Direct Sales is what I’ve placed a number of potential sales options where you (the author) directly interact with the public and attempt to sell your work.
Examples of such distribution options include:
– talks or seminars you are able to sell your works
– farmers markets / flea markets / conventions where you have paid for a space
– your website and/or 3rd party websites that allow you to host your products (often for a fee)
The main things that differentiate direct sales from other wide retailer options in my mind is that direct sales are often limited in their reach. This limit could be due to time (conventions, flea markets, talks, etc.) or via the need to attract the audience to the selling location (i.e. your website, etc.).
The advantage of direct sales as a medium of distribution is that your gross profit is the highest of any other method. You often are only paying minimal fees (processing fees in most cases) for each transaction. This can amount to 5-15% depending on what system you are using.
As with the same calculus of balancing indie vs trad publishing, the higher the % you are able to earn, the fewer copies you have to sell.
The largest limitation of direct sales is the limited audience sizes.
With conventions, talks and flea markets (i.e. in-person sales); the hope is that the organisers have developed the event sufficiently to draw in the audience for you. You are then limited to whatever audience is there (and thus must have researched the event sufficiently to make sure the target market meets your market). However, no matter what, your potential sales is limited to that audience and to those individuals.
On the other hand, in-person sales does offer the advantage of helping to brand and create a closer connection to those you sell to directly.
With direct sales online, instead of a 3rd party organiser drawing in the audience, you will have to do so. As such, the cost of audience acquisition lands on you directly. Whether it’s via Search Engine Marketing, paid advertising, social media promotions or the like, you’ll have to do draw in the audience.
Lastly, in both cases; such distribution efforts do require a significant investment of time. And, as always, as an author, a large part of your future income will come from the works you produce.
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