Direct sales are an increasingly popular way for indie authors to generate more revenue, collect reader data, and safeguard against the unpredictability of selling on major retailers. Even those with ebooks enrolled in Amazon KDP Select can expand into selling print and audiobooks from their own websites. And it can be lucrative: Research shows that selling direct to readers can generate earnings of up to 96 percent of the value of the book!
To help you brainstorm ways to entice readers to buy from your own store, we’ve gathered our favorite examples from authors with established direct sales platforms. Some of these authors are employing more than one of these 16 tactics, so we encourage you to click around their websites for more ideas!
1. Make buy-direct links stand out from other options
If you already link to retailers on your author website, simply adding the option to buy directly from your store is a great way to call attention to it. But how can you make your buy-direct button stand out from the rest?
Ophelia Bell’s website lists everywhere readers can buy her books, but her buy-direct button takes priority. The button copy “buy direct and save!” catches the eye and lets readers know this option comes with a discount. Ophelia also has a “buy direct” button in her site’s navigation menu and in a dedicated section of her monthly email newsletter.
Each of Diane Capri’s newsletters advertises her store in the sidebar, where the “buy the book everywhere” option is secondary.
2. Add context on why readers should buy from you
Readers are well accustomed to buying and discovering books online on major retailers. They may need a compelling reason to buy directly from the author instead, which is why many authors use offers like discounts to entice readers to their store. To make the experience as frictionless as possible, it can’t hurt to educate your readers on why you offer this option and what’s in it for them.
Grace Burrowes sprinkles information throughout her site on why her readers should buy direct and what the process looks like. From the welcome message on her store homepage to the FAQ, which visitors can find via an “About Grace’s Store” link on each book page, Grace has thought through where readers might get stuck or need a little extra convincing.
Dusty Sharp’s store has a great welcome message. His store is easily accessible from the book pages of his author website, where this information adds helpful context to the buy direct option.
3. Think like a retailer
If you prioritize direct sales, let your new readers’ first experience with you be one that’s retailer-focused. Authors are finding creative ways to design their websites like retailer sites or using the built-in ecommerce features of services like Shopify or WooCommerce.
It’s clear from the moment you land on D.S. Ritter’s homepage that her books are available to buy from her store — and at a discount to boot!
You might also consider your email newsletter design. Cate M. Turner rewards readers with a free book for signing up, but she also takes the opportunity to upsell subscribers on the book’s sequels with actionable “Shop now” buttons leading to her store.
Powered by Shopify, Elizabeth Lynx’s website behaves just like a retailer, with product listings right on her homepage. Elizabeth uses brightly colored “free” and “sale” badges to encourage readers to click, calling out when the book is exclusive to her store and using “you may also like” carousels to promote more deals. Where she does link to retailers, she emphasizes that readers will be missing out on a discount.
4. Offer exclusive early releases
Pre-releases are another offer you can make exclusive to your store. This is a particularly great strategy for hooking existing readers who are anticipating your next book.
Victoria Goddard made At the Feet of the Sun available on her website 10 days before its release on retailers. She promoted the early release on her blog, in her newsletter, and on social media, listing the link to her store first.
Elana Johnson’s store sells books that aren’t available elsewhere for several weeks. Elana clearly tags her early releases with special “VIP release” badges. She rewards readers with both early access and a steep discount for buying direct.
5. Link to your store in ebook front or back matter
In case readers haven’t visited your website yet and instead discovered your books from a retailer or a BookBub deal — or if you have yet to build an established direct sales following — you can try to convert them to your store via your back matter. One common strategy is to link to the next book in the series. You can use custom URL services like Pretty Links to update these links as your store evolves without the need to update your back matter.
Lorri Moulton lets readers know they can find both the next book and more at her store, Lavender Lass Books.
Kyle West gives readers several opportunities to visit his store on different pages in the back of this first-in-series.
6. Hook readers with sample chapters
Sample chapters are an effective “reader magnet” you can use to drive readers to your store instead of to retailers.
Michael J. Vanecek highlights his sample chapters in the navigation of his website. At the end of each chapter, readers will find the entire series available to buy right there on his site. He also includes sample chapters in the back matter of his books, from which readers can “continue the journey” to his store!
Michael J. Sullivan offers samples of all of his books on the Books page of his website. At the top of this page, he lets readers know full copies are available at his store.
7. Hook readers via your reading order
This is another helpful reader resource you might already offer and a great opportunity to lead readers directly to the buy page of each book.
J.F. Penn organizes her Reading Order page by series, each displayed in both widgets and list format. Each link points to a collection of products including the individual book in different reading formats plus any box sets the book is part of.
