It is high time I sat down and wrote another post about how things are going on my end. I am still knee-deep in trying to get books and other inventory out of the door, so this post will be short and to the point…I hope. 🙂

Back to My Roots

Almost 8 years ago, I started selling books on Amazon as a merchant fulfilled seller. I sold books (primarily textbooks) as a way to earn some extra money while in college and it worked pretty well for me until I stopped right around 2008. Sure, I’ve merchant fulfilled quite a few low ranking, fast flip items since I started using Amazon FBA, but approximately 99.9% of the merchandise I sell on Amazon is fulfilled by Amazon.

…that was until two weeks ago when I resumed selling as a merchant-fulfilled bookseller

While in the middle of trying to get a large shipment of books out the door, I was having problems using my listing service (Listtee) and to make a complicated issue short, I had to finish the listing process through Amazon’s “Seller Central.” I took the .csv file of books I had already priced and labeled in Listtee and uploaded that to Amazon with every intention of immediately converting those listings to “Fulfilled by Amazon.”

Unfortunately — or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I couldn’t do it soon enough. Someone had purchased one of my textbooks right from under me that was designated for FBA. In fact, my condition notes even had my typical “FBA” lingo in it, yet it still sold! Even better was the fact that this book was ranked well above 2 million (2,700,000 if I remember correctly) and it was a textbook published specifically for a particular private college. Here I was, ready to convert over 80 textbooks to FBA and one sold right from underneath me in a matter of minutes.

…and then it hit me. Why in the world wasn’t I merchant-fulfilling books anymore? I honestly didn’t and still don’t have a legitimate reason not to seeing as though I still sell items on eBay and therefore I’m always storing and packing something.

Here I was about to incur over $360 in shipping costs to ship a ton of books to Amazon and it never dawned on me that I could do something about it instead of waiting 7+ days for those books to arrive and be checked in and hopefully start selling immediately…because that was my plan. I would simply eat the cost of shipping and wait for other items to sell to absorb the cost. The only problem with that plan was that my account was due to be charged for any outstanding balances before that latest shipment of books would be checked in. At this point I could either hope that $360 worth of merchandise would sell before then or I could do something about it.

It was at that moment that I began going through the books I intended to ship to gauge which ones were worth keeping and fulfilling myself.

My Criteria for Merchant-Fulfilled Books

I set pretty strict requirements for the books that I would fulfill myself because I did not want my home to become a warehouse for books too.

A typical book on the shelf in my office meets the following criteria:

  • The merchant-fulfilled selling price is close to the FBA price
  • Book has a low sales rank and low # of competing sellers
  • Absolutely NO penny books; books should sell for a minimum of $10 in USED condition (although most of the books I’m selling are considered “New” or “Very Good” and my textbooks range in condition from “Good” to “New” and the average selling price is over $30)
  • Book must fit into a flat rate envelope or padded flat rate envelope

My criteria sounds pretty simple when I write it out, but after scanning over 400 books, less than 35 made the cut!

Thankfully, this strategy has proven to be very profitable. To put things in perspective, once I boxed and shipped everything to Amazon, the cost to ship those books hit my account on 8/19. It was a little over $360. By 8/22, I sold enough items through FBA and through merchant-fulfillment to cover those costs and actually initiate a deposit to my account.

My merchant fulfilled sales wiped out 70% of my inbound shipping costs!

Sure, I could have sent everything in to Amazon and waited for those items to be checked in 7-10 days later, but there was no guarantee that I would have generated enough sales to cover the negative balance on my account. The last thing I wanted was for my debit card to be charged for outstanding fees — even if I recouped the cost once my shipment was checked in and things began to sell.

So What Books Work Best for Merchant Fulfillment?

There is no right or wrong answer for this, but *my* criteria for any book, whether a textbook, non-fiction or fiction book is summed up above. However, to put things in perspective, lets take a look at one of the books that I chose to merchant fulfill rather than sending it into Amazon.

According to the screenshot on your right, this book sells for $66.73 in new condition and $49.95 in used condition. I purchased this book in used condition for $1.00 and set the price at $43 which is a little below the lowest used FBA price and also takes into account the $3.99 shipping charge that the buyer would have to pay.

The lowest price FBA seller just so happens to be “Amazon Warehouse Deals.” If I were to have shipped this book into Amazon, I would have been competing against Amazon who just so happens to have 211 copies of this particular book in stock:

The only way I would have been able to compete would have been on price and I try to avoid doing that at all costs. Unfortunately, if I sent this into FBA, I most likely would have dropped my price below $49.95 and ultimately would have actually made far less than I did by merchant fulfilling this book myself.

Here’s how things actually played out:

This book sold about 5 hours after listing it for $43.00 plus an additional $6.99 shipping credit for expedited shipping. The total came to $49.99. The cost to ship the item via Priority Mail was $5.12, leaving me with $1.87 left over from the shipping credit.

 

In the image above, you can see that I added $5.12 in the “outbound shipping” box to account for my postage costs and $0.79 in the “inbound shipping” box because this was how much I averaged per book to ship to Amazon.

According to those calculations, I lost $0.98 by not shipping this book to Amazon and that’s assuming I didn’t lower my price to compete against Amazon who was also selling the book used too! I can live with “losing” $0.98. 🙂

…and lest you think that I am only merchant fulfilling textbooks, here is a non-textbook that I sold:

This book was ranked well over 1 million and it took 7 days to sell through merchant-fulfillment even though Amazon is selling the book as well. The rank is now sitting somewhere around 500,000 (as of writing this) and climbing.

