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Quick Tips for Selling Media on eBay

Don't inadvertently break the rules or underprice your goods

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Quick Tips for Selling Media on eBay

Following simple tips for media selling can help you to avoid headaches later on

Photo: Mary Gober
Selling books, DVDs, CDs, software, or other kinds of media on eBay can seem (deceptively) to be a relatively simple process. If you aren’t careful about your listing, your pricing, and your shipping, however, you could end up underearning, overpaying for shipping, or even worse, in trouble for rules violations. If you’re planning to sell or start selling media products on eBay, pay attention to these quick tips to ensure that all goes well.
  • Never sell media you’ve copied or burned yourself. Any recording you’ve made yourself, whether off the airwaves, from the Internet, or copied from another medium, cannot be sold on eBay. In most cases this is because it would be illegal to do so and would in fact be copyright infringement. Such activity can get you banned not only from eBay, but from society as well, since such violations often carry criminal penalties. Open source products, though technically legal, are generally not tolerated by eBay. eBay’s track record suggests that they will suspend first and ask questions later. Even media of your own performances (if, for example, you play in a band) has historically been difficult to sell on eBay. As a practical matter, if you really want to make money selling media on eBay, recordings you make yourself, no matter the source or legality, are simply not the way to go.

  • List media contents in your description. Include a list of tracks and times, included special features, number of pages and list of chapter titles, or other similar list of the “contents” of the media item that you’re selling. Be as detailed and exhaustive as possible.

  • Carefully specify media compatibility. It’s easy to take for granted the “normalcy” of the media that you have or sell, but don’t forget that eBay is a worldwide market, and not just that, but that eBay is a market full of collectors that may be in search of specific types of media.
    Books: Specify language and print size if possible.
    CDs: Specify whether the CDs are factory made from masters or burned. If burned, specify the type of media (CD-R or CD-RW). Specify single or multisession if known.
    DVDs: Specify region (number if possible, or nation in which you purchased it). Also specify standard (DVD, VCD, SVCD, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, etc.)
    Magnetic tapes and disks: Specify VHS, casette, microcasette, diskettes (5.25” or 3.5”, PC or Mac or other, etc.)
    Vinyl records: Specify size and rotation speed. Specify material if possible.

  • Give clear, accurate condition information in your listings. People don’t just “use” media, they experience it—and whether that experience is a good one can depend heavily on an individual’s tolerance for faults and blemishes.
    In all cases: Detail any case/cover damage or missing cases/covers.
    Books: Describe highlighting, page fold-downs, yellowing or fading, missing pages, spills, spine damage, and worn/creased covers.
    CDs/DVDs: Detail any scratches in/on either side, vibration when playing, or known incompatibilities.
    Magnetic tapes and disks: Note any stretching, exposure to magnetic fields, or decay in fidelity.
    Vinyl records: Detail scratches, warps, or label damage.

  • For rare or out of print items, list at auction. If the media you’re selling is rare or out of print, but likely to be highly sought after, list the media item for auction to draw the highest possible final sale price.

  • For common or in print items, list fixed-price and maximum duration. If the media you’re selling is either common and in print or unlikely for whatever reason to be widely sought after, list them item at a reasonable fixed price for the longest duration possible. In general, select a price that is equal to or less than the typical retail price; for best results, select a price lower than the average eBay price.

  • Don’t overdo packing. In most cases, media is not terribly fragile, particularly if the original media case is included. A self-sealing padded envelope is often enough; no need to incur expenses for boxes, packing foam, or tape. Vinyl records and some types of magnetic media may be exceptions to this rule, requiring greater protection from the ravages of shipping.

  • Stay within maximum shipping cost limits. Though shipping costs on many types of eBay items are up to the seller, such is not the case with many media items. Carefully consult eBay’s list of maximum shipping costs for the media item you’re selling. Be careful not to charge more than this or you risk incurring penalties from eBay.

  • Don’t automatically ship “media mail.” At the same time, don’t automatically assume that you’ll need to use the barest minimum shipping method that you can—often, media or book mail via your postal service. Take the time also to check shipping prices for standard and faster methods; for packages as small and light as media items, the prices are often within a few percentage points of one another, but can mean the difference between delivery in just a day or two with tracking capability and delivery weeks down the road with no way to track a package at all.

  • Identify and serve a niche. Because of the wide variety of media, media compatibility, and media contents and the particular preferences that each type of media audience may have, it can be an almost insurmountable task to deal in many formats or many genres. If you’re considering dealing in media on eBay, consider finding a niche and a niche supplier. Focus on media that you yourself are interested in—art-house DVDs, for example, or physics books, or classic rock vinyl. Because you’re already an enthusiast, you’ll not only have a better idea about suppliers, but also about how to market, sell, and protect the media in question, as well as how to drive repeat business amongst this media format and genre’s typical audience—and you’ll do better for it in the long run.

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