How to create an online bookstore


Do you wish you could keep an online bookstore for your website so you can sell autographed books and a few pieces of branded merch? Maybe you’ve tried to do it before but can’t find a cheap or free option? I’ve finally found a solution!

Now authors can sell the books they have on hand (even take directions for personalization/autographs, etc) rather than just sending folks to amazon, or trying to tell people to email you and send money via paypal or venmo on your promise to send books.

Here’s what I found!

It used to be almost impossible to make a profit on your webstore. There were monthly fees, integration was difficult or nonexistent, and cost of simply doing business was very high. There were literally no cart-based shopping systems that I could find for free. I had gone a different method entirely and created a bookstub for each title on my website that would send browsers to my amazon listings and try to recoup amazon’s cut by affiliate links to the paperback and audible versions. That was quite a lot of work considering I’ve got like 30+ books on my site and what I use isn’t very high end (step up your game, Wix.)

Because everyone wants a cut of your author profits, or any other business ventures (I’m looking at you, IRS,) all of the services offering cart-based sales services charged for access to their platform. It’s reasonable for them to expect something, but also, by having monthly fees they’ve priced out folks who might only sell a couple books per year on a web-based sales cart. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like lighting my money on fire.

I’ve been a big fan of Square for a long time and use their services all the time for transactions at conventions, etc. I was in my account recently for something unrelated and checked to see if they had added an online selling tool… low and behold, they’ve finally got a free one! Someone finally got ahead of the curve and realized the sales-worthy pieces are upgrades for things vendors might want.

Finally, we have a basic tool to sell physical products in an integrated shopping cart. You can choose to add services that are paid which will retain email address, send ticklers for abandoned carts, and all of those other features which can improve sales efficiency, follow-up, and customer retention (which most authors already do to some capacity via a Newsletter.)

It has a cart, allows graphics and item descriptions, and allows you to customize the sales site. There are also SEO tools. Once your items are made available, you can categorize them so that people can sort your books (I did mine by series and might eventually add a category for fiction and nonfiction). Square has the ability to create gift cards, and these will also work on your store site.

To get started, go inside your dashboard, and scroll down to “Online Store.” It will log you in/sign you up for an account with Weebly. It used to be that Square offered a service like this, but then weebly wanted to charge fees. That’s not the case any more.

The Weebly interface is clean and intuitive, but only after you’ve gotten things set up. The Settings features (which you MUST be able to use properly) isn’t very good until the account is all set up. At least for me, it did not have a bunch of popups/requests to finish the walkthrough and it was a pain to find it (I think I was finally clicking into the Upgrade options to see if the whole “free” was really a lie and it was free to setup but you had to pay to use it… turns out that triggered something and finally allowed me to complete my setup.)

Why this is important is so that your account can calculate shipping costs. There is an upgrade/paid feature where this is automatic, but if you set weighted tiers and shipping costs, the cart’s checkout system will charge the correct shipping amount. You also need to set this so that your cart will charge the proper sales tax. If you don’t set this up, you will owe the government money next year for any sales made.

Once done you will have access to some neat paid features like coupons, abandoned cart responses, automation, marketing, etc. You may want to dabble with them if your store sees some success, but for now, you just want to get your items set up.

Click Items, Item Library, and then Add Item. You will want to do it this way rather than using the “Create Featured item.” I did it the wrong way first which is more like a “quick add.” In the end, I had to go back and add additional data through the Item Library so that it was complete.

When creating the item you can set what kind of item it is and what kind of payment you want (like Smashwords, you can set this to be a loose number and let customers pay whatever they want.) Enter a description, title, and pic.  You can also set items for shipping, delivery, or local pickup and have a tax exempt option. Under the variations section, set your weight of the item; this way your shipping estimator will get you the rates you ought to charge. You can also set your inventory so that you won’t sell more than you have on hand which could come in handy if you only keep a low stock. Add your categories at the bottom and you are done.

I eliminated my clunky book listing page and instead linked my new bookstore page. It still features all my book info, but now books can be sorted by category, and they can also be purchased directly from me!

You can check out my store, which only utilizes the bare minimum of available tools, and then get your own… while you’re there, feel free to purchase a book 🙂
click into my main website to see how I’ve interlinked it as a part of my page:

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