Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

Online Promotion Methods

This week I have a question from an author who is trying to sell his book on eBay. My answer explains some ways to get more sales of his book on and off eBay. I also explain a bit about how eBay's default "best match" search option works with fixed priced listings that don't generate lots of sales.

Dear Terry,

Hi. I'm promoting my new book "The Art Hunters Handbook" on eBay and Amazon. I saw your write-up about using eBay's "Featured Auctions" option, but I don't think they offer this any more. Am I right? Any other suggestions for paid promotions on eBay or elsewhere?

Very truly yours,
Les Fox

As Les says, eBay no longer offers Featured options. I think the reason they dropped featured auctions is to avoid sellers buying a featured listing to get good results in best match searches.

Before I get to Les's question about other paid promotions he can do to promote his book, a quick aside about Best Match. One of the factors eBay uses to decide which listings get a boost in the search results is sell through rates. This means if Les lists his book and doesn't get sales, the next time he lists it, it will have lower search exposure on eBay.

Sell through rates are factored based on the listing, the seller, and the category. This means Les should test listings on an eBay account to find the one that sells best, then put the best listing(s) up on another eBay account.

I just looked at Les's eBay account and his listings. He's already testing many different titles and categories on eBay. Once he finds one that works he should move the listing to another account for about 90 days so his listings aren't given lower exposure.

I've seen tests where eBay sellers load the same listings with two different selling accounts and the listing on the new account gets higher position in Best Match searches.

A second way to game the Best Match system is to run the same listing that is generating sales over and over again. Use a Fixed Price listing and select "run til cancelled." This means people who watch the listing will continue to watch the listing even after it's renewed. It also means the listing will show how many copies of the book have been sold, which adds social proof that will help get additional sales.

I just spent some time comparing best match and items ending soonest listings in a few different categories. Large numbers of fixed priced listings ending within 3 hours aren't shown in many categories under best match, but are shown in ending soonest results.

I really need to write a whole article about Best Match in the future. I'll add a link here and send it out as a newsletter article when I get it written. You can sign up for the newsletter in the link above.

Now For Promotional Techniques

EBay has a new deal that allows you to post your listings on Facebook. This is free. I can't find the eBay announcement, but from looking at my active listings, there are buttons in the upper right corner of every listing so you can share to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You'll need accounts for each of the services. Then you just click on the buttons to share the listing.

Note: I tested the Facebook Share button on one of my listings, and the descriptive text is crap. It's just the title and the category. If you click on the text in the share screen, you can edit it to use a more interesting description.

A Second Note here. . . I thought there was more to this eBay Social Media Application than this based on the announcement. If you've been using this feature, please drop me a note with your experience.

One Last Note. . . You cannot put an eBay affiliate link on a site that you don't own. EBay does track this and will warn you once when they catch you posting affiliate links on Facebook. You won't get a second warning, they'll just delete your account and keep your commissions.

Back to other promotional techniques. . .

Les was asking about PAID promotional techniques, but how about some free ones first?

Les's book might be interesting to you - I haven't read it, but it looks like it is a listing of different artists whose paintings you'd be likely to find at yard sales - I've heard stories about people who bought a painting at a yard sale and sold it for over a million dollars so I'm sure it happens.

Here's a link to one of his eBay listings for the book.

That's an affiliate link so eBay will give me about 3 cents if you buy a copy of the book. I'm not so much interested in the 3 cents as in tracking clicks and sales from the link, but I'll take the 3 cents.

So that's an example of a promotional technique Les can use. Get people with newsletters or blogs to mention his book and provide a link. He can do this by guest writing articles, or by offering to do an interview.

A quick aside here. The eBay listing I linked to above ends in a week. That means the link won't be good after that. This means Les needs a page on his website about the book where he can keep updated purchase links, or a site devoted to the book alone. In two recent newsletters I wrote about websites with suggestions for articles so I won't repeat myself here.

Free Promotional Techniques continued . . .

For the following suggestions I'll assume there is a webpage that will maintain the same URL so we can do some longer ranging promotions.

Writing guest articles for bloggers and newsletters is a good first step. The second step is submitting articles to sites like ezinearticles.com. These sites host articles by authors on a wide variety of topics, and allow bloggers and newsletter owners to use the articles as long as the links are left in them.

These articles won't generate large amounts of steady traffic, but will help build some awareness. While others might tell you articles on these sites will help with search engine rankings, this is no longer true. The real value is just having a bunch of different ways for people to find out about the book.

Another free method of promoting the book is blogtalkradio.com and other online radio shows. There are thousands of these little shows. Find the ones where the listeners are likely to be interested in your book and contact them.

Before you contact these "radio" hosts, make a list of about 20 questions they can ask you during the show. Based on my experience, most of the hosts will just follow the questions you send them.

Many of these shows have small audiences, but they don't take much time to do. Some of the shows might grow and the recordings are available afterwards so new listeners might get exposure. The biggest reward here is learning to do radio.

Once you've done a few online radio shows, you can start looking for real radio shows. I'll talk about that in a minute when I get to paid promotional techniques.

Two more free techniques. . . Forums, and discussion boards are filled with people interested in this topic. A search on Google for the words "art forum" or "art discussion board" will bring them up.

There are certainly blogs about art too. Search for "Art Blog" to find some.

Look for boards with recent activity and start posting answers to other people's questions. On blogs join the discussion by commenting on posts. Don't post "Buy my book" because it will just be deleted as Spam. In these places you're not selling, you're building credibility and awareness. If the discussion board has a signature file, that's where you link to the book page.

Look for about 5 blogs or boards with good traffic and spend about a few minutes each day looking through them for topics where you can contribute. The goal isn't to post every day, just to contribute when you can do so without being pushy.

