We build author websites all the time, and every one of them (at least for an author who already has a book published) includes one or more links to “buy the book.” After all, that’s one of the primary goals of an author website, right?
However, selling books online isn’t as cut and dry as you may thing. There are several very, very different ways of selling books, and many authors getting started haven’t really thought it out yet. So, I thought I would write this post to help clear things up a bit.
Here are the three main methods for actually selling books through the website … from the one that requires the least amount of work to the one that requires the most.
1. Link to Amazon, B&N, etc… About 90% of the clients we build sites for go with this option. It’s the simplest, cleanest and easiest way to do it. Simply include links to buy the book from your publisher and/or the major online vendors (Amazon, B&N, Indie Publishing and Powell’s). Those third-party sites will then take care of payment processing and distribution. It’s no fuss, no muss. However, there are a few downsides to this method, including the fact that your cut of the revenue is pretty small. Plus, there’s no official reporting on how many sales you get through the site, so it’s hard to measure your success.
2. Sell through PayPal. How did we ever live before PayPal? It’s an incredibly simple, easy, and affordable way to collect payment. You can set up a PayPal account for free, and then we can build a “Buy” button and embed it on your website (see an example here: http://www.dinkidiaussiebooks.com/store/). PayPal takes a small percentage of your sales price, but that’s nominal compared to selling through Amazon, etc… Be aware, however: if you’re selling the book yourself, you are completely responsible for distribution. Be prepared to be boxing and sending out books yourself.
3. Set up a full-blown shopping cart. I can count on one hand the number of authors who opted to go for this. The reasons for that are twofold: 1) it’s a lot of work to get it set up; 2) it’s a lot of money to get it set up. That said, having your own online shopping cart built into the website is quite a snazzy option. Doing so gives you lots of perks that you don’t get through PayPal, including the ability to charge tax by state/county, the freedom to sell multiple items at a time (a true shopping cart), and the consistency of your site design on all of the shopping cart pages (see http://thehealinghour.com/store/). Just like with PayPal, however, the distribution is still all on you … or whomever you hire to take care of it.
One of the first conversations I often have with authors is about these three very different selling options. Every author wants to make sure it’s easy to buy their book, but depending on how much time, effort and money they want to put into the selling process, only one of these options is usually the right fit for an individual author.