Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2015. 
What are your Amazon FBA New Year Resolutions?

I'd like to thank Gregory Caremans for allowing me to post his article on the blog. I found it interesting, inspiring, and motivational. Think about how you can apply this thinking to your Amazon FBA business. At the end of the article, Gregory has graciously offered a coupon for my readers to his Udemy course. Read the article. Take the course. Make your resolutions. Move your business forward.

How to Keep your New Year’s Resolutions by Gregory Caremans
I’m pretty sure you’ve done it too, at one moment or another. Somewhere between the bubbles of Champagne slowly rising to the surface of your crystal glass. You assembled your courage and made a solemn vow to improve your life by changing that one thing standing between you and your future improved self. Then, three months later, you slowly realized how you failed miserably yet again to keep your promises. Your feelings of guilt started dancing a paso doble with your discouragement, as deep down inside you actually felt relieved that you didn’t have to fake it anymore and could drop the effort to make that change.
Sounds familiar? Good! that makes you a normal human being with some real life experience. Exactly the kind of person I was trying to reach with this post.
So why is it so hard to keep our New Year’s resolutions? Or any promise of change made to ourselves for that matter?
This actually has everything to do with how our brain is wired, and how it makes new connections. You see, the information in our brain follows a certain path. The thing is, the more we use a certain path, the stronger it becomes. It grows into some kind of super highway. Not only does the information travels easier and faster, but it becomes drawn to the most travelled road. If you wish to take the other path, you need to consciously override this autopilot, which demands quite some cognitive effort actually. This is what happens when we try to put in place new habits. Slowly, over time, as the old highway isn’t used that much anymore, it will downgrade to a smaller road, or even a small path. This means that as long as the old road is bigger than the new one, our first reaction will be to take the old one, making a mental effort to override that decision, and then take the new one.
so why don’t we just make that effort consistently until the balance has shifted? The tricky part has to do with the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. When we make a change based on intrinsic motivations, which vary for each of us based on our personality, it will be as simple as that: just consistently override the autopilot until a new habit is formed. the intrinsic joy of performing the new habit gives enough satisfaction and joy to stick to it.
The thing with New Year’s resolutions, is that they usually are not linked to intrinsic motivators. worse, we often consciously link them to extrinsic motivators. We reward ourselves for the effort done. As good advice as that may sound, this is part of the problem, and here is why:
extrinsic motivators are by definition not sustainable and result driven. When you link your new behavior to a non-sustainable source of motivation, the motivation will have to be repeated over and over again, based on results. If, for whatever reason, you don’t achieve results, there is no motivator, the behavior will not get reinforced, which leads to massive quitting of the new behavior. Hence the failure of New Year’s resolutions.
I know by now, you don’t like anymore what you’re reading. If we can’t even reward ourselves for an effort done, because it ends up being counterproductive, isn’t that kind of sad? Only pain and no gain?
Don’t worry. The solution is actually much more fun than the extrinsic motivational one. Instead of linking the results of the behavior to an external motivator, what we really should be doing is linking the actual behavior (and not only the result) to an intrinsic motivator.
Let me give you an example. Let’s take hypothetical Suzanne who wants to loose weight. She goes to the Gym (which she hates) and everytime she looses one pound, she rewards herself by going shopping (the external motivator). If she doesn’t loose weight, there is no reward, and dropping out is lurking around the corner. So instead of linking the result (losing weight), she should link the activity (exercising) to something she loves.
How? Well that depends on the personality of hypothetical Suzanne. If she’s a social person, she could go to the gym with friends. If she likes music, she could exercise whilst listening to her favorite band. If she’s a competitive person, she could throw down challenges for herself. You get the idea.
This way, the activity itself becomes rewarding, and not only the result. Even if one week she doesn’t loose weight because of X or Y reason, she’s not punishing herself twice as with the extrinsic approach (no result and no reward). Linking your behavior to your intrinsic motivation makes it enjoyable and thus sustainable.
Happy 2015 everybody, make it a formidable year with lots of intrinsic motivation and joy!
Grab Gregory's Udemy course: Master Your Brain for only $29 (savings of 70%). 
Disclaimer: This is not an affiliate link. I have not taken the course (although I have signed up for it).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Repricing Worksheet for December 15th to 18th

It's all about the buy box.

I've seen a number of graphs that indicate that December 15-18 traditionally brings the most sales to Amazon FBA sellers. In the spirit of selling through as much as possible during this peak time, I waited to reprice all low ranking products. The goal is to get the buy box at the most optimal time in order to increase the chance of taking a higher profit margin while selling thru.

I created a table to monitor selected items in my inventory over the next four days, so that I can reprice when the time is right. It's all a guessing game really, but armed with data the probability of making a sale at the price you want increases.

This is my table. You can either make one yourself, or get a pdf copy out of the files on The FBA Flip Side Facebook group.

Item / ASIN - In this column I wrote (in pencil) the item / ASIN, plus I wrote down my COGS, then I calculated the lowest I could go on the item and still make a dollar or two in profit and wrote it in red. I did this to save me time running it through the FBA calculator each time I look.

# in stock - the quantity that I have in stock
Rank - I am taking the temperature of my inventory each morning and evening, so I wrote the morning number at the top of the box in order to make room to write the evening number. I want to be able to reevaluate as I go.

# in line - I clicked on the Prime box, then counted how many sellers were in line ahead of me. I'm watching to see if I move up in line or not. This is significant because it's my best guess as to how long it will take for me to get within range of the buy box without cutting my price again.

Buy Box Price - I'm writing the current buy box price down, so that I can see how it changes each time I run through it again. My Price - I might adjust my price as I go, so I want to keep track of the changes.

# Seller / Quantity - Once I get within range of the buy box, I need to see how many of the item that each seller has in stock in order to estimate how soon I will get my turn and possibly sell out.

I designed this worksheet to help me get through the 4 days of the Prime buyer's holiday shopping explosion by maximizing my sales and moving my inventory out. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Stages of Life as an Amazon FBA Third-Party Seller

When you stop learning you're dead.

Stage 1: Absorb and Process
You've decided to sell on Amazon, so now you have to learn how it all works and process the information. This stage can take 2-3 months to get a handle on things. Be patient. Read, listen, watch, learn and grow.

Stage 2: The Learning Curve
You're jumping in by scanning, listing, prepping, packing, and selling. You're making some money (or a lot of money), but you have a gazillion questions, and you're making mistakes left and right. Depending on how fast of a learner you are this stage can last 3 to 6 months (or longer).

Stage 3: The Testing Stage
You have a handle on the basics now, so you're testing theories from buying to pricing. You're trying out new categories, discovering new products, and finding little niches that makes it all worthwhile. This stage can last forever (because you can move into the next stages, yet still be in the testing stage).

Stage 4: The Lightbulb Stage
You're figuring things out, experiencing multiple a-ha moments, and reworking your plan. You get it now, but you also know that the game is ever changing and you should always strive to learn new things. This stage kicks in at different points for different people, but continues forever as long as you continue to learn and grown.

