Is it possible to sell on Amazon without a product?
At the onset, it seems like a far-fetched idea. However, you can sell on Amazon and make money even if you’re not selling a conventional, tangible product, or don’t have inventory.
But how is it possible when almost everyone around you is selling regular daily use products on Amazon?
From Amazon Merch to Dropshipping and Amazon KDP, many methods and programs allow you to sell on Amazon even if you don't have an inventory or physical items to sell.
This post will shed light on Amazon programs where you can sell without a product. We will also discuss how you can join them and what are the strong suits and weak links of those programs.
Without any further delay, let’s start our discussion.
Alternative Methods to sell on Amazon without a product
Here’s a quick recap of programs and methods through which you can earn money by selling on Amazon without needing physical inventory.
You can create your t-shirts, hoodies, other clothing items, and phone accessories with art or logos of your choice. From there, you'll be able to sell those designs through Amazon's website and/or app. You also have complete control over pricing and don't need to worry about shipping or managing returns since everything is sold directly by Amazon.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform from Amazon. It enables authors to directly upload their books on Amazon and make them available for sale on Amazon marketplaces as well as worldwide Kindle users.
Dropshipping is a business model that allows you to sell products without having them in your possession. You don't have to pay for inventory or store it, so you can start selling immediately after creating your account. Once you create an account with a supplier/brand/manufacturer, you can choose from thousands of products to sell on Amazon. The company will ship those products directly to your customers, and you will earn profits from each of those sales.
Amazon Home Services
Many sellers use Amazon to sell their products, but it can also be used as a channel to market your services. Amazon Home Services is a new category of business on Amazon that allows you to offer your services and schedule appointments with customers. You can list your service in multiple categories, such as furniture assembly, smart home configuration, patio installations, and more.
Amazon Music - TuneCore/Audible
Music and audio recordings are other non-tangible items that you can sell on Amazon without owning products and managing inventory. You don't necessarily need to be a musician to sell music and audio on Amazon. Besides songs, you can also sell audio lectures, audiobooks, sound effects, and background scores on Amazon via TuneCore or Audible.
Let’s jump into discussing all these programs in detail to understand how they work and what are their benefits and downsides.
Amazon Merch is a platform for artists to create and sell their own merchandise. You can offer customized t-shirts, hoodies, other apparel items, phone cases, throw pillows, and tote bags with your created logos or designs. Amazon prints the products for you and ships them directly to customers who purchase them on your page.
You can also use the Amazon Merch program to sell items you have already sold through other channels like Etsy or eBay.
Amazon Merch is free to join, and there are no monthly fees. You’ll get the royalties on your sales, and Amazon will handle printing, shipping, and marketing for you.
Moreover, Amazon uses white label items (apparel, accessories) from its own inventory for the designs you want to sell through Amazon Merch.
How Does Selling on Amazon Merch Work?
Amazon Merch is an invite-only selling program. Therefore, you first need to sign up with your Amazon account and provide all the information (company profile, payment and banking, and tax details). Next, you will have to answer a couple of questions on why you want to join Amazon Merch.
Amazon will verify the provided information and consider your request. If you’re able to satisfy Amazon’s vetting team, you will get the pass to sell on Amazon Merch.
Once you get Amazon’s approval, you can customize apparel and phone accessories with your own artwork, text, or images. Designs must be submitted via Amazon's internal submission process. Once Amazon approves, your design will be available to purchase on Amazon's website as printed apparel and accessories.
If your design is accepted, you'll have two weeks to submit the first batch of your artwork for review. If any changes are needed during this time (e.g. color variations or layout changes), you will have one week to make adjustments before submitting another batch for review. If you want your design to look its best, you must follow these guidelines closely.
Here's a quick rundown of how you can start selling on Amazon Merch after successfully joining the program:
Create a listing for your design in Amazon Merch by uploading your design and pricing it accordingly. You can also set a quantity limit on how many shirts/hoodies/cases you want to sell at once.
Wait for approval of your design by Amazon's team of content moderators, who will check to ensure that it doesn't violate copyright laws or other guidelines (such as swearing). This process can take anywhere from two hours to two days, depending on how busy they are at the time of approval request submission.
Once Amazon's team approves, create a plan for selling your designed clothing. You can choose between three different plans: "Basic", "Standard", and "Premium". The Basic plan is free and lets you sell as many pieces as you want; however, it does not include any support from Amazon (which means no advertising support either). The Standard plan costs $40 per month and gives you access to better advertising options (like sponsored product ads) along with royalties from sales and other perks like access to customer feedback surveys. Finally, the Premium plan costs $60 per month but includes everything that comes with both Basic and Standard plans, plus additional features like advanced reporting tools.
