Author Topic: Selling ebooks directly from your own website  (Read 3735 times)  

Offline starkllr

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Selling ebooks directly from your own website
« on: June 13, 2018, 07:24:51 am »
Is anyone doing this?  And if so, how?

I mean in the practical sense - what are you using as a storefront, and how are you actually fulfilling the books to customers?

 
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    Offline The Bass Bagwhan

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 07:44:40 am »
    It seems like a good idea, given effective marketing, but the reason this isn't a more common approach - aside from questions of marketing and a secure mechanism for paying for any books -  is the problem of what's called "side-loading" your books into a Kindle device or Kindle software. Today, someone can choose a book on Amazon and with one click it will be downloaded onto their preferred reading device.

    The process for downloading even an ePub or Mobi file directly into a Kindle (for example) directly from your website is convoluted and simply too hard for your everyday user. It's not a big deal, but it's not one click either. That's the challenge.

    Good luck.
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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 07:53:30 am »
    There is Payhip which will collect the money and release the e-book, but I agree with the other poster that this is not straightforward. I already have new subscribers who can't seem to to just click on the link to confirm but send me emails saying yes, they agree. How much harder would it be for them to download a book?

    I've even had people asking me to send my books directly to their kindle, without any idea of what their kindle's email address might be. Paperbacks are much easier to sell direct, but of course, much more expensive.


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    Offline VanessaC

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 08:08:54 am »
    I haven't tried this but was watching the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast recently and they had Damon from Book Funnel on talking about this very matter (among other things) - Book Funnel will fulfil e-books and, I think, other products, too - may be worth looking out the podcast (on the SFF website or youtube / other podcast app) or checking out Book Funnel's website as they have blog posts on this discussing the various options you can use for payments / taxes. 

    Offline Gessert Books

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 08:12:25 am »
    If you use kindlegen or Kindle Previewer to generate your MOBI files, then selling those MOBI files outside of Amazon is a violation of the EULA for that software. You can give them away for free, but not sell them.

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 09:14:16 am »
    The process for downloading even an ePub or Mobi file directly into a Kindle (for example) directly from your website is convoluted and simply too hard for your everyday user. It's not a big deal, but it's not one click either. That's the challenge.

    More importantly, the average consumer is becoming less adventurous regarding where they buy.  The average consumer doesn't want to go to AuthorSiteA to buy one book, AuthorsiteB to buy another, and then AuthorsiteC to buy a third. They want to be able to get everything they want in the fewest places possible. 

    There is also the issue of workload. Modern consumers expect customer service. What happens when someone buys directly from you and then has a problem with the file? But you are on vacation and it is a week later that you see their email? Or, heck, a DAY later and they are meanwhile freaking out all over social media that you aren't answering their emails and they paid for a book they can't read? Direct selling on your website requires a secure infrastructure to both process payments and deliver files. It requires some sort of customer service to deal with consumers. It requires being prepared to adhere to the tax laws of a lot of different areas. The question becomes are you going to sell ENOUGH ebooks directly to justify all of the extra up front costs and time it takes to do it?

    In most cases, the answer is going to be a big, fat "no."

    Offline Simon Haynes

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #6 on: June 13, 2018, 09:17:28 am »
    I wrote a storefront using php, with a paypal shopping cart. It all worked fine, but in Feb I went into Select so I took the store down. Now I'm out of select I haven't put it back up yet.

    The best part was the 98% royalty, after Paypal fees.
     

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    Offline BookFunnel (Julie)

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #7 on: June 13, 2018, 01:14:42 pm »
    Hey, everyone! Julie from BookFunnel here, and I just wanted to chime in on how BookFunnel helps with this and, more generally, about selling direct. Short answer: you should give it a try. We're doing a whole blog series about selling and exclusive content over at:

    https://blog.bookfunnel.com/2017/not-sold-in-stores-intro/

    BookFunnel launched Sales Delivery Actions last fall that covers a lot of the issues mentioned here. You can use one of the existing sales platforms we integrate with (Payhip, Selz, PayPal, Shopify, and WooCommerce) to handle the store and all the money details, and BookFunnel will handle the delivery. If your readers have trouble, our support is there 365 days a year (yes, even on Christmas) to help readers "side load" their book onto their device.

