Selling Books Online from Your Own Website

selling-books-onlineI started selling my books online from my own website in 1998. For the first couple of years, more orders came in by phone than through the website. What often happened was that someone went to the website, decided to order the book, then called me on the telephone because they did not want to enter their credit card information on my website. This was probably a result of not knowing anything about who was behind the website, and also just the general unease many people had at that time with ordering online. Once they talked with me, learned I was a real person, and felt comfortable with me, they were willing to order over the phone.

I can point to an exact date when it all changed. In 2002, I was featured in Woman’s Day magazine. They mentioned my book and my website. Because I was expecting to get slammed with phone calls, I set up a fulfillment service to take orders.

To my surprise, More than 90% of orders came via the website. About 5% came by telephone through the fulfillment service, and the rest by mail or fax.

I attribute this to two things: People were starting to feel more comfortable ordering online. They had ordered things from Amazon and other large companies and understood the process better. Nothing horrible happened when they ordered online, so they felt better about ordering from other websites.

The second, and probably more important, factor was that I had credibility due to being in Woman’s Day. The people who read that magazine trust it. They assumed that Woman’s Day would not put my website in their magazine if it was a scam.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be in Woman’s Day or another major magazine to get people to order directly from you. What it does mean is that you need to establish credibility.

Here are several ways you can make your website credible and encourage customers to buy your book directly from your website:

  • Have a professional-looking site. List your contact information on the site, including an address and phone number (not just email).
  • State that your ordering process is secure. (It is, isn’t it?) Include appropriate logos that give credibility, such as the Better Business Bureau,, HackerSafe, VeriSign, etc. It couldn’t hurt to display the logos of the professional and industry organizations to which you belong.
  • Mention awards or media exposure you and your book have received.
  • Put up endorsements and blurbs. The fact that my book, The Mystery Shopper’s Manual, is endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association gives it and me instant credibility.
  • Encourage them to order directly from you by giving them something they won’t get at Amazon. For example, I autograph books sold at my site and give customers a free PDF download with clickable links to the online resources listed in the book.

Make them feel comfortable about ordering from you, and they will. Some will go to Amazon to get a discount or free shipping, or just because they feel better ordering there. Some will go to their local bookstore because they prefer to buy that way. And some will buy from you. Bottom line, what is most important is that they buy the book. But the extra margin you get when they buy from you makes it worth the effort to encourage direct sales.

Cathy  Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual, the only book for mystery shoppers endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. You can learn how to become a mystery shopper at