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Feedvisor Simplifies Repricing for Amazon FBA Sellers

I know I need to reprice my inventory in order to keep it moving and yet repricing is a huge drag. No matter what program I’ve used, it takes time and there is a sense of futility about it. It is like housekeeping…you have to keep doing it over and over again just to stay in place. And I quickly grow bored with cleaning house. Or, if you prefer your analogies science based, pricing on Amazon is chaos theory made visible. Small factors on a minute-by-minute basis can change the outcomes dramatically in a seemingly random way. While you might, for example, be able to predict that your price will get you sales, you have no idea for how long that will remain true because someone else might be sitting by their computer changing their prices too.

I’ve written blog posts and Step-by-Steps about repricing in the past largely because…it’s difficult. Most repricers out there rely on a set of rules that you set within an “if/then” universe. If the other seller is FBA, then…etc. For a short amount of time your worldview and rules work for you and then…entropy and a swift descent into chaos. That is assuming you had a good set of rules to begin with – which most of us don’t at first because we’re inexperienced. To learn rules that work for us, we make guesses and learn from our mistakes. And we do this because the alternative of doing nothing means our sales grind to a halt.

The ultimate effect of most repricers is a gradual lowering of prices. I drop my price five cents, my competition drops five centsOff with her head and the cycle begins anew – the ugly “race to the bottom.” Even if you slow down the race by not dropping below your competition, that doesn’t mean they won’t keep lowering their prices or that other sellers won’t keep plunging to sales failure and losses. It seems that someone is always losing their heads over pricing and/or they don’t know how to manage their repricer properly.

When I heard Skip McGrath stand up and give a testimonial for Feedvisor at the CES II conference in September, I was immediately interested. Skip is one of my FBA heroes for one thing. For the other, he described a “set it and forget it” system that almost seemed too good to be true. He spends minutes a months rather than hours on repricing – and he is a million-dollar seller on Amazon! I started my free trial after the conference and my sales shot upwards in a way I’d never been able to achieve on my own with manual repricing or with a repricer. The best part is how little time I spend repricing and how incredibly effective it is. The program gives me detailed analytics as well. I know how profitable my items are, how often I’m in the buy box and much more.

I shared my excitement with my fellow DFW FBA’ers at dinner and there were a lot of questions. Overwhelmingly was the “is it worth it?” question because those who had looked into the program knew it was expensive. Some had concluded it was only for large sellers like Skip McGrath. Still others were interested but wondered, “When is it worth it? At what sales level?” That’s why I decided to write this blog so people could get a smaller seller’s perspective.

analytics picture

The first few weeks I cleared out a lot of old inventory that I just couldn’t get rid of previously without a blood bath. As you can see in the report pictured, I’ve had these darn dog toys since 2012. I’ve sold some but OMG, it has been two years – even with advertising! I sold eight units in the past two weeks which is amazing. You can see my profit margin is only 25%, but at least I have a profit margin. I just want to get rid of these dogs. The same with the toy that I’ve had for nearly a year. I had eight units left after the holidays last year and I sold them in the first week using Feedvisor. My profit margin wasn’t what I want, but I can now use the money for something that is not so over-saturated with low-ball sellers.

The number that I find the most fascinating and exciting on this report is the Current Buy Box Share (the historical is not so important right now as I’ve only been using Feedvisor for a month or so). Given that more than 70% of all Amazon buyers buy from the Buy Box without looking at other offers, getting in the Buy Box is obviously incredibly important for sales. I’m getting terrific Buy Box share without playing the lowball game. If anything, some of my prices actually went up with Feedvisor. How is that possible?

How does Feedvisor work?

According to them, it is their “fully algorithmic repricing solution.” Their secret sauce in other words. Instead of repricing based on your competitor’s prices like most rules-based systems do, Feedvisor leverages its algorithm and understanding of how the Buy Box works to reprice based on maximum profit, optimum sales or any other business goal you may have. And it is not necessarily a trade-off either. For quite a few of my products I’m making excellent profit and optimum sales. This is a really cool function. You set your floor and ceiling prices for your item. Feedvisor tells you exactly what your break-even point is so you can decide if you want reprice based on a percentage or within a price range. I generally do a price range.

If you are repricing for optimum sales, it will test your prices within your range to determine the sweet spot where you are getting steady sales at a good profit – the most dollars in your pocket in other words. This makes sense if you have a large supply of (hopefully replenishable) inventory to sell. If you are repricing for maximum profit, and don’t care as much about frequency of sales, then it will reprice for that. This is a good strategy for when you have a limited number of items with a potentially high return.

What else is in the secret sauce?

  1. Comprehensive knowledge of your competitors – it checks your competitor’s prices thousands of times an hour and takes into account their shipping options, available stock, seller ratings and other variables that Amazon looks at when calculating the Buy Box.
  2. Historical pricing trends – like CamelCamelCamel on steroids. This is a constantly growing dataset that can take into account past performance at different times of the year like Christmas.
  3. A constantly improving intelligence – the program evaluates every single price change to see if the effect was positive or negative and improves itself to find the perfect pricing sweet spot for your product.

Did you catch that first point? Feedvisor is checking prices on Amazon thousands of times an hour! No rules-based program can be that responsive even if you are set up to reprice several times a day. I like the intelligence aspect of this program a lot. I use the “Contribution” report to help me determine which products are making me the most money. If you look at this limited sample of my inventory, you can see that in two weeks, I made approximately the same amount of profit from sales of my first and third products. I achieved this through nine sales of the first product (accelerated quite a bit from the 2-4 I might have gotten before Feedvisor) and 34 sales of the third product. So which product is the most valuable for me?

contribution report

I spent $27 to buy nine units of the first product and $34 to buy 34 units of the third product. They are still pretty close. The third product is seasonal; the first product sells all year round. I want to sell all my units of the third product by Halloween. At this rate, I’m confident I’ll make it. So now which product is most valuable to me? That’s the great thing about this report. I can easily make my own decisions and decide where I want to invest more dollars for maximum return. The number that matters most is that Profit number. It doesn’t matter if I have to sell 34 units or 9 to get there as long as my out-of-pocket costs are reasonable in relationship to my return.

Feedvisor also reprices merchant fulfilled items. I can add my expenses to the item such that it makes it easy to compare MF vs FBA fulfilled and determine which way of selling is most profitable to me.

Using the program is simple. Feedvisor pulls all my new products – they only reprice new – from Amazon.com. I click on the product to bring up this screen (below). From here I can click on the little Amazon icon if I want to see the product on Amazon and look at other sellers. The “price listed on Amazon” is my current price on Amazon. You can see how much I paid originally – wahoo! Feedvisor uses this number along with the estimated FBA fee to determine my cost. I have the referral fee of 15% (for grocery). I can now set either my floor and ceiling (which I did here) or my markup on cost as a percentage or a flat amount. Once I put in my floor price of $9.99, the program filled in the percentage for me and the markup on cost. As you can see, if I sold this product for $9.99, I’d still nearly double my money after expenses. I’ve sold several units this week for $15.99 which is higher than my original price point of $14.99. Once I set these numbers, I don’t have to do anything else. Feedvisor will adjust my prices in response to the chaotic marketplace and I’ll sleep better at night knowing that Feedvisor is trying to get the best and most profitable price for me at all times.


Even though my floor is at $9.99, the program won’t move in that direction unless I stop getting the Buy Box, and it won’t jump there right off the bat, either. It will move down by increments. Also, because Amazon uses more than price to determine the Buy Box, I’m often able to get the Buy Box at a higher price than my competition – sometimes significantly so. Dropping down to match their price would mean leaving money on the table and Feedvisor keeps that from happening. I have really good seller and customer feedback metrics and Amazon relies on these as well as price for determining the Buy Box.

Another great function of the program is it will jump UP right away if a lowballer sells out. This happened to my friend Lesley cha-ching-logowith Feedvisor. She had a product where she was sharing the Buy Box near the bottom of her range. The other seller sold out and her price instantly jumped up to what Feedvisor thought was a more optimal price based on her history of sales of this product and she sold out all her units at the higher price. If she had been repricing manually or through a scheduled repricer, she would have likely sold a number of units at the lower price and missed out on all that extra revenue simply because she didn’t know her competitor had sold out.

This feature alone is worth the price of the product to me. As we all head into Christmas, the experienced among you know how crazy it is and how you have to reprice every day – sometimes every few hours – if you are going to remain competitive. With Feedvisor, I don’t have to worry about that this year. I’ll set my range and get back to work scouting or – gasp! – spending time with my family.

Another helpful report I get is the Buy Box report. It shows me which products are getting the Buy Box and which ones aren’t. The relatively few that aren’t require my attention, the rest do not. I have a few products where I have decided to wait out a low-baller and so my floor is too high for the box right now. I now spend a few minutes each week repricing my new inventory. As new products/SKUs arrive in the warehouse I set my floor and ceiling prices. I check the Buy Box report to see if anything else requires my attention and I’m done.

I sell grocery and health & beauty which means I can sometimes run up against an expiration date. While Feedvisor doesn’t keep track of my dates (my assistant does that), it does allow me to aggressively reprice if I need to clear out some expiring units as well. Most of the time I’m pricing for profit, but occasionally speed is more important. With Feedvisor I can do both as needed.

Feedvisor does not change the chaos that is selling on Amazon.com but it keeps up with all the changes for me.

Does it make sense for you?

I love this program, but there are some cons, too. It is expensive – and I paid a year up front to get my rate. Bigger sellers will pay more although they tend to be eligible for more flexible pricing with no long-term contracts. The pricing is partly determined by the number of SKUs they are repricing for you. You get to choose which items to reprice. It is not an all-or-nothing proposition which is good. Also, Feedvisor doesn’t reprice used and collectible items – a substantial percentage of my inventory – so I still need to use a rules-based program to reprice my books and collectible games. The reason they don’t do books and collectibles is because you can’t win the Buy Box. This is a very Buy-Box focused program. The initial set up can take a few hours depending on how many new items you have since you have to go in and add the floor and ceiling for each product the first time. I had more than 200 SKUs so the first time through took me a few hours. Now I only spend a few minutes at a time.

If you are at all interested, I suggest you try the free trial and ask yourself these questions:

  • How much time and money do I currently spend on repricing?
  • Am I happy with my current repricing efforts?
  • Will this program help me make more money?
  • Will I make enough more money to cover my fee?
  • What is my time worth to me?
  • What categories do I mostly sell in?
  • Do I tend to have competition for my products?
  • Am I planning to grow or stay where I am?

Of these questions, I think the last three require the most attention. If you mostly sell books, for example, this program may not make sense until you have hundreds of non-book MSKUs. I think food, toys, pets and baby are ideal for Feedvisor because they are competitive and volatile. In the case of toys, it is Volatile with a capital V. If you are mostly selling products without competition, then you don’t need a repricer. While many people might reflexively say “of course!” to the last question, it may not be true. Many people rise to a certain level of comfort in this business and they stay there. They are running the business part-time, they might be retired or there might be another reason why they have pretty much risen to their level of sales and are comfortable there making a few thousand a month. In this case, it doesn’t make sense to spend a hundred dollars or more a month on a repricer (just as an example – your fees may be more or less than this).

