A Few Rules For Creating Successful EBAY Auction Listings
Why Don't Your EBAY Auctions Do Well?
Selling things on EBAY by Auction for many can be a disappointing experience. All too often the process for the would be seller involves taking a few pictures, uploading them, type in some kind of description, pick a category that seems about right and hit the old launch button..viola! When not much happens the would be seller usually seems surprised and then gets discouraged. Creating successful EBAY auction listings takes practice, so read our thoughts on it here and on our other posts, be patient and look closely at listings by successful eBay sellers for how they do it.
Creating successful eBay listings only takes a little practice and thought.
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We've all heard the stories about the $5 yard sale item that brings hundreds or thousands of dollars, the comic book dug out of a grandmother's attic that fly's off for $24,000 and on and on. Many sellers wonder why that doesn't happen to them?
The reality is, most of the sellers who do get short changed on EBAY get those results due to basic mistakes, not understanding auctions and/or laziness.
EBAY is a remarkably efficient market if used properly, its a tool, a very powerful tool. So get the most out of it.
We've been selling on EBAY since the 1990's. 99.99% of what we sell is by Auction Format.
About Us and why we use eBay. Our primary market is Antiques and much of the time our inventory is Chinese porcelain or other objects from Asia. However we've also sold Tiffany Clocks, Silver, American and European paintings from the 18th C., Leica Cameras and Venini Glass and much more. All of it has done well overall...and often fantastically well. We've sold dozens of things from $10,000 to $100,000 on the site. Often for more than what you would get at Sotheby's or Christie's for the same items. I know because we've sold through both of those firms over the last 30 years as well.
Creating Successful EBAY Auction Listings Can Be Easy
So whats the secret? What are you doing wrong? What are we and others doing right? Why are your listings just not drawing any attention or enough attention?
Most likely you're doing one or more of the following incorrectly or at least not well.
- Listing things in the wrong categories. I know this sounds silly and pretty basic but it happens all the time. Candlesticks in the porcelain section; chairs under accessories; circa 1800 paintings under modern prints — these are all good ways to have your listings go under the radar.
- Poor attention to photos. Not enough pictures; out of focus; too small and/or too far away; files that are too big and load much too slowly; bad composition. Hmm, is that a vase or a footstool?
- Poor Titles. Make sure your titles accurately describe what it is you are selling, just the facts. Do not cloud the title with a narrative on how great or rare your items are, do that in the descriptions. Example: If you're selling an "18th C. Chinese Blue and White Kangxi Lotus Rim Bowl" say exactly that, do not say "A Rare Museum Quality Chinese Kangxi Bowl The Best". Hyperbole does nothing to help folks find your item(s)
- Bad descriptions. Don’t try to be slick. If you don’t know something just say so. If you do know, don't play dumb. If it’s broken and has been repaired, say so! Unless you like getting negative feedback. Make sure you mention "condition" and "dimensions" every time.
- Using bad templates and backgrounds. Setting up elaborate backgrounds and templates for your listings creates distractions for your buyers. Keep it very, very simple!
- Shipping limitations. The world is a big place! You’ll need to be willing to ship internationally in order to get the best prices. Domestically use either USPS Priority or Express Priority or UPS Ground.
MAKE certain to require signature delivery confirmation on any item selling for more than $250, EBAY only requires it for items selling for over $750, however PAY PAL requires them for transactions over $250. Pay Pal Trumps EBAY every time if the buyer opens a dispute in Pay Pal. Internationally use USPS Express Priority Mail. Faster and safer and only a tiny bit more expensive. Remember though, signature confirmation is not available in most of the world. Its your risk!
- Auction Duration's and Timing Short auctions are generally a waste of time. 7 days are OK, 10 days are even better. As a rule 10 day auctions should start on either Thursday or Friday nights, ending on either Sunday or Monday night the following week. This way you gain exposure for TWO full weekends. Avoid having auctions that end on Friday and Saturday nights or during the day during the week. We close our sales between 8 PM and 10 PM Eastern Standard Time in the USA.
- High reserves and or minimums. Nothing kills interest in your stuff faster than high starting bids and reserves. People love to think they are getting a bargain and will be more willing to get in on the auction if the prices start low.
- Payments and Return Policies. If you're using eBay you must have a Pay Pal, you can accept other forms of payment, however the vast majority of buyer's prefer using it for peace of mind. As for Returns, you have to accept them, you can say you don't and "all sales are final" blah blah blah, but eBay and Pay Pal will toss that aside like an old shoe and make you take things back. Accepting returns also attracts more interest and increases buyer confidence.
Selling on EBAY successfully requires a few rock solid rules for EVERY listing. Follow them and you will make more money. If you do them all correctly and you're still loosing money, you are probably paying too much for the items you're trying to sell.
Selling Smart On EBAY, The Rule Book! More on Creating Successful EBAY Auction Listings
Make sure you put you item in the right category. I cannot count the number of times I've seen things languishing with no interest, no bids or low bids because its in the wrong part of the site. Don't be clever, put the item where everyone else puts similar things, its where the buyers will look for them.
How do you find the right category? Go into EBAY and do a search for an item similar yours, open a few of the ones that seem most like your object and check for the EXACT category breakdown at the top of the listing and it will tell you where it's listed by category. The USE it for your item.
- EXAMPLE: If you have an antique Chinese vase, this is what the category should look like:
Listed in category: Antiques>Asian Antiques>China>Vases
The Title a crucial Step in Creating Successful EBAY Auction Listings
Write a smart title. Avoid "Filler" words, you get a limited number of letters for the title so make them count. Depending on how much you know be as specific as you can be. Do not make stuff up...
