I would like to welcome Patrick Foster to NAG today! He is here to share some insight on why authors should consider eCommerce in addition to selling on Amazon and possibly other retailers alone that seem to come and go. Ask yourself, what would you do if Amazon closed down tomorrow?
Amazon started off as an online bookstore, so it’s an obvious first choice for authors wanting to sell their books. On Amazon, you can make your first book sales fast and hassle-free (as long as you get the pricing right). Though Amazon is a good starting point, long-term reliance on one platform can actually stunt growth, and prevent you from making a name for yourself outside of Amazon. Why not set up your very own ecommerce store to boost sales and build your brand on the side? Find out how to transition from Amazon book seller to ecommerce entrepreneur!
Amazon vs Ecommerce for Authors
One of the biggest attractions of Amazon is that you can get set up quickly and begin selling immediately. But the major downside is the lack of control; Amazon actually actively prevents you from creating your own brand. Most people don’t even realize they are buying from ‘a third party ’when using Amazon, which isn’t great for building your own online reputation. Selling books through your own website will give you room to expand and grow your online business.
- Social media and blogging are both good ways of counteracting the anonymity of Amazon sales; they are promotional tactics that have worked well for lots of authors in the past and are a great way to establish yourself online as a newbie author.
- Going one step further and creating your own online hub that combines ecommerce, blogging, social media, and services makes long-term business sense. This could be the beginning of your very own ‘Amazon’.
- Ecommerce doesn’t have to stop at selling books. Your own website will give you another platform to sell your writing, editing, or marketing skills to bring in more revenue. You could even sell author knowledge on your website and help other authors get set up (webinars are great for this). Have a think about any other freelance opportunities you could pursue through your website.
Establish & Build Your Online Author Brand
If you haven’t already, you will need to create a brand that represents you and your work. Your brand is your identity as an author, but you will also need to flesh out some broader guidelines to help steer your website and store.
Create a brand that represents you, but keep readers and customers at the heart of commercial decisions. Be authentic so customers will find it easier to relate to you, but don’t make your brand all about you.
- Make a mindmap to sum up your values. You will need to come up with a brief summary of what your online brand is all about
- Think about whether you want to only sell your own books, or sell others with your own to boost revenue. Think about any products that tie in with your books or reading in general (figurines, illustrations, posters, bookmarks, mugs, bags, tea, stationery…)
- Make a list of any other services that you want to offer on your site (if any), like freelance writing, editing, webinars or guides
- Build your online presence and start experimenting with live audience feedback – take to social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and any other social media platforms that suit your writer brand. Populate them with lots of content to grow a following fast and gamify your profiles through competitions, giveaways, and surveys. If people love the characters you’ve created: bring them out to play on social media too
- Hang out with other authors on social media and in forums to get an idea of how other people are (successfully) engaging with their readers. Pinch any great ideas and make them your own!
Choose Your Online Environment
With the online world constantly evolving, it’s now easier than ever before to get set-up with your own online store. Lots of content management systems and online store builders are already configured and so you don’t need to learn any complex coding. Just focus on the essentials to begin with and get started with the help of templates and tutorials. (And call a friendly web designer if you get stuck).
- Hosted online store builders make it easy to create a beautiful website. Create a stunning, professional looking website that you can control yourself (an option like Squarespace is low-maintenance and can handle ebooks too)
- Check out these popular WordPress book selling themes if WordPress is your CMS of choice: loads of great ones to customize here
- Online store builders integrate with Amazon, making selling through both channels easy, whatever your digital or technical knowledge level (Shopify’s online store family recently expanded with a pretty solid Amazon integration)
Your web environment will need to match up with your fulfillment option, whether you go for warehouse, print-on-demand, dropshipping, or DIY. Do plenty of research into how the logistical side will match up with the web elements before diving in headfirst.
Get to Know Your Customer Base
While selling on Amazon will reach a huge number of people, you will not be able to get your hands on valuable customer information. When it’s your own store, you have reams of information: contact details, what they purchased, their shopping patterns, and lots more. Tap into this data to increase revenue, but also use this knowledge to refine and tweak your brand and offering.
- Encourage repeat sales with special promotions and send customers targeted and personalized emails (like an email prompting them to complete a purchase, or stock up on their favorite before it runs out)
- Alert existing customers of new sales or promotional offers through a regular newsletter, but balance promotional updates with useful content.Try to find out what your audience cares about and then create content around that
- Get to know how to use website metrics so that you can take control of optimizing and improving your website for yourself. There’s a lot to learn, but there’s also a whole ton of resources out there (and a friendly web community to get you going).
As an author, selling through your own online store is beneficial in the long term and will give you full control of your destiny. Gather information about your customers to build a loyal customer base that will enable your business to expand and your brand to thrive. Have you tried selling your own books online yet?
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.
Patrick Foster is a freelance writer and ecommerce coach, who loves sharing his expertise with other budding entrepreneurs and bloggers. He is the owner of EcommerceTips.org where he shares expert tips about marketing, ecommerce, blogging and building your online brand.