambling this week when they received very short notice of new restrictions on listing seasonal books for sale on the site.

Impacted sellers in the Amazon seller community report receiving an email notice on January 16th of a new policy going into effect that same day that will remove books Amazon classifies as "seasonal."

New Seasonal Book Restriction?

I received an email from Amazon today, 1/16/24, stating that they are implementing a new seasonal book restriction, effective tomorrow. Very vague email stating that I'm no longer approved to sell seasonal books, but they are not stating which books they are classifying as seasonal. I'm looking for clarification on which books are classified as "seasonal". My inventory is 90% books. I was unable to reach seller support by phone. Did anyone else receive this email?

Here is the email below that I received:

Subject: Important information about Seasonal Book listings

Hello,

As part of our ongoing efforts to provide the best possible customer experience, we have implemented additional restrictions for Seasonal Book products. Effective 1/16/2024, you will not be able to list the affected products, and your listings will be removed. This action does not impact your account health.

How do I reinstate my listings?

You are not approved to list Seasonal Book products and we are currently not accepting applications.

Were your listings removed as a result of an error?

If you believe your products have been misclassified within a certain category or sub-category that requires approval, please contact Selling Partner Support with evidence, such as product pictures, to support this claim. Amazon will review your claim and make a final determination that will ensure the best shopping experience for our customers.

What happens if I do not take action?

If no action is taken, the affected listings will not be available for sale in the Amazon store.

Can I sell my remaining FBA inventory?

If you have remaining inventory of the affected products in Amazon fulfillment centers, you may continue selling your remaining inventory until 1/16/2024. After this date, you will need to create a removal order.

Other sellers chimed in, confused because Amazon did not give any kind of definition of "seasonal" and some wondered if there was confusion with a brand name.

I got the same message. No definition on what a "seasonal book product" is or how to identify them in my inventory.

I received this, too. I was trying to figure out if this was a brand? Typically they send this type of notice for a particular brand.

The original poster attempted to get clarification from Amazon support, but predictably, support was not all that helpful.

I submitted a support ticket to Amazon asking for clarification on what a SEASONAL BOOK PRODUCT is. Here is the reply I got:

Hello from Amazon Selling Partner Support,

We understand that your concern regarding what Seasonal Book products are. Thank you for letting us assist you in this regard. Rest assured that we are here to take care of the issue with the highest priority.

We would like to inform you that we have reviewed the case and we were able to confirm with you the following:

  • Seasonal Book products are books have a certain seasonal feel to them.

For example, a fluffy contemporary is often thought to be a perfect beach read but you would never think to pick it up when it's snowing outside. Spooky thrillers belong to rainy days in November, and hard-hitting literary fiction seems to be an important part of spring.

If you believe your products have been misclassified within a certain category or sub-category that requires approval, please provide us:

  • Product pictures

Amazon will review your claim and make a final determination that will ensure the best shopping experience for our customers.

Refer to Products that require approval https://sellercentral.amazon.com/help/hub/reference/200333160

Further attempts to clarify those "fluffy" and vague answers didn't yield any better results.

After I received the not-so-helpful reply from Seller Support about what a Seasonal Book Product was (posted above) I followed up on the support ticket with a new question:

How do I determine which of the items in my inventory fall under Amazon's new restricted category of SEASONAL BOOK PRODUCTS?

Here is the reply I received:

Hello from Amazon Selling Partner Support. This is Deepak, I am glad to help you fix concern.

We are sorry for the inconvenience created. We would like to let you know that the classification will be made by the internal team.

The internal team will audit the listing regularly to ensure that we provide better customer experience to the buyers. We will not be able to say a particular product that will fall under the category, We requeest you to list all the product with the proper information and documents. If our internal team finds concern with the listing you will be notified and you can take necessary actions. You may need to list the product first and if there are any certifications required, there will be a notification sent to you regarding the same.

However, for certain products, brands, categories, and sub-categories, Amazon requires sellers to obtain approval before listing products for sale. The approval process may include document requests, performance checks, and other qualifications.

You will not be able to list the affected products, and your listings will be removed. This action does not impact your account health.

If you believe your products have been misclassified within a certain category or sub-category that requires approval, please contact Selling Partner Support with evidence, such as product pictures, to support this claim. Amazon will review your claim and make a final determination that will ensure the best shopping experience for our customers.

While the email only directly mentions FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon, at least one seller who says they are strictly FBM (Fulfilled By Merchant) says they also received the email.

I have never participated in FBA. I sell strictly FBM and I received the email.

The topic also caught the attention of sellers in the SellersAskSellers.com forum, with several commenters suggesting these new restrictions will likely be managed by bots, with all the usual issues that come along with not having human reviews.

What new fresh hell for booksellers is this, Amazon?
Actually saw this NSFE discussion yesterday, when it was first created, but waited to see if it would blow-up with comments about receiving the same message. It has: New Seasonal Book Restriction? (link, NSFE) Sigh. Just plain damn sigh.

Amazon has used an outside service to create catalog pages for books using publisher supplied information.

I suspect that they will use publisher supplied information to identify seasonal books, and it is possible that out of print books might fly under the radar for a while.

I suspect that eventually there will be a bot that picks out the keywords and other identifiers of seasonal books. The can probably think of words like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Chanukah, Ramadan, Dinali and other obvious clues in listings.

As for the email warning. Amazon bots never get all of the targets the first time around. Amazon cannot afford enough CPU power to examine all of the listings.

When you go into Walmart or Target and explore the book department (if you can find it) you are seeing the future of books on Amazon.

I hope that sometime in my remaining life time the printed book will be rediscovered by some younger enthusiasts in a manner akin to the rediscovery of vinyl. But I am not confident it will. Nor am I confident that the level of censorship will not exceed the current levels.

As of 1/17, I have NOT received the dreaded email However, as a bookseller, I am trying to keep abreast of it.

I, like most, am wondering what exactly is a 'seasonal book '. I dropped by the FUSFE to see if anyone had a clear answer.

Not suprisingly, someone had asked seller support. The answer received began with: “Seasonal Book products are books have a certain seasonal feel to them.”

Despite the vague idiot’s delight quoted above, I doubt that Amazon will let the usual bunch of idiots do the decision making. Rather, in keeping with the trend that we have seen, Amazon will attempt to have bots do this.

How will they do this? They will try to numerically determne if a book sells particularly well in a short period of time. As an occasional programmer, I can assure you that this is easy to do.

Note that Amazon does not have to designate the particular season. The bot does not care if it is Christmas, Mother’s day, Kwanza, or Speak Like a Pirate day. All it needs to know is that there is a short period of time in which sales are significantly better.

This digital secularism has a sneaky side effect. Most textbooks will be designated as seasonal books. This, IMHO, is the real motivation behind this new policy.

I went over to eBay and scaled up my store to the next level. I am expecting a new wave of Amazon refugee books.

Others raised concerns about some "seasonal" books that buyers often look to purchase well in advance of a particular season.

I’m concerned about people seeking instruction or pattern books for plans/ideas to make holiday craft items. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, woodworking, etc. items take time to create. Crafters usually don’t wait until December 1 to start on a Christmas craft item. They will order pattern and instruction books far in advance of a holiday, not at the last minute.

Sheet music also falls under the books category. I checked my past sales and discovered that multiple buyers have purchased Christmas sheet music in July. Musicians need to start practicing their holiday music (Christmas, Easter and more) far in advance of the actual performance during the season.

Have you received this notice about restrictions on selling seasonal books on Amazon? Let us know in the comments below!

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of experience in online sales & marketplaces, providing expert commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Amazon, Etsy & more at Value Added Resource!