Buying multiple items from the same seller on eBay

I thought I would do a short blog post on how to purchase multiple cards from my eBay store, KatyDids Cards. It’s not too hard, and here are the steps:

  • Find the item you want to purchase. If it comes in multiples, like my cards do, highlight the number in the Quantity box, and put in how many you wish to purchase.
  • Then, if you don’t want to buy any other cards in my store (but of course you do!) you can click the Buy It Now box and go through the dialogues there to pay with PayPal.
  • If you do want to check out the other great cards and items I have in my store (well yeah!), then click the button to Add to Cart, and hit the back button on your browser to take you back to my store categories. Then when you’ve found more items you want to buy, keep adding them to your cart.
  • Once you’re done filling your cart, hit the Proceed to Checkout button, and simply follow your usual routine to pay using PayPal.
  • This allows you to make just one payment via PayPal (not multiples), and streamlines the whole process for both of us!

Here’s how the screen looks when adding things to your Shopping Cart:

Never a dull moment

It’s been an interesting month or so. With new seller requirements being implemented on eBay, I finally made the leap and starting listing items in my Shop on Etsy. I joined several years ago, but never really got serious about it. Serious I am now (did that come out sounding a little Yoda-like?)

I am trying to list at least one new card every day, and cross-list several from my eBay store too. I want to have things in the Etsy store that aren’t available on eBay, in the hopes of driving more traffic there.

eBay really is the place I hate to love. I’ve bought and sold there on and off since 1998. I had one of the original Nikon digital cameras (and no, I won’t tell you the obscenely high price I paid for it, so don’t ask.) I love the eyeballs the site gets, no question. I love the flexibility of the shop I can have there. I love listing things for sale as auctions.

But I hate the way things have changed for sellers since about ’08. I won’t enumerate them here, there are plenty of other places you can find lists of how wretched it has become to be a small seller on eBay, no need for me to add to them. Suffice it to say, it’s just not a seller-friendly place any more, especially if you sell in the Collectibles niche, as I do.

So I’m branching out, which I should have done years ago, but I was putting so much time/energy/effort into building my brand on eBay I didn’t want to get distracted. I like Etsy as a format, the people there seem somehow hipper and more cool than the average eBay denizen. I guess that’s all part of that handmade mentality. But I like it there, and am having fun listing things. I’ll be having even more fun when things start to sell.

But no matter where or how I sell my things, I adore my job. I am an utter nerd, I know. I love nothing more than taking a 125 year old piece of vintage ephemera, scanning it into Photoshop, and fixing, repairing, retouching it to bring back all its original beauty and glory. It’s something I can get lost in, time after time I’ll look up and find an hour or more has passed. I love it. And isn’t loving one’s job what it’s all about?

"Flying Birds" before and after.

Think Before You Right-Click

Maybe I’m just a grump. But lately I’ve been seeing a disturbing trend for people to go online and  just take things from others and think they can use it for free. Everything from photos, to pictures, to articles.

Like the “Magazine Publisher” (who shall remain nameless), who decided she would lift an article of mine, with illustrations, and use it in her digital “magazine” without so much as a by-your-leave. When I discovered it, I calmly wrote her and asked her to give me attribution. I didn’t ask for money (although I often write for pay and/or advertising revenues), I didn’t get pushy, I just informed her that it was my work and if she was going to use it, I would appreciate a byline.

I never heard back from her (although we travel in a very small circle), and she removed my work from her website almost immediately thereafter. Frankly, I found her lack of reply unsettling, and as I had told her, had she but asked, I would have given her my work to use for free, as long as I got a byline. Rude.

Then there was the website which right-clicked on one of my photos and used it on another, similar site. When I contacted the owner of the site (again, someone I know personally), he pooh-poohed my concern, and told me he was permitted to use my photos. Mind you, this is a man who works in the print publishing industry, and who certainly should have known better. I replied back that I was a professional photographer (among the many hats I wear), and I retain copyright to my images, and would he please, in future, ask before taking them.

