I recently gave my website a massive overhaul, and have been streamlining. There are still a few kinks to work out, but it's getting there.
There is a minimized and floating red tab in the top left hand corner that says "Buy eBooks". I added my own eStore where you can buy my eBooks (DRM free) and sideload them onto your eReader. In this post that is what I want to focus on, a high level and holistic overview of implementating such a thing. Indies should at least consider selling eBooks direct. The only other person who I know who does it is J A Konrath, but he has a bespoke store that was built for him by a third party (the pros and cons of which we shall discuss later).
After implementation, I tested the entire process by offering Die, My Love for free to readers. I set up a discount code you had to enter at checkout, and that went surprisingly well (I squealed when I made my first 75 cents) but, since the eBook drawing the attention was free I didn't get my hopes up too high.
I added Demon Dark to my eStore the same day I uploaded to Kindle and Smashwords (31st October 2011). 15 days and I have sold over 1200 copies of Demon Dark, and 65 of those were direct! How cool is that! I've sold 68 via Smashwords, so in comparison I was pleased there was enough trust and interest from readers to buy direct from me (the rest are all Kindle sales. The book is not on Nook yet, and iBooks only appeared on Monday. I grabbed #1 in UK and AU in Scifi & Fantasy ... #2 in CA an #9 in US *whoop!*).
If you're thinking of selling eBooks direct it can work on a small scale. I'll never make as much direct as I would via a large retailer, I simply have not been around long enough for that kind of sustainability, but ... even such a modest number of direct sales is nothing to sniff at when combined with other revenue streams. No retailer gets a slice of those royalties at all. Just *winces* the tax man, but that is an unavoidable part of life. The tax man personally helped me sell each eBook unit, of course.
The process as a consumer to buy via my eStore is painless. There were a few blips here and there with a couple of orders that required me to intervene, and that was mostly people not knowing how to sideload eBooks! So I created a tutorial page (HERE). The eBook files (ePub and .mobi) are downloaded into a ZIP folder from a unique link the consumer is automatically emailed. I decided to give both files (rather than list separately) so that if you have an eReader and a tablet (like moi), you can use both. The payments are done securely via Paypal, so I don't have to worry about payment information, data protection and compliance. It costs up to £20 a month (depending on exchange rate) for the shop itself (and that is the most expensive option you can choose). I made that back in 12 hours of Demon Dark's release, and the rest of the money will go towards its upkeep for the next 6 months.
The provider I use is Wazala! Set up is easy, and if you are able to cut, paste, and have a solid understanding of how your website works, and how readers navigate your site (*frowns* if you do not why are you not tracking page views and site navigation?), you can use it too. You can either embed the store entirely into your site as a separate page, or have a floating page, like I do.
You can test the experience by going to my website www.penelopefletcher.com
Offer targeted discounts
Make better use of occasional PPC advertising
You make 100 royalty per unit
Easy to manage and maintain
Greater sense of control over the business
It just looks cool ... *ahem* professional.
Dealing with taxes (we have to do this being Indie anyway, so meh)
For those with sales below the 100 units per month threshold the redirected sales would grossly affect their rankings in retailer stores and this could cause problems finding new readers who browse lists
Use a developer to build you a bespoke eStore. The best part is everything is inHouse (everything being the eBook listing, email templates, files hosted on your sever, etc). This solution would be optimal if you currently have, say, tens of thousands of sales per month, or have the capital for a 3rd party to build this for you *dreamy sigh*. I am taking a wild out-my-butt guess, but let's say £2,000 to get a basic functioning bespoke eStore built for you. If you know you can sell direct plus 200 units a month at a price point above £2.99 after 4 months the investment has been returned and you are golden. If you can sell eBooks direct in such quantity you should consider this option.
A downside of bespoke is support. If my eStore breaks I can get on the phone to Wazala and ask they fix it snappy like. With a bespoke store, I assume you would have to buy levels of support from the third party, and if you didn't it might get expensive to fix the occasional break. Insurance aka incaseshithappens can be a financial drain #welovechrisrock.
A further downside is listings. Unless you are given a console by 3rd party to login and manage products without having to fiddle with lines of code, you may find it arduous to add, remove or update a listing quickly. And if you are not comfortable with tinkering about with code that is a further complication (I break stuff all the time when fiddling, but readers are quick to pick up on it).
The largest upside is the complete and utter control. Retailers could collapse around you and you would still have a hardy revenue stream ... if you have a grasp of how to reach your market and promote yourself.
Konrath has a pretty sweet set up (I was nosey). I would have a little more fun with it though, maybe add mobile payments, a QR code, and discount coupon in the confirmation page to drive repeat business.
My Worse Case Scenario
I sell less than it costs to maintain the shop. I can decomission the thing in a few clicks and I'm not tied into a long term contract with Wazala, so, there is little risk here to me financially.
My Best Case Scenario
My direct sales grow as more readers visit my website and see the option is available to them.
I could get something bespoke done, but I would not make enough money to return the investment in years rather than months (not cool). Using a third party supplier suites my current needs. I have enough other stuff to deal with at the moment, and if I ever reach a point where I can consistently sell 200 eBooks plus a month directly I will be investing in a bespoke eStore.
I will get few "new" customers buying direct. I predict and presume people buying direct will be loyal fans or hardcore bargain hunters. These readers are internet savvy, love to read, and love their eReaders. Selling directly should help me take the relationship between me and my readers to a new level.
So ... will you at least consider it? Time, Cost and Benefit analysis time! Yay! If you decide it's not viable for you consider pulling together (with a trusted partner) and have one store you both promote and embed into your website. Innovation people *waves pompoms* I suspect there are many with loyal followings who could be knocking this out of the park.
Indies need to stop repeating themselves on the differences between self and traditional publishing (we know and if you don't know by now what rock have you been hiding under?). Focus more on what you are doing on a day to day basis to improve, and what you are offering your readers. It pains me when I see someone relying solely on Kindle. I can almost hear the groan of a funeral dirge. Try to make one positive improvement every single day. So much talking, and not much action going on.
On that closing note, enter DMLFREE and you can get Die, My Love (an iBooks UK & AU #1 Romance Bestseller in August) for free from my website.