Victoria M. Patton’s Books page is also organized by series with links to buy signed copies or ebooks. Those who land on the ebook page will discover that the book is available for free on her website only.
8. Hook readers with free books
If you offer new readers free books, you can use this hook both as a way to train readers to visit your store and to upsell them with full-priced books.
Sarah Hegger’s “free reads” CTA in the navigation of her site goes directly to her store. From there, readers have the option to browse all books, free and full-priced!
Ellis Leigh’s newsletter offers this first-in-series book for free to new subscribers, followed by a teaser and second call to action to get the complete series for 25% off at her store.
9. Offer exclusive coupon codes
In addition to free books and other reader magnets, you can try offering coupon codes exclusively to those who buy direct. “Coupon codes are great because you can offer a discount on a book without having to change the price on all retail platforms,” says Mark Leslie Lefebvre. And there are lots of opportunities to offer coupons, such as on holidays or for signing up to your mailing list.
Angela J. Ford offers 10% off at her store to anyone who signs up for her newsletter, and notifies subscribers about other special discounts, like this 50% off sale on all her epic fantasy books.
Morgana Best has an eye-catching “discount off first order” pop-up on her site.
10. Offer an exclusive bundle
Creating box sets and bundles is a great way to revive sales of backlist books. Why not create bundles that aren’t available elsewhere to drive fans to your store?
Dale Mayer’s box sets are currently only available at her store. She’s found dozens of ways to slice and dice her series into bundles!
Jonathan Dunsky features his entire series bundle in the top navigation of his site, where both ebook and audiobook formats are available for 20% off.
Paul Austin Ardoin features a whopping 20-book bundle on his homepage, and makes it clear that it’s only available at such a steep discount at his store.
11. Offer other exclusive content or extras
Offering other exclusive products like special editions or exclusive formats is a good way to incentivize readers to buy direct. This is also a good option if you want to charge the same or more for your books than their price on retailers, or if your books are in Kindle Unlimited.
Elle Thorpe uses an announcement banner on her homepage to alert readers to her store and all the extras they get with each order. All books from her store are printed special editions with autographs and foil covers.
L. Steinworth sells print copies of her books on her website. Her signed paperbacks and hardcovers come hand-wrapped with a bookmark, a dedication, and a “surprise” for a personal touch!
At LaShawn Vasser’s store, some books are available at all retailers, but she also offers exclusives, spin-offs, and autographed prints that are only available at her store.
12. Enhance the buying experience through music
Another great strategy LaShawn uses is curating unique playlists around each of her books. Music is an extension of many authors’ creative processes and can be a fun way to connect readers to your stories and characters. Your store is the perfect place to encourage this elevated experience with your books!
Patricia McLinn’s store features a special collection around the music that inspired two of her series, Wyoming Wildflowers and A Place Called Home.
13. Sell merchandise or swag
Many authors create entire brands around their stories, sold in the form of T-shirts, mugs, and more. And readers love to use merch to flaunt their fanship proudly! Selling non-book items in your store can create a new revenue stream in addition to book sales.
Jillian Dodd offers series-themed merch at the top of a dedicated swag section of her store, which is prominently featured in the navigation.
Amanda Byrd has created entire collections around different types of merchandise. She offers free shipping on orders over $70 to encourage readers to buy several items — hopefully including books!
14. Post about your store on your blog
Many authors make announcements on their blog about any changes to their store or when new books are available.
PD Workman also runs a store separate from her main author website and blog. She drives visitors from her author website to her store by posting new books and collections on her blog, with links to buy the featured book or related content at her store at the bottom of the post.
15. Find interesting ways to merchandise your products
Many authors organize their stores into “collections” of products, sorting books by format, price point, or popularity, for example. But don’t stop there! Try getting creative with ways to discover and browse your books that aren’t possible on other retailers.
On Candice Gilmer’s website, readers can browse all of her books by genre, series, or trope.
Tracy Cooper-Posey has arranged the books available for sale on her website into various “Book Lists” as well as a traditional reading order. Each link leads to the book at her separate store, Stories Rule Press.
16. Allow donations
Some readers buy direct simply because they believe in supporting their favorite authors. For those superfans, you may be missing an opportunity by not providing them the option to make donations as well as buy books.
Laura Greenwood, whose store is easily accessible from a “Buy ebooks direct” link in her website navigation, allows readers to pay what they want. She also adds an option to buy her a coffee in the sidebar of her site.
What other ways have you tried selling direct from your website? Share your experience in the comments!
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