Making the Sale: How to Sell More Books on Your Own Website

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ShoppingCartIf there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of marketing, it’s that no matter how much authors love what Amazon can do for them, they’d rather sell books on their own site than share a cut with the giant online e-tailer. Doing this, however, can be tricky.

It seems that every time we turn around, some big chain is admitting that they were hacked.

If you were one of the millions who shopped there, your information could be in the hands of God-knows-who. With so much attention on shopper security, it’s leaving a lot of shoppers even more hesitant to shop online.

Last year, Baymard Institute released a staggering statistic: 67.89% of shoppers abandon their carts before completing the purchase. That translates to around $1.79 trillion dollars in product or services purchased online.

Why does this happen? Well, there are a lot of theories on this. According to Shopify and the image shown below, this is a list of the top reasons that people abandon their purchase with you:


Though I don’t disagree with this per se, I would take this a step further, because not only are security concerns at an all-time high, there are a variety of additional reasons you may be losing people.

Also, how to get shoppers and keep them varies by industry so let’s look at the seven most important factors that will matter to authors and publishers for making the sale:

1) Overall Look of Site

There’s a high trust factor with a site that looks professional. I don’t want to buy from a site that looks sketchy. Would you? If you want to sell from your site, you’ll need to have one that’s professionally designed.

I would say that this goes even before we start the shopping cart discussion because you won’t get anyone to even entertain buying off of your site if it doesn’t look like a place they’d want to shop.

2) Checkout Process

I see a lot of authors (and even business owners) who make the shopping process difficult. I’m not sure why they do this or why their web designers recommend this. Every click you make someone do can cost you 5% of your traffic, meaning that if you require several clicks just to get an item into their shopping cart, you’ve now lost 20% of your traffic.

Make the buying process easy. Put “Shop” or “Store” or (if you have one product) “Buy Now” on the home page so folks immediately know where to click. Visitors won’t take the time to figure it out. If they can’t find it on your site, they’ll go elsewhere and in the age of Amazon they’re likely to just default back there.

3) Site security

Show shoppers that their purchase is secure is also very important. Buyers want to know you’re taking care of their personal details so showing security messages – even things like “Secure checkout” make all the difference. In fact, according to a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article, adding security messages can increase a buy by 16%.

4) Sign in/Sign up

I don’t know about you, but the minute someone wants me to create an account before buying an item, I’m usually gone. If you want folks to sign up on your site, have them do it after they’ve made a purchase.

Studies show that conversion rates can increase by 45% if you allow buyers to shop as “guests” throughout their visit!


5) Many people abhor these added costs

If you feel charging for shipping is something you have to do, consider offering free shipping as an incentive instead of a guarantee. Staples, for instance, offers free shipping when you buy a certain dollar amount.

Other e-tailers have free shipping days, or, if you want to further incentivize site sign-up, you could offer free shipping to members only which would encourage them to join your site so you could remarket to them later.


6) Cart abandonment

Window shopping happens, even online. SeeWhy did a study last year and found that 99% of people won’t buy on their first visit to your website. This is why having an email newsletter, or some other benefit-driven giveaway, is not only important, but mandatory if you want to make the sale. Email newsletters allow you to remarket to your visitor.

No, they may not buy on the first try, but a helpful, content-rich newsletter will remind them who you are and encourage a buy for later. It is a lot of work, yes, but so is building a store on your site that no one buys from. Alternatively, you could also consider pop-ups or sidebar messages that show up during the purchase process, offering customers 5% off.

7) eCommerce options

I know many folks who have extensive eCommerce options which are great but also costly. Being able to take credit cards, especially if you are small, is an added cost you may want to incur but, you may not need to.

When we switched from our extensive pay system to just offering PayPal, we found that our shopper conversion almost doubled. Also, PayPal no longer requires users to register with their system so you can give your shoppers the peace of mind of using a secure system, without having to register.


8) Love the Love

People like what other people like, which is why for most (if not all) retailers, you’ll see reviews and customer feedback right on the page. Most authors don’t have the bandwidth, time, or money to create a sales system that’s quite that elaborate, so adding reviews to the sales pages is very helpful. Adding reviews with a picture adds even more credibility to the page.

Remember that your customer can, with one click, meander over to Amazon and buy the book there so give them a reason to stay.

9) Pricing

If you’re going to keep shoppers on your site, you’d better up the ante on your pricing. We already know you need to ship for free (at least on certain days or with minimum orders) now let’s consider your “offer.” Maybe you just wanted to offer the book. Sure, that’s fine, albeit a tad boring.

Sorry, but they can get the book on Amazon, too. If you really want to lure folks to your site and make the sale, you’ll need to give them a slam-dunk deal they can’t resist. As an example, when we changed the offer on our store page from 3 books for $20 to four, sales doubled.

Keep in mind that there is only one print book that’s mailed, the rest are digital and delivered as soon as payment is taken so there’s nothing else for me to do. Digital product is easy to add on because there are no hard costs with it, beyond the initial creation of the product.

So what else can you add onto your book to help entice shoppers? What about offering the eBook with the print book so they can have one for their Kindle and a  print book in hand (something a lot of readers still enjoy)? Maybe you could pair your book with someone else’s e-product. When you take some time to brainstorm, the possibilities are endless.

In the end, what you really need to do is think of your website as a brick and mortar store. If you created any of these roadblocks at Macy’s, or a Barnes & Noble, you’d really hurt your sales process. Authors often assume that a website store is different.

It’s not. We want easy, we want fast, and we want the best price. If you can bring all of these elements into your website store, you’ll increase sales considerably.



Penny Sansevieri
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She is the author of twelve books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity.
Penny Sansevieri
Penny Sansevieri
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  1. I’m trying to sell from both with only a little success, will try some of these ideas you wrote, thanks.

    Any other tips for writers that want to sell more on their own?

  2. Excellent article!! The section about the increase in conversions is very interesting about not gathering email data on the frontend. Do you have any thoughts on ebooks as opposed to paper books? Thanks again. Great writing!

  3. Hello. I have found using my website to clarify and be specific about your audience and your niche is a helpful tool. Of course, anyone can buy from your website; but, if you want the big bucks, you have to show how their investment will be beneficial to them. High quality products require investors who believe in your product. That’s why sometimes a face-to-face meeting is required so you have the opportunity to show them why your product is so great to invest in. Just looking through a website is not going to convince anyone to buy unless they already know about the product. They’re not going to take the time to read, etc. That’s why a meeting is beneficial. You provide them with the info about your product and your website. Then when they go into your website they already have a background about why your product is beneficial to them. Otherwise, they’re wondering why they should even consider your product when they can go anywhere online or in a physical store and get something similar. So they think. You have to show how your product and services are different from others, why you are better. That is the bottom line. With so many choices out there, nothing else matters. Money is money, product is product. They want to buy, they’re going to buy what they feel is best for them.
    Thank you for your time in reading this message. Take care. Rosella Young, AA-1 Designs, Invest in your shelf! P.S. The above website only operates in U.S.A., Ontario areas of Canada, and Australia. Please find one in your location if outside of these areas.