In my case, I’m transitioning over the next year from part-time to full-time FBA sales. I plan to double-to-triple my current sales over the next year. For me, Feedvisor is a competitive tool that makes perfect sense. Not only have my sales already nearly tripled, but it has made me more confident in my purchases. What I mean by this is I am more willing to take on a volatile and potentially high-risk product because I know that Feedvisor will be monitoring it constantly for me and acting in my best interest rather than racing to the price bottom. I’ve been buying toys again, creating more unique listings and generally skewing my buying habits towards more new versus used and collectible items.

With the data I’m getting from Feedvisor, I can see in a glance what my top profit-producing products are and focus my attention and inventory dollars there while quickly selling out my low performers so I can re-invest those dollars into better performers. What Feedvisor does that is different from a listing and/or accounting program like InventoryLab, for example, is it brings in the Buy Box information. So while InventoryLab can tell you after the fact how profitable your product was, Feedvisor brings in the analytics of the Buy Box to tell me how likely it is I can sell it at a certain price point, how many units at a certain percentage of the Buy Box, how competitive that product is and how often I got the Buy Box to obtain this level of sales.

I am buying a basic level of service from Feedvisor. My understanding is that bigger sellers get even more intense data regarding their sales and competitors. This program will scale with me as I grow. Best of all – from my point of view – is I don’t have to think about it very much. Once I’ve set my floor and ceiling, I don’t have to revisit that item unless I see that it is not getting the Buy Box or I have a few units I need to aggressively sell.

Feedvisor Chart

How do I try it out?

LogoI talked to my sales guy and the director of Marketing at Feedvisor in order to negotiate a substantial discount for you as an experiment. Go to the “contact us” portion of their site. If you and mention my name in the email when you sign up for the free trial, Feedvisor will tell you about this discount for my readers only. They don’t want me to put it in writing because it will vary depending on your level of service, but I can assure you it is significant. Even the most basic level is substantial. Bigger sellers get an even bigger discount. I hate to be mysterious, but I can understand Feedvisor’s desire not to quote a particular dollar amount since it is based on a seller’s unique use of services.

This is the first deal of this kind they’ve ever done. They don’t do discount, referral or affiliate programs. It will be a grand experiment for us all.

As we head into the busiest time of the year, you might want to try it out and see if it makes sense for you. Even if you don’t have the money today, you will know how it works when you are ready to grow.

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Tired of Shopping? Take a Seat!

Online Arbitrage coverWe’ve all heard about them, those guys who sell on Amazon but who don’t shop. How do they do it? Either they are buying wholesale or they practice online arbitrage. Online arbitrage is a great option not only for people who hate to shop or who live far away from stores, but for anyone as a part of their overall business.

Chris Green – the FBA seller and CEO of ScanPower who brought you Arbitrage: The Authoritative Guide on How it Works, Why it Works and How it Can Work For You – leads the way again with his newest tome (epic? Iliad?) Online Arbitrage: Sourcing Secrets for Buying Products Online to Resell for Big Profits. It weighs in at around three pounds and it is hefty in more than one way. I’ve been trying to read it in bed at night. It digs into my chest. If you buy the book, be sure to buy the softcover version from Amazon.com. You will get the Kindle version for free which will make it a lot easier to read.

At its simplest, the concept of online arbitrage is buying inventory from online retailers to resell on Amazon.com (or eBay or any platform of your choice). You find a good deal online and flip it on another platform – or sometimes the same platform. It is different from wholesaling because you are buying from a retailer rather than a wholesaler. You can buy as few as one item if you want unlike wholesaling which usually has a minimum purchase. Also, many online retailers like Target, Walmart, ToysRUs, etc. have retail stores where you can source the deal you find online. So why is Online Arbitrage more than 400 pages if it is so simple? The details! This book is chock full of strategies and precise tactics.

Chris doesn’t hold back. He shares his tools right down to his recommended browser (Chrome), websites and much more. Most importantly, he shares how he thinks. With many, many real-world examples he takes you through his thought process of how he found the deal, how he analyzed the data and then how he sold the item. His data is fresh – many of his deals are from earlier this summer.

Let’s face it, when a $200+ book comes out, the question everyone asks themselves is…”Is this the silver bullet that will magic beanstransform my business? The magic beans that will lift me to FBA nirvana?” Well, no, maybe, could be, yes! The thing about this business is that you have to work it consistently and in a disciplined way. Despite the book title, Chris Green is the first one to tell you in his book that there are no “secrets” to making money on Amazon, only strategies diligently applied.

That being said, we all know that the really successful sellers are obviously doing something different from us or we would be as big-time as they are. At CES II in September, for example, I learned from sellers who have outsourced their businesses, who shop together in large buying groups, who create unique products to sell on Amazon, and many other strategies that have helped them scale up.

Like many of you, when I plunked down my money to buy the book during the conference, I wondered if it would be really worth it, especially to someone like me who has been selling for a while. I understand online arbitrage and have done a little bit of it myself on Black Friday, etc.

I wasn’t doing it like Chris Green, that’s for sure! I learned a lot. Several times I found myself saying “holy sh%^#!” because I had either never thought of it that way or I had not realized exactly what I could do with all of the available data out there.

For example, I’ve sold on the Amazon platform for over four years and I never understood why some offers were suppressed (i.e., no buy box – you have to click thru to see the offers). I never really thought about it. More shame me!

I learned in the book that a suppressed buy box means that the offers are all higher than MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). It also means that Amazon is not selling that item at the moment (if ever) and that there is an opportunity for me if I can find that item at retail price to flip it on Amazon. If the item isn’t selling online, Chris can often find out where it is selling in his area stores and go out to buy it. In addition, he often finds deals where Amazon has an artificially lowered price that he can flip quickly to make money at normal prices.

Combine that knowledge with how he finds fast moving items and I could immediately see the huge potential to make money and frankly, what an unfair advantage Chris has when he looks for inventory. His analytical mind makes it easy for him. The rest of us may need to practice a bit before it seems natural to us – but he shows exactly how he finds his deals in the book and with the 35+ private videos that are part of the book. You can scan the QR code to see them, type in the link or press on it if you are reading the book in your Kindle (or the free Kindle reader).

Chris calls the book a course more than a book. I think of it as spending several hours inside the mind of a master seller. Reading it reminded me of the hours he spent with me early on answering my questions and helping me understand not only the mechanics of retail arbitrage but the strategies and big picture. I used to leave his office or hang up from a call with my hair on fire – so excited I wanted to run outside immediately and get to work.

485px-jumpingrabbitAs far as I can tell, there is nothing held back. He may or may not be sharing every single one of his online sources, but by sharing the strategy of “Rabbit Trails,” he teaches you how to find your own deals in the exact same way. Several times in the book he shows how he started in one place and ended up finding a deal somewhere else because of his strategies and approach.

He covered a lot of sites and tools that I’d never heard of before which made the book valuable to me. It helped cut time off my learning curve and I love automating tedious things like research.

In the chapter on “Scaling” he covers the pros and cons of scaling along with resources he uses to outsource part of his business.

The strategy “Learn a Line” teaches you how to quickly become fluent in any line or any product and to find out which products in a line are going to be popular, hot and/or hard to find. This isn’t just about toys. It applies to any consumer line of products. Knowledge is power in our business and this chapter answers the question “what’s going to be hot for Christmas?” once and for all.

He is highly analytical in his approach so there is a lot of math, charts and graphs involved – brace yourself. If you think of numbers as dollars…it is way more fun than school. He also has a lot of full-color pictures – big screenshots with arrows (I wonder where he got that idea?).

Considering that everything is on the internet and this is online arbitrage you may be wondering, “couldn’t I just find all this stuff myself online if I did some research? The answer is absolutely! IF you happen to already think like Chris Green. That’s why I said the book is like looking inside his mind. Throughout the book in his comments to the reader you get insight into how he thinks about his FBA business and basically why he is successful. Buy the book for the strategy not the tools. They will come and go, but the strategies are what will make you money.

I had a lot of “holy sh$#^$!” moments and my hair is aflame again with the possibilities.girl's hair on fire

There are some cons in that some of the resources and websites will no doubt become obsolete over time – one chapter was devoted to a site that is already gone. The book is heavy and so physically large that it is hard to read. Again, I suggest you read it on your Kindle. He warns you in advance that there are typos. It is expensive and we FBA sellers are by inclination cheap (me included!).

While online arbitrage offers a lot of benefits in terms of working from home, and lots of free shipping supplies, it also involves a lot of sit-on-your-butt research and math. Also, part of his success strategy is to be the guy that buys up all the stock so he can control the price. That won’t work for smaller sellers. This is not to say that there aren’t smaller deals for folks with more modest inventory budgets, but understand that volume is power just like knowledge is power.

The table of contents is more than 30 pages into the book and I found it hard to navigate the book. This is partially because he ran out of pages (CreateSpace has a limit) and had to eliminate every single white page that might have made it easier to navigate (by putting chapters on the right-hand side of the book and other publishing tricks). For the same reason the text font is small even though the pictures are nice and big. Again, buy the Amazon 2-for-1 deal, but read it on the Kindle or your eyes will start to cross and you’ll get frustrated when you want to go back to something later. It is not a bifocal-friendly book. I had to resort to sticky notes and make tabs for myself.

These are minor issues, though. To my mind, this is a transformational book. It has the potential to completely change how you think about your business. Some of the ideas seem so obvious once he explains them but the fact is they weren’t intuitive to me and I didn’t think of them until he explained them so I’m grateful he wrote the book.

Online Arbitrage is more than worth the price I paid and highly applicable to what I am doing now. Put aside a few of your Q4 dollars and buy this book as a present for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. And if you aren’t? Amazon has this lovely extended holiday return policy. I’m sure you’ve heard about it!

Still not sure? Either download a sample to your Kindle or click here to have the first few chapters emailed to you for free.

Have you read the book yet? Please share your comments below! Happy scouting!

Please note that if you click on the links above, they will take you to Amazon.com or ScanPower. I am an Amazon affiliate and will make a small commission if you decide to buy the book. You can, of course, go to Amazon.com without an affiliate link to buy the book. The free Kindle with the purchase of the softcover book is Amazon’s special, not mine. The free chapters from ScanPower are not an affiliate link and you can go there directly from Scanpower.com.

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Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner!

Nobody puts Baby in a cornerThere are those among us who were very difficult children to raise. If mom and dad said “no,” you wanted it fiercely bad. In this case, Amazon is dad with all its restricted categories where we just KNOW we could make a fortune if we could sell in there. We love our dad but inside our seller chests our heart says “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!!”

For all of you who know this stubborn passion, this blog post is for you. If you don’t understand that reference, you are young my friend and should rent Dirty Dancing immediately.

Recently, the fun folks at ScannerMonkey hosted a live spreecast about how to get approval in the restricted categories. I took notes.

Cordelia Blake and I collaborated on this post and she graciously made the hour-long spreecast available for free to everyone – even if you are not a ScannerMonkey member. Normally, spreecasts are only free during the live broadcasts and you have to be a member to go through the archives – so check it out! It is at the end of this post.

Basically, Amazon restricts categories in order to ensure the customer experience is excellent. In categories like apparel, there are a lot more things to consider like size, color and return policies that are not as relevant or difficult for an appliance or a book. In order to make sure that you will treat its customers as well as Amazon would, big daddy makes you jump through some hoops. These hoops include a questionnaire. Often you also have to provide pictures and a flat file. In some categories like food or health & beauty, you now need invoices. Lastly, you need a track record with Amazon. Unless you are the manufacturer of this gated item, they want to see that you are a good seller first.