I also sold the following DVD via merchant-fulfillment:

This DVD also had a high rank for movies (~ 200k) and only one FBA seller whose price was about $10 higher. This DVD also took about a week to sell.

As you can see from those examples, I didn’t really (and still don’t) pay too much attention to sales rank. Whether I’m selling through FBA or merchant-fulfillment, if there is a demand and the niche is obscure enough to justify the rank, I have no problem waiting for the right buyer to come along. In both cases, it took about a week for the right buyers to come along. I think I can live with that! 🙂

Moving Forward

I plan to continue to list books via merchant fulfillment. I believe that the criteria that I’ve set allows me to keep my home from turning into a used book store. It also allows me to pay down my inbound shipping costs if/when my FBA sales slow down.

Ultimately, if I decide that I no longer want to merchant-fulfill books, I can always convert those listing to FBA and ship them to Amazon.

If you have not already done so, merchant fulfillment is worth a try! You can most certainly merchant fulfill more than just books and media. This can also work for eBay sellers too. It never hurts to have your inventory on two separate platforms to capture a sale from a much larger pool of buyers. You would be surprised at the things you can sell on Amazon. There are many items that most people don’t realize you call sell via FBA and as a consequence, the only sellers are merchant-fulfilled ones who are fulfilling a need. …I’ll leave your mind to ponder on that or you could just run some of your inventory through Amazon to see if it is worth giving it a shot. 🙂

Until next time,

Yolanda

 

11 Thoughts on “Amazon Merchant Fulfillment to the Rescue: Two Days and $250 Later, I’m Giving It Another Try…

  1. So neat to see the opposite side of the coin. I still haven’t bit the FBA bullet and only merchant fulfill anything I sell on Amazon. I just don’t buy enough books to do it. If I do make the switch, you’re site will be a great resource!
    Chris @ Flipping A Dollar recently posted…Victoria’s Secret Mood Thrift Store eBay FlipMy Profile

    • Yolanda on September 7, 2014 at 6:52 pm said:

      Hey Chris,

      I wouldn’t rush into it until you feel comfortable. I find that it is hard for me to do both at one time. Someone is going to wind up being neglected and usually it is eBay in my case.

  2. As always, a lot of great information! I haven’t merchant-fullfilled anything yet and will start looking into that as another option.

    Since reading your last post, I have been scanning in more books. I found one that sells for over $110, but ranks in the ten millions! I bought it anyway because it cost just a few dollars. I’m curious to see how long it’ll take to sell.

    Good luck with those books and hope you get that student loan paid off soon!
    Diana recently posted…Steps I Took to Sell a Used Game which Led to a Profit and…My Profile

    • Yolanda on September 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm said:

      Woohoo Diana! I’d send that 10 million book in just to see how long it takes to sell. The highest ranked book I sold so far was 4.7 million, but I do have higher ranked ones in my inventory. It took a little over a month for the 4 million ranked book to sell. No too bad! 🙂

      Have you looked up the stats for the book on CamelCamelCamel?

  3. Thanks for giving such detailed information. I always enjoy reading your blog.

    Quick question – I saw that sellers shrink wrap their books for FBA. Is this a requirement? Do you shrink wrap your books as well?

    • Yolanda on September 7, 2014 at 6:57 pm said:

      Vanessa,

      I have less than 10 books that I’ve wrapped (either shrinkwrapped or polybagged). I couldn’t sell books on a large scale if wrapping them was a requirement — and thankfully it is not. Most people who do this either do it for presentation or to protect the book while it is sitting at the warehouse. The only books that I’ve shrink wrapped were collectible *and* worth a lot of money, so protection and presentation were important in those instances.

      I hope that helps answer your question. 🙂

  4. I sell everything merchant fulfilled for Amazon. Curious why you send your books at flat rate? Is it for the tracking? Amazon now offers shipping directly from their site and has tracking on everything, even first class. I try to save $ on shipping where I can. Although I haven’t sold a book in a while and am curious if media mail is an options..I don’t recall seeing it.
    Margaret recently posted…How to leave feedback for an Ebay Seller – Seller did good, but product sucks!My Profile

    • Hey Margaret,

      I had to ship most of my books flat rate because they weighed over 1 pound. I did not want to ship the books via media mail because it takes too long and I pride myself on shipping as fast as possible. I estimate that approximately 90% of my merchant fulfilled books weigh more than a pound so they can’t go First Class.

      Also, I ship 99.9% of everything I merchant fulfill via Amazon’s Seller Central. The only time I don’t is if I need to ship something in a padded flat rate envelope. That isn’t an option through Amazon so I have to print and ship directly from USPS’ website.

  5. Donna Morrow on October 24, 2015 at 2:48 am said:

    Yolonda,

    I just can’t tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. I am researching FBA, so Merchant Fulfilled just never ocurred to me. You make both the differences and the advantages so clear! With all you have to do, I appreciate your taking the time to write this blog.

    • Yolanda on November 22, 2015 at 1:15 am said:

      Donna,

      I’m glad you found that post helpful. If you plan to sell anything during the busy holiday season, don’t overlook merchant fulfilling items — especially small, light-weight items. At one point last year, I was merchant fulfilling 50 orders a day so it is definitely worth it in my opinion.

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