Close this window to return to BookThink

Selling on Amazon
A Simple, Cheap Method
for Bulk Listing on Amazon

by Steve Weber

#83, 11 December 2006

Have you ever wished there was a way to bulk-upload your new book listings to Amazon without buying software or paying subscription fees? Keep reading.

Amazon doesn't publicize it much but offers a free bulk-listing tool for Pro-Merchant sellers called "Inventory Loader." If you list dozens of new books each week on Amazon, switching to the Inventory Loader can save lots of time. You'll upload your books all at once, instead of one at a time.

After a bit of practice with the Inventory Loader, you can input your new listings in a matter of seconds, just by plugging in a few bits of information. It sure beats clicking the "Sell Yours Here" button and waiting for Amazon's seemingly endless Web pages to load.

Besides the time savings, the Inventory Loader brings two valuable side benefits: It generates backup copies of all your listings, which you can save to your PC. And using this handy data file, you can list your inventory on additional selling venues if you wish.

To use the Inventory Loader, you'll need to use "spreadsheet" software. Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds, and free programs are available. If you're using a Windows computer, you might already have Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Works, both of which allow you to manage spreadsheets. If you don't have Excel or Works - or you're using a Mac - there's an excellent free open-source suite called OpenOffice, which includes a spreadsheet program. You can download OpenOffice here.

I've been using OpenOffice for about a year, and it's hard to tell the difference between it and Microsoft Office. In fact, I like OpenOffice better.

What Is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is a grid of information, a table. It's an easy way to manage a bunch of data, like book listings. Across the top row are the "fields" of information, columns labeled "Item name," "Price," "Condition", etc. Each descending row contains the particulars about one of your listings.

Here's a simplified example:

Expedited shipping

The top horizontal row shows our data fields, such as ISBN, price, and shipping mode. Each row below is one of our new listings. We indicate the ISBN, our price, and whether or not we're offering international shipping on that listing. When we're finished, we'll upload the data to Amazon, and within minutes, all those listings will be live.

Ready to get started? It's best to try this out with a single book, just to make sure everything's working correctly.

First, let's get a copy of Amazon's Inventory Loader template, which saves us the trouble of designing our spreadsheet from scratch. Using your Explorer browser, go here.

Now let's save this template to our hard drive: In your browser, click File, Save as, and name the file Template.xls.

Now let's open our template using the spreadsheet software, Excel, Works, or OpenOffice. Click File, Open, and your file name, template.xls.

Entering Our Listing

Now we'll populate the data fields for our first listing, from left to right:

  1. product-id. Here we'll enter the book's ISBN in the rectangle directly beneath the rectangle labeled product-id. (For other types of products we might enter a UPC code or Amazon's ASIN for that item.)

    Before we go further, we should discuss a quirk of most spreadsheet programs. They don't like most ISBNs because they often begin with zero. Spreadsheets usually lop off the leading zero, reading it as an error. Here's how to prevent our ISBNs from getting mangled: Click the top gray rectangle on your spreadsheet, the one labeled A. This will select (darken) your column labeled product-id. Then click Format, Cells. Click Number, Text, and click OK. This formats our ISBN column as text, so the leading zeros won't be erased.

  2. product-id-type. Enter "2," which indicates we're using ISBNs.

  3. item-condition. Instead of typing in the words to indicate "Very Good," "Acceptable, etc., we only need to type in a number, such as:

    Like New = 1
    Very Good = 2
    Good = 3
    Acceptable = 4
    New = 11

  4. Price. Just the number and two decimal places, no dollar sign. (This is a good time to eyeball competing listings. Copy the ISBN from your spreadsheet and search for it on Amazon.)

  5. SKU. If you're not already using SKUs, we'll explain this one later. For now, just enter a placeholder, like A1.

  6. Quantity. Enter "1."

  7. add-delete. Enter "A "because we're adding this listing to our inventory.

  8. will-ship-internationally. Enter "Y" if you're offering international shipping on this listing. Otherwise, enter "N."

  9. expedited-shipping. Same as above, enter "Y" for yes, "N" for no.

  10. item-note. Here's where you'll enter your Sellers Comments, such as "torn dust jacket," etc.

  11. item-is-marketplace. Enter "Y."

That's it. The next two fields will be populated with Amazon's catalog information after you upload. And the remaining fields don't apply to Marketplace listings, only auctions.

Now we'll save our upload file on our disk as a text file. Click, File, Save As and give your spreadsheet a file name, such as upload.txt. There's also a pull-down menu where you can indicate the file type. Be sure to indicate "Text, tab-delimited."

And now we'll upload the file. From your Seller Account page's middle column, click "Upload multiple items." Select the file type (tab-delimited) and the upload option "Add/Modify/Delete."

In a moment you'll receive an e-mail from Amazon with the status of your upload. If everything was correct, it will indicate "1 items activated."

Much of the data we entered for that first listing will be the same for all our listings. In the future, we can save time by pre-filling our template with default values, such as:

Product-id-type. Always number 2 for ISBNs.

Item-condition. For example, most books I list are "Very Good." So I pre-fill this field with 2. For exceptions, I just plug in the correct number.

Quantity. It's always 1, unless you've got more than one book in identical condition.

Add-delete. If you're adding new listings, it's always A for add.

Will-ship-internationally. If you usually offer it, pre-fill this field with "Y." For your heavy books, you can make an exception and enter "N."

Expedited-shipping. Same as above.

Item-is-marketplace. Always Y for Marketplace listings.

Now, here's a nifty technique for copying all these default values into descending rows. That way, we'll have a big spreadsheet ready to go, and we'll need only to enter our ISBNs, prices, and comments. Here's the way our Product-id-type column looks now:


Select the rectangle containing the numeral 2. A "fill handle" will appear on the bottom right corner of the rectangle; it's a black dot. Position your cursor over the dot, and click and hold your left mouse button. Drag your cursor down the column, and it pre-fills your column with 2s. Use the same technique for pre-filling all your default values.

A Word about SKUs

If you're not familiar with the term SKU, it's a retailing acronym for Stock Keeping Unit. For us booksellers, it's a symbol we can use to identify each unique item in our inventory.

You'll need to use SKUs to work with the Inventory Loader. On your spreadsheet, you can also pre-fill a column with SKUs using a variation on the fill-handle technique described above. For example, let's imagine your first two SKUs are:


Select the rectangle containing A1. With your mouse button depressed, drag the cursor down until both A1 and A2 are selected. Release the mouse button, and you'll see a fill handle on the bottom right corner of A2. Drag the fill handle downward, and your spreadsheet will continue your series of SKUs automatically, A3, A4, A5 and so on.

A Word about SKUs

As mentioned previously, you must have an Amazon Pro-Merchant account ($39.99 monthly) to use the Inventory Loader. If you're listing this many books, the subscription is probably well worth it, since it eliminates the 99-cent transaction fee on each Marketplace sale. As long as you sell 40 or more books per month, the subscription pays for itself.

Switching over from a regular seller account to Pro-Merchant status is pretty easy. Once you've started your Pro-Merchant subscription, you can download your Amazon inventory from your seller account page.

Scroll down toward the bottom to the section in the middle column labeled "Reports," and click "Get Listing and Fulfillment Reports." Then click "Generate Reports Now" then ask for the "Open Listings Report." After a few minutes, you'll have your Amazon inventory in a text file, which you can open in a spreadsheet.

If you want more details on the Inventory Loader and using SKUs to manage your inventory, consult this section of Amazon's site.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC