Merch By Amazon Beginner’s Guide 2020

Merch By Amazon (Amazon Merch) Beginners Guide

Jumping straight into Merch by Amazon (MBA) once you have been accepted can be tempting but in the long run can lead to little or no sales, design rejections and even account suspension/termination. To make sure that you get the most out of you Amazon Merch account, in terms of general success & profit, and to avoid losing your account we’ve put together this quick reference guide.

This Merch by Amazon guide for beginners will assume that you are fairly proficient with an image editing program such as Photoshop or GIMP. You will need to be able to at the very least create a basic design on a transparent background to upload through your dashboard. If you are not yet at this level look for simple tutorials on how to create text/graphic designs using your application of choice.

Amazon Merch Resources

Before you start creating anything, it’s worth the time to spend collecting resources or at least sources of resources. You will use these resources for designing, keyword analysis etc. We’ve compiled a quick reference list of where to find what:

Merch Design Template

Amazon provide templates for designing so that you have the correct dimensions and can be downloaded from the resources area in your Dashboard. We’ve linked them directly below for your convenience.

Using the templates are not as straight forward as it might seem, especially for beginners, so we’ve put together a How To Use The Merch By Amazon Template Guide.

Image Editing Software

image editing

There is a lot of choice for imaging editing software – our recommendation being Adobe Photoshop CC because it is the industry standard, easy to use and fully featured. Currently this can be picked up at £9.99/$9.99 a month as part of Adobe’s Photography package. The full list of recommended software packages are as follows:

Free Vectors (Images)

The first point here is that you need to be very careful that the vectors you choose are in the public domain and free for commercial use without attribution. It can be a bit of a minefield. Luckily there are sites that collect such images and vectors and provide them free for you to use:

Even with these sites it’s important to note that user uploads may be allowed so it’s worth doing a reverse image search using Google or Tineye to confirm that someone hasn’t simply stolen them from elsewhere and uploaded to the above sites.

Of course, the true fire way to avoid any problems is to create the vectors/images yourself or even to go for text only designs.

If you’re unsure on how to use reverse image search to check for potential copyright issues check out this Reverse Image Search Guide.

Free Fonts

Again, you need to make sure that these fonts are free for commercial use without attribution so make sure you read the licenses for each font properly.

Make sure you cover yourself and do a quick search on the name of the font in case it has been added to the site under the free for commercial use tag in error.

Keyword Research Tools

As we’ll discuss further down, keywords are incredibly important! Without a process for keyword research and keyword utilisation you will find it very difficult to consistently create designs that sell. The obvious resource for this is Merch Informer and while that does ring in at $19.99 a month, it brings various tools into one location and due to the fact that it was created specifically for Amazon Merch, is the very best resource out there. There are free, manual methods too which are also listed below:

  • Merch Informer ($19.99 a month)
  • Merch Research (Free – returns all Merch tees for a keyword)
  • Use Keyword Planner in Google Ads
  • Use Amazon Search Bar Auto Complete
  • Chase trends using Twitter

Design Considerations (What sells well on Amazon)

Once you have a keyword targeted, you need to consider the design. People buy with their eyes, so it’s important that your design looks good. Straying from what people expect or what people demand will likely not yield good results. Things to bear in mind:

  • Font choice (looks good on a tee)
  • Color combinations
  • Text only sells well
  • Conventional layouts (Chest, pocket, full torso)
  • Vintage/distressed sells well
Captain Dad
For example, distressed/vintage designs appear less “stuck on” to a tee and are integrated better giving a higher quality look.

For a more detailed discussion of what sells well, check out our T-Shirt Design Tips Guide

Tiering Up quickly

Merch by Amazon works on a tiered system. In the beginning you will be severely limited in how many designs you can upload per day and how many total designs you have. Your starting point will be 10 or 25 design slots. Making profit at this point is actually not your major goal. Your actual goal is to tier up as quickly as possible, which will unlock more slots for designs. The reason for this line of thinking is that Merch by Amazon is a numbers game and the more designs you have, the more sales you make, but if you can only have 10 total designs you’re stumped.

So, with that in mind, make sure that you follow the design considerations above and also make sure that your keywords are on point – more of that below.

OK, so how do you quickly tier up on Merch by Amazon?

The answer is simple:

Very cheap t-shirts, with good keywords and clean designs will lead to more sales, more quickly. This will result in you tiering up and giving you access to more design slots on Amazon Merch.

Once you’re in a tier that gives you more room to upload you can of course update the prices of the shirts you’ve already uploaded and list new designs with a more profitable price point.

How To Price Your T-Shirts

Once you’re out of the Merch by Amazon lower tiers, your goal is of course now to make as much profit as possible. But this raises the conundrum of do I price low to get more sales but less profit per tee or do I price high to get less sales but more profit per tee?

In the world of Merch by Amazon, just like any business there is no one size fits all answer. You will need to do a bit of research and use a bit of common sense by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is there much competition for this particular design?
  • Is your design better, the same or worse than other similar tees?
  • What is the average price of competing tees?

But just because someone has dropped a tee on at $11 don’t be discouraged or feel like you must match this, as with a low price comes a mental link with low quality with customers.

