Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sell Your Shirt Without Losing It: The eBay Survival Guide


I'm eBay-deficient, I admit it freely. I have never bought, or sold, anything on eBay, never even shopped there. But I was aware of the online auction-house, in a vague sort of way.

That changed when my spouse decided to sell some original artwork online, meaning I would be setting it up for sale. I got an eBay ID, but hadn't gone a step further, because I was intimidated by the welter of dos and don'ts and options. I had heard of people being cheated, and worried about whether I needed to set up a PayPal account.

A month passed. Two months. Then I happened on Michael Bank's book, The eBay Survival Guide. There it was, the missing "step of confidence." Banks provides all the information you need to buy and sell successfully on eBay, without getting burned by the experience.
My eBay: Even though my main interest is in selling, I carefully read Part II about buying from eBay, especially Bank's warnings to eBay bidders about recognizing red flags from sellers—okay, now I know it's pointless, even counter-productive to warn scam-artist bidders about trying to cheat me.

For my purposes, the winning chapter was 10: "How to Create Listings that Sell." Banks offers common-sense tips like "avoid cliches and overused descriptors like rare, unique, awesome, vintage, and cool"—instead, identify what is unique (awesome, cool, etc.) about your item. Use really unusual words to garner attention—Banks recommends odd, strange, eerie, and noteworthy, and suggests using a thesaurus to find an appropriate eye-catcher.
My eBay: I have this covered already—my spouse has a distinctive style, a type of art that we've named "Math Moire."

For the description, Banks provides a template for writing informative, inviting sales copy, and walks through an example for selling a wristwatch. Key to this, he says, is spell-checking and grammar. (And you thought you were done with that when you left high-school!) He cautions the seller to avoid misleading bidders with subjective reactions (don't say it's beautiful, post a picture and let the bidder decide), or omitting critical negative information (instead, put a positive spin on it—it's not "broken," it's "unrestored.")
My eBay: I checked over the copy I had already written, and added the size of the piece. This was the one item of information I had noticed was left out of almost all the Artwork entries. I don't know about others, but when I buy art, I'd like to know if it's 8 feet wide or 8 inches!

Math Moire piece, Image hosted by

Someone wants it, but maybe not at the price!

And here it is, my own eBay page, built in ten minutes by following the advice of The eBay Survival Guide. Am I done now? Nope. Based on what happens in the next few days, I will need to decide about when—and whether—to relist.

Relisting an item gives you an opportunity to fine-tune the title, ad-copy and offering price. Banks gives some solid advice on making these choices to increase excitement, attention and the likelihood of a sale. Furthermore, he informs us, you can revise your listing in mid-auction if you're not getting much response. So that's my next step.

Even when you have an item that won't sell, Banks has a great suggestion: use it to sweeten the pot for another sale. Just because it hasn't sold, doesn't mean it is unwanted. That broken pocket watch might not be worth $9 on its own, but offered as a BONUS item with a $400 antique pocket-watch stand, it might tip the balance to buy for some bidder.

Meanwhile, if you have a yen for some tchotchke or objet d'art, or you have a gewgaw or gimcrack to sell, there's a road-map to success on eBay waiting for you in The eBay Survival Guide.


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