The Personal Touch

The Personal Touch

Why having your own store is a good idea

In my experience, it’s best not to think of your own store as being a rival to any of the big retailers.

What you are creating through your store is your own special corner of the internet, where your readers should want to come and buy from you.

There are several things you can do to really give your readers the personal touch and an experience they couldn’t get from any of the other book sellers.

When creating your own site:

You will know exactly who your customers are and what they are buying.

Say you follow the accepted route of writing multiple books, setting your first-in-series to free, and then promoting the free book through paid ads, BookBub deals and the like. You should get plenty of downloads of your free book, and ideally, a good readthrough rate so people buy the rest of your series. This is a great approach and generally works well. However, once you’ve sent a reader to, say, Amazon, and they have downloaded your free book, what are they being shown on your book’s sales page? A whole raft of adverts for other authors’ books! You pay to bring people to the retailer, who then shows them other people’s stuff that they might like more.

In addition to this, you don’t really know whether anyone who views your books actually buys them. If J. Smith buys book 1 in the series, do they go on to buy books 2, 3, 4 and 5? You’ve no idea. And you don’t even know if they bought book 1.

Yes, you’ve got a reader magnet in the back of your books asking people to sign up to your newsletter, and some certainly do, but you don’t really have any sure-fire way of knowing who buys your books, what they actually buy, and whether they come back for more.

If you sell books through your own website, you know exactly who buys what because you have that data. It’s yours, not the retailer’s. You can email a customer directly to suggest they might like to purchase the next book in the series, and you could even send them a discount code as a sweetener.

You can thank your readers for buying from you and keep in touch with them. You don’t want to be spammy, but you can email people who you know are your customers on a regular basis.

You can design your site however you like.

On the big retailers, your books’ covers are what will make them stand out from the crowd, but you need your covers to fit your genre so readers know at a glance what sort of book it is. Your options for standing out mostly depend on how much you are willing to spend on advertising.

With your own website, you can go so much further than the book cover, with colours, fonts and images. Even videos, if that’s your thing. You can add your social media feeds. Make your site your own and make it beautiful.

You can arrange your site however you like, so if you have loads of books, you can make it really clear to the reader which is next in the series. You can make it easy to choose the different formats if you have ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks and audiobooks.

You can sell paperbacks in series bundles. You can sell print books, ebooks or audiobooks from different series in the same bundle, such as a “Series Starters” bundle, or a bundle based on a genre. And you can charge whatever you like for these. You could make a bundle of 20 books and charge £200 for it if you wanted!

You can sell things other than standard print-on-demand books

You can sell merch through your site. What you sell will depend on whether you want to get involved with managing inventory and shipping yourself, or whether you want to stick to print on demand.

Why not ask your readers whether they would like to buy merch from you? Depending on your readership, you might find that they would love to buy t-shirts, journals, mugs, or tote bags.

T-shirts and things might not be for you, but what about special, signed editions of your books, maybe with a bookmark included, or a fancy hardback version with gold foil? You would have to be prepared to do the work involved, but the higher profit margins might make it worth your time. It also gives your store something to really set it apart from other places that your books are available.

If you are not churning out multiple books a year, limited releases of merchandise could bring readers to your store at times other than when you have a new book out.

Finally, and this is a REALLY IMPORTANT point that I see authors missing.

If you have your own store, do NOT send your readers anywhere else to buy your books. If you send out an email to your mailing list about a new book* ONLY give them the link to your site. Don’t give them all the options of the big 5 retailers, like you are used to doing.

The more people who visit your site, and the more links you have out there on the internet going to your site, the better it is for SEO and the higher up the search engine ranking your site will get. I’ll add a separate article about SEO, but for now, bear in mind that if you go to the time and effort of setting up your own store, make sure that your readers know about it, and make sure they have an incentive to go there. That incentive absolutely does not have to mean that your books are cheaper on your website. Not at all. The incentive can be that they can buy things there that they can’t elsewhere, or that it is just a lovely experience, or it can be that you have hammered home the message that if they buy from your site, you get all of the money, straight away. Your loyal readers will want to support you!




* If you've got ebooks in KU then you'll have to send readers to KU, but if you can sell something through your store, make that the priority.


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