Selling Ebooks Direct: How To Set Up A Simple E-Bookstore

Selling e-books direct to your readers has just got a little easier, thanks to a new company called Gumroad.

I heard about them through indie author Sarah Billington on Friday, had my store up and running on Saturday, and fully pimped out by Sunday. (Cost = Zero!)

But before we get to that, should you open your own e-bookstore?

Advantages of Selling Direct

The first obvious advantage is higher royalty rates. You can earn a lot more than 70% if you sell direct. I’m making $3.49 on my $3.99 titles (as opposed to $2.70 from Amazon) and I’m getting nearly double the royalties on 99c titles.

On top of that, I can now directly serve readers who face higher charges internationally (such as readers in Amazon’s surcharge zone) and those readers who can’t buy from the major retailers (e.g. Barnes & Noble only serve the US, and Amazon don’t serve much of Asia, most of the Middle East, and nearly all of Africa).

It also gives me somewhere to send readers who hate opening an account just to make one purchase, and an alternative for them when there are technical problems at their preferred site (as happened recently with Kobo and Smashwords).

Finally, it allows me (with readers’ express permission only, of course) to capture the email addresses of my readers, to get paid quicker than any other retailer, and to do things I can’t do easily otherwise, like offer e-book bundles or extra formats for those who own multiple devices.

Disadvantages

There are downsides to selling direct though. It takes time to set-up (and can cost you, depending on your approach). You have to deal with customers if anything goes wrong (your processor goes down, their card gets charged the wrong amount, their file is corrupted or doesn’t arrive, or they just can’t figure something out etc.).

Some might also worry that selling direct could dilute their sales (and thus their ranking) on key retailers, costing them crucial visibility on bestseller lists.

Honestly though, that’s not a huge worry for me. If I cannibalize my sales on Smashwords or Barnes & Noble, I won’t care too much. At the moment at least, I seem to bring them most of the customers that buy my books anyway, so it’s logical to readers the option of buying direct and make more per transaction.

As for Amazon, I can’t see my direct sales cutting into that business too much. The overwhelming majority of my sales there are customers that Amazon brings to me, so I wouldn’t be able to divert them if I wanted to. It might cannibalize some of my international sales (especially those in the surcharge zone), but I only get 35% for those anyway, so I’m quite happy to do that.

Besides, I think most people will continue to purchase from their preferred retailer, this is just an option for the minority who may wish to buy direct. I don’t have any data to back this up, but my hunch is that this will grow my overall sales, rather than simply moving them from one column to another, as greater distributive reach usually means increased sales.

One final consideration: taxes. Depending on where you live, and the applicable sales taxes or filing requirements etc., selling direct may not be a viable option for you. I can’t advise you on tax matters, and my situation is quite different anyway (it’s my understanding that, in my country, I’m not liable for VAT unless I pass a certain sales threshold each year, and, if I reach that level, I’ll have a team of minions to take care of such trifles.)

Options

To sell your own books, you have a number of choices.

1. You can have a custom store built for you with all the bells-and-whistles – which accepts credit cards and PayPal, calculates sales taxes and VAT, automatically fulfills orders, and often has support too. This can look slick and work very well. You will get the highest royalty percentage – 95% or more. However, there’s also a fair whack upfront and, as such, will most likely only suit either those selling in high volume or those who can code such a site themselves, or rope a friend into doing it for free.

2. You can add a shopping cart to your existing site or blog, which will do much of the above for you. Some shopping carts cost a monthly fee, some are free but take a cut, and some do a little of both. You should note that you can’t add a shopping cart to a free WordPress.com blog (but you can do a custom, paid WordPress.org blog). I wanted to host the store on my blog (my website gets little traffic and needs a redesign before I can do anything with it), so I didn’t research this option too deeply. Ecwid and e-junkie have been recommended by several authors.

3. You can sell via PayPal, manually. This is the most labor-intensive, as you will have to manually email the files after payment comes in. This might seem trivial, or your worst nightmare, depending. PayPal is a popular (and trusted) payment option and this low-tech solution is unlikely to trip up on tech problems. However, if you’re not online when the order comes in, the customer will have to wait, and may get frustrated. On the other hand, you keep a very high percentage of your selling price.

Even though I had wanted to open my own e-bookstore for some time, none of the above options particularly suited.

