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Selling on Alternate Venues
Selling on eCrater

by Reesa Turner

#124, 7 July 2008

eCrater is a very simple selling platform. Once you learn how things work in your administrative tools, the going will be easy, but there are little quirks about the site that you will have to get used to. Since there is no html coding involved in using eCrater, your time will not be spent creating much more than the ads themselves and uploading the image files of your books. Use what is provided for you and save your creative energy for promoting your store because you will definitely need it when the time comes.

One of the first things I did before signing up for my account was to visit the eCrater FAQ.

I also visited the eCrater Community and read everything I could in their forums.

The information I gathered led me to discover that this was going to take a slightly different approach than what I was used to. It definitely pays to be prepared, and I am going to try my best to help you get set up.

Artist Sheryl Westleigh of Noadi's Art - - has created a nicely detailed eCrater tutorial at Squidoo.

Sheryl has enthusiastically agreed to my linking to her tutorial in this column. Much of what I have outlined here can be found in her guide, though I have included additional information and discuss, perhaps a bit too much, some of the oddball things that can occur while building your store.

Please do yourself a favor and read the rules of engagement. Don't break the rules or your store will be suspended, and you will have to jump through hoops to find out why. If you have any doubt about what you are setting up to sell, go to the forums and ask. One aspect of selling on eCrater pertains to drop-shippers, but they have very specific rules, and you should read everything you can and ask questions on the forums if this is the route you choose to take.

You can have an unlimited number of storefronts on eCrater, and this may be beneficial if you want to brand each store by genre, similar inventory, or what have you. It is entirely up to you to decide what works best for you. Use of the shipping matrix may become a deciding factor in how you shall proceed. Whatever the reasons, it is up to you, and it's free to list, so think about whether you can benefit from having multiple storefronts.

Your store name and registration:

So, are you ready to sign up for your account? The name you choose will replace storeid in the format shown here.

It is very important that you choose a name that you like. If you decide you want a different name down the line, you will have to pay 10 bucks to get a new one or abandon the offending one and start all over. You will also need a valid email address to sign up with and an email address for your orders to be sent to (these can be the same email, if you so choose).

If you need extra help, visit the forums. When signing into the forums, use your store name id and password. There are several very helpful posters who will guide you along if you ask concise questions. Even if you don't ask the best questions, some will try and figure out just what the heck you're talking about and try to answer anyway.

It is imperative that you follow the rules on the forums as well. A few things to know about: Multiple posts about the same subject in different areas, and off-topic posting in the wrong area is frowned upon and may get your thread locked. Use logic: If you have a suggestion, put it in the suggestions area. Some of the forum topics cannot be viewed unless you are logged in, so if you cannot see the suggestions area, you are not logged in. The eCrater forums run pretty smoothly if we all follow the rules.

Once you have signed up for your first store, go to your administrative page and familiarize yourself with the navigation bar on the left side. The very first thing you should do, and I cannot stress this enough, is click the On-Hold function which is found under More Options to de-activate your store. This way your storefront will not be viewable by the general public while under construction. Don't worry, you can still preview it for yourself, but you won't have to stress about somebody seeing your errors as you learn your way through. If you go to the eCrater forums to ask for input about the look of your store, make sure you have activated it first.

Creating your home page:

Color Templates. There is really only one place for you to insert any type of image branding for your store, so think about it under these guidelines. Don't try to fight it, just use what you are given to work with here. There are 7 color choices for your storefront, so choose the color that works best with your logo and homepage image. You will want to use these specifications to create the logo - max 250 x max 68 pixels, .jpg, .gif or .png file formats) and a homepage image (175 x 196 pixels, .jpg, .gif or .png file formats), which you need to save on your computer (not uploaded to a host site) because there is no ability for you to use html on eCrater.

So, you've got your image and logo ready, now how do they get onto the page? Once you have decided on a color template, click on the little circle beneath the template of your choosing and click update. Next, you will need to go to that same templates page and click on the actual template you selected. This will take you to an upload page for the 175 x 196 image you created.

Next you will want to upload your banner logo. Go to "upload logo" and browse for your image and insert it. In the event that you change these logos or images, you may find that they are not showing up after you've inserted them, and it will drive you nuts! The key to having your new images show up in your browser is to click on your browser's refresh button.

