- Victoria M. Patton
Selling From Your Own Site: What You Need To Know To Get Started
Updated: Jan 6
If you have been considering selling digital and / or print books and other physical products from your website, then you need to think about a few things. This post will give you some things to consider before you move forward. And hopefully, this will make your life a tad bit easier.
Let's get into it.
On just about any store front site, you can sell digital products. Delivering that product is where the issue lies.
You can upload your files (Epub or Mobi or PDF (I don't recommend PDF)) and let your reader just download the file. BUT not everyone knows how to do this. There are some nuances to making it work and if you don't want to field a shit ton of angry customers who can't read your book, I highly suggest you think about something that integrates with BookFunnel. They integrate the delivery process with Gumroad, PayHip, Shopify, WooCommerce, Thrivecart, and PayPal.
For those not sure where to set up a store, I recommend starting out with PayHip, Gumroad, or Shopify. Only because I know these platforms. If you feel comfortable with WooCommerce or the others, go for it.
If you don't have a website already established, I would consider Shopify and just make it your website as well.
I already had my WIX site when I decided to sell, so I didn't want to change hosts. I may at a later date switch to Shopify, but the reason I am not doing that now is because I don't make enough in sales to make paying for such a robust online store, and I don't want to lose money.
I started out with PayHip. I like them a lot. Great customer service and they pay my VAT tax. I don't need to do anything when it comes to that.
If you don't know what VAT tax is, as a seller, if you sell a digital product to anyone in the EU, you must register and submit VAT tax that YOU COLLECT and you must collect on every sale. I didn't want to mess with the paltry sales at the moment, so I let PayHip handle that.
They take a small percentage of your sale, you don't pay a monthly fee. This works for me. It's easy and integration with Bookfunnel is super easy.
Recently, Bookfunnel partnered with Gumroad. Gumroad is very similar to Payhip. They also pay the VAT tax for digital sales. I switched to Gumroad because of a few things. They allow URL Redirection, so I could purchase my store's domain name and share it, and it would send people to my Gumroad store. (See it here: www.whiskeyandwritingstore.com) To me, this looks more professional. Gumroad also integrates with Printful so I could offer a few other things on my website. Printful's pricing on other items seems in line with other fulfillment sites.
Check out both and see what they offer and what will work best for you and your needs. You can always order other items from different sites, like say shot glasses and then ship them yourself. This is recommended if you can get a better price on the product and don't mind doing all the shipping and fulfillment yourself.
Now neither of these sites will collect and remit US sales tax. You have to do that yourself. The reason I switched to Gumroad is it has a better reporting system for my US sales, so I can quickly see when and in what state I have reached NEXUS and need to begin collecting and remitting sales tax. (Read more about taxes and selling from your site here.)
Other than that, either of these platforms are great starting points. I do like the way Payhip's page for my store looks compared to Gumroad's. Ultimately, it was a tradeoff.
Once you decide where to set up shop, you must then train your readers to buy directly from you.
List on your book pages a BUY DIRECT FROM ME button that links to your online store. I put mine above all the other storefronts. (See example here) I also offer a 15% discount across every book.
I also give my email subscribers first dibs on new releases with a 20% discount as well.
Building your direct sales will take time, but if you get in the habit of promoting it, you will see more and more sales. I suggest you make sure each book page on your website has a direct buy link front and center along with other store front links, and get in the habit of sharing that page to your readers. This will drive traffic to your site, increasing your visibility in Google searches.
Side note: If you choose to use Shopify, this platform does not collect and remit any sales tax or VAT tax. In the US, you don't have to worry until you reach NEXUS, but for even one sale in the EU, YOU MUST COLLECT AND REMIT VAT. Be mindful of this.
Bookfunnel also allows you to sell audio books. This is a big draw for me. On both PAYHIP and GUMROAD you can sell audio books.
Physical products are a different beast. I live in the US so I have chosen not to sell physical products outside of the US. Just too expensive for me.
There are a few different ways I have seen authors handle this. Some will buy author copies from Amazon, and then ship them to the customer directly from Amazon. I have not tried this yet. I am still debating.
Some use Lulu Direct, however, that will only integrate with certain platforms. (Shopify is one of them)
This would allow your customers to buy paperbacks direct from you via Lulu. Downside, Lulu is very expensive, so you would have to charge more than what they can get the book for on Amazon. This defeats the purpose of selling at a better price to my buyers. However, lots use this and like it. CHOOSE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
Right now, I am in the process of setting up selling autographed copies of my books. I am considering a price of 15 to 20 dollars with shipping included. These will be the only print books I choose to offer. I think offering swag and signed books makes the price point reasonable and more attractive.
I am using Printful via Gumroad to sell some items like fanny packs, wine tumblers, coffee mugs, and notebooks/journals. Other items I will sell from my site will be shot glasses, and those I will ship from my home. (Printful doesn't have them. However, they are always adding new products.)
Sending physical products into the EU is crazy. You can read more about it at Avalara. For me, it isn't worth the extra hassle. Maybe at a later date, but my sales are so small into the EU I don't want to deal with all the extra hoops.
Choose where you want your store to exist.
Use BookFunnel to fulfill ebook and audio book sales
Find out where you have Nexus for sales tax. (Read this blog post)
Decide if you want to sell physical products in the US only or EU only or world wide. Check out VAT tax for sales into the EU/VAT countries.
WORD OF CAUTION: Do not collect sales tax until you have Nexus. It is considered against the law to do so. Read more about taxes here.
It seems daunting; it isn't. Take the time to investigate what you want, what you can provide, and start small. Then build up.
You want to have as many sales streams as possible. Having your own store will give you ultimate sales controls and will ultimately lessen your dependence on other retailers.
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