An author’s review of PayHip as a venue for selling ebooks

Earlier this week, I tested out PayHip, an online platform for selling digital downloads, as a venue for selling some of my ebooks. I’d read an author review of PayHip on Facebook and wanted to check it out myself.

Much of my decision was about timing—I had a newsletter scheduled to go out but was still waiting for one of my new titles to go live on Amazon, even though was already on Apple iBooks. I could either wait to send out the newsletter, or I could take the matter into my own hands and make the title available in Kindle format outside of Amazon.

So I decided to put two short stories in PayHip: the contemporary MMM romance Pacific Rimming and the sexy sci fi story Far From Home. Since lots of romance authors seem to be turning to PayHip in the wake of All Romance’s demise, I thought I’d share my mostly positive experience here along with one big warning.

 

This is my pay hip storefront. I like the rainbow stripe at the top of the page. Does PayHip do that for all writers, or just the QUILTBAG ones?

My experience

Signing up for PayHip was easy. I gave them my name, my email, and made up yet another password for yet another website. (Since PayHip involves monetary transactions, I made a difficult one—no pets’ birthdays or ABC123 for me!) I linked it to my PayPal account in less than a minute; PayHip also works with Stripe, and I imagine that process is just as quick. Then I created a bio and added a few social media links for my author page. Easy!

The next step was uploading my books. That was also easy. I had already created epub and mobi files using Scrivener,  so I uploaded those along with higher resolution images of the covers for the display pages.  I slept in book descriptions, which was a quick cut and paste job from the blurb and review quotes I had already put together for publishing the books through Pronoun (a  company that distributes self-published ebooks to Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.)  I could’ve easily been done with both books in less than five minutes if I hadn’t decided to also create a PDF file to give my readers as many formatting options as they would have once had on All Romance and can still get at Smashwords and Dreamspinner. I had never created a PDF from either Scrivener or an EPUB before, so figuring out how to do that added another 15 or 20 minutes to the process. But then I was done!

I sent out my newsletter and half an hour later I had my first sale. PayHip sent me a nice email to let me know that someone had purchased my book, and right after that PayPal sent me an email to let me know that $.99 and been deposited into my account. Another second after that and PayPal let me know it had sent 5¢ to PayHip to cover PayHip’s transaction fee.

And then, five minutes later, I got my first angry email.

A reader had paid for the book and tried to download it, but had downloaded the wrong format. I was surprised about that, because I thought readers would get a zip file of all three formats. Apparently, they are permitted to download all three formats, but they need to download them one at a time. The instructions on PayHip did not make this clear, so my reader thought they had lost their chance at getting the correct format. And they were annoyed.

I talked to a couple other authors and poked around the PayHip site to figure out what had happened, then got back to the reader, sending them the correct format. Hopefully the issue is resolved? I don’t know. The reader didn’t respond. [Update on Feb. 12: The reader got back at me and let me know they were able to later download the correct file format. So the problem is more a lack of clear instructions than a technical issue. And the reader and I ended up having a very pleasant email exchange, so everything was good in the end. And something I failed to note in the original posting is that, since PayHip sends notification of every transaction, it’s easy to confirm that an individual paid for an item. So even if they aren’t able to solve the problem via the PayHip platform, the author can make sure the reader gets their download some other way.]

However, I had several other transactions that evening and all of them seem to have gone smoothly. Payment goes into your PayPal account as soon as the transaction goes through, minus PayHip’s transaction fee and any fees that PayPal charges.

Overall, it went about as smoothly as it I would expect anything in publishing to go these days.

The Big Warning

Every time a reader makes a purchase, they are brought to the author’s PayPal page. They will also see the name that is on the author’s PayPal account.  This isn’t a big deal if you are an author who whose legal names and author names are the same, or if you have a PayPal business account that displays your business name when people make payments to you.

But if you write with a pseudonym and don’t have a separate PayPal account for business, guess what? Any reader who purchases your stuff through PayHip will find out your legal name.

That’s not a big deal for some writers, but a huge deal for others who need to keep their legal and writing identities separate for whatever reason. I’ve talked with several authors who thought that PayHip would keep their legal names private, only to find out after several PayHip transactions that every purchaser now knows their legal name. PayHip should be much clearer about this in its literature.

[Update on Feb. 12: I got in touch with PayHip and a representative told me they hadn’t given lots of thought to pseudonyms, but now that the issue had been raised, they would figure out a way to make this aspect of transactions clearer to sellers and encourage those who need to keep their identity private to use PayPal business accounts rather than personal ones.]