    You certainly don't have to use BookFunnel, but if you already have an account with us, you should give it a try (and, if you don't have an account, you can sign up for $20 a year). There are no extra fees, and BookFunnel doesn't take a cut of any of the sales. We just handle the delivery and all the support headaches. :)

    And, to the question of whether readers are willing to go through all this, our CEO thought the same thing as others have said here. Namely that readers won't do it, it's too much trouble, they don't care, etc... He has since been proven very wrong. I just checked our numbers for delivery actions, and since launching back at the end of September, we have delivered over 18,000 books sold from authors' websites. Most through special offers, exclusive content or discounts, boxsets, and just plain appeals to readers. Readers love their favorite authors, and they want to support them.

    We're happy to answer any questions about direct sales, even if you don't have a BookFunnel account. Just drop us a line at [email protected]!

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #8 on: June 13, 2018, 01:45:41 pm »
    I just checked our numbers for delivery actions, and since launching back at the end of September, we have delivered over 18,000 books sold from authors' websites. Most through special offers, exclusive content or discounts, boxsets, and just plain appeals to readers. Readers love their favorite authors, and they want to support them.

    The question is not: Can I convince my dedicated fans to buy my book on sale directly from me?

    The question is: Can I actually generate NEW BUSINESS selling directly from my site or increase my per sale revenue enough to justify the expense, time, and resources involved?

    OF COURSE some people are capable of doing this. Just like some people are capable of hitting the bestseller list with every book.

    18,000 sounds impressive, but if that is since last September, that works out to 2,000 sales a month. Across how many author accounts? In reality, is this a case of ten authors selling 200 books each (which merely means a handful of authors have successfully figured it out) or 2,000 authors selling one each (which means the amount of effort involved to get that one sale is excessive.)

    The fact that you handle the customer service aspect makes the possibility of selling directly on site easier. And I am certainly not in the "don't ever do it" camp. But folks need to be very careful when they start direct selling, because you open a whole lot of doors that you may not be able to close. Particularly when it comes to taxes. Folks outside the U.S. in particular have to deal with things like VAT (which still makes my head hurt whenever I read about it). And even in some U.S. states, direct selling out of your home, whether digital or physical products, can cause certain issues depending on municipal laws (assuming, of course, you are selling above board and following the law and not doing a "How will they ever know? thing."

    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #9 on: June 13, 2018, 04:24:10 pm »
    Yup.

    I sold almost $2000 worth since January, which kinda peanuts compared to the rest, but they're very good peanuts and I see potential. This includes both ebooks and premade covers, but the bulk comes from ebook sales.

    I have it set up with Bookfunnel and it works quite well. There are a few things to watch out for. Educating your readers about the process helps a lot. If they already get your free series starters from Bookfunnel, that removes a barrier.

    If you have a big mailing list, it's definitely worth doing, because people like to support authors.

    Offline Rose Andrews

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #10 on: June 13, 2018, 07:36:09 pm »
    What about taxes for something like this? I've been considering it lately but the taxes thing has been holding me up.

    Offline Abderian

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #11 on: June 13, 2018, 10:10:25 pm »
    What about taxes for something like this? I've been considering it lately but the taxes thing has been holding me up.

    Payhip takes care of the taxes for you. Don't know about other sites.


    Offline Rose Andrews

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #12 on: June 13, 2018, 11:21:00 pm »
    Payhip takes care of the taxes for you. Don't know about other sites.
    Awesome. Thank you for this information.

    Offline notjohn

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #13 on: June 14, 2018, 03:33:12 am »
    I've been on the web since 1993, and I agree that it's much harder to sell anything now. I was hugely excited by Payhip a year or so ago and set up PDF, Kindle, and epub versions of two books. Never sold one! Not one.

    I do sell the occasional paperback or hardcover off my websites, but again, not nearly as many as ten or twenty years ago. In the 1990s people really needed gatekeepers on the web; but there's no need of us now. With Amazon accounting for 50 percent of US online sales, who needs to go anywhere else?



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    Offline scott.marmorstein

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #14 on: June 14, 2018, 04:17:38 am »
    I think about this in this way:

    Would you go to one of your favorite author's websites (indie, or trad), like a Hugh Howey, or a Dean Koontz and try and buy directly from their website?

    Or would it just be easier to click a link to iBooks, Amazon, B&N or Kobo because that's where your ereader of choice happens to be connected?

    Let's say Stephen King was selling The Outsider (as an example) on his own website for $9.99 per ebook without anything extra inside it (just the lower price) or you can get the same ebook from Amazon for $14.99. The deal is, you could get that ebook directly from his site and try and side-load the ebook (kindle or generic) to your device. You'd need to read the carefully laid instructions for doing it. And the whole process would take you about 10-20 minutes to complete...