All of this paperwork and fiddly rules are quite do-able they just take some work and attention on your part. In most categories when they ask you for something, you need to provide it within a few days. For this reason, Cordelia recommended that you apply for restricted categories in batches – while you are in the application zone doing your pictures and flat files.

In our notes below you will find details for each of the restricted categories discussed. This chart is also available as a downloadable PDF from my free FBA Library. Click to register. or Click here to go directly to the file if you already have your password. The PDF has live hyperlinks so you can jump directly to Amazon’s page about that category.

Restricted Category Chart v2_001


Please note that some of this information may seem contradictory. That is because approvals are done by people. Some Amazon approvers are sticklers for the rules, some are more lenient. To be successful, you need to plan for the sticklers. Cordelia, rebel that she is, didn’t always follow the rules and still got accepted but your experience may not be the same.

Before you dive in, one cautionary note: Don’t be evil! Be sure to use your new freedoms for good and follow the rules. This weekEvil-Monkey, a friend of mine had an FBA seller change the category of some food she was selling from Grocery to Apparel. The guy even had the nerve to put the word “Men’s” in the title. For a kiddie snack! We were both incensed.

This kind of behavior is forbidden by Amazon. She totally ratted him out and Amazon fixed the listing back on the spot. It was such a blatant attempt by the other seller to kick her off the listing I hope he got a spanking. Remember kids, this is not the right way to compete with other sellers. If your product legitimately fits in another category (like costumes which are often found in apparel and toys), then you can make your case for a NEW listing being in a gated category, but probably not for an established listing. See our notes in clothing, below.

Seven Steps of Approval Success in the Restricted Category

  1. Be clear about your own motivations and how you plan to use that category. Don’t be evil.
  2. Set aside some time to do this as it will be a busy week or two of paperwork and phone calls with Amazon.
  3. Read all the guidelines!
  4. Follow the rules. Most FBA sellers are approved if they follow the rules.
  5. Have good seller metrics. It is harder for a brand new seller to get approved because you don’t have good seller metrics yet.
  6. Be available. Amazon will phone you during more complicated approvals.
  7. Keep your application simple. Avoid restricted brands even if you have permission from the manufacturer. Get permission in the category first, then provide them proof of your ability to sell that particular brand.

Grocery, Health & Beauty

You need three invoices with very specific information (see online). You also need three separate orders purchased in three separate days and shipped on separate days.  If you are ordering online for resale, you must show the packing slip to prove you received the goods as well.  Walmart, Walgreens did NOT have all the required info.  Drugstore.com had the info needed.  There’s an eBate of 4% cash back for drugstore.com. BJ’s Wholesale Club also works. Submit a scanned PDF of your packing slips to Amazon along with online form.


Many sellers want to join because of sports cross-overs like backpacks that are sometimes in sports, sometimes in clothing, sometimes in toys.  Costumes are often in clothing, sometimes in toys. Sign up online. They ask if you are the manufacturer. Otherwise they prefer that you buy directly from the manufacturer (fewer problems with counterfeit). Then they ask for the brands, a history of your business and five images that meet Amazon requirements. Make sure they match requirements exactly. These can be of products already for sale on Amazon.

  1. Photos – Read the style guide before you submit. Angle of clothing and positioning is dictated by Amazon. Ironically, 24 of the pictures they rejected of hers were actually taken from the Amazon catalog!  It was a lesson learned. See links to the style guides below.
  2. Cross-browsing items – They went through her listings and found several cross-browsing items (like a backpack in toys that she wanted to list in clothing) that they rejected.
  3. Specific rules about parent/child listings – Parent=style, child=colors/sizes. Karin had one hat in three different colors for this requirement.
  4. Timing – You only have 2 days between steps.  When they give you the flat file (spreadsheet) to fill out, you have two days to return it or they will cancel your application. Cordelia got an extension by talking to them.


BISS=Business, Industrial, and Scientific Supplies Your flat file requires five images and 40 items in the flat file.  One of the spreecast participants mentioned she is planning to sell those Legos that are in BISS (robotics, etc.).


If you are approved, you automatically can sell shoes and sunglasses. Avoid anything that could be considered luggage. Go very small! A lot of ladies handbags are considered luggage. Caution: beware of restricted brands. No invoices required. Amazon requires at least a minimum of five products with at least one Parent/Child. [Note: Cordelia submitted hers with no Parent/Child and it was accepted].


Very easy. One seller just did totes and got approved easily. Images of handbags that are considered “luggage” can be used too. Check Amazon website to see what category they consider the bag to be. No invoices required. Amazon requires at least a minimum of five products with at least one Parent/Child relationship (which can be a size or size/color variation). [Note: Cordelia submitted hers with no parent/child and it was still accepted.]


All you need is five images. Easy. But Amazon is fussy about the images.


Currently closed for an extensive audit. While we don’t yet know what the requirements will be for new sellers, one seems fairly certain – you have to be authorized by the manufacturer. They are stamping down hard on knock-offs and counterfeiters. It seems unlikely that we will be able to do retail arbitrage for jewelry.


Give examples. State that you are not interested in creating new listings but in accessories, like Chilton manuals. Emphasize your good metrics and seller statistics. If you truly want to create listings and/or sell more extensively in automotive, then you will likely need permission from the manufacturers you want to represent.

adultimagemedSexual Wellness

Need five images, no flat file.  One of the chat room attendees said “Follow the guidelines or you’ll be sending in dildo pictures until the cows some home.” If you want to join these brave sellers in the contest for the most embarrassing shopping basket…this is your category. You should see the pictures they post online!

Collectible Books (Cynthia’s experience)

Very easy if you are already a bookseller on Amazon.com and have a good history. I filled out an online form and was approved in a day. If you are already a rare book dealer, then it is a snap. Basically, collectible books are first editions, those signed by the author and those extremely rare. They have a different lingo and condition requirements. Collectible book buyers are just as fussy as any Black Label Barbie collector. You’ll want to protect your collectible books in bubble wrap and/or poly bags, describe them in detail (maybe even an added picture) and be patient. I only got into the category because some of the used books I sent in were gated as collectible only. You have to read all the rules and agree to them, basically. I sold a very much used first edition Julia Child cookbook for a fantastic price even though it was in the lowest condition. There’s no accounting for what a collector wants, but be sure to take care of it the best you can.

Miscellaneous Tips and Resources

  1. When sending in your flat file, it needs to be an Excel file even though they specifically say “tab delimited” in their directions.
  2. If you are afraid of spreadsheets, get someone to help you so you learn it – you’ll use it a lot with Amazon.
  3. The items in the flat file do NOT have to be items you have for sale right now. The flat file does NOT create listings for you. This is simply to give Amazon an idea of the types of products you want to sell.
  4. Get your flat file templates here.
  5. ASINtoUPC.com – will tell you the correct UPC code for anything in the Amazon catalog – helpful in doing your flat files.
  6. You can use your Amazon storefront for wholesalers wanting to see your site and Amazon when it requests to see your storefront. Cordelia has a URL with a permanent redirect to her storefront for use with wholesalers.
  7. Once you are in the category you can sell anything in the category. You are not required to sell the items you submit.
  8. Keep your application simple. Avoid restricted brands even if you have permission from the manufacturer. Get permission in the category first, then provide them proof of your ability to sell the product.
  9. Go to these links for photo style guides:
  10. Go here to learn more about creating parent/child relationships.
  • Parent: [Brand] + [department/(and Special Size if applicable] + [product name] (e.g. “Anne Klein Women’s Petite Glen Plaid Blazer”)
  • Children: [Brand] + [department/(and Special Size if applicable] + [product name] + [size] + [color] (e.g. “Anne Klein Women’s Petite Glen Plaid Blazer Small Black”)

Don’t let Amazon put you in a corner! You now have the tools to get into many of the restricted categories. Do a sexy dance with your sweetie in the living room!Dirty-Dancing-dirty-dancing

You’ll notice I didn’t list wine and a few of the more obscure restricted categories. That is largely because they are highly regulated categories. If you are a winery, you are well familiar with these legal restrictions. Most of the rest of us can’t apply.

Still got some questions? ScannerMonkey had some lively discussions HERE and HERE if you are a member. Otherwise, ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!

I’m a member of ScannerMonkey exactly because of these kinds of topics which they cover regularly and the highly active facebook discussions. If you are not familiar with them, come join them on a free Thursday night spreecast and see what you think. You can click HERE to learn more about the group or go directly to http://www.scannermonkey.com without an affiliate link.  I only recommend products, services and groups that I have personally investigated or use myself.

Spreecast is the social video platform that connects people.

Check out Gated Category Approval on Spreecast.

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TaxJar.com Brings Compassion to Sales Tax Pain

TaxmanIsWatchingAs I start this post I am on the phone with the IRS…AGAIN. I nearly choke on my derision when the canned voice tells me for the millionth time how all their “representatives” are helping other “customers.” Yeah, right. I guess “indentured slaves” sounded bad.

If they really believed in customer service they would have called me back when we got disconnected like Amazon does. But NOooo. I get to sit on hold another 20 minutes because they are not allowed to make outgoing calls from the call centers.

Also if they really believed in customer service they wouldn’t ask me “verification” questions that are really about trying to find new sources of income to take from me and to determine if they should flag my return.

If I were a customer, they wouldn’t send an agent to my house to intimidate me for no reason (two years ago), and they might even give me the benefit of the doubt since they tend to make mistakes themselves from time to time like losing hard drives with private taxpayer data on it.

Now we all get that the IRS is not our friend, but most people don’t really get how much our enemy they are until something goes wrong. I’ve had the IRS make so many mistakes over the years that I no longer raise an eyebrow when I get certified letters from them. They’ve threatened my house and business numerous times with scary letters. I know they are wrong because I know myself. They are bullies who think we are all deadbeats.

Today it took nearly an hour to get their mistake fixed and even then I didn’t get a “we’re sorry” or even an acknowledgement that the mistake was their fault. When I talked about the documentation that I had, the agent said, “Well I don’t know about any letter you may have received…” and I said “it’s the IRS’ letter! Why don’t you know about it?!?”

They charged me $50 to fix their error. I’m welcome to send a copy of my proof/letter to them to get this fee waived. Not corrected, not returned, but waived. Like they are doing me a big, fat favor.

OK, so all this impotent rage makes me really appreciate good customer service and it made me think about why people are so afraid of taxes. It is complicated. It is adversarial. You are by default wrong and a liar which is disheartening.

I’d like to tell you that state taxes and state sales taxes are easier and that state collections agencies are nicer…but they aren’t. They can be nastier and they tend to move faster than the IRS. Whereas the IRS allows for negotiations and installment payments, many states do not. Timely compliance is in your best interest.

salestax nightmareState sales tax is a growth industry – one that has states redistricting just so new tax areas can be created.  Federal with its 1 million+ lines of tax code is bad enough, but the States are a contradictory mess of rules and exceptions…and we are responsible for knowing each state’s lingo and quirks.  When other sellers tell me they are waiting to set up their sales taxes in other states, I know where they are coming from. They are praying that the federal government streamlines the process for us online sellers. You know things are bad when we are praying for congress to help us pay our taxes. But I digress.

What the tax collectors nationwide need and don’t have is TaxJar.com helping to make taxes more friendly and easy to comply with. Most business owners are trying to do the right thing but they need help at a price they can afford. Mark Faggiano is a real sweetheart of a CEO who takes phone calls and really listens to his (gasp!) customers. That would be us, online sellers.