I wasn’t selling in high enough volume to justify the upfront cost of a custom site. I didn’t want to move my blog from WordPress.com, and I couldn’t justify to devote the time and money to getting my website redesigned (and a shopping cart installed). And I certainly didn’t want to have a manual fulfillment system when I’m moving house (and country!) in a few weeks, and likely to be without regular internet access until I find somewhere to hang my hat.

Gumroad

And then I heard about Gumroad, whose idea is so unbelievably simple, that I didn’t quite get it at first.

In short, you upload a file (any file) to Gumroad, and they give you a download link. Place that link on your site, and you are good to go. Customers click on the link, get whisked to a secure off-site payment processor, complete the transaction, and receive your file (more details). You can see how it all works by clicking on any of the links in my store (and if you really want to test it out by buying something, work away) and you can read the full Terms of Service on their site.

Gumroad charge 5% of whatever price you attach to the file, plus a transaction fee of $0.30. This means I get $0.65 for $0.99 books, and as much as $3.49 for my $3.99 titles (and I also have $7.99 bundles, where I’ll clear $7.29).

There are some disadvantages with Gumroad. For starters, you can make more per book with other solutions (but they each have their own drawbacks, outlined above). They are new (but legit); some teething problems are to be expected. I had some issues with test transactions not going through yesterday, but they ironed everything out very quickly after I contacted them – very impressive customer service, in fact.

Finally, not all planned features are online yet. For example, there is no PayPal option for customers (but you get paid that way, end of each month, once you’ve earned over $10). That’s the biggest drawback for me. PayPal is a hugely popular (and trusted) payment option; many readers may not want to dig out their credit card for one purchase.

However, after weighing it all up, I decided Gumroad was the best approach for now. I don’t think there’s simpler, cleaner, more elegant solution out there, and I just like the whole feel of the site, as well as the vibe from the team behind it. I think they have big plans for the future, and I’m excited to see what’s coming.

Building My Store

Initially, I just decided to replicate the layout of the big sale I had last week, but after some feedback, I shrank the book covers and blurbs, to minimize scrolling, and tried to make the layout more intuitive overall (and more like a regular e-bookstore).

After tapping into the hive mind (Twitter and Facebook), I decided to offer not just mobi and epub files, but also PDFs, zipped files containing all three formats (for multiple device owners), and various e-book bundles of my different titles.

Laying out the store the first way only took a couple of hours. Doing it the second way took all Saturday – but a lot of that time was spent doing up nice-looking PDFs of my books with new backmatter pointing directly to the store.

I had a basic version running on Saturday and made a couple of sales, and then made a couple more on Sunday when the new version went live (until I ran into some snafus). And, I must say, it’s a very nice feeling to sell your own books through your own store.

Finally, I redirected a domain I had bought some time ago – ArribaArribaBooks.com – to point directly to the store. Once I remember the thinking behind that, I’ll fill you in.

Other News

As part of my mission to be as widely distributed as possible, A Storm Hits Valparaiso will be appearing in a bookstore for the first time, hopefully later this week. More details soon. Maybe even a picture.

Following hot on its heels will be the print edition of Let’s Get Digital. It’s something I should have done quite some time ago, to be frank, and was finally spurred into action by said bookstore order. Print formatting, once again, is being done by the excellent Heather Adkins.

In a naked attempt to blot out the sun with sheer mass of titles, I’m also lining up the release of the digital and print editions of Passons au numérique: Comment s’auto-publier, et surtout pourquoi (the French edition of Let’s Get Digital). The translation is complete, I just need to find a French proofer. If you know of anyone (or are one yourself), get in touch at david dot gaughran at gmail dot com.

This will be the first translation released under the royalty sharing program, but it won’t be the last, and various other translation projects are at different stages. If you are a translator, and you would be interested in forgoing your upfront fee in exchange for 20% of my royalties, get in touch at the above email address and we can talk further.

All of this stuff has, of course, taken time away from writing – but it has been fun and I think it will pay off long-term. Besides, I wrote a book in February and needed a break before tackling the rewrite. I might start that this week, if I stop pussyfooting around.

UPDATE: HUGE thanks to the good people at Village Books, Malahide (my hometown) for the prime position. I hope it’s a big seller for both of us! (And thanks to Austin for the pic!) Hooray!


UPDATE 2: I completely forget to mention that I’m giving away 5 paperback copies of A Storm Hits Valparaiso on Goodreads. Only three days left to enter!

