How to fake it till you make it

Let’s start with a drumroll please … because last week I was accepted into Amazon’s Merch programme…

You know the one that’s all about putting your own designs on t-shirts that Amazon will then market and deliver to buyers. The programme has already turned many people into millionaires.

And this golden opportunity has now landed in my lap and I have the chance to make hundreds of thousands of pounds every year, which probably won’t be easy because:

– I have never worn t-shirts and haven’t the first clue about which designs sell and which don’t.

– I am not a designer and I am not techy either, so the thought of designing t-shirts using imaging programmes like PhotoShop is way beyond me.

– Amazon’s Merch programme restricts new members to twenty-five designs until some begin to sell and establish the newcomer as one likely to increase Amazon’s fortunes.  That is when you are allowed to upload more designs in the hope of finding several that sell by the truckload.

Did I sign up to this?

And there’s the biggest problem of all, because my designs, for cufflinks and wedding favors and other items I’ve designed and sold at places like Zazzle, have looked amateurish and taken days to create and only a few have sold.

And that means Amazon’s twenty-five t-shirt designs will not work for me.

Most of all, however, I can’t remember applying to join Amazon’s Merch programme and I’m pretty sure I never did, for all three hindrances just mentioned.

So how can I and millions of people like me – not arty, not techy – grab a share of the burgeoning market for t-shirts produced and sold and delivered by Amazon Merch?

How do we ensure our first twenty-five designs look as good as Amazon’s top selling designs and begin selling right away and pave the way for us to upload unlimited new designs. 

This is what I suggest we do:

#1. Hone Our Design Skills Outside of Amazon

Amazon is just one of countless PODProduce On Demand – sites to which designers upload their images and leave the company to promote and create and deliver goods bearing those designs. But Amazon is the largest marketplace by far and the one most likely to maximise sales of our designs. It is where you and I want to be and the sooner the better. 

But we don’t want to use Amazon as a testing ground and risk wasting our initial design allocation.

So one way to create twenty-five designs that become early bestsellers and lead Amazon to increase our design allowance is to create t-shirts for sites like Zazzle and keep careful notes of which designs attract the most sales. 

All the while we will be adding new designs until we have twenty-five and preferably more good sellers. These are the ones we will upload first to Amazon Merch. 

#2. Give PhotoShop and Similar Software the Elbow

Being crap designers could be the best thing that happens to some of us, especially with a world of images available from the public domain and a really neat way of using those pictures to make our designs unique – and very professional looking.

Let me say what follows probably isn’t the best way to go about creating unique designs but it’s worked every time for me, and I am sticking to it and hoping you will too!

These are the problems I have faced in the past and which we will address before creating our first designs:

– The older a public domain image is, the more likely it has become faded or discoloured, or developed ugly stains and cracks, all of which will spoil the new design and are very difficult to obliterate using imaging software.

– Most pictures scanned from public domain originals end up oblong shaped with lots of background material, because cropping round an unevenly shaped primary image is difficult and background features often detract from the main subject.  Look at most top designs on Amazon Merch, however, and you’ll find the majority lack background material and some have intricate outlines that might take experts several hours to produce. And probably days for you and me!

– When an image is uploaded to the POD site, the next job is usually to size and resize it to suit various sizes of your finished product, in this case a t-shirt. The greater the increase, the more blurred the image becomes, and the less likely the finished piece will sell. The more the image is reduced in size, the more unrecognisable it becomes and again the less likely it will sell.

And so many other problems besides confront non-designers like me, and many of my readers also.

How do we make our images perfect, and get it right first time?

I do it like this, preferably creating images that don’t require text or where text is separate from the image and can be introduced during the image uploading process:

(i) Write down the precise size and shape of the image required for a particular design. This way, your design won’t have to be resized and risk losing clarity or become unrecognisable.

(ii) Draw a shape on a piece of card matching the size of your target design: heart shapes are popular, for example, as are circles, triangles, letter and number shapes and combinations. Use a sharp pencil and heavy hand so the shape embosses through to the reverse side of the card.

(iii) Scan and make a paper copy of the piece of card bearing your shape.

(iv) On the paper copy, pencil in where image or images will appear on your finished piece.

(v) Choose and cut round your public domain images to remove unwanted background material.  Arrange images on the card at the appropriate spot they take on your paper mock up design. Aim to have images reach the outline of your intended design and, if necessary, extending beyond your pencilled line. Glue pieces in place when you are happy with the design.

(vi) Leave glue to dry. 

(vii) Turn to the reverse side and cut very carefully round the embossed outline of the intended design.

(viii) Use paint or crayons to camouflage faded colours, cracks and other defects. Work until your finished piece is as good as you can get it.

(ix) Now scan the finished image on card to create a first generation jpeg or png or other appropriate image format. Store it somewhere flat to avoid creasing and flaking images.

Job done!

#3. Study Amazon Merch Bestselling Designs and Make Ours Similar but Better

Now you choose a subject and basic design for your first t-shirt design. And it goes without saying you want your first design to become a bestseller.

What better way to achieve your aim than by basing your t-shirt on its bestselling counterparts on Amazon Merch and to validate its potential success on alternative sites, like Zazzle, before uploading it to Amazon Merch and risk wasting one of your twenty-five initial designs? 

Look often for ways to improve your basic design and note whether sales increase or go down. When your design brings regular sales on Zazzle and other POD sites, you transfer it to Amazon Merch. 

Simple as that!

The best place to research bestselling t-shirt designs at Amazon Merch is at:

Key any subject you think might make a popular t-shirt design into the search box and that will take you to current bestselling t-shirts based on your search term. 

Study designs topping the charts at Amazon, looking for specific images and captions, also titles and descriptions used in several or all of those listings. Keep notes of common keywords and design features. A more complicated and time-consuming way to study bestselling designs is using sales ranking provided by Amazon midway down a product’s listing page.  We’ll talk more about this later.

When you know how you want your t-shirt to look, with or without text included, you create your image and upload it to a t-shirt template at

And that’s where it begins to get much more exciting and incredibly profitable, if you get it right, and getting it right is the subject of next week’s eLetter.

Until then, practice the few steps just mentioned which we will build upon next week. While you are at it, sign up to be invited as a member of Amazon Merch at:

Now I’m off to create and upload my own new designs to Zazzle to generate statistics to help us both make tons of money at Amazon Merch. I’ll return next week with part 2 of this story. See you then.

The post How to fake it till you make it appeared first on Auction Genie.

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here