Question: What is direct selling for authors, and how can it be beneficial to an author’s distribution plan?



With all of the books competing for reader attention in the marketplace, it can be difficult to stand out and get noticed, which is why it’s important to make your book discoverable in as many places as possible. For most authors, this means not putting all of your sales eggs in the Amazon basket and offering your book for purchase through other channels. These can include independent bookstores, libraries, museums, other retail outlets, or directly on your website and at in-person events. Selling your book through multiple distribution channels allows you to reach readers in more places and maximize your sales potential.

What is Direct Selling?

In the simplest terms, direct selling means cutting out the middleman. The creator of the good or service sells directly to the end user or consumer. For authors, this means taking on the roles of storefront and salesperson and selling your books directly to readers.

One of the key benefits of selling books direct to readers is making more money on each sale.There are many benefits to selling direct including:

Higher royalties – any retailer commissions or fees are eliminated, so you make more money on each sale.
Reader data – you own the customer data provided at the time of sale including emails, mailing addresses, and purchase behaviors.
Personalized transactions – readers are purchasing directly from you, giving you the opportunity to make the sales process feel more personal.
Creative control – you have full control of any marketing messages and content presented to readers.
Pre-order set-up – you can easily offer your book for pre-order sale to create a buzz for your launch.
Faster payment – you get payment directly from the reader and don’t have to wait months to see your royalties hit your bank account.
Exclusives or merchandise – you can incentivize readers to buy direct by experimenting with pricing, offering exclusive bundles and specials, or selling branded merchandise alongside your book.

Ways Authors Can Sell Direct

There are four primary ways authors can sell their books direct to readers. These include selling on an author website, at in-person events such as signings and speaking engagements, through subscription platforms, and by crowdfunding.

Author Website

A website acts as a central “hub” for all marketing, promotional, and branding efforts. It can also act as a storefront where you offer your books and potentially other items or services for purchase.

Website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify have simple e-commerce tools and integrations you can use to capture book orders and process payment for a fee. If you’re selling print copies of your book, you’ll need to either stock the books and pack and ship them yourself, or, use a print-on-demand service like Amazon KDP, Lulu Direct, IngramSpark, or Bookvault to avoid buying inventory up front. These services can print and ship the books for you, but you will obviously pay a fee for this assistance.

If you’re selling an eBook or audiobook version on your website, you’ll need a place to house the file and a method for delivering it to the readers that purchase the digital versions. Some website builders and e-commerce tools can manage digital products as well, or there are platforms like PayHip and BookFunnel that specialize in managing and delivering digital products that can be integrated into your e-commerce site.

One way authors can sell direct to readers is at in-person events such as book signings and festivals.In-Person Events

Another common method for selling books direct to readers is through in-person events such as festivals, conventions, signings, and speaking engagements. Readers love meeting authors and when given the chance to hear about you and your book face-to-face, it’s difficult for them to walk away empty-handed.

The publishing industry offers a wide variety of events and opportunities where authors can present or attend workshops and panels, interact with authors, industry experts, and readers, and sell their books. If you’re just getting started with in-person events, participating in local festivals, signings, and fairs can be a great way to test the waters without making a large investment. Even your local farmers market might be a worthwhile event for setting up a small booth and selling your book. Libraries often host authors for speaking engagements or “meet the author” fairs, so be sure to check the websites of your local branches. And, don’t forget about your local bookstores and other retailers that may hold book signing events.

At in-person events, it’s important to be prepared to take all kinds of payments, keep track of your sales, and provide takeaway materials to maximize your book’s sales potential. When participating in a festival or convention, be sure to review exhibitor information so you know any rules or restrictions on book sales.

