My Print On Demand (POD) businesses are mainly on the Merch By Amazon platform, Amazon’s print on demand platform selling t-shirt and other merch, and KDP, Amazon’s print on demand paperback book selling platform.
How well or badly have I done in 2019? Is it worth my while to continue? I will be looking at the money I’m making, the time I’m spending, and whether I still enjoy the businesses.
Here’s a video where I talk about my POD businesses’ performance in 2019 and look forward to 2020.
However I will be going into more detail in the following blog post than I did in the above video. Let’s get going!
Selling low content paperbacks on Amazon through KDP
So, let’s start with KDP. KDP actually stands for Kindle Direct Publishing which, confusingly, is the platform Amazon also uses to publish and sell paperback books. Basically, you enroll at KDP, upload the PDFs of low content books and sell them as paperbacks on Amazon. Low content books are typically notebooks, logbooks and planners.
I started halfway through 2018 and by the end of that year, I think I had about 750 low content books live on Amazon websites around the world.
Here are my KDP sales figures for 2018.
If you’re wondering how I made sales before May / June 2018, this is because I’ve actually written proper non-fiction books – some of them are quite good! Here is my author page on Amazon. These aren’t low content books!
I was so enthusiastic about low content book selling on Amazon in 2018. Virtually everything I tried seemed to be successful.
And the year culminated with a massive $3700+ royalty payment from December 2018 alone!
So, I started 2019 with a KDP spring in my step. However, after a promising start, things took a disappointing turn. Here are my KDP sales figures for 2018:
So, as you can see. I got a respectable $2000 payment from January. My 2019 planners were selling well as people bought their yearly planner at the beginning of the year.
But from February 2019 until October 2019 I rarely managed over $1300 per month from KDP. And then came the Q4 / Christmas period. $2700+ in December 2019, compared with $3700+ the previous year – and with double the amount of products. Ouch!
All in all, total sales revenue from paperback books in 2019 was nearly $17,000, compared with just over $7000 the previous year. But bear in mind, I’d spent the whole of 2019 working on KDP and more than doubled the amount of products.
The reason for my fall in sales on KDP
The reason for these disappointing figures in 2019 is definitely that the competition has increased.
This doesn’t mean that KDP is saturated. There still exists and will always exist amazing opportunities for selling paperback books on Amazon.
But some of what used to work in 2018 won’t work now in 2109. For example, lined notebooks don’t seem to do as well now as they did a year ago. Basically, you have to work harder to get the sales.
OK. So now let’s talk about Merch, baby.
My Merch by Amazon YoY “progress”
On the Merch by Amazon program you can sell tshirts, hoodies, Popsockets, etc., designs to sell by print on demand.
This is harder to see but the light pink bars are number of products sold in 2019 and the light gray bars are number of products sold in 2018.
You can see that, for the first 9 months of 2019, I wasn’t doing so well, selling less than the previous year. But my Q4 2019 was marginally better than the previous year.
So, I made $5224.91 Merch in 2019. Not great considering that I made $7153.85 in 2018.
But you know what I like about these figures? I didn’t do much work on Merch by Amazon during the course of 2019 as I was concentrating on low content books.
In fact, I didn’t do hardly any work in the first 9 months of 2019 on Merch by Amazon but in Q4 2019 I finally started creating a few products in a couple of good niches I know.
Selling shovels in the gold rush
Also in 2019, I added another passive income stream to my POD portfolio. I sold 2020 planner templates as PDF and InDesign documents.
Many people find it hard to create planners – it can be quite fiddly, it involves getting all dates correct, allowing for leap years, translating to other languages, etc.
I love to use Gumroad to sell digital products. And these planners proved quite popular.
As you can see I made two products. One of the PDFs and one of the PDFs as well as the InDesign documents:
Before and after the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849, who made the most money? The gold prospectors who got lucky? No. It was the entrepreneurs who sold the tools to the gold prospectors.
So, it’s interesting that by far the easiest $6k I’ve ever earned was selling these templates to be sold on Amazon to other low content publishers!
Is that all the money I made from POD in 2019?
No, but that’s most of it. For the record, I do have some designs selling on other POD platforms. But I’m not really making any money. Here are the other platforms I’m selling designs on (mostly tshirts).
Overall I made about $400 from these platforms.
Expenses – how much did I spend and what on?
POD is quite boring, to be honest. Well, I like the design but I don’t like the research or the uploading. So I use freelancers and VAs to do the tasks I enjoy the least.
All in all, I estimate I spent no more that $5000 on outsourcing and $2000 on AMS advertising.
Profit – sales revenue minus costs
So, total sales revenue from all my POD business in 2019 came to around $28k. The breakdown is:
- KDP paperback book sales revenue: $17k
- Merch by Amazon sales revenue: $5k
- Planner templates sales revenue: $6k
So, $28k sales revenue minus $7k costs means my total profit from all my POD businesses in 2019 is … $21,000.
(Yes, I know, the figures are slightly different here than what I said in the video. Apologies! They are more accurate here. But still an estimate.)
Obviously, this isn’t all the money I earned in 2019. But I don’t record all my business income. I used to record all my passive income and expenditure but I stopped after I got a bit of online hate. If you’re interested, here are all my passive income business reports from 2013 to the present day!
So, where do I go from here?
As you may have noticed, I have a love / hate relationship with my POD businesses.
I love the fact I just have to make pretty designs on my shiny MacBook Pro and sell them. I don’t have to deal with customers, fulfilment, returns, cancellations, payment gateways, and all that crap. And, if I have a successful design, it’s passive income, baby!
But, on the other hand, I hate that it involves a lot of work. It’s a numbers game. You have to take time on the product creation, especially with low content books. I used to enjoy the process when I started but I rapidly grew bored of it as the second year progress.
Also, what’s the future? Yes, it is passive income but I really don’t expect these products to last more than a few years. There is zero barrier to entry to these programs and more and more entrepreneurs and designers will crowd these businesses in the future.
Furthermore, if the great Amazon monopoly is left unchecked, they can use their already existing AI and big data capabilities to sell these products themselves. And you can’t compete with Amazon.
So, I will continue on my POD businesses but double down on what’s working at the moment.
And, I will continue to look for businesses that will provide more long term passive income streams that don’t involve a lot of work and are more future proof!
What do you think? Are you working in POD in 2020? Where do you see the opportunities?
Please leave a comment down below.
If you’re interested in starting a POD business yourself …
Here are some free and paid courses to give you a helping hand:
- FREE Course on Selling Low Content Books on Amazon
- OVER 55% OFF! Selling Low Content Books On Amazon Course
- Hurry: Get OVER 50% OFF now on MY INTRODUCTORY MERCH COURSE
- Hurry: Get 55% OFF!!! Learn about Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator for Merch By Amazon. FULL COURSE!