An Easy and Cheap Way to Sell eBooks in Person

In a Panhandle Professional Writers workshop, the speaker (whose name escapes me) mentioned selling eBooks in person. She said everyone did it “using cards” so they would “have something to sign.” According to her, some folks collected them like Marvel Universe Series 1 trading cards. Or maybe that was just how I heard it.

We'll always return to the one true line-up.

The only true Fantastic Four.

When the time came to actually make these cards, I couldn’t find any information online about how to do it. I wanted it to be automatic, with a link or a QR code (so fancy!). Dropcards is a company making something similar to what I wanted. The prices are fair but higher than I wanted to spend. So here is my cheap, professional-looking, DIY solution involving postcards and a sign-up sheet.

It took about three weeks for my cards to show up from the discount printer, so give yourself as much lead time as you can. If you can get these done two months before you need them, you should be covered in case you make a mistake or there’s a printing error.

First, obviously, you need your eBooks. For Monsters All the Way Down, I made .epub and .mobi files. Those will cover just about any ereader device. There’s plenty of info out there on eBook creation, but it can be a bit confusing. Someday I’ll compile a list of all the tips and tricks I compiled.

Making the postcard images wasn’t difficult. Since these are going to be printed, you want them at 300 dpi. If you’re printing a physical book, your cover should already be this quality. I decided to make one side of the postcard my cover, and the other side one of the images I created for this site. The dimensions will depend on how you’re printing the postcards, and be aware that they will probably be different than those of your cover.

If you don’t want to make the images yourself, talk to your cover designer. They will probably help you out, but don’t expect them to work for free. Here are lower quality examples of the two images I used, side-by-side. You’ll probably want to leave more room for the bleed than I did.

ebook purchase receipt example

Folks are divided whether the digital edition title I made is cool or stupid and impossible to read.

On the side opposite the cover, I put ‘Monsters All the Way Down: Digital Edition.’ At the bottom, I wrote, ‘If you have not received an email containing your eBook files within 24 hours, please contact us.’ Under that is an email I set up for this purpose and my website.

Unless you have a way of doing it cheap at home, you need to find someone who prints postcards. I needed the right balance of cheap and quality, and ended up using Vistaprint. They had a discount on postcards at the time, so they won’t always be the cheapest, but it cost me $28 for 100 cards with one discount, $35 for another 100 with a different discount. I’ve also had great results printing business cards at 123print.

Here’s how the postcards look in reality.

ebook receipt in real life

They’re bigger than they look. I have tiny doll hands.

These are color, two-sided postcards printed on recycled matte. I always prefer matte over gloss, but that’s just me. If you wanted to save on cost, you could print them one-sided, and include contact information with your cover. I just preferred the look of an unmarred cover on one side.

The mistake I madeĀ  BOTH TI–sorry, both times I printed was that the backside was flipped. I wanted the postcard to be like a book, where you turned it over horizontally and it was still right-side up. Imagine flipping a book and the blurb is upside down. Different printing sites make it easier to avoid this mistake, but at Vistaprint I got it wrong twice. If you have any doubts at all, try and order samples or talk to someone directly at the company about what you need to do.

Print a sign-up sheet asking for the customer’s name, email, and whether they would like to opt into your email list. I charged a flat $5 to make it easier to give change, and I was able to accept credit or debit cards through my phone with PayPal. Square is another popular option for accepting cards.

If you’re as full of yourself as I am, you’ll want to to put your John Hancock on the cards if requested. I used a silver metallic Sharpie for this, since it showed up better than a regular Sharpie or my fountain pen.

I told anyone that bought the digital edition that I’d send it that evening. Sending the email right then would be even better, but I couldn’t think of a smooth way to do that with attachments from my phone. If someone has a solution other than forwarding an email (wouldn’t that look cluttered?), please comment below. I’ll post it here and give you credit.

Here’s the text of the email I sent. Feel free to modify it and use it as you see fit. Don’t forget to attach your epub and mobi files! I sent each message out individually and addressed to the recipient. If you decide to send them out in batches, for goodness sake, use BCC instead of CC so you aren’t giving away email addresses without consent.


Subject: Monsters All the Way Down eBook delievery

Dear [Name],

Thank you for purchasing the Monsters All the Way Down eBook.

