I want you to read this article from beginning to end.
Here is why...
The picture above shows JUST ONE week worth of royalties for someone I know who is using the Amazon Merch program to sell custom Amazon t-shirts.
These after tax royalties of $1773.04 are almost pure profit!!
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What Is Merch by Amazon?
Merch by Amazon is a program that allows approved creators to submit t-shirt designs that are then printed on demand when they are ordered.
- ZERO inventory costs --> Your "assets" are image files!
- (Almost) ZERO design skills required --> "Attractive" isn't necessarily what sells on Merch and there are TONS of tools to make the process of designing simple for even a novice like myself.
- You're paid a royalty when shirts are purchased --> There is no "penalty" for not selling designs (other than individual designs being periodically removed due to no sales).
- Access to Hundreds of Millions of Amazon Buyers --> These are sold directly on the Amazon marketplace.
- Set Your Own Prices --> You control how expensive your shirts are and your royalty is a % of this price!
Here is the program in Amazon's own words...
It’s easy for anyone to sell a custom t-shirt using Merch by Amazon.
These t-shirts are searchable on Amazon so there are countless niche t-shirt ideas to consider. There are millions of customers waiting for your new designs. This is an exciting time to get involved with the Merch Amazon program.
If you have a web presence, social media presence, or dedicated website, there are many ways to monetize. Advertisements, affiliate marketing, and product sales are only the beginning. Ideally, you should want to sell branded items to your loyal web patrons. A t-shirt makes you money, and it’s also a source of free advertising. Who says nothing is free? This is one way to make good use of the Merch program.
Merch by Amazon is a Print-On-Demand (POD) service, so there are zero upfront costs. All you need to do is design a t-shirt, set a price, and reap in the royalties. It’s that simple.
The Amazon Merch service launched in 2015, and a staggering amount of Amazon customers began signing up for it. Amazon had to eventually make their Merch service invite only because of the sheer number of users flooding the service.
Now anyone can apply to be a Merch by Amazon designer but the process of approval can be quite long. The application process can be several weeks to the better part of a year!
So apply for approval now if you haven't already!
In the first half of 2016, people thought that Amazon had stopped accepting people into the Merch program. This isn’t true. They’ve been trying to speed up the invitation process, but they are simply backed up. After you apply for your invitation, you should attempt to log in every now and again. It’s common for people to receive a welcoming email more than one month after the date of their acceptance into the program.
Why Sell Merch on Amazon?
Selling custom t-shirts over the internet isn’t a new idea. That much is true, but Amazon is the best platform bar none. They are currently the number one online apparel retailer, and they outsell their closest online competitors by more than $10 billion per year. Many analysts believe that Amazon will become the single largest apparel retailer in the United States by 2020. Some believe this will happen sooner.
If you're thinking that the royalties must be insanely small since the process is so "easy," you're wrong.
Merch by Amazon pays fairly well in comparison to other services. For instance, a t-shirt sold for $25 will net you almost $12 in royalties. On many other sites, a $25 t-shirt sale will only bring you about $4-6.
With the right keywords, it’s possible to rank any product high in Amazon’s search engine results. All of the products on their website tend to rank highly on internet search engines, and that means your t-shirts will receive organic traffic. If you sell your t-shirts on other web platforms, you may have to do a hefty amount of self-promotion to make a sale. On Amazon, you can choose your t-shirt niche and keywords carefully to find buyers.
How Do You Create and Sell Amazon Merch?
Getting started is straightforward. You head to the landing page and click the button labeled “request for invitation.” Log in with your Amazon ID, and then fill out a simple form. After this, you play the waiting game. Don’t forget to check back often. The welcome email may or may not arrive on time.
Use your time wisely. While you are waiting for formal acceptance into the Merch program, you can do t-shirt research and perfect your designs. You’ll want to find good niche keywords, and you’ll want to create an eye-catching piece of clothing.
The actual t-shirt creation process is simple. Amazon has a template that will help you size your PNG file for placement on the t-shirt. The final creation process is short and sweet:
Place your PNG file(s) on the front and/or back of the shirt
Configure the shirt type, color, and price
Give your t-shirt a brand name, Amazon title, and product description
Choose to sell via direct product link or to the general public
Here is one of my shirts. I use my shirts for marketing and "swag."
It really is this easy to get started. Just make sure to sell to the public if you want to earn money. Amazon has streamlined the process as much as possible, but you will need decent photo software to make the PNG file. Amazon will print the t-shirt at 300 DPI, so your PNG file must be 300 PPI (pixels-per-inch). Some software labels this “pixels/inch.”
At first, you can only sell 25 different t-shirts. This is tier one. Once you make 25 sales, Amazon will eventually upgrade you to tier 2. At tier 2, you can upload 100 designs. The tiers go up from there: 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, and 8000 designs at tier seven. It doesn’t matter which shirts you sell. You can sell the same shirt 25 times to move up in the tier rankings.
Keep in mind that t-shirts can be printed with front and back artwork, but it will cost more money to print a t-shirt with artwork on both sides. This will reduce your Amazon Merch royalties significantly.
What Makes a Profitable Shirt?
It’s hard to say what makes for a great t-shirt design, but bad designs are easy to spot. There are lots of things to keep in mind.
