For What It’s Worth

I was “invited” to be a part of Amazon’s new Handmade initiative. I say “invited” because I’m pretty sure anyone who said they’d like to be a part of it was issued an invitation.

I have to say that so far, I’m not overly impressed. I’ve been on Etsy (off and on) for three years. It isn’t perfect but it’s fairly easy to navigate and it was clearly designed for people who make art, not write code. Amazon Handmade has some kinks that still need to be ironed out. One of the problems, I’m sure, is the size of Amazon. They think in the millions – millions of products, millions of customers, bazillions of dollars. Artisans think in singles – one more pillow, one more necklace. We can’t mass produce our items because if we could, they wouldn’t be Handmade.

For the first year of the Handmade roll-out, Amazon is waiving the seller fee which is normal $39.99 per month. If a Handmade member sells more than 40 products in one month, they will reinstate the seller fee. I’m sure there are plenty of artisans for whom the $40.00 (rounding up) each month would not be a problem. There are many more artisans for whom $40 could be more than they make in a month. And if I was going to pay $40 per month, I’d pay for a sparkling website all of my own. Etsy charges $.20 per listing plus a percentage of the selling price (I honestly can’t remember what that percentage is.) Amazon charges 12% of the selling price for items sold, and does not charge a listing fee. But if they reinstate the $40 per month seller fee in one year, as they say they will, I won’t be able to afford to stay on Amazon.

One of the upsides to Amazon, of course, is the built-in audience. The downside is the millions of products they sell. They don’t currently have a way to navigate directly to the Handmade section. Maybe that’s coming. They haven’t said. Etsy was originally only handmade items. Even now you can sort your search to exclude items which are not handmade. And it’s easy to find the store of an artisan you admire. On Amazon, finding the “Storefront” seems to be broken. I clicked on my storefront link and it showed I had one product in stock. I actually have five products in stock. I don’t know what happened to the other products that should have appeared on my storefront.

I would have six items in stock but I was trying to customize one of my items and couldn’t get the process to work. I’m not a coding genius by anyone’s definition but I know my way around html. I can figure out how most websites want you to enter your information. But on Amazon, I kept getting an error and couldn’t determine where it was. I put in a help ticket for it to see what it was I doing wrong. It should be more intuitive, to both post the items and make customizations.

The listing process requires that you include at least one photo of your item, which makes sense. (They allow for a lot more photos of each item then Etsy’s five photos which is a plus on their side.) But when I click on the link that appears on my inventory manager, the listing pops up with “no image available.” How is that possible? The manager doesn’t allow a posting without a photo. How then does the photo disappear once it’s live?

I’m trusting that these are bugs which are inherent in any new enterprise. Amazon is accustomed to dealing with megamerchants. They have to gear down to think like an individual, likeĀ artists who want to spend most of their precious time making art, not trying to figure out how to successfully post it to Amazon.