How to List Inventory Items on Amazon Using a Spreadsheet



Introduction to Barcode Theory

A general rule of thumb for deciding where to list your items comes down to one factor, the barcode.  Items with a barcode should be listed on Amazon for maximum revenue.  Items without barcodes should be listed on eBay.  Think of the barcode as a standard.  The barcode is the description.  When you sell items on Amazon, the buyer expects to receive the item to be comparable to the same item purchased at a local retailer.  The item should be complete, whether it is new or used.  Essentially, your item should conform to the information given on the Amazon Product Details page.

If you are selling a copy of this booamazonproductdetailsk, it should be the paperback 14th Edition with 480 pages, weigh 2.2 lbs and measure the same dimensions, and have the ISBN-10 or ISBN-13 (or both) shown on the back of the book or on the copyright page.  The picture of the item on the Amazon sales page should look exactly like the item in your hand.  Consider this the standard for a new or used book.  A new book will be brand new with no flaws.  Unless you deal directly with publishers or distributors, you should not list your books as new.  Assuming that you are selling a used book, you will grade your book (Acceptable, Good, Very Good, Like New) and write your condition notes (highlighting, cover scuffs, etc) when you are listing your book.

Items that do not meet the standard set by the ISBN or UPC on the product are better candidates for eBay.  Amazon buyers do not necessarily read the description of your item.  They expect it to be complete.  Your item will probably be one of many identical items offered for sale on Amazon, sorted by price and service.  Your competition is all on one page.  On eBay, your competition is individual auctions or fixed-price sales that show up after a user performs a keyword search.  The eBay buyer must click through each auction/sales page to find an item that meets the condition and price point of interest.  The eBay item might be missing components or have a tricky return policy.  An eBay buyer is expected to read the entire sales page and understand the conditions of the sale before purchasing the item, as terms and conditions vary from seller to seller.  An Amazon buyer expects the same terms and conditions of the sale independent of the seller, an expectation backed by the Amazon A to Z guarantee.  Sellers that do not conform to Amazon's expectations will not last long.

How to List Your Items on Amazon Using a Spreadsheet

Listing items on Amazon is easy.  No pictures required.  Click through a few short forms, write a few notes, and your item is live on the third-party Marketplace.  Literally, your item might sell within minutes of listing if the demand is there.  If you have a lot of items to list, you can use a spreadsheet to work offline and upload your items in bulk.  That means less clicking, less waiting, more listing.  Like any skill, there is a learning curve here.  Read my tutorial below to accelerate your learning curve.

Materials Needed

  • Inventory items
  • Computer on the platform of your choice (Mac or PC)
  • Spreadsheet - Microsoft Excel or Open Office Calc (FREEWARE)
  • OPTIONAL, but highly recommended - USB barcode scanner

You probably have most of those things at your disposal.  If you do not have a barcode scanner, I recommend buying one.  I purchased one for $25 a few years ago when I got sick of typing in UPCs and ISBNs into spreadsheets.  It's a very small price to pay for efficiency and you can use it for plenty of other websites (like Bookscouter).


InventoryaddFind an inventory template and the accompanying documentation provided by Amazon.  You can find it in Amazon Seller Central by hovering over the Inventory tab and selecting Add Products via Upload.





You will be presented with the following page.


Click on the Download Template or Learn more links.  Both take you to the same place.  Read that page in its entirety.  Scroll down to the Templates part of the page.  This is where you will find the inventory templates you will need to modify to upload your products in bulk to Amazon.  DO NOT SKIP THE DOCUMENTATION!


For the sake of simplicity, I use the standard Inventory Loader file.  I use it to avoid specific details and speed up my listing process.  I list many books, but I never use the Book Loader file.  The Book Loader file is bloated with lots of bullet point type descriptions that enhance your listing, but will not necessarily help you sell more books.  If you are selling Collectible books, the Book Loader is the way to go.  I do not list many Collectible books on Amazon; they sell better on eBay because collectors are picky and want lots of pictures and descriptions.

Download the Inventory Loader file and open it in your favorite spreadsheet program.  I use Microsoft Excel on my Mac.  If you're a college student, you may be able to get Microsoft Office for free from your school.  Look into it.  You can get Open Office for FREE!  It's even free from Amazon!  I use it on my PC.

Your screen should look similar to this.  Click on the image to expand it.


