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Selling On Site:
Reports on What Works, Part 2

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The Springboarding Strategy

We’ve paid for our Web site for years by offering what we call “affiliated titles pages.” We started out with two novels about women pirates, so we put up some informational pages about pirates, then a page (tied to Amazon) listing books about piracy. We sold the general pirate books in a three-to-one ratio over our own books. And made money.

After a few months, we ran a report to see what was selling well off our site. Curiously, what we discovered was that people weren’t actually buying the books we offered, but springboarding off to other topics, almost always about historical clothing (people into pirates are very often into the historical reenactment thing).

So I crawled through Amazon’s database and assembled a list of all the historical clothing books I could, along with a summary of the publishers’ information and customer comments (“Not a book for beginners,” etc.). That’s when we really started making serious Amazon Associate money. Every six months, I update the site. It’s some 20 pages long now.

And more people wander from those pages onto our site. Direct sales are up on books we don’t offer through the trade.

So, my advice is to take the time to offer other books about your subject (but skipping the direct competition) on your Web site. You’ll make more money off the affiliate programs, and you’ll increase your site visitors.

Jacqueline Simonds

Beagle Bay Books


What Drives Traffic

We sell two different ways on our site, with an order page for people buying directly from us and with links to Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. On our order page, we offer high-quality gift books on how to use the strategies of Sun Tzu’s Art of War in business competition, and audio- and videotapes of our seminar on strategy. Occasionally, we also offer promotional items such as posters or T-shirts with our graphics, because a lot of people like our graphic design. Via the links, we offer all titles related to Sun Tzu’s Art of War, including competing books.

We discount our books online, especially when people buy our prepacks of multiple books or our old paperback editions with ugly covers. Instead of selling them to remainder houses, we offer a 99-cent book promotion on some old editions or damaged books. This drives traffic to the site, particularly traffic from Web ads.

Although click-through listings offered by Google, AdWords, and Overture generate orders, most of the dollar volume comes from existing customers who order more of our books online. Usually, orders spike after media interviews with our author, Gary Gagliardi, who mentions our Web site address every time he’s on the radio. His appearances on really big shows stimulated enough orders to crash our credit-card server, so now we’ve switched to PayPal to handle peak volume and relieve us of credit-card processing.

Rebecca Wilson

Clearbridge Publishing


The Right Words

We offer more than 150 products for sale through our Web site, including workbooks, flash cards, software, and transparencies.


Our workbooks for the K-12 educational market provide test-taking strategies, methods for reducing test anxiety, and practice for each test and each subject tested in a given state.


To generate orders, we send a catalog to every school building and every customer three times a year. In addition, we send out color postcards or flyers about new products throughout the year. We promote the Web site while attending educational conferences and exhibits.


Our URL is on everything we print. We have specific domain names for each state that will be easy for customers to remember, like www.passthefcat.com for Florida’s FCAT tests. All the domain names lead directly to our main home page. A Products button on the side navigation bar of every page takes the customer directly to our online secure store.


We do not believe in having pop-ups or click-through ads on our site because they are annoying to us. But we use the Overture.com pay-per-click service to guarantee that we are at the top of the search engines when customers search for our key words. It costs around 10 cents per click, and it has really helped us increase our Internet orders. Our Web site sales now generate enough revenue to cover the site costs and create a profit.

Cindi Englefield, President/Publisher

Show What You Know® Publishing

A division of Englefield & Associates, Inc.


Sold on the Shopping Cart

As EcceNova Editions is only a year old, we are learning at a very fast pace. We are a small Canadian company, with our own domestic distribution (for now), and we often receive phone calls from people who want to buy a single book using a credit card. Although our titles are available in many online bookstores, they want to purchase directly from the publisher–even without a discount.

