7. Starting to sell your book online
The most difficult part of this whole process, is probably starting to offer your work to the public. It takes so much care and effort, that once you’re done, it’s almost as if to say, “Okay, now what?” The first task will be figuring out exactly how you want to offer your book. Selling online in general is a great tool. It offers your book to a large group of people who may not otherwise have access to it, so it is a step that should not be bypassed.
Independent Online Printer Sites
If you went with an independent online printer, they often will have an online store where you can offer your book. You minus the printing costs from your cover price, and the remainder is your profit. You can make descent margins without a lot of work. There are two downsides with this option.
- The shipping price was outlandish for a single book, virtually guaranteeing no one but your closest friends and family would buy it.
- They often have “profit thresholds”, that until they are met, your profits are not released to you.
This is a quick option to get your book out there, but not an option I would recommend.
Sites like Etsy allow you to create your own store and sell online. Etsy tends to lend itself more to crafts that people create with their hands, but a book, while not printed by hand, is a work you created, and qualifies to be sold.
The benefit is you have the backing of their payment gateways for secure payments, and high customer traffic to their site, giving you more exposure and a possibility to be discovered than a smaller site.
The downsides are;
- It’s YOUR online store, so anything sold has a shipping cost attached that you either need to absorb or pass on to the customer. In addition, all costs incurred via those payment gateways (find out more here), come out of your profits.
- Etsy charges you a small fee to relist the item every time it is sold. While it will automatically do that for you, it comes out of your profits each time you sell a book.
- It is your responsibility to pack and ship the books, and handle any complaints or returns if a customer is dissatisfied.
Etsy can be a wonderful option, I have an Etsy store I still maintain, but it can be very labor intensive. The benefit to Etsy is, while there are fees attached in several different areas, it can be a great option to keep the largest margins for your book, while using a large, widely recognized platform.
Amazon – We are talking books after all!
The last option I am going to talk about, and in my opinion the best, is Amazon Createspace. If you went with Amazon as your printer, they will already have the book information in their system, you simply need to allow them to sell the book. As an independent author, who is self-publishing their book, this makes your book readily available to anyone in the world who has access to Amazon. Now since you are using Amazon as both your printer and as your means to sell the book, they charge you both for the costs of printing, and 40% of the cover price to sell on Amazon itself. This may seem like a lot, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.
- If you sell on your own you’ll pay for the cost of printing regardless, and chances are, you’re going to order a fair number of books to support orders, forcing you to keep inventory. Amazon is a print on demand supplier. They don’t print a book until it is ordered, and you have no upfront costs for printing, they simply take it out of the price of the book.
- If you sell on your own, you not only have to pay for shipping books to yourself but you must account for the cost of shipping to your customer. Which means you either must absorb the cost of the shipping, or the book then becomes more expensive for your customer. With Amazon, there is no cost of shipping to you as they print and ship directly to the customer, and best of all, there are several ways for customers to get free shipping, which is another selling point.
- In any venue you sell, you will have to do everything in your power to drive traffic to purchase your product, but with Amazon you are now a product in the single largest retailer in the world. Not only is it the largest retailer, it is the largest book store in the world. While Amazon certainly offers enough products that you can get lost in the shuffle, I’d rather be tucked on the bookshelf in the largest bookstore in the world, than be the only book on a bookshelf in a store no one has ever heard of.
- And probably the most overlooked value of being sold on Amazon Createspace, Taxes. If you run your own store, even Etsy, you must collect and file taxes for each and every sale in each and every state your business has a physical representation in. The rules for collecting and filing taxes can get very confusing, however with Amazon, they collect and handle the taxes, and you simply collect the profit gained for every sale. And speaking of profit, unlike those smaller independent printers, if you attach a bank account to your Amazon Createspace account, they deposit your profits into your bank monthly, no matter how little you sell.
There are certainly many options you can choose from when it comes to online distribution of your book, not the least of which is creating your own website from which to sell, but we’ll get into that later, and you certainly can offer your series in more places than one. In fact, my book is still available through that original printer, my online Etsy store, and Amazon. However, from the standpoint of ease, effort and availability, Amazon is my greatest focus for driving traffic as they have the greatest gravity of credibility behind them. When looking to present your self-published work in the most professional manner possible, making that book available via the largest retailer in the world, goes a long way. Because of this, I truly believe Amazon Createspace should be part of any self-published author’s distribution plans.
There are a lot of pitfalls to navigate and options to consider, but remember, you are still running a business. It is never wrong to ensure you are maximizing the profit potential. We’ll cover other options for selling your book in our next post.