Publishing Ebooks with E-Junkie and PayPal

Time for another update on my new and revised ebook business. As I reported in an earlier post, my initial problems with customers not seeing the download link on e-junkie and sometimes losing the confirmation e-mail to spam filters was my fault. The fix was letting e-junkie show their "Thank You" page which includes a download link, rather than my own thank you page, which I'd set up years before for selling books direct with PayPal. Since I made the change last month, the sales process has been nearly flawless, I think I've only had to send one follow-up asking why the customer hadn't downloaded the ebook yet.

I just did a quick scan through my e-junkie account reports, and I can already count ebook customers in 18 foreign countries. The list now includes: Japan, Bermuda, Australia (8), Mexico, Sri Lanka, Netherlands (3), Ireland (3), Cyprus, France, United Kingdom (13), Italy, Honduras, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Austria and Saudi Arabia. It seems to me that in my first month selling ebooks, the split between the US and overseas sales was around 50/50. It's now running around 75/25 in favor of the US. I'm not sure what caused the change, perhaps statistical insignificance, perhaps a change in the wording of my sales links.

The business model of publishing ebooks is remarkably similar to publishing print-on-demand books in one obvious way. While publication takes place when the first copy is sold, or made available to potential customers, the publishing process doesn't involve the creation of stock or warehousing. A single electronic copy is all that the publisher need produce, after which the customer copies are generated by electronic reproduction or printed on demand. Since the books I publish are nonfiction how-to books, rather than literary keepsakes, I'm not married to the idea of killing and grinding up trees for the sake of being a book publisher rather than an ebook publisher.

In the case of my latest book, the ebook is priced at $13.95 and the 191 page paperback (8.25" x 11") at $24.95. An attempt to promote the paperback version immediately led to a crash in ebook sales. I only pushed hard for a week, but I easily lost two ebook sales for each paperback sale generated. That doesn't jive well with my previous ebook experience, where the ebook sales and the paperback sales seemed to be tapping two distinct markets. But there are some fundamental differences with this book as compared with my previous ebook releases. First, the ebook and paperback aren't priced the same. Second, the paperback version on Amazon falls just under the free shipping amount, so customers who are initially attracted to Amazon may get halfway through the buying process and then decide to put it off (forever) because of the shipping cost. When I went back to emphasizing the ebook sales over the paperback sales on my website, the ebook sales bounced right back to where they left off. But the relative shortage of paperback sales may also be influenced by the Slow Tail sales cycle, the idea that a good proportion of customers simply take time to make up their minds. Maybe I'll see a handful of paperback sales this week based on last week's promotion.

Another interesting point about ebook sales vs print-on-demand or offset published distribution sales is the additional visibility into the customer base. My print-on-demand books sales are generally more trackable than regular offset printed sales would be, yet I can only estimate where the books are selling by comparing Amazon and sales ranks with Ingram sales reports. With the ebooks, I know where each and every copy is going and with a little more work, I could determine exactly which page on my website generated each sale. Unless things change, I can heartily recommend e-junkie for publishers looking for a download solution for their ebooks that ties in easily and painlessly with a third party payment system, like PayPal.


Uri said...

It's interesting that you would price a book only a nickel away from the free shipping option. Morris, wouldn't you earn more overall by raising the price just a little to get into free shipping territory?

Morris Rosenthal said...


The $24.95 list price will usually be discounted, since the book is in distribution at a 40% discount. In fact, it was $17.98 this morning at Amazon, but I see they just changed it back to $24.95 again. They've been all over the place lately, which is why I always quote the cover price on my own site, rather than the selling price, which I have no control over.

But it's a fair point in the normal sense, and if I thought online sales would be a major outlet for the book I would have gone with a different pricing structure. But the genre is dead in Amazon, the bestsellers don't sell a copy a day. I'm just curious to see if a chain will pick it up based on walk-in demand as happened with my previous flowcharts book.

I'll have to keep an eye on your FOREX blog, you're blowing away my "short the indexes" strategy, though not by much this month:-)


Uri said...