Pros and Cons of Amazon Merch
Here are some reasons why you should use Amazon Merch.
Fast Turnaround Time - You can submit your design, have it approved, and then list it for sale within a couple of days.
Good Royalty Deals - Amazon lays out a good royalty plan for Amazon Merch sellers. Even the lowest offered royalty is around 10%. Also, the royalty increases as the purchase price of the given Merch item rises, e.g. $6.74 royalty for a standard T-shirt priced at $21.99 (around 30.6%) and then $9.77for a standard T-shirt priced at $25.99 (about 37.5%).
Easy to Use Interface - You can upload your own images or use the ones provided by Amazon for free. The process itself is super simple and doesn't require any coding knowledge at all.
Amazon Merch is a great opportunity for artists to make money from their designs. It's easy to get started, and there are no upfront costs. But there are some cons to consider before you dive in.
Less Control - You can only make your designs available on Amazon-chosen apparel and accessories. You can’t come up with your own private-label suggestions. Also, Amazon doesn’t allow an FBM-like model for Merch sellers. This means there is no way you can print and sell shirts on your own while using Amazon’s Merch platform.
No Brand Recognition/Establishment - Unless you’re a celebrity, acquiring considerable artistic recognition through Amazon Merch is difficult.
Trademark Infringements - Using pop culture references, movie dialogues, song lyrics, brand names, and celebrity pictures always contains a risk of copyright infringement.
No Customer Tracking - Once people buy your stuff on Amazon Merch, there's no way for them to find out more about who designed it unless they look up the seller individually (and even then, there's no guarantee). Therefore, you might find it hard to reach out to the same customers again.
Things to Take Care of While Joining Amazon Merch
By joining Amazon Merch, you can show your artwork to a global audience and make money through it. But, first, you must consider certain things to make the most of this Amazon program.
Don’t upload artwork that is heavily inspired by someone else's work. You may get barred from working on Amazon Merch due to copyright violations.
Don't upload designs that mock religions, ethnicities, genders, cultures, and historic tragedies or promote racism and hate content. Similarly, refrain from uploading pornographic designs. Such designs are more likely to get rejected.
Upload designs with RGB colors, 300 dpi, and a maximum size of 25 MB, and steer clear of fuzzy, low-resolution images with a watermark.
Create age-appropriate artwork for apparel and accessories targeted at underage users.
Ensure your design spellings go with the one in your product listing.
For more terms and conditions of selling on Amazon Merch, go through this guide.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
If you're a writer or have any writing skills, you have ample opportunities to make money with your words on Amazon. You can join Amazon’s self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and earn money with your words— without needing products and inventory.
How Does Selling eBooks on Amazon Work?
Publishing and selling eBooks on Amazon is as simple as it gets. It is nothing like how the conventional book-publishing ecosystem works. For starters, you don't need to lobby or network to bag a contract with a publisher.
Then, you can promote your book on the platform on your own without needing entire PR machinery. This hassle-free publication regimen is the reason why every year over 1.5 million books are published on KDP.
These are the steps of publishing your eBook on Amazon through KDP.
You will end up on the page 'Bookshelf’ once the account is created.
Click on the ‘Create New” button given on Bookshelf.
Fill in the book-related information. It includes language, title, author, contributors, publishing rights, category, age, and grade range.
Next, upload your book content in Adobe PDF, zipped HTML Word, ePub, Mobipocket file, or Plain Text format and book cover in JPEG or PNG.
Then move to the Pricing, Royalty & Distribution section and choose the royalty plan.
Once you have set the price and selected the royalty plan, agree to the T&C of Amazon and click the Save and Publish button to enter your eBook in the queue for approval.
This guide will further help you on how to write and publish an eBook on Amazon and earn profit from it without needing anyone’s help.
Pros and Cons of selling Amazon Kindle eBooks
There are many reasons why Amazon KDP has become one of the leading publishing platforms.
Sell on Non-Amazon Platforms - With KDP, you are not limited to Amazon. You can also sell your book on other channels, such as Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo(not applicable to Kindle Select members).
Publisher and Retailer Rolled Into One - You don’t need to worry about customer service issues or shipping orders. If a customer buys an ebook through KDP, Amazon handles the payment processing and order fulfillment for you.
Free and Unlimited - There is no upfront cost to publish with KDP. Also, you’re not bound to publish a particular number of books. You can publish as many books via KDP as you want without spending a single cent.
There are a lot of reasons to sell your eBooks on Amazon. It's the biggest marketplace in the world, and it's easy to get started. Nonetheless, there are some downsides to using Amazon KDP as well, and you need to be aware of them.
