How To Sell Ebooks Online – The Hard Honest Truth About It

selling ebooks

How to sell ebooks online? There is an answer.

Unfortunately, it is probably not one that true indie self-published authors would like to hear.

But it’s clear.

Forget the rest and concentrate most of your book marketing efforts on Amazon Kindle.

Do you have choices?

I have been self-publishing for so long now that it is hard to remember when I started.

But during all these years, I have always been or at least tried to be a proponent of open publishing.

By this, I mean having my ebooks available on as many retailers as possible.

I have done them all.

Not only Smashwords and Draft2Digital and their aggregated retailers, such as Apple, B&N, and Kobo but also smaller retailers and online publishers.

For some time, I gave Google Play a fair run too.

It’s difficult to remember how many times I’ve been in and out of KDP Select exclusivity.

I have had some ebooks available on Amazon KU only at certain times.

But I have almost always had the majority of my ebooks available on as many retailers as possible.

Yet one fact is unavoidable.


But Amazon sells more ebooks

I’ve tried and been very patient for years, adding links to all these retailers on all my book promotion pages.

I’ve added retailer widgets to my blogs and even written blog posts to encourage readers to consider ebook retailers other than Amazon.

But the only ebook retailer that delivers a royalty payment every month is Amazon.

It’s a tough truth, but in all honesty, it seems that only Amazon knows how to get readers to buy ebooks.


Less need to promote

I don’t have to add links or do any special promotions.

Nor do I have to buy ebook promotions, give away ebooks, or even post my ebooks to social media for Amazon to deliver sales.

All I have to do is publish my ebook, make sure I have selected good keywords and categories, and then let Amazon do what it does best.

Sell ebooks.

It goes against my independent grain to say so.

But after years of trying, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that there is only one retailer that knows how to get people to buy ebooks.

No matter how much noise other retailers may make or how much they complain about unfair or monopolistic business practices, in the end, they just do not sell enough ebooks.


In my dreams

I wish (read here doubly, triply hope) that Amazon’s ebook retail competitors would or could learn how to encourage more readers to purchase ebooks.

But after so many years of disappointment, I doubt it.

Let’s face it. Only Amazon innovates and attracts readers and, more importantly, ebook buyers.

Sure, other ebook retailers make noises about changes, refinements, and new services for self-published authors, but do they innovate?

I don’t think so. They tinker around the edges.

Apple should be Amazon’s strongest competitor, but it has done nothing innovative to inspire authors.

Apple can’t even make linking to a book page easy to help you promote your book.

Have you ever tried to add a link to an ebook on Apple on social media?

If you have, you will know how cumbersome using Apple’s Link Maker is. Then when you do make a link, sometimes it only opens in iTunes.

If you are lucky and someone bothers to click, it will take an age for iTunes to open on their computer or iPhone.

But bad luck if they have an Android phone or don’t have iTunes on their PC. Innovative? Hardly.

Of course, it’s easier to add a link to B&N, but it will be, as it is so often in my case, always to my ebook with a three-year-old cover.

I don’t understand why B&N can’t update book covers.

But sadly, it doesn’t seem to be able to manage it all that well.

So all the time and money I spent on new covers goes to complete waste by linking to B&N.



You can read this post as a grumble.

But when it comes to deciding on how to best position your ebooks, I have to say that there is only one answer.

Forget the excuses, moans, and wishful thinkers.

Make your decision based on making money and who delivers ebook sales and a royalty payment every single month.

I could do a lot of research into how many ebooks I have sold over the years with various retailers.

But there is no need. I only have to look at my bank statements to know.

Am I still an Indie author?

I would say yes because I have made my distribution decisions based on who I believe can deliver ebook sales for me.

How to sell ebooks? It’s a pity, but the answer is singular. Amazon.


Related reading: Amazon Search Results For Books Guide For New KDP Authors

10 thoughts on “How To Sell Ebooks Online – The Hard Honest Truth About It”

  1. So then who decides what is good and what is not good? And is it so bad that indie authors are writing short stories to make extra money or to work from home? It’s like saying that since porn or indie films that only make it to YouTube aren’t Academy Award winners or blockbuster films that they serve no purpose.

    And what about those people who are actually *buying* the smaller books? How is this not a good thing? Maybe they don’t want to read other books, maybe this is what they want to read. Are you suggesting they shouldn’t because it’s not a NYT best seller?

