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If you’re considering writing and self-publishing an ebook you’re not alone. The popularity of self-publishing grows every year, and more than one million books were self-published in 2017. If you want to self publish your own eBook, we want to help you make a successful ebook that sells. We know that figuring out how to start selling ebooks can be daunting.

To help you sell your ebook, here are our tips for how to successfully start selling eBooks online – think of it as an ebook Bootcamp 101.

Why sell an ebook?

Nielsen Research predicts that ebook sales will overtake printed book sales during 2014, with total sales of 47 million units being sold.
Once you’ve produced your ebook you need to make some decisions about how you to sell your ebook.

How to sell ebooks online

One of the biggest decisions you need to make is how to sell your ebook online.

1. You can sell your ebook via marketplaces like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore or Kobo.
2. You can give it away or sell it yourself from your site, a blog or via social media like Facebook.

When researching your ebook, remember to base your ebook title on the keywords you’ve researched since this how many of your potential readers will find you either through Amazon or Google.

This may sound obvious, but the most popular books will be professionally presented and well written.

You can get a copy editor to run through your book before publishing for about $100 which is an excellent investment, and unless you’re a graphic designer you should hire someone to do your ebook cover design for you. Many prospective buyers won’t get past the thumbnail of your ebook cover.

A former university lecturer who worked for one of the big book retailers in the UK showed us lots of case studies on how changing the cover of a book had a huge impact on book sales – it was the single most important factor. From memory, it takes the average book buyer less than 3 seconds of looking at a book cover to decide whether to pick it up and read more or to move on.

The biggest 2 decisions when deciding how to sell your ebook online

1) What ebook formats do you need?

2) How will you reach potential buyers of your ebook?

What ebook formats do you need?

The Amazon Kindle only reads Mobi format files (Epub is the universal ebook format). This means that if you want to sell on Amazon you need to produce a Mobi version of your ebook.

You will also need to produce your ebook in an Epub format if you want to sell your ebook on Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore, Kobo or sell it direct yourself.

It is not easy to convert a word document into either a Mobi format or Epub format.

You can either:

  1. Do the format of your ebook yourself

This might be an option if you’re comfortable with CSS and HTML. Try a google search for ebook conversion tools or this is a good introduction from Kobo on converting a Word or OpenOffice Document to Epub format that is compatible on Kobo

  1. Pay someone to format your ebook for you

here is a good list of companies offering ebook conversions

How do you reach potential buyers of your ebook?

Since more than 90% ebook sales are from Amazon, B&N, Apple or Kobo it makes sense for you to sell through one or more of these ebook retailers. Especially if you are just starting out and don’t already have an audience yet.

The pros and cons of selling via the major ebook retailers

Pros

1. They provide lots of potential customers and exposure especially if you get on the best sellers list. The major ebook retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple between them they account for over 90% of the ebook market.
2. It can be convenient. You can either use each provider’s “front end” to enter your details or use pay another distribution third party to distribute to the major online retailers for you. Apple is the world’s second-largest seller of ebooks and allows only a select number of third-party companies to upload ebooks to the iBook store. This means that as a self-publishing writer you can’t just upload your book to Apple and you will have to use a third-party distributor.

Cons

1. How much % royalties will you receive? The major online ebook stores require their ebooks to be priced below $10 to receive the highest royalty rate – generally 65% to 70% of the selling price. Above $10, the royalties can drop significantly down to 30%. Compare this to selling directly when you would keep approximately 95% of the selling price.
2. The online retailers have 1000s of books being added each week, which means your ebook can get lost amongst the many other thousands of ebooks, and lower rankings means fewer sales.
3. The other issue to be aware of is that using an online retailer to sell your ebook means you won’t receive any information about who buys your ebook. Which means you won’t be able to sell directly any of your other ebooks.
4. Do you mind waiting to get paid? Payment terms vary by store, but it can take weeks to months before you get paid.
5. How much control over how you sell your ebook do you want? There is no standard format for metadata like price, description, categories, and keywords. Each store and distributor support slightly different metadata e.g. Apple prices ebooks in 99 cent increments e.g. $.99 or $1.99 or $2.99

Amazon KindleKindle Direct Publishing (KDP Select)

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and KDP Select are especially popular ways to self-publish your books for new ebook authors.

What is KDP Select?

KDP Select means is available in the Kindle Owners’ Library for 90 days. Amazon Prime Members can borrow an ebook for free for a whole month with no due date from the Kindle Owner’s Library (is only available on Kindle devices. When someone borrows your book you earn money. Your books will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store.

How is your money calculated in KDP Select?

September 2013 the KDP Select fund was $1.1 million. If the total number of borrows was 200,000, and your ebook was borrowed 200 times, you will earn 0.1% (20 / 200,000 = 0.1% ) or $1,100 for that month.