He replied again in an even more condescending tone that he was a Blah Blah at the Blah Blah publication, and he knew all about these things, and he didn’t have to ask. Now, my husband is a much bigger BB at a much bigger BB, and I used to work at a BB, and my family used to own BBs! So it’s not like I’m talking out of my, well, ear (to be polite.) I replied one final time that I wanted my image removed and that in future they were not to use my work without permission. He finally took it down, but never apologized and never replied. Really rude.

And today I had an email from a woman who wanted to purchase one of my items from my eBay store that had ended (items last for up to 30 days then have to be relisted.) She gave me a big song and dance about how she looooooved the image, but she and her husband were both out of work, and were in the process of moving, but to please let her know when I re-listed it. I did some research on her ID (not as hard as you might think) and discovered she writes a blog in which she posts images from the items she buys and gives them to people for free.

On the surface, that’s all well and good, and actually appears quite generous. But many of my items are reproductions of vintage images, on which I have worked long and hard to improve (color correction, retouching of scratches, dust, and other damage, and so on.) And just because you purchase one of my cards, doesn’t mean you’re buying the copyright to my work. Not for less than triple digits, sorry, no. As well, this woman seems to be selling the images she uses as fabric blocks, which is another thing I do. So I politely declined her request and put her on my blocked list. Clueless.

I can certainly appreciate the freedom that the Internet gives us, and the incredible access to information that it allows. But just because something is on the Internet, doesn’t mean it is free for the taking. And as someone who works long and hard on her images, dammit, the least someone could do is ask before taking them! Now, I do watermark much of what I post now, and use a service that allows me to track my images across most of the ‘Net. But there are still things that slip through, and it’s a risk I, and every other artist takes, when we post things online. But it doesn’t make it right, and I am certainly not happy when I discover it.

So the next time you’re tempted to just right-click an image and use it for something, please check to ensure that the thing you’re about to take doesn’t belong to someone, and if it does, either ask them if you can use it, or just don’t take it. Because access doesn’t mean permission.

End of rant, stepping down from soapbox now…


Optimizing eBay’s Search as a Seller

I’ve been selling on eBay, on and off, since 1998. Over the years, and especially in the past two years, I’ve worked on learning as much as I can about the best way to list items to make sure my items show up well in the Best Match search algorithm eBay uses.

In the past, things were much more straightforward than they are now. And I’m not claiming to be an expert of any sort on how eBay sets up Best Match. But there are a few things I’ve learned that seem to be working for me, especially since the last several rounds of changes for sellers.

DO: Use good keywords in your item titles.

Follow the eBay Rule of Three: the first three keywords in your item title should be those that your potential buyers will most likely use to search with. Your item title doesn’t have to read like a sentence, it has to bring buyers to your listing. For example, let’s say I have a vintage postcard with artwork by Frances Brundage, published by the Raphael Tuck Company in their series number 204. It’s a Valentine’s Day card, and has an image of a beautiful woman holding a yellow rose. You could, using the 55 Characters eBay allows, title the item something like “Beautiful Woman Holding Yellow Rose by Frances Brundage.” But that wouldn’t be using the keywords in the most optimal way.

A far more effective way to list such an item would be to put the three most important keywords first, to ensure your item pops as close as possible to the top of the search list, like this: Brundage Valentine Tuck 204 BEAUTIFUL WOMEN Yellow Rose. Such use of keywords puts this item in the top three shown out of 69 items that come up with the search terms “Brundage Valentine.” So it pays to think like a buyer, and study how your buyers use keywords to search for items, so you can use the system to your advantage.

DO: Use Item Specifics to include more keywords that will allow your item to be seen by more potential buyers.

Again, I’m not an expert on how they work, nor do I know for sure how eBay factors them into the Best Match algorithm. But in my experience, listings that have them sell better than those that don’t. So use them, they’re free! Be creative, put in things that you’d like to have in the title but don’t have room for. Can’t hurt, might help.

DON’T: Keyword spam in your item titles.

This is a big no-no, and could get your item pulled by eBay if they notice it, or someone reports it. Keyword spamming means using words in your item title that do not bear directly on your listing. eBay takes a dim view of this, and all sellers should know the specifics of their rules, which can be found here: Search and browse manipulation policy.

DON’T: List things as Good Til Canceled.