Check out our article on for a more in depth look into pricing strategy for Amazon Merch tees

Evergreen vs Seasonal vs One Off Designs on MBA

First lets define each type of t-shirt design:

  • Evergreen – is not tied to an event or trend and should be profitable year round. E.g. “I love karate”
  • Seasonal – tied to a seasonal event such as Christmas, Easter etc.
  • One off – a trending phrase or specific to a year/ month E.g. Covfefe / Best Dad 2020

People tend to say to stick with evergreen to guarantee year round profits but I say why limit yourself? Evergreen should comprise the bulk of your designs for sure, but also make sure you add a healthy mix of seasonal designs. If you hit a winner you will sell a lot of tees for that particular event. Even one offs have their place but only if you get in on the ground floor – if something starts trending on Twitter and you can get a t-shirt up within the hour you may get a blast of sales for a day but you have to be incredibly lucky. The advice I give for such one offs is once the trend or date has passed, if you’re maxed out on upload slots, delete these tees as they’re just taking up space.

The Importance of Keywords

For a business that supposedly centres on design, interestingly design is not the most important aspect in your Amazon Merch Enterprise. You have to realise that your designs are swamped amongst millions of t-shirts on Amazon and even if you have the most incredible, beautiful design it’s not going to be found unless people are searching for keywords that are part of your listing. And if it’s not found, obviously it doesn’t sell.

So not only do you need to make sure that you have good keywords, you need to make sure that people are searching for those keywords. The easiest way is utilising merch informer which will show you how popular t-shirts featuring certain keywords are by analysing it against the BSR (Best Seller Rank) and converting that into estimated sales which you can use to determine if your keywords are generating enough interest. You can also just starting typing in the Amazon Auto Suggest search form. For example begin to type a phrase and the suggestion will show you common terms that match. Additionally pick a t-shirt phrase and type it in. Most of the time the result page will show not only tees for that design but also other related tees, expanding your possibilities.

Remember, you have 4 (potentially 5) locations to get keywords into your design so don’t waste or overlook them:

  • Title
  • Brand
  • Keywords 1
  • Keywords 2
  • Description (This is debatable but may be useful for search engine traffic)

Keyword Stuffing

Do not under any circumstances think that you can just throw every keyword into your listing in hopes of hitting a decent keyword/phrase. Amazon does not kindly on keyword stuffing in Merch by Amazon listings and will likely reject your design… not good.

For a complete keyword strategy check out the below guides – these are also linked further up but are so important that they need to be listed here:

  • Merch Informer [GUIDE COMING SOON]
  • Merch Research [GUIDE COMING SOON]
  • Use Amazon Search Bar Auto Complete [GUIDE COMING SOON]
  • Chase trends using Twitter [GUIDE COMING SOON]

The Importance of Competition

Another common sense point, but worth mentioning is look at your competition before even starting research or design. If your idea or concept already exists on 1,000 other t-shirts you’re going to find it very hard to break into the market unless your design is incredible or very cheap, and even then it’s debatable whether it’ll ever be seen.

That being said, once you’re in the higher tiers and you have hundreds of empty slots, it becomes less of a big deal. Why not “gamble” and fill some of your slots with these highly profitable but highly competitive tees just on the off chance that you hit the big time.

Avoiding Rejections

Avoiding rejections in Amazon Merch is easier said than done. Very little guidance is given and for that reason, it pays to be overly cautious to ensure the well being of your account. Things to avoid:

  • Curse words/profanity
    • Harsh swear words
    • More mild swear words like crap and asshole have been reported to be OK by some users but in my opinion are not worth the risk.
    • Remember that “Shirt” and “Shit” are just one letter different from each other so make sure you check that you don’t make this fatal mistake.
  • Advocating Hate
    • The obvious hate against groups of people, races etc. should be avoided simply by virtue of the fact that you’re not a bad person, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
    • Hating anything can trigger rejections: “I hate pickles”, “I hate cats” are best avoided.
  • Profiting from Tragedy
    • Any natural disaster, mass shooting or terrorist attack should again be avoided, if not simply because you are a decent person!
  • Pornography
    • Anything depicting sexual acts
    • This might be overkill but I also avoid mentioning sexual acts, even just hinting or suggesting at something.
  • Drugs
    • Marijuana is a particularly sore point for merch
    • Any recreational drugs by name
    • To play it safe even mentioning recreational drug use or drug culture and paraphernalia
  • Copyright & Trademarks (The Big One)
    • Make sure you check a site like TESS or for the main title of your shirt, any keywords you use or any phrases.
    • Avoid quotes from movies, books etc.
    • If the concept of your tee is utilising some reference, obscure or not that is copyrighted/trademarked such as a movie, book, video game etc. don’t do it.
    • Make sure you re-check trademarks/copyrights each month as someone can acquire a trademark after you list your tee and from experience Amazon doesn’t care about prior use – they will pull your tee anyway.
  • Physically describing the shirt/shipping info
    • Do not mention how many/which colors are available
    • Don’t mention quality of the shirts
    • Don’t mention prime or shipping times
  • Misleading Titles/Description
    • For example don’t mention dogs in your title if you tee features only cats
    • Don’t say that your tee is glow in the dark, reflective, activated by heat etc… because it’s not!
    • Don’t say it’s a maternity tee. This one is a little unfortunate as you may mean maternity due to it being for pregnant women to announce their pregnancy for example. But Amazon sees this as being misleading. It may make buyers think the t-shirt is designed specifically as a maternity shirt.
  • T-Shirts Targeted at Children
    • Now that youth sizes are available, really make sure that if you select it you avoid anything even slightly adult themed. Mentioning “Wine” or the word “Sexy” on a t-shirt available for children is not a good look and Merch by Amazon will react accordingly.
  • Misc
    • Blank designs
    • Low quality design – blurry, low resolution
    • URLs or contact info

Leave a Reply