You've got a lot of columns there!  What do they all mean?  That's where the documentation comes in handy.  READ IT.  This is why I told you to read it.  Print it out and keep it next to you for a quick reference.  Before I get to explaining what these column headings mean, let's get rid of a few.  We don't need all of them filled out to list our items.  All that stuff about shipping and tax codes can be set globally in Seller Central when you upload the file.  I'm going to cut out a few columns.  Right click on the letter at the top of the column, K, for example, and pick Delete.  The column will disappear.  Let's get rid of the dead weight.


I cut out half of the columns and stretched out the names for readability.  Let's talk about each one of these headings and what they mean.

  • sku - Stock Keeping Unit.  This is a number or letter or word you assign to the product in your inventory.  I write SKUs sequentially, numbering at 1.  So my first unit ever listed in inventory is 1, the next is 2, etc.  Amazon doesn't care about how many SKUs you have in their system, it's just a relationship between your SKU and the next column, product-id.
  • product-id - This is the barcode number: the UPC, the ISBN, the EAN, or the ASIN.  The ASIN is the Amazon Standard Identification Number.  You can find it in the product details page.  They look like this: B008XAXAC4.  For books, the ASIN will be the same as the ISBN-10.  Instead of typing in a bunch of random numbers, you can use that barcode scanner I recommended to input the numbers for you.
  • product-id-type - Defines what the number in the previous column means.  1 = ASIN, 2 = ISBN, 3 = UPC, 4 = EAN.  I primarily use 1 for ASIN/ISBN and 3 for UPC.
  • price - Your selling price.  This one little column deserves a post all its own.  If you're using FBA, make sure to factor shipping into your price.  You don't need any dollar signs, just an integer.  10 = $10.
  • item-condition - Another numeric signifier.  Do not write any words here, just a number.  Reference the Inventory Loader File Instructions for the numbers.  I mostly use 1 - 4, where 1 = Like New, 2 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 4 = Acceptable.  If your item is NEW, put 11 in this column. Collectible condition grades use 5 - 8, mirroring 1 - 4 for standard conditions.
  • quantity - Number of items you are listing for sale.  If you have 1 of an item, put a 1 in this column.  Got 25 of the same thing to sell?  Great, put 25 here.  Advanced trickery - this column is not needed if you are doing FBA.
  • item-note - DESCRIPTION!  Talk about your item here.  I keep it pretty generic and focused on condition.  I wrote about that on my book grading post.  Example:  Softcover, light shelfwear.  No writing, highlighting, or underlining in text.  Fast shipping!  Write it exactly as you want it to be seen.  Include punctuation, spaces, a diary entry, whatever.
  • fulfillment-center-id - FBA ONLY!  If you are not using FBA, clip this column too!  If you are using FBA, just write AMAZON_NA in this column for every item.  Amazon figures out where to place your inventory for you.


Start filling in your boxes.  All of the information should be right in front of you.  You will want to open up a browser page on Amazon to get the job done.  I used Wong's Essentials of Pediatric Nursing as an example.  Not a lot of upside in this book, but I got it cheap and it fetched a higher price when I originally listed it some months ago with the intention of writing this post.  Procrastination kills.


That's it.  That's all I had to say about that book.  Do that a few hundred times and fill up your file.  No more clicking through pages on Amazon to get your stuff loaded.  Fill it up with your skus and get back to me when you're finished.


Alright, this is where it gets a little tricky.  Amazon wants to see your spreadsheet in a plain text file.  It doesn't want all of that Excel formatting with the color and fonts and all that business.  It wants the text only.  We need to save our inventory file as a text file.  Save it as an Excel file (.xls) first.  Then open Save As and find Tab Delimited Text (.txt).  That's the option we want.  If you have Comma Separated Values (.csv) format available, pick that.  Amazon doesn't really care either way, it's just a text monster, eating all text presented to it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.27.58 AM

Upload Your File

Get back to the Add Products via Upload page in Seller Central.  Start going through the drop down menus.  The page will change as you do this.


Pick Inventory Loader File if you followed my example.  If you used one of the other templates, pick the appropriate one from the drop down.


Set your shipping information if asked.  Choose the file you want to upload (the text file we created using a spreadsheet).  When you have picked it, the name will appear on the page.  Hit Upload now and wait for the file to upload.  It shouldn't take long.


After a few minutes, maybe longer depending on the size of your file, you will get an update on your inventory status.  Your status may say "In Progress" if the Amazon server is still chewing up your text.  When it's "Done," the results will be provided.  In this example I uploaded 156 skus, 156 skis were activated, and I made no errors in my file.  If you make an error in your file, you have to click on View Processing Report to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.  Amazon provides error codes and tells you where to look in your file for the error.  It's not always obvious.