To maintain the integrity and simplicity of the site, we placed Add to Cart and View Cart buttons discreetly at the very bottom of the pages after we surveyed our authors, asking whether this would “lower the tone or commercialize the site too much.” The vote in favor of using the buttons was unanimous. “Anything that makes it easier for the readers to buy the books!” one author wrote. And the buttons have paid off; some visitors have even purchased books before publication.

Since we publish religious and scientific nonfiction, many of those seeking to purchase directly from us are institutions and professors. Because we are able to fulfill orders ourselves, which we like to do at this stage as it allows us one-to-one contact with our readers, we can offer little extras. In fact, we are considering adding a “Get a Signed Copy!” tag to our Featured Author area.

To generate more orders through the EcceNova site, we have added a note about the shopping-cart feature to our email signatures and other promotional materials, and of course we have asked our authors to spread the word. And we’ve included “buy books,” “shop,” etc., among our metatag keywords.

We do not expect the shopping cart to become a major source of revenue, but we think it will gradually encourage visitors, especially returning visitors, to buy the book, and we place the book’s link to Amazon right next to our Buy button in the hope that the visitor will click on one or the other.

Alex Allen

EcceNova Editions


Now They Call It Blogging

I sell 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary and 201 Inspirational Stories of the Eucharist through Amazon and the online St. Francis Bookstore but also provide an onsite map that lists all the stores I am aware of that sell my book, so visitors can click on a state and then find a store in their area to shop from.

My daily online e-card ministry generates orders. Each day I send an e-card to 13,000 subscribers, in which I talk about things going on in my life. Now they call it blogging, but I have been doing this for about six years. When I started my book, I asked my e-readers for opinions, suggestions, and then stories. I kept them informed each step of the way as the book progressed so that they began feeling it was their book as well. Then I asked their help in spreading the word, and I set up a page to take advance orders months before the book was published. I had about 1,800 orders by the time it was printed.

I put my URL on everything, including my email signature. We send out a community newsletter to about 8,000 people by standard mail, and I always include the URL on that. Because I have an e-card ministry, I have thousands of cards that visitors can choose to send, and each one has a click-through banner about my book. Although I tried buying some Google ad words, I could see they weren’t producing sales. I dropped that after a week.

Bulk discounts at my site range from 10 percent off for three books to 40 percent off for a case of 26. I plan to offer virtual book signings in which people can request autographed copies, and I am seriously thinking of offering gift wrapping as well. Because my site is nonprofit, orders have to be in terms of a suggested donation. This usually works in my favor; I have received only a few orders of $5 or so for a book, and some people have donated as much as $100 for a copy.

At first, I fulfilled all the orders myself with an online form. After that I made arrangements with a local Catholic bookstore to take orders using their 800 number; 98 percent of their orders came through my Web ministry, and they sold thousands of books. Now I redirect orders either to my printer, Park Press, or any number of online bookstores that I offer links to. My first printing of 5,000 sold out in less than six months. My second printing of 10,000 took about that long to six months sell. My third, of 20,000, is selling much more slowly, but is picking up now that my second book is just off the press.

I am using all these same techniques for my second book, 201 Inspirational Stories of the Eucharist. This time I set a goal of trying to sell 5,000 books from July 15 to September 1. So far I have sold 3,762. I don’t think I will make the goal of 5,000 but that is okay. The advance book price was ridiculously low (only $10), but basically what I wanted to do was make enough to cover my printing costs and create a buzz for the book–both accomplished.

Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

Francisco Monastery Publishing


Selling On Site Is Essential

Selling online is both a blessing and a curse. It is also a necessity. In this modern world, anyone who doesn’t have a Web site that can take orders is regarded with the same level of suspicion as someone who doesn’t have a telephone number. Customers want it to be Amazon-easy, no matter how small a company is.

Although some people still view ordering online as dangerous, their numbers are diminishing rapidly. I buy about 300 books a year, about half of them online. If I have to go more than three clicks, I am out of there. I will go over to Amazon where I can order the same book with one click, and willingly pay more in shipping. Get over it, folks. Buckle down, bite the bullet, and pay for the shopping cart. They can be had so cheaply these days that even expense is no longer an excuse.