Stage 5: The Scale Up Stage
You might start this stage very early on, but the learning curve could be bigger if you scale up right out of the box. Most people take a hard look at their business, pay close attention to the date, then begin to formulate a plan to take their business to the next level. This is a forever repeatable stage.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Q4 is No More

Forget about the business outlook, be on the outlook for business.
-Paul J. Meyer

If you haven't experienced Q4 yet, but you've heard the hype to the point of ad nauseam, then you might have felt the sting of discouragement as October's slow sales passed you by. So what gives? Shouldn't your stuff be flying off the shelves at Amazon?

Business divides the year into four, three month quarters:
Q1 - January to March
Q2 - April to June
Q3 - July to September
Q4 - October to December

Stock up! Get ready! Bring on the Crockpots! Make a plan! Take action! Feed the beast! Q4! Q4! Q4!

We are all aware that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is where things really heat up, but shouldn't we see an uptick in sales on October 1st?

Because apparently Q4 isn't really Q4, but instead that time between mid November and the end of January. It doesn't really begin until Q4 is half over! And it continues through the first part of Q1! So why do we keep saying Q4?

Based on no authority whatsoever, I hereby declare that time between mid November and the end of January -

Now we can get back to our regularly scheduled shipment.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Never Ending Question

Mistakes are the proof that you are trying.

Once or twice a week in every Facebook group that I'm a member, I see the same, never ending question.

Why would a seller drop a price to rock bottom when the item has been selling like hot cakes at the higher price? Example: Item is ranked 2K, sells several times a day, is priced at $20, and another seller comes in and undercuts the price to $9. Why, oh, why, oh, why?

The Answer(s):

  • The seller is new and doesn't understand the fee structure or how to price an item, and believes that they must be the lowest price.
  • The seller bought the item for much cheaper than you bought the item (never question that because it's a complete waste of energy), and can make a healthy profit even with a lower price.
  • The item isn't moving at the current price, so the seller lowers the price trying to find the sweet spot.
  • The seller is willing to take a loss on a product in order to dump it.
  • The seller is a high volume, low margin, fast turner (it's their business model).
  • The seller's model is to always be the low price.
  • The seller is trying to get the competition to give it up, so that they can dominate the listing.
  • The seller doesn't understand the buy box.
  • The seller is only interested in getting it sold fast and making a quick dollar.
  • The seller is determined to dominate the buy box rather than share it.
  • The seller needs to liquidate fast in order to create cash flow.
  • The seller needs to move the item out in order to avoid long term storage fees.
  • The seller is from overseas, and the lower margin is still big dollars for living in their economy.
  • The seller made a pricing mistake.
  • The seller didn't set their repricer up correctly, and caused a race to the bottom.
  • Some sellers use black hat tactics to drive out the competition. They don't care what you think. It's all about the bottom line.
  • New sellers don't always do the math, or they don't understand the math. They end up with a low profit margin, or take a loss because they didn't do their due diligence prior to listing.
  • The seller with the lowest cost of goods wins. They can lower the price and still make a healthy margin. 
  • You may not agree with the mentality of other sellers, but in essence, there really isn't any thing you can do to change other people, so suck it up as part of doing business.
What can you do about it?
  • Wait for the low cost sellers to sell out and for the price to rise back up.
  • Lower your price just enough to share the buy box, but still make a healthy margin.
  • Lower your price to match, sell out, and move on to another product.
  • If the price drops significantly, then buy out the low priced seller, and send it back into FBA with your price (do NOT do this if you have a Prime account, or you will risk losing your Prime and seller account).
  • Find complimentary products and create a new bundle.
What you shouldn't do:
  • Moan, groan, and whine. It's a complete waste of energy.
  • Go so deep on a product that you would lose your shirt if the price bottomed out.
  • Depend on one product. Never. Ever. One product is NOT your bread and butter. It's great while it lasts, but don't ever count on a product to last forever.
  • Use black hat tactics to drive out your competition. Always rise above such and build an ethical business. In the end, you will be glad that you did.
  • Price below the low price and start a race to the bottom effectively killing all profit for all sellers. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Due Diligence


This business is a living and breathing learning experience. There are always new challenges. Today, I faced a different kind of challenge.

I recently sent in a new product to FBA. They sold the day they hit the warehouse! I was excited, so I immediately sent in more, but before they arrived, the first batch had all been refunded. What is going on? One had been damaged in the warehouse, and yet, it had been sold, so I thought it must have been a mix-up of some kind. Then the others that I sent in were also refunded. This worried me, so I went and looked at the listing again to try and figure out why they were being returned.

148 feedback with 4 1/2 stars, so that wasn't the issue, but I noticed something odd...weight 10 lbs. Wait a minute! This item is ONE pound! Scroll back up. The title shows "6 x 1.1 lbs.". Does this mean that the listing is supposed to be for a quantity of SIX? Apparently so, but how confusing! And it doesn't say 6 pack anywhere on the listing -not the title, not the key features, and not the description. Now that I noticed this (which I must have missed the first time through), I recalled that I've seen multipacks listed this way more than once. You are NOT supposed to list it this way. The title should have said 6 Pack or Pack of 6. It should have also been repeated in the key features and description. Seller Central agreed with me.

One and a half hours, and 3 Seller Central employees later - 1) The listing has been changed to reflect the correct quantity. 2) A pending order was cancelled. 3) My performance metrics was saved from a negative impact.

Lesson of the Day: Do your due diligence before you list an item.

1. Check that the picture matches your item exactly. Same color. Same size. Same packaging. No differences whatsoever. (If it's a bad picture -not a pure white background or blurry -take a new picture and submit it to Seller Central).
2. Read the product title carefully. Make sure the title matches your product exactly. If the title is confusing or incorrectly written (as in my case above), then open a case with Seller Central and get it corrected before you list the item.
3. Check the key features and description to make sure it matches your product, is correctly written, and follows Amazon's guidelines.
4. Check the listed shipping weight to make sure that it's correct.

You can open a case and ask for appropriate corrections, but do NOT ask for a listing to be changed to reflect YOUR product if it is different from the listed product. That will mess up other sellers! For example, if you have a 2 pack, do NOT attempt to change a listing from a quantity of 1 to a quantity of 2. Either find a matching listing, or create a new listing.

It's so easy to get into a hurry and miss important details. SLOW DOWN. Read carefully. Do your due diligence and avoid the headache I had this morning. Fortunately, I was able to solve my problem. Unfortunately (due to the fact that groceries are not returnable), I am out the COGS for this product. Expensive lesson. Learn from my mistake.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Cure for the FBA Blues

Today is a New Day

Yesterday, I had a bad case of FBA blues.

I've had a slow month.

Someone who has been at it as long as I've been at it is making a lot more money than me.

I don't have the money to go buy thousands of dollars worth of stuff as we head into Q4.

Everyone is doing better than me.

My sales suck.

Cry me a river.

Some days are just like that. 

But today is a new new day! 

I spent $125 on toys last night.

Amazon reimbursed be $128 for warehouse damaged products (I love it when Amazon buys my stuff).

I have some pending sales.

Peeps in my Facebook groups threw encouragement at me and made me feel better. THANK YOU.

Sometimes we just need that.

