GUIDE FOR AUTHORS SELLING DIRECT
Who Am I?
Hi, my name is Remy and I’ve been designing websites for two decades and many with a retail component. I have been working with WooCommerce for the last three years through my book cover design business. As an author, I finally got fed up with significant losses through other retailers. I’ve gone direct with my romance pen name and have plans to do the same with my science fiction. I am currently helping a client start their journey to direct. I am going to document the process here. It can feel like a herculean task with many moving parts, and it is. But I’ll help break it down into some clear actionables that you can tackle at your own pace.
PHYSICAL BOOK PREPARATION
I want to make no assumptions about your reasons to go direct. You may want an option to create special editions only sold through your website. You might want to include ebooks and audio. Your road to world domination might be through amazing merchandise. But because some authors are in exclusive deals with eBooks (Kindle Unlimited) and Audio (ACX Exclusive) I’ll start with the one item all authors can jump into: print sales.
STEP 1: START A BOOKVAULT ACCOUNT
Before we start, why BookVault? Currently, Ingram and Lulu offer similar direct options with website integration. Having needed to reach out to BookVault on several occasions to ask questions about currency conversion and title setup, they have been amazing. I am almost shocked by the quality of their customer service. The downside is that they’re based in the UK (be prepared to do currency conversions) but as I write this; they are expanding into the US, which means shorter shipping times and lower shipping costs. Together, this makes them my company of choice for physical books.
This is a fairly easy step and doesn’t require any commitment or money. Go to BookVault and create your account. You can skip the IOSS (VAT) number if you don’t have it. This can be included later.
STEP 2: UPLOAD A TITLE
Before you dish out money, read the points to ponder. BookVault has a pay-up-front model for uploading titles. You can pay per book title, or get a subscription that allows for unlimited uploads. If you’re a member of ALLI there is a code for five (5) free uploads a month. You do not need to upload any assets at this time. You can leave them in limbo for now. I have about 10 titles with no covers or interiors, but they’re ready to go when I’m ready.
POINTS TO PONDER
$$$$ – Cost Saving Tip. If you have an extensive catalogue, subscribe for one month to their highest tier and create all the titles at once (with or without assets.) You can then cancel it. Do what makes the most financial sense for you. You can also only do your hardbacks or paperbacks. It’s not an all or nothing system. While you’re getting comfortable, start with the titles you think will appeal most to your readers.
$$$ – Banking. Finances are something you should start considering. I STRONGLY recommend having an entirely separate business account not connected to your personal accounts. I know plenty of us have our finances tied together, but with the possibility of hundreds of micro-transactions coming and going, it’ll make tracking your finances easier. I’ll get into this more in-depth in the future. But start thinking about your options. I currently use Square because it has a WooCommerce built in option. But there is also Stripe. I don’t recommend Paypal, but that’s because I’m bitter about how they handled some disputes for me a while ago. You can also do it with a physical bank. Do what works for you. But consider splitting your financial self for better tracking.
Create a BookVault account.
Upload your first title to BookVault
Merchandise can be part of your master plan to go direct. It could be postcards with exclusive artwork or mugs with character art, and just about everything in between. But not all Print-On-Demand (POD) providers are not created equal. The providers with the lowest cost rarely have integration options. Sites like RedBubble do not have a native integration with WordPress and require copious amounts of copying script or sending readers to their website to make a purchase. You’ll want a POD company that has direct integration, such as Printify and Printful. These websites come with WordPress plugins that will make porting products into WooCommerce, and allow you to keep your readers on your platform.
STEP 1: START A PRINTIFY ACCOUNT
I am going to use Printify as my example, not because it’s any worse or better than Printful. I have accounts with both, but ultimately chose Printify because it offered specific products I wanted to sell. You should browse their catalogues to see the differences in products, variations of products, and the prices. This will ultimately be personal to your author journey.
STEP 2: UPLOAD YOUR FIRST DESIGN
To get started with your merchandise, you do not need to integrate it with your WordPress site. We’ll do this later as we bring all the individual elements together. Right now, we want to focus on getting the individual elements in place. Once you have your design, you can start building your product.
When you’re ready to integrate Printify into your website, these mockups will act as your customer images. You can all, some or create your own. At this point, I have found the mockups to be fairly close to the final product (enough that even with a designer’s eye it’s hard to spot imperfections.)
The description comes with some generic information filled in such as the size and type of printing used. I tend to delete most of this and use my own information that is unique to my product. This will also port over to your website once you integrate. If you’re not ready for this now, you can save it for later.
Here’s the most important section to examine. Every time somebody buys your product, you will be responsible for the printing and shipping costs. There are two schools of thought here: 1) Make your retail price high enough to cover both. 2) Set your retail price but also make your customer pay for shipping. I suggest the later of the two. Unless you are a wizard of shipping, it’s hard to predict shipping prices. What if your customer is in Australia? Also make sure you’re considering taxes when you set the price. The IRS will eventually want their cut of the pie.
POINTS TO PONDER
Commercial License Required. Just because you have a book cover doesn’t mean you have the rights to sell it as a poster or a t-shirt. Most cover designers (myself included) use a standard license. This allows an author to create ebooks, print books, and audiobook covers… but not merchandise. This goes the same for commissioned artwork you get of your favorite characters. What does your contract say? You have a contract… right? If you do not see verbiage that specifically addresses commercial rights or merchandise rights, talk to your designer and artist. They’re not cheap, but they’ll protect you from legal recourse.
Country of Origin. Each product on Printify has a Country of Origin and this can greatly affect the shipping. I have a single product from Canada and with most my readers in the United States, shipping is drastically higher. You can filter your products by country of origin. If most of your readers are in the U.S., you can keep shipping lower by using U.S. based companies. But don’t let it stop you from that awesome product you want, just be aware your customer (because remember, we’re making them pay for the shipping) will need to pay more.
Your Accountant Can Help. Let’s be honest, taxes are downright scary. What is my tax rate? How does a tax nexus work? Does my state require I tax shipping? What about those dreaded VAT taxes? This is where your accountant is your ally. When I was ready to open my store, I showed my account all my prices and what I wanted to take home in pocket from each purchase. He helped develop an equation that ensured I was seeing a profit and squirrelling money away for retirement, taxes, and my checkbook. It only took an hour, and it was money extremely well spent.
Create a Printify account.
Upload Your First Design
Order a “Proof” of your Product