    OR you could just click on the link and with no hassle have it arrive in your eReader ready to go? The customer is probably willing (on average) to pay the extra for the less hassle. Us being indies would jump at the lower price pretty fast--lower sale, great author, a good book, and a little extra effort for us is a no-brainer. But for the average consumer? They'll probably say 'no thanks.'

    Offline Simon Haynes

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #15 on: June 14, 2018, 04:26:48 am »
    I liken it to buying games on Steam vs getting DVDs from a games store. I will actually buy Steam versions of games I've owned for years, just to have them in one place, automatically updated and always available.

    I also get credit on amazon for affiliates sales, and I use that to buy ebooks.
     

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    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #16 on: June 14, 2018, 06:13:43 am »
    The question is not "would they"?

    The answer is: they do. People absolutely buy from author websites.

    For the same reason that I order items from companies direct: because I'll go into their customer system and they will email me when they have new stuff.

    Offline Rob Martin

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #17 on: June 14, 2018, 06:54:01 am »
    With the caveat that I'm not currently selling from my site, but I intend to do so shortly, I don't see any reason not to. There a plenty of ways to do so, some of which have already been mentioned. I've got mine ready to go through Woocommerce.

    I figure it like this, if a reader is already on your site, for whatever reason, they've physically expressed an interest in what you're publishing. So make it easy for them. Under the description of the book, include a buy now link that will allow them to purchase a mobi or pdf from your site. Under that, in slightly smaller font, include retailer links directly to the book. I want to give readers the maximum number of opportunities to purchase the book as possible. I may even include a discount off the retail price for buying directly from my site. If I only get 70% from Zon for my 3.99 book, sell it for 2.99 and advertise the dollar off. The reader that buys thinks they're getting a good deal and I'm still making more than I would from Zon. Even more if they buy from other retailers. Sure some, or even most people may still go to Zon/Apple/Kobo/BN or elsewhere from my site, but by giving them the option to buy from my site, I'm also limiting distractions from competitors and have an additional opportunity to get them on my mailing list for future sales.

    Writing is a pleasure, but publishing is a business. As a business, it doesn't make sense to forego a revenue stream, even a small one, that is easily managed and under my control. And as for the argument about side loading, I'll leave that to other, more experienced people. I only know that I've never had a problem opening or reading a PDF in iBooks, and for android, I know there are a ton of apps that can be used.

    Offline Nate Hoffelder

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #18 on: June 14, 2018, 07:23:43 am »
    I think about this in this way:

    Would you go to one of your favorite author's websites (indie, or trad), like a Hugh Howey, or a Dean Koontz and try and buy directly from their website?

    Or would it just be easier to click a link to iBooks, Amazon, B&N or Kobo because that's where your ereader of choice happens to be connected?

    I bought from Hugh Howey's website.

    I also buy direct from a few publishers

    Offline Arches

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #19 on: June 14, 2018, 08:07:37 am »
    The question is not: Can I convince my dedicated fans to buy my book on sale directly from me?

    The question is: Can I actually generate NEW BUSINESS selling directly from my site or increase my per sale revenue enough to justify the expense, time, and resources involved?



    Julie has it exactly right.  The question for the author is whether it's worth the time and hassle to go in direct competition with Amazon and the other major retail outlets.

    The main advantage for the author seems to be keeping Amazon's 30% of the retail price, but the real question is why would the reader switch to a process much more difficult to navigate? The main attraction for a reader seems to be getting the book for less money, but I'm 99% sure Amazon isn't going to like an author discounting below the Amazon price. At a minimum, when it figures out what you're doing, they're going to price match, and you will get much less net income from what it probably a much bigger market than selling on your own website.

    In short, maybe this makes sense for a non-fiction author where direct selling has been common, or for someone with a large backlist or extremely popular books, but I'm skeptical that it's worth the hassle for most self-pub authors.

    Offline dianapersaud

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #20 on: June 14, 2018, 08:44:52 am »

    And as far as tax, check with your tax professional for where you live. My accountant told me I don't have any sales tax/VAT obligation for places other than the state I live in (unless sales get over some certain amount, where other states' sales taxes might come into play, though my bet is those thresholds are well above what I will ever actually sell).

    That seems like odd advice. Every documentation I've ever read says you have to collect VAT from specific countries (in the EU). I've never seen an exemption based on a specific dollar value. Amazon and Smashwords collect VAT on ebooks. I don't think small businesses (Indie authors) are exempt from this.

