How to set up shop - virtually by Cally Phillips
This post is partnered with my regular blog slot of 4th June in which I’ll look at the ‘whys’ of setting up an online store. For this slot, I’ll confine myself to how to set up an online store for ebooks. Sorry, there are no pictures but that would take me another half hour or so of time I don’t have and if you’re interested enough to read this, I don’t think pictures will do much but distract you. If you’re easily distracted… (see, lost them already!) What it lacks in pictures it makes up for in hyperlinks. Much more useful things.
Let’s start at the very beginning:
The price objection
The first thing is, it’s going to cost. While you can set up an online store using a variety of free software, I have not found (and believe me I’ve tried) any way to set up a store which will allow digital downloads without forking over money.
So now we’re looking at cost and ease of use. I researched this area for a couple of years (during which time options changed of course) and the best I came up with for cost and ease of use was Weebly.
Weebly is an easy to use, drag and drop website. You can have one for free, but to host a store you have to upgrade to the Pro or Business site. For digital download you need to use the Business site. I’d used Weebly free for over a year and been very happy with their interface and service and ease of use, so when it came to paying money for an ecommerce add on, I bit the bullet. Here is the link to my own online virtual bookstore. (Great bargains to be had!)
In a nutshell: Why use Weebly? It’s easy and it holds your hand through the set up process. I’m sure there are other options but I’ve not found one that suits better. Weebly also gives you a blog as part of the website so you can have all your online activity in one place. And like I said, it’s an easy, drag and drop interface with online help at every step. As one who first started building websites in Dreamweaver in the 1990’s and then migrated to Wordpress (free version) in 2011, Weebly has made life a lot easier, quicker and simpler and until I needed ecommerce, it was also free.
And the downsides?
Of course there are downsides.
You have to pay in dollars annually in advance for your ‘monthly’ subscription. Currently for the Business site it’s just shy of $20 a month. (£12) This is the only version of Weebly which allows you to sell digital as well as actual products, so for ebooks it’s the way to go.
Here’s their own description of how the ecommerce features work.
But you are interested primarily in how to sell ebooks (digital product) through your own website, right?
Becoming a virtual bookstore.
Okay Step 1. Bite the bullet and set up the Weebly site (you can put your own domain name – recommended if you’re running a ‘professional’ type store) or use a weebly one.
Step 2. Either decide to ‘migrate’ your old site with all blog gubbins etc to Weebly (thus saving you money if you are paying another host, or saving you time if you have a range of ‘free’ options around cyberspace) or build a whole new site from scratch – or just build a store. I think it’s missing a trick simply to use Weebly for the ‘store’ feature though and since you’re paying you might as well get full use of the facility. So now, for around £150 a year you are getting a fully configured website, blog and ecommerce store. Put it that way, if you’re already paying for hosting, it’s probably not that much extra.
Step 3. Have your product ready. That means have your ebook digital files ready for upload. Cover images and blurbs at the ready. If you’re smart you’ll sell in both Kindle (mobi) and epub formats and you may want to cover all bases and sell pdf too. Calibre is the simplest conversion tool and now (I’m happy to say) you can pretty much rely on it and not have to worry about learning Sigil – unless you are going to do complex things requiring images).
Step4. Do a bit of research. Go online and look at digital stores, virtual bookstores etc - this alone will show you that while it may seem a bit of a gamble at this point, the challenge to Amazon is coming and you may as well be ready for ‘niche’ online sales opportunities of the near future. (More on this in the companion ‘why’ post on 4th June.)
Step 5. Set up your store. Drag and drop the products. Insert your product blurb, set your price and upload the files. Apply ‘coupon’ discounts, set the number of times or days which a person can download the ebook. Remember that you may have contractual obligations re Amazon who reserve the right to price match (I don’t know if Smashwords do this too) when fixing your price. But at your own store you can offer short term discounts for personal promotions. (If your ebooks are on Kindle Select you can’t even begin to think of setting up your own store by the way!! Never forget the small print.)
Step 6. Counting the money. Sadly, right now the ways of getting money in are limited in the UK to paypal (which people can use credit/debit cards to pay with but YOU need a paypal account to take the money) so you’ve got to figure in transaction charges and run a paypal account. But that’s not too expensive or onerous.
So these are the basics in how to set up an online store which you can use to sell digital download product (ebooks) – and of course when you have the store you can also sell physical goods too.
And if you want to give it a go to see how easy it is to buy – go to my store and pick up a bargain! (that’s from the Bill Kirton school of not so subliminal marketing!)
Now you have till next Wednesday (June 4th) to work out reasons WHY you’d want to set up an online store for ebooks.
I agree with Valerie that it's great to be able to update your own website, and these 'flat-pack' sites make it very easy and affordable.
I use Jimdo myself, have done for several years, and I'm very happy with their service. What they offer, and their prices, seem comparable to Weebly, so I suppose it's a matter of looking at the designs and deciding which you prefer.