Selling on Amazon is becoming increasingly popular, not just here in the US but all over the world. You can sell nearly anything on Amazon’s website, from books to groceries to custom t-shirts.
But how do you get started? What’s the first step to take? It can be overwhelming at first when you’re starting out, trying to learn all the acronyms like FBA, MF, OA, RA, ROI, COGS, LTSF, etc! On top of that, you need to figure out how to play in Amazon’s sandbox, how to navigate their seller site, and figure out what to sell, where to find it, and how to know if it will even sell.
Most of my content on thebookflipper.com has been aimed at intermediate and advanced Amazon sellers. Unfortunately, there’s very little content here for the true beginner.
I think it’s time we changed that!
Guusje Moore first appeared on my blog back in 2015, featured in this article. She’s graciously agreed to help us out with our Getting Started Series, so we’ll turn it over to her. If you happen to see her over in the Facebook forums, be sure to express your gratitude to her!
Let’s start at the very beginning – How to open an Amazon Seller Account.
Here’s an overview of the process:
- Visit https://services.amazon.com/selling/getting-started.html
- Select your selling account type at the bottom of the page (Professional vs. Individual)
- Create a username and password
- Verify your identity (Social Security Number and a photo ID)
- Select a store name
- And that’s it – you’re now in business!
To learn more about the choices above, keep on reading…
Selling Account Options: There are two types of seller accounts – Individual and Professional – and here are the differences between the two account types:
An individual account is free and will allow you to sell on Amazon, but it has its limitations. For starters, you’ll pay an additional $0.99 for EVERY item you sell – on top of the other Amazon fees. Other limitations include the inability to “win” the Buy Box (which means your products won’t be featured to potential buyers), inability to create new product pages, and the inability to apply to list certain items in restricted / gated categories. Luckily, books are an open category which doesn’t require prior approval from Amazon (though you will find publishers have locked down a small number of titles). Perhaps the greatest drawback to an individual account is that you can’t use most third party software tools. Amazon requires you to connect your seller account to most scouting, listing, and repricing tools. Connecting your account to external software requires MWS credentials, or “keys” to talk to Amazon on your behalf. These MWS credentials are only available if you sign up for a professional selling account.
A professional account is $39.99 a month. Believe it or not, this is about the only fee Amazon hasn’t raised in the 18 years I’ve (Guusje) been selling (shhhh… don’t tell Jeff Bezos!). A pro account will remove the $0.99 fee for every item you sell. Simple math will tell you once you are consistently selling 41 books / items per month it makes sense to switch to a professional account. At this point, the savings more than offset the monthly costs, so the pro account is essentially free. With a pro account, you can also apply to sell in gated categories, win the Buy Box, and access third party software to speed up your scouting, listing, repricing, and inventory management.
Which plan is right for me? If you’re committed to learning how to sell on Amazon, and have a decent startup budget, jumping in with the pro account is probably a wise choice. Being able to access third party software tools will shorten your learning curve and make you more efficient in your business processes. If you want to dabble in the Amazon world for a bit before committing, or are on a tight budget, then an individual account may be right for you.
Verifying your identity: Amazon requires you to provide a credit card and your Social Security Number (or Employer Identification Number if you’re an LLC). Yes, I know Dave Ramsey says credit cards are evil but Jeff Bezos doesn’t agree so you’ll need to get one. A debit card won’t suffice, unfortunately. (Hint, the Amazon credit card from Chase Bank gives you points for Amazon purchases, which is a nice perk if you buy a lot of goods on Amazon.) You will also have to upload a copy of a photo ID during this step.
The Social Security Number (or EIN) is an IRS requirement. Most folks start out using their SSN and switch to an LLC at a later date. If Amazon pays you more than $20,000 during a calendar year they are required to submit a 1099 form to the IRS. By the way, even if Amazon does not submit a 1099 you are still required to report your Amazon income to the IRS. Be sure to track down a qualified CPA or tax advisor sometime during your first year!
Selecting your store name: You’ll also need to decide on a store name for your Amazon account. This is the name potential buyers will see, so you want it to be professional yet somehow stand out to help you snag someone’s attention when they are shopping for a particular product. You can’t use the word “Amazon” or any of Amazon’s graphics, trademarks or domain names in your store name. You also can’t use any other name that’s trademarked – so please don’t name your store “Mickey Mouse Books”! And don’t worry – you can change your store name later, so if you establish an LLC after a few months, you can change the store name to match your new business name. Here’s what store names look like:
That’s it for the first article – go ahead and get the ball rolling by signing up for your very own Seller Account. It should take less than 15 minutes to open a seller account. Once you do so, take a tour of Seller Central to familiarize yourself with the new site, and download the Amazon Seller App so you can look up items with your mobile phone.
Our next few posts will discuss how to navigate the Amazon Seller Account, how to understand sales rank and Amazon’s fees, and how to find and list products on Amazon. We’ll also show you how to price your items and how to manage your inventory once you’ve listed it. There much more to learn, but hardest part is usually taking that first step – registering for an account.
One more thing – a quick look at Fulfillment Options: You have two options when it comes to selling your products on Amazon. You can sell your items Merchant Fulfilled (MF), where you list them, store them in your home or office until they sell, then ship them out after a purchase order comes through. The other option is to sell them through the Fulfillment By Amazon program (FBA), where you list your products first, then ship everything to an Amazon fulfillment center before they sell. Amazon will store your items for you (for a fee, of course), and when the orders come in they will pick, pack, and ship the item to your customer for you. Customers can buy your items through Amazon’s Prime program and receive two-day free shipping. More importantly, this gives you a ton of freedom as a seller so you won’t be stuck filling orders every day and your house won’t be filled to the rafters with inventory. There’s nothing like the feeling of being on vacation and knowing that Amazon is running your business for you! There are pros and cons to each fulfillment method, and we’ll explore those in more detail in a future post. For now, understand that there are two selling options – MF and FBA – and you can select either option or a combination of the two.