If you don't already have a website, get one. Now. Find an affordable web designer or, if you have some tech savvy, build your own. Even unpublished writers should have a website. By the time you've finished your manuscript and have it out on submission, agents and editors will be searching for you on the internet. A perfect manuscript and query letter aren't enough - the decision-makers in the industry are also looking at your online presence. Some want to know whether you can market or promote your own work. Do you really want to be building a site in the midst of edits and rewrites?
Are you self-publishing your work? Your personal website is essential to helping people find YOUR book among the millions of available titles. Invest enough time in your site and it becomes one of your best marketing tools. After all, potential readers can't buy your books if they don't know about them. Once your book is available, feature it on your website. Encourage sales by adding links to where the book can be bought; offline and online locations.
You can also grow your readership and maximize potential profits by selling from your own website. If you've featured buy links for your book, why shouldn't one of those include an opportunity for you to sell your work directly? When I've spoken about this to other writers, three responses typically occur. "Wow, that seems so hard." or "Oh, I don't know to do that." I'll talk about the third one later. Let me show you how to address the first two.
What you need
- Inventory on hand ready to be delivered to readers as soon as they order, whether it's hardcover / paperback copies or ebooks. Nothing says 'amateur' or ticks off potential readers more than being told, "This book is not available for purchase at this time."
- Some reviews or testimonials that inform your potential readers about the book(s) and the benefits to them for buying your product direct.
- The ability to process orders online in real-time. Unless you already run a secure business site that processes online transactions, you'll need to establish a merchant account.
- Software that can process credit card orders, safely.
- If you're selling more than one book, you'll need to develop a virtual "shopping cart" experience to allow for multiple orders.
- Immediate notification of payments processed with orders that must be fulfilled.
- An order fulfillment or completion process. Learn the shipping rates of your hardcovers / paperbacks to various locations and build that cost into your pricing structure.
- A feedback form or visible email address that lets readers communicate with you.
What your readers want
- A secure shopping experience. They want to know that their credit card will be encrypted in each transaction and their address information will be safeguarded.
- Instant or fast delivery of their orders
- Ability to communicate with you, to provide feedback or let you know if there is problem with fulfillment.
- Establish a PayPal personal and / or business account at https://www.paypal.com/. Notice the URL; the typical http followed by 's' which indicates that this is a site to allow credit card authorizations and secure transactions. Something that will give you and your readers peace of mind. I recommend both types of accounts. The personal account allows me to pay my cover artists and editors, while a business account lets me transact sales of books online.
- At minimum, PayPal will need your real name, physical address, email address and a funding source for your accounts, be it a bank account or credit card. The latter allows you to process payments through your personal account and have a link to where you can transfer monies received from your business account.
- Be prepared for low fees dependent on the number of transactions you're filling each month on the business account. A business account will also be helpful for tracking what you've earned when the tax man cometh. Yes, you should report sales through your website as income earned.
- Once you have completed the setup, take advantage of PayPal's tools for merchants, including shipping and tax calculators, accepting multiple currencies, tracking inventory and my favorite, buy buttons for your website.