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 theseĀ  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.

Click here for the home page of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free.
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Ebook Wars Heating Up

Recently Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, announced that Kindle ebooks sales had surpassed hardcover sales for the world’s largest bookseller. He said for every 100 hardcover books sold, approximately 143 Kindle ebooks have sold during a three month period and 180 Kindle ebooks last month alone. He also said Amazon has sold three times as many Kindles in the first half of this year than for that of 2009. Some people doubt the accuracy of these numbers but it’s hard to doubt ebook sales are taking off much faster than paper sales.

We also hear that the iPad is selling by the hundreds of thousands. Steve Jobs certainly has a winner with Apple fans as the iPad is capable of doing many things. Web-browsing, email, watching movies, playing games and other activities make the iPad the popular choice for people who want to do much more than read.

Barnes & Noble has recently cut the price of its WiFi only Nook to $149 and the WiFi plus 3G Nook to $199. These numbers are lower than Amazon’s Kindle at $189 and Kindle DX for $379. Barnes & Noble appear to be taking aggressive actions now that they’ve fully entered this battle (a bit late in my opinion). They still are the largest brick and mortar bookseller and may have finally realized their chance for survival could depend on successfully selling ebooks by the boatload.

Additionally, Sony has the Reader, Borders has the Kobo, Google Editions looms on the horizon and many other devices including one coming out from Sharp are in contention here to sell ebooks. So with all these sellers and products in a crowded marketplace, is there room for everyone?

I doubt it. But at least a few things are clear:

1. No one can stop Apple. Because the iPad does so much more than just read books and because they have a large and loyal fan-base, that product is a shoo-in for the future. Some of my questions for the iPad is whether Indie authors will do better by selling ebooks through their iBookstore or by creating an App.

2. Amazon has been doing more of this longer than anyone. The Kindle is still the most preferred device among customers who strictly want to read. One interesting thing I see with the Kindle is its .mobi format, which is basically unique to Amazon and not compatible with the vast majority of other devices. But since Bezos is committed to lowering prices of ebooks as well and Amazon’s financial success isn’t limited to just selling ebooks, it appears that Amazon will be around for the duration.

3. Barnes & Noble stands to lose the most as it absolutely must do well in this ebook battle. Because they didn’t take the bull by the horns I’m wondering if that delay may cost them. Those gigantic physical stores must be incredibly expensive to run, and all B&N does is sell books. Perhaps they’ll find a way to stay afloat but it will probably mean making the Nook incredibly awesome and selling ebooks for as cheap as possible. To me, this situation seems the most dire and interesting to watch.

4. As for the rest of them, there may or may not be room for a dozen other sellers and devices. Google Editions will certainly be a hit because… well, because they’re Google and they’ve already got gillions of dollars. For the others it will probably come down to who can make the best device that sells for the least amount of money. We saw Sony lose a battle with Betamax versus VHS many years ago, but we also know that Macintosh can thrive in the midst of the PC. The possibilities for mergers/acquisitions also looms large here, so who might team up? Google and Barnes & Noble perhaps? Seems like a possible pairing.

5. The only absolute certainty… it’s never been a better time to be a writer, Indie author or a self-publisher. Of course the odds are against success, but with persistence and a good product the chances improve dramatically now that there are so many means of making a writing career into a reality.

Click here for the home page of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free.
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Barnes & Noble, Amazon Slash Prices for e-Readers

Barnes & Noble has added a half-ounce, Wi-Fi only Nook and lowered the price of its e-reader by $50 in a move to encourage sales. The device will retail at stores like Best Buy for just $150. The world’s largest brick and mortar bookseller also dropped the price of its original 3G Nook from $259 to $199. Although ebooks themselves haven’t dropped much yet; Barnes & Noble still prices ebooks primarily in the $9.99 to $14.99 range which, to me, still seems pretty high.

Both Sony and Kobo (Borders) have e-readers for $149 but neither currently has Wi-Fi capabilities.