Attached to this email are two different files, an .epub and a .mobi. The .mobi is intended for Amazon Kindle devices, while the .epub should work on other ereader devices.

These files are DRM-free, meaning you can read them on as many devices as you desire.

The process to add the file to your device is quite simple. Below are links explaining various methods.

You have two options to add the .mobi file to your Kindle:
How to transfer files to your Kindle by USB
How to email files to your Kindle

To read an .epub file in iBooks on an iPad or iPhone:
How To Open EPub Files Directly In iBooks

There are many options for reading an eBook on an Android device. One option is listed below:
Upload PDF and EPUB files to Google Books on Android

There are numerous other ereaders on the market. If yours is not included above, please consult the manufacturer’s website or the device documentation.

Thank you again for supporting Monsters All the Way Down. If you have any problem accessing the book files on your device, please contact me. I’d be happy to help you enjoy my book.

(Place fancy email signature here)


I also sold the eBooks through my site using a PayPal link. Since Monsters All the Way Down is now in the Kindle Select program, I’m only selling eBooks through Amazon. But I think the postcard method worked well when I needed it.

If anyone has other suggestions for selling and delivering your own eBooks, please comment below.

How to Feel Like a Big Shot Author at Your Book Launch

Much of this advice also applies to book signing events.

I was a basket case leading up to the release of my book. My stress level reached 2.5 on the wedding-day jitters scale, equal to 3.2 oh-god-it’s-the-math-final-exam-and-I-never-showed-up-to-class nightmares.

Publishing a novel was terrifying for me. I was confident that it would succeed, but there was still that nagging doubt that I was deluding myself. What if my beta readers lied to me? What if I’m not just the hack fraud I know myself to be? What if I’m a talentless hack fraud? Added to the usual anxieties of an event like this–What if no one shows up? What if I forget to zip my fly again?–it was enough to keep me up at night.

My wife was a big help; she prepared great snacks and was kind enough to handle the kids (it was important to me that they be there). I combated my anxiety by taking control of what I could and trying to forget about the rest. Here are a few things I did to get ready for the event. I’m talking about an in-person launch, not a virtual/online launch, which I didn’t pull off nearly as well. But my meat-space book launch was phenomenal.

When and Where: Choose the Right Venue

I decided there were two ways to handle a book launch party: (1) a private event, where I beg all my friends and family to show up, or (2) a public event, where I beg all my friends and family to show up, but I also have the opportunity to sell books to the public. If I were traditionally published, I might have gone with option 1. But I need all the exposure I can get, so I went with a public event.

You want a place with plenty of foot traffic, and where people are thinking about buying stuff. My grandfather-in-law Ken Wampler has a gallery at the Sunset Galleries, which is an old mall that’s been converted into studio and gallery spaces. It’s well known around town because of the Art Walk, a free event held the first Friday of every month. Ken was generous enough to let me set up shop in his gallery, and I sold books to familiar and unfamiliar faces all night. Many of the galleries have snacks for people, and the cupcakes my wife made also brought in folks.

It was a successful venue choice for me because it’s a recognizable location and there would be a crowd even if no one I invited showed up. Which brings me to the next thing.

Getting People to Show Up

Everyone who cares about you needs to know about your book launch.You want to get the word out through social media to the point where you’re worried you might be annoying. You know when your Facebook friends keep talking about their wedding or the imminent birth of their child? This is that important, and you shouldn’t feel bad for being excited, because it’s no one’s job to be excited for you. Whatever you’ve got, make it an invitation to your launch. Twitter, your mailing list, everything.

The most successful ways I reached out to people was in person and through Facebook, and I think I pulled it off without being annoying. If I talked to someone in the couple of months leading up to the launch, you can bet I mentioned it. As for Facebook, I invited everyone on my fan page and everyone on my friends list. Was it a bit spammy? Maybe. But this was a major milestone for me, and if people can’t be bothered to know about it, do I really need them as a friend?

I also sent out press releases, which actually netted me an interview with a local radio station, Mix 94.1, which was cross-posted to its sister stations. I’ll go into detail on press releases another day, as it was worth the time I put into it.

All of this effort meant that I had a huge group of encouragers and supporters show up for my launch, in spite the terrible storm we had that night. If you have enough people planning to come, you’ll survive missing the folks that couldn’t make it but wish they could.

