A Few Tips for Creating a Killer eBay Listing

Listing an item on eBay will take a little longer than listing something on Amazon because you will have to do more work. This is both good and bad; eBay listings take more time to create, but it gives you more control over the process.

There are also some things that you can do to make your eBay listing more effective and more likely to sell your item. These strategies and steps include:

  • Avoid eBay’s valet program because it does not take most books and items under $40.


  • Always list older and unusual items as antiquarian or collectible. This lets you set up a completely new listing for the item and stops eBay from confusing it with something completely different. That would keep your first edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano from 1952 from getting lumped in with a recent paperback reprint of the same book. It also directs your stuff to people more likely to pay extra for it, namely collectors. A person who just wants to read Player Piano is looking for the cheapest copy possible; a collector is looking for special attributes.


At the Book and Comic Picker eBay Store

At the Book and Comic Picker eBay Store

  • If you are listing with an ISBN, check the title eBay gives you. They sometimes get it wrong, especially the year. Make sure the year listed there is the year the book you are selling was published and that the title and author are correct.


  • Always post at least one really good picture of your book at eBay. The picture should only show the book and nothing else. Use a scanner to take the picture and a photo editing program to crop the picture. This makes it look more professional.


  • If possible, post more than one picture; I usually post a picture of the front and back of the book unless the back is blank. If there are illustrations inside the book, post pictures of them. If there’s a signature, post a picture of that. If you think it is a first edition, post a picture of the copyright page.


Now at the Book and Comic Picker on eBay.

Now at the Book and Comic Picker on eBay.

  • When choosing a condition, pick a grade one condition lower than you think it is. Remember, most people overestimate the value of stuff. This will make people less likely to return stuff. Instead of being angry that it is not as good as they think, they will get a pleasant surprise.


  • Be as honest as possible in your description. List every flaw you can find, including rips, dust, stickers, mold, missing pages, writing, stamps, etc. If it is a library book, come out and say so.

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  • If it is not a former library book, add the words “This is not a former library book” to the description. There are some unscrupulous dealers out there that try to disguise library books.


  • In the year published section, list the year it was printed if you can find that information.


Look for it on eBay.

Look for it on eBay.

  • Always try to find the country the book was printed in and list that in the area where it asks for the country of manufacture. Doing this will make it easier for the Global Shipping program to sell books overseas.


  • In the special attributes area, make sure that you state whether it is illustrated or signed because they can increase the likelihood of a sale.


  • Be careful with first editions because to collectors only the first printing of the first edition is a first edition. If you have any doubt about whether it is a first edition, leave this blank.

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  • Always list vintage paperbacks as vintage paperbacks because there are paperback collectors. List nonfiction paperbacks as vintage too.


  • Adding special attributes of your own can increase the number of people that see the listing and your likelihood of a sale. Special attributes are words or descriptive phrases used for search engine optimization. They are terms that a search engine like Google is more likely to spot when somebody runs a search for that title or author. Some special attributes that can increase sales include:


  • Any special information the book contains; for example, any skills or tasks that a do-it-yourself book purports to teach, like using a circular saw or an arc welder. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, check the chapter headings or the back of the book.

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  • The name of the illustrator if you can find it.


  • The name of the cover artist if you can find it.


The Happy Hollisters and the Swiss Echo Mystery.

The Happy Hollisters and the Swiss Echo Mystery.

  • The names of other books written by the author if you can locate them. These might be listed in the front of the book. If they are not, Google the author’s name and see what comes up.


  • The author’s real name if he or she uses a pen name. For example, Stephen King has used the pen name Richard Bachman in the past.


  • If it is a series fiction book, list the main character. You could list Hercule Poirot if you were listing a copy of Murder on the Orient Express. Some characters, including secret agents and detectives, have a large fan base.

  • If the book is part of a series, list that and, if possible, the number.


  • If you are listing an antiquarian or collectible book or a book that has no eBay listing, make that sure you list the publisher.


  • If you want, you can also list other attributes; for example, if you think a book appeals to a certain subculture. You might list “homeschooling resource” with an old textbook for example.


  • In the details section, list any other information about the book; for example, if you think it is an early printing. I often add another picture from the inside of the book here, such as a shot of an illustration. You can do this by uploading the picture to a website like www.photobucket.com, which will generate an HTML code you can paste here. Simply click on HTML to paste the code. Then click on standard. If you were successful, the picture will appear.


A shot of an illustration in a 1950s children book.

A shot of an illustration in a 1950s children book.

  • List most books as fixed price because it is cheaper and easier to deal with than auctions. You can also list longer, and I find holding an auction does not increase book sales.


  • Only use auctions for very valuable or collectible items.


  • Take advantage of the best offer features. I usually list three prices for a book—the high price I’d like to get for the Buy It Now price, a slightly lower price that would give me a nice profit as the Automatically Accept price, and the lowest price I can live with for the Automatically Decline price. For a book valued at $59 that I paid $1 for, I’d list $59 as the Buy It Now price, $39 as the Automatically Accept price, and $25.99 as the Automatically Decline price.

  • Always put in an Automatically Decline price with Fixed Price offers. This shows buyers that you are serious and keeps you from wasting your time with ridiculous lowball offers.


  • Choose USPS Media Mail or USPS first class package as your shipping service because it is the cheapest. You can ignore get it fast; I’ve never had a customer ask for this, and only a few customers ask for other services.


  • I have found that free shipping does not make much difference. I’ve shipped hundreds of items and had one customer ask for it. It might be a good idea to offer it because most customers expect free shipping nowadays.


The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm look for it on eBay.

The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm look for it on eBay.

  • List one business day as your handling time.


  • Always choose the Global Shipping program; this allows you to ship books to customers in many foreign countries, including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Japan, and most of Europe at no extra cost.


  • If you offer free shipping, always build the cost of shipping into your prices.

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  • Never offer free shipping with items you sell through eBay Giving Works. The reason for this is that the charitable donation is taken out of the sale price.


  • Make sure you list the weight, package type, and dimensions. A good scale and a tape measure or a ruler are vital pieces of equipment that you should have ready.


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These are just some tips; they are not hard and fast rules. Please feel free to tinker with them because that is how you learn and discover better strategies. See my entries on shipping, pictures, eBay Auctions, and ISBN numbers for more information.


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