Why are Authors Selling Direct and Using Kickstarter?

What is selling direct? It is selling your book and other products directly from your website or through a platform like Kickstarter. It avoids the middle man (book stores).

Let me tell you a little about my experience, first.

Some of my writing club students at school wanted to know how to publish a book after they wrote the manuscript. That is not a mere 10 minute conversation. I had been blogging about writing and publishing for some time and had a bunch of posts that were not in any particular order. I couldn’t think of any one book that went over all the steps and decisions they’d be facing when they went to publish, well not any that were not a million pages. So I cobbled together my blog posts and expand them to put in a small easily accessible book for new writers to get started on the publishing journey. From Rough Draft to Published was born May 20th 2020! Since then I’ve made a few hundred dollars in royalties, yet it didn’t cover the expense I put into the book. This was practice and learning book. My fiction is my real passion. I’m about to dive into selling my first fiction book as soon as I finish the edits. I learned that it is hard to be profitable on bookseller platforms, if you don’t have a massive backlist of books to sell.

Why are Authors Moving Away from Traditional Platforms in Favor of Direct Sales?

I don’t know if you’ve heard: Direct Sales are the way to go now. All the writing podcasts are talking about how authors are finding more success with selling books directly from their website and through Kickstarter.

Why? Because being an Indie Author is EXPENSIVE! 

  • Here are some of the common expenses authors have to pay.
  • *Wordpress website $300 per year
  • *Book Funnel $100 per year
  • Book Bub $100-$1,000 per listing
  • Cover Art $600 for 1 piece of art
  • *Cover Designer $150-700 for ebook, paperback, hardcover
  • *Editing $1,000-4,000 for one Manuscript 
  • Developmental Editing $2,000-$4,000 
  • Copy Editing $1,000-2,000
  • Formatting $30-300
  • *Advertising- Any amount I’ve heard some authors pay $8,000 per month for ads
  • Publisher Rocket (a program that helps with ad targeting and keywords to use in your book listing) $97
  • Coaching Varies per coach but often, more than $150 per 1 hr. conversation
  • Virtual Assistant $25 per hour. Some authors pay a Virtual Assistant to take care of advertising, newsletter, and more, so they can spend more time writing.
  • Then add on other marketing services to get their book out there in front of lots of people. 
  • Then there is a lot more expenses if you want to offer and Audio Book!

    *Items with an asterisk are absolutely necessary expenses for an author publishing a book. The rest are something often added after an author makes an actual income from their books. 

Why Direct Sales?

When I first put my non-fiction book, From Rough Draft to Published, on Amazon I heard authors could get 35% or 70% Royalties. So, 7.99 x .35= 2.79 right? Nope! BUT in actuality, they take out printing costs first before calculating Royalties. What that boils down to is: I priced my book at $7.99 and I get a dollar from paperback sales for each book.

Initially, I listed my book in KU. KU is strange. To calculate that they take their income from KU subscriptions and divide that by pages read that month. In actuality, they pay between .5 – 2 cents per page read. So for my 130 page book (if they read all the pages) I’d get $0. 65 cents to $2.60. Some people make a lot of money that way…. If they release a new book every 1-2 months! 

Selling direct offers many advantages such as the ability to bundle and give readers a discount while increasing your sales. The ability to upsell so the customer is not just buying a book, but maybe a book and pretty bookmark to go with it. We can easily sell additional items like t-shirts, coffee mugs…the sky is the limit. At booksellers, the bookseller gets to upsell you products “you might also like” and they get the additional income because the customer bought your book.

Amazon Advertising

I took a class on Amazon Advertising and learned how to optimize that tool. Funny thing. If I spent $20 on advertising, I sold enough books to make $20 in royalties. Over and over that happened. Eventually, I got it dialed in to make $20 when I spent $19. So basically advertising was eating most or all of my profit. I could probably do better if I was willing to take an hour of writing away per week to create new ads every single week instead of just keep going with the same ads. I get precious little time to write as it is though.  

Wide for the Win?

You learn by experimenting, right? So I tried going wide with my book, which means I sell it on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and a bunch of other platforms. First off, when I went wide, I could no longer list my book on KU. Nobody read it on KU anyway. Well, guess what? My paperback sales on Amazon TANKED! Their algorithm doesn’t like it when you are not exclusive to them. 

All this to say… Amazon (and other sellers) are in this to make all the money they can get away with. Authors have less control over their product than we expected.

Is Direct any Better?

I am not sure, as I haven’t done it yet. BUT I will try it and I’ll let you know how it goes in about a year. It’s going to take me 6 months at least to learn it all and get everything set up on my website. 

Here is what I know. I can have Ingram print my book and ship it to me in bulk. Then I sell it directly to the customer. Or I can sell it print on demand and have it shipped directly to the customer. 

Plus, I can include little extras like bookmarks. I can bundle books together at a discounted price. I have the freedom to sell my products however I want. I can’t bundle or offer special extras with any other platform. I could sell book related or series related T-shirts and Tote bags if I want. Then I get to keep 100% of what’s left instead of a mere 35% or 70% royalties. I spent 2 years outlining and writing this book. I uploaded the book to a website. They do is print and ship it. That is taken out of the profits. I don’t begrudge them that. I pay for advertising. But then, WHY do they get to keep 30-65% of my royalties? Because they can. That’s why. We’re the little guy or gal. The only power we have is to take our business elsewhere.

Kickstarter Cost

The Kickstarter fee is 5% of total funds raised. Then there is a payment processing fee of 3% + $0.20 per pledge. So basically 10% of your total. (Instead of the 30%-70% )

Authors are taking back their control over the products they have poured their hearts into. We have learned a million different platforms and read so many books about being an author. We learned marketing, advertising, formatting the books (harder than it sounds), self-editing before sending it to the actual editor, business finance management, and much, MUCH more. And now we are learning to sell direct and take back our stories to sell them, with love, to our readers.

Website Cost

If you have a WordPress website, you have to have the eCommerce level (highest level) of website which costs $70 per month or $540 per year. Then there are several options to integrate your website with sites like Shopify, MyBookTable, and many more. Usually Plugins are free, but I’m not sure about these. I’ve yet to research this whole area, but I’ll get there. And of course, I’ll let you know what I learn too!

Bottom Line:
Authors are selling direct because we simply want to get paid fairly for the hundreds or thousands of hours of work we put into a book!

Book Recommendation

Here is a book I’m currently reading and I’m about half way through so far. I first heard about it on several podcasts as she promoted her newly released book. (Aug 2022) She goes into a lot of what I mentioned above and tons more! She talks about selling direct on your website and about selling direct on platforms like Kickstarter. I paused reading at halfway through because I want to get a few things set up and then read as I implement what she says. Things like, upgrade my website from Business level ($25/mo) to eCommerce ($45/mo) so that I can set up to sell direct, step by step.

I’m still learning about this. I look forward to sharing with you the outcome of this experiment and I really hope that I’ll have successes to share!

Sources Used:
Royalties  https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G8BKPU9AGVZSF9QF 
KU Royalties https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201541130
Stop Making Others Rich by Morgana Best

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