Links to Happiness: Using Universal Links to Sell Your Ebook

by | Oct 18, 2017

By David Kudler

What’s the most efficient, buyer-friendly way to get your ebook into your reader’s hands?

The ideal way to sell an ebook is from your own ecommerce site. The two reasons for this should, I hope, be fairly self-evident:

  1. You get to keep 100% of the revenue[1]
  2. You get to keep the buyer’s info (though they need to agree to let you use it)[2]

That being said, there are likewise two — well, three — very good reasons that most purchases don’t occur on authors’ sites:

  1. Ecommerce solutions are a pain to set up and maintain (and I say that as a fairly tech-savvy person) [3]
  2. Buyers are wary of giving someone they don’t know their personal data, credit card number, email address, etc. [4]
  3. Buyers don’t always know how to load an ebook they’ve purchased from your site[5]

The fact of the matter is, then, that the vast majority of purchases occur not on our beautiful landing pages, but on established retailers’ sites. The buyer is already used to purchasing and downloading from their favorite ebook store; the store may even be built into their computer or tablet or phone’s operating system (as it is with the Apple iBooks Store, Amazon’s Kindle Store, Rakuten’s Kobo, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Android’s Google Play).

If you want to make it as easy as possible to buy your book, then, you want to link to your buyer’s favorite store.

But which store is that? Amazon US? Kobo France? Nook? [6] Google South Africa? Livraria Cultura in Brazil?

The temptation is to add every possible link to your landing page, the way I did back in the dark ages:

Eesh. I hand-coded every one of those links, found the icons… What a pain. And it doesn’t even look that great.

There must be a better way.

Enter the Universal Link — a single web page/URL that you can share that will send your excited prospective reader to the store of their choice.

So here’s how that same landing page looks today:

See that ORDER ONLINE button? [7] That leads to a page where the reader can choose to buy the book — from just about any store at which it’s available[8]:

Landing page

Not only does that page allow you to choose your favorite store, it also links to your local version of that store — and even adds the appropriate affiliate code in! [9]

I can hear you ask, But how do I GET one of these shiny buttons?

They’re provided by two different kinds of services:

  1. Dedicated universal link/landing page providers
  2. Web-library-style sites that aggregate lots of info about books — including where to buy them

The following lists include services that I’ve used — all of which are free. [10] If you know of a provider that I haven’t listed, please comment below!

Universal Link/Landing Page Sites

Universal Book Links

Site: books2read.com

Sites linked to: Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, B&N Nook, Google Play, ScribD, 24Symbols, Thalia, Inktera, Smashwords, Baja LIbros, Playster, Blio, Bookmate, Browns Books for Students, Casa del Libro, Family Christian, Hive, Buch.de, BOL.de, DriveThruFiction, Indigo, Angus & Robertson, Bücher.de, FNAC, Hugendubel, Libris, Livraria Cultura, Mondadori, Rakuten, WHSmith, BOL.com, Eason, eBook.de, Gandhi.mx, LaFeltrinelli, Overdrive[11]

Affiliate codes? Yes

Pros: This service is run by the lovely people at the ebook distributor Draft2Digital. As you can probably see, it includes the most comprehensive set of links of any service I’ve found. There are stores that have actually moved copies of my books that aren’t on there — but not many.

The service allows you to create a custom URL — so the one for my book shown above is the easy-to-remember (and share) books2read.com/inside-the-box.

When you add the title (usually with the Amazon link), the site will automatically find other retailer links. You can add URLs that it doesn’t find by hand.

To see how well your links are doing, Books2Read.com has a dashboard that lets you know how many folks have clicked on your link, and the top 3 stores they go to from there.

Cons: As you can see above, the landing page includes very little about the book — just the cover, title, and author.


Pronoun

Site: books.pronoun.com

Sites linked to: Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, B&N Nook, Google Play, Overdrive, Biblioteca (aka CloudLibrary)

Affiliate codes? No

Pros: This service is attached to one of my favorite distributors (for sales in North America, at least), Pronoun. But you don’t have to sell your books through them to create author and book landing pages! Just sign up, add your author name and books, and Pronoun will automatically link — but usually only to Amazon. If you do sell through Pronoun, the page will include all of the stores and library distributors.

Pronoun gives you the tools to put together a very nice little author landing page — without having to create a dedicated website.

One nifty plus: if you do sell a book through Pronoun, you can include the link in your other ebooks and retailers won’t grumble. [12]

Cons: Again, there’s very little info about the book — just the title and (above it) the series name, and then the names of the stores at which it is available. Also, there’s no way to add URLs by hand at this point, so if (as in the case above) retailers pick up the book after you add it to your author page… you’re stuck.