I recommend starting small with this method.  Try putting 5 items in to your spreadsheet, creating the text file, and going through the upload process to get your feet wet.  When you feel comfortable with the process, start ramping up your files to include all of the inventory in your batch.  This is merely an introduction to what can be done with Amazon's bulk uploading process.  Pictures, bullet points, and other descriptive flourishes can be added to your listings if you are willing to put in the time to learn the ins and outs of the various inventory loader files.  Personally, I keep it simple and list all of my media this way.  If an item requires more description to sell it, it probably belongs in another marketplace.

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A Veteran Bookseller’s Review of Profit Bandit for iPhone

Profit Bandit - Try Free for 7 Days!

What is Profit Bandit?

For the uninitiated, Profit Bandit is an app for iOS and Android devices designed for Amazon Third-Party Sellers.  Turning your smartphone eye into a barcode scanner, Profit Bandit retrieves selling data from Amazon servers and returns it to your phone in an appealing presentation.  The amount of data shown on screen after a single scan would take several clicks and screen views to generate using Amazon's own app or website.  That's time.  As the old adage goes, time is money.  The less time you spend on buying decisions means more money in your pocket.  Profit Bandit for iPhone improved my buying decision making process.

Features of Profit Bandit


Profit Bandit dumps data on your screen.  Being mostly text, Profit Bandit uses disproportionately little cellular data to transmit the data dump to your phone.  The Profit Bandit layout presents the data in a colorful, interactive interface packed with features.  The obvious information of interest to a reseller is the current selling prices, and Profit Bandit delivers those data points broken down by categorization (FBA, New, Used, Collectible) and condition (Acceptable, Good, Very Good, Like New) all on one screen.

Sales Rank

My favorite datum, the one I most desired when looking for items to resell on Amazon, is Sales Rank.  Sales Rank is an indicator of how well an item sells on Amazon.  Though subject to daily, even hourly fluctuation, Sales Rank remains the most important metric for an Amazon reseller to gauge turnover.  If an item has a very low Sales Rank, it will sell quickly; conversely, a high Sales Rank means an item will probably sit in your inventory longer.  The current selling price tells an incomplete story about the future of the item in your hands.  Knowing the demand for the item can finish the purchasing decision for you.  I have passed on items with high selling prices because of high Sales Rank.  I have purchased items with little profit because of low Sales Rank, knowing that they would provide a small, short return on my money.  There's no such thing as a sure thing, but Sales Rank points to the probability of a sure thing.

Profit Calculator


Accustomed to mental math, I ignored this feature for a few weeks before discovering its power.  Input a few settings on the back end of the app, type in your purchase price, and Profit Bandit calculates your potential profit on an item.  Being a veteran seller, I have my own algorithm for divining the profit on an item and thought the inclusion of this feature was trivial.  One day while scanning a book, I made an errant click, and the calculation at the bottom of the screen changed.  How did that happen?  I didn't change the purchase price and my profit increased?  I discovered that clicking on any price in the information field will change the calculation.  Think your item is in Very Good condition?  Click on the Very Good item for sale and see how it changes your profit.  Got a collectible?  Click in that column and watch your numbers change.  It's a nice feature that I cast aside for too long.  See the two pictures above for reference.  In the first (scroll up a bit!), I selected a VG (Very Good) copy for sale at $105.79, giving me a profit of $83.91.  In the second, I picked a LN (Like New) copy for sale at $121.76, delivering a $97.49 profit on my $1.50 investment.  Tap on the Profit in the lower right hand corner, and Profit Bandit will show you a detailed breakdown on the gross and net proceeds of your potential acquisition as shown below.


Sell It

Want to sell your item while you're on the go?  Click on the Sell It button in the Profit Bandit app and start filling out the fields to list your item.  It might sell by the time you get home.  Reference that profit calculation made earlier and maximize the potential earnings from your item.



Like your favorite web browser, Profit Bandit remembers the things it sees and compiles a History.  Want to see what you scanned that day?  Read through your History.  When I scrolled through mine, I was surprised to see how many items I had scanned in a day.  When I looked through a bag of my purchases and thought, "Why did I buy this thing?", I referenced my History and remembered why: great resale price, low Sales Rank, high profit!  Like that favorite browser of yours, you can clear Profit Bandit's History whenever you like.  If so inclined, you can even email a spreadsheet (CSV) of your History to yourself.  Information is power, and Profit Bandit gives you plenty of information for your education.

