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 madeΒ  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.

Putting Your Book Cover on Canvas for Cheap

My first shipment of Monsters All the Way Down arrived! Less than two weeks to the launch party in Amarillo–everyone’s invited.

book stack

My wife had a great idea, and I wanted to share it with you folks. If you want a large, attractive way to show off your book cover at signings and the like, consider printing a canvas. I was able to get a quality 20 x 30-inch version, and it looks amazing.

book mantle

I got mine from Canvas People for only $44.80. Wait for their sales if you can! I held out for 60%-off and free shipping (which I believe is going on at the time of this writing). You may be able to shop around other sites for a cheaper price–just make sure to read reviews. I’m very happy with how mine turned out.

A couple of tips:

  • Give yourself as much of a buffer as you can before you need the canvas, because it took them about two weeks to ship my order.
  • Make sure you have a print quality version of your image. 300 dpi is usually recommended.
  • Consider how you’ll display it. The cheap easels I found locally were pretty flimsy, but they have some on Amazon with decent reviews.

There you have it: an easy way to spice up your reviews, and hopefully a cheap resource you can use for other projects.

*Full disclosure: I use Amazon affiliate links every chance I get, but I am unaffiliated with Canvas People. The referral program they use doesn’t give people nearly as good a deal as holding out for the 60% sale.

How I Used Reddit’s r/writing to Find my Cover Designer

Monsters All the Way Down cover

Once I decided to go the self-publishing route for Monsters All the Way Down, I wanted to do it professionally or not at all. This meant hiring someone to do the cover.

Googling failed me. I sent out a Twitter SOS and connected with some excellent designers, but none were the right fit for Monsters–or for the novels in progress that will connect with it. I considered hiring a comic artist, but it became apparent designing the cover for a novel is different than illustrating for comics.

My buddy Josh Jordan hires photographer J.R. Blackwell and designer Daniel Solis to make some of his covers, but most cover designers in my price range put a heavy emphasis on stock images. There is nothing wrong with this approach, as evidenced by the majority of published books, but I wanted something a bit different.

I lurk Reddit’s r/writing, so I looked there. I stand before you now, the only person to have benefited from the infamous Reddit search engine.

This past NaNoWriMo, Rory Harnden made covers for author free of charge. Liking the look of them, I tracked down his website. I emailed the information he requested, and asked for a price quote on both an ebook cover and a wraparound print cover.

In my initial request, I attached some images I thought could help, including a devilish mask, a white suit, and an album cover with a style I liked.

Rory got back to me in the next day with a reasonable price. After payment and more information from my end, he worked up four impressive concepts. After narrowing it down to my favorite, I made a quick mockup to see how it looked as a thumbnail on Amazon. I got a confirming second opinion from my wife and asked Rory to run with it.

We emailed back and forth on the details. Rory’s in the Netherlands, so his 7 am is my midnight, but he always got back to me quickly. A couple of times I asked him to make a change only to regret it. He was consistently polite and didn’t mind changing it back to before my meddling. I asked him to include my favorite element from a rejected concept–dripping ooze–on the back cover.

Once the cover was finished, he sent me the images and other pertinent information–fonts used, copyright information, etc. I bothered him once more to make sure I could use elements from the cover in promotional material, and that was that.

Monsters All the Way Down wraparound cover

Along with print quality covers, I received the image in black and white, a version without text, and several versions of the formatted title as an image.

Elapsed time from request to files in hand: two weeks. Would have been even faster if I hadn’t gone back and forth on those minor details.

If you’re needing a cover–or any graphic design work, for that matter–I recommend Rory Harnden without reservation. He’s professional, fast, and accommodating of wishy-washy first-time publishers. You can contact him from his website at rrry.me.

My tips for self-publishers seeking a cover designer:

  • Establish your budget. You can be thrifty, but a $5 cover will probably look like a $5 cover.
  • Shop around. Google, Twitter, deviantART, and Reddit are places to cast a wide net.
  • Make sure you know the designer’s policy on revisions and how the material can be used.
  • Ask questions.
  • Make sure the cover looks great at the size of a postage stamp, as that will be how many first see it. Would it draw your attention if you scrolled past?
  • If you need a print cover, know your cover size and word count before seeking out a designer, even if it’s an estimate. CreateSpace and other print-on-demand services will provide a template your designer might need. 6 x 9 inches is a popular cover size, but I went with 5.25 x 8.
  • Provide suggestions and some starting points. You’ve lived with your book for a long time, but this will be the first the designer is hearing of it. You know the tone and motifs of your book better than anyone. Don’t expect the designer to read your book.
  • Ask for the changes you want. You’ll hopefully be associated with this image by billions of adoring fans, so it’s worth the time to get it right.
  • Realize it takes time to make those changes. You may get a quick turnaround, but it may be a day or more before you hear back.
  • If you’re planning on doing more than one book, keep that in mind. You may want a designer you can use for multiple projects, and some designers give a discount for work on a series.

So that’s the story of my first time getting a cover made. If you’ve had an experience with a cover designer, positive or negative, please share in the comments.

Monsters All the Way Down is scheduled for release August 1st.