How to Cure the FBA Blues

1. Don't compare yourself to other sellers. Everyone is on a different journey.
2. Keep feeding the beast.
3. Take a break for a day and focus on something else (like yourself and your family).
4. Go sourcing (which = shopping without guilt).
5. Take a step back and reevaluate your progress. How far have you come?
6. Eat chocolate.
7. Find a new product to replenish.
8. Read a good book.
9. Focus on a new category or a new way to source.
10. Make a list of all of your victories.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How To Get Started On Amazon

Put one foot in front of the other.

I've noticed that a number of new folks are hitting the Facebook groups and asking, "How do I get started on Amazon?" 

Never fear! I'm writing a book on the subject. (Isn't everyone writing a book?)

(It will be available on Kindle for an affordable price.) 

In the meantime, I will help you to get started by taking you through a few basic steps:

Step 1: Go to Amazon Seller Central and sign up for an account.
Step 2: Read / watch EVERYTHING in Seller Central. Bookmark important pages to remember and place them in a folder for easy access.
Step 3: You need to know what you can sell, and what you can't sell. Learn the open categories and their specific requirements. Learn the gated categories, so that you can avoid accidentally buying something that you're not approved to sell. Don't worry about gated categories for now. Get your feet wet with open categories first.
Step 4:Learn everything you can about properly packing your items for FBA.
Step 5: Learn about FBA fees. Bookmark the FBA Calculator, so that you can run your numbers before you buy. A good rule to follow in general is the 3x rule (1/3 cost, 1/3 fees, 1/3 profit).
Step 6: Bookmark FBA Cheat Sheets. The lower the ranking the faster an item is selling. Many sellers try to stay within 10%. You can input the ranking by category to determine the percentage. 
Step 7: Get your free apps! Amazon Seller is available for iPhone and android users. I also like Amazon Mobile (the app for shoppers).
Step 8: Choose a category. Choose a store. Choose a small section. Scan EVERYTHING in that section. Expect to find 1 winner out of 25-30 scans. Check how many FBA sellers are on an item. It depends on the category, but the least number of sellers the better.
Step 9: Start with small, lightweight, fully packaged items that require no more prep than placing the FBA label onto the item. Avoid creating a new listing or bundling for now. Get the basics down first! The other will come. 
Step 10: Go to Inventory>Add a Product. Input the UPC code (the number on the barcode on the product) to bring up the listings. Find the correct listing for your product (it must match exactly). Review the listing and determine your price (Smart pricing 101: Make your price an average of the 5 lowest prices. If there are not any FBA sellers, then do the same, but include the shipping amount that merchant fulfilled sellers charge into your average). Select the listing. Create a SKU (Smart SKUS 101: Make the first three letters of your SKU category specific in order to search for your items by category within your inventory. The rest of what you put into your SKU is up to you. SKUS are simply internal stock keeping units coded by you for your own informational purposes). Add your price. Only put the quantity if it's a multipack (Eg.: There are three of the same widgets in the pack). Click on the button that sends your inventory to FBA. Finish. (You don't need to add anything else).
Step 11: Add your item to a shipment. Each time you add an item, you'll select to add the item to the same shipment until you're done.
Step 12: Print off your FBA labels (you can use Avery 30 ups), and match the label to the product. Use the label to cover the UPC code. If the UPC code is larger than the label, then use a blank label as well. Pack your boxes, print off and attach your shipping labels to your box (I cover mine with clear packing tape to protect them from getting wet and smearing as recommended by UPS), and complete your shipment.

You will probably have a lot of questions the first time around. There are a number of posts on the blog here that will address your questions. You can also ask your questions in The FBA Flip Side Facebook group

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Multiple Box Inventory Upload

I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can.


You've probably heard that Amazon wants sellers to upload a pack list when sending multiple boxes for one shipment. Oh fun!

Yes, I did it. I screamed and pulled my hair out and said inappropriate words, but I did figure out how to do it, and how to do it efficiently. At least for the moment.

Number 1. Try to get everything for a shipment in one box if at all possible. Not possible? See number 2. (I sort my items before packing in order to estimate what I need box wise).

Number 2. Once you hit approve, then go to each shipment, and download one packing slip at a time. Copy / paste into a spreadsheet (or try to right-click and see if you can get it to save as a spreadsheet). Remove unnecessary columns (like condition and SKU). Don't forget to title the spreadsheet with the shipping information.

Number 3. Build new columns to the right (make a column for each box that you think you will need for the shipment), and name them "Box 1", "Box 2", and so forth.

Number 4. Print your spreadsheets with gridlines. Pack one shipment at a time. Number your boxes (it can be a small mark on the inside of the lid). Use a pencil to tally mark on your spreadsheet (in the numbered box column) with how many of each item that you put into a box. This way you can adjust your shipment easily. Just erase and remark your tallys.

Number 5. Once your shipment it packed, then enter the number you have for each item in the correct column. Save.

Number 6. Finish your shipment as usual (weight, measurement, except charges), and upload the spreadsheet. That's it. Really.

It takes a little extra time, but I will say that it does force you to double check that you have everything packed correctly in your boxes. Just be sure to create your spreadsheet after you approve the shipment, but before you start packing the boxes.

INVENTORY LAB USERS / 30 up USERS:  After you create your shipments, go to Seller Central to finish. Go to each shipment one at a time. There is a big yellow button that says you can edit quantities. Click on it. Scroll down the page a bit and print your 30 ups for just that shipment. Once you finish packing one box, and see that you still have inventory to pack a second box, go back to Seller Central, download your packing list, and make a spreadsheet. Then use your labels to put in your counts for Box 2. The rest of the items are already in Box 1, so all you have to do is put the numbers in the column! This makes it even easier, and since your labels indicate how many you have in a shipment, you won't make a mistake.

Dymo Users: You can still print off 30 up labels onto a sheet of paper and use it as a count sheet. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Creating Your FBA SKU

Your next move is up to you.

When you list your products on Amazon, you have the option of inputting a SKU. A SKU is a stock keeping unit for an item. It's an internal number that only has meaning to the seller. You can use numbers and letters in your SKU.

You can embed information in your SKU by creating your own code. You might want your SKU to show category, source, expiration date, purchase date, price, or any number of things that will help you to manage your inventory.

Here is a really cool trick that will help you to sort your inventory in seller central by category. Assign each category three letters.


GRO - grocery
TYS - toys
BYB - baby
BEA - beauty
HPC - health and personal care
LAG - lawn and garden

I think you get the idea. Now for the best part. Put the category letters at the beginning of your SKU for each product. If you have a box of crackers your SKU would begin GRO.

Go to Inventory and type GRO in the search box for active inventory. All of your groceries that are in your inventory will show up on your list. You can do the same thing under inactive inventory (now you can see if you've run out of anything that you want to replenish). See the awesomeness in this?  I thought you would.

One thing that you should know: you can't change a SKU, so if you replenish an item relist it through "Add a Product" so that you can create a new SKU for the product. This is a great way to figure out to keep track of replenishables and see how many items that you have in stock in a particular category. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

FBA Laser Focus

Build your business one day at a time.

It's so easy to get wrapped up in many online opportunities, ways to source product, and categories. Going wide requires you to spread your eggs, and it's a smart thing to do, but what happens when we get overwhelmed by all of the information out there?