    Does anyone have documentation that suggests we are exempt from VAT?

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    Offline ibizwiz

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #21 on: June 14, 2018, 08:59:59 am »
    We're preparing to launch a serious test of direct ebook sales and expect to develop answers to many of the questions raised by the OP and others. "Serious" means heavy advertising in Facebook, with clicks going to a custom landing page which is Woo Commerce enabled and delivers via Bookfunnel. (Hi, Julie!). I used Patty Jansen's approach as my model. (Thanks again to you, Patty, for this and for years of solid guidance in this forum.)

    Before starting our new publishing company, I had ten years as an Amazon apparel merchant, and had concluded that Amazon will never be a reliable business partner. I was willing to publish with KDP, but quickly learned that introducing a new series the conventional way in Amazon was not likely to succeed economically.

    I came to Indie publishing from a forty-year career in technology development and marketing, so I'm used to hearing lots of doubts and skeptical observations.  I've never been offended since this kind of resistance is a very necessary part of the process of introducing a new way to do an old thing. The doubters force us to deal up front with buyers objections. In every new application design project I managed from the very first days of mainframes and online systems, the skeptics always made us think of better, simpler ways to do the job.

    Julie's experience with her "CEO" is a case in point. In fact, Bookfunnel's decision to expand into direct sales support and integrate with Woo Commerce is what persuaded me to give this a determined try.

    I won't attempt to convince any others to go this route, just give a nod to TwistedTales and the few who've pioneered it.

    I will list a few of the things I've learned so far, however:

    1  Volume is the problem to solve first, not after you've assembled all the pieces. To build a direct selling and customer support platform and then settle for a few hundred sales each month is an economic waste of time.

    2  Go big or go home -- if your pilot effort earns out, be prepared to scale rapidly. Scaling is really hard, especially in Facebook ads. After sending the first two novels our series to the editors, I spent months poring over the accumulated wisdom of Facebook advertising consultants. This was in addition to taking Mark Dawson's course. I learned via reading and then my detailed emails from the best of them that they don't know that much about scaling, beyond increasing the ad spend. That won't work reliably or significantly or quickly with Facebook. Can you drive traffic to your content-rich landing pages with other ads? Or other traffic-gen tools like the excellent ones from UpViral? You need to know, and now. Solve how you'll do this before you invest in the several building blocks you'll need. Be ready to exploit launch success before you spend a single dollar on advertising.

    3   Become an expert in landing pages. The folks at Instapage and its competitors know a very great deal, but their expertise is mainly in B2B marketing, not B2C, and certainly not in "converting" finicky readers. A successfully designed landing page will convert twice as many visitors to trying a free book or buying one as a slap-dash, copy-cat, template page will. Meaning doubling your direct sales revenues.

    4   Limit your audience. Target a selected group of readers carefully and shape all your program around their needs and expectations. I agree with the several skeptics that many mass-market readers will not want to try this new channel. Forget them! Build a smarter, more demanding audience, especially those frustrated with Amazon's continuing decline in shopping quality and new book discovery.

    5   If you have a new author name, or a new series with no branding, take even more care with your landing page and follow-up email campaigns. Selling a new series direct to readers means not just explaining the Woo + Bookfunnel delivery scheme, but engagingly presenting a new author and new main characters.

    6   Given this doubled persuasion challenge, give your niche audience an entirely new experience. If they really want something, and cannot easily get it in the big stores, they'll be much readier to try the new delivery method. And make quality your lodestar: read-through will be the key success factor in selling series directly.

    7   Read all of Patty Jansens comments on this topic, and when you do, see particularly how she uses her method to capitalize on her boxed sets. In our case, we'll have the first three-novel series boxed and ready for sale by November.

    8    Sales taxes are potentially a major concern if one intends to build a substantial sales channel. Ive spent the better part of two weeks with reps at the two major services, Avalara and Taxjar, and have developed our strategy for handling tax filing if we succeed with our stealth launch phase. Mind, our books are written for a global target market, so well have issues both in the US and other countries.

    I'll leave this topic for now with one, to me, all-important mantra: Facebook users are not looking for books; they're looking for entertainment. Engage their imagination and sense of humor, or curiosity, or dread, or mystery, or romance, and the selling will come naturally.

    Best of luck to other wide authors and self-pubbers attempting to master this challenge. 