Special Functions


This hidden feature allows you to search other marketplaces for the item of interest.  Tap on the name of the item and a dropdown menu appears containing links to search for an item on CamelCamelCamel, Google Products, eBay, PriceWatch, PriceGrabber, BookFinder, or PaperBackSwap.  I like to give certain items a quick cross reference on eBay without firing up the official eBay app.  That eBay link also saves you the time of typing the title of your search into eBay.  However, it does not get into specifics like Sold or Completed Listings that are often the true metric of the eBay marketplace.  Another great reference is CamelCamelCamel, which shows historical price data for the item on Amazon.  Integration with BookScouter would be a welcome function in the menu.  Of course, there is an official BookScouter app that you should have on your iPhone if you prefer to wholesale your finds instead of retailing them yourself.



Customize Profit Bandit to reflect your situation.  Live in a foreign country?  No problem!  Set Profit Bandit for Amazon's United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy sites.  Do you fulfill the item yourself?  No problem.  Use FBA?  There's a button for that!  Want it to vibrate at certain profit or Sales Rank thresholds?  Sure.  Change your calculation to account for Sales Tax, FBA fees, Postage, and more.  Got a bluetooth scanner?  Integrate it if you like, but it will cost you a one-time fee of $49.  Configure Profit Bandit to meet your needs.



Profit Bandit uses a built-in scanner app called ZBar that turns your smartphone camera into a barcode scanner.  Scan UPC, ISBN, or QR codes and Profit Bandit returns the information.  Used to using the popular Pic2Shop scanning app?  Set Profit Bandit to use Pic2Shop under Settings and continue enjoying the Pic2Shop experience.  I like the ZBar scanner.  It finds the barcode and boxes it in before snapping the shot and returning to the Profit Bandit interface.  The barcode can be anywhere in the visual field and does not need to be aligned to a horizontal red line across the screen.  Occasionally, I shake my phone or the object to bring it into focus.  Once in awhile, the scanner fails me, and I resort to typing information into the search bar at the top of the app.  If I type in the ISBN or UPC exactly, Profit Bandit returns the correct item.  If I type in the title or a few keywords, Profit Bandit generates a list of potential hits that must be scrolled through and selected from before arriving at the correct item.

The Cons of Profit Bandit

Above are 1,100 words about how much I like Profit Bandit.  Surely, I must have a few criticisms of the app.  Having used it for a few weeks, a few irks and quirks jumped out at me.

  1. The manual search could be improved.  When I type in a title or a few keywords about an item, the app returns a laundry list of possible items related to my search.  It would be nice to be able to narrow this down by category (Books, DVDs, etc.) and streamline my buying process.  Perhaps this feature exists and I am frustratingly free of this knowledge.
  2. Sometimes I have to rescan an item.  For whatever reason, the app convinces me that it sees what I see and closes the scanner but returns to the last page I saw, not registering a successful scan.  I press the Scan button again, rescan the item and get the expected data on my second try.  
  3. Occasionally, Profit Bandit is uncommunicative with Amazon servers.  Perhaps the service is overloaded, maybe a squirrel chewed through the server's power cord.  I don't know, but it frustrates me, and I know that my cellular connection is good because other apps function seamlessly in the interim.  The outages have been brief, but, like the rescanning bug, time lost is money lost.
  4. It's not free.  You read through all of this, skimmed it, and arrived at a price tag.  Profit Bandit will cost you $14.99 at the App Store or iTunes or whatever they call it these days.  Being exquisite gentlemen, the lads at SellerEngine responsible for developing Profit Bandit offer a 7-day Money Back Guarantee on your purchase.  That's pretty good.  That's almost free.  

How is that almost free?  On your first trip out, I can practically guarantee you that you will earn that $14.99 fee back.  If you have been at the reselling game for any period of time, you know how to turn $1 into $5, or $10 or $20 or $50 or $100 or more.  For $15 (don't be fooled by that $14.99), you will be working faster and smarter than you were before.  Data driven decisions are better decisions.  Trust your gut, but verify.  That's what I do.  Having been in the game for longer than I care to admit, I know the ballpark value of most things I pick up.  Knowing today's fair market value and the relative demand for the item empowers my decision making process. Try Profit Bandit and see what it does for your process and your profit.      

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