It’s the third Wednesday of the month and time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
I’m co-hosting this month. Be sure to check out the posts of my co-hosts, too.
Joylene Nowell Butler | Meka James | Diane Burton | Victoria Marie Lees | M Louise Barbour
May 3 question – When you are working on a story, what inspires you?
I’m skipping this month’s optional question to talk about something I’ve noticed in die publishing-sphere.
Indie authors have this love-hate relationship with Amazon (and other distributors). Not just because it’s hard to get your books noticed there, that they take a hefty commission per sale, but also the ridiculous return policy on eBooks (and other formats) that readers get to read the book and still return it for a full refund. (Haven’t they heard of libraries?) Which means Amazon and its friends make more money per book than the author does, some readers buy books and get the entertainment from it and then return it for a full refund — and the author is left with less than they started with (especially when advertising dollars are included).
Which is why a lot of authors have moved to selling direct to their readers.
There are several ways to do this, from selling directly to readers at in-person events to adding a shopping cart to your website. And you can do this with any format. BookFunnel has this nifty thing where a reader can redeem a code to get an eBook (say you sell them the code on a bookmark at an in-person event). Vervante and other such companies that print, package and send physical books for you can have a shopping cart on your website so readers can buy print books wherever they are. Payhip, Shopify and others can help you have your own store which you can embed in your website so you can sell digital and physical products wherever you are.
BookFunnel | Vervante | Payhip | Shopify | Ko-fi
There are several benefits to selling direct:
- Relationship building. Just like with your newsletter, you can capture someone’s email when they buy from you and then follow up with a thank you email. When they buy on another store, you have no idea who bought it or even if they’ve read it.
- Branding. You can make sure your sales pages has your unique branding on it. Whether pre-made or specially designed, you have creative control.
- Higher profit margins. Obviously. You have to abide by Amazon’s pricing policy (which means you can’t sell it for lower on your website than it is on Amazon), but you’ll still make more money per sale.
- Instant cash. Or, almost. With Amazon and the other stores, you wait anything from 30 to 90 days for the money from a transaction to land in your account. With your own store, it’s a matter of hours. And if you live hand-to-mouth, even just in the business sense, this is a good strategy to stay afloat.
Of course, there is a lot more work involved in selling your books directly (setting up all the tech, getting the right tech support, setting up all the payment options, etc.), but the benefits outweigh all of this.
I’ve already set up my own store. And though it’s not everything I envision it to eventually be, it is there and it is doing what I want it to do. Right now, I have it on Payhip and doing it as cost-effective as possible (meaning: the free version and using it’s inbuilt tech to deliver the eBook files).
My Payhip store is embedded at the top of my website (Ronel’s Store) and when you click it, you are taken to my store with a minimalist style and my name in the same rose pink as my website and some of my social media posts. You can click on different series and be taken to a specific series page, or you can stay on the homepage and browse through all my books.
When a reader buys a book from me (using PayPal in USD), they get the eBook in mobi, epub and pdf formats. They can also leave reviews (which some have done).
I’m quite happy with it right now, though I will eventually add BookFunnel for proper tech support when readers buy eBooks and to also sell audiobooks (they have a program in beta right now to do so). I’m also looking at the different options to sell print — and to have it printed in the country the reader lives in to cut down on costs and the carbon footprint of each book. I’m also looking at various payment methods and currencies.
There’s a lot to learn and master, but that’s the fun part!
Here’s some great advice on the subject by the team from the Six Figure Author’s Podcast:
- SFA 082 – Selling Direct, Audiobooks, and Author Business Tips
- SFA 115 – Making More Money Selling Your Books Direct
- SFA 126 – More Tips for Selling Direct with Katie Cross
If you’re not in the mood to learn it all on your own, Joanna Penn has a course to help you out. The Creator Economy For Authors: Make a Living On Your Own Terms There’s a preview session you can listen to when you follow the link. Or you can take a look at her how-to video about setting up Payhip.