Edit Texts and FAQ Tabs:

Home: This area is for text which will actually show on your homepage along with your store image and logo. If you are using Firefox or Mozilla, your text will be truncated, even though the text box allows you to type on and on. What actually shows up will be much less than what you can type. Believe me, I learned the hard way. There are approximately 10 actual lines of that text box that will be shown on your homepage, so don't bog it down with fluff. Get to the point. Put your best foot forward here.

The text typed into the remaining four fields described below will not be readily viewable without clicking links to them. Don't rely on this area to be your true source of important information; use your product pages for most details.

About Us: This can be a blurb about your selling experiences.

Contact Us: your email address and any other contact information you may wish to provide.

Terms and Conditions: You can put shipping terms and return policies here, but remember that this stuff is not going to be seen in your actual ads.

FAQ: You may provide answers here to any questions your store visitors may have.

The following 3 text areas for Tags are where you will insert info to get your items more prominently into searches. You may wish to wait until you have built product into your store before completing this area.

Title Tag: This is the text that is displayed in the top section of the browser when you open a certain page. Example: Books Audio Movies Music - Online

Meta Description Tag: Give a short, concisely detailed description of your store name and what you sell. Example: variety of books: children's, adult's, audiobooks, homeschool curriculum, classics.

Meta Keywords Tag: List all related keywords here separated by "," Example: books, movies, audio, audiobooks, classic books, adult books, etc.

Payment Options:

Payment options include Google Checkout, PayPal, money order, cashier's check, personal check, and COD. The consensus is that money orders, cashier's checks, personal checks, and COD are fairly useless on eCrater.

In order to set up your online payment options, you will need to have your PayPal information ready, and you may wish to sign up for Google checkout as well, which can be done in the payment options screen.

While these payment methods are not required, you'll be hard-pressed to sell anything without an online payment service. At this time eCrater does not offer the option of using your own merchant account. You should also know that Google Checkout can be used in multiple stores on eCrater with one Checkout account, but if you are using Google Checkout for other sites, then it is required that you have a separate account for each of those sites.

Shipping and Taxes:

You have several choices for how to manage shipping charges. You can specify flat rate shipping, which really doesn't work well if you are shipping internationally or if you have a multitude of varying weights that require different shipping amounts; you can offer free shipping (which works well only if you are a dealer who sells strictly to your own country), or you can use the shipping matrix.

Shipping Zones:

You must ship to US mainland. All other options here are up to you. Choose which areas you are willing to ship to.

Shipping Matrix:

If you can't understand what I've detailed about the shipping matrix below, please go to the forums and keep asking questions until you do. Believe me, there have been many sellers who were ready to give up when they got to this point, but by asking questions they went on to get their stores going. It is complicated - until it isn't. Seriously. The matrix seems to be the make-or-break factor for many people in setting up a store at eCrater. I'm already used to using a matrix on Biblio, so it was not that difficult for me to work with it.

The key for me is that rather than using the actual weight of an item, for the most part, 1 pound in my matrix actually means 1 book. I want $3.99 to ship the first book, so every single book that I list is given a weight of at least 1 pound when I list it (if it weighs 1.8 pounds, I list it at 2 pounds).

You can use the shipping matrix however you choose if you understand how it works. I selected a weight scale of small, and inserted a price of $3.99 for 1 pound (1 book), increasing by 50 cents per book to $4.49 for 2 pounds (2 books), $5.49 for 4 pounds, etc. Note that pound increments in the matrix show as 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 16+. The last column in this scale (16+) is where you specify what each subsequent per pound price increase will cost the buyer. I entered 50 cents into this last column.

It matters not whether you're using the pounds as actual weights or if you pre-determine the weights to be used as specific single items rather than weighed. What matters is the amount that you charge for shipping each item in that weight parameter. If you do use actual weight in ounces or pounds, then the matrix will calculate the weights you provided and add amounts into the correct pounds and the buyer will be charged accordingly.

Tax field is pretty much self-explanatory.

More Options Tab:

Orders: If you have orders, they should appear here.

On-Hold: This is where you activate or de-activate your store.

Bulk Lister: If you can get it to work, please let me know! I haven't tried it yet, but I will investigate this aspect in the coming weeks.

Promote My Store: helpful information on how to submit your site to search engines and how to use Google attributes, which I will discuss further in the paragraphs about Listing your Products.

I do not recommend that you use the functions to enter your store into the search engines until you have actually begun to populate your store. I will remind you to come back here and begin promotion efforts when you are ready to go live.

