General Question

mattbrown's avatar

Has anyone any experience with selling on e-bay or Amazon? I'd like to give it a try but I'm not sure how difficult it would be for an amateur.

Asked by mattbrown (10 points ) January 16th, 2013

Selling on Amazon or e-bay

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5 Answers

mazingerz88's avatar

Been selling on eBay on and off for a year now. Be patient with the registration process is my first advise. You need to have a bank account and the preferred manner of payment is through Paypal so you also need to open a Paypal account.

Now, there could be other options on setting up the getting paid process but I haven’t given it enough attention to know. You may want to review them carefully before you make your decision.

After these initial stages were done, I moved on to coming up with nice, clear and attractive photos of the items I wanted to sell. I use iPhoto to improve their look. Selling instructions on eBay is pretty simple and clear. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it after going through a brief familiarization period.

glacial's avatar

I’ve sold books on Amazon. They have a pretty well-oiled machine, and it’s quite painless. I would suggest that you think carefully about what you have to offer, and how much shipping affects your bottom line. I’ve found that for me, it’s not worth selling anything at less than $20, because the amount Amazon gives for shipping is sometimes not quite enough – and what’s the point of making the effort, if you only make $1–2 in profit? So, I only list books that I know will sell for more than that.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there are some very hardcore sellers in the marketplace, and they get alerts when someone lists the same book for less. In response, they will lower their price to a few cents less than what you are charging. That means that it’s not worth pricing your book to be the cheapest copy, ever. Instead, concentrate on making your copy attractive. Keep your ratings high by shipping quickly and being honest about condition. And when selling books that are in good condition, say so in your details – buyers will pay a little more for a copy that is not banged/marked up, and they prefer to buy from sellers who sound and act like professionals.

I’ve never used the “fulfilled by Amazon” approach, so I can’t offer any advice about that. I imagine it changes the game a little.

If you can’t do these things, then frankly I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Jeruba's avatar

Over a period of several years, I have sold a number of books through Amazon Marketplace. Like you, I was nervous about it, but I found that the instructions on Amazon’s site were very thorough and clear and I had no trouble following them.

My main motivation at first was just to move books out of my house. I didn’t care about profit. I just find it very hard to let books go, so it helps if they go to someone who wants them.

However, I did track my sales and my costs, and I found that I often barely broke even and sometimes lost money, meaning that shipping cost me more than what I got paid for the book, even without counting the time and the gas to go to the post office. Bear in mind that Amazon takes a very big bite out of your selling price, so if you don’t charge very much, a portion of the $3.99 shipping allowance may be all you net out of it.

Here are a few examples of my sales during the past year:

My price: 14.00. Amazon fee: 4.44. I made: 7.32.
My price: 9.98. Amazon fee: 3.84. I made: 7.16.
My price: 7.99. Amazon fee: 3.54. I made: 5.93.
My price: 14.50. Amazon fee: 4.52. I made: 11.00.
My price: 15.50. Amazon fee: 4.67. I made: 12.31.
My price: 9.75. Amazon fee: 3.80. I made: 6.01.
My price: 4.39. Amazon fee: 3.00. I made: 2.45.

Note that these columns don’t balance; I haven’t included shipping cost or allowance here, nor what I spent on packaging—which may not be negligible if you have to buy shipping envelopes. I’m just showing you how much Amazon took out and what I netted. And these were my big sales, mostly textbooks, after I learned some lessons such as @glacial points out.

I’d sold 21 books before I cleared as much as $100 (running total from day 1); I never made as much as $30 on anything. For my lower-priced items, before I learned not to try to compete with the pros, Amazon routinely took a cut much higher than my selling price (for example: my price, $1.99; Amazon’s fee, $2.64), so I was lucky if I made more than a dollar from the shipping allowance alone.

Other things I learned:

• Don’t offer express shipping. I’m sure to lose money on it.
• Don’t sell any heavy books unless I can charge a lot for them. Shipping will eat up all the profits.
• Do wrap them nicely and with care. Customers notice and reflect that in their ratings and comments.
• Do describe them honestly and use Amazon’s definitions of descriptors.
• Do sell textbooks as soon as possible after using them because they date quickly.
• Do anticipate semester beginnings by about a month.
• Do read newly published books very quickly (and gently—but I always do that) and turn them around fast. When I’ve bought a book that was just out, read it fast, and listed it right away, I’ve been able to sell it (looking untouched, but still listed as used) within a day for nearly as much as I paid for it. Minus, of course, Amazon’s cut.

For the time being, I’ve put my seller account on hiatus while I decide whether I want to continue. I’ve found some other outlets for my used books and don’t have any more textbooks at present, so I’m not sure it’s still worth the bother. However, I do continue to be a good customer for others’ used books when I can’t find them at the library.

gambitking's avatar

I don’t mess with Amazon, but I have a ton of experience on eBay. Play it safe and soak up as much info and resources from the community and the support channels as you can.

The number one rule: COVER YOUR ASS EVERY TIME… consider every buyer to have an advantage over you in the event of a dispute , as they almost always will.

jaytkay's avatar

I have used eBay for years. Here are a couple of tips.

1) Feedback
You get more bids and higher prices if you have a positive feedback. If I see an item and the seller has +1 feedback I don’t bid. If they have +10 then I feel better.

So to build up some positive feedback, sign up and buy stuff first. Pay promptly, give positive feedback and ask for positive feedback

Not everybody will give feedback. Don’t be bothered, that is just the way people are.

2)
Package and weigh your item before you start the auction. Give people an exact shipping cost (or free shipping). You don’t want to be bargaining over shipping when the auction ends – you want to ship that thing away and be done with it.

In the US, flat-rate Priority Mail is a great inexpensive way to ship smaller items.

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