All About Selling Books Direct to Readers: Benefits + Top 11 Tips for Success

Selling books direct to readers as an author

Selling books direct to readers cuts out the middleman, which means you can make more money and potentially build a relationship with each and every person that buys your book.

If you want to sell your books directly to readers but need some tips on how to do it successfully, this article is for you.

First, we will discuss the two main advantages of selling directly to readers. Then, we will offer some useful tips on how to do it for your book’s print, ebook, and audiobook versions.

Let’s dive in.

The 2 key advantages of selling books direct to readers

1. Set your ideal price while encouraging potential readers with incentives

When you sell direct, you can charge any price you see fit for your book. Of course, that doesn’t mean anyone will pay it, but you are in control of your book’s pricing.

You can also offer incentives for readers to encourage them to buy your books.

For example, you can implement product bundling. If you want to get a print copy of my bestseller “Self-Publish & Succeed,” I could bundle it with the audiobook version.

2. Get insightful customer data when you sell directly to readers

Selling directly to readers also lets you acquire a lot more data on your customers, like where they came from when they bought your book.

For a long time, we used Lulu Publishing to sell “Self-Publish & Succeed” from the book’s official website. It was a great setup because we used Shopify as the cart while Lulu printed and shipped the books.

This allowed us to collect customer data alongside the money from each sale.

This setup meant we paid Shopify, PayPal, and Lulu for printing, shipping, and merchant fees. Once it was all set up–which was a bit of a pain—the process was very hands-off. The data was delivered directly to our CRM system.

It was a great way to handle direct sales while I ran ads on YouTube and Google to drive traffic to the book’s landing page. It allowed me to track conversions from those ads, using the insights so we could turn off unprofitable ads and add more money to the ones that were converting.

More importantly, it allowed us to get the contact information of the book buyers so we could send them emails to build a longer-term relationship.

Building longer-term relationships with my book buyers is essential—especially since we barely ever broke even on the books after ad costs. But that’s okay because the longer-term vision is that somebody reads the book and then wants to hire Book Launchers or take one of our courses.

This is in direct contrast to Amazon, which never tells you who buys your book.

Now that you know the two biggest benefits of selling direct-to-readers, here are some helpful tips you can follow to avoid mistakes, increase your sales, and maximize your profits.

11 Top Tips when selling books direct to readers

These eleven tips are divided into four scenarios, namely:

  1. Selling print copies of your book directly to readers
  2. Selling your books in-person during events
  3. Selling your book’s e-book version direct to your readers
  4. Selling your book’s audiobook version direct to your readers

For selling print copies of your book direct to readers

1. Consider bypassing Lulu Publishing if it proves unprofitable

Unfortunately, we stopped using Lulu halfway through 2022. This is because they raised their print prices several times in 2022 and announced a further increase that would take effect later. In addition, the platform also increased their shipping rates in the US.

This brought the cost of printing and shipping a single print book to over $16 per copy. We also still had to pay Shopify and PayPal fees. So even if I sold a book for $20, I would not break even.

There would be no margin left for ad costs or profit if somebody came directly to the website and bought the book.

To make it even worse, we were getting a lot of complaints because Lulu was taking two weeks to deliver a book to a buyer. We even had somebody submit a chargeback complaint to PayPal against us because they hadn’t received their book after 12 days.

We had several angry emails from people saying they would never trust our service if we couldn’t send a book out in a few days. It was terrible—far worse than the money we were losing. For these reasons, we had to turn Lulu off.

The good news is the alternative is cheaper—albeit more labor-intensive. And we are currently using Book Vault as a replacement.

2. Leverage Ingram and media mail to minimize your cost per copy

We’re currently buying cases of books from Ingram at a net cost of $5.44 per book (without shipping cost). When we buy a carton of 30 and ship it to an address in the US, our shipping is roughly $50.

This means our cost per book works out to about $7. If we print through KDP Print, we cut a dollar off of the top for each copy.

Now the trick is we have to mail the book to the buyer, which is done via media mail. Our operations manager has to drop them off at the post office.

To make shipping from home a little easier, we use Stamps.com, which allows us to print labels at home. It costs us $3.49 to print a media mail label and then have it ready for the post.

