How to by-pass Amazon and Sell directly to Readers

Have you ever dreamed of not having to rely on Amazon to get your books in the hands of readers? That’s actually possible — up to a certain point — through direct sales.

Today, it’s time to focus on how to sell direct to readers.

We can break this process down into two crucial steps:

  1. Capturing the payment from the reader (and dealing with the taxes, if any); and
  2. Delivering the product to the reader (i.e. the ebook, print book, or audiobook).

Since these are two very different challenges, you’ll want to use a different platform/software to solve each part of the process.

Step one: Taking the money

For the first step, you have two main choices when it comes to platforms:

  1. The easy one: Payhip; or
  2. The more complex one: Shopify or WooCommerce.

 Payhip

Let’s start with the easy one. Payhip is an incredibly simple (and free) platform that lets you sell any kind of digital content directly to readers.

You just need to create an account, set up your “products” and prices, and connect Payhip to either your PayPal or Stripe accounts to receive the money.

Note: make sure to check the “Product is an ebook” box in the Advanced Settings section. This way, Payhip will automatically sort out ebook VAT based on the customer’s location.

Setting up your product on Payhip

Once this is done, Payhip automatically generates some nice-looking direct sales pages for your books — like this one (which took me approximately 30 minutes to set up).

Upon purchase, you’ll earn 100% of the list price, minus Payhip’s transaction fee (5% on the free plan) and Stripe/Paypal payment processing fees (usually around 3%). That comes out to around 92% royalties for you.

More importantly, you’ll capture each customer email address (so you can add them to your mailing list):

What’s the drawback? Only one: you can’t really sell print books through Payhip, as it’s only designed for digital content.

Which is where our second solution comes in.

Shopify/WooCommerce

I’m grouping these two platforms together because they effectively offer the same service: they’re designed to help businesses set up simple e-commerce websites. So think WordPress or Squarespace — but with a focus on selling products (including physical ones, like print books).

The process is similar to Payhip, in that you need to connect your payout details (your bank account, in this case) to receive payments, and then set up your products and organize them into a proper store.

These platforms also allow you to host the shop on your domain, as well as customize pretty much every aspect of the store. In other words, you can build your website, with your books available for direct purchase, directly through Shopify or WooCommerce.

Since you own the domain, you can place the Facebook Pixel on it (or Google Analytics tracking) using the features these platforms specifically created for that.

Adding Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel to a Shopify Store

Naturally, there’s a cost for all of this — the custom domain, the hosting, etc. But if you compare that to WordPress or Squarespace costs, it’s actually much more reasonable.

“That’s all very nice, but I have neither the time to set up a shop, nor a clue how to get my own domain and use Shopify in the first place!”

And that’s 100% understandable — which is why there are professional website designers out there who specialize in just this. If you head to Reedsy, for example, you’ll find a couple who specialize in Shopify stores. Just make sure to use “Shopify” as a keyword in your search:

Alright! Now you’ve set up your sales funnel on Payhip, Shopify, or WooCommerce, it’s time to make sure that you can deliver the goods…

Step two: Delivering the goods

Since ebooks and audiobooks are digital products, delivering them to customers should be easy — at least in theory. You just need to send them to their email address.

Unfortunately, in practice, the apps that readers tend to use to consume such content (e.g. Kindle, Kobo, Audible, Apple Books, etc.) don’t actually make it easy for their users to load ebooks or audiobooks onto their devices.

Which is where BookFunnel comes in — a company that has spent the past decade specializing in delivering digital content to readers, be it ebooks, or audiobooks. Not only do they deliver the proper file to the reader, along with instructions for sideloading onto their device, they also take care of any customer service afterward. Which means: no more emails from readers wondering why they can’t get your EPUB file onto their Kindle!

Even better, BookFunnel has direct integrations with Payhip, Shopify, and WooCommerce, allowing you to automate the whole process. When your e-commerce platform records a sale, the information is sent to BookFunnel, which delivers the right ebook/audiobook to the customer.

“That’s great for ebooks and audio, but what if I want to sell print books on my website?”

Excellent question. Until a few months ago, I would have said that there’s no good way to do that — short of shipping the books yourself. Recently, though, I became aware of a new player that specializes in direct print sales fulfillment: Bookvault.

They have integrations with both Shopify and Woocommerce that allow you to automatically fulfill any order you get, and ship all over the world. Even better, the printing quality is much nicer than what you can get through IngramSpark or KDP Print, and for a fraction of the cost.

So where’s the catch? Well, their printing facilities are all in the UK (for now), meaning that shipping costs can be high on US orders. If you sell directly through your website, shipping costs will be paid by the customer directly — so it won’t eat into your margin, but it will make it a lot less appealing to the reader than purchasing through Amazon or Barnes & Noble…

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