Lack of Built-in Promotions - Before publishing a book, conventional publishers devise an exclusive promotion and press strategy. However, you don't get these pre-publishing milestones on Amazon KDP.
Too Much Competition - Amazon KDP is brimming with established as well as aspiring writers. Every genre and sub-genre gets hundreds of books published every day. In this competitive environment, getting noticed by your targeted reading audience often gets challenging.
Things to Take Care of While Joining KDP
Joining KDP and publishing your eBook on Amazon is a very stress-free experience. Nonetheless, you should be mindful of certain things to keep your KDP gig smooth sailing.
Before uploading it, thoroughly proofread your book to identify and fix all grammatical errors, duplicate text, and typos. After you submit an eBook for approval, you won't be able to change its details until it is rejected or approved.
The cover of your eBook is its first impression on potential readers. Therefore, ensure it boasts quality and aesthetics that stir readers’ interest and curiosity.
Put metadata (title, subtitle, book description, publishers, keywords, etc.) correctly to ensure Amazon doesn’t remove your content from its platform. Correct metadata integration also helps your book to be found in Amazon search results. Go through this instruction manual for better guidance on the metadata requirements of Amazon eBooks.
Coloring books, puzzles, or other similar activity-based books are unsuitable for Kindle users. Therefore, avoid publishing such content.
Formatting plays an integral role in creating the best reading experience. So, be on top of your formatting game and ensure there are no text misalignments and spacing issues in the manuscript you upload.
Dropshipping is a popular business model that allows you to sell items without having them in stock. When a customer orders an item, you'll get an alert and send the order details to the manufacturer/supplier/brand of the product. It is then their job to fulfill the order using their own machinery or through FBA.
As a dropshipper, you earn a commission on every sale. So, you actually sell on Amazon and make money without having any product in your possession.
Still confused about how dropshipping works?
The following section will further expand on the topic.
How Does Amazon Dropshipping Work?
First, you find a product that you want to sell on Amazon. Then, you can find the product by searching for it on Amazon or by finding one that already exists and looking at its listing details. Tools like Sales Spy, Niche Finder, and Love-Hate can come in handy in finding a product that offers better prospects in the dropshipping context.
Then, you choose the supplier/brand/manufacturer to fulfill orders for the given product. They will be responsible for sending out the product once someone buys it from your listing. They'll also handle returns and other customer service issues related to that product.
Finally, you create an Amazon seller account and list the item for sale on Amazon's website as if it were being sold directly from your own warehouse or storage facility (even though it's coming from your supplier).
Pros and Cons of Amazon Dropshipping
These are the significant features that make dropshipping a worthwhile Amazon business model.
No Product Sourcing or Warehousing - You don't need to spend time or money sourcing or warehousing products. You simply need to find a supplier with the right product portfolio and price point for a particular consumer base.
Low Startup Cost - The only thing you will invest in is the promotion of your Amazon dropship store and listings. Your dropshipping partner (brand/manufacturer/supplier) will take care of the rest of the overheads.
But before you jump to explore this potentially lucrative opportunity, it's essential to understand some of its downsides.
You Don’t Own the Inventory - If your supplier runs out of stock, you can't sell anything until they get more stock (unless you want to buy your own). It means that when demand increases and your products sell out quickly, you can't fulfill them until more inventory arrives.
You Don’t Control Your Price - Since you don’t own the inventory and can only sell at whatever price your supplier sets, you have no control over what price your products sell at. And if your supplier decides to increase their prices for no reason or decrease their quality to make more profit, then you are stuck with those changes.
Things to Take Care of While Joining the Amazon Dropshipping Program
One should consider these points before becoming part of the Amazon dropshipping ecosystem.
Always select products with a known demand in the e-commerce market instead of going after niche products with a precisely targeted consumer base.
Thoroughly vet the brand/supplier you want to work with. Ask other dropshippers and look at online reviews to find out if they’re good at running as a partner in dropshipping selling model.
The combination of low margins and a competitive environment makes it difficult for dropshipping to generate loads of income for many sellers. Therefore, it often pays off as a side gig rather than the main business operation.
Amazon Home Services
Amazon Home Services is an online marketplace that allows Amazon customers to find local professionals who can help them with tasks around the house, from assembling kitchen equipment to patio items. The service launched in 2015 but has only been available in certain areas until recently when it was expanded nationwide.
It's similar to TaskRabbit, Handy, Thumbtack, Angie's List, and other services that connect customers with service providers. But Amazon uses its massive reach to offer the services of more than one million professionals across various categories.
