The eBay Book

The book I’ve been working on since February goes to press this week, and is officially published on June 15th, with a launch at the Lowdham Book Festival on June 19th (a day of great free events). It’s my first non-fiction book, and it’s a guide to using the auction site eBay.co.uk.

Why did I write it? I got an email from an old friend at the end of January. We’d discussed eBay on holiday last year. He asked whether I’d be interested in writing a guide. By the middle of February, I’d agreed to do it. From start to finish, the process will have taken four months, some kind of record for me. The book’s aimed at people who want to start using eBay and light users who want to find out how to use it better. It’s not for the addicts who live and die on eBay, though I expect they’ll want to read it anyway, just to see if there’s anything there they haven’t already figured out.

Most of the people I know don’t use eBay. But all of the ones I’ve discussed it with seem to be interested in doing so. They want to be given an idea of what’s out there and told how to avoid pitfalls. I’m not much of a manual reader. I tend to read the basic minimum then get bogged down by too much detail and stop. From then on, I just use the manual’s index as and when I need to. I tried to make The eBay Book readable from cover to cover by working in some case histories from sellers I’ve met, along with my own experiences.

I started using eBay for a melancholy reason. In 1999, a friend died suddenly. Don’s widow asked me to sell his record collection for her. It included a large number of rarities. I quickly found out what these might be worth, but knew I’d never get anything like their true value from a dealer. So I went to eBay.

I’d checked out eBay over the previous few months, but had been too timid to buy or sell anything. Now, however, I had a real reason to begin. To test the water, I auctioned a CD from my own collection: a rare boxed single that the Record Collector price guide said was worth £40. I gave it a high starting price of £20, the lowest price I would accept. A week later, it sold for £30. I posted it to France, throwing in free insurance, just in case anything went wrong. Two days later I received my first feedback: ‘Very very pleasant seller, beautiful item and carefully packedAAAAA++++++++++’

More than half of the rare records sold, bringing in prices not too far off the guide price. They went all over the world. I found I had a new hobby, using my unmetered internet connection to endlessly browse eBay when I should have been working on my latest novel. I quickly got a yellow star alongside my eBay ID. This showed I had more than ten positive feedback comments. I sold occasionally, often accepting cash dollars to fund my purchases from the US.

I’ve since discovered that my early experience was fairly typical. When I put up a bunch of eBay listings, I generally sell just over half of my items. They tend to go for about three quarters of what a specialist store would charge. Now and then, though, a couple of serious bidders go crazy and pay three or four times what an item normally goes for. Once or twice I’ve been one of those crazy bidders myself. It’s probably not wise to bid on signed first editions when you’ve been drinking.

Over the last three years I’ve become a frequent, but never heavy eBay user, buying and selling books, DVDs and comics as well as music items. Last year I got my blue star for 50 plus positive feedback comments. I’ve only attended one auction in my life, but I’ve followed thousands of virtual ones. I’ve been ripped off, made mistakes and learnt what kinds of auctions to avoid. I still have a 100% feedback record, the strongest test of an eBayer (as serious hobbyists call themselves). I still get a thrill those times at the end of an auction when last minute bidders are suddenly outbid and try to get one more bid in before the curtain falls. But I suspect that, over the next few months, I’ll be talking about eBay more than I use it. You can advance order The eBay Book from the publishers at a discount. If you’re local, why not come and see me at Lowdham and buy one there.

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