I’m not yet ready to talk about Kickstarter, but it fits into this idea of selling direct. You’ve heard what Brandon Sanderson was able to do there, right? And he’s not a unicorn: other authors are using this platform, too.
Kickstarter | Business Musings: The Final Brandon Sanderson Post | Self-Publishing And Crowdfunding Special Print Editions | Why I’m Launching My Book On Kickstarter And Not On The Usual Stores | Everything you want to know about running a Kickstarter for limited-edition books.
I couldn’t help but add the iconic meltdown of Steve Martin in Father of the Bride. LOL. Have you looked at selling direct? What are your thoughts on this subject?
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May’s theme: New Orleans. My Goodreads shelf.
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46 thoughts on “Joining the Creator Economy #IWSG #Authorpreneur”
I’m sure there are pros and cons to using Amazon. That’s great that you’ve set up a way for readers to buy directly from you. Thanks for the tips on this.
Loads of pros and cons, but I still use it 🙂 Thanks, Natalie.
SO much information I’m going to have to take notes! I have a ton of physical copy books and would love to get them working for me i.e. paying me. You’ve got me thinking . . .
Thanks, Nancy. You should probably look into Shopify — I hear it’s better for physical items.
You always put so much in your posts, Ronel. I finished the entire cuppa!
Thanks, Jacqui 🙂
Thanks for the information, Ronel. I’ll pass it along. Happy IWSG Day. Thanks for co-hosting.
Thanks, Joylene 🙂
This is something I’ve not thought about much since I’ve got no product to sell yet. You make a very good argument for the route you’ve taken. The online sellers like Amazon certainly have the presence online that gives product far more visibility so it’s probably good for anyone lacking the initiative or resources to do self-marketing. Crazy that they would accept returns on E-books unless there was some genuine problem like extremely bad formatted or product that was not what was advertised. To me returns are such a hassle so I’m very careful about my purchases anywhere.
Yeah, they also take audiobook returns on books that have been fully listened to… And people are even sharing on TikTok on how to do these things. Like pirates aren’t bad enough.
Thank you for this valuable insight on selling your books. It’s a perspective I never had.
Selling directly sounds like a good way to go, especially if you’ve got a thriving fan base and support group.
Thanks for co-hosting!
Absolutely. And it’s just another avenue for selling wide.
I did not know that about Amazon, that people can read an eBook and then return it for a full refund. Hmm…just another in my long argument list against using Amazon. Still, it’s a large platform that can potentially reach a lot of readers. It’s such a decision, isn’t it? But I do believe that selling direct is a great way to go. Thank you so much for this insight and the links. You’ve mentioned several companies for book production/selling I’ve not heard of before. I’ll definitely be checking into them! Thanks for co-hosting this month!
You’re welcome. Some people don’t buy on Amazon — or even some of the other retailers — on principle, so giving them an alternative is a good thing.
Thanks for all the info here. I’ll be looking into some of it. I do have direct paperback sales set up on my website (using Paypal buttons), but have never gotten around to figuring out direct ebook sales. I almost never sell any of the paperbacks that way, and suspect that ebooks would do better.
You’re welcome. You should check out Joanna Penn’s tutorial (free on Youtube) to set up a Payhip store — it’s so easy, and can make a difference in your book ecosystem.
Enjoyed reading and learning the pros and cons about the various options. Thank you for taking the time to research and share with all of us. I had no idea a buyer could get a full refund on a eBook.
Like the writers’ strike in Hollywood, authors’ deserve a fair compensation for their work. Your post helps us consider other options besides Amazon.
Thanks for co-hosting our May IWSG blog-hop.
Lynn La Vita
You’re welcome. We totally deserve fair wages.
That’s cool you have your own store now.
Amazon is the only one who lets people return eBooks. Apple sure doesn’t!
Thanks for co-hosting today.
Good to know! Thanks, Alex.
Fascinating. Keep us posted on how this works for you.
