A few months ago, I launched MattForneyBooks.com, an independent store for all of my books. It’s been by far one of the most profitable projects I’ve ever worked on. If you’re serious about making money as an author, creating your own online bookstore is a necessary step down the road. While it might seem somewhat daunting at first, having your own bookstore will increase your profits, strengthen your brand, and insulate your business against trouble.
Here are three big reasons to create your own online store.
1. You’ll make more money.
Not only will you increase your bottom line with an independent store, you don’t have to share the profits with anyone. When you publish on platforms such as Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords, you only earn a certain percentage of your overall book sales (aka “royalties”). For example, with KDP, you earn a 70 percent royalty on Kindle titles priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and a pitiful 35 percent royalty on books outside of that price range. With your own online store, you keep 100 percent of the profits, and given that e-books have zero overhead, your profits will be ridiculously high.
2. You can offer a greater variety of products.
The traditional e-book sellers such as Amazon don’t offer much in the way of tools for promoting your books. In contrast, with an independent store, you can offer as many or as few bonuses and deals as you want. For example, the e-books I sell through MattForneyBooks.com come in three separate formats: ePub, MOBI (Kindle) and PDF formats. This incentivizes my customers to buy direct from me because they’ll be able to have a copy of my book in whatever format they need. Additionally, I also offer e-book bundles via my site, enabling my readers to buy my books all at once at a discount compared to buying them individually. For example, I sell an e-book package containing every single book I’ve written for just $15.99, compared to the $30+ customers would pay buying each book individually from Amazon or wherever.
3. You’ll have total control over your books.
While English Teacher X is a bit too cynical at times for my tastes, he has a good point in warning self-published authors against becoming too dependent on Amazon and other similar companies. These corporations can (and will) pull your titles from publication if they find the content objectionable, or if enough whiners band together to libel you on the Internet. For example, my friend Vincent Vinturi had his book LMR Exposed banned from Amazon after some feminist falsely claimed it was a “rape guide.”
If you’re 100 percent dependent on these companies, you risk losing everything when they dump you.
Having your own online store makes your book sales antifragile, resistant to sudden changes in the economy or attacks by social justice warriors. You have total control over what books you sell, and if some crybaby thinks you’re a “misogynist” and tries to get your products banned, they can’t do a thing about it. I fully expect that the left’s next step in their war against writers like myself will be to try and impact our livelihoods by getting our books banned from Amazon and other booksellers, justifying their witch-hunts with their usual Pharisaical “THE FIRST AMENDMENT ONLY PROTECTS YOU FROM GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP LOL.” By creating our own independent bookstores, we can insulate ourselves from this form of attack.
4. You can better incentivize your reviewers to promote your books.
While popular, Amazon’s affiliate program pays out peanuts: only around five to eight percent on referred sales. In contrast, with your own store, you can create your own affiliate program with a much larger payout, giving your reviewers far more motivation to push your wares. For example, I offer a 60 percent payout on all sales made through MattForneyBooks.com, while Roosh offers a whopping 75 percent payout through his store.
The biggest downsides with opening your own bookstore are cost and maintenance. While most e-book platforms allow you to publish for free, you’ll have to pay out of pocket to host your own bookstore, as well as paying for custom software to deliver your products to your clients. Additionally, you’ll have to deal with all the grunt work yourself. Customers not happy with their purchases? You need to draw up a return policy. Technical support issues? That’s your bailiwick now. Every little bit of bullshit that is ordinarily handled by Jeff Bezos’ wage-slaves is now your responsibility.
Nevertheless, online bookstores are so insanely profitable that you’re a fool if you don’t get in on the action.
Here is what you need to do in order to create a successful e-book store.
1. Register a separate domain from your main blog/website.
This is crucial. Attempting to shove your bookstore onto your already existing site won’t work because WordPress and other blogging platforms are poorly designed for these kinds of purposes. You need an entirely separate website with its own set of internal links, unique design and branding.
Merely having a place to sell your books isn’t enough; you need to be able to sell your audience on them as well.
For examples of what not to do, see The 3 Bromigos and Remy Sheppard’s blog. I’m not picking on these guys—they’re smart and put out legitimately good content—but the way they sell their e-books is disastrously wrong. Remy sticks his e-books on a little page with virtually no ad copy, while Matt C. doesn’t even have a sales page, just a direct link to buy his book in the blog’s sidebar. In comparison, look at how guys like Roosh and Victor Pride do things. Roosh operates his own centralized book store with dedicated landing pages for each book, while Victor Pride hocks 30 Days of Discipline and Body of a Spartan from unique URLs.
Some guys like Pride and Halfbreed recommend registering a separate domain for each book you plan to sell. If you only have one or two products, this is probably the way to go, but if you plan on releasing many more books, you should just place everything at one URL with an independent brand name. This isn’t just to save money on domain renewal, but to help establish a unified brand. By placing all your products at one store, you’ll make it more likely that your customers will buy multiple products. You can also offer package deals and other special offers (more on that later).