Now For PAID Ways of Promotion. . .

I don't know how effective these methods will be. Chances are the cost will be greater than the profits you get from Amazon or eBay sales. Selling the books directly will increase your profit margins, hopefully enough to cover your costs.

Google's AdWords allow you to run ads not only on Google, but also on websites that host the ads. There are also other websites like Facebook that run Pay-Per-Click ads. I don't do PPC ads so you'll have to do some research to find them. I doubt Facebook ads will be productive.

Earlier I mentioned online radio stations. How about real radio stations? PRWEB.com is the place to put a press release to get attention from radio stations.

Now it's important to talk about what a press release is. It's not an announcement that you've written a book. It's a short single page article that tells a reader why their listeners will want to hear you talk about your book.

Best case you'll get radio interviews and also get some exposure on the radio station's websites. You probably won't get a lot of sales, but it can be fun.

More paid promotional advice. . .

How about buying text or banner ads on websites? I've done this in the past. There are sites out there that will sell you an ad for between $20 a month and $20 a year. Don't buy these ads for links, buy them for the traffic and the sales. Just look for art and antiques related sites that sell ads.

How about classified ads in antiques papers? Krause publications owns dozens of regional antiques newspapers. I used to run small display classifieds in their papers to sell my eBay video. Most of the ads were under $30, and I ran many of them every month.

I stopped running the ads because Krause had a really poor billing system and consistently charged me 2 and even 3 times for the same ad. I was running ads in about 20 publications and the constant arguing with them just became too much for me.

I'm not going to write a rant about how Krause is ethically and moral suspect. Truthfully, I think they were just growing so fast they couldn't manage the business and the pea brains they had working for them only lasted a few months so there wasn't any consistency except in the constant errors in their favor. This was 9 years ago so they should have their act together.

The sales were good though. When I started with them I had one ad rep. who handled everything. She quit, and then I had a stream of reps who didn't know what they were doing.

There was another reason I quit doing the ads with Krause. They changed the category title from "Instructional Videos" to "Business Opportunities" and my sales went down so make sure you specify the category within your insertion order.

Even though I had problems with Krause, I suggest you try a few ads.

Make sure you track sales back to the publications. An easy way is to insert a line for department into your address. Department AT is for Antique Trader, Dept. NN is for Numismatic News. (The Numismatic News paper was only good for me when it was given away free at large coin shows. Antique Trader worked well all the time.)

Don't forget other antiques publications. I started by going to a few antiques stores and grabbing the free publications by the door. Then I'd call and run a test ad and find out what other periodicals they printed.

You can get a whole list of relevant periodicals out of the Standard Rate and Data Sheets (SRDS). Just go to your local library and ask for them at the research desk.

Within the list of periodicals there will also be lists of mailing lists you can rent, and card decks you can run ads in. With the $16 price of Les's book, renting a list and sending a mailer won't be effective. Card decks might be effective.

Card decks are promotional packages with ads from a bunch of different companies. Like a Val-Pak mailer, but based on subject rather than zip code. I tried these with my eBay video and they weren't very effective, but take a look and see what types of audiences there are.

If Les's book was more expensive I'd suggest looking into affiliate networks, but I doubt Les could pay more than a dollar per sale, and that's just too low to attract affiliate attention.

While you're at the library ask a librarian how they buy books. I never managed to figure out how to sell quantities of books to libraries, but did meet someone years ago who sold lots of books and videos directly to libraries by running ads in library science magazines.

I think Les was asking for ways to get buyers to look at his eBay listings. My recommendation is to move away from eBay and do direct sales from a website or by mail order because it's more profitable and easier to track back to specific ads.

When I first started selling my eBay video in 2002, the one thing that had the BIGGEST effect on my business was adding a newsletter to my website. You're reading it now, and I've been writing articles like this for over 10 years.

The newsletter allowed me to offer additional products to readers and increased my profits per student.

Back when I only had the video and the How To Buy Antiques Package, I promoted other people's books as an affiliate.

When I added new products, I had a ready and willing audience to buy them.

Because I had a newsletter with lots of interested readers, I was able to do joint ventures with other marketers.

The biggest advantage of the newsletter is it made it easier to get repeat sales. When I was just selling my videos on eBay and in the classified ads, very few people made additional purchases.

The newsletter changed my business by allowing me to easily and cheaply offer additional products to my readers.

Newsletters aren't as much work as you might think.

When I started the newsletter, I sent out one issue a month. Back then, it seemed like a lot of work to fill a few pages every month. Within a few years I was sending out an issue every week.

Today, I'm still sending out one issue a week, and adding one or two new questions to the mailbag on the website. This article started as a question and answer for the mailbag and grew into a newsletter article.

Sometimes I take a week off and either send nothing out, or have a guest article written by someone else.

So my last suggestion is to think about more than just going for the single sale and start a newsletter. The newsletter will help you sell additional products, and get you sales from people who visit your website but don't buy on the first visit.

Since I can't live on the 3 cent commissions from linking to Les's book on eBay, let me tell you about a book I wrote about newsletters.

The book explains signing up new readers, writing articles, to building credibility that leads to purchases, making sales, and more.

Newsletter Profits is only $9.97 and comes with my standard no questions asked 56 day guarantee.


PS Keep sending in your questions. I need them for my mailbag articles, and who knows maybe I'll surprise you and put a link to your book or product into the answer so my readers can check out your offering. Just hit reply and change the subject to question.

PPS One note about the whopping 3 cent eBay commissions. EBay pays based on clicks not sales. If you click on the link and don't buy I get 3 cents. If enough people click on the link and buy Les's book, I might get 10 cents per click.

Here's another link to check out Les's book on Hunting Art

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