Saturday, August 9, 2014

Buy Direct

I am trying a new experiment on my website: direct sales of my ebooks. I was hesitant at first because it seemed rather complicated technically. How would I handle the payments? How would I facilitate the downloading of the files? I didn’t particularly want to deal with the thousands of email requests I would receive­­—cough—once I made the announcement that the books were available. With a little research and ingenuity I was able to automate the process, at least at my end. Now I just have to sit back and watch the money roll in—cough. Sorry, there seems to be something caught in my throat.

There is at least one obvious advantage to direct sales: cutting out the middle people. The consumer pays less, and I make more per sale. What could be better? PayPal takes a small percentage, but the rest is mine. However, there may well be pitfalls. I began a discussion on one of  LinkedIn’s forums to see what other people had to say, based on their experience. Three issues dominated.

The first was security. How would I prevent someone passing the book along, or perhaps even selling it on other sites? There is software that can be purchased (I believe) to make the files secure; but I wasn’t keen on forking out for that. The truth is that these security measures can be cracked by anyone with a little determination. The DRM on Kindle books is easily removed (I’m told). So theft is potentially a problem anyway. But is it? I would be quite pleased if someone thought my books were worth stealing. In addition, there is that oft-quoted adage from Tim O’Reilly: ‘For a typical writer, obscurity is a far greater threat than piracy.’ No one seems particularly concerned that people pass on physical books to friends. Or that libraries loan books.

The second issue was the problem of generating traffic to the website, but this is a furphy. No one who doesn’t already know me will find my ebooks on Amazon or Smashwords. It is no easier directing traffic to my books on those sites, than directing them to my own site. In any case, so that people will find my book on Amazon and other sites, directing them to my site is my first step. That is the only economical way—in terms of time management—to alert people to all the avenues for purchasing my books, electronic or physical. So nothing at all is lost by also offering direct sales from that site, while there are potential gains.

The third concern was how to deal with customers who might have difficulty downloading a file, or transferring it to their e-reader. I don’t know yet whether this will be a problem. People have my email address should they have a problem, and in such cases I can email them the file. I can even email directly to their Kindle if they give me the address. (I’m not sure if that is possible with other types of e-reader, but I imagine so.)

A fourth issue, and one that affects my ego more than anything else, is this. Direct sales from my site will go unrecorded. Even when I sell millions—cough—of copies this will go unnoticed in the world. I will never make the best-seller lists. This might be a problem if perceived sales generate additional sales, which they probably do.

So this is an experiment. I have nothing to lose. If anything interesting comes of it I will let you know. In the meantime you can purchase my ebooks directly from here.

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