Business Resources for Authors

Should You Sell Books from Your Author Website?

The Internet makes it easy to build a store-front on our website, but before you start selling books directly to your readers, consider all the pros and cons.

With the explosion of self-publishing and online retailers that offer up to 80% royalties to authors on their book sales, a few authors have pondered the possibility of cutting out the retail middle man completely. Why not sell books directly to readers and keep the entire selling price?

Certainly, the Internet makes it easier for you to find readers and for readers to find you. It’s fairly easy to design a web store and use PayPal or another shopping cart service provider to handle the financial transaction. And it you’re selling a digital book, you can email the file to your customer or set it up for an automatic download. But before you start counting the dollar signs, consider some of the expenses.

You may not have the technology background to build and integrate all the necessary pieces of a retail site. There’s a lot of automation to take a customer through the payment process. Plus there will be fees involved for a service such as PayPal or any other to handle your payments. Possibly the single biggest drawback is that when you sell retail directly to customers, you become responsible for collecting and remitting sales tax on the transaction. The sales tax itself isn’t so bad, generally less than 10%, but the accounting and reporting process can be time-consuming and may require hiring a business accountant.

Plus, will you ever draw the book-buying traffic that an online bookstore can draw? For some non-fiction writers who have an active website and an audience, selling directly may make sense. For fiction authors, you may prefer to focus your energy on promoting your book’s page on Amazon, B&N or other retailers.  It’s easy to create buy links on your website that send readers directly to their favorite retailer.


  • Direct contact with customers who buy your book
  • Higher gross profits
  • Full control of the sales process


  • Must integrate extra technology to automate the sales process
  • Must keep full accounting for income and sales tax purposes
  • May require a web designer to set up and maintain site
  • Must pay service and/or transaction fees to the shopping cart provider
  • Must drive readers to your site to buy your book

Bottom line:  Be sure to weigh all the costs and the extra time it will take to build and maintain a store on your website. For more information on how to set up a store-front on your site, try these resources:

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