Every self-proclaimed guru who has made a name for themselves and built a tribe has come out with the latest and greatest information product to help YOU take YOUR business to the next level! Right?


Maybe not.

You could spend a small fortune (actually, you could spend an enormous amount of money considering some of the prices people want for their ebooks and courses) filling your head with more information than you can process. After the money is spent, you walk away feeling pulled in so many different directions that you're head is spinning. Then you post in a Facebook group and get the advice to read someone else's latest and greatest gazillion dollar ebook.

Think of all of that inventory you could have bought with the money you spent!

So should we toss away all information product opportunities, search out free information, network in groups, and learn through trial and error?


And no.

There isn't any point in repeating other people's mistakes, so we can learn from those who have gone before us. BUT (and this is a BIG BUT), we need to laser focus our efforts.

I've been thinking a lot about this because I want to do it all too, and it's making me feel scatterbrained. What if we focused on one area of our business at a time? Let's get that down pat before we move on. During our laser focus we will only read, watch, listen to information that addresses our focus objective. We won't allow the best course since sliced bread to take over the logical part of our brain. Bookmark it for the future and stay on track.

For example, I've been selling groceries for some time now. I know that there is a lot more to discover and learn in this one category. If I laser focus on groceries, and ignore my desire to jump on toys or baby items, then perhaps I can learn and grow in this area and make it as prosperous as possible. Once I have a good system in place, then I can move onto another focus objective.

That doesn't mean I have to pass up the $10 appliance that screams at me from a clearance table that I can flip for $50. It just means that I will spend the majority of my time staying laser focused on my objective.

In summary...
Laser focus on one objective.
Read, listen, watch information that's focused on your objective.
Build and streamline one area of focus at a time.
Don't let the latest and greatest idea distract you!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Multiple Streams of Income

Find happiness in the details.

I thought I'd take a little break from focusing solely on FBA, and discuss multiple streams of income. FBA is an amazing opportunity, but it's important to not put all of your eggs in one basket. Here are some additional income paths that you could explore:

Perhaps you've been there, done eBay. This platform has changed over the years, and has gone from auction driven to "buy it now" domination (although auctions are still viable). It's a great place to clear out your clutter, raise sourcing funds for FBA, and sell items that are duds on Amazon, but have a market on eBay. Other selling platforms that you should explore are Ecrater and Bonanza.

Crafy folks please apply. If you love to handcraft various items, then Etsy is a great platform. You can also sell crafting supplies and vintage items on Etsy. You might want to check out Artfire as well.

Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT)
If you're a teacher or former teacher, you really need to check out TPT. It's the world's greatest open marketplace for teachers to buy and sell downloadable classroom materials. You probably have files and files of worksheets, units, and other classroom resources that you've created. Cutesy them up and load them to TPT. I would appreciate it if you used my referral link.

Do you dream of creating your own course complete with videos, reading materials, and more? Udemy is a great platform for you to share your knowledge on virtually any topic. Put your expertise to the test and start building your course today.

CreateSpace & Kindle Direct Publishing
It's time to dust off that manuscript, polish it up, and self-publish. Self-publishing no longer carries the stigmatism it once did. As the publishing industry has gone topsy-turvy, new and successful authors have found their home on both the CreateSpace (paperbacks) & KDP (Kindle) platforms. Both platforms are owned and operated by Amazon. If you need guidance in formatting your book for KDP, please check out my book: Do It Yourself: Format a Simple MS Word Document for Kindle. Other publishing platforms that I recommend are Lulu, Smashwords, and Payloadz.

Cafe Press & Zazzle
A little bit of graphic design ability can go a long way on sites like Cafe Press & Zazzle. Use your creative energy to create designs on t-shirts, mugs, hats, and many more products.

Need to make a quick five bucks? Fiverr is the place to pimp your skills. Look around and think of a niche that you could fill. There are opportunities on Fiverr to kick your earnings up a notch with add on services. It's worth checking out.

I think FBA is the greatest thing since chocolate was sweetened with sugar, but I also like to make sure that I have multiple streams of income flowing into my bank account. Once you have one platform on near autopilot, then you could explore another one and begin spreading your basket of eggs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Condition Notes on Amazon

Every step forward is a step toward your dream.

Did you know that you're only supposed to use the condition notes box to describe the condition of used items? You're not supposed to use it for new items.

Yet, sellers use this box all the time. The following is a common sighting on Amazon:

Eligible for FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy mean your satisfaction is guaranteed! Tracking number provided in your Amazon account with every order. Item is brand new.

Recently third-party sellers have received warnings from Amazon to clean up the condition notes boxes, and they were given 24 hours to make it happen or else risk losing their account! Removing condition notes requires that you go into each listing and remove the notes. It's very time consuming. If you have condition notes on new items, then it would behoove you to get on this task asap.

You don't want to get caught up in an Amazon cleaning spree. 

Another important thing to note is that NEW means gift giving condition. You're not supposed to say, "This is unopened, never used, but the box is torn, or a widget is missing." This could get you into hot water with ZON. It's either new, or it's used, but it's not new with a "but".

Don't risk your account over these seemingly minor matters because they are not minor, and they do matter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Running the Numbers

You cannot help others if you don't take care of yourself first. 

No one would ever accuse me of being a numbers person. Math is not my thing, but if you hand me a calculator, and tell me the formula, I can figure a few things out.

If you want to know your profit in dollars:

Price - Fees - COGS = Profit
*This does not include storage, supplies, or inbound shipping. It's easier to take these numbers off of your totals rather than on individual items.
Price $18.99
Fees $6.21
COGS $6.78
Profit $6.00

If you want to know your ROI percentage (profit margin):

Profit divided by COGS x 100 = %

Profit  $8.53
COGS $4.00
=213% ROI

COGS - cost of goods sold
ROI - return on investment

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Random FBA Notes & Thoughts

Our thoughts create our reality.

Random FBA Notes & Thoughts:

1. If you've been using balloons to replace air pillows, please STOP NOW. I asked seller central about this practice (after hearing that someone got a policy warning), and this was their response: Balloons are not acceptable as they do not protect the product from the damage and hence results in damaged goods received in the Shipment.

2. There are lots of unofficial lists floating around of products that have been restricted, yet on those same lists are products that other sellers have sent in without issue. I think it's safe to say that anything that could be potentially hazmat, high end brands like Coach (even accessories like key chains), liquids (over 4 oz in glass containers are not allowed FBA), powders (anything with phosphate -even food items), and glass could cause you problems, so proceed with caution.

As Q4 gears up, there are a few toy items that you simply need to avoid: Disney Frozen (all products were FROZEN by Amazon without special approval), Rainbow Loom, and Discovery Toys. Some sellers have had Hello Kitty items restricted while others have sold them without issue. It's a toss! Amazon doesn't have an official list which is part of the problem, so I've learned that if you're in doubt, ASK seller central. Get their answer in writing! If a toy is super popular, and could possibly have counterfeits running around, then you need to be cautious.