Almost every feature we’ve asked for in the past has been integrated into the current version of TaxJar:TaxJar logo

  • Integrate with the platforms we sell on from Amazon, eBay, Square, PayPal, Bigcommerce, to Shopify and more
  • See how much sales tax you’ve collected from all platforms at a glance
  • See how much sales tax you actually collected vs. how much you should have collected
  • Allow us to tell TaxJar our start dates having sales tax nexus in a state so we don’t remit too much sales tax to any given state
  • Remind us when our sales tax filings are due
  • Detailed but easy-to-read reports with all the information we need to fill out sales tax returns. Even in those pesky destination-based states!
  • Historical data that allows us to go back and add previous months’ or years’ sales tax numbers so everything is in one place
  • Keep track of Amazon nexus states for us

In fact, they do just about everything for us except set us up in each state and file our taxes for us. But wait! That’s not true anymore. As of today, TaxJar.com will now file your sales tax returns for you in 26 states…and counting!

Their new AutoFile from TaxJar service includes:

  • Regular emails telling you how much you owe
  • File your state sales tax return for you
  • Pay what you owe directly from your bank account
  • Record payment in TaxJar for you
  • Confirm when your AutoFile is complete

staple-easybuttonTalk about an Easy button! This makes compliance a heck of a lot easier. It is $19.95 per filing. Regular TaxJar is $9.95 for most sellers (unless you are really big). You can decide on a month-by-month, state-by-state basis if you want them to file for you or if you want to file for yourself. There are 26 states set up for this service already – including all the Amazon nexus states except Arizona – with plans to ultimately cover all 50 states.

If you are already filing sales tax in multiple states, I don’t have to tell you what a pain it is and how much of a difference TaxJar already makes with that painful process. With this new service, a lot of online sellers can do something crazy like focus on their businesses instead of trying to interpret each state’s weird online forms and legalistic “instructions” that were not written for humans.

If you have a state where you pay annually, AutoFile is once a year. If you have a state that requires filing monthly, then it would be a monthly charge of $19.95 for that state.

I have a mixture of quarterly, monthly and annually so January is a $%#@ pain when it comes to filing. Every state wants me to file and I’m still in the post-holiday retail dumps. Have they no compassion? Next January we can all have TaxJar do it for us instead. At least TaxJar understands our pain.

no mon no fun
Occasionally I use affiliate links to help me monetize the time I spend on this blog. If you click on the TaxJar links above I will make a small commission. You can also go directly to their site at http://www.taxjar.com with no affiliate link. I don’t recommend products or services that I’ve not investigated myself. I write about TaxJar because I think their product helps Amazon FBA sellers.
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Repricing Wisdom from Nathan Holmquist

Nathan HolmquistI had the delight of speaking with Nathan Holmquist recently about his business. Nathan’s “Selling on Amazon’s FBA Program” was the first book I read about FBA years ago (click here for free copy) and what it did for me was clearly demonstrate how FBA works. I understood how Nathan could buy books and sell them for $4 and make money. You could see the light bulb above my head!

Nathan’s book is newly updated so if you read the old version, be sure to get your copy of the new one. It is years later and Nathan is still making a living selling books. I read his blog regularly and especially appreciate his running data updates where he shows you what he spent on a sale, when the books sold and how much money he made. Real numbers from a real seller doing it every day.

If you read my blog post last week, then you know I am using his new ScanLister software to help clear thousands of books I have in a storage unit. Acquiring and listing books is only part of the story of making a living selling books. Repricing is also critically important. I’m the first to admit I don’t reprice as often as I should and I do a lot of it manually (which makes me dread the whole process). Nathan’s success story depends heavily on repricing and I was inspired by our conversation to segment my books and focus on clearing out those lower value books. In addition to repricing my inventory this week (hooray!), I also created a Repricing Step-by-Step chart that shows the features of the major repricing software providers so you can find a solution that best fits your needs as an online seller.

Cynthia: How do you shop for books?

Nathan: Generally, I’m looking for books I can get for around $1. I go to a lot of different kinds of book sales all around the country. I love to use a book sale to pay for my travel.

Cynthia: Are there particular books you look for when scanning?

Nathan: Mostly non-fiction such as Art, Science, Religion, Self Help, etc.

Cynthia: What tools do you use to scan?

Nathan: I use ASellerTool on my Android phone with a small attached scanner. (See his video here of his set-up) The latest version lets you download the book database like a PDA, but it is on your phone. Because I have the database, I get accurate, fast data when scanning. I also don’t need a 3G or 4G internet connection while scouting which is really helpful in some of those library basements. I can also click through to get data real time if I want. It is a hybrid system.

Cynthia: When I used ASellerTool it used to take hours to download the database to my PDA. Does it still take a long time to do that?

Nathan: No. I can download in less than 20 minutes which means I can take fresh data with me on every shopping trip.

Cynthia: With Amazon limiting its FBA seller information to what it considers “competitive,” the information we get on our scanners is not always comprehensive any more. How do you know what books to buy?

Nathan: I don’t rely on the FBA data to make my decisions.

Cynthia: Really?!?

Nathan: What I’ve discovered for me is that the merchant sellers are a better indicator of whether I can sell my books for my minimum of $9.95.surprise eyes

Cynthia: Wha???

Nathan: Penny books – books that merchants sell for one cent and that cost the buyer $4 after shipping – are not profitable any more. They are usually glutted with other sellers and selling at $4 or less by FBA sellers. If the book is selling for a penny by the merchants there will likely be tons of FBA sellers as well. For the past year I’ve been running an ongoing experiment with my books where I don’t even look at the other FBA sellers. Instead, I look at merchant sellers. Where I am today is that the lowest used merchant seller is selling the book for $4.48. That is, the merchant is selling the book for 49 cents and then there is the $3.99 shipping cost. Since ASellerTool gives me a choice with how I want to see the offers, I choose to see them without the shipping included ̶ I’m looking for $.49 or better. That tells me that I’ll be able to price the book for $9.95 at a minimum and likely sell it. It shaves a lot of time from the scouting process and is accurate enough that I can make a good living.

Cynthia: That’s astounding! Do you have any parameters for rank?

Nathan: Most of my books are two million or under, but I have gone up to 10 million and sold the book. You have to be patient, but if the payoff is right it is worth it. It only costs 2-3 cents a month to store a book at Amazon and I’m getting my books very cheaply. A lot of times I’m buying on $10 bag day. I started a sales rank experiment this year in April to get a feel for how long it takes books to sell at various ranks. In the first three months of my experiment I sold 38 books with a rank over 1 million of which two were much higher – 5 million and 10 million respectively. I will be updating that experiment throughout the year.

Cynthia: It sounds like you’ve really winnowed the book business down to its most efficient components – fast scanning, fast listing, outsource labels to Amazon and automated repricing.

Nathan: Yes, for what I call the “commodity” books. These are books that are generally sellable between $10-$15. To work within my system, a commodity book needs a barcode so I can scan quickly and send to Amazon to apply my labels. Books without barcodes are only worth my trouble if they look valuable like textbooks, art books, etc., which are NOT commodity books and I scan and list them separately. Rather than set a price for my commodity books, I set a floor. I let my repricer set the price based on that floor and some other rules. This makes listing much faster because I don’t have to price and I don’t have to put on labels. I can get several hundred books out the door in a couple of hours. This works particularly well when I’m traveling and don’t want to spend all my time processing books!

Cynthia: For those commodity books, how do you reprice them?

Nathan: I use ScanLister to list them and then Repricit to reprice them. With ScanLister, I use one fixed price for everything. Since I reprice every day, I know they’ll be quickly re-set to an appropriate price. I have a set of rules for Repricit for the various types of inventory I sell. I can control my floor – critical to my strategy – whether to match the lowest FBA seller, the Buy Box owner and how much below Amazon I want to stay. I have rules for whether or not there are FBA sellers. If not, for example, then I match the lowest merchant price, plus shipping and an additional 20%. If there are FBA sellers, I can set it up so I match rather than go below the lowest FBA price. I can reprice by segment. Repricit knows how long my books have been at Amazon, for example. Books that have been in my inventory for less than 90 days are priced with a floor of $9.95.

From any given book sale, I generally sell about 50% of my books in 90 days and 67% in six months and 70% in a year. Those that don’t sell in 90 days are repriced with a new floor of $8.95. After another three months, I’ll drop that to $7.95. After a year the returns diminish significantly. I might lower them more or get rid of them. Again, these are the inexpensive books. My strategy for high value books is different. I’ll hold on to them for years if it makes sense.

Cynthia: How do you keep from repricing your high-value textbooks, art books and similar books at these low prices?

Nathan: I can exclude certain MSKUs from the repricing with Repricit. You actually taught me a fast way to do it in one of your blog posts. You sorted an inventory spreadsheet downloaded from Amazon to show the most expensive inventory items at the top so you knew which products required the most personal attention. I used my spreadsheet to help me quickly pull out the high-value MSKUs and exclude them from my daily repricing rules.

cropped logoCynthia: Do you sell exclusively on Amazon or do you sell on eBay and other marketplaces, too?

Nathan: I sell almost of my items on Amazon FBA. Occasionally, I will sell something obscure on eBay.

Cynthia: Are there particular categories that you scan at a book sale or will you scan any section?

Nathan: Mostly non-fiction such as Art, Science, Religion, Self Help, etc.

Cynthia: With ScanLister you don’t have the option to replenish. Does this mean you have multiple MSKUs for the same book/condition for sale at a time?

Nathan: Yes, I suppose.   I’ve never had an issue with that.

Cynthia: How do you list and reprice your high-value books?

Nathan: Many times I will list my high value books with Inventory Lab and price it myself. I will then put that MSKU number in the “exclude items” section on my Repriceit account.

Cynthia: What is your ratio of commodity to high value books?

Nathan: 70% of my sales are books priced at $9.95 at lower.

I think it is important to note that while I’m primarily searching for these low end books, I will inevitably stumble across books that are worth $20, $40, and $100.   That is one of the benefits of scanning so many books.

Cynthia: Do you sell books without bar codes?

Nathan: Absolutely! I put those in a separate pile for processing. I have found many of those have value. Plus, many sellers don’t take the time to manually type in the ISBN number at book sales. There are many valuable books without bar codes that are left behind at book sales which creates an opportunity for me.

Cynthia: How many books do you send in to Amazon per month on average?

Nathan: To be honest, I don’t really keep track. I’m not as big as a seller as I used to be. I think at one point I had 20,000 books in Amazon’s warehouses. These days, I have around 4,000 books for sale.

Cynthia: Do you sell retail arbitrage also?

Nathan: I’m starting to get into online retail arbitrage. Right now, I’m getting one item for $6 with shipping included.   I’m consistently selling it for $25-$35 on FBA. The best part is that I’m the only seller selling that item. I can definitely see the appeal for that business model.

Cynthia: How are your rules for repricing different for new, non-book items vs. books?

Nathan: I don’t have enough new, non-book items to set a repricing rule. I just exclude those from my repricer and price them myself.

Cynthia: You said you reprice every day. How long does that take you? Or does it take you any time? Is it all pre-scheduled? If so, how much time a month would you say you spend repricing?

Nathan: It’s all automated so it doesn’t take any time at all. It’s all done on the “back-end” so I don’t see any of it.

I have it set to reprice every day at 10am. So at around 10:15, I will get an email with all the price changes. That way, I can go over the changes if I want to.

