Sell Books Directly Online: Part 1

I've been exploring the issue of selling books directly to readers via a website. I thought I'd pass on what I've learned. Then you can decide if this is something for you.

Several authors have begun selling directly to the reading public. Selling online is relatively easy, and there are many websites that offer you the means to do so. There are also ways you can use your own website to do this.

How Hard Is It

The setup is simple. You just need software that takes care of purchase and delivery. In the online world, this is a Shopping Cart.

You can sell directly via your own website if you have the code that sets up a Shopping Cart, or you can register with a website that helps you do it.  Some apps and/or websites can also help you with record keeping and tax remittance.

The shopping cart software you need to sell ebooks on your website in PDF and EPUB formats may also make it possible to sell tangible products too.

The Process

First, let's look at digital only sales using a website where you are a registered user. You just upload your file according to the website's instructions.

When a customer buys your ebook, he automatically receives a link to download your book. You want a site that lets you protect the download links so customers can't share the links with others.

Websites that offer shopping carts usually charge a flat monthly fee and possibly other fees such as transaction fees, bandwidth fees, etc. so shop around to find the website that fits your needs and budget.

How to Start

1. Decide what you want to sell: print books, ebooks, tangible items, or all of these.

2. Do a realistic forecast of how many sales you can expect because that may determine which shopping cart/website you use.

3. Analyze the various websites and select the one that fits your needs for cost, ease of use, record-keeping, customer service, sales tax handling, and any other options you may want. (I'll do a summary of the ones I've discovered in a later post.)

4. Open your account and follow the directions to either set up your "store" on their website or add their code to your existing websites.

5. Make sure you keep accurate records so you can generate any forms you may need and stay on top of your reporting obligations, i.e., remitting state sales tax on purchases made by residents of your state. (Easiest is to choose a website that does this for you.)

How to Choose Ecommerce Website

1. A website that allows your product description page, a shopping cart for online purchases, the processing of payments using several payment providers, and excellent record keeping.

2. User-friendly code with good instructions on how to paste it onto your website.

3. Marketing services if you are serious about making good sales.

4. Customer support services make it easy to get help in understanding how to get set up.

5. Ability to offer free products for promotion.

6. Ability to change pricing tier easily.

7. Ability to have them automatically handle your tax accruals and payments.

There are other options you may want, but those above are most important.

Investigate each site to find one that meets all your needs.

Takeaway Truth

Next week I'll publish Part 2. In the meantime, figure out what kind of ecommerce site you might need if you want to proceed.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you and wishing the same for you in return.

  2. Interesting also depends on the state you live in Virginia, you have to have an ecommerce state tax certificate and sometimes a county tax certificate...more trouble than what it's worth!

    1. Thanks for commenting. Yes, states and counties are hungry for their pieces of the pie. Texas is pretty easy, but easiest of all is using a website that handles it for you. I'll go into that next time.

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