About davidgaughran

David Gaughran is an Irish writer, living in Prague, and author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible and this here blog thing.
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108 Responses to Selling Ebooks Direct: How To Set Up A Simple E-Bookstore

  1. Lee says:

    Fascinating stuff, the future just keeps looking brighter and brighter for indies.
    btw the store looks great.

    • Thanks Lee. I think we are only at the beginning of discovering the possibilities. It’s an exciting time, for sure.

      • I thought I set up my account on Gumroad, by it does not allow me to see what are the downloadable formats available and customer payment other than PayPal. Any ideas please?

      • Actually, the only PayPal option is for *you* to be paid by PayPal. They don’t accept customer payments via PayPal (and only take credit card). It’s a major drawback.

        The downloadable formats are whatever you upload (mobi, epub, pdf, zip, etc.)

      • If accepting customer payments via PayPal is important to you, you should try Sellfy. You can also set up affiliate program for your products, which is another feature that not all of the competitors offer.

    • MobileMedSurg says:

      Thank you, thank you thank you!!! I was about to crawl through the screen and slap PayPal. This really fixed it for me.

  2. Lee says:

    Do you plan to update the image covers in the sidebar to point to gumroad instead of Amazon?
    I think you are right about people continuing to get their media through their preferred retailer, I’d extend that to include preferred channel, and for that reason am seriously considering seeding my next novel on torrents as well as making it available on amazon, smashwords, etc.

    • No. Amazon are still where most people want to buy my books. What I have done is add a link underneath beneath the separator “BUY DIRECT FROM ME.”

      I prefer giving people options, rather than pushing them one way or another. However, I did strip the sidebar from the store page altogether, to avoid any confusion.

  3. Michael says:

    In the final paragraph of section “Gumroad” you referred to it as Gumtree…just saying, maybe you could use an editor.

  4. RG Porter says:

    This is something I’ve been toying with for a bit. Will probably look into it fully once I can get my site overhauled. :) Fantastic info as always.

  5. Thanks for the great info. I too have toyed with the idea, but rejected it as either too costly or too time consuming (or both). Great to know there’s a better option now, and I hope it works well for you.
    BTW I enjoyed A Storm Hits Valparaiso!

  6. MaanKind says:

    All good, but what about the DRM? This you your books could be distributed by e-mail?

    • Like most readers, I hate DRM, and refuse to put it on my books. It does nothing to prevent piracy, and only serves to antagonize your legal, paying customers (who can’t take their books with them when they switch device).

      I’m not worried if people start emailing my books to each other. Obscurity is a far greater threat to me than piracy.

      • Neil says:

        Obscurity is a far greater threat to me than piracy.
        Not if you keep writing as well as you have!

        But you have a point. At this junction, readers wanting more are worth quite a bit for you.

        Good luck,
        Neil

  7. josephine wade says:

    FWIW, one thing to remember is that for pad users and netbook users who are using the kindle, ibook, or nook app. is every time I update my operating system I loose any books I bought that weren’t from Amazon, Apple, or B&N. All my Smashword books or books I’ve bought directly from the author are gone (unless I saved the original file which in my haste or need to clean up clutter sometimes I didn’t save thinking it was redundant). I have to track down those places and reload them.

    I guess what I’m saying is make sure you keep records of who purchases what so they can reload the item upon request.

  8. badelaire says:

    This is pretty darn cool. What I especially like is the ability to sell in almost any format you want, since Hatchet Force Journal, being an e-zine, has been requested in a printable, PDF format by a number of people since I released it last year. Not sure if I’d do it for my other works, though, but if it tied into PayPal sales like you’re hoping, it’d be something to consider.

    • Me too. I wanted to sell PDFs, offer people the option of multiple formats, and to do bundles as well.

      My only real grouch is the lack of PayPal payment option for customers. But with all the other pluses, I’ll swallow that for now, and see if I can come up with a solution.

      • David, Oronjo.com offers Paypal for downloads. I mentioned it briefly in Lindsay Buroker’s guest post last week. Oronjo is based in the Netherlands. Currently Oronjo takes no cut at all. Customer is directed to Paypal, authorizes payment, goes back to Oronjo and gets download. You get paid by Paypal. You get instant revenue.

        They aren’t as spiffy as Gumroad, probably because they aren’t pushing for actual business at the moment. Not sure how good their customer service works either. It’s worked for me though. I emailed a few customers to see how the process went and feedback was positive.

        Oronjo has one sweet little feature too. Customers can add a tip and pay more than you are asking. You can also send people free downloads via an email link, but only one at a time manually. Files can be re-downloaded for 12 months. Customer must then be logged in.