Widgets: sort of like a microcosm of your store. You can use widgets in blogs and on other websites, but they are JavaScript powered and so cannot be used everywhere. Sheryl has created a Squidoo lens for widgets as well and I am going to work on exploring them and other aspects of promotion in my next column.

Listing Do's and Don'ts:

First a few things to be aware of: You cannot list an item for free (minimum price is 20 cents). You cannot list shipping or shipping increases as a product. Do not list items if they are out of stock, or make sure that you place the item on hold until you have replenished your stock. If you sell an item, you are allowed to leave the item up with a sold indication for 2 weeks only. Don't break this rule, or you could get suspended. You may wish to go to Account Options and set up inventory control to manage your online payment sales. To find out more about inventory control, click here.

You will also find a check box for Google analytics on the options page. I will not go into analytics at this time, but this is where keywords and promotion take a big step.

Categories, sub-categories, images and products:

There is no limit to the number of categories you can have. The text field for categories allows 64 characters, but don't add commas here. The category name must be between 2 and 64 characters and must contain only numbers, letters, apostrophes, dashes, and spaces. There are also sub-categories - another 64 max characters. Hint: Main category pages will show up in search engines, so keyword them; subcategories won't. Don't change your categories once they have been populated with products, or you will lose those products. You can create a new category, move the products there, and then delete the old category.

When you list your individual products, the limit is 100 whopping characters per title! Product titles are Google attributed, so max them out if you know what's good for you. You can also add a graphic to accompany each category and have up to five of your categories featured on your homepage.

The category images are square. If you use rectangular book scans for category images, they will be cropped into squares, so think about that aspect. This format will appear only on the category page, however. When you click into product pages, the full rectangular shot of your book will then be shown, so don't stress too much over it. If this bothers you, then you've got a whole bunch of image manipulation to mess with to fit rectangular books into square .jpegs. If you are starting from scratch, hey, go for it. You can add a border to create that square image or find software that will do this.

You are allowed many images per product. Though I can't find the actual limit, I believe it is 10.

Now we can get into listing of our products. Build your ad the way you normally would with all the relevant bookish key-worded details. It will be easier if you create a format and then use the copy function on the product creation pages and change the specifics as you do each book. I have not found there to be a limit in the amount of text you can use in the main body here, so use that to your advantage. Give details here about any special offers you have going on, or shipping details, etc., because the product pages are what buyers are going to see. Fill in all required fields as denoted by asterisks.

Add your first image on the add product page while building your listing. More images can be uploaded by clicking on the add photos tab in the edit function or after you have clicked update once you have completed entering your product information. You can also add Google attributes from this edit page.

You are given a choice to have products appear as featured on your home page. I choose all images to be featured, and they go into rotation, so you will see a different featured book each time you visit the home page. Clicking on "update & exit" takes you back to the main manage products page.

Google Attributes:

Google attributes are extremely important when selling on eCrater; these are what send your items to Google Product Search; they are the secret formula keywords for Google alone. You will need to learn to use attributes as well as keywords for the other search engines to pick up your listings. Once you've keyed them into your first listing, the copy function will pick up attributes for your next listing.

Specific attributes for books should be incorporated into all of your product pages. eCrater has already built in many of the attribute links for your store such as payment, image, title, weight and all of those mandatory fields you'll discover when entering products, so your attribute concerns will be limited to those specifics which are not already found on the store template. For books: author, publisher, ISBN, year, pages, binding, etc. Look through the list of attributes found under "Promote Your Store" and use the ones that fit your product. By clicking on the "G" on your edit page (after you have uploaded your product), you simply enter year in the first column and a date in the second column, and you have created your first Google attribute. Add all accepted attributes that will help your product to be seen in searches. Make note of the strictly accepted wording for some of the attributes, such as binding (softcover or hardcover). Do not be alarmed by the appearance of bracketed items now showing in the body of your product edit pages. These are your Google attributes, and this is exactly where they belong. If you want to create them here rather than through the special G tab, just follow the format as you now see it and always add the attributes at the end of your main description area.

Now that you have your first listing created, click preview, and take a look around your store. Continue listing until you are ready go back to Title Tag, Meta Description and Meta Keywords Tags on the edit texts page. Go back to the Promote my Store area, and get busy with this process now. Activate your store and you have just created your first fully functional eCrater presence.

Next time I will get into details about store promotion, gateway web pages, blogging, Google analytics, and anything else I can think of to help us sell books. Until then, do some studying and clue me in on some of it, if you can.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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