3. Source outside of the box -big box stores that is. Look local. Think about places that might have items you can source that people wouldn't typically think to look there. Do you have a chain of stores that is specific to your state or region? What about mom and pop shops? Do you live in the city? Take a country sourcing trip. Do you live in the country? Go into the city for a day or two. Get out of your comfort shopping zone, and look for the unexpected in the places least hunted. Think of it like one big giant Easter egg hunt! Where might those valuable eggs be hidden?

4. Get a handle on your numbers. Get your focus on. Set goals. (Note to self).

5. Set a sourcing budget. Plan what / where / how. Focus on one type of sourcing at a time (category, store, online, niche, bundles, multipacks, fast turns, long tails, ect.). For example, I've been focused mainly on toys this week. Next week, I will probably focus on replens, but I also have some bundles I want to explore, so I might take a week just to focus on that. There are so many ways to go about this that it helps to focus on one at a time and rotate. Keep adding baskets for your multicolored eggs.

Monday, August 25, 2014

FBA Quick Tip of the Week

You are the inventor of your destiny.

Here is a quick tip for all of you FBA sellers out there:

Go through your inventory, and if you have anything priced $30-34.99, then change your price to $35.00. I was just looking at something I sold for $35.00. I have one more left, and I noticed that there are two sellers priced below me: one at $34.99 and one at $34.94.

What's wrong with this picture? Why did mine sell even thought it's priced higher?

FREE SHIPPING! Non Prime members get free shipping when their purchases equal $35.00 or more. Pricing right under $35 is leaving customers to other sellers! Swoop in and do your repricing. Thirty-five is the magic number.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Walmart Savings Catcher

Pennies add up to dollars.

Catch a little savings from your Walmart trips. Set up a free Walmart Savings Catcher account, and begin entering your receipts each time you shop.

It's so simple! If a local competitor has a lower price, then Walmart will give you the difference in the form of a gift card. Don't expect to get big bucks back however, let your little savings add up to a decent amount, then redeem your gift card. Buy products for FBA, and double or triple your savings!

You can also download the Savings Catcher app from Google Play or Apple App Store. Scan your receipt on the way out the door! A moments effort adds up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Flexibility of an FBA Business

Unwrap a challenge and accept it as a gift of your strength.

This past week my family has faced some unexpected challenges. I needed to stop everything, and devote my full attention to unwrapping this gift. If I had a day job, I would not be able to do that which would have made the challenge more difficult and stressful. 

Although my FBA business is not at full time status, I am so grateful that I've found something that allows flexibility in my life. The beauty of FBA~

  • I choose my own hours which allows me to devote time to my family.
  • My business continues on even when I can't.
  • My shipment can sit while I weather life's storms. There are no deadlines. As soon as the sun shines again, I can pick right back up where I left off.
  • I can take my business with me when I travel.
  • I can work on my business from home or a waiting room.
  • I can set my own pace.
  • I can choose how much I invest -in both time and money.
FBA all the way!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Buying Decisions

You might not know what is behind the door, but if you never open it, you will never find out.

What should you consider when making buying decisions for FBA?

  • Your cost of goods. Set a budget when you go out sourcing and stick with it. Try to get the most items with the highest ROI potential that you can buy on your fixed amount.
  • Average buy box price. Don't just look at the buy box. What is the average price of the lowest priced five sellers? Now subtract your cost of goods. 
  • Fees. You need to consider weight and size. If it's a heavy item or a large item, then it's going to cost you more in fees. Run the numbers through the FBA calculator.
  • What is your potential ROI? Is it double or triple your money? Is it a slim 10-20%? How much wiggle room do you have if Amazon or another seller drops the price? 
  • How many FBA sellers? And how many does each seller have available (put the item in your cart, then edit it to reflect the highest number you could purchase, then delete it from your cart). The more FBA sellers that have the product available the longer it will take to sell (even when the rank is super low).
  • Rank. The lower the rank the better, but how fast a rank of 25K will move in groceries vs. how fast in home & kitchen is drastic. Ranking changes on the hour too, so if one just sold the rank will go down, but if it hasn't sold in a long time it will go up. 
  • How fast (based on the above information) do you believe the item will sell, and how long can you afford to sit on it?
  • Is Amazon selling it? You can sell items that Amazon is selling. Despite the popular belief, Amazon does share the buy box, but they also have tremendous buying power and can afford to drop the bottom out of your price. They also tend to run out, and when you get your turn, you can sweep up the money at a higher price.
  • Is it an add on item? Add ons are known to be slow sellers, but if there is only one or two sellers, and super duper low rank, add ons do sell. Add on with caution.
  • Only consider reviews if the item is one or two stars. It's possible the item is a dud, and would end up a return if you sent it in. 
  • Hassle. Is the potential ROI worth the hassle? Is it oversized or heavy? Do you need to shrinkwrap, polybag, add expiration dates, etc.? Your time is also a commodity.
There is not an exact formula for success. There are many variables to making buying decisions. In the end, you have to make a quick analysis of the data, and essentially make an educated guess. You will guess right a lot of the time, but sometimes you make a buying error. Retail stores make buying errors as well. The widget they thought would be hot turns out to be not. It's part of business. Take in all of the data and make the best decision possible with the information you have on hand.

P.S. Avoid glass grocery / health & beauty products over 4 ounces, high end designer names, gated categories (that you don't have permission to sell in), any potential hazmat items, and items that fragile or easily breakable (unless you are a super hero packer).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Variety Packs

Stop thinking outside the box. Invent the damn box!

I recently posted about my inquiry to Amazon concerning multipacks. In Amazon's response, they mentioned Variety Packs.
  • Multipacks are 2 or more of the exact same item.
  • Bundles are made up of different, complimentary items.
  • Variety Packs are made of two or more flavors of the same item.
An example of a variety pack: 1 jar of creamy peanut butter and 1 jar of crunchy peanut butter (same size, same brand).

The term variety pack got me to noticing. As I was researching a category of grocery items this morning, I noticed that one very popular brand had lots of multipacks, but not any variety packs. Now I have a plan to create two new variety packs for a low ranking brand in which the individual items (and multipacks) have great ROI. Just thinking the words variety pack stimulated my brain and opened a window. 

As I searched Amazon, I discovered a variety pack packaged as a gift! Now that's what I'm talking about -variety, creativity, and possible exclusivity. 

What is so great about variety packs? Not every store offers every flavor. Some buyers might not want to buy 12 or 24 of one flavor, but would like to try out different flavors.

Just make sure you follow Amazon's bundling and multipack guidelines for variety packs. All of the flavors must be shown in the main picture (with the pure white background), and the title / description / key features must have all of the required information.

Variety packs - I'm on it!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Should I Go Into Debt for My FBA Amazon Business?

Patience isn't just a virtue, it's a business building necessity.

FBA Amazon is one of the simplest, low entry level businesses that you can enter, and make a fast return on your investment. There are sellers who begin their business with $50, and sellers who start out with $5000, and everything in between and then some.

So what should you do?

First, what do you have available? How much can you afford to invest without going into debt, dipping into your savings, or putting a major dent into your household budget? Start there.

Second, what can you do to raise seed money without going into debt? Hold a garage sale. Sell clutter on eBay. Save your change. Take on some temporary, part-time work.