      • Thanks for the Oronjo.com tip Marcus – and I’m sorry I missed your comment on Lindsay’s guest post. I’ll certainly check them out.

  9. Mike says:

    I stumbled across your blog just the other day and after reading the post about Amazon’s surcharge zones I was hooked. Great blog whether you’re an Indie or just curious about the e-book world.

    I wonder, though, if using someone else’s server, whether Amazon, Smashwords, or even Gumroad, is really “selling direct”. You are using their site, software, and waiting for royalty payments just like other retail sites.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it. Every avenue to another sale is valuable, but I just don’t see this one as being any more direct to the consumer than any of the others, just more work. Have you considered taking your blog to your own domain and adding an open source shoppting cart/storefront? If you like I can email some links to inexpensive hosts (just a few dollars a month) and shopping carts (included free on the same servers). Not posting them here because I don’t want to add any competition to your blog.

    • Hey Mike. Strictly speaking, there are a whole bunch of things popular dubbed “selling direct” which would fail that test. And indeed, Apple use Amazon’s cloud for a lot of their stuff, but I don’t think anyone would call those Apple transactions Amazon’s.

      Similarly, if you opened a physical store, and offered a credit card payment option, you don’t own the credit card machine, the transaction actually takes place off-site, and you don’t get paid right away.

      Also, it’s not that different to what happens with some shopping carts. The transaction never actually takes place on your site. The only difference here is that the input of the details takes place offsite too. What I like about the way Gumroad handle that is that the input/processing page is very neutral, so it doesn’t really *feel* like the customer has been whisked away elsewhere.

      In any event, I think there’s a huge difference between this and listing at Amazon or Smashwords. For starters, when you list at a retailer, they become your distributor, and you pay them accordingly (30% to 65%). With this solution, you are your own distributor (even if you are outsourcing the actual transaction and fulfillment) and the percentages reflect that. Plus you have the advantage of nobody having the power to pull down your listing for whatever reason.

      I have considered moving to WordPress.org (or some other custom solution), but that’s not suitable right now for a number of reasons (some of which I hinted at above, but that’s just the start). I don’t know if Gumroad will be my long-term solution, but at the very least, it’s a nifty stopgap.

      To be honest, I have been barking on about selling direct for six months now, and could never find the time/resources to make it happen. This solution was so simple, that I had a basic store up in running in two hours, at zero cost. If I hadn’t found Gumroad, I would probably have done nothing about this for another six months – that’s the real advantage to me here: low hassle, low time expense, and free.

      • That’s the way I see it too. Every author with a book blogging at wordpress.com has cover photos and purchase links to Amazon. B&N, Smashwords etc. Gumroad and Oronjo are technically no different. All are off-site sales, external to wordpress.com. Most importantly they get in nobody’s way and don’t bother anyone.

  10. Lynda Wilcox says:

    Good grief man, do you ever stop? LOL

    Seriously, this is good news and I wish you all the best with it. More power to your elbow, David. Keep up the good work and thanks for an interesting and informative post.

    Lynda

  11. Jaye says:

    I am very impressed, David. If I didn’t already have all your books, I’d go try out your nifty little store right now.

    Just being nosy, when you were a little kid were your parents very proud of their genius child, or did they wring their hands in despair, saying, “Oy, he’s NEVER going to settle down and become a good little accountant!”

  12. John says:

    Really nice store, David. Is it possible for you to sell signed copies of your paper books?

    • Hi John. You can actually sell physical goods through Gumroad, but I’m not totally sure how that works yet.

      I didn’t explore it because I’m living in Sweden at the moment, and selling a signed copy would involve me getting the books shipped from the US, signing them, then (most likely) shipping them back to the US – and would be too expensive for anyone.

      I move to London soon, and will probably hook up with a local printer/PoD outfit, or maybe Lightning Source UK, and then I will be able to offer all that stuff.

    • If I was living in the US, it would be easy enough to do. Createspace shipping inside the US is much cheaper.

  13. yp25 says:

    About having to stop everything to send your customer their file…

    Last night, I just finished setting up my own bookstore on my privately hosted website, but using a Word Press theme. Since my husband is developing his own websites as well, he had access to something called Gravity Forms (which is a bit expensive to purchase). I used that to create a simple order form that you customize. After they fill out their name and e-mail address in my form, it takes them straight to PayPal, where they make their payment with their account or with credit card. Then, because I require the customer to fill out their email address, I customized the form to generate an email that goes to that address indicating the download link to the book they’ve just purchased. I as the writer, I receive two notifications to my email account – one is the PayPal payment notification, the other, the form they filled out – and the customer receives one from my website with the download link. That link is to an online file folder system that lets me create public links for any file I want.

