For the last couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with selling directly through my selz store and I figured I’d write an update about what I’ve done and how it’s been going.

The biggest problem as an indie author is how do you find readers if you don’t have a built in name. I’ve got a core cadre of dedicated readers (and than you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me) but if I ever hope of making a living at this, I need to grow my reader base.

So back in February, I set up my selz store. It was incredibly easy to do and there are a lot of customizations that I’ll probably do in the future but right now, I’m still trying it out. I started simple: added in digital copies of my current indie novella and just let it cook. It didn’t do much but I wasn’t overly concerned.

bfore I fall 3d2When it came time to get ready to launch my new series with Before I Fall, though, I needed a plan that didn’t involve shotgun blasting Facebook ads and having little to no click through. So I uploaded a three chapter sample to selz. There are separate files for kindle and epub and pdf and they are clearly labeled so readers don’t get confused. I also started targeting specific, popular authors on Facebook with the ad linking them to my selz page.

The results were pretty damn good. This is by far the most effective marketing I’ve done to date. There is a very strong correlation between the number of preorders and the number of samples downloaded. For every click through to the site, I end up with a 30% conversion rate – which means 30% of the people who visit end up downloading the sample. I can’t track exactly whether or not the sample leads directly to a purchase but the numbers of samples lines up very closely with the number of preorders. So I cannot say that my free samples on selz is causally related to the number of preorders on all my new releases but only that the free samples are definitely helping drum up traffic.

And the only thing is costs me is the advertising money on Facebook. Which if you haven’t done their Facebook for Business program for ad optimization and you have a set amount of money to budget for it, I highly recommend it. I have no problem paying for advertising if it leads to actual sales and learning to maximize Facebook is well worth the time and money.

The other benefit to using selz is that you have customer information. Obviously, you don’t want to go adding people to your mailing list without their permission (trust me, I did this accidentally once and I still want to die of embarrassment every time I think about it) so if you do want customers to sign up, make sure they opt in. But being able to contact them and say hey, the entire book is available if you’re interested definitely helps.

I won’t be pulling away from the major retailers any time soon. The vast majority of my readers are on Kindle, iBooks and Nook and I fully intend to make my readers’ lives easier by making sure they can get the books where they’re most comfortable. But selling directly is also something I plan to continue so long as it remains easy for my readers to do. I wrote about how selling directly benefits me financially to sell directly as I retain a higher percentage of each sale.

It also gives me flexibility to offer readers unique access. homefront 3d finalFor instance, Homefront is available right now from me directly. It’ll be on sale on April 7th from all the other retailers.

And I’m offering up signed copies for a pay your own price promotion to raise money for Project Sanctuary on Back to You and It’s Always Been You (and we’re running low so if you want these, don’t wait).

And I’m going to figure out how to bundle print and digital so if anyone wants to buy a print copy of Before I Fall from me, they’ll be able to get the digital book from me directly, too. Look for that soon.

The only drawback is that sometimes, people’s credit cards block the transaction because is located in Australia- meaning you’ll get a processing error message. But if that happens, readers can pay through paypal. All in all, though, I’m incredibly happy with my selz experiment and I definitely plan on continuing it.

It’s all part of this brave new world of indie publishing. One of the things I truly love about being indie is having the flexibility to try new things, adapt and adjust if things aren’t working.