We all know that indie author day is 24 hours of all that is good and true about indie authorship, but how can you carry that excitement and momentum throughout the other 364 days of the year? In this blog post, I’m going to talk to you about how direct sales can be the key to keeping the party going all year round!
At Lulu, we’ve published over 1 million books since launching in 2002 and are very familiar with the unique obstacles (I was going to say plight but this sounds more optimistic) that face indie authors. In a sea of books that are published every day, how can you stand out and connect with your audience? Book signings and in-person events, social media ads and email lists…these things can all work in concert to get your work in front of your ideal readers.
But, then what?
Too often we see authors spending days, weeks and hours (not to mention dollars) to target their key readers and entice them to buy their book, only to send them away to another website to make the purchase. You’ve worked so hard to build your audience, why send them to someone else when it’s time to seal the deal?
We’ve heard all of the reasons:
“Everyone shops on Amazon so that’s where my book should be!”
“Maybe when they’re buying that prefabricated tiny house they will stumble upon my book!”
“People only leave reviews on Amazon so I have to sell there!”
“Jeff Bezos personally responds to my emails!”
And all of those (maybe not the last one) are true! Your book should be where your readers are. People do go to Amazon to buy one thing and end up buying several others. Most customers want to read reviews before buying products and that is certainly true for books. These are all fair arguments.
We’re not suggesting that you stop selling on Amazon. I mean, come on. They’re Amazon. Even we sell through Amazon. What we are suggesting is that if you rely on Amazon alone to sell, you may be missing out. What if, rather than creating an either-or scenario for yourself, you sold on Amazon as well as your own website or social media platforms?
Take a journey with me.
Let’s imagine all of your hard work has paid off…that a potential reader scrolling through their Facebook feed is entertained by your witty ad and clicks over to your website. From there, they make the exciting leap to your sell page where they click the infamous “Buy Now” button. But…what’s this? Instead of being redirected to a massive online store where they could very well panic and impulse buy those fiber-optic LED light up shoes for women, they stay on your website to complete the transaction. Wow.
This, in itself, is a feat. But wait, there’s more!
By selling directly to your readers, you’ve not only kept them on your website where they can peruse your other musings and projects, creating a deeper connection with your brand, but you’re also able to collect valuable transactional data from the sale and grow that ever-important email list. When you sell through third parties such as Amazon, or even the Lulu bookstore, privacy laws prevent retailers from providing information on who is purchasing your book. In some cases, that’s fine. But imagine what this data can do for your marketing efforts. After social campaigns, email blasts or in-person events, you can easily measure the ROI based on traffic and sales from your website or social platforms.
Transactional data is terrific and can be incredibly useful in evaluating your marketing efforts, but there’s another huge benefit to selling directly to your readers: more money! When you sell directly through your own website, you cut out the middleman. This means you retain more of the profit, which can then be reinvested into smarter, data-based marketing. Or, more likely, light up shoes.
All this sounds great, but how exactly do you go about selling directly to your readers?
There are a few ways to do this. The first is manual order fulfillment. If you already have an author website, you can take orders through your site and manually fulfill and ship. These can be lovingly referred to as “packing parties” and would entail you purchasing your books in bulk and hand fulfilling orders as they come in. One benefit to this is the opportunity to add things to the shipment such as custom bookmarks, a postcard that has more information about you or your other books or even a note to request a review once the reader has completed the book.
The second is through automated fulfillment. If packing parties are not your style, then the option behind door #2 is probably right for you! By selling directly and automating the print and fulfillment, you never have to worry about inventory or postage or bribing your friends and loved ones into helping you lick envelopes. If this sounds appealing to you, we can help!
Lulu has two solutions that allow you to sell directly to your customers and reap all of the benefits I listed above:
Lulu API: Our API provides a white-label service that allows you to plug into our global print network by embedding a few simple lines of code into your website. As orders come in they are transmitted to us for automated print and fulfillment.
Lulu xPress for Shopify: If coding isn’t for you, our app for Shopify provides all of the functionality of our API without the need to access the backend of your website. Simply choose a Shopify subscription, install our free Lulu xPress app, upload your books and start selling!
Regardless of the path you choose, selling directly to your readers is a vital part of any successful author’s business plan. Modern retail is about options for the consumer—they need to be able to purchase your product the way they want. And if trends like Etsy and other creator-to-consumer sales tools are any indication, your readers want to buy directly from you.
Remember, your goal is to promote your work and connect with readers (which means they buy your book, follow your social, and subscribe to your emails) all year-round. After all, these are your readers, not some Internet retailers. Don’t send them away!
Chelsea oversees Brand Engagement for Lulu. That means she’s in charge of finding great events for authors so we can attend and share our knowledge with you. She also directs the creation of content to make sure it fits Lulu’s brand and is helpful for our users.