High quality design is NOT the most important factor to high performing Merch shirts. Some of the top performing shirts on the marketplace are EXTREMELY simple and text based.
Color is extremely important. It might be the single most important thing to keep in mind, and you may want to limit your colors as much as possible. Many great t-shirt creators recommend using 3 colors or less for simple shirts, but you may have more complex artwork in mind. It’s important to understand the color wheel. You should be aware of complementary colors, warm colors, cool colors, and neutral colors. The proper use of colors will help your t-shirt to stand out.
Don’t make your shirt too “busy.”
It’s easy to get carried away when creating t-shirt graphics, but sales figures reflect the fact that simple designs sell. If someone has to look at your shirt for 30 seconds just to understand it, your shirt may be too busy. You want your shirts to be easily recognizable. People wear graphic t-shirts to attract attention, but confusion is not the right kind of attention for your shirt to inspire.
Balance is another important subject to consider in the creation of a great shirt. The vast majority of successful shirt designs have symmetry. Asymmetrical designs aren’t necessarily bad, but the human mind craves structure.
Always consider your shirt’s target audience, and keep in mind that Amazon sells most of these shirts to people below 34 years of age. It never hurts to get opinions from your friends.
Use Keywords to Sell Your T-Shirts
The best thing about Amazon is the huge customer base. You can tap into millions of customers with the right keywords. You can insert some of these keywords into your t-shirt’s product description and the product title.
These are all paid options but are well worth the small investment.
Your exploration of long tail keywords could take days. It’s important to choose keywords with minimal competition. You’ll want to select “clothing, shoes, and jewelry” for your research, and don’t underestimate the power of Amazon’s autocomplete feature. Any long tail keywords within the autocomplete engine represent real searches being conducted on the site. Always search for keywords in an incognito window, because Amazon will record your own searches into the autocomplete engine.
A search for “Mao Zedong Shirt” yields about 69 results. Shirt queries deliver a large amount of results on the first results page, and this is good for business. You want to be on the first page of any search. A search for “president Jefferson shirt” yields 19 results. Always check the Amazon ratings of your results. In the case of the Jefferson shirt, the first result has a Best Sellers Rank of over 300,000. That means this person is only selling a few shirts per week.
Understanding Merch by Amazon Fees
The fees for selling on Amazon Merch vary based on multiple factors.
- The price you set for the shirt --> Higher prices leads to higher net payouts per shirt.
- The shirt type you choose --> Currently you can choose between Anvil or "Premium" shirts. Premium cost $1.50 more.
- If your shirt is one sided or double sided --> Double sided shirts cost an additional $4.50.
As of March 15th of 2017, the base cost for materials, fulfillment and production of a shirt is $9.80.
Amazon then charges a 15% listing fee.
How to Not Get Your Merch Account Suspended
Now that we have drooled over the awesomeness of designing t shirts on Amazon, it's time to drop some sobering information on you.
Amazon has zero tolerance for policy violations. Many Merch designers lose their accounts and have almost no chance to get them back.
Amazon is so flooded with people wanting in that they have made it clear they have no desire to give suspended designers a second chance.
Here is what you need to know about keeping your Merch account safe...
- Never incorporate any copyrighted materials (that aren't your own). Ask, "did I create this or did I copy it from someone else?" If you copied it, you know the answer to whether or not you should publish the design.
- Never incorporate any trademarked materials (that aren't your own). If you have doubts, visit ttps://www.uspto.gov/
- Never incorporate something that violates international law. You will need to talk to an attorney if you have doubts on this.
- Never incorporate pornographic material.
- Never incorporate content that exploits children. Duh...
- Never use profanity. As tempting as it can be, avoid curse words.
- Never incorporate anything that encourage hate or intolerance. Amazon doesn't tolerate intolerance.
- Never incorporate anything that relates to human tragedy. If you're making sales based on a recent tragedy (act of terror, war, natural disaster etc.) you will find yourself in trouble.
- Never publish blank designs. Why would you though? They mention it in the policy area though so...
- Always make sure that your content descriptions match your products exactly.
- Never solicit feedback or reviews.
- Never share external contact information. Linking to an external site in your product or product description violates Amazon's merch terms of service.
- Always create quality designs. If your designs look like they were made my a child, they shouldn't be published.
- Never allude to Amazon donating proceeds of sales to charity or political causes. This would make you a terrible person anyway...
- Never mention the speed of shipment. Don't allude to "faster shipping."
That may seem like a lot, but most of it is common sense. Just be sure to pay close attention to what you publish. When in doubt, don't publish.
WAIT!!! A FEW MORE THINGS TO KNOW...
- I am personally selling VERY LITTLE Merch. I mostly use it for my own branded items. I'm not making many "niche shirts" but use the program for my own "swag" and marketing. Much of this information was gathered interviewing experts in the field and people who are doing extremely well with the program.
- Questions about the process, selling more shirts etc. should be asked in the comments not as emails.
- Don't ask how to get approved faster .. 🙂
- Some of this article was outsourced so I am NOT an expert on Merch by Amazon.
- Merch by Amazon is still relatively "young" and evolving. Check the "last edited" date on this article and consider double checking anything I wrote here at the time you are reading it.