Several years ago, my hubby and I attended a Dave Ramsey course at our local church. We cut up our credit cards, worked on snowballing our debt, and live on a cash basis.

There are those who will argue that personal debt is different from business debt, but in my opinion, if you're responsible for repaying the debt, then it's still your debt. Do you really want to go there?

The beauty of this business is that you can spend a small amount of investment money, then reinvest your payouts until you reach a point where you feel as if you can justify paying yourself. No debt needed.

Some people invest more than they really have, then panic when their items don't sell as quickly as they had projected. Some people invest too deep in one product, and put too much hope into getting their money out, then something goes wrong, and they freak out. Don't invest more than you're comfortable losing. You will most likely make your money back, but sometimes you make a buying mistake, so you have to plan for that. You might get a return -another hit to the pocketbook. If you invest too deeply, going into debt, and things go awry, then you're stuck.

There are sellers who use credit cards or take out small loans from sites like Kabbage. Oh, the temptation! Imagine being able to invest a few thousand in time for Q4! A disciplined person might feel certain that they will pay off their debts monthly. A business minded person might determine that short term loans for capital is simply apart of doing business. A desperate person might be willing to take a risk. But is it necessary?

Instead, what if you used your small, piddly amounts to carefully research and invest in fast turn replenishables? Could you turn $50 into $100 within a couple of weeks, or by the next payout? How about snowballing those payouts into more fast turn replens? Could you turn that $100 into $200 sooner rather than later? Patience is not just a virtue, it's the key to staying debt free while you build your little Amazon empire.

I've seen sellers in the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1 - I pulled the trigger and took out a Kabbage loan for Q4. I thought I'd be able to pay it all off, but I made some buying mistakes, and now I'm stuck with the debt. 

Scenario 2 - I put all of my eggs into one basket. I went deep on this product, and now someone has come in and undercut my price! I need to sell these items, or I won't be able to pay my electric bill this month. 


As tempting as $500 from Kabbage, or elsewhere might be, I recommend taking the turtle route. Slow and steady builds this business -debt free.

As great as one product might seem to be, you never know how things might change. I recommend taking the wide diversification route. Debt and depth are two "D's" on a report card leading to an "F" which equals Fatal mistake. You might be able to overcome your F, and pull it back up to an A (A for Awesome), but is the stress worth it?

If you don't have $500 or a $1000 that you can comfortably take out of your own budget, then in all honesty, you can't really afford the debt. Risk taking is one thing. Packing that first box is risky. Investing anything at all is risky. There isn't a need to take a financial risk when patience will pay off in the end.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mistakes Happen

No one is perfectly perfect. Just be the best you can be, do the best you can do, and learn from your mistakes.

I made a mistake.

I left out a small item in a bundle.

Feedback: 1

The hard part is that the item was sent as a gift to a child in the hospital. I even read the gift note.

I apologized up one side and down the other, issued a full refund, and I'm sending the missing item, plus an  extra child friendly bundle through Priority Mail.

It was a mistake, but it was my mistake, and I accept full responsibility. I'm not blaming the customer or crying foul. I'm doing everything I can to resolve the issue. I hope the buyer will be forgiving and remove the poor feedback, but I'm not counting on it. I will double check all of my bundles in the future. I probably got distracted when I was packing it up.

I will not let this minor bump in the road slow me down, or stop me from building my business.

Mistakes happen.

Monday, August 4, 2014

FBA Tool Kit

Every day is a chance to begin again.

FBA Tool Kit - Where have you been all of my FBA life?

Seriously. How did I miss this? Sign up now. It's free.

I just found it. Literally 10 minutes ago. It's worth blogging about because it gives me one piece of critical information for my product research - average sales per day / month! Plug in the UPC or EAN for a product to get a report with ranking and average sales. It even links you over to Amazon to double check the numbers.

I will continue exploring, and I will be on guard to watch this site for accuracy. Pretty cool tool. Go check it out for yourself, or if you have experience with it, please leave your thoughts in the comments. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Update: Use Evernote to Snap Sourcing Pictures

Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.
~Zig Ziglar

Drumroll please....
Before I begin today's post, if you haven't heard, the Amazon Seller's App for android is now available! 

I recently discovered that you can download Evernote to your computer! Take that discovery one step further. I blogged about taking pictures of a section of the grocery store in order to research at home. At first, I did this with my phone camera, but now I use Evernote.

Yesterday, my hubby and I went to look at a new bed frame on clearance for our son. I snapped a picture in Evernote, made a note of the price for a queen and twin, and the name of the store.

When I opened the note up on my computer, I discovered that I can double click on the picture and open it in Microsoft Office Picture Maker. I like opening my pictures here because I can zoom in and see the detail of the product, as well as the price on the shelf.

When you go out sourcing, and you want to snap a picture of a section in the store, simply use Evernote. Now you can add a note with the name and location of the store, aisle number, and any other pertinent information to help you research later. 

Go home and do your research in your pjs! 

I found a new grocery item with a low rank, only one other seller, and a high ROI last week using this method. I made a new note in Evernote of products I wanted to pick up on my next sourcing trip. Snap sourcing is the best thing every!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quality Alerts on Amazon

When it rains, open an umbrella.

Ahhh! Those quality alerts! At first, they freaked me out, then I read on various groups that most people ignored them, so I ignored them.

Then we got that email...

You know...the one that says "fix it or they will suppress it". Yikes!

I'm trying. I really am, and it's a good thing. I discovered that the picture from my bundle disappeared! I have some new listings that I couldn't quite get the category perfectly perfect. I noticed some details missing from some other listings. The titles on some listings suck (no other way to put it really -just bad, bad, bad).

Click on your Quality Alerts (they show up on your landing page). Take one quality alert category at a time
and tackle it. If it's something you can go in and edit -give it a go. If your changes don't take place after 24 hours, open a case with seller central.

If it's something that you can't edit either because you're missing information, or the system just won't let you do it (changing categories is one), then open a case.

You might have to do a removal order for an item in order to snap a new picture, and to get the details for the product (if you can't easily get your hands on another one). I had to do that for one product.

You might have items that you no longer sell with a quality alert. You can remove them from your inventory or ignore them.

You can also hope another seller does the job for you and that the quality alert will go away, but don't count on it.

Avoid future quality alerts by checking listings for good pictures, and well written titles, key features, and descriptions before you list the item. This small step might take a little extra time up front,  but it will save you a serious headache later! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Discovery Sourcing

Today is a great day to get started on the rest of your life.

Shhh! I'm going to tell you a secret. It's just between us, okay?

I uncovered a new way to "discover" potentially profitable products. It was easy, kind of fun, and I found several new possibilities in about 45 minutes.

I searched Amazon.

There's a little more to it than that.

I picked a grocery product. Something simple like cookies or cereal. Then I clicked to search Prime only, and a price range of $20-50.

Next - I clicked on a product (rather randomly), then I clicked on the link to the seller who had the buy box.

