Should You Sell Your eBook Through Your Website?

I often deal with authors who are struggling with the issue of whether or not to sell their book themselves: be it an ebook or a paper book. As always, there are benefits and drawbacks of each.

Hats off to Gary McLaren, author of “The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks” for his recent blog entry on the subject. I’d like to convey a few of his ideas about the pluses and minuses of doing so.

The Benefits

  • A greater percentage of revenue. Obviously, when you sell your book yourself, you can keep 100% (or close to it … PayPal does keep something) of your profits. When you sell through Amazon, you can end up with anywhere between 35% and 70% of the total (depending on the price of the book.)
  • Your own marketing and community. Unless you’re allergic to doing your own marketing, why would you decide to send readers to Amazon or B&N instead of your own site? If you have a following already, utilize it: send out an email blast about your book and promote it to everyone who arrives on your site or follows your blog. Conversely, you can use your ebook to start building your marketing campaign. After all, if someone buys a book from you, you now have their contact information and can continue to reach out to them. If the same person were to buy your book from Amazon or B&N, you wouldn’t have such information.

The Drawbacks
As with everything, there are challenges that come along with the benefits. In the case of selling your own ebook, those are…

  • Customer service. In my mind, this is the biggest time-sucker of all. If you plan to sell your ebook, be prepared to deal with questions from people who don’t understand the different formats of the ebook, are having trouble downloading, etc…
  • Formatting. Some authors only offer to sell their ebooks as PDFs (i.e. to be read on a computer). But anyone who really wants to become a player in the book industry needs to have their book available for Nook, Kindle, iPad, etc… If you plan to sell the book yourself, you’d better have it prepared in all of those formats.
  • Less of a presence on Amazon. Let’s face it: Amazon is the primary source of ebook purchases today. And while you can sell your ebook both on your own site and on Amazon, you’d be somewhat disadvantaged on the Amazon site. That’s because: a) sales through your site won’t rank as sales on Amazon, which means that your sales rank may suffer and; b) While selling an ebook at your own web site you are giving up the option of enrolling that title in Amazon’s Kindle Select program.

Is there a definitive answer as to whether or not you should sell the ebook on your site? Of course not. But hopefully, this information will help you make a more informed decision.