How Does Amazon Home Service Work?
Customers go to amazon.com/home-services and enter their zip code or city, along with the type of service they need. Then, they'll be presented with results from nearby professionals verified by Amazon and rated by customers through the Amazon Marketplace feedback system (just like sellers).
Amazon doesn't charge a flat fee for this service; instead, it collects a commission from each transaction made through its platform (typically 15-20%).
To get started selling on Amazon Home Services:
Register an account with Amazon Home Services. It is a free service offered by the company. However, you will need to fulfill certain conditions (insurance, certifications, etc.) to qualify for this program.
Find the category best suited for what you want to sell as a service. Once you've registered for the program, head over to this page. Here you'll see all the categories and subcategories available within which you can list your services.
Pros and Cons of Amazon Home Services
For these reasons, Amazon Home Services is a great online platform for certified professionals, particularly those who are new in the field.
Easy Setup - The setup process is straightforward; all you have to do is fill out an application and wait for approval. Once you're approved, you can start selling your services right away.
High-Profit Margins - Amazon takes a cut of the sale price (typically 15%), so if you can sell your service for $100, they'll take $15 and give you $85. That's a huge profit margin (since there are no other overheads).
Low Overhead - Since there is no inventory to keep track of or store, this business model has no upfront costs or expenses. Instead, you simply provide the service and get paid for it.
Amazon Home Services is easy to join and offers high-profit margins with nonexistent overheads. Nonetheless, there are still some downsides to the program.
Commission-Based earnings - Home service professionals are limited by Amazon's pricing policies and lack of flexibility when it comes to pricing their services. When you sell on Amazon, you're locked into a commission rate that doesn't take into account the value you bring to customers or the time it takes for them to close orders—two factors that are important when calculating profit margins for home service providers.
High Competition - You must always be on top of your game to operate in this program. You'll lose business if you don't have your service available when a customer wants it.
Things to Take Care of While Joining Amazon Home Services
You need to be aware of these pointers if you want to join this program without any hassle and make the most of it.
Remember that you'll have to undergo a business background check. Also, if your work requires visiting customers’ homes (in almost all home services), you will have to go through an individual background check. So, prepare for those checks beforehand.
You won’t be able to join this program as a service provider if you don’t fulfill the insurance standards required in your particular industry.
You have to provide licenses, certificates, and authorization relevant to your industry to be a part of Amazon Home Services.
The requirements in service-based jobs vary a lot from site to site, where it isn't easy to agree to flat and upfront prices. So, if you want to work with the convention of quoting prices after the job description, think before joining the program since it operates on upfront pricing.
AmazonMusic – TuneCore
TuneCore is a part of AmazonMusic and is a publishing and distribution platform for audio content. So if you have any type of useful and reusable audio content (songs, audio lectures, audiobooks, sound effects, background scores, etc.), you can list it on TuneCore and make money.
TuneCore empowers you to make your audio content available to worldwide consumers through more than 150 streaming stores, including Spotify, Google Play, and iTunes.
How Does TuneCore Work?
TuneCore charges $29.99 for the distribution of an EP or album and $9.99 for a single. These prices are very reasonable compared to other record labels and distribution companies.
Like other Amazon programs, becoming part of TuneCore is not difficult either. Through these steps, you can list your audio content on TuneCore to reach a worldwide audience.
Create an account on TuneCore to sell audio on Amazon.
Select the release type, i.e., album or single.
Upload your cover art and corresponding audio content.
Provide contributors’ names so that they can be given credit when an audio file is sold.
Get the music approved by TuneCore (the platform usually approves a release in 24 hours).
Start selling and streaming your audio content while keeping 100% of the revenue.
Note: You can join Audible, a wholly-owned Amazon subsidiary, for long-form audio content (audiobooks and lectures). Like KDP, it has a publishing platform that goes by ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange).
Pros and Cons of Amazon Music – TuneCore
There are many reasons to join TuneCore, particularly if you have music and songs to sell.
Offers Impressive Reach - You can reach out to the audience in every nook and corner of the world since TuneCore partners with over 150 popular digital audio stores.
100% Royalties - You’re entitled to 100% royalties when you put your music or other audio content on TuneCore.
Multiple Payout Options - TuneCore offers a number of payment and withdrawal methods, making the payouts as hassle-free as possible.
While considering benefits, also factor in these features of the program before joining it.
Annual Fee - TuneCore charges a yearly fee for its professional plans.
Additional Cost for New Platforms - You've to pay TuneCore a fee for every new distribution/streaming outlet (Spotify, iTunes, etc.) you want to release your songs/audio content on.