    Even though Gravity Forms have to be purchased, I’m pretty sure there is another widget within Word Press or other blog sites to make order forms that have the same functionality. I am very pleased with this setup though because I don’t have to do anything once the customer purchases a book.

    • Hi Abby, that’s very interesting.

      For me however, unfortunately I can’t install any plug-ins as I’m on the free WordPress set-up. They provide a limited amount of in-house widgets, but none that would provide the functionality needed.

      Interesting though.

  14. Lisa says:

    This is excellent information, Thank You! I shall be re-blogging this.

  15. Lisa says:

    Reblogged this on Lisa Barnes ~ Author and commented:
    Selling Ebooks Direct: How To Set Up A Simple E-Bookstore by David Gaughran

  16. John Hayden says:

    Fantastic information! Maybe the day will come when authors completely cut out the middleman and sell all their books direct. The missing link for that is a search engine a la Google, but designed and devoted solely to authors and books. I can’t wait to check out your store and Gumroad

    • I think there will always be a place for innovative retailers like Amazon who give self-publishers a level playing field and actually allow readers to discover our books. People like Barnes & Noble? Not so much.

  17. Thanks for the great info. David. I recently set up a site for a non-fiction book and looked at using Gumroad. The setup looks very easy. I spent a day or so messing around with free WordPress shopping cart plugins. WP e-Commerce worked quite well. It allows you to use PayPal and has reasonable protection for your digital files. I don’t know if this would work on free WordPress sites though.

    • No plug-ins possible at all, unfortunately. Only a limited selection of widgets (which are basically simplified in-house only plug-ins, but all Javascript and iFrame code is not allowed etc.)

  18. John Hayden says:

    Reblogged this on Dispatches From ConsterNation and commented:
    Is this a great time to be a writer, or what?
    The title to this repost from David Gaughran’s blog is a perfect summary, and the body of the post gives all the details about direct selling.
    QUESTION: WordPress.com from the beginning has been almost fanatically opposed to advertising by bloggers. (Sorry WordPress, that’s the my ONLY criticism of WordPress.com, which is by far the best blogging platform for me.) I believe WordPress.com has probably always made an exception for selling your own handmade goods (I might be wrong about that), and I guess handmade goods might include one’s own handwritten books. My question, David, is how is WordPress.com responding to this sudden surge in blogging by Ebook authors? Were they OK with your recent sale of 99-cent books? I gather that you and many others are Amazon affiliates, and possibly affiliates of other booksellers as well. Do you think WordPress.com might crack down on this?
    BTW, I tried switching my blog over to WordPress.org a few years ago, to gain more freedom, but found the technical hassle not worth the benefit. These days, WordPress will handle all the technical details of the switch for a fee, so it’s much easier if you want to pay the fee.

    • There are certainly a ton of people doing it, and I haven’t heard of any crackdown. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that those restrictions were put in place to prevent the content farm crap that’s loaded with affiliate links (and often using other people’s words without permission).

      If they do have an issue, I’ll simply port over to WordPress.org. However, my hunch is that WordPress.com don’t want to lose a load of blogging authors by clamping down hard on webstores or affiliate links.

      • John Hayden says:

        I think you’re right about that, David. Seems to me WordPress.com has always been a bit touchy about the entire subject of bloggers advertising and selling stuff. I’ve always had trouble reading the tealeaves about their policy on this subject, and how strictly they enforce it. I’ve been careful to avoid even doing reviews about restaurants I like, and stuff like that, which someone might mistake as “pay-for-post,” because I don’t want to take any chances on my blog suddenly disappearing. It has a little bit of a chilling effect on the otherwise free-speech world of blogging. Interesting aspect of the empowering effects of the Internet: He who controls the server has the Power. (Sorry, WordPress, no offense intended. Other than this one criticism, I’m a big WordPress fan and user.)

      • I saw someone ask about this on the WordPress.com forums once, and the answer was basically what you said: they wanted a rule in place so they could quickly kill any content farm crap, etc, but they had no problem with real people selling their real products. I don’t know if that’s an official position or if that position has changed, but I’ve never heard of a legit person haven’t any trouble!

