Being a writer is all about writing—creating stories and worlds and concepts that no one else has communicated in quite the same way ever before.
But being an author is about transmitting those stories and worlds and concepts to others—getting them out into the world in the form of a book and, let’s face it, selling those books.
Things have changed for authors and writers over the years. Not only must you write, you have to market yourself as well. Making sales is all about having two-way conversations with your readers, which comes naturally to some, but not to everybody.
Ecommerce for Writers
Blogging and social media allow us to reach out to readers on the platforms they like to use; as such, they make fantastic marketing tools. Selling books via Amazon or other online marketplaces is a different ballgame entirely—one that can actually prevent you from accessing the very audience that’s keeping you in business.
So how can writers and authors make the most out of ecommerce in a way that yields good results and builds a loyal readership?
Let’s dig a little deeper to find out!
Selling Books and eBooks Online
The more you can find out about where and to whom your books are being sold, the more strategic you can be with your online marketing efforts. In practice, this means selling books directly through your own author website, rather than just linking through to your listings on Amazon.
Direct sales are valuable because you can track almost everything: how readers found your website, where in the world they’re based, and most importantly of all, their email addresses.
Depending on the type of book you’re selling, you should get ready to not only set aside time for writing (that’s a given), but to allocate time to marketing and customer service, too.
So, knowing how important it is to be able to reach your readers directly with your books, how can you go about creating your own online bookstore?
Building an Online Bookstore
Hosted, out-of-the-box ecommerce solutions are a great option if you want to minimize the amount of time spent developing and maintaining your author website. By opening an online store, you put yourself in the driver’s seat, rather than letting the likes of Amazon or eBay run things. A solution like Shopify takes you swiftly through the setup process (even if you have no web design experience) and provides 24/7 support that will enable you to focus on what’s important—which is writing books!
Choosing a responsive template is highly recommended, as it ensures that anyone visiting your site on a mobile device will get the same quality of experience. “Responsive” just means that the site looks good and is easy to use no matter what device someone is viewing it on, whether a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
You can also manage all of your orders, inventory, and reporting from the Shopify dashboard. Self-hosted solutions like WordPress are popular too, but you leave yourself open to potential problems like slow loading times or your website unexpectedly going down, which can be a real hassle to fix.
Knowing How to Price your Books
As most entrepreneurs know, whether they’re in the writing industry or not, attempting to price your own work is very much trial and error—particularly in the beginning.
Self-published authors can do quite well for themselves if they price themselves competitively. While there are plenty of books and ebooks out there priced at $0.99 (or even less), it’s up to you to discover the ideal price that’s low enough to entice new readers, without being so low that you see virtually nothing in return.
As if that weren’t tricky enough, your expected earnings will also differ by platform if you decide to adopt a multi-channel selling approach. With Amazon’s royalty structure, for example, a difference in price of just $0.01 could mean you get 70% of the royalty—or just 35%. Not only that, the royalty structure also differs depending on what country you’re from!
So you’ll need to be strategic and prepared to read the fine print if you want to make sure you’re getting the best cut, whether it’s Amazon, Kobo, iBookstore, Smashwords, or wherever.
With your own website, of course, you can charge whatever you feel is reasonable and you keep 100% of the profits, provided you can generate traffic to your store.
It’s Not Just about Books—Monetize Your Content, Too
As a writer, there are other ways to monetize your writing ability online beyond just selling books and ebooks. You can also turn your blog into a business—and there are millions of people doing just that. If you decide to pursue this route, here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Choose a topic you’re deeply passionate about. That passion will shine through in your writing and resonate far more with your readers than something you’re only pursuing for profit.
- Focus primarily on one topic and position yourself as a specialist, rather than writing about a bit of this and a bit of that. People want to hear from experts in their niche—plus, it will give your blog a clear focus and make it more likely to rank well.
- Build up your audience with regular, relevant content that your readers will find either useful, inspiring, or entertaining. The objective is to always keep them coming back for more.
- Be sure to collect your readers’ email addresses so you can reach out to them via your email newsletter—this will be important should you ever wish to sell to them.
Evergreen content is well worth investing your time in, since you can recycle it again and again. The great thing about blogging regularly is that given enough time, you will find yourself with more than enough good content to put a book together—and you can then go about selling that on your blog, too! Successful bloggers are able to earn passive incomes for themselves simply by keeping their readership engaged.
Using Social Media for Promotion
As your own publicist, you ignore the power of social marketing at your peril. Social channels are the ideal place to meet your readers (digitally) and start to cultivate your audience, engaging with existing readers and finding new ones. But it can be a bit of a minefield, and there are many writers and marketers out there who still fail to use social media effectively.
You tend to get authors falling into one of two categories: those who are shy about asking people to buy their book, and those who do nothing but promote themselves. As with most things in life, moderation is key. You want to be somewhere in the middle.
There are new social platforms and trends emerging all the time—if you try to tackle everything at once it can quickly become overwhelming. So a good place to start is with what you already know and use, whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, or something else. Twitter tends to require more upkeep, since the lifespan of an average tweet is only around 15 minutes. Once you’ve got a handle on one account, start spreading your wings and embracing others.
Importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment. You need to find out what works and what doesn’t—since I don’t know your readership, I can’t tell you! Pay attention to the kind of engagement you get, and once you know, you can begin to cultivate your following accordingly.
As a writer using ecommerce to turn a profit, it’s important not to expect massive results overnight. An ecommerce business takes time to grow and do well—unless you have an enormous marketing budget behind you. Focus on quality and consistency, and don’t get so overwhelmed by marketing tasks that you forget to find time to write!
Best of luck—and let us know how you get on!
Selling books directly from your website is a smart way to maintain control of your author business.
For more ways to sell books online and off, read on!