Selling to Readers on Etsy

Two women browse walls of books in an independent bookstore--an image to demonstrate how writers can sell on Etsy

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I’ve always heard that smart writers think beyond the story in terms of book marketing. Publishing expert Richard Nash has called it the”commodification of the book” as cited in this interview with Jane Friedman.  He mentions methods of connecting with super fans in the post. But I was always more interested in the personalization of books (signed copies, personal inscriptions) or maybe book-related merchandise.

In a recent Facebook post, Mark Williams of The International Indie Author mentioned selling on e-commerce site Etsy.  I had never in a million years considered making my books available on Etsy. Etsy is the site where I buy crafts and jewelry for my daughter or sister or other family member. And yet…I know writing is a craft. Somehow it just didn’t connect with me that I could set up a shop there.

Things to consider: 

There are points to consider when you’re listing your book.

For one, you can go the non-personalized path and choose to list digital copies of your books–they will deliver those.

But to me it makes much more sense to list printed books that can be signed and/or personalized.  You could also create a bundle for a special rate.

When considering pricing, you need to factor in your own costs.   How close are you to the post office? How much will shipping materials cost you? How much do the books cost you to receive from CreateSpace (including shipping).

Setting up the shop: 

It’s pretty easy to set up a shop there. If you’re familiar with any social media platform at all, the process at Etsy will seem fairly intuitive. I set mine up in probably 30 minutes and I’ve no talent in the design arena. (You can see my shop here, if you’re looking for an example).

You set up a header at the top of the page, an avatar for your shop, and upload your (‘owner”) profile.

You pay attention to keywords that will help your shop get discovered.

You can copy/paste your About page to Etsy and add pictures of you at work writing, at events, etc.

You list where you can be found around the web.

You can upload videos to the site.

Etsy helps with calculating shipping and your shop policy/return policy.

I’d recommend taking each of your books, in the packaging you plan on using, to the post office to weigh each one to make sure Etsy’s shipping calculator is accurate for readers.

Fees for Selling on Etsy

You can find a listing of all their fees here. Basically, it’s 20 cents a month for each item you list and then 3.5% of the selling price of whatever we sell. That commission they take is pretty small, compared to Amazon, for instance.  Here is Etsy’s Seller Policy.

Unfortunately, as of the writing of this post, I haven’t yet made any sales. But I haven’t promoted my shop there, either. I plan on listing the link on my website and social media when I get the chance.

Do you sell autographed books or merchandise to readers? Are you on Etsy?

Photo credit: indrarado via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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25 thoughts on “Selling to Readers on Etsy

  1. Hi Elizabeth – another fascinating post … and I’ll be interested to hear (over time) how you do … it does makes sense though … thanks again for an interesting and informative post – cheers Hilary

  2. I’m like you Elizabeth when I think Esty I think crafts, jewelry, scarfs and such. But it makes perfect sense. Esty is a store and a store is an ideal place to buy a book. Wishing you much success with this project. I think once readers find it, it will definitely catch on.

  3. Wow! I’d never thought of that, Elizabeth! That’s an intriguing idea! And I could see all sorts of ways to make one’s store reflect the sort of books one writes. Hmmm….I’ll have to think about that. I love it when you give me great new ideas.

      1. Selling books on Etsy seems so obvious, but as many people have stated on this page, you think ‘Etsy’, you think artisanal works, not writing. Such a great idea! And selling images from the books and whatever else from the story will increase interest in readers and potential readers. Rich Shapiro sells CDs that reflect his stories.
        Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth!

  4. Well I’ve heard a lot of interesting ideas over the years, but selling books via etsy is completely new to me! Will you be adding the Quilting Mysteries as well? One thing I really love is bookmarks and the only thing better than ordinary bookmarks would be autographed bookmarks. A bundle of those with the different covers would be cool. And a cheaper alternative for people who don’t want to pay the money for shipping books, which can be really expensive for indie titles.

    1. I thought about it, but I wondered if that might work with the terms of my contract with my publisher. I know I could sell my self-published quilting mysteries there and should get those uploaded.

      Great idea about autographed bookmarks!

    1. I think the discoverability is the advantage and the fact we could be stumbled upon there. On our websites, readers have to make an effort to directly reach us. Also, Etsy is supposed to help with getting customers to us…and they’ve got keywords, etc. built in to help.

  5. I too never thought to look on Etsy for books. Definitely another way to get found. Along the lines of the bookmarks and with all the rage of coloring to reduce stress, maybe consider coming up with a coloring page for each of your books. While you work with your artist to come up with a cover, request a non colored version of your cover that you can offer to your readers. This is something that you can offer as a download so no trips to the post office. Same idea with crossword puzzles and word searches with clues/words from your books/series. You could create some kind of book club bundle with book club questions and other items. Oh, sorry got on a roll with suggestions.
    I enjoy reading your blog posts.

    1. Maybe a special edition type of the Bradley Bugle. I love the idea of crossword puzzles – that’s a wicked idea. I read something recently about turning book covers into colouring pages over on Monette Michael’s site it sounds like it’s more difficult than you’d think. https://romanticimperative.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/covers-to-color-creating-illustrations-by-april-martinez/ BookDepository had colour in bookmarks in my last order.

      I guess then I should also mention CafePress – for book related merchandise. You can upload images onto all sorts of products like mugs, bags, tshirts, etc. They handle all the shipping and that. There’s lots of that Keep Calm and Carry On slogan stuff.

      1. The sky’s really the limit, isn’t it? What a fun idea, a special edition of the Bugle. :)

        I think we can sell Cafe Press or Zazzle on Etsy, but we have to contact them and jump through a couple of hoops first because it’s a 3rd party thing. But people are definitely doing it there.

  6. Interesting idea and worth emulating. One problem I see is being ‘found’ on Etsy. Since the emphasis is on crafts, etc., a search for books brings up a ton of book-related crafts rather than actual books for sale. I tried alternatives like reading, book lover and others and ran into the same problem.

    1. I agree with that, although from the newsletters I’ve recently gotten from Etsy, they appear to be addressing SEO on their site. They’ve also got something new that I haven’t really checked into yet: “Google Shopping Campaigns” : https://www.etsy.com/help/article/47671620150

      When I put in ‘cozy mysteries,’ I get the types of results I’m looking for on Etsy, but I’m not sure readers would be that specific in searching.

  7. Great food for thought and really thinking out of the box. I would check with my publisher’s marketing department, but writing is a craft. Thanks. I subscribed to your blog and want to keep posted on events. Thanks!

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