So how did Amazon respond? The world’s largest online bookseller dropped the price of its basic Kindle from $259 to $189. The 3G enabled 10 ounce device has tremendous sales numbers and loyalty from consumers. Amazon still offers ebooks primarily in the $9.99 to $14.99 range though they have fiercely pressured the big six publishing houses to lower prices on all ebooks.

Obviously both of these moves are in response to Apple’s iPad, which retails for a starting price of $499 but does much more than just read books. Amazon and B&N are wisely doing whatever it takes to keep the book reading consumers in their camps while Apple easily runs off with the app-lovers.

What’s next on this front? Clearly the prices of ebooks will drop, and they’ll likely drop dramatically in just a few years. I can’t see how they can remain high for much longer, especially when more and more authors are willing to sell ebooks directly to customers without getting trapped by publishing house standards of old.

What’s the best way to sell ebooks? Drop the price of your e-reading device.

What’s the next best way to sell ebooks? Drop the price of the ebooks.

Another victory for Independent authors.


One of my readers informed me about Uploadnsell, a website and program for selling electronic files (or to sell ebooks). Normally I’m a “more the better” fan for things like this, as in the more places to sell ebooks the better, but in this case I’m not convinced and have decided not to upload and sell my ebooks with them.

Definitely the strongest selling point they have is that there are no fees or commissions with Uploadnsell. They guarantee 100% of the profits (after PayPal’s cut) to the authors and claim to make their money entirely through advertising. That’s the good part.

The rest is what makes me not so interested. For starters, there is no bookstore for anyone browsing. A customer needs to already know about your ebook, want to purchase your ebook and have the direct link to buy your ebook, and that is information they’ll have to get from you. To sell an ebook this way, you will have to do all the marketing and get someone to want to buy your ebook, then they’ll click on the Uploadnsell link and the process goes through PayPal and then a download page. Well, that’s funny because that’s exactly what I recommend doing for the times that you sell from your own website and blog. You don’t need a third party to do this when it can easily be accomplished for free on your own.

Uploadnsell requires you to give your PayPal account information to them to handle transactions. Now even though they are likely ethical businesspeople, I really don’t enjoy giving out my banking information to anybody unless I have to. Especially considering that their website is somewhat basic, still in Beta mode without much evidence of customers, and it contains more typos than I’d like to see (feels as if English is a 2nd language). Currently it just doesn’t feel professional enough to make me want to do that.

So I’d love to hear from anyone who has experiences with them. I could be totally wrong (wouldn’t be the first time), but I’m presently more than a bit skeptical. Can you sell ebooks successfully with Uploadnsell? If so, please share with the rest of us.

Thoughts, comments?

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Apple Reports 2 Million iPads sold in less than 2 Months

While some dispute the number, Apple claims to have sold 2 million iPads in less than two months as fans and critics alike weigh in on the pros and cons of iPad. If the sales figure is inaccurate, it’s still a safe bet they sold a boatload anyway for a tablet device that critics said nobody needed and doesn’t play flash. And if it is the right number, at a starting point of $500 apiece, over a billion dollars worth of sales in two months is good business by any standard. Remember sales were first introduced in the US while much of the world has just gotten their chance or are still waiting. Apple predicts over 7 million units will sell in the first year. And even though some competitors like Microsoft and HP are dragging feet to get their own products on the store shelves, it appears that room exists for everybody.

Even though I’m stoked for this device and the ones to follow for what it means to self-publishing, I still have some questions that typically keep me holding out for several months before leaping in with a purchase. One question is how many first generation issues and/or bugs will need resolving? And while that happens, how will the updated versions of Google’s Android and other competitors evolve and lower prices even more?

What I don’t question is the giant step the iPad, Android and other devices are doing to help us Independent authors sell ebooks. Sure, most people prefer movies and music on their tablets but Apple has reported 1.5 million books sold in just the first month. I haven’t heard the recent tally but it should easily be over 2 mil.

While time will be the ultimate factor in the apparent success of the iPad, for now I’ll just focus on yet another platform to work from and sell ebooks. Thank you, Kindle, for getting this whole ball rolling.

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