Things to Take Care of While Joining TuneCore
If you don’t want to get your releases on TuneCore delayed, take care of these things.
All audio files must be 16-bit (sample size), 44.1 kHz (sample rate), and 1411 kbps (bit rate) stereo WAV files.
Use PNG, JPG, or GIF image files in a square shape for your cover art. Also, it should have a minimum display of 1600 x 1600 pixels.
The minimum cover art resolution requirement is 72 dpi. Meanwhile, 300 dpi is considered ideal.
Utilize RGB color mode for all colored and black and white images.
You are allowed to upload the cover art without any text, but it is suggested to include the artist's name and the title of your release.
Don't include pricing, email addresses, or contact information on the cover.
Avoid submitting unclear or botched artwork or references to any digital stores or their logos like Spotify or iTunes.
Use the latest version of your web browser (Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox) to ensure you can upload music and cover art without hiccups.
Follow this TuneCore formatting and style guidelines to successfully sell your audio content on an Amazon-powered platform and make money from it.
How Much Can You Earn from Selling on Amazon without a Product?
You can earn a good amount of money from dropshipping, selling eBooks, or selling on Amazon Merch. But you have to work hard for it. You have to put in the hours, and you have to be willing to hustle. So if you're prepared for that, here's what you can expect:
Dropshipping sellers can earn anywhere between $1,000 and $20,000 every month, depending on product demand, competition, pricing, and promotions.
You can make around $150 per month on the lower end to more than $20,000 per month on the higher end through Kindle self-publication. Your Kindle income will depend on various factors like audience size, category, book type (ebook, paperback, audiobook), preferred royalty program, etc.
Amazon Merch sellers can earn up to $5,000 per month from the artwork they sell through apparel items and accessories. A top Merch by Amazon seller named Hektor has shared his experience and earnings report, claiming a profit of $3600 from a design he made for 5$.
Making money via TuneCore or Audible depends on how you promote your content and if it resonates with the target audience. A successful gig on TuneCore or Audible can easily make you north of $5,000 every month.
Amazon Home Service is still not as popular as other business models we’ve discussed here. Therefore, the data is still short on the average income of a professional enrolled in the program. Nonetheless, the outreach of Amazon ensures that certified professionals can easily make as much money as they can make via any other similar platform.
Limitations and Drawbacks of Selling without a Product
Selling on Amazon without products and inventory offers a significant opportunity for those who want to make money without embracing all the conventional hassle of listing and selling a product.
It can be very lucrative, but it's not for everyone.
You need to understand that you're entering into a partnership with either Amazon or a supplier by joining these programs. Therefore, the success of your gig will largely depend on how you manage to work along.
Then, there are some inherent limitations and drawbacks of these programs. Here, we’ll outline them so you can make an informed decision before joining any of those programs.
Limited Scaling Opportunities
To begin with, Amazon programs where you sell without offering a product present limited scaling opportunities. As a non-celebrity, you can only sell so much merch. Similarly, dropshipping also has limited scope in most cases compared to private label and wholesaling models.
Then, selling books or music and making money from it hugely depend on your artistic abilities. Also, you can’t churn out a book or music of the same quality after regular intervals, and there’s no sure-shot way to make it hit among the target audience.
In short, selling on Amazon without inventory is not for those who have high entrepreneurial aspirations and want to keep scaling their business as it grows.
You’re Not the Captain of the Ship
You can’t call all the shots when you join programs like Amazon Merch, Dropshipping, and Home Services. For instance, you can’t exactly pick the quality and type of fabric you'd like to use for printing your design in the Merch program.
Similarly, you’re almost entirely reliant on the supplier/brand/manufacturer in dropshipping. Whether it is product quality or price, the supplier/brand/manufacturer will take all the crucial decisions that subsequently affect your operations as well.
Even as a professional home services provider, you have to operate while restricted to a number of terms and conditions.
There is more than one way to make money on Amazon. If you want to sell products, there are plenty of options available for you. However, suppose you don't have the time or resources to invest in product creation and shipping. In that case, there are still ways that will allow you to profit from your business without actually having any inventory.
However, if you dream of setting up a business empire on Amazon with a seven-figure income and are willing to work for it, private-label and wholesale are the business models you should consider. Read on how these two models are stacked against each to understand them better.
Waleed likes to research and write on topics that can help Amazon sellers. He also strives to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of SEO to help clients improve their online visibility. When not writing and doing SEO stuff, he indulges in music, movies, and outings.
ZonGuru aims to provide the most accurate data and estimations in the industry. As official partners with Alibaba and Amazon, we have access to the best data sources in our industry to help reach our goal.