There were many people who showed up because they’d heard about it from someone else. It would be worth your time to make a list of people that would tell others to come, and make sure they know the details whether they can come themselves or not. It could be worth making flyers just to pass on to these type of people.

THINGS I COULD HAVE DONE BETTER: If I’d had time, I could have posted flyers at local libraries and coffee shops. I was just too slammed for time to do it properly. And as I said, I didn’t really do any kind of virtual launch party, and I should have. I also didn’t post on community event bulletin boards or Craigslist, although I did post on my local subreddit.

The Pen is Mightier: Getting Ready to Sign

My penmanship brought my elementary teachers to tears. Realizing a major component of my authorial first impression would be how I signed my book, I needed to take drastic measures.

I bought a reasonably-priced fancy pen–TWSBI Diamond 580 Clear Fountain Pen, 1.5 mm stub nib–and a bottle of J. Herbin olive-colored ink. You can also get very cheap, usable Chinese fountain pens from eBay if that’s your thing. I practiced my signature like a middle-school kid. Armed with a list of my favorite quotes, I was ready to inscribe me some books. Quite a few folks complimented the presentation, which is the most narcissistic thing I’ll say today.

pen

I might have cried at this part in Wreck-It Ralph.

When you sign a book for someone, talk to them. This is your chance to gather information for when you eventually steal their identity. Ask who you want it made out to. Be sure how to ask how to spell their name, even if it seems obvious. If it’s a couple and it seems appropriate, ask if you should make it out to both of them.

Being Seen: Signage and Such

Make sure people know what you’re doing. Have as huge a stack of your books as you can get. I had a large canvas version of my book cover, which attracted a lot of attention. I made a cool sign using old frames and chalkboard paint, but it broke as I loaded it into the car! Maybe I’ll post it once I get it fixed.

You can also get a retractable display by googling or shopping locally. It’s basically an upside down projector screen, with the screen being the sign. They look first rate, are very affordable, and you can print different signs to reuse them. I’ll probably get a couple down the line.

You’ll also want to have your business cards available. Little stands for cards, prices, and a hashtag are available at office supply or craft stores. I also printed up several of the masks from my book cover and put them on sticks for photos. It looked cool, but not many people took advantage of it.

The Money

You need a way to keep track of sales. I had a tally mark system that fell apart as soon as things got hectic, but I was able to track my numbers by the number of books I had left and the amount of money I took in. I had a receipt book, but no one wanted a receipt.

Make sure to have prices visible, and make them round numbers if you don’t want as much hassle with change. I rounded to the the nearest $5, so I only needed $5 bills for change. Make sure you have something to keep your money in–it would be real easy for it to walk off.

You need a way to take debit or credit cards. The most popular way is to use Square or Paypal on your smart phone. They provide a free card scanner that plugs into the headphone jack. Make sure you can get a signal where you’re at, or get access to the Wi-Fi.

Are You Selling Digital Copies in Person?

I’ll go more in depth on this with another post (Here it is! – future Ryan), but I sold digital copies at my launch. I printed up postcards with the cover on one side and contact info on the other, which gave me something to sign (I used a silver Sharpie). People that purchased the digital book put their email on a list and had the option to opt into my mailing list. I later emailed them the mobi and epub files and instruction on how to install them on most devices.

I no longer sell digital files directly, because I’ve become part of the Kindle Select program.

Take a Deep Breath and Have Fun!

Once you’re there and set up, most of the stress is no longer applicable. Relax, spend time with friends and family, and meet some new people that might become your biggest fan. Encourage folks to post to social media and leave honest reviews when they’re finished. You’re usually working alone in the dark, so have a good time being an author in public.

book launch 2

Monsters All the Way Down is Available Now

Monsters All the Way Down

Once Upon a Time Called Now

A DNA test ties Brennan Wade to murders he did not commit. With Joan Runciter, the only surviving victim, he uncovers a world of horror.

Monsters All the Way Down is officially available for purchase! You can get it in softcover or for your Kindle from Amazon (more retailers to follow).

Amazon Link: Monsters All the Way Down softcover

Amazon Link: Monsters All the Way Down for Kindle

You can also purchase a signed copy directly from me with the PayPal link below. This is for US shipping only, please contact me for international orders.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Signed Softcover PayPal Link

For all of you that have helped me along the way, thank you. I couldn’t have done this without my family and friends.