One thing that really appeals to me about Nathan’s business model is his laser focus. He started with books, understands papersculpture man relaxing in boat whilst fishing with rod and fish jumpingbooks and is selling books. Anyone who is having trouble finding inventory to sell on Amazon, needs to re-read his story. I often tell my private clients to focus and drill deep rather than cast wide when they are struggling to find inventory to sell. Learn one category really well and in a short time it will seem like inventory is suddenly everywhere. It would be fun to scan a book sale with Nathan. It would look like books were jumping into his arms!

Nathan uses Repricit and is very happy with it. I use ScanPower’s repricing program which I’m happy with. It comes for free with ScanPower List. For this week’s blog I prepared a chart of all the major inventory repricers out there for FBA sellers. While it is tiny below, you can see the full PDF with live hyperlinks in the FBA Library HERE under “Bonuses,” and “Step by Step Guides.” If I missed one you think is a significant repricer, or if I made a mistake it is all on me. I used information on various websites to pull this together in one place. Please let me know so I can adjust the chart!

Interested to learn more about Nathan’s book sale experiment results? Check out his blog at www.booktothefuture.com and search for “Book Sale Experiment” to see all the posts. Want to know more about ScanLister? Check out last week’s blog post.

In my blog I write about my experiences and sometimes I do accept affiliate links as a way to monetize the time I spend preparing the blog – but not today. Nathan’s book is free. The other companies offer free trials if you are interested in trying them out.
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How to Go Big in Books with Amazon FBA

I started my Amazon FBA business with books and I continue to sell books every single day. I love books because of the great margins, they don’t expire and I rarely incur long-term storage fees with books. There are a few things that I don’t like about books including how long it seems to take to process them. When Nathan Holmquist contacted me about his new ScanLister program, I eagerly signed up to be an early tester because I have tens of thousands of books to process in a storage unit and it is taking a long time to get through them all. In this week’s post I talk about why/how I bought these books and what I’m doing to get them to Amazon.

curiositykillcatIt started with that mother of all cat killers – curiosity. As a registered dealer with a large local public library book sale, I got a notice inviting me to bid on the remainders of the book sale. What a great idea! This sale was so huge I knew there would be many, many books left over that were still sellable on Amazon through FBA. I also loved the idea of being able to work through the boxes of books in the comfort of my home and at my own pace.

I worked this sale regularly and never even completed all my desirable categories so I knew there was a lot of money buried in those book stacks. I contacted the person in charge and asked how the auction worked, who normally bid, how much was regularly bid and everything I could think of. She was very nice. Naturally we danced a bit around the “how much was regularly bid” because she wanted to get the biggest bang for her library’s buck. I found out that there was a professional company that had bought their remainders in the past and I learned that I would be responsible for removing ALL the books the day after the sale. The volunteers would help box up, but they would not lift or transport.

The winner of the auction would be determined part-way through the sale so I also planned to work the sale vigorously. I joined up with two other sellers and we decided to bid a total of $300 for the remainders. We didn’t know if that was high or low, but we felt confident that if we won we would be able to make back our money pretty easily even with truck rental and storage unit costs. We knew we were buying tens of thousands of books and thought that we probably wouldn’t win with such a low bid but we were curious to see how it all worked and to ultimately learn the winning bid. It was an experiment.

Boy, were we stunned when we won. Thank goodness I had partners because I had a huge meeting for my day job the next daydogcatchcar and could not be present to help with the book removal and transport. They took care of everything. It was a bear to move that many books even though they hired a truck and strong men to help. It was a daunting task (and I am SO grateful to my hard working partners!).

We were the dog that caught the car. Now what? In the beginning we thought we’d scan and sort at the storage unit. Immediately that turned out to be a problem. We had originally hoped to process at the storage unit by using ScanPower and I bought Clearwire service to give us internet at the storage unit. Unfortunately, we were in a Clearwire dead zone. We scanned and sorted books into piles at the warehouse for a while ($7-$11, $11-$15, $15-$25, $25+) so that we could distribute the high value books fairly among the three of us. It was slow because we were apparently far from a cell tour as well and lost signal often. We spent days doing this but were thwarted by the weather and synching up schedules to get all of us there.

Discards were given to charity by the truckload and we were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the book stacks – it seemed like we were barely making a dent. Then we switched gears, we would each take boxes of books to our homes and work them there at our own pace. I took about 100 boxes and filled my garage and the stacks still were barely touched. (We have a BIG storage unit).

I tried to use the ScanPower Mobile ability to click on “Buy” and create a buy list that was then imported into my ScanPower List program, but I had a lot of technical difficulties (there were bugs early on) and it didn’t really save me much time because I still had to condition, price and sticker each book. The piles on my floor did not match the list on the screen because I sorted by condition as I went along. Thus, I stopped using the “Buy List” function for books altogether. It works great for new stuff, but not books.

This was a disappointment, too, because so many of my good books didn’t have barcodes and/or were pre-1972 without ISBN#’s. All the research I had to do to decide if it was a good book to sell had to be done again when it came time to list which meant I needed to do my research in front of my computer (vs. my TV where I did a lot of late-night sorting and scanning).

What I did instead was to create a “Research” pile to be looked at later and focused on books with a barcode. I had a Half-Price Book pile and a charity pile for my rejects. Half-Price Books won’t pay you for library books so I donate those to my favorite charity thrift store instead (I never scan that particular store for books). I went through the trouble of taking my reject boxes to Half-Price Books because I usually make enough a month to pay for the storage unit. They pay very little, but I have such a huge volume of rejects that it was worth my trouble. One of my partners sells her rejects through CraigsList by the box which works for her. I have recently found an independent book store that gives me trade in value for my books which is much more valuable than the few bucks I was making at Half Price.

Now I have boxes and boxes of research plus tens of thousands of books gathering dust and spiders at the storage unit. What I do is go and get books when I don’t have money for inventory. In the past two years, we’ve processed a lot of boxes and we are not even half-way through the unit. ScanPower and InventoryLab are great programs but they are much more efficient for retail arbitrage than used books. I wanted something faster but not too expensive.

What have I learned? The books have become a Sword of Damocles over my head. I feel guilty buying other books when I havesword-of-damocles so many available to me. While we have tons of books for less than a penny a book, they are not always great sellers. We tend to send in all the long-tail books since we already own the books, but they can take a very long time to sell. In addition, they take our time to process. For this reason, I still scan book sales and send up low-rank, high-return books to help make sure I’m selling lots of books per month. It is ironic.

When Nathan Holmquist contacted me about his new ScanLister program I jumped at the chance to be an early tester. I dove right in with about 300 books that I had from the Plano Public Library sale and I’m pleased to say that it works great for books and has streamlined my process a lot.

Here’s my new book process:

  1. Scan and sort by:
    • No barcode (goes into my “Research/ScanPower” pile)
    • Donate to charity (rejected library books)
    • Take to book buyer (Half-Price Books or Independent Book store)
    • Condition
  1. Clean up books
  2. Place valuable, very large and Like New books into poly bags
  3. Turn on scanner to continuous scan.
  4. Scan into ScanLister at a rate of about 4-6 per minute (sometimes it is even faster)
  5. Place into box and send to Amazon
  6. Amazon stickers my inventory for 20 cents a book
    • OR sticker myself
  7. Reprice my inventory to adjust to correct price

While this may seem like a lot of steps, it is actually a lot faster than any other method of processing I have tried. I use ScanLister with barcode-only books so it goes fast. Since you don’t need internet until you are done, there is no delay after each scan. If a book needs research then I might as well use ScanPower or InventoryLab because, as I also learned, Amazon won’t sticker a book that doesn’t have a barcode. If I have to sticker it myself, then ScanPower (or InventoryLab if you use that) is the way to go because ScanLister doesn’t currently allow you to print labels as you go.

When I’m conditioning the Used Good and Used Acceptable books I’ll subdivide them by notes like “former library book, expect typical stickers and markings.” This way, when I’m scanning into ScanLister I can use the “sticky-note” function to put the same note(s) on each book in a group without having to slow down. I use one price for everything – $50.

I have a scanner on a stand which makes it easy to scan books. If I’m going to label my books myself, then I have to put my books in piles exactly as I scanned them. If I’m going to use Amazon’s label service then I can just place them in a box. Be sure to wait until you go through the Amazon process to put in a box since the warehouse sorting occurs later in the process. You have a choice during the shipping queue process to print labels on sheets if you want to do them yourself.

After I send off the books, then I run my auto-repricer to set the prices.

Toppling booksAnother new thing I did this past month is I hired part-time help to process my inventory. I highly recommend this approach and wish I’d done it from the beginning. I’m finally plowing through these books and I can see a day when the storage unit is empty – hooray! I might consider buying book sale remainders again, but not until I have a much larger operation with full-time staff. It is too much otherwise.

ScanLister is a bare-bones program that focuses on one thing – books. It is also a one-time fee vs. a subscription which is appealing. Nathan designed it to supplement rather than compete with programs like ScanPower and InventoryLab (which he uses).


  • Fast
  • Easy to use
  • Optimized for books
  • Can use off-line. You don’t need internet until it is time to upload to Amazon.
  • One-time fee vs. monthly subscription


  • Only for books
  • Minimal features – you can’t add the cost you paid, your floor/ceiling for price or print labels from the program
  • Can’t replenish – you are always creating new MSKUs
  • New – there are bound to be some bugs for early users

Nathan created a quick video showing how fast you can process 50 books that is very impressive. Just so you know,  I am NOT an affiliate for this program – just a customer.

Next week I’ll talk more about auto repricing as part of a longer interview I had with Nathan Holmquist.

Happy selling!

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Reverse Inventory Blindness in 10 Steps!

blindfold sayingI love teaching classes not only because I get to meet my readers in person, but because I learn something too. I find it so interesting how people think and how they approach their businesses. We are all doing the same basic things yet everyone’s business is so very different.

A lot of folks over the years have said to me, “I can’t find any inventory.” I’ve learned that they mean a lot of different things by that. It may be that they can’t find inventory according to a certain criteria which means I look at their criteria with them. Or it might mean that all the opportunities they are finding are saturated with other sellers which means I look at other places for them to find inventory. It might also mean that they have limited themselves to only a few categories and that if they stretch themselves they will find lots of new opportunities in the same stores. It may also mean that they are not scanning enough or spending enough time in a store. The list goes on and on which is why it can be helpful to have someone from the outside look at what you are doing.

During my last book sale class, I realized that there was something else going on as well. Before entering the big sale we had all discussed criteria, condition, the need to scan all kinds of books, etc., and yet some of the students were still having trouble. They were all working the same big table (spread apart) and should have been picking up roughly the same amount of books, but they weren’t. When I would come to help them individually, I would pull books and say “did you try this one?” and many of those cherry picks turned out to be good books.

Obviously I have a lot more experience which helps, but I realized they were also suffering from inventory blindness. The opportunities were right in front of them. As I helped them see the inventory around them, it dawned on me that the problem many sellers have isn’t finding inventory, it is seeing it. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for used books, groceries or toys, inventory blindness can cripple your business if not corrected.

Inventory blindness is about not being able to see the possibilities with something you scan. Even if you have very high criteria you should be able to find good inventory to sell. One of the most successful online sellers I know won’t send up something unless she can price it for $25 and up. It is not worth her time and she has plenty of inventory that fits her criteria. A major online bookseller only sends up books he can sell for $10 and up and still walks away with hundreds of books from most book sales. So how do you reverse inventory blindness?