You can’t create a custom URL or a direct book link — unless you’re selling the book through Pronoun. Otherwise, you can only link to your author page.

The author page doesn’t include a blog feed — though it does allow you to add a link to your web page.


BookLinker

Site: booklinker.net

Sites linked to: Amazon only

Affiliate codes? Yes

Pros: This linking service is a one-trick pony: it links the reader directly to the Amazon purchase page for a particular book. When a reader clicks on that link, they are transported directly to their local Amazon store’s page for that book. So, for example, if you’re in the US, myBook.to/inside-the-box sends you to the book’s page on Amazon.com. If you’re in the UK, it sends you to Amazon.co.uk. And so on. This means that there’s no intermediate landing page between the click and the ability to buy. Ideal! (If they use Amazon.)

You are required to create a custom URL — keep it short so it’s easy to remember and Twitter friendly. You can also create a link to your author page — for example, Author.to/DavidKudler sends you to my AuthorCentral page at every one of Amazon’s fifteen local stores.

There’s a dashboard at BookLinker.net that tells you how many people have clicked on your link, and from what countries.

Cons: This service only connects to one store. Mind, it’s the largest seller of ebooks in the world. Still — it’s a limitation. [13]

Library-Style Sites

There are a huge number of sites that list books — frequently, they allow for users to review those books, and just as frequently they include links to where to buy those books.

I’m sure you can think of a few of those sites off of the top of your head:

And lots more.

In almost every case, the listing for a book includes links to purchase the book. Often this is Amazon, as well, perhaps, as Apple and B&N. Perhaps a few more. Voilà! Instant universal book link!

The great thing about this is that you don’t have to do a thing to create the page or links.

The downside is that you have very little (if any) control over the page, and any affiliate fees will be paid to the site, not to you. [14]

Another downside is that the links are often algorithmically created from the book’s ID number and/or title. So it may not always work correctly. For example, in the picture above, the Goodreads listing is for the Amazon version of the ebook, which includes the ASIN (the 10-digit number starting B00 that identifies an Amazon product). That number means NOTHING on Kobo — while the ISBN, which is used on Kobo, means nothing on Amazon (for ebooks — works fine for print).

Also, there’s no way to track how many visitors the page gets, nor how many purchase clicks.

Still, if you have nowhere else to send a reader, hey, it’s better than nothing!

Using your link(s)

So, you ask, once I’ve got this lovely link, where the heck do I use it?

Well, as I showed you above, it’s great to put on your book landing page on your website. Even if you don’t have an ecommerce solution set up, the reader can now go directly from your site to buy from their favorite store.

You can also include the link in your email signature, on online posts, on business cards and bookmarks, ads — just about anywhere that you’re letting people know about the book.

The whole idea is to give your reader — who’s already shown an interest in your book — the easiest possible path for getting that book into their hands.


