4 Ways to Sell eBooks Directly to Readers

This chapter explains how to sell your eBook directly to readers without using an online reseller such as Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, or Kobo. (We cover selling your printed book directly to readers in chapter 16: “How to Use Print-on-Demand Services.”) Readers can get your book and revisions immediately, and you can make as much money as possible on each sale.

However, this is too perfect a picture, so keep two factors in mind. First, somehow you need to get the eBook to your customers and their money to you. This can entail website hosting, fulfillment, payment processing, shipping, and customer service.
4 ways to sell ebooks directly to readers
Second, this method only works if you have the ability to expose your readers to your offering. While people might stumble upon your book on Amazon, iBookstore, Nook, Google Play, and Kobo because of internal recommendation engines and large amounts of traffic, this isn’t going to happen with this type of sale.
Gumroad
Gumroad https://gumroad.com/ charges $0.25 per download plus 5 percent of the sale for hosting and selling your file. For example, if you sell a PDF for $3, Gumroad keeps $0.40 ($0.25 + 5 percent of $3) and you’d get $2.60. This is more than you’d get from Kindle Direct Publishing for the same transaction. Gumroad also offers a “$0+” option. This means that people can pay whatever they want to-including nothing.

I used Gumroad to distribute a PDF of What the Plus! Unfortunately, I didn’t track results when I varied the price from $2.99 to as low as “pay what you want.” Over the course of a month, 26,717 people clicked on the link, and 1,632 people downloaded it.

Most people paid $0, but the donations amounted to $803.23, so the average amount paid was approximately $0.50 per copy. This was four months after the introduction of the book. By that time, I had given away approximately 15,000 copies and sold 15,000 copies.

People cannot pay with PayPal because Gumroad only accepts credit cards. Also, Gumroad asks for a minimal amount of personal information, so it cannot provide information about where your customers live. Someday you may need this information to charge sales tax or value-added tax for digital content.

Gumroad requires a preexisting and loyal audience that will click on a link that you provide. As a first-time author, this may be difficult, but you’ll learn how to build your “platform” in the next section of the book, “Entrepreneur.” If you can make this work, there are two big benefits: retention of more of the selling price and access to the e-mail addresses of everyone who has bought the file.

E-Junkie
E-Junkie http://www.e-junkie.com/ is another way to sell your book directly. Unlike Gumroad’s per-copy flat fee and percentage, E-Junkie charges according to the number of files and storage space that you use. The number of downloads is unlimited.

A collection of ten files totaling less than fifty megabytes costs $5 per month. Therefore, if you had one book that is less than fifty megabytes (which is a huge size for a book), you’d only pay $5 per month, and you could sell an unlimited number of copies.

Unlike Gumroad, customers can use PayPal, Google Checkout, TrialPay, and Authorize.net but not credit cards. Finally, also unlike Gumroad, E-Junkie can calculate sales tax and VAT charges because it knows where your customers reside.

ClickBank
ClickBank http://www.clickbank.com/ is a third way to sell ebooks directly. You create an account, upload your file, price it, and sell it. There is a $49.95 activation fee to get started. Customers can use credit cards or PayPal.

A key difference between ClickBank and the other two services is ClickBank’s affiliate program. The scenario ClickBank paints is that people discover great books in the ClickBank marketplace. Then they join the ClickBank affiliate program, get an affiliate link to their favorite books, and promote the link on their blog and through social media.

The company says that it has 100,000 affiliates in 200 countries. It claims to have paid more than $1.8 billion to affiliates and vendors (the people who upload files) and to process 30,000 transactions per day.

The revenue split with ClickBank is different from the other direct-sales sites. ClickBank operates on a wholesale price/retail price model, which means you set a wholesale price (the price at which ClickBank and other affiliates buy the book from you) and a retail price (the price customers see and pay). Your revenue is the wholesale price, since you are selling to ClickBank, and they are the seller of record to customers.

Ganxy
Ganxy http://get.ganxy.com/ is an interesting start-up in this segment. It enables you create a “showcase” for your eBook and sell it in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF format. Ganxy provides payment functionality, file hosting, and customer service.

Ganxy charges 10 percent of net sales, where net sales is the selling price of the eBook less a payment-processing fee. Think of it as a website like Gumroad, E-Junkie, and ClickBank that is dedicated to selling eBooks.

Caveats
If you can convince people to buy your book from these services, you can make more money per book. Nathan Barry’s App Design Handbook http://nathanbarry.com/app-design-handbook/ is an example. Barry has a concentrated market of app programmers, and these programmers are willing to pay his book’s price of $39.

For these programmers, the book isn’t a $2.99 Gothic-romance whim. Designing apps is their livelihood, so a $39 price point for a book that can help them succeed isn’t a problem. Barry makes approximately $38.20 per book, so if he sold 2,000 copies, he could buy a Porsche.

On the other hand, online eBook resellers such as Amazon and Apple pay less per copy, but they may sell more copies. Also, direct sales do not count toward sales rankings for bestseller lists, and books on these lists tend to sell more because they are visible.

If your customers are not price sensitive and you have a way to reach them, then selling direct can work. If these conditions do not exist, then it may be better to make less money per copy but sell more copies using online resellers and bookstores.

PayPal
If you’re wondering about using PayPal to sell eBooks, it’s not applicable to most self-publishers because this would require creating a website where your readers have an account, and you control access to your eBook’s file. Essentially, you’d have to become your own E-Junkie and manage an ecommerce site.

PayPal provides payment collection, and when someone pays, it tells your website to grant access-for example, if someone buys more weapons in an online game. Credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa work in similar ways. However, these companies do not act as your store by hosting your eBook and selling it.

So your customers can pay with PayPal and credit cards, but on Gumroad, E-Junkie, and ClickBank, not directly to you.

Guy Kawasaki has written 12 books, 10 of which were traditionally published. His newest book is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, which helps people understand how and why to self-publish.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, is available as an eBook ($9.99) and in paperback ($24.99). Visit http://apethebook.com/

A book-loving book publicist. Former journalist, loves cats, chocolate, Kindle, rubber stamping, politics, coffee.

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