This is where the discovery sourcing began. Out of curiosity, I scanned through one seller's store. In a few minutes, I began to notice something: great selling, familiar products with only one seller. I started taking notes. I wrote down information about products that I wanted to check the prices on the next time I go into the store, and product lines that are worth scanning. I found one grocery bundle that I already know the price on because I buy it for my family! I've already run the numbers, so it's definitely something I'm planning on testing out in my shipment.

Another thing I've discovered through this method is ideas for bundles. I really don't have any interest in stepping in on other's creative bundles (except for grocery variety packs that are easy), but I love seeing what others are doing, and how well they are doing it (by looking at ranking). This has given me a lot of food for thought. My creative juices are flowing!

This discovery method forces me to think outside the box, to consider scanning products that I've passed up, and to put a different perspective on what sells on Amazon. One thing I won't do is undercut someone's price. If I go in on a product that someone has been selling by themselves, I will match their price. That's my personal policy. If it's selling at that price, then there isn't any reason to start a race to the bottom.

Everyone is always wondering what everyone else is doing, and in truth, our products are not a secret. They are on Amazon for everyone to see! Digging around Amazon in different ways is a way to discovery the possibilities, to formulate new ideas, and to get creative. It's all right there, and it's public. It's all about noticing, paying attention, and realizing which products are available to you that you haven't thought about before, and that is what I call "discovery sourcing".

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flipping Groceries on Amazon FBA

Due diligence results in just rewards.

Ready to flip some groceries?

Thing 1: You have to be approved to sell groceries on Amazon.
Thing 2: Groceries are fast turns, great replenishibles, but you have to watch the price and ranking carefully.
Thing 3: Don't get attached to any one grocery product. Be ready to give it up when the going gets tough.
Thing 4: You CAN make multipacks (see my post about this topic).
Thing 5: Keep scanning. Groceries are not a needle in a haystack, but you do have to spend time searching.

Let's go grocery sourcing!

  • Keep it simple. Take your phone (loaded with Evernote). Choose one section (like coffee or tea), and snap pictures of all of items in this section.
  • Bring it home. Open your desktop to Amazon, and to the FBA Calculator. Open up your pictures and save them into a folder. Example: Coffee_Walmart
  • Focus on one picture at a time. Search for the first item on Amazon. Look at price, rank, number of sellers, and the different multipacks available. Run it through the FBA calculator. If it's a winner, make a note in Evernote with item, price, fees, profit, # in package (like a 2 pack or 4 pack), rank, and aisle # in store.
  • Go through an entire picture. You might find one profitable item, or not. Once you've gone through a picture, rename it Finished with the # of potentially profitable items that you've found.
  • Once you've found several potential items, take your list to the store and buy 3 to 5 to test out. If they sell out within two weeks, then plan to pick up another round on your next trip out. I never go too deep with groceries. It's a competitive category, and it doesn't take much for the price to drop and eat away your profits. 
  • Don't forget to check the expiration dates. Try to find grocery products with a year out.
Keep Track of Replenishible Groceries
  • The best way to keep track of replenishible groceries is on a spreadsheet. FBA Flip Side Facebook group members can download my spreadsheet from the files.
  • I could source groceries all day long, everyday, but I believe in diversification, so I've made the conscious decision to refill my groceries once per month. Before I go out to pick up groceries, I run through my list to check price, rank, profit, and the average # that is selling per week. I'm willing to drop a dud, or a grocery item that has dropped dramatically in price. Sometimes the price for the item goes up at the store causing my profit to burst. I keep items on my list for a recheck each time I shop.
  • Keep an up to date replens list in Evernote.
  • When you list a grocery item, begin your SKU with a code that indicates grocery (GRO), so that you can search by the first three letters and bring up all of your grocery inventory at once.
Keep In Mind
  • Grocery replenishibles should be a fast turn. Based on your averages, send in enough for a month. You should sell out in a month, but if you don't, go back to the listing and do a reevaluation.
  • Your profit margins are usually a little smaller than other items, but always aim to double your money.
  • Check the weight of your grocery item and compare it to the listed weight. If the listed weight is heavier than the actual weight, snap a picture of the item showing the weight, and open a case with seller central to get it corrected. Incorrect, higher weights effect your fees!
  • Make new multipacks and variety packs if none are available, but check that the individual items are selling on their own first.
  • Shrinkwrap or polybag your grocery items. Don't forget your expiration date label! And if it's a multipack label, add a label that says, "Multipack of #. Do not separate."
  • Don't forget your coupons!
On your mark, get set, go grocery sourcing!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pricing Your Products for Amazon FBA

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.
~Helen Keller

The ultimate goal: double your money or better.

If you pay $3, then your goal should be to make a minimum of $3 profit.

When you're out sourcing and making buying decisions be sure to take a look at the 5 lowest FBA prices. If you can double your money by selling your product somewhere in the five lowest FBA prices, then you're good to go. Make sure you have a little wiggle room in case the price drops dramatically or the item simply doesn't sell after 90 days. Don't forget to consider fees, as well as shipping and handling (especially weight and size of the item) when figuring your total investment and profit margin.

If there isn't an FBA seller, then look at the average merchant fulfilled prices + shipping, and list your product  somewhere in the middle range of the five lowest sellers.

On the first of every month go to Manage Inventory to cull out products that are not moving. Let's say you have ten pages of inventory. The oldest inventory is on page 10. Start at the end and work backwards. Evaluate prices, rank, and your cost to determine whether you should hold, or cut your losses and knock your price down to cost. If the item is a seasonal item, you might want to hold out until the next season. You have to determine whether you consider the item a long tail item, or simply a dud. If it's long tail, you might tweak your price, and if it's a dud, you probably should cut your loses and price to break even (or to make a few dollars vs. 100% ROI).

A few unwritten rules (not Amazon's rules and not real rules, but common thinking among many sellers):
  • Don't undercut other FBA sellers unless the product is truly unreasonably priced, or not moving at the lowest FBA price after 60 days.
  • Don't play race to the bottom just to gain the buy box 100% of the time. Play nice. Share.
  • If Amazon comes in as a seller on your product, then price your product 20% above Amazon's price and hold out until Amazon sells out. Don't freak out. Just hold. You will get your turn at the buy box.
  • You don't always have to have the lowest price. It's okay. Really.
  • If you're the only seller, then price based on what you consider reasonable and fair. If the item isn't moving after 30 days, then lower the price a little bit. Keep tweaking until you find that sweet spot.
Pricing is not a science. There are no hard and fast rules. You just have to tweak and play until you get it right. It's a guessing game, but while you're guessing, don't forget to run your numbers to make sure you don't price yourself out of a fair profit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Make Your Own Photo Background Prop

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, you will begin to have positive results.
~Willie Nelson

Amazon requires simple, clean photos with a pure white background. 

I've learned a couple of things to help me get my photography from point A to point B. For one, use a white sheet of paper, white poster, or white foam board for your background if you're taking pictures of products with color. If an item is in a polybag or is light / white in color, then do as the film guys do, and use a green screen (green / or blue background). 

I've been laying my products down on top of a poster and snapping my pictures. One of my biggest problems I have is keeping my own shadow out of the picture. I haven't invested in lights yet (on my wish list), so I have to make do with house lights during the day when I also have natural light coming in through the windows (not the most ideal). 