Do Say: 19th C. Chinese Under-glaze Blue Vase With Blooming Flowers
Do Not Say: Old Chinese Vase made for a Palace, Museum Quality
When to list-start an Auction?
Start all auctions on either Thursday or Friday night between 8 PM and 9 PM Central US Time, ALWAYS do ten-day auctions.
This will give your listings TWO full weekends of visibility, the time most people have the time to look and find you. For two decades the biggest night for ending Auctions has been Sunday and then Monday. Both days work fine.
About describing Condition
Now look at the piece carefully under a good very bright light, we use those hinged magnifiers with a built in light. Make sure you note any nicks, chips, hairlines (no matter how faint), repairs etc and say so. If possible mark the photos with little arrows pointing out any flaws you find.
The newest lights like the one shown below HAS "daylight " LIGHTING..a welcome improvement over the traditional bulbs in these..
IMPORTANT: Ebay has recently added as part of it's format is a mandatory "Item Condition" block which appears at the top of every listing. MAKE sure you fill it out, failing to do so will keep you from being covered under the EBAY Seller Protection Plan. Having a condition report in the body of the listing but omitting this is worthless information if a dispute should arise. If you do not fill this form in your mission of creating successful EBAY auction listings could be all for naught. You must do it.
About Ebay Photos
Whatever you do, take FOCUSED, well lighted pictures. Invest in a GOOD Tri-pod, they usually run around $40 to $100. Slik make good ones, we use them. They can be bought on EBAY.
About Lighting and Gear
We buy all of our lighting, backgrounds, Studio Kits and tents from Alzo Digital
Alzo is a terrific company in Connecticut, they have great prices and ship quickly, we've been buying from them for years. They sell on Ebay and you can call them directly 800 582 7009. They have (we think) the best buys out there for EBAY camera lights, backgrounds and so forth. They also give great advice and aren't always trying to sell things to you. They are all professional photographers and KNOW what they're talking about. Use them...unless you like trying to re-invent the wheel.
As for Cameras we prefer Cannon's. Currently we use the Canon PowerShot SX50HS. For several reasons, Its got very good manual settings which we use 99% of the time, it has excellent focusing ability's and a fairly LARGE very sharp fold out adjustable viewing screen. So you do not spend all your time bent over trying to look at the subject through the "fixed" screen you get on most cameras. The Powershot can generally be bought for under $400 and will last for many years. We shoot over 1,000 images a week, our last one has lasted for 8 years. It still works but we up-graded to the newer one to get slightly better focusing flexibility. Yes we like Cannon more than Nikon, we have used both over the years, Nikon in our opinion has slipped behind.
and Yes they can be bought on AMAZON, its a great camera.
If you buy a GOOD camera like the Cannon, be sure to read the manual, download the FULL manual off the web (it doesn't come with the Camera). DO NOT take all your shots using "AUTO" settings, they nearly always are off the mark. The difference is very obvious.
Unless you're really into cameras, don't bother buying the fancy SLR type cameras. They will not take better images for eBay listings. You can buyer great cameras for under $500,. well under $500.
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Tips on Taking Pictures Creating Successful EBAY Auction Listings
Take numerous pictures, never just two or three.
We generally take 12 to 25 images for every listing.
Do not ever use pictures with clutter in the background. ( no one wants to see your living room, kitchen table or your garage.)
Never ever include blurred images. If you need to take out the camera manual and figure out how to take close ups, do it. Usually you only need to push the "Flower" icon and make sure the camera is not in Zoom mode.
Try and learn to use your camera's Manual Settings for F Stops and Shutter Speeds and learn how to White Balance the camera for accurate color representation. The larger the F Stop the greater the depth of field which will keep the entire object in good focus. Automatic settings tend foul up the color and often doesn't capture the entire image sharply. So use a tripod.
Below are examples of good photos and less than good....
The following images are for the same Chinese Ming Dynasty Jar. I bought the pot on Ebay very reasonably for under $600. It had gotten no interest as the description was wrong and the images were abysmal. The jar is, in reality, worth around $8,000-$12,000.
On the left are the actual images used by the seller and on the right are the ones we took after it was delivered.
The seller's picture on the left indicates his camera was much to close to the jar resulting in lens distortion. He also used a straight-on flash.
Seller's image, drastically overexposed, poor color balance and distorted because again the camera was
TOO close to the subject. Most digital cameras due to the curve in the lens distort images shot close up. To correct, move back five or six feet and use the zoom with the camera on a tripod.
Seller's image, overexposed, distorted, poor color balance.
Seller's image, poor camera angle, partially over exposed, poor color balance.
Photos make all the difference in the world.Seller's image, still overexposed but better, but no sense of scale or depth.
In a nutshell: Creating Successful EBAY Auction Listings means doing the following, every-time.
- Make sure you list your item in the right category or categories!
- Take good, clear, big photos and make sure the file size is right for uploading on the web.
- Write simple, brief, accurate and honest descriptions.
- Use very simple templates and backgrounds.
- Offer to Ship Everywhere
- Run your auctions for the maximum duration of 10 days.
- Do 10 DAY Auctions, start your listings on either Thursday or Friday nights between 7 and 9 PM eastern time.
- Start with low opening bids and no reserves.
- Oh, don’t forget to have fun.
- Pay attention to other sellers’ listings that get your attention and tempt you to buy. Try to analyze what they’ve done that makes you want to buy and use the same approach for your own listings.
- Spend a little time looking at eBay Best Practices on their site too!
Lastly a word on Communication
John McCormick says
Thank you for sharing this information, and for your wonderful site, it really is an educational eye opener.
Best regards, John.