When I started out, I had a number of items I knew would be “long tails”, those that might sit in my store for a while, but would eventually sell. For such items GTC seemed perfect, they’d just keep rolling over until they sold, and I wouldn’t have to worry about manually relisting them. That’s fine, in theory. However the way Best Match works with regards to GTC goes something like this:

List an item. It doesn’t sell during the first 30 days, although a number of potential buyers view it (let’s say 30.) eBay’s Best Match algorithm takes into account that you had 30 views but no one purchased. So the next time the item rolls over, it’s pushed lower down in Best Match (the default way that items are shown to potential buyers.) The more months that pass with the item unsold, the lower and lower it ends up in Best Match.

eBay has given sellers a tool that can be used to determine how well an item shows up in Search, called the Search Visibility Analysis. I am still learning to use this tool, and will note it contains some pretty good data that sellers can use to tune up their listings. You can search by specific item number, or check how your items are doing in a specific category. One of the things eBay does tell us using this tool is “The ratio of sales to the number of times the listing has been displayed to members in search results” has an impact on where the item ends up in Best Match. And in my experience, using GTC lowers that ratio, and thereby lowers an item in Search.

So how to work around that problem? A simple suggestion:

DO: Re-list items using either Sell Similar, or Relist as Fixed Price.

I’ve had an eBay store for a long time. In the latest round of changes, eBay put all “store” items ‘into core” search (theoretically anyway.) What was interesting to note for the several months after that happened was, items that ended and were GTC relisted, were still called “Store Items” by eBay in the end of listing email I got. Items that I manually ended and then relisted using either Sell Similar or Relist as Fixed Price, somehow got shoved back into Search as brand new items. I have many items that sat in my store for months which, when I relisted as Sell Similar, sold the very same day, or within that same week. It’s almost as if they were sitting still invisible (as store items used to be hidden from Core Search), even though they were, theoretically, in core.

My conclusions are based only on my own experience, and as such are anecdotal. But the suggestions I make here have worked for me, and may well work for other sellers too. I know my sales have stayed pretty even during these changes, while other sellers have really struggled with drops in sales and exposure. Try some of these tips and see if they help. At this point, some of us will use all the help we can get to increase our sales on eBay! Best of luck to all you sellers out there, and I hope this will be of some small help to you.

eBay’s New Price Changes

eBay recently announced a fairly big change to their pricing structure. Bottom line, they are doing away with the Store element where you could list an item in your store for three cents per month. These items were not shown in Basic Search, but that was ok, because it allowed sellers like me to have them on display for buyers who had purchased an Auction or Fixed Price item, and then who went looking through my store for other items.

I liked the three cent Store items a lot. I have things that while they have low sellthrough, do eventually sell. Dealing in vintage collectibles as I do, the things I have are often one of a kind, and when a buyer finds them, they’re usually very happy to have done so. I have buyers who come through regularly and purchase ten or twenty or thirty items out of my store at a time (love them!)

But now the only choices sellers on eBay will have is to pay for Fixed Price, or Auction. Fixed Price items will cost a given amount depending on if you have a store and what level of store you are subscribed to. I have two stores on eBay now. I will be closing one, and have upgraded the other. I had them separate because one contained items that didn’t belong to me, they are from an estate I am disbursing, and the other was for my own items. I can certainly put them all in one store, it just means more paperwork and organizational stuff for me. My primary focus is on the estate anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal. But it is annoying.

Time will tell as to whether or not my fees will increase. According to the calculator eBay set up for us to evaluate our future fees, mine either will only increase a bit, or perhaps even fall a bit, depending on how I crunch the numbers. But I do have to say I am more than tired of the tinkering. Can we not just leave things the way they are for a while, please? I feel as if my head is spinning, all I want to do is do my work, not have to continually be reacting to some change eBay has thrust upon sellers.

Time will tell how this will go. The changes take place at the end of March. April and May will be very illuminating months indeed.

Making the Move From Auctiva to InkFrog

As many eBay sellers know by now, several weeks ago the listing site Auctiva decided, rather suddenly, to start charging for their formerly free services. I started using Auctiva in early 2008, and found it a very useful way to list my items on eBay. And free was good, especially since I had started a new store,  KatyDids Cards (the focus of this blog) and wasn’t sure how well it would do at first. So a free listing service seemed like a good idea while I got my feet wet again.