  1. Scan everything
  2. Discount the lowest price
  3. Go where the other sellers aren’t
  4. Don’t compete against merchant sellers
  5. Carve out a specialty
  6. Replenish
  7. Don’t let your technology think for you
  8. Know when to break your own rules
  9. Stop thinking about yourself
  10. Understand your customer

Scan Everything

As I watch people scan during my classes I see them cherry pick. While certainly some items are obviously not good candidates (tatty old books, appliances with damaged boxes for example), many that they are passing up are. When you are a new seller you must scan a lot! If you only scan 50 or 100 items, don’t be shocked if you only find 5 or 10 items to sell…if that many. Some sellers are very methodical about it. They work their way through a certain section of a store or book sale diligently over time until they’ve scanned nearly everything there. This helps them shorten their scanning time in the future as they avoid past losers and focus on the new stuff. There is NO WAY to shorten this particular learning curve. While be-on-the-lookouts (BOLOs) and tips from Facebook groups can be fun and helpful, you can’t build a business on them. There is no substitute for personal experience. Scan a lot.scan head

Discount the Lowest Price

A lot of emphasis is placed on the Amazon Buyer’s Box. And while it is true that 70% of buyers purchase directly from the buyer’s box, the fact is the buyer’s box changes minute-by-minute. If you put down an item because there is some nut selling it for $4, you may be missing out on a great opportunity. In the week or two that it will likely take you to get your item to the Amazon warehouse, that lowballer’s item may well be gone. Now the buy box may be much higher again. What I do is look and see if I would be happy with the second or third price on list (or somewhere in between). If so, then I’ll consider buying it.

Notice I said “consider.” Now I have to think about how quickly I think the item will sell and how long I’m willing to wait. For books that cost me 2 cents a month to store at Amazon, I’m much more patient than a huge, heavy toy. In addition, I have to consider the category. A 100,000 in books is very different than a 100,000 in grocery in terms of sales velocity and total numbers sold per day (100,000 in books is faster). Lastly, I have to think about the quantity that lowballer might have. With used books I can be reasonably certain that another seller only has 1 or 2 units and I don’t worry about it. With toys, it could be hundreds. If I think the item is worth the trouble, I might try testing a bit. I start to make a pretend purchase of 100 units of the lowballer’s stuff. Amazon will tell me right away if that seller has enough units or not. This is for something that is worth the trouble. Some little $5 action figure I’m flipping for $15 is not usually worth that kind of trouble and I’ll walk away if there are more than one or two other FBA sellers.

What if there are multiple lowball sellers? I will usually pass if there are more than two lowballers unless the rank is super-low and I know they are selling lots of units a day. If the rank is high (around 1 million or higher in books), then I may not tolerate any lowballers. These are my personal criteria. While yours may be different, just realize that one or two lowball sellers aren’t necessarily a reason to turn away inventory.

Go Where the Other Sellers Aren’t

I sell very few new toys at Christmas time anymore. It isn’t because I can’t find good inventory, it is because it is such a competitive category. Something that looks great when you buy it can be a loser by the time it gets to the warehouse. If I sell toys now they are either collectibles which means – like books – the other sellers only have one or two units or no one else is selling them FBA. Even then I might not buy them. There are other sellers who love toys and do very well by them (like my Dad), but I prefer to go where others aren’t. There are lots of non-toy items that sell at Xmas that aren’t so saturated with other FBA sellers. Also, while I like to train people at Target, BigLots and Walmart, the fact is my best sources of new inventory tend to be smaller, regional discount stores. Or, I shop the big boys but a different section that many others do. When I go to a book sale, I have certain sections that I like and I’ll start where there are fewer other shoppers. It is fine to compete against other FBA sellers and I do it every day, but if your inventory isn’t selling as well as you like, you may want to look around for less competitive items/categories. Don’t buy a toy that already has 20 FBA sellers, for example.

Don’t Compete Against Merchant Sellers

I see this problem often. You are not competing directly against merchant sellers. You are competing against other FBA sellers and Amazon itself. Remember that. Your customer wants free 2-day shipping and the guarantee of Amazon’s customer service behind their purchase. In addition, they want an easy exchange after Christmas if the person doesn’t like the gift. With a merchant seller all your gift-ee gets is either a refund or the opportunity to exchange for something else the merchant sells. With FBA, they can exchange their gift for anything sold by Amazon (or us). So, if the merchant is selling for $19.99 and you want to charge $25…charge $25. If there is one lowball merchant and a bunch of higher priced ones, ignore the lowballer. Does this mean you should never look at the merchant sellers? No, there is some common sense required. If there is a huge difference between your price and the merchant’s, potential customers might be willing to wait a few extra days after all for their stuff. However, if Amazon is charging higher and the other FBA sellers are charging higher, that’s what you should look at first. They are your real competition. If you are looking at an item to sell and there are no FBA sellers then the merchant price can be a starting point, but don’t be limited by their price. If the merchant is selling a book for $5.00, for example, you can easily charge $9.99 for the same book – and get it.

Carve Out a Specialty

With retail arbitrage almost anything that fits your margin criteria can be sold which is both wonderful and exhausting. It can lead to the idea that you have to scan the whole store which is daunting and can take a long time. What I suggest you do in the beginning is think about areas where you already have expertise or at least an interest and focus on them. Really get to know the categories you choose. It will make your shopping easier and easier over time and it will broaden your mind to the possibilities. The first time I sold a 25-cent paperback for $65.00 I knew books were going to be part of my business for the long haul. Naturally, I wanted to duplicate that experience so I examined other books by the same publisher to see if they were valuable too…and they were. So now I keep an eye out for these particular books when I shop. I’m the same way about cookbooks, textbooks, self-help and religion. I have several great performers in these categories that I can pick up at nearly any book sale and I search them out right away. Knowing a particular area well means you can see opportunities that others may not realize and jump on them. I’ve been doing this a while so I have several specialty categories in books and retail arbitrage. As you get more experienced, it will seem as if inventory is falling into your cart by itself. Your pattern recognition of what makes a good deal will be highly refined and shopping will easier, I swear. By going deep rather than wide, you can shorten that learning curve.


There are two seller behaviors that really make me scratch my head – those who only buy a few of a really good deal and those who won’t replenish when something sells. I’m often asked “how many should I buy?” when we find something good during a class. I tell them “all you can afford.” There are several reasons for this: 1) you remove the inventory from the shelves stopping others from buying it; 2) it may not be here later; 3) if it sells well you want all of it; and 4) you can usually return it. Just because you buy 20 doesn’t mean you have to send them all in at once, either. You can send in some and then replenish when they sell. If they don’t sell or there are suddenly a lot of lowballers, then return the items and buy something else. If what you are buying is something that is a regularly stocked item (vs a sale or a one-time overstock), then hot dog! You’ve got a replenishable. When you run low, go to the store and buy more. Very quickly you’ll get a sense for often the item sells and how many you’ll want to send in for a one-month supply. Your goal as a seller is to fill your product portfolio with replenishables so you don’t have to work so hard searching for new stuff all the time.

Even if you are a used book seller you have replenishables. As I noted earlier, I always take a quick scan through some of my favorite categories of books at a book sale and pick up my regular sellers even if I don’t have time to scan deeply. Then I go to the category I want to scan deeply first.

Don’t Let Your Technology Think For You

I used to be an ASellerTool customer and while it had its advantages, the biggest problem I saw with it was that it created dependency on the technology instead of thinking for myself. The idea is you program your criteria in and scan like a lunatic. The program tells you when you hit something that fits your criteria. You fly through the shelves. Awesome, right? The problem is there isn’t any way to truly program in all your criteria. You could miss out on good books because of one lowball seller. If you set your criteria at 500,000 and a book scans at 500,001 then it is ignored by the technology which means you might miss out on a great deal because of a fairly arbitrary line in the sand. The database was limited by the memory in the PDA (at that time) so sometimes you missed out on stuff because it wasn’t in the database. I could go on and on*.

One student of mine used ProfitBandit and loved how she could put in what she was going to pay and see what her profit is. Not a bad thing at all except she was doing this for every item she scanned! It took her forever to find inventory because her process is so slow. Ideally, you would only go into depth for a product that is a hot candidate and quickly eliminate the rest without a lot of key strokes. You want to get to the “no” as quickly as possible so you can race through to the “yes.”

Some folks don’t use a Scanfob or other Bluetooth scanner for scanning and instead rely on their phone cameras. If that is all you can afford at the moment, fine, but then you must be committed to spending a lot more time scanning until you sell enough to afford a Bluetooth scanner. In short, if your technology is slowing you down, find something that makes you faster. It makes a real difference in your ability to find sellable inventory.

Whatever solution you use, you have to be able to make a quick but effective decision. Let it be a tool but not the thinker in your relationship. When I find a strong candidate, I will spend the time to really examine it and probably click thru to Amazon to see all the other offers, and I let my technology help me speed through the obvious bad deals.

A friend of mine assumes that she can raise her toy prices around Christmas time. When she looks at her scanner and sees the current prices, she thinks about what she will actually charge for that product. While that deal may not look so great on the scanner, at a higher price it is a great deal. She is an experienced seller and is more often right than not. She will buy deals that others put down because she knows the potential for that item. She understands trends and perceived consumer value – all things you can’t get from scanning technology.

Know When to Break Your Rules

magic beansA lot of times when I talk to other sellers I realize that they are frustrated because there aren’t precise rules. They want their business to be a clear equation of: Rule1+Rule2=FBA Success. I encourage everyone to make their own rules because they help streamline your process. You can’t scan everything in a store or book sale and you can’t buy everything there is for sale (unless you have a huge line of credit) so how do you decide what to do? That’s what personal rules are all about. They are guidelines that help you decide which inventory is worth further evaluation. That’s it. They aren’t magic beans.

Almost as soon as you create your own rules you will probably run into exceptions and want to break them. The trick is knowing when to break your own rules. In the beginning when you don’t have a lot of experience, you’ll be guessing and making hunches. This is an important part of the process of becoming a better seller. You have to take some risks sometimes (make them small and affordable) if the reward seems worth it.

When I provide guidelines to my students I always stress that: 1) I am conservative on their behalf and 2) I don’t always follow my own rules. I will sometimes take less than my usual margin if I think I can flip something fast. I will sometime buy something at a higher rank because I think the reward is worth the wait. So how did I figure out when to break my own rules? I experimented. I had a good feeling about something and I tried it. My budget has always been tight so my experiments were by necessity small, but the result of each experiment taught me something and I incorporated it into my business. You will learn your exceptions and rules the same way. There is no better teacher than your own experiments.

Stop Thinking About Yourself

I mean this in the nicest possible way. The fact is your personal likes and dislikes are uniquely yours. Your customer is most likely to be completely and sometimes wildly different. So often I see people pass by a potential inventory item because they would never buy it for themselves or a friend. This is an insidious problem because it is unconscious. They don’t even realize they are doing it. Once I point it out, often they start finding a lot more items to sell. It happens to all of us at one time or another.

A seller in one of my Facebook groups sells a lot of, shall we say, sexual pleasure enhancement items. He posted a picture of a shopping cart once and I turned red all by my lonely self at my computer terminal. Until that moment, I had never thought about selling items like this. It was a complete blind spot for me. In this case, I’m not rushing to the store to fix my oversight because I’m so ugly when I blush, BUT it opened my mind to new possibilities and made me realize that I was unconsciously thinking about myself instead of my customer.