    Offline 75845

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #22 on: June 14, 2018, 02:49:40 pm »
    That seems like odd advice. Every documentation I've ever read says you have to collect VAT from specific countries (in the EU). I've never seen an exemption based on a specific dollar value. Amazon and Smashwords collect VAT on ebooks. I don't think small businesses (Indie authors) are exempt from this.
    Does anyone have documentation that suggests we are exempt from VAT?

    It's not odd advice, but sounds like it's advice about other United states rather other country states. Everyone selling to customers in the EU have to collect tax. The hoo-haa over the switch to VAT rates being based on the customer's address in 2015 brought the earning possibility to other countries attention and from memory Google Play have informed me about new VAT type policies for Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Not sure of the precise countries but Japan was the first I received a notification about. Any business without an office in the EU has had to charge VAT based on customer's address since 2008 for digital products. So Second Life lowered my annual fee when I moved from Ireland back to the UK in 2008 (i.e., Irish VAT rates were higher). Exemption from charging VAT applies only to residents of that country. E.g., if I sold in the UK to only UK residents I could avoid registering for VAT until my income (not profits) reached something like 85,000 pounds. Ireland has a similarly high rate, but as I am no longer a resident of that blessed isle I would have to charge VAT from the first euro of income. There was a kboards thread recently titled "Help Canada says I owe GST." International GST/VAT laws are complex so professional advice is recommended. Hoping they won't notice little old you is a fine policy until they do notice you when it becomes a completely stupid [mule] policy.

    Offline 75845

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #23 on: June 14, 2018, 05:04:48 pm »
    And as many times as this issue has come up on these boards, I've still never seen anyone point to an actual US law that says US citizens selling online from a US address are required to collect and remit taxes to a foreign government. I'm inclined to take my tax professional's opinion over hearsay on the internet or opinions from non-Americans (who will obviously be less familiar with US tax laws than a US tax professional).

    Every time someone has a thread like this my response is to note that in 2008 Second Life (based in California) started charging me VAT because I lived in the EU. I am sure that Second LIfe can afford top notch tax professionals.

    From the Smashwords Site Update of December 2014
    Quote
    Smashwords has always distributed books through our global retailers at a VAT-inclusive price.  This means that VAT for European sales was deducted from the sales price, and only then did the retailer take their cut before sending the remaining proceeds to Smashwords.
    Smashwords (a California company) can afford good tax professionals (based in Bainbridge Island, Washington State).

    Maybe your tax professional is smarter than those employed by Second Life and Smashwords. Maybe not.

    Offline Kwrite

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    Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
    « Reply #24 on: June 14, 2018, 08:35:26 pm »
    No, I specifically asked my accountant about both other states' sales taxes as well as other countries' VAT. Because, again, just because another country wants me to collect and pay taxes to them doesn't mean I have any obligation as far as my own government is concerned to do so. And as many times as this issue has come up on these boards, I've still never seen anyone point to an actual US law that says US citizens selling online from a US address are required to collect and remit taxes to a foreign government. I'm inclined to take my tax professional's opinion over hearsay on the internet or opinions from non-Americans (who will obviously be less familiar with US tax laws than a US tax professional). This isn't "hoping they won't catch me". This is me not having any actual legal or ethical obligation. (And anyway, due to the way my store is set up, I don't even collect enough customer information to know where they live.)

    I'm not going to get into VAT or GST/HST filing requirements, but I say this as someone who works in public accounting and prepares state sales tax filings for some of our clients, I would revisit sales tax discussions with your accountant. What experience does he/she have in SALT? I ask because CPA doesn't necessarily = current on all state sales tax laws. We have a group that does nothing but state income and sales tax. A lot of our Tax CPA are not current on all state/local sales tax rulings and need to defer to our SALT group when needing to address client questions. I'm hesitant to sell direct from my website b/c as someone who has to deal with state sales tax filings in my day job, I know what a pain in the you-know-what it can be. After discussions with one of my sales tax managers, I agree with him that selling through Amazon creates nexus, and wherever Amazon has physical location & is required to pay sales tax to that state, I would be required should I sell to someone in that state. Also, I hope that you are collecting enough information to know where you're selling to. Even should your accountant disagree with me about Amazon & nexus, at the very least you should be collecting & readmitting sales tax in your own state. If you aren't collecting information, how would you know when you do so? Lastly, I'm confused about this "threshold" you must meet before being required to pay sales tax to another state. I'm not aware of one. If you're only selling direct from your website & nowhere else, then you only have to worry about your own state. But if you're selling through Amazon and/or B&N, I strongly recommend another discussion with your accountant.

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