Bitcoin and Selling Directly to Readers

Within minutes, you could prepare yourself to sell books directly to readers and accept payment in Bitcoin. The "how" is addressed in my latest book, Selling Books With Bitcoin. In this blog post, I will focus on the "why" (or "why not"). The technology is in place, but is this something you should consider doing? As with many things in life, "it all depends…."

First, I want to clarify a few relevant things about myself and how I see, and use, Bitcoin. I'll skip the stories of frustration about missed opportunities, but if you understand my thoughts on Bitcoin it will help you evaluate my comments on accepting Bitcoin payments for your books. Read on for details!

In brief: I am not currently selling directly to readers at all, but that is due to complex sales tax issues in my home state and has nothing to do with Bitcoin. I have used third-party marketplaces to list my e-books for sale to buyers paying in Bitcoin, but I can count on one hand the sales completed there. I have paid for things with Bitcoin, and while this has mostly been paying for online advertising, I have purchased at least one book using Bitcoin. I have some Bitcoin funds, but my balances are very low—more than a US dollar's worth, but well below 1 BTC.

That should help you understand where I'm coming from, so to speak. So, should you sell directly to readers and accept Bitcoin payments? Here are some things to consider before making that decision.

Currently, there are relatively few people who have Bitcoin and are interested in buying books with it. There is no "gold rush" here. For many authors, the small audience of Bitcoin buyers may not provide enough sales to warrant the time spent learning about Bitcoin and how to handle it. I would say this is true for mainstream genre fiction, for example, except maybe science fiction. However, for books that would have a high appeal to the "geeky" sorts who are actively involved with Bitcoin, enabling Bitcoin payments could increase sales to a relevant degree.

Audience size is only one consideration. Another is taxation. As I mentioned above, I'm not selling directly to readers because I choose to obey tax laws but the ridiculously complex sales tax laws in Washington State make it infeasible for me to collect the necessary tax. Depending on where you are, obeying tax laws might make direct sales infeasible for you too. This isn't specific to Bitcoin, but you should expect your government to have the same view of Bitcoin payments as they do for payments in your local currency or foreign currencies.

Volatility in value, and the risk caused by it, is another thing to consider. Although the value of Bitcoin against other currencies is not as wildly variable as it was in the past, the exchange rate is still much more volatile than rates between most other currencies. It is possible to establish prices in another currency and use free, public-access APIs to automatically calculate a current Bitcoin price, but there are still risks associated with this. For example, if you collect a Bitcoin amount that is worth $2.99 USD at the time of purchase, such as to match your price on Amazon, it might be worth $2.50 when you finally convert it. Or it might be worth $3.25. On the other hand, if your book is available through a retailer such as Amazon that aggressively enforces lowest-available pricing, pricing your book in BTC and letting the USD amount vary with the exchange rate might lead someone to report a lower price on your book when the Bitcoin value drops.

Those are some potential downsides to accepting Bitcoin, but there are potential positives too. These include:

  • Speed You can have—and spend—your earnings within minutes, rather than waiting hours or days or even weeks. Other methods of selling can add significant delays between when the sale takes place and when you can spend your earnings.
  • Automation Bitcoin is inherently a computer technology and you (or someone you hire) can automate things that happen when you receive a payment. One example (of countless) would be to set up a book so that all earnings are automatically funneled into online advertising. Combined with the speed mentioned above, this means that you could be getting ad views a few minutes after somebody "pays for them" by buying a copy of your book.
  • Buyer convenience For those who already have Bitcoin, a purchase with Bitcoin can be more convenient than using a credit card (although this depends on how they use their software and how the sales site is configured).
  • Buyer privacy If your book is controversial or even just about an awkward topic, buyers may appreciate a way to acquire it without having that purchase added to their digital dossier that is automatically assembled on typical retail sites.
  • Flexibility Maybe you have a book that, for whatever reason, is not appropriate for selling through typical channels like Amazon. This could be a matter of file format, or subject matter, or other things that Amazon (and others) reject. Selling directly bypasses those obstacles completely.

Whether or not selling directly and accepting Bitcoin for payment makes sense for you really does depend on the circumstances. If you think it might be right for you, grab a copy of my latest book (or read it via Kindle Unlimited) and see how to get started!