Gloria Taylor Brown

Get the Glow/Pop the Cork Publishing


Selling On Site Isn’t Fair

At Avery Color Studios, Inc., we do no Web retailing. We do not think it would be fair to our thousands of wholesale accounts to sell direct via the Internet. Quite a few of our customers have our books online, and we would just be stealing revenue from them, and eventually from ourselves. More publishers should be thinking along those lines. What is the old axiom–Don’t bite the hand that feeds you?

Wells Chapin

Avery Color Studios, Inc.

Attracting Alumni

Our Web site is important because we publish a series of baby board-books for alumni of major universities across the country to read or look at with their children and grandchildren, and it can be difficult for alumni to find their school’s book in stores if they’re not still in its geographic area.

Most visitors come to our site after seeing one of our books to find out if we have one for their alma mater or favorite university. We also use some Google AdWord advertising. Additionally, we list our site on the back covers of our books to provide a stable means of reaching us for both consumers and retailers. Word of mouth is the best means of generating traffic; people see the URL on our books and come to get more information.

Brad Epstein

Michaelson Entertainment



Simple Steps

We have all our books–about 180 titles, most of which are mystery fiction–online. We use a free (as in no strings attached and no advertising) shopping cart provided by Mals Ecommerce (www.mals-e.com), which is extremely easy to set up and use.

Customer buys a book; we get an email saying we have an order for X copies of book 1 and Y copies of book 2, etc. We then go online through a password-protected secure site to get the details about credit card and where and how to ship. We process the order and transmit it to our fulfillment house, Publishers Storage and Shipping in Ypislanti, MI, for them to pick, pack, and ship.

Robert Rosenwald

Poisoned Pen Press


A Download Stimulates Sales

So far, we sell only one book on our site, High Probability Selling. However, sales of the book, including the audio version, pay for the site, its maintenance, and all our marketing and overhead expenses. More important, sales of the book result in hundreds of people, and companies, enrolling in our sales training courses, or buying the recorded versions of the courses, which are our main source of revenue. Some 96 percent of the people who participate in the courses read our book first.

Our site has about 30 pages; almost every one of them mentions the book in some way, and each of them has one or more links to our order form.

Our most effective Web-site promotion is a free download of the first four chapters of the book. Most of the people who end up on our order page click in from the free chapter pages.

We pay an excellent Web-marketing specialist to get us listed on the first page of the top search engines for the 12 most frequently used keyword searches for our specialty. We provide articles containing a link to our site to several email newsletters that have a high percentage of salespeople and/or entrepreneurs on their subscription lists. And we have an ongoing public relations program that frequently gets us mentions and feature articles in magazines and newspapers.

The only discounts we give are on quantity purchases. That way, we don’t compete with retailers, most of whom do discount our products.

Nevertheless, direct sales account for more than half our product sales.

There are three reasons we handle fulfillment of onsite orders in-house:

    • We can give outstanding personalized service to our customers.
    • The contact information that we get with each book sale is more valuable to us than the profit on the sale.
    • We’re not willing to risk the heart of our business to save a few bucks.

Jacques Werth

ABBA Publishing Company


Using the Gift of Time

Conventional industry wisdom gleaned from the PMA University and the BEA Convention hints that Web-site sales are the domain of the hopeful. However, I know from the Yahoo POD chat room that many small publishers do manage to sell quite successfully online, on their own sites as well as through Amazon and the others.

It seems to me that time is the online store’s greatest asset, and continuing to increase site visibility is the best way to make it work. An online store is not the only way to market books, but it is an essential ingredient of a publisher’s credibility and eventually of a successful bottom line. We have just completely revamped our site, and for the very reason stated here. We’re growing fast!

Valerie Connelly

Nightengale Press


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