Magic Formula for Selling Ebooks

Article first published as The Magic Formula For Selling E-Books on Technorati. (Updated here for October 2011.)

amazon kindle $79I read a lot of blogs posted by seemingly knowledgeable people telling others how to sell ebooks, and it amazes me how lacking many of these recommendations are. Typically half of these experts advise simply signing up with Clickbank or using E-junkie for a shopping cart on your site. That’s it, that’s the magic formula? Sounds more like a pitch for those paid services than truly helpful advice.

Assuming you have an ebook that contains useful information or entertainment and is not a waste of money, you want to sell it everywhere possible online: e.g. your own website, major retailers like Amazon, etc. I prefer these later options since they don’t cost any money. But to keep it even simpler, the vast majority of your sales can be accomplished by selling ebooks from these locations: your website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. What about Apple and other retailers, you might ask? I’ll explain.

In my experience the 2nd best place for total number of sales and the 1st best for royalties, are sales that happen at my own websites. Plus it runs on autopilot, which is nice when I’m asleep in bed and still making sales. After PayPal’s modest cut, I keep 100% of the profits and grow my email list. Setting up your website with a PayPal button that automatically sends buyers to a URL for download after the purchase is a piece of cake. Now you can sell and fill orders no matter where you are. Keep simple stats of download visitors with a free company like StatCounter, and you’ll know if any pirating is happening, which can be fixed with a simple URL change to your download page.

You must sell with Amazon Kindle because they sell more ebooks than any other retailer. Sign up at KDP Amazon where you’ll be asked to create an Amazon account if you don’t already have one and start making 70% on sales if your ebooks are priced in the $2.99 to $9.99 range.

Pubit with Barnes & Noble is also a great venue. Sign up there is very similar to Amazon; just go to

Finally upload and sell with Smashwords because they convert your document into multiple formats and then upload it to Apple, Sony, Kobo, Scrollmotion and Diesel (Amazon and B & N too, but you’re already there). And yes, you make good royalties when selling from those companies via Smashwords. (Mac users can also upload directly with Apple, but the rest of us can’t.)

That’s it, that’s the magic formula. Upload and sell ebooks from these  locations and your bases are covered at no cost to you. Should you also sell from places like Google Ebooks, My Ebook, Bookmato, Scribd, YouPublish and so many more? You can if you want to, but I haven’t found any of those places worth the effort. Things could change in the future though.

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10 Responses to “Magic Formula for Selling Ebooks”

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  3. Jonathan Says:

    I run an online store selling ebooks and other things myself. I never thought of selling on Amazon before and I never heard of Smashwords until I read your post. Im checking out Smashwords right now. Thanks!

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  5. Stuart Whitmore Says:

    Very good info. I haven’t been selling directly from my site, but I might give that a try. I did have an ebook for sale through ClickBank but that was mostly a waste of time. For those interested in selling from their own sites without the worry about the download URL being passed around, there are various ways to prevent (or greatly reduce) that so that each person not only has a unique URL but has to identify themselves before downloading it. I did this for the ebook through ClickBank; after CB successfully processed the sale, the user was redirected to my site where an account was created for them automatically and they could immediately download the book. But if they gave the download URL to somebody else, that other person would only get a login prompt. If a user ever gave their login info away and it was used in bulk, it would’ve been easy to delete that account. (That never happened, luckily.)

  6. Marika Says:

    Thank you so much for this article! Can you provide some more details on how to sell through your paypal account via a website? Many, many thanks.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Sure, Marika. Selling with a PayPal account is basically setting up the PayPal button to direct the customer to a specific URL after purchase, which is what I call a download page. That is where you have the ebook files for the customer to download, typically pdf-epub-mobi files of the book that they can download and read on any device.

  7. Marika Says:

    Thanks Jason! Much appreciated.

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