For most indie authors, selling books online simply means adding a "buy" button to their websites and linking to the online retailer of their choice. However, some self-publishers -- looking for more control over sales and greater retail profits -- are turning to point-of-sale programs, which allow users to sell directly to consumers via personal websites or at events.
And while POS tools mean more work -- authors must handle distribution of print and digital editions themselves -- setting up direct sales can also mean higher profits per sale. But before going the POS route, there are a number of challenges indie authors should consider.
To Sell or Not to Sell
Before deciding what sort of POS tools make the most sense, authors should consider whether selling books on their own makes sense at all.
"The greatest success stories I've seen in POS have been nonfiction authors, particularly those who have other offerings and can use the ebook sale to upsell a course or webinar," says C.J. Lyons, a self-published author of 27 novels who runs the NoRulesJustWrite.com blog. "The greatest value comes not from the financial gain from selling the e-book but from the lead capture."
She adds that fiction authors may find the selling of signed copies of their print books as a good source of income. But again the greatest value may not be monetary, but rather from the deeper interaction with fans and increased word-of-mouth.
For those who decide to dive into selling directly from their websites, a number of e-commerce platforms are available. One of the most widely used platforms is e-junkie, which allows authors to set up “buy now” buttons and shopping carts on their websites with transactions handled by PayPal, ClickBank, and other services. E-junkie costs a minimum of $5 per month, with increases based on the number of items sold.
Other options include Ganxy, which helps authors not only with the backend side of selling books, but also with the development of online sales promotion, and Aerbook, which allows authors to sell through social media. Gumroad and Shopify are also popular options among indie authors.
Whatever tools an indie author uses, she must be sure they are simple, flexible, and mobile-enabled.
Still, not everyone is sold on POS tools for indie authors. Joel Friedlander, a book design and self-publishing expert who runs TheBookDesigner.com, suggests authors avoid selling books directly on their websites and instead post a buy button that links to retailer sites.
“This makes quite a bit of sense for indie authors who are already writing, producing, and marketing their books,” says Friedlander. “The time and energy it takes to work out these e-commerce platforms, install the necessary code, landing pages, buttons, etc. are not that productive for this group.”
Friedlander says the authors he has seen using online point-of-sale services effectively have been nonfiction and how-to authors, who can identify their target audience very specifically and provide books to that market effectively.
Earning at Events
In addition to selling directly through websites, indie authors may also want to consider point-of-sale systems for use at events. Tools like Square, Stripe, PayAnywhere, and PayPal Here are making it easier than ever for authors to swipe a book buyer’s credit card at a reading or conference via a tablet or smartphone.
These direct sales are ideal for offering special discounts or bundles — such as selling three books for the price of two, or including a piece of merchandise along with a book. For example, Lyons gives her readers a 25% discount off the book’s list price and provides them with exclusive material.
But POS sales can present difficulties at readings as well. An author must take local and state sales tax laws into account, which in many places prohibit the selling of anything without a business license.