C.G. Masi Weblog

Building an Online Bookstore - Part 1

19 October 2017 - Once upon a time, long-form writers (i.e. novelists) could only get into print by attracting the attention of traditional publishers, or by paying big piles of money to vanity-press publishers. More recently, technology seems to have advanced to the point where online retail marketing of digital books looks viable for the typical indie author. So, I've looked into building my own little online bookstore to sell mobile-optimized versions of my novels. This, then, is the first in a series of blog posts describing my journey through the minefield of building an online bookstore to retail digital books directly to readers.

CGMbooks logo
CGMbooks.com is the home of my new online bookstore.

I'm hoping that what I'm doing will inspire other authors, as well as other entrepreneurs interested in setting up their own online retail stores. Anyone selling virtually anything has to go through this same process, so there's a lot you can learn from my experience. This post covers the very first step in the planning stage. Subsequent posts will cover subsequent steps.

Developing a Vision

It's virtually impossible to get anywhere without first envisioning where you want to go. That may seem obvious, but it's important to explicitly think about it before you begin. Basically, you need to define your goals.

My goals for my online bookstore project are:

  • Build a professional-quality ecommerce website. Building my own online retail store makes it possible to control everything from production through distribution of the books I write.
  • Take My Online Marketing Skills to the Next Level. Over the years, I've achieved some limited success with search-engine optimization (SEO) on the websites I've built for myself and others. It's time to step up my online-marketing game.
  • Promote My Novels to the Widest Possible Audience. Creative people in general want to have their work seen an appreciated. We care about whether future generations will remember we were here, and what we did.

  • Make Additional Income. This is actually a second-level goal, but it needs to be stated.

The main characteristic of these goals is that they're carefully designed to be a stretch for me, but achievable. That's pretty much what people who think about such things have concluded is necessary for achieving success.

I've built websites before. I taught myself HTML coding way back in the 1990s, and have lost count of the number of individual websites I've built since. What I haven't done is build an ecommerce site, which includes the bells and whistles needed to market products, take payments, and deliver goods.

That's the reason for the first goal. It's the basic raison d'etre for the whole project. Otherwise I'd spend my time doing something else.

The second goal supports the first goal. Actually, it supports all the other goals. Over the years it's become abundantly clear that if I don't blow my own horn, who will? In the age of the Internet, you have to promote yourself online to gain any traction at all.

The third goal might be better characterized as an objective. It speaks to my overall motivation. What am I trying to accomplish, anyway?

Finally, while I have an adequate stipend from my patron Uncle Sam in return for decades of paying into his Social Security System, I could do more with more. Maybe Bill and Melinda Gates have enough, but I'm not them and almost certainly never will be. I've never been Warren Buffett, either, and even he's still on the lookout for more!

So, that just about covers the first step in my journey to online entrepreneurship. Watch this space for news of what comes next.