The templates were nice, although I picked one that was very simple, as I like to let the item I am selling do most of the talking. What I really liked was the image hosting, the click-to-enlarge feature for images, and the scheduled listing. Those things were very nice indeed. So I stayed, and also started an account with my other store, VirtualAntiques, from which I have been selling postcards and ephemera on and off since 1998. Setting up the various “profiles” took some time, but once I got it figured out, things went smoothly.

I did find that from time to time Auctiva’s website would be down, or slow. But I took that in stride and didn’t complain. I was rather shocked at the whole Malware incident this past February, (see this link on AuctionBytes for more info on that), but didn’t suffer any major damage to my system (just lost time and listings), so let it go.

But the recent price changes were the last straw for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Auctiva needing to charge for their service, I do understand that. I honestly never really understood how they were able to offer their service for free (see this link for a ColderICE blog entry about how Auctiva was Round Tripping eBay’s links) but wasn’t going to worry about it. I should have known, you get what you pay for in the long run.

So, there’s this sudden announcement that Auctiva is going to start charging us for listings. Start charging us for photo hosting. And the part that really got me upset, they were proposing to start charging us a Final Value Fee for each listing that sold that we had listed through their service. Ok, I can see a listing fee. I can see an image hosting fee. But to reach into my pocket and take a percentage of my sale? I don’t think so. And to top it all off, these changes were going to take place in 30 days. Whoa!

Now even eBay gives sellers time to adjust to major changes that they make. And we all know that eBay can sometimes not take sellers wishes into account when making changes. But Auctiva didn’t bother to float these ideas to focus groups, they just boom, told us we had 30 days to pick a payment plan and get ourselves sorted out. My initial reaction was anger and frustration. I felt threatened, stampeded, and anxious. When I looked at the calculator they initially set up, it seemed as if my current usage was going to cost anywhere between $70 to $120 per month. Quite a change from free! I immediately started casting about for alternatives, looked at Vendio, but found their service too expensive for me too (later the CEO of Auctiva said he based his initial payment plans on those being used by Vendio.) I then looked at InkFrog, which seemed like it would work well for me. A flat rate of $9.95 per month, and I could use both my eBay user names through the same account!

However, the prospect of having to move over 1,000 listings to another service in the space of 30 days or less was incredibly daunting. It would have meant manually revising at least 33 listings per day, not to mention moving all the photos associated with those listings (thank goodness I still have them archived!) The thought of getting it all done in time was just overwhelming, and I know I wasn’t the only one. The forums on Auctiva and eBay were abuzz with users who were protesting the proposed changes. The Twitterverse was atweet with unhappy users. The eBay seller presence on the Internet just shouted with dismay.

Then the changes started coming out of Auctiva. At one point, they offered an 18 month price lock-in at $10, but only if you paid the money up front. Then they offered several tiered levels. It seemed as if the price levels being offered changed at least once a day. Reports came in from people who tried to close their accounts, and when they did, a screen popped up offering them a “special rate” of $10 flat per month. People (like me) got unsolicited emails from Auctiva Support offering them higher rates (they offered me a rate of $25 per month, based on my usage.) When people started posting on Auctiva’s forums about these special offers, the messages were deleted. After a certain point I was blocked from posting on their forums, I guess because I called their CEO Jeff greedy, and he didn’t like that.

During all the online discussion, at one point Jeff began to reply to the messages being posted in the eBay Seller Central forum. He posted a number of rather unprofessional messages, including one where he referred to the people who run InkFrog as “a couple of guys working out of their garage.” Now I went looking for that message yesterday, and eBay has scrubbed it off their board, interestingly enough. But enough of us saw it, and referred to it later, so it’s entered the zeitegeist for good now. I think it was those comments, made by the CEO of a company, that made me decide I really was leaving and not going back. I found them unprofessional and unbecoming. In fact the way the whole thing has been handled really destroyed any trust I might have had in the management of the company.