To enroll in KDP Select your ebook has to be locked in for 90 days exclusively to KDP Select. You can make your ebook available for free for 5 days on Amazon when you enroll in KDP Select.

During the 90 days exclusivity, you cannot sell or give away for free your ebook on any other sites, including your own website or blog.

As I understand it you can withdraw from KDP Select at any time – but the 90days will need to expire before you can distribute your ebook anywhere you want.

So don’t make a decision about KDP Select lightly.

Sell your ebook direct

sell ebooks online directIf you do already have an audience you definitely should be blogging and selling your ebook yourself.

Online Marketers, bloggers, or writers find that a well-written ebook can impart wisdom, ideas, stories, and actions that help build a relationship and trust with your audience.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have an existing audience, you should definitely look at selling your ebook through one of the major retails AND you should start selling your ebook yourself.

Selling your ebooks yourself is not as hard as it sounds and gives you far greater control.

Investing your time in blogging and promoting your blog will pay dividends in the long term when selling your ebooks direct to your own audience of enthusiastic readers.

The benefits of selling your ebooks yourself

Having a blog where you sell your ebooks has many benefits, such as:
• Your readers are a valuable source of feedback and ideas for future ebooks
• You can continue to build a bigger audience which is a ready market for your next ebook
• Your blog allows your readers to connect with the author and can create a wonderful loyal community of readers and encourages recommendations through word of mouth
• Guest posting on other blogs can provide more visibility for your ebook or blog and is an effective way to acquire new readers
• By selling direct to your readers you retain access to customer information which means you can email them in the future to let them know about future ebook releases or promotions

The financial benefits to selling your ebook from your own site

1. An existing reader is three times more likely to purchase another ebook from the same author.
2. You make more money from each direct sale compared to selling via a retailer like Amazon. Each direct sale will mean you keep approximately 95% compared to 60% if sold via Amazon.
3. You also get paid quicker. It can take weeks or months to get paid by some online ebook retailers like Amazon or Apple iBookstore.

How to sell your ebooks online from your own site

To sell your ebooks online, you will need something to securely handle the online payments and the automated delivery of your ebook when someone buys it. The easier it is for someone to buy your ebook the more ebooks you are likely to sell.

There are lots of ways you can do this, but one of the simplest and easiest is to use Selz to sell your ebooks online.

The benefits of using Selz to sell your ebook are:
You can sell it anywhere – sell your ebooks on any website, blog, or Facebook in minutes
You can sell any format of eBook – you can sell multiple formats quickly and easily
You get a fantastic buyer experience – Selz uses a simple payment form that appears to be part of your site when making a purchase, making it quick and easy for someone to buy your ebook.
Secure Hosting, Payment, and Delivery is handled for you – simple to upload and sell your ebooks. Your ebook is automatically delivered to customers when they purchase
You have easy access to Customer and Order History – Selz shows you how many ebook sales you have, and who has purchased your ebook. Selz easily integrates with Google Analytics so you can see measure sales, conversions, and where your buyers come from.

Setting the price of your ebook

Setting the price of your ebook is more an art than science, but a good place to start is to check what other similar ebook sellers charge. You don’t want to overprice it.

I hope that you found this helpful. We’d love to hear about your experiences and for you to share your own tips for successfully selling ebooks online.

Kindle photo by – Sara Owen

About the author

Geoff Austin

I talk and write a lot. Some of it about ecommerce, selling online, startups, SEO, digital marketing.

Currently, head of analytics for an automotive business in Sydney, facilitating a culture of data-driven decisions. Delivering data-based insights and intelligence.

Chauffeur to twin daughters and a pizza chef master.

8 comments

  1. Brain Moore

    Are social networking sites helpful in selling eBooks?

  2. Tommy

    Hi, I would recommend trying this free toolkit http://kitpdf.com/ for pdf conversions to e-Reader formats: mobi or epub formats, when needed. Installation isn’t needed, simply upload your files and get the converted documents. Maybe it might help. Thanks!

  3. Graphic Taitila

    Indeed a very nice post, I am also associated with this servicing. We provide best eBook publishing services and eBook conversion in the industry. Thanks for writing such a wonderful post.

    1. Leonie

      Graphic Taitila,
      Can you forward me some information about your business ?

      Thank you.

      Leonie

  4. Kristi Ambrose

    Do you think it’s better to hire someone to distribute your books for you, or do it yourself? I am pretty technically advanced personally so I think I COULD do it myself IF I found a way to convert the books to MOBI and epub files. The biggest problem I have with distribution is that my books are only about $3.99 so by the time I pay the person distributing the book and pay the actual site for selling my book, I am left with a very small profit per book sale. But, is it really HARD to distribute your own ebook to sites like Smashwords and Kobo? In my mind, if you have the right file (MOBI or EPUB) then the rest is a piece of cake. But, is that reality? Or just false thinking?

