The Big Declutter - Selling on Amazon
Over the past few weeks I’ve been documenting “The Big Declutter of 2018” as we’ve been trying to clean out our unwanted or unused things. Our goal has been to sell, donate or recycle as much as we can, and the selling has been going pretty well!
I’ve already talked about 6 steps to selling success – check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them. But there are differences, good and bad, between the different selling apps. So, over the next few posts I’ll be going into more detail about the different ways to sell your stuff, my experiences with each of them and some of the lessons I’ve learned.
The selling apps that I have used are: Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, letgo and Nextdoor. Let’s look first at Amazon.
In my opinion, getting set-up as an Amazon seller was the hardest of all of the selling sites.
First of all, you need to choose your selling plan. There are 2 options: professional (which costs $39.99 per month) or individual (where you pay $0.99 per item sold). Basically, if you are going to be selling more than 40 items per month, choose the professional account. Otherwise select the individual account.
Since I was not planning to sell more than 40 items a month I chose the individual seller account. Don’t worry, it is easy to change from one to the other if you think you’ll sell more than you expect.
Here are the steps to get set-up:
Go to the Amazon Seller Central site, scroll down to the bottom of the page and select either “Sell as a Professional” or “Sell as an Individual”. You can use an existing Amazon account or create a new one at this point.
You will need to wait for Amazon to approve you as a seller. This may take a few days, but once you are approved you will receive an email from Amazon with details on what to do next. The most important next step is to update your account details – especially your credit card and bank details.
Adding my credit card and bank details, business address, legal entity name and display name were pretty easy, but then things got a little more difficult! Before you are able to sell on Amazon you need to verify your identity by supplying a copy of your bank statement and a valid, government-issued photo ID. This step was harder than I expected, so learn from my mistakes!
Make sure that your photo ID includes the following:
Date of birth
Signature of bearer (if applicable)
Country of issuance or country of citizenship.
I used my passport and initially cut off the signature on my first attempt. For passports Amazon also want to see the passport number and the MRZ code (that’s the series of letters and numbers at the bottom of the phot page). Also, make sure that the name on your bank account matches the Legal Entity Name you have entered.
Once you’ve set up these details you should be ready to start posting your first items.
Listing an item for sale
Amazon limits the type of products you can sell. There are around 20 categories of products that you can list without specific permission from Amazon, but for most of these categories you can only sell new items. I had books and DVD’s to sell. Books were OK, as Amazon allows sellers to sell new and used books, but be aware that “… all media items must ship within two business days of the date the order confirmation is made available to you.” As for DVD’s, I could not sell those as this requires a separate Amazon approval and it’s only available to Professional sellers.
Listing an item is very easy, just follow these simple steps:
First you need to search Amazon’s catalog to find the item you want to sell. I found that the quickest way to list a book for sale was to key in the ISBN number (found on the back of the book as part of the barcode). Some books have multiple editions, so this is a good way to ensure that you are listing your books correctly. Otherwise, you can do a title or author search to find the item you are selling.
Once you have found the item, the minimum amount of information you need to add is:
After adding the quantity and condition, you have the option to set your price to match the existing lowest price. Since I just want to sell these books to unclutter and make a little money I usually choose to match the lowest price. However, be careful here! The price of a couple of books I listed were very low. This meant that if I did sell them Amazon would take a chunk of the sales price in fees and I would be left with very little – for these books, not even enough to pay for postage!
It's also good practice to add a “Condition Note” to each item (unless it’s new), so the buyer has a clear idea of the condition of the item. The “Condition Note” can be found in Advanced View.
If you cannot find the item, then you do have an option to “Create a new product listing”. You’ll need to select a category for the item, add details about the item (e.g. for books: title, author, binding, publication date and publisher) and set your pricing. It’s also a good idea to upload an image if you have it.
When you have finished updating the posting, click “Save and finish”. It takes about 15 minutes for your posting to be live on Amazon.
If you do want to know more, Amazon does have some online courses that you can check out.
Ease of Communication
Communication was very easy. All communication is through your Amazon sellers account, and you get an email sent to your Amazon sellers account email address too.
The majority of emails are letting you know that an item had been sold. Once the item has been sent to the buyer, it’s very simple to go to your Amazon sellers account to mark the item as shipped and enter the tracking number.
I did have one buyer send me a question after the purchase. Again, all communication is through your Amazon sellers account, so is easy and you have a record of it.
Once my account was set-up, actually posting the items did not take much time: a couple of minutes for each one.
When I received notification that a book had sold, it did take some time to print the packing slip, package the book and get it shipped. Plus, it had to be done within 2-days of receiving the selling notification. To help speed up this process I made sure I already had envelopes/boxes for the books.
Note: If you are going on vacation, Amazon does allow you to temporarily suspend your listings, so you don’t have to worry about receiving any orders while you are away.
Number of Items Listed/Sold
Since March 15, 2018, I’ve sold about 44% of the items listed:
Number of items listed = 18
Number of items sold = 8
Amazon charges two main fees:
For individual sellers, there is a per-item fee of $0.99 for each item sold. If you are a professional seller then you are paying $39.99 every month to avoid this fee.
Then there are referral fees. This is a percentage of the total sales price (excluding taxes but including and gift-wrapping or delivery charges). The referral fee does vary depending on what category of item you are selling. For books, the referral fee is currently 15%
Amazon also only allows individual sellers to charge a certain amount for shipping. For the books I was selling, that was a $3.99 shipping charge. Luckily most of the books I was selling were not too big, so this shipping charge was enough to cover the delivery costs. If you are selling books (and other media like software or DVD’s), then a good way to keep you shipping costs down is to use Media Mail. There are some restrictions on what you can send, but it is a very cost-effective way of shipping books and will help maximize your profit!
As a result of these 2 fees, Amazon is a fairly expensive way to sell items. For the 8 items I have sold so far, the amount charged to the customer was $113 (including shipping), but after paying Amazon’s fees and the postage I only made $49 profit.
Amazon does take care of collecting the payment from the customer. However, compared to the other methods of selling, Amazon seems to be comparatively slow at paying. Payments are made weekly, but there is a delay between when your item sells and when Amazon will payout to your bank. This is usually because Amazon reserves the money to cover any claims or charge-backs from the customer.
Overall, I would give Amazon a 3-pig grading because it can be worthwhile in certain situations. Since Amazon’s customer base is so large, it can be a good way to sell your items, particularly if they are more expensive or appeal to a small number of people. However, the fees are high, and you need to be very responsive when you receive an order.
Have you sold items through Amazon? If so, what has been your experience? Share below!