If you've been an indie author for at least a year, you need to be thinking about branching out – about creating new revenue streams. At the very least, you need to be thinking about these possible new profit centers:
1. Hard copy print editions of your ebooks.
2. Audio books from your ebooks.
3. Bundled books into boxed sets.
4. Direct sales of books.
I plan to address each of these issues in future editions of Writing Hacks. Today, I'm going to focus on one aspect of: Direct Sales of Books.
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Direct Sales of Books
Of course, this means you, the author/publisher, selling directly to the public. You can do this in 2 ways:
1. Online through a website.
2. In person at a book signing, flea market, trade show, or other public or private event.
Today, let's talk about this second way to directly sell books: in person at a public or private event.
I chose today's topic because it surprises me that it can be so easy to do. Sure, you can hand a book to a reader with one hand and collect cash with the other, but that's rather limiting since very few people in today's world walk around with more than a few bucks in their wallets. We all use credit cards. Well, guess what? You the individual can sell and collect payment from a customer's credit card if you have a smartphone or iPad.
First, let me cover some scenarios that might make selling print books possible for the Indie Author. For sales tax implications, check with your particular state or be willing to pay the sales tax yourself when you order the books then charge just cover price when you sell to the public. In any case, be informed about your sales tax responsibilities.
Friends and Family
You just published your latest book, and your best friend wants to throw a book launch party for you. You order a couple of dozen copies of your book for the event. It's rather gauche to tell your hostess to make sure everyone shows up with cash in hand. True, most of the guests will probably be friends who plan to buy a copy. However, if you take credit cards, you may make more sales. Peggy may buy an autographed copy for herself and one for her sister in Phoenix. Susie might buy one for herself and one as a Christmas gift for her mother. Think expansively.
Substitute any meeting of friends, real job co-workers, and family, and you have not only a fun way to interact with people you know but also a group that may buy your book if you make it easy for them.
Let's say your latest mystery has a landscape architect as sleuth. You scout out garden clubs, offering to speak. The program chair will probably be delighted to have you. Your topic is an aspect of garden design that plays into the plot of your mystery. You bring copies of your book and have the person who introduces you tell the audience that you'll be signing copies of your book after the program, and that credit cards are accepted. (Be smart. Donate part of the day's sales to the group. That will be announced and will help promote sales.)
Substitute any fraternal or social organization for the garden club. There are alumni groups, stamp collecting clubs, bridge clubs, historical societies – the list is endless. Whatever the plot and characters and setting of your book, chances are there are multiple overlapping organizations to which you could deliver a targeted presentation and find readers.
For those who are truly adventurous, take your books to a festival or craft show. Most communities have special annual events from the Mushroom Festival in Madisonville, Texas, to the Watermelon Festival in Luling to the Greek Festival in Houston, and let's not forget the many Harvest Festivals and Christmas Bazaars. Every geographic region across the country has these.
If you have books that can be targeted to certain time periods or, again, to particular settings or occupations, festivals may be a great way to sell. True, doing something like this is for the true extrovert. I have some friends who wouldn't bat an eye at getting a booth and hawking their anthology of Christmas angel stories or whatever. Other friends would rather be shot at dawn by a firing squad than to do something like this.
If you think the idea would be fun, but you're hesitant, band together with a couple of friends and try it.
How To Accept Credit Cards
Recently I signed up for a Square account. (http://www.squareup.com). The website is easily navigated and what you need to know is easy to find. (What is Square and how do I sign up? )
Square is a way where anyone with a Smartphone can get paid with a credit card. If you sign up for their Basic Account, it's free. They'll send you a Square Card Reader by mail and the Square Card Reader app by text to your phone. In effect, these two items make you a merchant who takes credit cards.
When I registered, I chose Individual Use as the way I planned to use the Square Card Reader. I do plan to have print books this year from my ebooks so I want a way to sell to anyone interested in obtaining a copy, and that usually means by taking credit cards.
Once you activate your Square account and download the app onto your mobile device, they will automatically ship you a free card reader.
The fees are simply 2.75% of the purchase per swipe. They authorize Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, and the fee is the same for all. The Square Card Reader attaches to your cell phone, and you swipe a customer's credit card with it then have them sign the screen on your phone. Of course you must be at least 18 years of age or older to create a Square account.
Then, generally speaking, the payments taken one day are deposited into your account the next day. Once your bank account information is verified, Square will automatically deposit your money in your designated bank account when your Square Account balance exceeds $10. Read the Terms of Service and FAQ for details regarding this. You can receive email confirmations when the money is put in your account.
The world is changing. Technology is making it possible for small entrepreneurs to offer the same services as large businesses.