A Review of AMan Pro
By Steve Weber
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
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
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.
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
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, Half.com, 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.
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.