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A lot of people have asked me how I got started with Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and since it’s so much information, I’ve decided to write a post outlining my experience. I’m hoping my experience can save someone else time and money when they start out on Amazon.
I got started with Amazon back in 2018 when I launched my first NP journal for nurse practitioner students, the NP H&P. I started out selling my journal on my website, and still do, but figured that if I sold it on Amazon my platform would increase and I’d be able to get my product out to the masses.
There are many ways to get your products on Amazon so you can take advantage of having your brand on the largest online retailer in the world. There are 6 seller business models that you can choose from to get your products on Amazon. I personally started with Handmade and switched over to Private Label. I’ll only discuss the processes I know, but here are the 6 seller models.
- Private Label
- Retail Arbitrage
- Online Arbitrage
When I started out, I signed up for Amazon’s Handmade program since my journal didn’t yet have an ISBN or barcode and there was a promotion for no fees at the time I signed up. This is the best option for those that make products and sell them on sites like Etsy, or for someone like me who had a journal that didn’t have an ISBN or barcode.
In order to sell in the traditional Amazon FBA model, your product has to have an ISBN or barcode in order to scan. The barcodes can always be added on in a sticker form if your product does not already have a barcode printed on the package. The first printing of my journal did not include a barcode on the back since 1.) I didn’t know what I was doing yet, 2.) I didn’t have an assigned ISBN for my journal, and 3.) Printing without a barcode was cheaper.
While my product was on Amazon Handmade, it didn’t have the traffic I’d like to see on the main Amazon site. It took visitors to a page that indicated the product was “Handmade” and I didn’t like that since I was working on full-scale production.
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The initial spiral-bound copies of my journal were OK, but there were some issues that I wanted fixed before I felt comfortable selling them on the main Amazon platform. My printer was a local printer here in the U.S., and while I could get copies shipped to me fairly quickly, it was expensive and my covers often came to me scuffed and therefore unsellable (I now sell those copies as “Oopsie” copies in my personal store at a discounted rate since I would get horrible reviews on Amazon with damaged copies sent to customers). Another reason I needed to find another printer is because in January of 2019 I was contacted by a major university who wanted to make a bulk purchase of my journal. I had to scale up properly if I was going to send orders to both universities and Amazon.
I sourced a new printer for my journals in China through Alibaba to see if they could help with the pricing issue and the quality. After interviewing several printers for quotes, I settled on one and ordered sample copies of my journal. To my surprise when the journals arrived, I realized the quality was much better than what I had been getting with my previous printer. The journals from China were also so cost-effective that I could even afford to have them shrinkwrapped for extra protection.
That shrinkwrap saved me so much money in the long-term since I didn’t have to sell my products at a loss. Since I had barcodes now printed on the back, I changed my Amazon seller account to a regular Amazon FBA account.
The Amazon FBA account is associated with fees depending on how much product you sell per month. You can choose from an individual account (best for those that sell less than 40 products per month since you are charged $0.99 per product sold) or the professional account that currently costs $39.99 per month plus storage fees.
Even though I had the printing changes made, I still didn’t have the journals sent directly from China to Amazon’s warehouse for a couple of reasons; 1.) Although I had a sample sent and the quality of that one was great, I had a 1,000 book shipment and didn’t want to risk any quality issues going to Amazon, and 2.) Since my books were now shrinkwrapped, I had to prep them (by putting a warning label sticker on them) or pay Amazon to prep them.
So my products aren’t on auto-pilot at Amazon and it takes a bit of work, but I make good monthly commissions and have the process pretty much automated on my end. Here’s my process once I receive a shipment in from my printer.
- Each box from China has about 10 stickers on it just to get it to my door. I have to ship each box to Amazon, so I have to cover each sticker on the box or mark it out with a Sharpie so a box that I’ve sent to Amazon doesn’t come back to me (it’s happened before!)
- I open each box (close to 30) and inspect all the journals for quality issues. This is important to me since on my first shipment about 60 of them had binding on the right side instead of the left…imagine how bad that would be if they were directly shipped to Amazon!
- I count each journal in the box. Depending on how many journals/products ordered at a time, the boxes should all pretty much have an equal amount of product in the box which makes it easier when you’re inputting information into your Seller account for shipment. My journals come 36 per box and I occasionally have a one-off box that may have more or less.
- I place the suffocation label on each journal. This is necessary for any product you sell that has plastic packaging and could potentially pose a risk to small children.
- I note the measurements and weight of each box. This is easy since they are all pretty much the same except the occasional one-off box. This is also important information that you will need to put in your Seller account. I have the dimensions, weight, and quantity of my shipments written in my SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the Amazon FBA portion of my business.
- After all my prep at home is done, I start the process to ship to Amazon. This takes me all of 10 mins once the previous 5 steps are done. I then load up my SUV and drop them off at the local UPS store (you can have them picked up from your home for an extra charge).
Right now there are delays from both my printer (shipping) and Amazon (receiving) so if you’re interested in pursuing this as an additional income, just be aware that things will take longer than usual to get started because of the pandemic. This was my abbreviated take on selling on Amazon FBA. If you have any questions, you can reach me best through my FB group for nurses interested in a career change. If you’re not a member, join us! a