I make 85% of my royalties via KU, so I’m hesitant to go wide or go direct with e-books, but I have to deal with Amazon’s snafus. Recently my Amazon ads quit working. They fixed it in a couple of days, but the performance hasn’t returned to normal. I’m making 1/3 of what I was making before the glitch.
Delivering e-books directly, how do you keep people from sharing or pirating your books?
Thanks for co-hosting!
I know that the audience of KU is not the audience you’ll get elsewhere — I think I heard that in an interview on the Self-Publishing Show. And each time you go from exclusive to wide, it changes the algorithms and it’s almost like starting from scratch to get visibility (and not in a good way). So if you’re doing well in KU, you probably shouldn’t go wide as most of your audience won’t go with you. And going from wide to exclusive will anger some readers as they won’t be able to read your books if they’re in series.
As for the pirating thing: I honestly don’t care. If people are going to pirate my books, they probably aren’t going to pay for it to start with. And I trust my readers to be honest. I’m sure there are ways to keep people from sharing books, but I haven’t heard anyone talking about how to do it. Joanna Penn might have something on this over on her site The Creative Penn. (A good resource to check out, anyway.)
What a helpful post – lots of info to absorb and reflect on. Thank you.
Amazon is two-edged sword all rght. Amazon is the only way I can distribute my audiobooks though. Highest of sales to you, Ronel! https://rolandyeomans.blogspot.com/2023/05/value-of-dreams-in-nightmare-world.html
Thanks, Roland. If you’re not exclusive through ACX, you can distribute through Findaway Voices — they do wide distribution. There’s a way — though I didn’t pay much attention to it when Joanna Penn spoke about it on her podcast — on how to get your rights back so to speak if you want to go wide.
So much information! Thank you for all your research. I need to save it all somewhere easily accessible for future reference 🙂
Thanks for co-hosting this month.
I used to sell direct from my site years ago before it was as easy as it is now. I got burnt out.
Recently, I’ve been selling direct at a lot of live events and am looking into bringing it back to my site.
You might like Shopify then — it’s good for ebooks and physical products.
What an informative post, Ronel! Thanks for sharing this information. Have a happy and productive May!
Thank you 🙂
Other than from a table at in-person events, I haven’t really looked at selling direct. I can see that it could be a good idea though! @samanthabwriter from
Definitely easier than the in-person events 🙂
This was fascinating to read! Thank you for all this great info. I’ll definitely be coming back to reference this blog in the future and sharing it with friends who are entering into the publishing realm.
You’re welcome 🙂 You might like my “For Authors” page with all the links to posts like this one on my blog.
Lots of great ideas there, Ronel. I’m so glad I never went down the Amazon exclusive route – I sell more at Apple than Amazon.
I think the biggest thing is not to take things for granted. Even ebook publishing is constantly changing, let alone the whole publishing bit.
And thanks for cohosting today 🙂
You’re so right, Jemima. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
This is great information, thank you. I’m not selling anything yet, but I worry about the amount of control Amazon has–not only dominating the market but the ability to remove your books for basically any reason and the ability to keep your royalties if they decide (with or without evidence) that you’ve violated their terms of service. Plus, it’s never good to have your income entirely dependent on a platform you don’t control.
Absolutely, Janet. That’s why going wide is the best way to go.
A great and helpful post Ronel – I have only completed one book and am still toying with revisions whereas you have multiple books. I wonder what your advice would be in that situation?
Still go wide. It took a year to go from one to two books for me, and I toyed with exclusivity with book two and had almost no sales in the three months of exclusivity — and the moment it went wide, sales soared. Also, KU readers aren’t like the rest and most won’t follow you to actually pay for books instead of the monthly fee to read on KU, so having your book either wide or exclusive will depend on which audience you want. And if you’re wide, especially using a service like Draft2Digital that helps you get into libraries like Overdrive, you will serve a wider readership. (Remember to tell people they can request your book from libraries.) We all grew up in libraries, and it’s a good place to grow your readership — you still get paid by the libraries for your books even as the reader gets to read it for free. Hope this helps!