i wrote a book – now what? 2 of 3
An Author’s Guide to the Web and Marketing (Part 2 of 3)
Now that you have a product to sell, it’s time to take it to market. There are two primary methods of distribution for independent writers/self-publishers: 1) setting up a vendor account with major distributors such as Amazon, Google Play, and iBooks (iTunes); and 2) setting up your own webstore, Many authors choose both paths, but most at least utilize Amazon.
All of the major distributors of E-Books allow both publishers and authors alike to create vendor accounts and upload their products to their shelves. The five major marketplaces frequented by E-Book readers in descending market share are Amazon, Nook Store, iBooks (iTunes), Google Play Books, and Kobo. Each one of these sites have their own process of creating an account, uploading the product, and then distributing your work.
The main advantage of distribution through these marketplaces is that your audience will be able to very easily find and purchase your work once they’ve heard about it. Plus, your product now has an address (the URL that directs to your product in these sites) that you can use to direct traffic and drives sales. Furthermore, many of these sites offer marketing services that will promote your product with banner ads and similar mass marketing tools – for a fee of course.
Amazon provides the added benefit of letting you sell hard copies of your work in addition to the digital format. This of course requires a product fulfillment system to be in place, as a your reader will not be able to download the physical product from the internet. This can be done by the author, a third-party fulfillment service, or directly through the Amazon warehouse for larger inventories.
The only disadvantage of using a major distributor to sell your work is the fee taken in exchange for using their infrastructure. You can expect to pay about 30% to the distributor, depending on the price point you choose, the size of the file that is being downloaded, or the cost of shipping a physical product. Because of their sheer dominance within the market, most authors and publishers are happy to pay for this distribution model.
Because of the small investment required to set up, independent web stores are a very popular method for creators to sell directly to consumers. There are many platforms available, ranging from online services that allow you to create your own web pages and/or web store using templates and wizards to a custom built website with a online store interface and product management system.
In general, the best option is owning your own website – which involves acquiring a domain name and hosting service (web address and server space) and setting up a content platform to live there. Services like GoDaddy and BlueHost are leading providers of domain and hosting services, but you should consult with an experienced developer or thorough tutorial before deciding on a domain name and hosting plan. That said, online services such as Wix and Squarespace make it very easy for novices to get a professional web presence without support, but it does come with a recurring monthly cost depending on features you choose..
You should start by identifying your distribution needs before creating your webstore. Do you intend to sell products directly from your website, allowing customers to select a product and pay with a credit card automatically or do you simply need a way for a customer to contact your directly to place an order? Keep in mind that the main function of the webstore is to connect your work to your audience and use that to guide your process.
If you have a small budget and low expected sales volume, it is better to start simple – a webpage that describes your work and how to place an order will probably be sufficient until you are ready to move on. But even with a modest budget, it is possible to set up and manage your very own online shop using free web publishing platforms like WordPress.
There are many freelance web developers and web design companies available to help you get started if the options seem overwhelming. However, make sure that you choose someone with a solid reputation, preferably with a reference from your existing network, as accountability can be spotty in the web development industry. Avoid any arrangement that involves a monthly management fee, and insist on a hands on training sessions and index of all account names and passwords involved – the whole pointing of owning your own website is actually owning it!
Having the ability to process your own orders can be an enormous benefit, allowing you to have complete control of selling your products. There are several digital distribution and website companies (mentioned above) that will include a order processing on your webstore, but this is not always the case.
Adding a plugin, such as WooCommerce, to a WordPress site makes taking, processing and tracking your orders a cinch. Taking control of your own order processing means that you will generally be able to keep all of the money that you charge for your book (whether it’s a digital download or an actual physical copy), minus your material cost of course.
Most online distributors and web store plugins or services have their own built-in CMS (customer management system) that allows you to process, track, and manage your orders and customer service. Marketplaces for E-Books require almost no management on the part of the seller, but if using Amazon to distribute a physical book, make sure that you are very familiar with your account dashboard and read the documentation that they provide on how to manage your account – this is a major area of failure on the part of many would-be sellers.
Payment can be as simple as sending an invoice to a potential customer after they contact you requesting a book via email or phone – but then of course, that can be trickier than it sounds. After all, waiting to receive a personal check, cash, or money order in the mail before sending a book in the mail or emailing a download link is a time-consuming process that can be frustrating for both customer and seller. That’s why most online vendors choose electronic options for processing payment for online orders.
Just because you can take orders online does not necessarily mean you can accept payment. Almost every web store solution requires the integration of a payment processing portal to fully function. To do this you will need to be able to accept credit cards, either with a merchant processing service or through a service like PayPal. When making this decision, consider what your order size and volume will be like. Obtaining a merchant account will allow you to take orders online via credit card, but be careful to choose a merchant service that is compatible with your web store.
Because of it’s ubiquity and the almost perfect consumer confidence that they’ve achieved, PayPal is the default payment processing solution for online sales. PayPal is free to set up and only takes a fee when you transfer money out of your account, so you won’t get stuck with a monthly fee when business is slow. It also has measures in place to protect sellers and buyers from fraud – but this protection comes with the cost of a holding period of 3-5 days on all funds received before distribution to your account.
You can also choose something like Square, PayPal Here, or Intuit GoPayment if you would like to be able to take a credit card payment in person. These services generally have a monthly fee as well as a per transaction percentage fee. If your order volume will be fairly low and then it won’t make sense to do it this way at first.
Order fulfillment is one of the most crucial aspects of your distribution process and one of the most frequently over-looked by business owners. It is vital that you follow through with orders received regardless of the platform employed, but especially if you are using a distributor like Amazon for physical products or accepting payments through a service like PayPal. In many cases, it is not just your reputation that will suffer from lack of fulfillment, but your ability to conduct business might be disrupted completely.
In the case of E-Books, the major distributors and marketplaces will more or less ensure accurate and timely fulfillment of the order as it merely supplies the customer with a digital download through their own meticulously crafted and maintained interface, But if you are using a your own WordPress site or online service like Squarespace, you will want to very carefully and thoroughly test the functionality of your product download process. Many of these systems can be set up to email you whenever an order is received and/or processed. Some of these systems will require direct action on your part to process the order. It is vital that you periodically review, test, and maintain your order process and fulfillment system to ensure the continued success of your business.
If you are distributing your hard copy through Amazon, you must maintain a nearly perfect record of order fulfillment in order to keep your account. You will receive notifications as per the settings you chose in setting up your account whenever a new order is received. You will be required to process the order and then mark it as shipped before payment will be processed and transferred to your account. Amazon requires action within 72 hours, and missing this deadline even a few times can result in suspension of your account. Also, marking an order as shipped without shipping it immediately can result in negative feedback from the customer – too much negative feedback can also result in suspending your account. Plus, if a customer reports failure of delivery, you will be forced to refund the purchase.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING – STAY TUNED FOR PART 3 WHERE WE WILL BREAK DOWN MARKETING AND PROMOTION. IF YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS OR REQUIRE ASSISTANCE IN ESTABLISHING YOUR SALES AND MARKETING PLATFORM, FEEL FREE TO REACH OUT TO US!
RUSTY HUBER – firstname.lastname@example.org
BRYAN HARRIS – email@example.com – 657 204 6973