So I bit the bullet, signed up with InkFrog, and began the process of moving my listings. Bless them, they created a tool that moved all my images in all my eBay listings (active and inactive), so I no longer had to have my pictures hosted on Auctiva. And they’ve also created a template stripper that takes out all the Auctiva HTML from listings, which is very usefull. You still have to revise your listings afterwards, but it makes things easier by far. And all along, my interactions with the InkFrog staff have been pleasant and professional (except when we’re swapping jokes), and they have answered my questions quickly and with excellent info. InkFrog has locked in their price levels for at least three years (as long as you sign up before December 31st.) Using their service is easy, I made the transition with little to no trouble at all. In fact, I prefer the way they do things to Auctiva now, much easier in some respects. I’ve experimented with their third party insurance and like it, and now I’m even looking at opening my own eCommerce site through their buyitsellit site!

So I guess I ought to send out a “thank you” to the management of Auctiva, because if they hadn’t put me through the wringer they way they did, I never would have left and found an even better way to do things. So thanks Jeff! Best of luck to ya…

Optimizing Images for Online Sales

For those of us who sell things online, a good quality, highly detailed image of the item we are selling is important. If the items you sell are three-dimensional, you really should invest in a good quality digital camera and create an area where you can take clear, uncluttered photos of your items. If your items are two-dimensional, a high quality scanner is a must. I’m not going to discuss makes and models, that’s a topic for another day.

Once you have your image on your computer, there are some basic things you really need to do in order to optimize the image. First and foremost, crop the images so that any extraneous details are removed. We don’t want to see your entire kitchen (if you’ve photographed your item on your kitchen table), just the vase you’re trying to sell. We aren’t interested in a huge margin around the image, crop it down so all there is, is the image itself. That being said, please don’t crop too far, be sure to show us the edges which are important to determine condition.

Next comes color. Depending on your input device (scanner versus camera), you have have to take a number of steps here. The first is color correction. Compare the original item with what you are seeing on your screen. Do the colors match? If not, you’ll have to adjust them using your software of choice (I am a die-hard Photoshop fan, have been using it since it came out in the late ’80s.) You’ll need to check and correct color balance, making sure that you have your CMY (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) and your RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) in balance. Relatively easy to do, remembering that one balances the other: C balances R and so on. You may need to make these adjustments in one or more of three areas: Shadows, Midtones, or Highlights. Tweak the slider bars until the image you see in your hand matches the image you see on the screen. Practice with this option will train your eye and teach you where most of your adjustments will need to be made.

Adjusting brightness/contrast is the next step. Photoshop and other software often have “auto-adjust” options for this, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t (often they blow out the highlights where important detail is kept, so use with discretion.) Again, work with the original at hand so that you can most closely match it with what you’re seeing on the screen.

Finally, image size will often need to be tweaked. Most digital cameras create huge files which will generally need to be reduced before they can be used online. An important caveat here is to be sure of your final resolution. If your image is intended only for the computer screen, then 72 DPI (Dots Per Inch) is sufficient. However, should you ever need to out put your image, you will want to save it at a resolution of at least 300 DPI. We can go over resolution in another blog post, but for today, just remember those two scenarios, and adjust resolution accordingly.

Photoshop has a simple size reduction tool, I generally will downsize a scan 50% before uploading it for my eBay auctions, but a file from a digital camera will generally need to be reduced to at least 25% of the original. Your mileage may vary, experiment and see what works best for you. One caveat: larger files take longer to upload, and some hosting services (such as Auctiva) automatically adjust the image to what they feel is the optimal size, so there’s no point in leaving your files huge, as it will just waste your time.

Finally, it’s important to note that when adjusting your scan or photo for your online sale, there are certain things it’s generally considered not ethical to do. Retouching out problems is the biggest no-no of course. Cropping the image so that bad corners or tattered edges on a postcard is sure to get you in trouble with a buyer when the card arrives. And boosting contrast or chroma so that colors pop more than they do in real life is just plain unethical. My main goal is always for the buyer to say “The item was exactly as shown.” A little honestly up front goes a long, long way when it comes to your images, and going overboard to “clean up” an image can come around and bite you in the ass in the long run.

One final comment: one person’s monitor may show things differently than anothers, and it might be worth your while to calibrate your monitor to ensure what you are seeing really is what you are getting. But that’s another topic for another time.