I’ve released and self-published everything from studio albums to royalty-free icon sets to vegan cookbooks. What I’ve learned is that the finished product you are going to sell is only a small piece of what’s required to actually sell it. There’s more to be done. A lot more. So let’s dig in.
For any digital product, you need to think about the format you’ll be creating it in. Will it work on mobile devices? Does it need to? Will it work on a Mac and a PC? What’s the best quality it can be created in, while still being manageable in terms of file size? Does it need to be available in multiple formats? Does it need an ISBN?
Ebooks can be PDFs, mobi, epub or even a proprietary format like Apple’s textbook/iBook format. All of them, except a PDF, can’t be formatted or designed too heavily. This is why I have gone the PDF format in the past, so I can style/brand and really design the digital books I sell.
Music can be MP3, WAV, AAC or a myriad of other compressed or lossless formats. MP3s tend to be the most widely used and work on the most devices (from a normal PC computer to an iPhone).
There’s also always the option to bundle several formats together. Your book could be delivered as a PDF with epub and mobi files included, or your album could be MP3 with links to larger lossless files if someone wants them.
Thinking about how your audience will consume your digital product, and on what device, is key more people actually purchasing it.
Giving away part of what you’ve created has become the norm for self-published digital work. If the right portion of what you’ve created is given away for free it’ll tease people into wanting to get the rest. A sample also gives potential customers a glimpse or a taste into what they’ll be getting, which builds the trust required to make the actual sale.
Your sales page is obviously important as that will both show potential customers what you are offering and give them a (hopefully) easy way to purchase it. The norm at the moment seems to be long-form sales pages (that scroll forever), which I’m personally not a fan of. If you can’t convince someone they need your digital product in a sentence or two, you haven’t clearly thought enough about it’s value yet.
Be clear and concise in the copy to make it about them. How will they benefit? Why should they want to pay for it? How will it make their lives better? Why will they want to tell everyone they know how awesome it is? You’ve created something that you think will help or enrich someone else’s life, so focus on that—in a few words as possible.
It doesn’t hurt to have real testimonials from people that have found value in what you created. You should send what you’ve created, for free, to at least a dozen folks well before you launch. That way, when you do launch, those testimonials are in place. Testimonials build credibility, it’s that simple.
Ecommerce & Delivery
You’ll need to both collect money from purchasers as well as give them the file(s) they’ve just paid for. Both of these tasks should be completely automated and linked together so that no additional work on your end is required to make the sale. There are loads of websites and online applications that do this, and I’ve tried most of them.
I’ve found sellfy works best for my needs, and here’s why. The purchase page you get is simple and basically showcases a product photo, short blurb and big buy button. There is nothing leading away from the buying process. They integrate with paypal (and soon stripe!) and deliver the purchased file to buyers via an elegant, customizable email. On the backend it tracks who bought what, how many times they downloaded it, and reports on sales, social media shares and clicks. It does everything I need and there’s no bloat. They’ve also built a social media sharing discount option and have the ability to offer affiliate programs.
Even if you focus on selling your digital product on your site, it’s still wise to have it available where people regularly shop. If it’s music, it’s got to be on iTunes. If it’s an ebook, make sure it’s Amazon.
Thankfully there are services setup to distribute independent work to these massive etailors. Again, there are a plethora of websites that offer this service, but I’ve always gone with CDbaby for music and BOOKbaby for writing (they’re the same company). You upload your product and they distribute it to the major places people buy similar digital products. Neither service costs very much either ($50/album and $100/book).
Media and/or affiliate information
Whatever you’re selling, make sure there’s a page or section dedicated to helping people promote your product. Give folks things like badges, social media sharing prompts, contact information for interviews, a short product description and a short author bio. Basically anything that would help someone quickly and easily write about you, share your work on social media or tell others about you should be clear. Also offer high resolution images of the cover of your product and your photograph.
The most effective way to reach anyone is through their inbox. So make sure you’re collecting email addresses for a product-related mailing list. Offer incentive to sign up, like sharing valuable content with them or giving away part of your product to subscribers. These people can be your best sales team if you use your mailing list effectively and connect with them in the right way (be honest, be yourself).
Create an auto-responder (an email that’s generated automatically) for every purchaser. I set one up for a week after someone buys a book—which my mailing list software does for me magically—to check in after a nice amount of time, see if they enjoyed what they bought and ask to share it with others if they found value in it.
The best, and scariest part of launching your digital product is actually launching your digital product. Make sure to test EVERYTHING first. Are payments being processed? Are files being delivered? Is the mailing list capturing any/all purchaser emails? Do the digital product files actually work on as many different devices as they need to? Don’t let your first customers be your bug testers.
To build a buzz and generate some excitement, make launch day fun. Offer something ephemeral or limited at launch (like a discount or a limited-time special offer).