Simpler is better
I write books to express things I want to share. Once I started getting positive feedback from my writing, I realized that I could derive income from this activity as well as incredible satisfaction.
All I had to do was to figure out how to print, promote, sell and distribute my books in a cost-effective manner while keeping up with my other lives.
People have written to say that they would like to self-publish if they had more information about it. Let me say here and now that lack of information on book writing and self-publishing is NOT a problem. In fact, it is more like trying to drink from a fire hose! There is so much information about this area that you can easily drown in data overload.
I believe that success comes when we choose a path that offers information that we can easily evaluate and digest. Too often the advice I see is out of date or is based on hearsay.
Take the matter of fulfillment. Much of the advice I read suggests that book fulfillment is expensive and time-consuming. I say that depends on whether you are trying to play the traditional publishing game of selling to bookstores and distributors instead of selling directly to customers. The short answer is that beginning authors should sell directly to book buyers.
When you sell through the traditional book channels, you get to deal with all of the fun things like discount structures, returns, slow paying customers and low margins. For a beginning author with no connections to major publishers that is sheer nonsense!
When you sell directly to customers using PayPal, you get an email telling you that customer Marge Bookbuyer has paid for a book. You sign the book if you want to make the customer feel special, put it in a padded envelope and send it out by whatever mail service the customer has paid for. This takes five minutes if you have books, labels, media mail stamps and padded envelopes stacked up where you can easily get your hands on them.
PayPal has a simple interface to send the customer an invoice, but you can simply use a copy of your email as an invoice/packing document instead. Write a friendly note on it if you wish.
You get the satisfaction of knowing that someone thinks enough of your writing to pay some of their hard-earned money for your book. You get additional satisfaction knowing that you are shipping the goods promptly. Finally, you get a sizeable portion of the price of each book.
Keep it simple. Make the customer pay first and make it simple to order. I use BUY NOW buttons with shipping charges bundled into the book price. I could have made it even simpler by using only two BUY NOW buttons. One would be free shipping in the US by Media Mail. The other would be fast shipping by Global Priority Mail – anywhere on the planet.
Make it very simple at first. Sell from your own website. Use PayPal. Make each buying trasaction so satisfying that your word of mouth advertising spreads. Then find ways to leverage the feedback from your readers to start a conversation with more prospective readers. Treat each transaction as a new moment in time. Each new customer is an opportunity to make a new friend.
We can never have too many friends.
When your sales increase to the point where you can no longer handle fulfillment by yourself, find a way to increase the scale of your operation without losing the personal touch. That is a great problem to have!