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Nine eBay selling tips for beginners

Hi Kristen-

I saw you mentioned selling schoolbooks on eBay in your miscellany post.  I have been meaning to do a big clean-up, and I am terrified of listing things on eBay. I was wondering if that might make a good future post for you?  Like how did you get started listing items, what steps did you take, any advice, pit-falls, etc?

Thanks and take care!

Millicent

eBay book sale packages on a desk.

I think there are probably a million other people out there who are way more qualified to answer this question, especially since I’m kind of a reluctant eBay seller.

But I’m happy to share what’s worked for me.

What follows is not at all a comprehensive list of steps to sell on ebay.   If that’s what you’re looking for, here’s a wiki on that topic.

But in case you want some of my personal tips, here you go:

1. Take clear photos in flat, even light.

You can shoot with a camera or your phone or whatever, but you need to find good light.

Don’t take your listing photos at night, with artificial light, and don’t do bright sunlight either.   Find a spot in front of a window that doesn’t have direct sunlight, and photograph your items there.

broken laptop

2. Take more than one photo.

Show all sides of your item.

For a book, snap a photo of the cover and spine, and maybe the copyright page.  

For other items, make sure you show the front, back, sides, and any important identifying information (model numbers, etc.).

It’s SO easy to take photos, what with smartphones and digital cameras, so it’s a little silly to only take and upload one.

3. Look at completed listings before you make a listing.

This helps me decide if my item is likely to sell for a reasonable price (if not, I just freecycle it!) and also helps me accurately price the items I decide to sell.

4. Use important words in your listing title.

You want to make it easy for your listing to appear in searches.

For instance, if you have a workbook and a textbook and a solutions manual, try to include those words in the title, along with the edition number.

(i.e. Saxon Math 54 Textbook, Workbook, & Solutions Manual Lot, 3rd edition)

Or if you were selling a piece of musical gear, you’d want to include the make, model, color, and style of your item.

Think about what you’d search for if you were shopping for that item, and use those keywords.

5. Include plenty of info in your listing text.

I know I’m way more likely to buy an item from a seller who has thoroughly described the item and has shared all the important model numbers/SKUs/ISBNs and so on.

homeschool curriculum

6. Decide if you want to offer internation shipping.

I hate the headache of shipping anyway, and I REALLY don’t want to mess with international stuff.   Too complicated.

So, I always check the No International Shipping box.

7. Decide if you want to accept returns.

Usually I opt not to accept returns.  

Doing returns opens a whole complicated bag of worms that I would just rather not deal with.

If someone wants a returnable item, I figure they can find another seller to buy from!   I’m not the person they’re looking for.

8. Think about when you want your auction to close.

If you schedule your auction to end on a Friday or Saturday night, you won’t get as many bidders because people aren’t usually at their computers at those times.

I’ve had good luck with starting and ending auctions on Sunday afternoons/evenings, and I’ve also read that Tuesday and Thursday evenings are good ending times.

9. Choose a Buy It Now price and a starting price.

I usually base the Buy It Now price on what other completed listings have sold for, and I usually start my auctions at $0.99.  

Occasionally I end up selling an item for $0.99 (annoying!), but more often than not, a tiny starting price encourages people to start bidding, and things go up from there.

_______________

I’m pretty sure there are some experienced eBay sellers among us. If that’s you, could you share any of your helpful tips in the comments section?  

P.S. If you are specifically wanting to sell books, here’s a post about how I sell books on eBay.

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Billy Griffith

Wednesday 30th of June 2021

Good Morning! Quick question- Do you still sell books on EBay? I was just looking to see how you do it. I love your articles

Kristen

Wednesday 30th of June 2021

Sure! Here's a post I wrote specifically about selling books on ebay. https://www.thefrugalgirl.com/how-to-sell-books-on-ebay/

JoC

Friday 17th of June 2016

Shipping was the biggest hurdle for me, but now its easy. I spent 20 dollars on a good scale. I asked coworkers to save bubble wrap for me. I "buy" usps boxes online at usps.com for free. I keep everything in a bin in my home office. I also set my preferences to not include anyone who has two bad ratings or nonpayments. I block any buyers who have been ugly to me. I have had a great experience unloading things in my home, my parents' home, and even flipped a few yard sale finds.

Kim in Maryland

Thursday 16th of June 2016

I have sold on Amazon for 4 years this month. I sell a variety of things but mostly books and sewing patterns. Amazon tells you what your fees will be when you list so it should be no surprise what your profit will be. For media (books, cds, dvds) you get a $3.99 shipping allowance for Standard shipping, which means I will normally even make a small amount on the shipping. That said there are many books that are not worth selling because they have no value or there are hundreds listed for sale which cause a race to the bottom when it comes to price. .

I have developed several "niche markets" of book subjects that I look for when I am buying for resale. I bought a box of books at a church sale for a $1 and sold several of the books for $80-100 and one even sold for $225. Another time at a yard sale I bought a box for $3 and made over $800 in profit from the sale of the books. These were not old books which are normally worth little but were books on very specific technical subjects and there were limited number available for sale on Amazon. When I first started I bought an out of production board game for $1 and sold it quickly for $75. I have shipped items to Australia, Canada, NZ, Korea, most of Europe, to APO service members and all 50 states.

I get most of my packing supplies for free from fellow Freecyclers or if it is Expedited shipping. I use Priority Mail which USPS provides for free. I use me Staples Rewards to by packing tape and envelopes. I find Amazon shipping to be very easy to use. I also use my phone to check what an item sells for and its rank before I buy for resale and therefor limit my risk.

Kim in Maryland

Friday 17th of June 2016

Buy not by!

Millennial Moola

Wednesday 15th of June 2016

Is Half that much better than selling books on Amazon? I walked away with about $4 after selling a book for $11 plus shipping there the other day so I won't be going back to them

SandyH

Wednesday 15th of June 2016

My daughter sells high end women’s clothing on eBay. This is her full-time job and she makes more money than I do. It’s an actual job, not just a sideline, requiring her to pay taxes, keep spreadsheets, etc and shopping, shopping shopping! She is always busy, shopping and shipping; she had wanted to do this for awhile and dabbled in for a bit before quitting her other job, and doing this full-time. Her husband is a teacher, so she felt more free doing this as they have their health insurance and other benefits through him. She had a challenge convincing him it would work, and they agreed on a six-month trial. I do believe he was amazed at the money she made and how serious she is about it.

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