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ViewTracker will also suggest the best days of the week to begin and end auctions. Despite conventional wisdom, don't assume that Sundays are best. Some types of books do surprisingly well on, say, Thursdays. Also, if you've got a book that doesn't seem to lean one way or the other, you can always fall back on the fact that about half of all eBay users live in the Eastern time zone - and do your best to accommodate them.

Speaking of monitoring what's happening and when, I'd also urge you to pay attention to the interplay of bidding activity and traffic. Books that attract early bids often have much different patterns than those that don't. There's an almost measurable snowball effect, especially with books that attract multiple early bids, and unlike books that don't receive bids until near the end of auctions, traffic is usually much more consistent throughout the auction instead of (more typically) being clustered at the beginning and end. Part of this is due, no doubt, to the desirability of the book, but the early appearance of bids is a significant draw.

Depending on the kinds of books you sell, you might want to invent/use tactics that encourage early bidding - for example, setting your opening bids lower or offering incentives for early bids (free shipping if you bid on the first day, etc.). ViewTracker will suggest which books you can most safely do this with. Again, don't assume universal application. ViewTracker also teaches me that most visitors find my auctions by doing $Hi to $Lo searches, not $Lo to $Hi, and few buyers (most of whom are impatient) click beyond the first page of results. This would suggest employing an opposite tactic. Ultimately, much depends on the specific book.

One other point about timing. If you're listing a book that isn't likely to attract multiple bidding but has significant value notwithstanding, consider what ViewTracker has taught me about my auctions: approximately 80% of the time, visitors are finding me by "Ending First" sorts, not "Newly Listed." Knowing this, you might be tempted to run shorter auctions (5- 3- or 1-day) so as to appear more often on the all-important first page of results, but this isn't necessarily a good idea. High value books with a restricted market sometimes need extended exposure to sell, sometimes multiple re-lists to find a buyer. Yes, you can run 5-day auctions twice for about the same fee you'd be charged for one 10-day auction, but this only applies to auctions with low starting bids. Overall, running short auctions will cost you significantly more in fees to little or no advantage.

Other important data. ViewTracker will show you that category placement usually isn't a huge factor because so much searching (and even browsing) is done at higher category levels, and many times searches are done globally, not even at the Books level. Still, there are some types of books that are searched heavily at very specific category levels; and some types that do better when listed in two categories. Monitor this as well, and illuminating patterns will emerge.

What about Product Finder? Should you be using it? Visitors arrive at my auctions through Product Finder about 5% of the time, so I usually fill in Item Specifics so as not to lose them. If it was much less, I probably wouldn't bother, and if anything's clear now it's that Product Finder isn't the revolutionary, wildly popular feature eBay had hoped it would be.

ViewTracker will also inform you if a snipe bid is in place - a bid placed through a sniping service that will be automatically entered in the closing seconds of an auction. It's nice to know this, but I'm not sure that it's information I need to know as a seller. As a buyer, however, it's instructive to know how seldom this method is used - hardly ever in my auctions - and of course this gives you that much more of an edge if you use a snipe service yourself.

Finally, a word about a mysterious catch-all arrival method - the direct link. I've noticed that arrival methods for some of my auctions include a high percentage of buyers (sometimes as high as 50%) who ostensibly arrive via links outside of eBay. I'm guessing that the bulk of these are from meta search sites like FetchBook that include eBay listings in returned results, but other possibilities would no doubt include email links, stored bookmarks, snipe services, etc. It would be interesting to see more specifics on this - a breakdown - and perhaps very instructive.

For information on Sellathon's ViewTracker, click here.

To read "A Bookseller's Guide to Sellathon - Part I: Introduction and Auction Titles" click here.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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