    Sounds to me like you’re grumbling over the fact that times change and technology is making it much easier for folks to do things they want to do – regardless if it’s their true and only life calling.

    While you’re at it, why don’t we get rid of Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and other sites where people can make extra money – after all, they aren’t the mall!

    Deal with it, I say. There were other authors who said the exact same thing about you and your peers when you got started. And look at you now! Comments like you only make me want to publish more and prove that self publishing is a viable and here-to-stay source of income.

    1. Great comment, Diane. Who decides what’s good or not? – The readers. Personally, I would never read 50 shades but “the readers” decided that it’s a book worth reading. The end!

      The bigger damage is caused by book marketers who promise tips to write a “bestseller. How can anyone promise that in a market that produced 1 million books a year and 870K nook the year before and so on? – – – These marketers lure in people who never meant to write a book. I call it “the poor man’s lottery.” They just try to see if things shell out.

      Of course, nothing is wrong with that except that in the process Amazon’s glorious review system got destroyed. People who never reviewed books put out tips like “just send top reviewers an email… (tailored from attached template…) ” The final result was that authors flooded top reviewers Inboxes with up to 10,000 email per year (you can trust me on that. I surveyed them.) And, finally, the top reviewers locked off their emails. Next said marketers said, “We’ll help each other.” (and founded review clubs.) Which led to Amazon tightening their algorithm. That tightened algorithm also kicked out 17% Hall-of-Fame reviewers. You can look it up. If you see a zero on the right side of the page, that reviewer lost their review privileges.

      Long story short… this is how so called “book marketers who never reviewed single book destroyed Amazon’s glorious review system. And, of course, they did it to profit themselves, so they could say, “We’ll help you to publish a bestseller.”

      All of this happened in less than three years. Now authors who really work their craft have a harder time to score with readers. .

  2. The problem, as several research shows -this is the case of one of the articles in Harvard Business Review- is a risky to trust in Amazon. They are copying the best products.

  3. The problem is as most know; there are far, far too many authors but far, far fewer good writers. Most every discussion on this topic seems to be dominated by the singular concern of ‘how do I sell more books?’ I know this sounds quaint and idealistic but there was a time when writing was regarded as a calling, when the impetus for putting your thoughts on paper was motivated by the innate drive of self-expression and, a genuine desire to clarify, to elucidate, to offer a new way of considering and solving questions and problems faced by individuals and societies; now it’s seen by many as simply a way to stay home and make money. I read an account recently of a woman who said that in the last year she published 8 titles. How likely is it that these works have serious intrinsic value? Another boasted that she wrote a book in 3 weeks. I ask you; is it any wonder that the market is flooded with mediocrity. You need only read the first few pages of the majority of what’s offered at Amazon to see this. Most who consider themselves capable of writing should ask themselves what their real motivations are; if it’s to be seen and called, an author, then their heart is in the wrong place. They would do much better if they volunteered their time to any of the worthy causes that need help in their communities.

    1. @Michael McKinney,
      Totally agree with your findings. I am taken aback when I see authors “simply trying new things.”
      Lately, I see many postings “I decided to try my hand at writing (… any genre…).”
      Did Hemingway “try his hand” at Sci-Fi?
      Maybe he did, but if so, he didn’t simply publish a sci-fi book and expect the world to embrace it.
      Which is exactly what so many new authors do.
      This must be the result of seeing too many FB ads that offer “(Achieve this or that goal) without any prior knowledge,”

  4. Bold advice indeed. I used to think that Amazon was the only deal worth having. After the debacle of Kindle Unlimited, I took everything out of Select and KU and put my titles everywhere – a year later, Amazon accounts for 1/3 of my revenue. I know that every self-publishing author has a different experience of using the different platforms – the best advice is to try them all and see what happens – and be prepared to wait, and work hard and maybe go a few months without a sale. Being Indie and signing up for Amazon’s exclusivity deal (especially since the changes to KENP) are poles apart in my opinion. And I have to say, Amazon makes authors lazy when it comes to marketing.

    Alp Mortal

  5. Yeah. I’ve posted links to other sites, tried to promote other retailers, and I do have my books on all platforms. I can’t even find my books on iTunes sometimes, But Amazon outsells all of them, to the extent that I might not sell a single book on Kobo this month, and maybe a couple dozen through all the SW retail channels. Amazon, at least a hundred books this month–a number which has been falling since summer.

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