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Authors often explore selling books from their own websites for many reasons. “I’ll make more money on each sale” is usually at the top of the list.
There are other good reasons to sell books from your website, and there’s an equal number of reasons not to.
Here’s the information you need to make an informed decision about whether you should be selling directly to readers.
Reasons to sell your books from your website
There are many reasons to consider doing this, including:
You’ll earn more money from each sale.
Your per-book profit will increase, which can help fund fees you’ll pay any service provider (including PayPal) you contract with for your e-commerce process.
You’ll capture customer contact information, something you can’t get when selling through retailers.
Reader email addresses and other information will allow you to interact directly with your fans and build relationships. Email them to announce your next book, solicit beta readers, and answer questions that can help shape your next book.
You can add marketing swag to a printed book order.
Surprise fans with bookmarks, discount coupons, event invitations, and other inexpensive gifts.
Reasons to avoid selling directly to readers
Here are just three reasons you might not want to sell your books from your website.
Establishing the necessary automated e-commerce option requires technical skill.
You can pay someone to set it up for you, but you’ll still need to manage technological and customer service issues (“I couldn’t download the file.” “I downloaded the file but can’t find it on my computer.” “I can’t open the file.” “I didn’t receive my book.”).
If you don’t have a large following already, you could be wasting time and money.
Ideally, that following includes an email list of readers who know, like, and trust you. You’ll also need a robust social media network of people in your target audience. (“A lot” of followers isn’t enough – they need to be the right followers.)
Without a strong fan base ready, willing, and able to buy directly from you, the effort you put into setting up e-commerce might not be the best use of your resources.
Most consumers want to buy from trusted retailers with established systems and processes.
They’re skeptical about your ability to deliver the goods. It’s why artists and crafters sell from Etsy rather than their own websites.
It’s also why “author websites” isn’t one of the answers to the question posed in the title of recent New York Times article, “Where Should You Buy Your Books?”
How I do it
I’m one who does sell directly to my audience – authors like you.
My short e-book on a very specific topic is available on Amazon in the usual nonfiction e-book format, but the PDF I sell on my website is highly designed with graphic elements that make it easier to follow my instructions. I sell and deliver it on Teachable, the platform I use for my online courses. (Selecting the “Training” option in the top toolbar of this site takes visitors to my Teachable store.)
If I wasn’t set up for e-commerce already, I’d look at E-Junkie. I know several authors who use and like it.
I promote the PDF version’s sales page rather than the book’s Amazon detail page because as noted, I believe the PDF’s interior design makes it more useful. As a result, and even though the PDF sales page includes a link to Amazon for those who prefer that option, I sell more from my site than I do on Amazon.
I’m able to sell directly to readers because I’ve worked hard to establish a network of thousands of smart authors who see and appreciate the value in what I provide. Without that, I’m certain that I’d struggle to sell e-books from my site.
How can you do it?
Other people can do a much better job of providing instruction on how to get set up to sell your books from your website than I can. With that in mind, here are links to more information on how to go into the e-commerce business with your book.
“The Ultimate Guide to Selling Books on your Author Website” from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This thorough, in-depth guide includes the pros and cons, resources for selling, and a case study.
“5 Ways to Sell Your Book on Your Own Author Website” from Kindlepreneur. Get detailed instructions on how to sell from your site using five e-commerce tools.
“How to Sell Books Online (Sep 2021): Everything You Need to Know” from Ecommerce Platforms. Get marketing tips and instructions on how to get set up on Shopify.
You’ll see that to do this effectively and in ways that build trust with readers, it can’t be an “email me to buy my book” process. You need technology that automates as much of the process as possible so you can fill e-book orders even while you’re on vacation (print books require human involvement, of course).
What have you decided?
Now that you’ve learned how this works and what’s required, and you’ve done the math to calculate what it will cost you and what you’ll earn per sale, are you going to start selling books from your site?
If you are, good for you! I hope it’s a positive and rewarding experience.
If you aren’t, good for you! There’s no reason to play follow the leader with this one because the payoff might not be there. Trust your gut.
Do you sell books from your site now? What e-commerce tool or software do you use? Please tell us in a comment.
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