Subscription Platforms

Platforms such as Patreon and Substack allow authors to offer content to their most dedicated followers in exchange for a small, monthly subscription fee. The content can include book-related bonus material such as short stories or deleted scenes, serialized chapters, or exclusive videos, podcasts, and Q&A sessions with fans. Followers sign up to pay a tiered subscription amount and in return, you provide them with content. You can determine the subscription fee levels and the higher the subscription fee, the more substantial the content you provide. Subscription-based platforms allow writers to make ongoing income directly from fans and followers, while deepening those relationships and creating a community of readers eager to support them.


Authors can use crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Unbound prior to publication to accept donations from readers in exchange for a copy of the book when complete, along with other incentives such as exclusive merchandise. Think of it as pre-selling your book with the added bonus of building a readership as you do it, allowing you to raise funds to cover the up-front costs of indie or self-publishing.

Before You Start Selling Direct

The most important thing to confirm prior to setting yourself up to sell direct is to ensure you have the rights to sell direct. If you published independently or through an assisted self-publishing company, you likely retained all rights. If you published through a traditional publisher, you may have signed over certain rights to your publisher. No matter your publishing path, it’s essential you review the fine print in your contract and consult an intellectual property attorney if you need assistance.

There are two, key marketing tools you’ll want to have in place prior to selling direct. These include an email newsletter list and a social media presence. Email marketing is a powerful communications tool for authors, allowing you to connect directly with followers on a regular basis. You’ll want to use emails to drive followers to your website to buy, for example, or to share upcoming events where they can buy from you in person. You can also use emails to promote your subscription platform or crowdfunding campaign. It’s important to ask any new followers or readers to sign-up for your email newsletter so that you can continue building your list and relationships over time.

Social media continues to be one of the best ways to create awareness for your work and connect with potential readers. This is because of the massive reach it offers and the ability to easily communicate with people around the globe. And, it’s free to set up an account on any of the major platforms, create posts, and build a following. If you are not already present on at least one social media platform like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, you should start building that presence now so you can let followers know how and where they can purchase your book.

One of the disadvantages of selling books direct to readers is having to manage the sales process and fulfillment.The Disadvantages of Direct Selling

While selling your book direct to readers can have many benefits as detailed above, there are also some disadvantages. Depending on which method you are using to sell, these challenges can include:

•  Learning a new technology and new platforms
•  Managing order processing, fulfillment, and customer service
•  Collecting all relevant tax-related information
•  Housing, managing, and analyzing customer data
•  Investing more time and money to drive readers to you or your sales pages
•  Lack of third-party help and algorithms to make your book discoverable
•  Direct sales don’t contribute to sales rankings for bestseller lists

Direct selling may not be right for every author. It can take a lot of time and effort to set yourself up to sell direct on your website, for example. In addition, there are up-front costs for getting started and monthly fees to maintain the storefront. Transitioning to direct selling can be smoother and more profitable for authors that are established with multiple works and some even find success using all four methods noted above. For authors just getting started, it may be best to focus on direct selling at in-person events first, then explore online options once you’ve gained more experience.

When selling books direct to readers, authors will need to do some extra promotion to drive traffic to their website or events.How to Ensure a Successful Direct Selling Strategy

The keys to success with selling direct are the author’s ability to put in time and effort to learn new skills and to dedicate a budget for driving traffic to where their book can be purchased. All of the e-commerce platforms and tools mentioned have helpful articles and tutorials to get you started with selling through your own website, and the Author Learning Center is a great resource for learning how to optimize events, subscription platforms, and crowdfunding.

When it comes to driving traffic to where your book is for sale, there are many low cost or free ways to promote your work; however, successful marketing typically requires a combination of free and paid channels to maximize your reach. Some of the best ways to drive readers to your website, events, subscription platform, or crowdfunding campaign are:

•  Social Media
•  Email Marketing
•  Marketing Materials
•  Paid advertising

Selling books direct can be a rewarding way for authors to get a better return on their investment, while building meaningful relationships with readers. For many authors, it’s a great way to complement the sales strategy they already have in place and expand their distribution. Because it can require an investment of time and money, we encourage you to do your research to determine the best path forward for you and your book.

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