Morris, you raise a very interesting point. I'm wondering, is it really probable to have a book in a genre that has minimal interest on Amazon yet enough interest through other venues that a publisher would want to carry the book? You've got lots more experience than I do, but it seems unlikely to me.

Also, thanks, but to be honest, don't waste time with my blog. The more I get into publishing, the less time I have for Forex. Thanks to great sites like yours, I've improved and focused my publishing activities in a significant manner.

Morris Rosenthal said...


There is absolutely a market for books that don't sell on Amazon, it all comes down to marketing. If you have a website, for example, that gets people interested enough in a topic to buy your book when they just wouldn't be looking for it otherwise, you have a book that will do better off-Amazon then on.

A large portion of my own Amazon sales have always come directly through my website because the subjects I write on just aren't that popular in the "I think I'll go shopping at Amazon" sense. I really need to make the sale through large excerpts before somebody is interested in buying the books. For the time being, my ebook sales of my laptop repair book are outstripping the paper sales by at least 4:1, and the book has been in the top 3 on Amazon for the subject since the day it was released. It's just a very low sales genre, like football vs baseball books. The top laptop book on Amazon may average 1 copy a day.

And there are plenty of publishers who make a good living through bricks-and-mortar placement of their books, ranging from specific self-help or how-to titles to impulse buy gift titles, titles which people only think to buy when they are in specialty shop making related purchases.

The Amazon centric approach is ideal from some books, and doomed to failure for others. You really have to know your market. The publishers who do best on Amazon are those who choose titles to publish where Amazon can be the primary, or even only, market.


Zoe Winters said...

heh, I actually purchased your book by going to Amazon. I had a lot of self publishing books, and I don't discount their theories and practices some of them I think are fantastic, but all I heard about POD was more about "POD publishing scams" than about the actual technology and how it could be utilized to start something low risk. It boggles my mind why more self publishers don't acknowledge that when you OWN the work and you are the publisher of record, then you can use something like Lightening Source AND an offset printer if it comes to it. It's just technology, folks. I do not get it.

Plus there is a part of me very much against the wastefulness inherent in the offset model as a starting point for a book. With all the returns, it's just bad for the environment.

The publishing industry is always the slowest to change their ideas on anything and I think those who just jump in and do what makes sense anyway, will reap the biggest rewards in the long term.

Morris Rosenthal said...


You're 100% right, and I won't be surprised if in a year or two, my ebook sales are higher than my paper sales, which is fine by me.


Fred Zimmerman said...

Thought you might find "Checkout by Amazon" interesting.

Morris Rosenthal said...


I'll have to look into it more carefully sometime, though I didn't see a download service incorporated. It would have to be pretty compelling for me to try for two reasons. First, a big reason I went with PayPal/E-junkie was to give me a new non-Amazon channel. Second, a hefty percentage of the sales are from countries where Amazon has (I think) less presence than PayPal. I've only been on the new ebook publishing system for three months, and I've already drawn customers from 26 countries.


Mike Fook said...

Nice article. I've used ejunkie for content delivery before, mostly as I received Wordpress themes I bought online. I hadn't thought of using it for distributing my ebook securely.

Also today I read that it only cost $5 per month. I'm hoping that still holds true.

Prior to this I was emailing my Thai Black Book ebook to buyers. My connection is slow so, not all that smooth a process when it won't upload for me multiple times!

I just found your site a minute ago. I want to see if you have anything regarding using Google books to market your ebooks. I'm also trying that - and getting some clicks, so perhaps it's worth it?

Thanks again for the information I found here.

Morris Rosenthal said...


I'm still paying $5. I never went the e-mail delivery route, worry to much about time lags.

By using Google to promote, I'm not sure whether you mean Google Adwords or getting search traffic. My whole business model is built around my website, which depends on search traffic, and I've written quite a bit about it, including a case study of a recent site launch that also featured a lot of video content. Read through some of the backlog.

BTW, I rarely approve comments on blog posts this old, just happened to have some extra time today. If your questions don't matchwith a newer post, just e-mail be direct, my contact info is all over.