      • That’s good to hear. Thanks Brian.

  19. lynnmichelsohn says:

    Congratulations on your recent accomplishments (St. Pat’s sale, ebook store, and everything else—whew!), and congratulations on your progress with Passons au numérique! A few questions: 1) Why did you choose to publish it in French instead of, for example, German or Spanish?

    2) How do you plan to do the marketing (finding French bloggers, reviewers, etc.)?

    Best wishes for continued success, and thank you for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us struggling self-publishers.

    • I put out an open call for translators, have a few in the works, and the French one just got done first. There will be more!

      Marketing will be a challenge, for sure. I’m toying with the idea of KDP Select for that book for the first 90 days, as that’s one of the few tools available to me without having to deal with French (and mine is very poor, and very rusty!).

      I will have a few French contributors. I’ll be leaning on them, my translator, and my proofers for suggestions. Some translators may be keen to assist with some limited promo, as they are getting 20% of the royalties. However, I’m neither counting on that nor expecting it.

  20. I’m adding this article to my No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links post next Monday. I am intrigued by this system. I am also using the free wordpress.com blog and am a writer. I want to have a way to sell my work there without having to upload a shopping cart. Like others, I am concerned about losing my website due to terms of service. I like being on wordpress.com since my site is always updated with the latest wordpress version and I don’t have to manage the backend.

    I’ve been told that wordpress doesn’t mind if artists and authors sell their work view their websites and I’ve gotten that from moderators on the forums. My blog is more a showcase of my writing than anything else, but I do link book reviews and author interviews to where people can get the books. I usually highlight a free source first if available. I do not have a smashwords account and am rather concerned with their current fight with paypal. This might be a better alternative for now.

    • I think your concerns with Smashwords are misplaced, unless you are writing certain kinds of erotica (and even then, I believe that the issue has been largely resolved). In any event, it’s not an either/or choice. You can do both.

      • I’ve been talking about the smashwords incident with a few of my writer friends and they agree with you that the situation has been resolved. Still, I like your recommendation and am looking into it.

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  22. Rebecca says:

    Well at least you never called it “gumshoe.” :-D

  23. Cucumber Kappa says:

    This is fantastic, thank you! One of the reasons I’ve been dragging my feet about working on my “visual novel”* games is because of not having a reasonable way of making them available for people to purchase the pay versions of them. :3

    I figure that by the time the first one is finished, Gumroad may have added Paypal and gone through some of the initial growing pains. Please keep us informed about your experiences with them. :3

    • C. R. Reaves says:

      The * above was meant to be:
      * Term “visual novel” not actually fully correct, but I can’t find another all-encompassing term for, “game with pictures + story and allows users to make a choice in how the story progresses based on the choices they select in-game”. CYOA is the closest, but when I think of Choose Your Own Adventure books, they only have minimal artwork and….

      (Please also forgive name and avatar switch. Grr to Gravitar/Wordpress merger…)

  24. kathialf says:

    That sounds really interesting! I want to write a book and i think this website could really help me!

  25. Having a quick look and this seems like avery good platform. Takes away the risk and hassle, and still gives you a nice cut, at least compared to Amazon

    The big thing is having people come to you first, so for first time authors this is tough. But for someone like yourself with a nice following, this is a no brainer

    Good find

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  26. Ruth Nestvold says:

    This is a great post, David, very helpful! Once I get my next novel off to the editor, I think I’ll tackle something like this too. The first novel is coming off of KDP Select the end of the month, and several story collections will be following soon thereafter, so it would be a good time to give it a whirl. Thanks!

  27. Cora says:

    Thanks for the tip, David. I’ve been thinking about selling direct for a while now, but the logistics were a bit daunting and German law has thrown a few extra roadblocks into the process.

    Also congrats on seeing A Storm Hits Valparaiso on the bookshelves of your hometown bookstore.

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  29. gayleramage says:

    I’m in the process of selling my own ebooks on my own site. Have used an ecommerce site called Mercantec.com and they use PayPal. It’s a little time-consuming, though. I may give Gumroad a try in the near future, though – hopefully when they start using PayPal for transactions.

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  34. Can you please tell me if E-book is for reading online only, or can it be downloaded?

