We’re onto Part 2 of our exciting adventure. The amusing header image here is courtesy of http://onlyhdwallpapers.com
Time to Build a Shop
By now you should have a handful of short stories converted into .epub, or at the very least one short story, from Part 1. If not, that’s cool, too. Stick around, and, uh, make yourself at home.
I looked around at several online store options, but most of them cost around $10-$15 a month for the basic plan (eg. Shopify.com) and that is just for a minimal plan of 10-20 items. You can fill that up pretty quickly. Frankly, I don’t expect to make that much in a month, certainly not to begin with.
What to do, what to do?
Finally I stumbled on this little site, FetchApp.com. It doesn’t look as fancy as any of the expensive sites, but that’s because it provides only the back end of your shop: the pricing, the units, the file storage and links, as well as integration into payment services. Perfect! Especially because we can always build our own shop front over the top of a service. Fetch App specialises in digital delivery, which is all we’re doing in this project.
Even better, it has many scaling plans, starting at Free and capping out at $10/month for our purposes – basically, all you are paying for on FetchApp is the hosting service – no transaction fees or anything else. They don’t charge for bandwidth either, so if you are getting a ridiculous amount of downloads the cost does not increase for you.
Downside? The free plan only offers 1 MB of online storage.
Upside? You can fit about 10 .epub short story files (with a small cover) in that storage. More without. Basically it’s a perfect way to start out. Once you have more than that many files, the $5/month plan is 25MB, so a good 250 stories.
Setting up your FetchApp account
Go to FetchApp.com and click on the ‘Account Sign-up’ button.
Fill out all the information. You’ll get an email and all sorts of regular ‘Welcome to the club’ sign up.
Preparing your shop’s stock
We need to get our files up on the system, and then create SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) for each thing you are selling. An SKU will have a description, a cost, some other information, and then a list of all files that are ‘purchased’ when buying the SKU. You can attach any number of files to any SKU, which is great for collections, bundles, or special offers.
Uploading your files
Go to the Files menu, and click the Add Files button on the right:
You’ll note I already have 11 files up there. Obviously your list will be 0.
Click on ‘Choose Files’, then select all the files you want to add. It’s wise to make sure they have some sort of description, so that you can easily find them later. I’ve chosen to name my files in the format [SKU#][Title][WordCount]. The SKU number is just some unique number (unique in my shop) that I make up: I started with SS (short story) and then 5 digits.
So for my ‘Lure of the Sack football’ story, we’re looking at: SS00001_The_Lure_Of_The_Sack_9700.epub
Creating your SKUs
This is pretty straightforward too. Click on the Products tab, then select the ‘Add Product’ button.
I’ll upload the story that I created in Part 1, ‘The Twilight Dream’.
On the form that appears next, fill in:
- Title: ‘The Twilight Dream’
- SKU: SS00006 [Obviously you should enter your own SKU# here]
- Price: $0.49 – This is quite a short story and I feel bad charging $0.99 for it.
- Variable Pricing – Just leave this alone. It lets your customers optionally pay any amount. Good for donations, not good for a field where someone can accidentally pay you $100 that you then have to refund.
- Currency: I chose USD. Choose whatever you like.
- Existing Files: Find the files you want to associate with this SKU. They were uploaded in the previous section, however you can still select ‘Choose Files’ in the New Files section if you skipped that part. Any files you add in here will show up in the Files page anyway. I usually add the epub and mobi files at this stage. I don’t see much point creating a separate SKU for the different formats, but you may decide differently.
- Description: I just put in a little blurb about the story, as well as purchase details such as: ‘Includes links to DRM-free epub and mobi files’
- Store and Image URL: I think this is a little advanced, and I’ve not used it. I imagine one would put a link to a thumbnail of the cover art for this SKU here, but since we’ll be building our storefront in Part 3 anyway, I don’t think we’ll need it. I certainly haven’t used it in my shop.
When you hit save you get an overview of your product like this:
You’ll notice how the total size of this particular SKU is 100KB, about 1/10th of our free space. (Advanced: I haven’t actually got a .mobi for this file yet, I just renamed it so I could make the screenshot. It’s actually the same .epub twice, hence the size being the same. Also, I have the wrong file name, SS00012, not SS00006, so forgive me. My instructions are still valid!)
Repeat this for each of your SKUs until you have something that looks like this (this is my actual store product list at time of writing, before finishing the upload for ‘The Twilight Dream’):
Setting up the Shopping Carts
We’ll be using PayPal for this example, because it’s free to use and the transaction costs are low, especially for microtransactions. I’m not a personal fan of PayPal, but the only other payment service I have access to is Stripe, and FetchApp does not integrate with that (yet?).
Now scroll down to your payment processing service of choice (the only one I have that is free is PayPal, and many people will have a PayPal account).
Make sure your ‘Environment’ is set to ‘Sandbox’ during this tutorial, so you don’t buy any of your own stories by accident; you don’t want to open up your store just yet, not until you are happy with everything, and probably not until you have completed Step 3 (unless you’re confident enough with links and whatnot on your blog to start setting up your own shop).
Update your details by pressing the big blue button and follow the instructions. I’ll direct you back here to set your store to ‘Production’ later.
Now that you have connected your shopping cart to your account, you can go back to individual SKUs on the products page to get links for selling your work!
Find the product you want to sell in your list, and click on it. You’ll go to the detailed view, and see this new addition on the right. Click on ‘Sell Product’ now.
This will open up a page with three links ready to paste into your shop (See Part 3) or your own blog, or even your emails or social media posts; they’re just links, after all (Note: The PayPal View Cart link will be the same for all your products; the Add to Cart and Buy Now links will be specific to this SKU):
Something to Consider
FetchApp provides permanent links to the stories you sell. That’s a problem if you change the file attached to an SKU, as it will break the links of earlier people who have bought that product. Best just create a new item with new files (which eats into your storage limit). I’ve not yet checked whether it is possible for users to request a new email to the item they purchased from your shop, to get an updated link.
Part 2 completed!
Alright, we have a free store full of sellable digital stories, and have linked it up to a payment service provider. All the links we need to sell things are ready, and you can go off yourself now, if you like.
But! If you would like to see how we take these links and set up a free digital store front, including all the stats you might need, go back to the main article to follow Part 3.