Shipping books is not something authors typically think about until their book is about to be released, but selling books directly is most profitable because you don’t have to give up 40% to 55% to retailers. If you want to sell books or other products directly from your website, you’ll need to develop a process to ship them.
There are several ways to handle shipping.
- Media Mail – The U.S. 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. Good options include com or PitneyBowes.com. 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, we 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 U.S. Postal Service makes it easy to use this service by providing free envelopes which you can order from the site (usps.com). You can also print postage directly from the USPS website, and even request mail pick-up from a postal carrier at no charge. Priority mail costs 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 when shipping small quantities of books.
- 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
- Online buyers expect to pay for shipping. 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 online retailer for around $20.
- Readers love an autographed copy, and that can be an incentive to inspire them to buy direct from the author. Take time to personally inscribe and autograph each book—and let buyers know about this on your book sales page.
- Insert marketing collateral into every package. You might include bookmarks, postcards, flyers or materials that promote your other books, services, products, courses, etc.
- You can purchase padded mailers in bulk through shipping stores or online retailers like com. Remember, if you ship first class via USPS, you can use their free envelopes and shipping boxes.
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.
You can and should sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program, known as Amazon Associates, and earn a small percentage of each book sale generated. With this program, you can generate a link to your book that is embedded with your affiliate code so that when a user clicks through from your website and makes a purchase, you earn a small (itty-bitty, teeny-weeny) percentage of the sale. And, if at the time of purchase the buyer also has other items in her shopping cart, you’ll earn a percentage of those items too. You never know. Your book buyer might also decide to buy a kitchen table or a flat-screen TV at the same time as ordering your book! Sign up for the Amazon Associates program here: affiliate-program.amazon.com.
By the way, you can offer your readers a multitude of purchase options. You can allow them to purchase direct from you and/or include links to your favorite indie bookstore, Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Smashwords.com, and Audible.com.
This article is an excerpt from The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan: The Professional Guide to Profitable Self-Publishing by Stephanie Chandler and Karl W. Palachuk. Get your copy: http://nonfictionbookpublishing.com.