OF COURSE people are buying these items on Amazon! Who wouldn’t want embarrassing personal items delivered discretely to the house? My friend Lesley and I giggle whenever we scan the “woo-woo” section of a book sale. The weirder the philosophy or religious belief, the more likely it will sell for a higher premium because the book is fairly rare with an ardent niche following. Aliens from outer space? Our future in the stars? Ghost guides? I’m ready to help! These books do not reflect our personal beliefs but we are happy to supply our customers.

Understand Your Customer

While your customer may be totally different from you in terms of likes and preferences, there is one thing you need to remember about him/her – he is totally addicted to buying on Amazon and getting free 2-day shipping. He/she is an Amazon shopper. Does that mean she never shops eBay or Etsy? Of course not, but – statistically – he goes to Amazon first. She is less price sensitive than the eBay shopper and expects excellent service and support. He would rather do his shopping online than to wander through the malls. She has relatives and friends far away and enjoys the convenience of buying, wrapping and shipping in one quick online purchase. He is time-stressed and does not want to spend a lot of time shopping, period. She relies heavily on her grandkids’ “Wish Lists” on Amazon.com to buy gifts. He has a Kindle Fire and buys something from Amazon every week – often right from the Kindle.

I find that a lot of new sellers really struggle with this understanding of their customer. They may be themselves eBay shoppers who relish getting a bargain or extremely price sensitive and they assume everyone else is. If they are buying a toy for $10 at Target, why would their customer pay $35 for the same toy? Because they will. Believe it my friend. If you don’t believe it, then you will unconsciously reject inventory item after inventory item and then wonder why you can’t find inventory to sell! Some people will tell me that they want to reach a broader (cheaper) audience of shopper thinking that will make them more money (also known as making more on volume). Stop that right now! Your customer is the premium buyer not the guy who squeezes a dime out of every nickel. If you are losing money on every sale, volume only makes your decline faster.

Aiming towards a less price sensitive customer is not the same as gouging them. The competitive market forces at work on Amazon.com’s marketplace work to lower prices and keep things fair. When you look at everything that a customer gets when they buy from Amazon – guarantee, excellent customer service, gift wrapping, 2-day shipping, one-click buying, easy-to-use website, the ability to shop from any internet enabled device – you see why they buy FBA and why they are willing to pay $35 for that $10 toy.

The next time you are in a store or book sale wondering why you can’t find inventory ask yourself “could this be inventory blindness?” Immediately try something different to break your pattern. Scan more items, pick up stuff you’d never buy in a million years, look at other categories and always, always, remember that the Amazon Prime customer is happily paying you to shop for them. If you would like to work with me in person this Fall, sign up for my live classes or a private phone consultation.

*ASellerTool’s current version is vastly improved and many sellers like it a lot.
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List That, Amazon!

Just a quick reminder for those FBA sellers approaching their first long-term storage fee assessment…be sure to sell, dispose or remove by end of the day Friday or else you will have to pay extra fees. If you are willing to pay, that’s OK, just make sure you know what you are paying for. Check out my blog post on long-term storage fees from last year if you need help dealing with your inventory.

Amazon is an amazing platform that has made my family’s life easier…AND they drive me crazy sometimes. Do you ever feel that way? They are constantly working on their platform which is good and bad. I tend to work out my frustrations through writing so I thought I’d tackle those damn listing errors. You know what I’m talking about here. Total crazy making. I had a client who was recently concerned that her sales had come to a standstill. When I looked at her inventory, over 80% of it had listing errors – no wonder! Once we fixed those, her sales picked up again.

What’s with all the listing errors?

First of all, it happens to everyone. Don’t assume you’ve made a mistake. It is just as likely to have been Amazon or the internet. You just want to be able to fix them when they happen. If you are a newcomer, you may not yet realize that your items will show redline errors in SellerCentral until they are properly shipped in to Amazon. If you are taking a few days to prepare a shipment (which I often do in the case of books), then don’t worry if you see listing errors for products that are not yet at the warehouse. Those will correct themselves once you ship them in.

This also explains why you may have listing errors for products you never actually sent in. Perhaps you listed it in ScanPower or InventoryLab, looked at it, decided you didn’t want to sell it after all and deleted it from your shipment. I’ll do this with books. Sometimes I’ll get home and decide that I’ve changed my mind about a book I bought. Maybe it is in worse condition than I thought or suddenly there are a ton of bottom feeder sellers. I donate it instead.  I’ve also had new merchandise where by the time I’ve priced it, I see that Amazon is now selling it for a low price. I decide to return the item, but the partially created listing is at SellerCentral.

A similar situation for me is that I buy something, go home, scan it into my software and then decide it is a better eBay item. I have a collectible Pinocchio Game right now where I did that. I deleted it from the shipment I was creating, but the partially created listing stayed at SellerCentral.

The fix for these listing errors is easy – archive them and don’t worry about them anymore.

The listing errors I’m talking about are the ones that occur with products that are already at the warehouse – products that should be selling and aren’t. These are the ones that drive good sellers mad….

There are three main reasons for listing errors:

  1. A problem with using your third-party software provider
  2. A feed issue (could be either end)
  3. Something at Amazon’s end

Knowing this helps you figure out how to fix your errors and preserve your sanity.

Third-Party Software Provider

If you use InventoryLab, ScanPower or one of the other listing programs you are basically creating your listing inside of Amazon in real-time with the help of the software that makes it faster, easier and more efficient. What you also get with an outside software provider is the ability to more easily correct your mistakes and make changes to your shipment up to the last minute…and there’s the rub. What ScanPower and InventoryLab do – and I assume the same for the others – is send the final, complete feed at the very end when you press “Finish Shipment (SP)” or “Send Products Feeds (IL).”

If you don’t press that button and instead go directly to the shipping queue to process your boxes, then your entire shipment will have listing errors. This is perplexing because the shipment looks normal when you go through the Shipping Queue…but it is not complete. The system is confused because the shipment is still considered open. If you’ve done this – don’t despair! The fix is easy. Simply go into ScanPower (InventoryLab, whatever system you are using) and close out your shipments officially and properly. This should fix those errors within a few minutes. Be sure to refresh your SellerCentral browser so you can see if they all got fixed.

finish shipment button rev

This is from InventoryLab’s support page:

Note: Your product listing feeds have not sent to Amazon until you do the following: Choose “Send Products Feeds” once your batch is complete (this is going to take your batch to the Send Products Page where you can edit, add, or delete the contents before submitting the batch). Once you have reviewed the batch and are ready to send it choose “Submit” (you will be prompted to confirm that you wish to complete the batch, and for FBA shipments you will check the box next to Create FBA Shipment in the pop up screen) and hit “OK”.  Now your product listings have sent and you can continue to create your shipments. 

The private workflow has many advantages, but it’s important to understand that you will not have a product listing until you tell InventoryLab to upload them. Therefore, since you are labeling items as you go, but you have not uploaded any product listings,  all inventory will be listed with a redline error until you complete your batch and send the product listing feeds. 

I imagine that the other listing programs are similar to Scan Power and InventoryLab since this is an Amazon requirement (how the feeds are sent).

A Feed Issue

This is a problem between your software provider and Amazon. It could be from either side. It could be a glitch in the internet (“glitch” is the official term for “we can’t explain it.”) If most of your shipment has no listing errors but there are one or two items that do have listing errors, then there are three fixes for you:

1) re-send the feed from your software program;

2) re-list the product on Amazon’s Seller Central; or

3) talk to Amazon. I’m going to talk about how to re-list (#2) under the next heading.

To re-send the feed from ScanPower, you need to go under “Settings,” “List” and then scroll to the very bottom of the page. There you will see a long list of your most recent shipments. Click on the shipment that had the errors and the feed will be re-sent. This should fix most feed-related errors. Wait about a minute or so and then go to SellerCentral and refresh your browser. If the problem is not fixed, then it is something at Amazon’s end.

old shipments

I don’t know how it is done with all the other software, but there should be an easy way to re-send feed if you ask or look at the company’s FAQs.

If that doesn’t work, the problem may be either that you are somehow restricted from selling that product or it needs to be re-listed through Seller Central (see below). Product restrictions are varied and something you sold before may now be off limits. It may be, for example, that you are no longer allowed to sell in that category. That happened to some folks with grocery recently. Amazon changed the rules and this is how they tell you.

If you look at your “Stranded Inventory” report on the “All Inventory View” page of SellerCentral, it will show you items that have inventory at the warehouse but are not selling. If you know you’ve sold these items in the past, then it is possible that the product manufacturer convinced Amazon to restrict third-party sellers. This can happen at any time and the effect is immediate.

In the case where you just don’t know what is going on, you will need to talk to Amazon. You can either have them call you or you can send them an email to find out what is up. I prefer phone myself although my assistant does a lot of corrections for me by email. Either works. To get Amazon to call you, go to “Help” in SellerCentral and look for the “contact us” button about half-way down the right-hand side of the page. Follow the instructions for sending an email and fill in the details of your problem. At the bottom of the form is an option for Amazon to call you. Fill in your phone number and they will call you within seconds. They will explain and walk you through the fix or at least tell you how to remove/destroy the product if that’s the answer. I first learned how to re-list products from a friendly FBA support person.

Something at Amazon’s End

There are several reasons that things may have gotten messed up on Amazon’s end – usually while your shipment is being processed, although I’ve had listing errors pop up from products I’ve been selling for a while. Rather than trying to figure it out, I fix it. If relisting doesn’t work, then I have two options – 1) ask Amazon to fix the listing for me through email or 2) call them to find out what is going on.

When I went to create my Step-by-Step I learned that Amazon had changed the way you relist products which was really annoying because I had just learned how to do it the other way. Basically what you are doing is completely recreating your listing on Amazon.com. When you do that, you have to be mindful that you use the exact same merchant SKU, condition, etc. that you did before or your problems will multiply.

Gardening listing error 2

I created a Step-by-Step for Listing Errors HERE in my FBA Library which is free to all my readers. In addition, you can click Listing error troubleshooting for a copy of Amazon’s instructions.  Mine has more pictures.

If you are like my friend Lynn who says, I don’t want to learn one more damn thing! then I suggest using the Easy Button and send your problem listings in batches of three to an email to Amazon. They will fix them for you.staple-easybutton Be sure to give them all the information you want in the new listing including price, condition, MSKU, etc.

What usually happens when they are recreating listings is they give them weird prices like $999 or $500 so you have to go back later and reprice. They’ll send you an email to let you know when they’ve fixed your problem.

Another option is to turn over the whole mess to your virtual assistant and say “make it so.” This is my preferred option because I don’t have to worry about follow up or repricing later. Shem takes care of it all for me.

What To Do

Here’s my suggested approach to listing errors:

  1. Remember, a huge percentage of listing errors are feed errors. Try re-sending the feed first.
  2. For the errors that remain, check to see if you ever sent those products in. If not, archive.
  3. For the errors that remain, either recreate the listing or send to Amazon.com to fix in batches of 3 per email.
  4. Repeat.

It is up to you as to how often you deal with your listing errors, but I suggest looking at them regularly. The last thing you want is a bunch of inventory at the warehouse that is not selling for you. The first time may take a while, but if you do it regularly, it won’t take long at all. Since the majority of errors are feed errors, you can fix those in a snap. My free Inventory Listing Errors Step-by-Step has more pictures with arrows and instructions to help you figure out why your inventory is languishing. If the above link doesn’t work, just login to the FBA Library and look under “Bonuses” for the Step-by-Step page.

