These are extraordinary times and every day sees dramatic changes due to the global sweep of coronavirus COVID19. There will be many impacts on our lives, but one thing we will all need is immediate cash flow and this can be a problem for authors.
f you publish through traditional publishing, royalties can take many months to arrive. You can’t control the schedule of payment and you don’t get any details of the customers.
If you publish independently through online publishers like Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google, and other distributors, you will get your money sooner — but it will still be 30-60 days later and once again, you don’t get any details of the customers.
If you publish and sell direct, you can receive money in your PayPal/bank account within 10-15 minutes.
Yes, you read that right. Minutes rather than months. You also get the details of the customer so you can own the relationship in the future.
You can control your cash flow and sell direct — but only if:
(A) You control the intellectual property rights for your book
You need to have the right to sell your own book in ebook and/or audiobook format directly to readers in specific territories. If you have signed a contract with a publisher, then check that contract first as you most likely do not have that right as you have licensed it to a publisher. However, read it closely, as you might have licensed some territories and not others, for example, UK Commonwealth and nowhere else.
(B) You have an email list or a way to reach readers
You can use your email list or Facebook, LinkedIN or other social media.
(C) You change your mindset
Many authors are so obsessed with chart rankings on Amazon that they forget the point is to reach readers who love your book — and for many of us make a living with our writing.
Selling direct enables readers to support us and money to arrive in our bank accounts quickly — but you will not see a spike in your Amazon rankings. So what do you really want?
The other mindset shift is to become a true business-person. Yes, you have to sell something from your website! You also have to learn a few things, some of which might seem technical, but it’s worth it for the control and (hopefully) the money. You will be on the way to becoming truly independent.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that you should stop selling through all the other channels, just that adding direct sales to the mix gives you more control. Basically, I will sell my books in every format in every place possible!
If you’re ready to sell direct, here are the steps to take.
Choose a service that allows you to sell globally. There are lots of options with pros and cons of each, but I hope to use Payhip.com.
It’s a great service that allows payment through card or PayPal, is easy-to-use with built-in marketing and analysis tools, and also deals with the EU digital tax laws, which many other services don’t do. Over the last decade, I have will use e-Junkie and Selz, but neither dealt with the EU taxes in an efficient way. Basically, if the buyer is in the EU, you have to pay tax in that country, even if you only sell a few dollars worth and even if you don’t live there yourself. Payhip deals with this for you — hooray!
- Payhip has a free plan which takes 5% transaction fee, and then two premium plans where the transaction fee is reduced when you pay more upfront. Your choice will depend on how much you expect to earn each month.
My fictions have appeared in numerous publications, including Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings, Blue Earth Review, Micro Monday, R-KV-R-Y, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Magazine, Adanna Literary, Dying Dahlia Review, Off the Rocks, and others. The News was on stage at Live Bait Theater. I was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Also, my book of my stories will be published by Atmosphere Press in May of 2020.
You will also need to set up your payment connections through PayPal and Stripe so people can pay you.
If you don’t have these set up already, there will be some hoops to jump through because of international banking laws. So, start this process ASAP if you are new to online payments.
Once they are set up, you will need to slowly ramp up sales. If you get a massive spike when you’re just starting out (and we all wish for that!) then your account might get blocked because of suspicious behavior. So get it set up, start transacting with a small group for testing and then ramp up over time.
You can also set up integrations with email providers like ConvertKit (which is the service I use and love!). Click here for my tutorial on how to use them to set up your email list.
(4) Integrate your store into your website
You should already have links to multiple sites on your book pages on your website. [If you don’t have this sorted, then check out my tutorial on how to build your own author website.]
With Payhip, you can easily add a button on your site so readers can buy directly from you. You can change the text on the button, so I like to use ‘Buy direct from the author’ to emphasize the personal connection.
The Other Stores button goes to my Books2Read.com links as I sell in so many places! If you’re wide, it’s a great service to use to get one link to share to all stores. [At the time of writing, they do not allow Payhip, but hopefully, that is coming!]
Example of buy buttons. Note: these are not live so you can’t click them! It’s just an image but go to www.TheCreativePenn.com/books and each page has these buttons on
You can also add links in other places — for example, at the top of my Books page I have the following text:
Here are my bestselling books, non-fiction for authors under Joanna Penn and thriller fiction under J.F.Penn, as well as foreign-language editions and workbooks. Click on the books below to see more information and access buy links for all online stores. Available in paperback, ebook, audio, and some in Hardback and Large Print editions.
You can buy my ebooks (and some audiobooks) directly from me: www.Payhip.com/thecreativepenn
You can also get my books for free if you request them on your library app or through your local Librarian.
(5) Email your list
Your readers want to support you and a growing number understand the financial stress that creatives are under, particularly in the case of an economic downturn. Increasingly, many readers also have ethical issues with some of the big sellers and want to support creators and independents directly.
This is a snippet of the email I sent out to my list this week offering a discount on my ebooks and audiobooks if people bought from me directly.
[And yes, you too can use coupon code: QUARANTINE – just go to www.Payhip.com/thecreativepenn ]
You can also add a call to action within your email list auto-responder, perhaps with some special offer for your email list that is valid over time. I use Payhip to distribute my ebooks to my supporters on Patreon.com/thecreativepenn.
(6) Share on social media
You can share products directly from Payhip and include social coupons if other people share as well.
You can also create banners on Canva.com to advertise your products on sale — as I have done on Twitter @thecreativepenn and Facebook.com/thecreativepenn
When is it worth selling direct?
You really need to have an email list or another way to reach people online with your offer. It would also be best if you had a few books as the benefits grow if you have multiple products as you can upsell and cross-sell, and generally make more income per customer.
If you don’t have either of these, write more books and build an email list so you are positioned for the future.
Because we will get through this, but the experience will accelerate online sales and marketing and those authors who can control their income will be far better placed for the next time something happens.
I started this site in late 2008 as the Global Financial Crisis hit and I was laid off. I was determined to make sure no single company controlled all my income, and over the years, I have grown multiple streams of income, most of them online, global and digital.
The negative financial experience of the GFC spurred me to change the way I lived and the way I earned. But now I feel that I didn’t go far enough. Even though I have been doing direct sales for a decade, I have only ever included it as a secondary option. Now I’m determined to push it as my primary sales channel so that I can own and control even more of my book sales in the future. What do you think? How will you change your processes?
Are you selling direct to readers? Or do you have any questions? Please do leave a comment and join the conversation.