2. Design your online store using OptimizePress.
Don’t even attempt to create an online store using standard WordPress or any other kind of free software. Not only will it take you forever, the results will look like total garbage. Before I settled on the final design for MattForneyBooks.com, I alternately attempted to use WordPress and concrete5 to build the site. I eventually just gave up and bought OptimizePress.
OptimizePress is a special software suite that installs on top of an existing WordPress site, so it’s extremely easy to use. More importantly, OptimizePress enables you to create webpages specifically designed to move product. Existing WordPress templates and tools are designed to create blogs and webzines; when it comes to a store, you need a design oriented towards getting people to BUY! OptimizePress includes custom graphics, various types of page templates, and a whole suite of other features for creating effective landing pages and other sales pages. While a bit on the pricey side, it will pay for itself very, very quickly.
Click here to buy OptimizePress.
3. Sell your e-books via e-Junkie.
E-Junkie is the vendor by which I sell e-books on MattForneyBooks.com. E-Junkie allows you to upload files to their servers and sell them via PayPal, taking the technical and financial aspects off your hands. Additionally, you can also use e-Junkie to create your own affiliate program. E-Junkie is also ludicrously cheap as well, at only around $5 or so per month. While I don’t care for the site’s 2008-era interface, it’s by the easiest and safest way to sell e-books.
4. Design your website carefully.
Remember, you’re trying to convince people to buy something. Therefore, you need to throw a lot of your existing blog-centric design ideas out the window. If you need ideas, take a look at how guys like Roosh and Victor Pride design their landing pages. What sorts of colors do they use? How do they structure the elements on the page? Even subtle elements such as a particular color choice can have a big impact on your sales.
5. Learn how to write compelling sales copy.
In most cases, merely writing a couple of blurbs about your book won’t cut it. Instead, you should write several paragraphs’ worth of content explaining every feature your product has in list format. You need to boil it down as simply as possible because few if any people have the patience to read long paragraphs anymore. Additionally, you need at least 300 words’ worth of copy (and preferably a good deal more) in order for Google and other search engines to index your site properly.
Again, look at how I do things.
My sales pages for Confessions of an Online Hustler and my other self-help guides have several lists’ worth of copy, explaining every single bit of content in the book, even getting a little repetitive. I used to think these kinds of pages were “scammy,” but that was stupid, wrong thinking. Not only has using this approach massively increased my e-book sales, using the same style of copy on Amazon and other book platforms has increased sales there too.
The only real exception to this rule is non-self-help books, mainly fiction and memoirs. Since those kinds of books appeal to a different type of audience, you should stick to the paragraph model. See: the sales page for Life During Peacetime.
6. Give your readers an incentive to buy from you.
Assuming you aren’t selling e-books exclusively through your website, you need to convince your readers that buying from you is a better option than buying from Amazon or whoever. The way you do this is by offering special features or deals that they won’t be able to get via those other platforms.
For example, as I mentioned earlier, I offer special bundles via MattForneyBooks.com allowing people to get my books at a discount compared to buying them individually. I also offer ePub, MOBI and PDF versions of my books in the same package, meaning that no matter what type of e-reader my buyers own, they will have a compatible version of my book. Finally, when I release a book, I offer it at a special discounted price only through my site, incentivizing people to buy direct from me instead of wasting full price over at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
7. Minimize/eliminate links to your books’ pages on Amazon and other platforms.
This may seem a little underhanded, but it works. While I continue to sell books via Amazon, Smashwords or wherever, I don’t advertise this fact on my blog; all my marketing efforts focus on MattForneyBooks.com. When I release a new book, I do link to the book’s page on Amazon and other platforms, but that’s it. By minimizing links to those platforms, I maximize sales at my online bookstore, increasing my overall profits. Again, the absolute last thing you should do is what Remy Sheppard did and link the Amazon and e-Junkie copies of your e-book side-by-side.
If you’re in the habit of releasing paperback editions of your books (which you should), you can link to them via your online bookstore, but you should link to your book’s CreateSpace e-store page, not the Amazon page. Additionally, you should increase your affiliate payouts to adjust for lost sales. For example, the reason why I offer a 60 percent commission to MattForneyBooks.com affiliates is to compensate for the fact that said affiliates don’t get commissions if customers they send opt to buy the paperback edition.
8. Create an email newsletter and automatically sign your customers up for it.
Email lists are one of the best ways to retain your audience, and e-Junkie makes integrating AWeber and other email list software easy. Everyone who buys a book of mine via MattForneyBooks.com is automatically subscribed to my email newsletter, enabling me to keep in touch with them and more easily sell them books I release in the future.
While no article can totally prepare you for the world of self-publishing, this guide should help you get started. While running your own online bookstore is a tough prospect, it can become insanely profitable if you do it right. Good luck.
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If you liked this post then you’ll like Confessions of an Online Hustler, my 140-page book that teaches you how to create a blog that will make you money. It contains writing and web design tips, strategies for getting readers, and debunks myths perpetuated by online scammers. Click here to learn more.