Shipping books is not something authors typically think about until their book is about to be released. First and most important, you should start with a sales page for your book on your website. The sales page should include:
- The book cover image
- Sales copy – reasons why people should read your book
- Author bio – even if your bio is listed elsewhere on your site, include a brief bio on the sales page
- Testimonials – from actual readers or authors in the same genre, if you have them
- Sample – you can provide a downloadable Table of Contents and/or a sample chapter or two – the goal is to get buyers interested and you’ll have a better chance of doing that if you can give them “a taste”
- Purchase options
For purchase options, you will need to decide whether or not you want to ship your own books. Not all authors want to do this, and it’s perfectly okay not to. Though you usually earn more money from your books when selling them directly versus selling through retailers.
If you do want to sell direct, you’ll need to add a shopping cart button to your website, which allows readers to pay via credit card. The easiest way to accomplish this is by creating a shopping cart button via Paypal. There is no up-front cost, though you will pay a small processing fee for each transaction as you would with any credit card processor. For each sale, you will be notified via email and should ship the book within one or two business days.
Shipping Options for Books
There are several ways to handle shipping.
- Media Mail – The US Postal Service offers media mail, which is a low-cost rate that can be used only for mailing books or other media (like DVDs). You will need to purchase your own envelopes to use media mail (padded envelopes are recommended) and will either have to visit the post office to have your postage printed (a giant pain!) or subscribe to a postage printing service such as com or Pitney Bowes. Note that media mail is a fourth-class rate, which means that it takes longer for these packages to arrive at their destination. If you use this service, I recommend paying a few extra cents for tracking so you can find out where a wayward package is located. You also risk packages taking a week or longer to arrive, which can frustrate buyers.
- Priority Mail – The US Postal service makes it easy to use this service by providing free envelopes which you can order from the site. You can also print postage directly from the USPS website, and even request a special mail pick-up from a postal carrier at no charge. It does cost a couple of dollars more than media mail, but will arrive much faster and look more professional.
- Priority Mail Flat Rate – Flat rate envelopes are also available from the post office and can often save in postage costs, especially for shipping one or two books at a time.
- Federal Express and UPS – The rates for these services are typically rather high for individual book delivery, but can be competitive when shipping larger quantities of books. It’s a good idea to get rate quotes from each, plus the USPS, when shipping one or more cases of books.
Additional Considerations When Shipping Books:
- When readers buy your book, they will expect to pay for shipping—so shipping fees should be passed on to the buyer and incorporated into your ecommerce shopping cart system.
- A postage scale is essential if you want to avoid time-consuming trips to the post office. You can purchase a decent one through an office supply store or eBay for $30 to $40.
- Readers love an autographed copy, and that can be another incentive to inspire them to buy direct from the author. Take time to personally inscribe and autograph each book.
- Insert marketing collateral into the package including bookmarks, postcards, flyers or other materials.
- You can purchase padded mailers in bulk through shipping stores or on eBay.
What to Do if You Don’t Want to Ship Books
It’s perfectly acceptable to avoid shipping your own books, but you do need to provide a way for potential readers to purchase. Make it easy for them by including one or more links from your website to an online retailer such as Amazon. While you won’t earn as much money on books sold through retailers, routing sales to Amazon can have some perks since you can boost your book’s overall sales rank on the site. Amazon gives a higher priority to books that sell well, so if you consistently send buyers for your books to the site, it can have some long-term benefits when your book is served up in Amazon searches more often and given greater visibility across the site.
As a bonus you can sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program and earn a small percentage of each book sale generated, which also includes a percentage of anything that buyer added to their cart at the time they bought your book! Sign up for the Amazon Associates program here.
You can also offer your readers a multitude of options. You can allow them to purchase direct from you, and also offer a link to Amazon, a link to BarnesandNoble.com, and a link to purchase the ebook edition of your book. Giving them choices will only make it easier for them to make a buying decision and will help you capture more sales.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with templates, checklists and worksheets for self-publishing. Check it out!