by Steve Weber

#75, 14 August 2006

A Review of AMan Pro

Selling on Amazon

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When BookThink Editor Craig Stark asked me to review AMan Pro for Marketplace sellers, I was a bit skeptical. Could having yet another program on my PC really make my bookselling life simpler and more profitable?

Since I sell primarily on Amazon, I was intrigued by AMan's 21-day free trial offered at the company's Web site.

The trial software performs the same tasks as the paid version, automating all your Amazon order-fulfillment, listing, and repricing tasks.

Until now, I'd resisted using one of these "complete" bookselling programs. Over the years, I've rigged up a homemade system for processing orders using Microsoft Word and Excel to extract order information from my Amazon emails. But my email dependence has caused headaches twice this year when my Internet provider deleted my Amazon emails, mistaking them for spam. Cleaning up after an incident like this is a nerve-wracking, time-consuming chore.

AMan automatically downloads your orders from Amazon over the Web, so it works whether you've received your emails or not. (AMan does this by using your Pro-Merchant order fulfillment reports. If you're not a Pro-Merchant yet, AMan will extract the order information from your emails.)

AMan also automates the printing of packing slips and pick lists and sends personalized shipment emails and follow-up emails. Teamed with Endicia's "Premier" online postage service, AMan will automatically print shipping labels with the correct postage without your having to run Endicia's desktop software. AMan will even complete customs forms for international shipments automatically.

AMan saves you a bit of time on each of these repetitive chores, which are probably sucking up more of your time than you realize. So the bigger your bookselling business grows, the more time you'll save - and have left over for book scouting.

Listing new books is another area where you can save a bit of time by using AMan. By hooking up a barcode scanner, you can eliminate the chore of keying in ISBNs for your new books. But where Amazon sellers can get the most value out of AMan is its repricing function. I've used a competing software product to accomplish this chore in the past and frankly was amazed at how quickly AMan can reprice your entire inventory. Depending on your computer and Internet connection, the program can reprice about 20,000 items per hour.

Repricing can mushroom into an unmanageable chore as your business grows larger. When I started selling on Amazon six years ago, there were no automation tools like this, so I had to scroll through Amazon's Web pages to update each of my prices. When my inventory reached 10,000 unique books, repricing my entire stock took three 8-hour days. Using software like AMan, you can accomplish this in minutes.

Automated repricing is a controversial topic among booksellers since it can lead to rapid price-cutting when seasonal demand ebbs. The other side of the coin is you can raise your prices when demand picks up - namely, during the August and January back-to-school rushes.

Done correctly, price optimization can help you maintain sales velocity, maximize cash flow, and clear shelf space for new stock. But one of the dangers of automated repricing is that you'll lower your price too much. AMan has some built-in features to prevent you from matching the price of an inexperienced lowballer. Also, in some cases, malicious sellers have been known to price a book unreasonably low, then scoop up bargains when unsuspecting sellers meet the low price. AMan allows you to ignore the prices of certain sellers and those with low feedback.

AMan lets you determine exactly how your books will be repriced; you set its "rules" to be the lowest price, second-lowest, or third-lowest, etc. You can base this on averages of the competing offers and, if you wish, exclude the lowest one or two offers. Or you can factor in Amazon's price, and sell at a certain percentage or price below retail. Here are the advantages and disadvantages I found with AMan:


  1. Functionality and customization.

    Every computer task related to selling on Amazon is automated. And AMan enables you to customize nearly all its features: If you want your packing slips printed a certain way or your email confirmations to read a certain way, you can tailor them exactly as you wish. If you'd rather have AMan's toolbars appear a different way, you can redesign them.

  2. Speed.

    I've used several competing programs, and AMan accomplishes its tasks faster than any program I've seen.

  3. Fast, free technical support.

    When I emailed a question to the customer-support address, I received a reply within minutes from the company's founder. Amazon has frequent technical problems and makes unannounced design changes that can disrupt your business, especially if you're using automation tools. During those times, prompt technical support can very reassuring. At least one competing product charges hourly fees for support.

  4. Design.

    A "Task Wizard" guides you through all the major functions of AMan, allowing you to learn how to use all the functions without reading the help files first.


  1. Information overload.

    There's an overwhelming array of buttons and icons on every screen. It's nice to have options, but too many options are scary. It seems not all of these bells and whistles are necessary in every view and probably confuses new users.

  2. Memory hog.

    If you're using an older computer, AMan is unlikely to work for you. It requires a 700 MHz Pentium, and you'll need Word 2000 to use many of its features (Word 97 and earlier aren't supported). You'll also need Windows XP or Windows 2000 (SP3) to use AMan Pro since it doesn't support Windows 95, 98 or ME. A broadband Internet connection is highly recommended.

  3. Supports only Amazon.

    I suspect that some high-volume sellers have avoided AMan since it supports only Amazon's US and UK sites. However, company founder Kevin O'Brien told me he plans to add support for Alibris, ABE, eBay,, PayPal, and other international Amazon sites. The program will keep track of inventory across all the sites you decide to sell on, and when a book is sold on one venue, it will be automatically deleted from the other sites. Testing on these new features is expected to begin in the coming months, and additional fees for the new sites are expected to be minimal, O'Brien said.

How Much?

The monthly fee for using AMan is $49.99, which certainly isn't a minor consideration for most sellers. Add this to Amazon's Pro-Merchant subscription ($39.99 monthly) and the Premier version of Endicia $15.95 monthly), and you're talking $105.93 in monthly overhead before you've bought or sold your first book. (You can save a bit off the monthly rates of AMan and Endicia by prepaying for a year.)

On the other hand, if you're saving an hour or two per day by automating your chores and you can boost your turnover and cash flow, $49.99 a month may be a drop in the bucket. One advantage to AMan's pricing is that the company asks for only a monthly fee and not a percentage of your sales. By contrast, one competing Amazon seller automation tool costs $299 for setup and a commission of 3.9 percent of your monthly sales. That might not sound like a lot at first blush, but if your sales reached $12,000 a month, you'd owe $468 in fees every month - over $5,600 a year!

I get a few emails each week from people who plan to start an online bookselling business. One of the most common questions is, "What software should I use to automate my business?" My advice is always the same: Sell for several months without any special software at all. That way, you'll fully understand the benefits of automation whenever you decide to add it, and you'll know exactly how much it's worth to you. When you reach this point, I'd recommend downloading the trial version of AMan and taking it for a test drive.

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