So all in doing it this way costs us just under $11 to send a book, plus the time it takes to print the label and ship them off.

3. Use bulk print orders to cut costs and provide free plus shipping

If you’re selling hundreds or thousands of books every month direct, it might be worth doing a large print order to get a discount. This lowers your print costs further to about $3 per book if you do a big enough print run.

Your shipping and print costs are now under $7, and things start to look much more profitable. You’ll want to do this if you’re doing a free plus shipping funnel where you’re charging, say, $7.99 for the shipping.

Well, it’s not really free. Because obviously, in the free plus shipping model, you’re actually not giving the book away for free. You’re trying to cover your print costs, and the buyer is paying for the book. But if it were really free plus shipping, it would be $3.50 or some version of that because the media mail costs are not $7.99.

I know the free plus shipping model is popular and very successful for many authors, but for it to work financially, you need a strong upsell and backend offer. What’s more, you need to use the lowest cost printing options you can get to bring your unit costs down.

4. See if a print-on-demand service can help your specific situation

There are newer services that I’ve heard about recently. We will speak with them soon about what they do and probably do a test run.

One of those services is Indie Author Print On Demand.

This will not replace Lulu as far as direct sales go because they don’t do single-unit sales and shipments. But it could be a solid option for printing a sizeable number books to have on hand for your direct sales.

I priced my book out on their site, and it looks comparable to Ingram. I’ve also heard great things about their print quality.

But perhaps the best thing about the service is that you can order different books to qualify for bigger discounts. I could potentially order “More Than Cashflow, “The New Brand You,” “Self-Publish & Succeed,” and my new book and have all of them bulked together to reduce the overall print costs.

This is a useful feature because, with other companies, you have to order a high quantity of each of those books to qualify for a reduced rate. This comes in handy if you’re an author who often do trade shows or sells books at live events.

In these scenarios, you’d probably wish to have a variety of your books on hand.

Selling at live events is an amazing way to sell a lot of books direct to your reader. So be ready for that opportunity should it arise. You can check out this video for some useful tips when hosting an author live event:

[VIDEO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQ1nhBGO-t0]

5. Ship books direct to buyers with KDP Print

Selling thousands of books direct-to-reader opens you up to cost-effective warehouse services. These services store your books and then ship them out one by one for you.

But what if you’re not selling thousands of books direct?

Right now, the only other way I’m aware of getting a print book to an author—if you aren’t selling thousands of books direct— is to just go right into your KDP account and ship author copies direct to buyers.

I don’t love this option if you sell books to national buyers. Why? Because the book came from Amazon when somebody thought they were buying it from you.

However, I prefer this when shipping internationally because it’s way more cost-effective.

But personally, if somebody’s buying directly from me, I would like to have it look like it’s coming directly from me. I might wish include a card, stickers, or promotional materials. You can’t do that if you’re using Amazon.

For selling your books during in-person events

6. Ensure to capture your buyers’ emails when selling in person

Selling direct to your reader also means selling in-person at trade shows or author events.

In these events, you’re actually taking credit card information or cash from your book buyers. Thus, I strongly encourage you to give receipts that capture your buyer’s email address. This way, you’re still building that connection.

You can use these collected emails to follow-up on purchases, request reviews, or even make upsell offers. Even if you aren’t doing all of this, you should at least invite the reader to join your email list at the time of purchase.

7. Set up an efficient payment system for in-person selling

Stripe or Square are mobile payment apps that allow you to collect money when you’re doing these events. You can set them up to have an email receipt that goes to the buyer and allows you to follow up on the purchase.

If you’re selling direct, you should have cash on hand for change. Think about this when you price your books. It’s probably easier to sell your book for a round number to avoid needing to make and give out a bunch of change.

For selling your book’s e-book version direct to your readers

8. Sell e-books direct to readers with Story Origin

The tips we’ve discussed so far only involved print books. But chances are, your book also comes in digital format. After all, e-book remains popular, and their usage is poised to grow even more.

 

There are also other platforms that many indie authors use to sell eBooks direct. There’s Payhip, Gumroad, and E-junkie, to name a few.

Payhip could be a great option if you want to build an entire funnel of offerings, like courses, membership sites, and more. I’ve personally not used them, but I know some authors who do, and they’re pretty happy with how the system works.