    1. Geoff

      Hi Kristi, thanks for the comment. You have highlighted one of the problems with distributing your ebook and that’s the small % profit your left with. That’s why lots of people use the marketplaces and also build up their own website audience. To answer your question about distribution. Personally I think one way to make a decision in this type of situation is to weigh up how much time and effort is involved, and how regularly you need to do the task. Then look at whether its more profitable for you to spend that time doing something else to promote your ebooks. It its a repetitive mundane task, it might be better to pay someone to do it and you spend time building your audience. If you want to know more about hiring Virtual Assistants, Chris Ducker is the expert in this area, it might be worth checking him out. Good luck, let us know how you go.

      1. Kristi Ambrose

        I’m pretty late. I guess I didn’t sub to comments lol. Anyway, I thought I would update this just the same. I ended up searching for MONTHS for people who would do this for you – mostly freelancers, as well as Virtual Assistants and businesses. But they ALL wanted way too much money. As mentioned in my earlier post I am pretty technically inclined. I figured ya know what, here I am wasting all this time looking for someone to do it for me, and it’s going to be WAY out of my budget, let me just test this out myself and see what happens.

        I used my best book (in my eyes) and my most professional book cover as the test subject. If that worked and I got sales, awesome, I would place the others on these sites as well.

        BN.com was a pain in the ass and continues to be. The support on this website is also very bad. It’s sort of an “if you can’t figure it out on your own, too bad” situation. I WANT my books on here, but as of yet they are not. Eventually, I’ll hire someone to just do it for me.

        Kobo had a few glitches but eventually I figured it out. At the time, they also were having issues on their website so that didn’t help things in terms of stress and frustration for me. I believe I have two books on Kobo.

        iBooks, I contacted someone who wrote an article about this site and they seemed like an expert, even offered to upload my books from their MAC to my account. But, once I converted the book file formats she sort of disappeared. I never heard back from her. So no books on here either.

        Amazon, big duh. This is like the EASIEST site to post books on. Anyone can do it. So I have every book I have ever written on here. Some of the older people I know still have issues publishing though because they may not be as technically inclined as I or lets be honest, they think they are going to do something wrong and mess everything up. For those people, like family and friends, I wrote a guide to help guide them along the way. But, I also made a few bucks selling this to other people that were nonfriends and family as well. Some are exclusively KDP some are not. Its true what people say about Amazon KDP, for some niches it works quite well and for others it does not. One thing to remember about Amazon though is that if you have a book on Amazon and also on a site like Google Play (which automatically discounts the book even if you don’t want them to lol) Amazon looks at that and will change your price on Amazon to the same price label on Google. However!!!! Amazon does not um I don’t know the right word. If Amazon sees that Google Play has discounted your book from $3.99 to $2.99 and you are on the 35% table for Amazon, Amazon will only pay you $2.99-35%. But! According to Google Play if Google Play discounts your book from $3.99 to $2.99 you still make the $2.99. Didn’t make sense to me, that’s like paying out of pocket, but that’s how they explained it to me.

        Google Play; I have one of my books on this website. It was pretty easy to set up. But, you have a lot of hoops you have to jump through.

        PayHip: I use this website because as an Author YOU keep 100% of your profits. Plus, they have a referral/affiliate program so you can gather up people to promote the books for you and pay them money per sale to their own custom URL. Plus, their book pages have a big beautiful cover page which really accentuates all that hard work you did on your cover. Not sure if I can post links but this is my page for The Warfighters Series Book #1 (The Nine Of Hearts) on Payhip – I am super proud of that cover and I love that BIG giant poster like view of it. Payhip ALSO has sort of promotions you can use for social sites. For example if you want to buy the book for $2.99 great, but if you want it for a certain percentage off *the author decides* share it on Twitter or Facebook and you can get that percentage off when you purchase my book. Stats are at a max, everything you could or would ever want to know about your visitors and buyers and so much more. If I could find 500 other sites like this, I would use them all.

        I feel like I am missing a website here, and I probably am lol. The biggest thing you need to do is convert your files. Honestly? I didn’t pay $20, $500, $5000 dollars to have this done. I figured ya know what, I am an Indie author and essentially a Freelancer, so surely another Freelancer out there can do this for me. So I found one. He did it for less than $10. :o) Something to think about.

        Hopefully, that helps someone out. And by all means, support a fellow Indie Author – its a tough world out here for the first few years! I can use all the help I can get as I am sure a lot of other people posting here can as well!

  5. John P. Wheeler

    This is a very comprehensive article on selling ebooks online. A must read for authors looking to get into digital publishing.

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