PS. If you’ve not noticed, I’m trying to offer more live classes in and out of Texas to help people prepare for the Christmas selling season. I’ve got my Texas classes posted and am working on three classes in Chicago (it is such a big area) at the end of September/early October. I also try to leave time for at least one or two face-to-face private sessions in each city as well.

I was recently in Atlanta and Wilmington, NC. Want me to come visit your town? Let me know! To make the trip I need at least 8 students per class since I will have travel expenses. We have just over 100 days until Black Friday…are you ready?

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Dominate Your Next Book Sale!

Books on a shelfThe Fall book sale season begins this weekend for those of us in the DFW Metroplex.  The Friends of the Plano Public Library sale starts on Friday and it is a big one.  I’m offering two classes in the next month to help folks take advantage of the upcoming book sale season and make some nice high-margin money. With Amazon’s new $35 minimum for free shipping, you will sell a lot of used books during the holidays as folks pick up something for themselves in order to get free shipping for their gifts.

I love books and sell books every day.  They are cheap and yet can be very profitable. They are easily found and stack nicely. The trick is to find the ones that have that wonderful combination of desirability and rarity.  I’m not talking about penny books here, I’m talking about books you can sell for $7 and up.  My average is $10, just to give you an idea.

I wrote a blog last year about how I work a book sale that you might want to review before heading to your next sale.

If you are wondering where I find sources for books, check out this blog post.

Want to join my class on Friday or in September? click here.

In addition, I will be leading a retail arbitrage class on September 3 in Dallas at a Target near the CES II hotel (for those 300+ of you coming to town for it!) and classes in Austin, San Antonio and Houston later in September.  Click here for all those classes.

My classes are small so I can provide lots of individual attention and answer everyone’s questions. Book sales are limited to 6 people and retail arbitrage are limited to 10 so don’t wait too late to sign up.

Next week look for a longer post from me about fixing listing errors. For some reason it is taking me a long time to write it…

Happy hunting my friends!


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Don’t Forget Books When Selling Amazon FBA

There’s a lot of excitement about retail arbitrage and for good reason. You have brand new inventory that is (hopefully!) popular and fast-selling. However, it is also riskier for a new seller. You are spending more per item on inventory and your mistakes cost you more. And believe me, you will make mistakes. We all do. That is why I will remind everyone NOW to reprice for the August 15 long-term storage fees assessment that is coming up. You have about a month to sell off your poor performers and mistakes that are a year old. I have two blog posts that address the need to move out inventory and how to use Amazon’s advertising to clear out slow movers. You know what I will be doing before I leave on vacation next week!

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled programming…a lot of people dismiss books for the glamor of new stuff and I think it is a mistake. I sell books every single day. My margins on books are terrific because I know how to find them cheap. It is common for me to price books at 10X what I paid and more. For those on a budget, it is hard to beat books for return on your inventory dollar. I wrote a post about book sourcing back in 2012 that covers many of the basic sources available to almost everyone no matter where they live.

I recently read Peter Valley’s new books “Book Sourcing Secrets: Every Source of Cheap Books to Sell for Huge Profits on Amazon” and “Recycler Riches” which was bundled with it. Even though I’ve been selling books since 2010, I learned some new things and I thought I’d share his book with you. Peter is definitely worth listening to. He did over $130,000 in sales selling used books on Amazon last year and shows his numbers. In his introduction he states that he makes over $80,000 a year selling on Amazon overall so books are clearly a significant portion of his inventory.

Peter’s book is a good guide to find inexpensive books. While it is short (110 pages), he gets right to the point and shares a lot of information. There is no fluff in the book. He shows you with his numbers why books make for a good FBA business. He has over 40 relevant and realistic sources which are more than enough to get anybody started…or re-started. Sometimes when one source dwindles or goes away, we are stumped for new ones. Peter’s book got me thinking about other sources that I’ve not tried yet.

His core sources of books are all ones that I’ve used from bookstores to library sales to thrift stores and so on. The surprise was there were a lot of supplemental sources on his list that I’d never thought of before. That’s saying something after four years of selling books online. I also appreciated his approach to his sources. He describes how they work and how he researches them. A section for each source called “Profit Hacks” gives tips for maximizing the sale/event/opportunity. He also uses personal stories to clarify a point and/or inspire his reader. Where the source is one he doesn’t use himself, he often finds another seller to share their story about that source.

For example, I was inspired by a story he gathered from one FBA seller that makes $3,000 a month selling books (net) anddumpster diving who gets all of his book inventory dumpster diving. He spends six hours a week sourcing and then a few hours processing. He started with $400 to buy equipment and now clears $36K a year working part-time with no out-of-pocket inventory costs….my kind of story! While I have successfully gone dumpster diving for other things in the past (lamps, appliances, vacuum cleaners), I didn’t think about it for books. Now I will.

I thought I knew pretty much everything there is to know about rummage sales, but I learned that many of them have preview sales just like Friends of the Public Library sales. He talked about how he’ll make a lump sum offer for all the books at some rummage sales that look good. He’s only been successful two out of 15 times, but those two were very profitable for him. I admired his persistence and wondered how many times I would ask before giving up if I didn’t know that it could be successful. That’s the kind of information I found most valuable in his book – the possibilities and the strategies that have worked.

bird nomenclatureI was very interested in the University Press sales section and am going to look into that for myself. There are a number of university presses/publishers within 100 miles of me and I’d never thought about it before. He told a story that involved Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest as an obscure book that seemingly no one would read and I had to laugh because I know it and other nerds who’ve read it…

Peter’s organizational skills are helpful and throughout the book he shows you not only how he researches opportunities, but also how he organizes them so he can maximize his time, gas, etc. He conducts research before he goes to a garage or estate sale to determine whether or not it is worth his time. He shares exactly what he looks for. In fact, he pretty much opens the kimono in every part of the book. His theory is that he can share his secrets because relatively few will ever follow through or will actually do it the way he does it. He protects his personal sources, but happily teaches others how to find theirs – an approach that I agree with wholeheartedly. His book was clear enough that I’m going to share part of this book with my virtual assistant so she can conduct my online research for me.

What you won’t find in Peter’s book is much discussion about rank, how to use your tools, listing, supplies or any of that side of the business. He assumes that his readers know the basics.

There were a few things that he said that I disagreed with. He talked about how he would not let a book store proprietor see him scanning because they take great offense. I have never had a problem with this and I shop retail bookstores all the time. However, he had obviously had this experience so my two cents is to use your common sense. I always try to be polite, quiet and to buy a lot of stuff. That usually soothes any retailer feelings. Peter also buys a lot more books at higher ranks than I do. I strongly suggest that new sellers put books down that are over 1 million in rank. It is not because higher ranked books won’t sell – they will eventually – but because you need to build up a volume of fast selling books before adding a lot of long tail books into the mix. People who tell me that books don’t sell for them are usually selling a lot of long-tail books and not enough quick turnaround books.

Another thing that Peter is up front about is that he doesn’t always follow the rules for book condition. He says that he’s never had a problem listing used-like new as new. As long as no one is complaining, then Amazon’s happy. They care about happy customers. I tend to be more conservative. I have a 100 seller rating with Amazon and I want to keep it that way. Amazon is fairly forgiving of honest mistakes here and there, but consistently not following the rules could get you banned for life.

Lastly, he is adamant that you need to be at a book sale when the doors are open or it is not worth going. While I can see his point and appreciate how fast he works a section, my experience has been that I find lots of books that the dealers leave behind – especially in really large sales. I can’t always be there when the doors open (I do when I can, obviously), but there are some sales not to be missed and I don’t think people should write off a sale if they can’t make the first hour. In a blog post from last year, I detailed how I was the only scanner for two out of the four days of a large sale and left with hundreds of books every day. Some sales just can’t be worked in a few hours.

Recycler Riches

Another brand-new book he is bundling with Book Sourcing Secrets is Recycler Riches. This is a 31-page eBook that dives deeply into one of the sources he mentions in his book – recyclers. If you are interested in buying books in volume for pennies per unit, it is worth the $47 price of Book Sourcing Secrets for this book alone. It is very detailed about how to approach a recycler; what they need to hear; how to negotiate; what you can expect in terms of books worth selling and even how to work the books once you have them. From hiring help to purging leftovers to repricing, I highly recommend this book to online sellers interested in a large-scale operation. What I liked about this book is a lot of the advice would work for any source that delivered pallets of books – thrift stores, auctions, storage units, remainder sales and more.

He interviewed Adam Bertram in detail for this book and asked him extensive questions about his former operation (Adam is doing something else now). From as detailed as what kind of truck he rented to pick up books from recyclers to how to find the right kind of recycler – the one most likely to have the higher quality books. A large scale operation like Adam’s is fascinating. He was generating about $25K-$30K a month (net after Amazon’s fees but before costs for employees – $4K – and other out-of-pocket expenses) from books he bought for 4-8 cents a pound. At the back of the book are two pages of resources to find a recycle company near you.

As far as I know, there is no other book out there like this – and I looked. I was so impressed by Adam’s operations. Even though he processed hundreds of thousands of books a year, his company was a small operation consisting of him, occasional help from family members, a few employees and an empty 800 sq. ft. apartment.

I wish Peter’s books were available in a Kindle-optimized version and I wish the PDF version was indexed so I could click on a chapter heading and go right to it. Book Sourcing Secrets would really benefit from indexing because it is the kind of book where you want to jump ahead to the sources that interest you the most. These are minor things and I’m hoping Peter will consider them in the future.

In conclusion, Peter Valley’s new books are genuinely useful and he shares everything. You get insight into the minds of two highly successful Amazon FBA booksellers and learn from their experiences. I think every new FBA bookseller (and even some old dogs like me!) will benefit from having such a comprehensive sourcing guide. It is natural once you find some sources to stop thinking about other sources – but you shouldn’t. Sources change all the time. Some of your favorite sources today may be undercutting you or out of business tomorrow. If your Friends of the Public Library sales are too competitive, then branch out and consider the other 40+ sources on the list. If you think you might like to scale up your book operations, then I highly recommend you read Recycler Riches. It will be bundled for free with Book Sourcing Secrets only until Monday, July 14 at midnight so act now to get your copy.

Besides my sweet Tess going to heaven, I’m grieving a friend who took his life recently. This double loss has impacted my ability/desire to work right now. I am going on vacation July 15-30 and may not get a new post out until early August, just a heads up. In the meantime, I will be teaching two live classes in Atlanta and Wilmington, NC and will be posting photos and updates on my Facebook fan page. I am so delighted to be able to meet some of you personally. On a personal note, I want to say thank you so much to my incredibly kind-hearted readers. I received many wonderfully supportive emails and posts about Tess and was so moved.

I make a small commission if you buy Book Sourcing Secrets through my link. You can also go directly to Peter’s book information page from this non-affiliate link if you prefer: http://www.fbamastery.com/book-sourcing-secrets-ebook-every-source-of-cheap-books-to-sell-for-huge-profits-on-amazon/. I only act as an affiliate for products I’ve used/read and can personally recommend like Peter’s book. It is important to me that this blog represents information that is valuable to the FBA community – newcomer and old hand – and I’m careful about my recommendations. I turn down a lot of requests every year that I don’t find suitable.
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