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  36. Thanks! I’m thinking of setting up a store on my site and Gumroad looks like a great solution. :-)

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  38. Pingback: How to Set Up a Simple eBookstore « eBook Literary and Media

  39. Just wanted to check-in and see how your store is doing and how Gumroad is working so far… I think this is an extremely interesting idea! :)

  40. b says:

    Thank you for the info sounds like a very good site. Just wanted to know i have a book i want to publish which i am going to publish with a publishing site like smashwords but coming across gumroad made me think that i could do some selling separatly with the same book so a bit confused. Could you tell me if i was to publish on the publishing site would i beable to use my book content and make it into a pdf file and sell it on gumroad? and would i still need to give a percentage to the publishing company eg smashwords as they published it first. Or should i publish it on gumroad first and would i then beable to publish it on eg smashwords as its already been published?
    Thanx

    • Smashwords isn’t a publisher, it’s a distributor (which also happens to sell on its own site, making it a retailer too).

      When you sell or distribute your work through a site like Smashwords (or Amazon), you don’t lose any of your rights and you are free to sell anywhere else too (or, indeed, subsequently sell that book to a traditional publisher if you choose to).

      I recommend selling on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, and Kobo (You can get to Apple via Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble too, if you are outside the US).

  41. badelaire says:

    Just to follow up on this blog post. I’ve now set up my own Gumroad store, selling two of my shorter works in multi-format ZIP bundles (PDF, MOBI, EPUB, and AZW3). Although both of these titles are sold via Amazon as ebooks, and both will be out as trade paperbacks via CreateSpace, giving readers the option of buying a very cheap printable PDF allows for even more options.

    From here on in, everything I write and publish will have a home on Gumroad.

    • I would recommend giving readers the option of both ZIP bundles and the individual files. When I canvassed readers on Facebook and Twitter, the overwhelming preference was for individual files (responses were things like “I don’t want extraneous files”, “I don’t like clutter”, “I pay for data on my mobile device, so I would avoid purchasing bloated files” etc.)

  42. David: Great article as usual. I’m actually going through your back posts. I was excited to see info about Gumroad however I can’t get it to work. It keeps telling me custom permalink already taken, for all 4 files I uploaded. Sigh. I have emailed and hope to get this resolved, because it looks like a simple solution if it works.

    • I’ve found their support team pretty responsive. How long is it since you emailed them? Maybe follow up…

      • Thanks, they did reply and fixed whatever it was that was going on. It was just confusing because nothing was working, but now I have 4 books up and plan to offer a zip file of all 4 together once I figure out how to zip them. Thanks again. Grace

  43. Bill Smith says:

    David:
    There has been a discussion on selling ebooks from your own site on MobileRead.com where I referenced this blog post. I and many others would like to know how Gumroad has worked for you since the service, on the surface, seems to be just about perfect.

    Here’s the thread link on MobileRead.com:

    http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=191293

    Bill Smith
    BillSmithBooks.com

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  46. Joshua Cohen says:

    David,

    Thanks for this summary. Apologies in advance for the self-promotion here but I thought that another company you should know about is Ganxy (get.ganxy.com) as we’ve solved a bunch of the “disadvantages” you mentioned above.

    * In a few minutes, any author can set up a direct sales-enabled Showcase like http://ganxy.com/i/71658 that can be embedded in websites ( http://thomaswaite.com/#!/buy/ ), Facebook pages, blogs, shared, emailed, etc.
    * Ganxy handles all customer support, meaning that payment problems, customer questions, etc. come through us
    * Customers don’t just receive a file download. Authors can sell in multiple formats and – most importantly – customers have access to a guidance interface which tells them how to get the book on every device.
    * Ganxy allows any author to set up true eBook bundle in minutes ( http://ganxy.com/i/73417 )

    I’d recommend trying it out — it takes just a few minutes and there are no setup or monthly fees.

    Best,
    Josh

    • Josh, I noticed you’re based out of New York and have blurbs from people like Scott Waxman. Did some of your team get their start in publishing? Or did you come at the business from the programming side? I think all of these “instant eBook store” sites are really interesting…

  47. upperlife77 says:

    Yes, its a nice idea to write o r lay hands on e books marketing.This offers great experience to be shared by all and sundry.It’s important!

  48. Hey David! Have you had a chance to write an update on how your direct sales are going?

  49. Hi,
    I read your interesting article about how sell ebooks.
    I have the website http://www.howsellebooks.com with one interesting affiliate program where you can earn 60% sales promoting my ebook about how sell ebooks. I think than it’s very interesting for you.
    Thanks.

