Wooing, like buying and selling, is a business of trust. If you can’t trust the other person, the lovemaking turns from hot to cold in a flash. I recently had an experience that dented my trust, and led to me trying something new that adds some security to my wee little publishing business.
What happened was this. I’d gotten an email asking for a signed book, and I was happy to oblige. I do – did – this very informally. I email back for the address and give the seller my paypal information. Then I sign, doodle, and otherwise deface a perfectly good copy of one of my books, drop it in the mail, and about a week later I usually get another email saying thanks!
Only this time I hadn’t heard anything after about a week. And by anything, I mean there was no moola in the account from this person. Being a polite, shy, retiring author, I emailed and asked if they needed a paypal invoice, and had they gotten the book? I heard back quickly. No, they didn’t need an invoice and the book was great!
Huh. One trust relationship shattered on my office floor. I sat there staring at the computer and thinking. Ok. There was more than that, there was leaving for math class and other stuff. But I had a little epiphany. It wasn’t that I needed to never sell anything again, it was that I needed to pull my trust circle in to family and friends, and make a more professional way for people to buy my wares. I knew that when I was setting up the photography site for a class project, I’d found paypal ‘buy here’ buttons that could be used (in theory) to sell things without going through the trouble of setting up a special commerce site. Which used to be, anyway, expensive and a royal pain to set up and maintain.
So what I needed was a plugin for a WordPress site that would allow me to hawk my wares and look professional, while making sure I got paid. First rule of writing, that. After some research I decided to give WooCommerce a whirl. It was very easy to install, and it automatically set up things like a shopping cart, a ‘store’ tab on my website, and a place where people can set up an account. In short: a bit more than I need now, but it leaves a lot of room for expansion, which pleases me.
As you can see, you have a plethora of options to choose from. I wanted to go with WooCommerce in part because they offer more payment options than paypal, which not everyone loves. I was very happy to discover that they have the set up to do coupons, and sales, with minimal effort on my part. So if I wanted to offer, say, free shipping over a limited time. Or maybe $5 off a signed book suitable for Christmas giving.
I chose to set my shipping fees at a flat rate of $3.00, because that’s about what it costs me to mail a book, or a piece of art. I didn’t want to go higher and gouge my customers, that swings the pendulum back into the broken trust zone, only this time they’re not happy.
I also can set my inventory to reflect how much of any item I have on hand, which you should do so you don’t oversell. For instance, I’m selling matted original pieces of artwork – there is, and always will be, only one. If I sell two, I’m in trouble. Other things you should keep in mind is not selling ebooks this way, if you are exclusive to Amazon. They will find out, you are violating TOS, and they will shut you down. If you’re not in Select, have at it. Print books, especially as you are signing them, are a different kettle of fish and one you can do to your heart’s content. I try to keep my prices consistent with what Amazon charges, only I deface the copies!
Setting up the product page for each book can be as simple or complicated as you want it. You’ll want an image, of course, but you can choose more than one to create a gallery of images. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking posed shots of my books in funny places, but I don’t have time and it’s not necessary to sell them. When I put up my chain maille dragons, though, I’ll probably have some fun with the images. The product description should be succinct, if you’re having trouble with what to write, go look at some of your favorite online shopping places, like ThinkGeek. I have been writing something like this:
You tell me what to write in the book, and then I sign my name after defacing a perfectly nice trade paperback. A few days later, a not-so-mysterious package arrives in the mailbox of your choice. You get so many choices here: you’re in control! Go you!
Trickster Noir is the second book in the Pixie For Hire Series. You can find the ebook version at Amazon.
Because I’m a bit goofy that way. I then put the actual book blurb in the Product Short Description, as it aligns the blurb nicely next to the cover image like so…
As you can see, this is not a difficult process. Adding products can be done, as I have been doing, one at a time when you have a few minutes. Right now I can choose to publicize them the same way I do my blog posts, using Jetpack to push them out to G+, Facebook, twitter, and more. After some experimentation, I can turn that off, which I would choose to do anytime I’m adding more than one product at a time – I don’t want to swamp my followers, and they have the idea now. I also have a widget in my sidebar that shows the products, in addition to the ‘shop’ tab on my menu which shows them all (and looks spiffy, I must say). In time I will sort them by tags and categories so shoppers aren’t wading through art when they want books or vice versa.
Whew. I’m about talked out. If you have questions in the comments I’m happy to help you with them if I can.
They do not make clear what you pay. Is it possible to go entirely free and just pay for a theme if you don’t want to use the free one?
Well, I’m using the free plugin and my WordPress theme, not a woocommerce theme. Is that what you had in mind?
Yeah – was hard to believe – I though there must be a catch to free…
I haven’t found it yet, although I’m with you – they have to make money somewhere.
I spent a bit of time looking at their FAQ, and it appears that a license (required for continuing updates and technical support) and additional customization options are all available for a fee. I expect Woo hope to hook folks on the basic package and then make money once people see they need. Depending on how their product works, it may also have some telemetry feature so Woo gets customer usage data they can sell.
Entirely possible, and I have no problems with buying licensing if I grow to the point I need more than the simple stuff to begin with, which is unlikely.
Shame on that person. Wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t send the book until Paypal confirmed money received? Did the now thief respond to requests for payment?
‘Trust but verify’ leaps to mind.
It would be better, but with my schedule I wanted to mail it before it fell into the cracks and I forgot. I decided that I wouldn’t pursue the matter: I just used it as a fulcrum to make my business methods better and more professional.
Since you obviously have their name and address…
I have this cousin Vito who owes me a favor.
We’ll hold Vito in reserve for bigger jobs 😉
Relatively cheap lesson, but irritating enough that you remember.
Sounds like you learn quickly. I found my reaction interesting. I’m usually not so black and white.
Well, I’ve had more expensive ones. Keep in mind this is a tiny business for me, compared to one I’ve run for more than 15 years now. So I’ve learned lessons, and sometimes they apply to this one, and sometimes not. Often I’m re-learning, or reinforcing things I should have already known.
And I get to learn vicariously, which I much appreciate. Business is fairly logical IF you look at it right, but you have to know things and do things or get all fouled up.
That’s the part I hope not to do too much.
My bank assured me that I can get a business account when I need one – but that I probably don’t yet. I have an EIN – but won’t use it yet.
Since I have now made more money from my writing (about $30) than ever before ($8 was my take for a story in an anthology – I didn’t even cash it because I want to frame the first dollars I ever earned by writing), I am trying to do thing properly.
Neat! Bookmarked yet another MGC post for when I can actually use it.
In the meantime… Must. Resist. Visiting. Cedar’s. Site. At least until I get the already planned Christmas shopping done. (Doesn’t mean you get nothing from here – there are several books on my wish list already, if anyone bothers to pay attention. Hrmm. Girls? Favoritist spouse ever?)
Wasn’t linked to sell you things 🙂 I needed to have examples because sometimes just text isn’t enough.
useful enough that I’ve filled it in my permanent “writing stuff” file!
Do you have to add taxes? That’s what’s been keeping me from selling from my site (well, and now being in K-Select).
It is certainly something you will need to account for to your state if you live in one with a sales tax. I keep track and add it into the taxes when I do them – but I don’t sell much out-of-hand so it’s not a big amount to worry over.
Bookmarked as well. Thank you for writing this, Cedar.
I’m happy to be able to pass on my lessons 🙂
Thank you, Cedar.