For selling your book’s audiobook version direct to your readers

#9 Use BookFunnel or Supporting Cast for direct audiobook sales

Now, selling audiobooks direct has not been super easy to date. However, there are services coming on board now that will ease the process.

Some of the services mentioned above, like Gumroad—which podcasters use for membership sales—could be kind of rigged to work for it.

But if you want a peer place service to make it simple and easy to sell audiobooks directly to your audience, there hasn’t been a strong service yet. But again, the audiobook market is one of the most exciting places and it’s changing fast.

BookFunnel is now beta-testing audiobooks, and it will likely be easy to get in on the fun there.

Another option for audiobook direct sales is one I’m testing right now—Supporting Cast. We’ve just uploaded “Self-Published & Succeed” to Supporting Cast, which is originally a podcasting platform. But they’re now getting into the audiobook sales space.

Connecting it with Stripe allows you to sell your audiobook direct to listeners. Once integrated, their platform will create a secure copy of your audiobook for a buyer so they can listen to the book like they would a podcast.

In this manner, you’re not distributing all your MP3 files and putting them at risk of easy pirating.

I suspect BookFunnel will be a better place for audiobook sales now that they’re beta-testing the process. After all, the platform has already made it super easy with sales pages and bulk delivery options for eBooks—AND their fees are low. So I think they’re going to be the superior option.

But as you know, I love choices, so I’m also testing Supporting Cast.

#10 Understand how the reader will find your audiobook

The big thing to consider before you dive into selling audiobooks direct is to understand the middleman, whether that middleman is Amazon, a bookstore, or some other platform that sells the book to the end reader (or listener).

You must understand how the reader will find out about you and your book. Why? Because you won’t make any sales if you don’t have an audience to sell directly to now.

Again, for “Self-Publish & Succeed,” I’m still promoting it to the normal stores using my Universal Book Link. Not sure what that is? Below is a video that dives deep on Universal Book Links.

[UNIVERSAL BOOK LINK VIDEO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFvgt6LRACg]

But when I pay for ads or if I’m doing a podcast interview and I want to sell the book, or if I’m giving a talk and want to highlight incentives when you buy the book, I will send people to a page like selfpublishandsucceed.com.

This allows me to get buyer data, track conversions on my marketing efforts, and ultimately build a stronger relationship with people who are willing to invest in my advice.

#11 Understand that selling direct-to-readers entails more work

It’s easy to get excited about selling direct, but it’s extra work. So, make sure it’s worth it by assessing what the advantages are to you and your bigger-picture goals for doing all the extra work of becoming the store yourself.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble have buyers. But it’s not like they will find your book without you doing work. Still, at the end of the day, they are bringing buyers who are shopping for books to their platform. If your book gets in front of the right buyer, it could sell itself.  Plus, their platform has buyer trust.

When you sell direct, you have to make sure you can drive the buyers to your pages or your platform and that you can establish enough trust that someone will pull out their credit card without knowing who you are.

Once you’re set-up, it’s not too bad but it does take quite a bit of work to set up a sales page. You need a sales copy, you need imagery for the page, a privacy policy, and a return policy.

In addition, you need to connect a payment method to a bank account and figure out if you need to charge sales tax, which by the way, you probably don’t unless you’re selling more than $400 of books in any one state in a year.

If you are serious about getting into this, make sure you’ve got an accountant and you factored taxes into your price point so you can remit it if you hit that point in any one of the states you’re selling in.

Some of the platforms like BookFunnel make this more straightforward to set up, but it still takes work.

Now, I think it’s worth it to set yourself up for direct sales if you’re going to be driving a lot of traffic to buy direct. For instance, if you’re paying for that traffic through ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google, or YouTube.

However, If you’ve got some other goals that make it advantageous to sell through a store like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, focus on that. Don’t worry about direct sales right now. There isn’t one way to be a successful author and success isn’t always measured in book sales. ‘

Figure out what’s most important to you and take steps to get there.

Need help in writing, marketing, and selling your business book? Schedule a call with Book Launchers today.

Previous Post
What Images Can You Use in Your Self-Publish Book: An Essential Guide
Next Post
5 Ways to Leverage AI for Book Marketing: Achieve More in Less Time
Menu