I wanted to be able to stand my products up, or at least lean them against my background, so that I could snap the picture easier (and even use a tripod). 

I thought about it and thought about it, and I came up with this:

I went to Home Depot and looked around until I found two small pieces of the same size wood. These were already partially painted white. I have no idea what they are supposed to be used for, but they did the job I wanted, so I bought 4 pieces.

My hubby gorilla glued the pieces together for me. Sweet man!

I went to Walmart and bought two pieces of foam board for a couple of dollars. The foam board has blue on one side and white on the other side. I cut the pieces in half (one half about three inches bigger than the other half), then I used the larger half as the "stand up piece". I attached velcro to the wood blocks, then to the foam board (one wood "stand" on each end of the foam board). 

Next I sat the standing foam board just on top of the other piece to create a photo background. I made one for a white background, and one for a blue background.

Now I can stand my products up and take my photo. 

A couple of notes: I didn't mess with trying to get a pure white background. That is something that has to be done in a photo editing software program. I use Photoshop.

I probably should have sat in a chair to get a better perspective with this photo, but I wasn't shooting for Amazon here. I just wanted to show you how the background prop works. I also should have put these items against the blue background (or at least the pad of paper).

The reason I used velcro is to change out the background from white to blue and back.

Disclaimer: I am a complete amateur photographer, but I do know that light is everything in photography. I see tabletop photo lights in my future (Hubby? Are you reading this?).

Photo Tip: I learned something the other night. This works for all cameras (not cell phones, but real cameras). If you press the button just halfway first (you will hear a little sound, but it won't snap a picture just yet), and allow your camera a couple of seconds, it will auto adjust to the light to give you a better picture.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Playing Categories

Plan for today, tomorrow, and the future. 

I needed to run into a craft store today to pick something up for a current little at home project. I haven't been in this particular store for quite some time. In fact, I haven't been in this store since I started FBA. As I was walking around searching for Mod Podge, I noticed a ton of potential profit. Yes, I'm going back.

But that's not the reason for this post. As I was driving home, I thought about the craft category, and ran through my mental one off list until I found that yes, I have sent in items in this category. And then I thought about how I sent in a few items in the baby category. And I wondered if I've hit every open category.

That's something that I need to investigate. You see, when Amazon gated groceries, personal health, and health and beauty, sellers found themselves either grandfathered in or in a bind. I was grandfathered into groceries and personal health, but I missed out on health and beauty because I never listed anything in that category. Now I have to jump through hoops if I want approval. If only I would have sent in some shampoo or something! Right?

So now I'm thinking that I should check each open category and make sure I have sent in some products, and if I hadn't, then I had better get to sourcing. You never know when Amazon might decide to gate a category, so better safe than sorry. Now there isn't any guarantee that selling a few items in a category will grandfather you in, but at least it's a step in the right direction. You're increasing your chances to call safe, and get a homerun. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sourcing Jar

A penny saved is two pennies earned.

Did ol' Ben Franklin say that? There was a time when a penny saved was a penny earned, but today, you can turn your penny into two pennies.

Have you ever heard of the tale about the grain of rice? 

Once there was a greedy king who didn't share the stores of rice with his people. One day soldiers with wagons were taking the rice collected from the fields to the storerooms. A bag had a hole, and a young girl saw it, then she followed the wagon and collected the rice that fell out of the bag into her skirt. She took the rice to the king. He was so happy that she gave back the rice that he granted her anything she wanted. She asked for a grain of rice, doubled each day for 30 days. He laughed and granted her the rice. She was wise, and pretty good at math (the king was a dolt and not so good at math).

Now you do the math.
First Day - 1
Second Day - 2
Third Day - 4
Fourth Day - 8
Fifth Day - 16
Sixth Day - 32
Seventh Day - 64
Eighth Day - 128
Ninth Day - 256
Tenth Day - 512

Are you getting the idea?

I thought so.

So what does this have to do with a penny, a sourcing jar, and FBA?

Save a jar of change. When it's full, take it to one of those coin drop machines (check your bank or credit union to see if they have one that is free of charge), and dump your change. Take the money and go sourcing. Buy products that you can double (or more) your money after fees, shipping and handling. Take the profits and and invest in more products. Rinse and repeat until you reach your goal, or your storehouse is full, and you're ready to take a payout to the personal checking account.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Multipack Guidelines for Gourment & Grocery Amazon FBA

Do not rely on hearsay for your answers. Always go to the source to prove or disprove (and to document) interpretations and assumptions.

I asked, and Amazon answered.

There has been some confusion about Amazon's guidelines for third-party sellers creating multipacks in Gourmet & Grocery, so I asked Seller Central to please clarify.

My question:

Are third-party sellers allowed to create listings for multipacks in grocery if a listing is non existent? I am not referring to manufacturer created multipacks, but third-party seller created multipacks. Are we allowed to shrinkwrap and polybag multipacks and create new listings? (I wanted to be clear as possible. I gave examples as well).

Amazon's first answer:

Answer : Yes, You may list seller-prepared and packaged variety packs of single-serve hot beverage products (coffee, tea, etc.) in the Grocery & Gourmet Food category that adhere to the guidelines outlined here. These guidelines do not apply to manufacturer-created or seller private-label variety packs.

Failure to adhere to the following guidelines may result in buyer dissatisfaction, product delisting, or both.

The product detail guidelines for Grocery & Gourmet Food seller-prepared and packaged variety packs of single-serve hot beverage products are as follows:

1. Custom variety packs are permitted only in unit count sizes (cups, pods, capsules, etc.) that are in multiples of 10 (for example, 10, 20, 30, 40, etc.)

2. If a variety pack contains more than one type of product (for example, both tea and coffee), then the types must be in equal proportions (for example, 10 coffee pods and 10 tea pods) or as close as possible to equal proportions if the number of serving units is not evenly divisible.
>For example, for a variety pack containing 3 types of products (coffee, tea, and hot chocolate) for a total of 20 pods, you would include 7 pods each of two products (tea and coffee) and 6 pods of one product (cocoa) to equal 20 pods in the variety pack.

3. The type, brand and flavor of every unit contained in the pack must be clearly specified on the detail page.

4. You may not label variety packs with a custom brand name (for example, your company name) because seller-prepared variety packs contain individually branded units. Instead, you should use the following approved brand name for these products: "Custom Variety Pack."

I realized they assumed I was talking about coffee and tea, and then it dawned on me that if we can create multipacks of these items, then why not other items, so I asked again.

Q: I understand that we can't brand the multipacks, but can we shrinkwrap and polybag, and create a listing if there isn't a listing available for the number that we want to multipack? 
A: Yes, you may create listings for multipack & shrinkwrap and polybag it as earlier if they are adhering to the FDA labeling requirements for food products and not in line with how we would like products sent to our customers. 

Q: Are sellers allowed to make multipacks of other grocery items? 
A: You may list seller-prepared and packaged variety packs of all products listed in Grocery & Gourmet Food category that adhere to the guidelines outlined in the previous email correspondences. These guidelines do not apply to manufacturer-created or seller private-label variety packs. 

The answer is YES. Sellers may prepare and create listings for multipacks (and variety packs) in Grocery.