[1] Well, okay, minus the 3% or so PayPal, Stripe, or whoever you use to handle credit card transactions skims off the top. Still, 97% beats 50%–70%!
[2] And no — just purchasing an ebook from you isn’t considered an automatic opt-in to your email list. Still, you’ve got their email, and you know they’re interested in your books, so you can always ask if they’d like to join!
[3] They’ve gotten a lot easier to use in the past half-decade. If you want to try it out and you have a self-hosted WordPress site (i.e., not on myname.wordpress.com but on myauthorsite.net or whatever), I highly recommend Woocommerce. It’s widely used, so there’s lots of support and constant upgrades, it’s free (for the base plugin), and there are a huge number of add-ons (both free and premium) to allow you to customize it to your heart’s content. Oh — and it is built to take on your WordPress site’s CSS styles, so it will integrate into your site seamlessly. Still. Not exactly easy. Just way easier than what used to be out there.
[4] Actually, at this point, no ecommerce solution actually collects the credit card number and stores it on your site; the payment gateway (that is, PayPal, Stripe, etc.) receives all of that info securely without it ever being stored on your server. So the liability is theirs, not yours. But that doesn’t mean that buyers aren’t nervous.
[5] Even if you share very thorough directions.
[6] US-only, and supposed to be in precarious financial shape, but still out there!
[7] If you’ve been reading my HTML/CSS posts, the code for that button is:
<form style=”text-align: left;” action=”https://books2read.com/inside-the-box”><input class=”button” style=”color: #fefeef; background-color: #e20000; border-radius: 5px; width: 300px; height: 3em; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;” type=”submit” value=”ORDER ONLINE” /></form>
[8] The URL for the page shown in that image is https://books2read.com/inside-the-box — and yes, I’m using my own ebook on ebook creation as the example. Why do you ask?
[9] Affiliate codes are a topic for another day — but basically, they’re a kickback from the retailer for sending the buyer their way. Typically, the payola amounts to 4%–5% of the purchase price — not just of your book, but often of any other purchases made at the same time (or, on Amazon, within the same day). I once had someone follow one of my links (with the affiliate tag added) to buy a $0.99 short story of mine, then buy a $499 minifridge, which netted me $25. Nice windfall. So, if you’re not signed up for affiliate programs at the major retailers… Well, go do it.
[10] How can they afford that? Well, if you don’t add your own affiliate code (or they don’t allow it), it’s theirs that pops up — so they get a kickback for every sale. If you do add your affiliate code(s)? Um. Dunno. But still: free.
[11] Okay. That’s a pretty overwhelming list. Most of those sellers get their books from distributors or other retailers — in particular, Kobo. So you may already have your book listed on many of these! For readers outside of the US, those first five stores (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Google) may not be the most convenient or popular way to buy ebooks. In any case, having your ebook available widely is a GOOD thing — and creating universal links that connect to all of these is also good.
[12] I actually haven’t ever used this technique — I link to my own page on my website, which all of the retailers allow. And of course, on that page I have a universal link! (As well as a sign-up for my email list.)
[13] I often create a separate “edition” of my book for Amazon — both to include a review link and to track hits to my site from ebooks by retailer. For a long time, I used BookLinker links in those books. But that meant that I had to replace EVERY link in EVERY book that went to another retailer/distributor! I stick to linking to my site for now.
[14] Don’t begrudge them this; it’s how they keep the doors open.

Photo: BigStockPhoto

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8 Comments

  1. becca puglisi

    Thanks for this information. I currently have 8 links for each book on my website and it’s getting cumbersome. And as you mentioned, this would be hugely helpful for my many Canadian and UK readers in getting them to their country-specific sites.

    I just wish there was a provider who linked to Indiebound and Book Depository. I understand that this is primarily a digital book service (though the Amazon link also takes users to the page for my print book), but I’d like to be able to support other independent bookstores who sell hard copies.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • David Kudler

      Agreed. A “universal” link that linked to the print — and audiobook — editions would be fabulous.

      Not out there yet!

      Reply
  2. Michael N. Marcus

    “That being said, there are likewise two — well, three — very good reasons that most purchases don’t occur on authors’ sites…”

    I’m reasonably sure that the main reason is that most readers don’t know that the authors’ sites exist and sell books.

    If I am searching for a book about post-apocalyptic bicycle repair, frying clams or even the latest book from Neil deGrasse Tyson, I’m much more likely to go to a bookseller’s website, than to search for authors’ sites.

    Reply
  3. Bob

    Don’t you find this the to be an inferior user experience, though? You could simply write out 6 or 7 retailers’ names as text links and call it a day. With the way described above, users need to click once to go to another page and then click again. And what if that second page takes a long time to load? It just feels like this is an unnecessary step.

    Reply
    • David Kudler

      Which is what I used to do. (See the first image.)

      Here’s the problem with that: the links are country specific. So if your reader isn’t in the US, they then have to go into the address bar and doctor the URL by hand. Which is even more off-putting. Some of my titles get as much as half of their sales outside the US. So I’m trying to provide the maximum convenience.

      Also, I felt (perhaps wrongly) that the tower of a dozen or more buttons that I put on some books (are the order page for my YA novel as an example — Risuko.net/order) was less likely to lead to conversions than a single button.

      Alternatively, I could create an iframe that shows the universal link landing page within my own page… Hmm. That’s actually an idea!

      Reply
      • David Kudler

        Aaaaand, no. Most major websites block embedding in iframes because this can be used for so-called clickjacking attacks.

        Reply
  4. Dean Kutzler

    I’m not clear on how you get paid. I’ve used Booklinker and Pronoun, but is there something else I need to set up in order to get most of the 100% payment? On my end, it only leads the reader to the site where they purchase it.

    Reply
    • David Kudler

      Thanks for asking, Dean.

      That’s exactly right — these services are only links. You have to upload your ebook to retailers or distributors. When readers follow your link and buy, you get paid (by the retailer/distributor) about two months later.

      Reply

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