  50. Just started researching this option and I thank you kindly for this post…xx

  51. Hey David!

    It’s been a while since you’ve posted all of your sales numbers for your eBooks. How have the direct sales gone? I’d love to see a breakdown of where they fit into the grand scheme of things. Thanks!

    Brian

  52. netflix free says:

    Hey David!

    It’s been a while since you’ve posted all of your sales numbers for your eBooks. How have the direct sales gone? I’d love to see a breakdown of where they fit into the grand scheme of things. Thanks!

  53. I see that your “Buy Direct” option is no longer there. Did you have a problem with the Gumroad site, or are you in transition to something else? I’m researching options for selling my ebook directly. Gumroad and Ganxy both sound good, and I know a lot of people use a site like e-Junkie. So many possibilities, it’s hard to decide what’s best!

  54. Hi guys,

    A few people have been asking where my store for direct sales has gone (this post is about 18 months old), so it’s probably time for an update.

    I shuttered the store in late 2012 when I enrolled almost all my titles in KDP Select (which demands exclusivity). All those books have since exited the program and have been re-uploaded elsewhere. However, I didn’t re-open my ebookstore for two reasons:

    1. Sales were very low; and,

    2. Even if sales were higher, and I’m sure I could have increased them with a new release or a sale, my feeling now is that they would start to cannibalize sales on Amazon and elsewhere, and after researching for my book Let’s Get Visible, I now realize the importance of concentrating your potential sales wherever possible. In short, sales on Amazon can have a multiplying effect because of the visibility that hitting certain lists will grant you.

    Hope that helps.

    Dave

  55. AdaWang says:

    Thanks for the idea, though I wonder whether all authors prefer to sell their eBooks by setting up a personal store.

    But as to selling eBooks itself, Payhip is just easy for beginners. Maybe a good alternative.

    http://www.epubor.com/sell-your-books-with-payhip.html

  56. Jeff says:

    Hi Denise, you should also check out Selz.com as like Gumroad this makes selling ebooks very easy from your site or via social media

  57. Matthew Williams says:

    Hi David,
    Great article! Have you tried Ganxy? I’m considering using it for my first e-book, it seems very good and I like the embed feature that allows me to sell through their portal on my wordpress websites. Just wanted to get your thoughts.

    Also with reference to some of the other posts about selling direct on your own site, bear in mind folks that if you dont use a major portal (like paypal for example) or a retailers portal and are taking card details from a customer you then have to be complying with financial regulations about how you use those details, store them etc, and need appropriate security on your site to make sure no one else can access those details. Which becomes a MAJOR headache.
    Thanks,
    Matt

  58. Pingback: 33 Ways to Monetize Your Website - WebsiteSetup.org

  59. Hank Rogers says:

    David,

    My question is am I allowed to sell my ebook that I authored and purchased from both smashwords and amazon? So I just upload my downloaded file to gumroad when I build that on my website? I am building my website currently and was going to put links to my books to amazon and smashwords but want to sell direct as well.
    Thanks
    Hank

  60. hLeslie says:

    I can recommend FlatBook if you need to present, advertise and sell your ebook or written material. It’s clean, professional and easy to use if you are a bit familiar with wordpress themes.

  61. You make some excellent points here, with regard to selling books directly. The good points, more earnings and the bad points, customer complaints. But what I found most insightful was the fact that selling directly is unlikely to undercut your sales on the main distributors such as Amazon and Smashwords. Found myself agreeing with that point, people that shop on Amazon or Smashwords are unlikely to search for or visit book blogs looking for a deal, they are loyal customers to those main distributors.

    I am sure there will be a percentage that break the rules, but like you I think they will be few and far between. So yes selling directly is likely to open up your market place to a wider audience and, providing you can get the traffic, increase your book sales. Good post.

  62. aakash says:

    where the uploaded file save on gumroad.

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  65. musteryou says:

    Reblogged this on Nietzsche's hairs and commented:
    In short, you upload a file (any file) to Gumroad, and they give you a download link. Place that link on your site, and you are good to go. Customers click on the link, get whisked to a secure off-site payment processor, complete the transaction, and receive your file (more details). You can see how it all works by clicking on any of the links in my store (and if you really want to test it out by buying something, work away) and you can read the full Terms of Service on their site.

  66. Dick says:

    My main problem is getting traffic. I can setup my store in no time, but cannot get visitors. That is why I have no option but to take the help of Smashwords and Amazon :(

  67. Pingback: Successful Book Selling – The Non-Traditional Way | Savvy Writers & e-Books online

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