My Review of PayHip

For authors, PayHip is not a great alternative for opening a storefront on your own website as far as integrating with PayPal or protecting your identity goes. But there are advantages:

  • PayHip manages downloads for you
  • PayHip collects VAT (sales tax) for purchases made in Europe

The first is great, because it means not having to install or maintain automation software on your website to manage ebook sales. And the second is a huge advantage if you have a lot of sales in Europe, because you are expected to collect VAT (sales taxes) on European purchases and send them to their respective tax authorities.But for other writers, selling directly from one’s own website using PayPal or Stripe might be just as viable an option.

Plus, authors get a much larger share of the proceeds than when selling via a bookstore. My share of sales through Pronoun are 70% at most booksellers. At PayHip, it’s 95%. That’s a huge difference for writers who just want to be able to pay their bills.

[ Clarification on Feb. 22: Both percentages given above are before PayPal’s or Stripe’s processing fees. For US customers, PayPal’s fee structure is generally 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.  when you get paid through Amazon,  Amazon groups all purchases over the course of a month or quarter— depending on how you set up your account with them— into a single PayPal transaction. The 30¢ surcharge occurs only once for all of those grouped transactions. So, for example, if you sell 99¢ books over the course of an Amazon sales period, your take-home after PayPal processing fees is $99 minus  the Amazon commission (usually 65% for self-publishers through Kindle Direct Publishing, so  $34.65, but only 30% for authors who publish through Pronoun, coming to $69.30) minus 2.9% minus 30¢,  equals  $33.35 for self published authors who publish directly to Amazon, and $ $66.99 for those who published through Pronoun. But because customers purchase directly through PayPal when they use PayHip, you get charged 30¢ every time someone buys a book.  So if you are charging $0.99 for your book, for each book you take home $.99 minus the 5% PayHip processing fee, minus the 2.9% PayPal processing fee, minus 30 cents; or

( $0.99 * 0.95) * .971  – .30 =  $0.61

Multiply that by 100 and you get $61.00— much more than you would get through Kindle Direct Publishing, but a little less than you would get through Pronoun.

As book prices go up, the percentage of the book price eaten up by PayPal fees becomes less, because $0.30 is only 10% of $2.99 and only 5% of $5.99. This means that pay it becomes more of an advantage the more you charge for your book, with significant advantages for both Kindle  Direct Publishers and Pronoun publishers starting at around $2.99.

Stripe’s per-transaction charges are similar, so the break down should be virtually the same for them.

I am planning to keep my books on PayHip. Apart from the initial blip, it seems to be working fine for my readers. The storefront looks nice, and I don’t have the time to create a fully functioning ebook store on my website just now. But for other writers, selling directly from one’s own website using PayPal or Stripe might be just as viable an option.

[Yet another update, this one on Feb. 25: I didn’t mention in this article that PayHip allows you to set the price as a minimum, which allows purchasers to pay more for the product if they want to. Who would want to pay more than they have to for something? I honestly didn’t think anybody but my mother-in-law would choose to pay extra. Still, I set all the prices in my PayHip store as “$X.XX+”. The little “+” at the end of the price tells customers that they can throw in some extra cash if they like. And guess what happened? Someone actually did that yesterday. Whoa. Readers understand that when I earn more for my writing, I can write more. *Feels.*]

Writers and readers, what do you think of PayHip? Have you had good experiences with it? Bad experiences? I would love to hear your stories in the comments!

 

 

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11 thoughts on “An author’s review of PayHip as a venue for selling ebooks

  1. I’m going to defintely try it just wanted to see a review to make sure that it wasn’t a scam. thank you for this info. — author tracy murry

  2. I’m an artist selling original, alternative, non-normative and queer content which is sexy and adult-oriented but not explicit or pornographic. I don’t work with nude.
    Since the very first moment (in fact, a few days later) I started to use their plugin, PayHip treated me with a very heavy and sexist and malodorous and moralistic ostracism, using every possible excuse.
    They first banned my store preventing me to work in 2015. When I complained, they sent me an email saying they were sorry and explaining that one of their workers just saw the preview images to some of my clips and “assumed” (yes, you’ve read that right: that’s how professional they are) they were pornographic, and before asking for confirmation they just banned me (!). They promised it wouldn’t happen again.
    Now, two years later, they’ve sent me the very SAME-worded email and I’m banned again.
    It’s been several days now and they just refuse to reply to my many emails requesting an explanation.
    I want to make one thing clear: as I speak (June 2017), PayHip doesn’t have ethical, moral or even legal limitations in their terms of service about the content sold via their plugin. They probably should, but they don’t.
    When I talked to PayPal about this, they confirmed they have zero problems with my work, my content and my videos and that what I do does not go against PayPal’s terms of service.
    This is what happens when people who have probably been brain-washed by religion and medieval morals run a (supposedly) multi-cultural business.
    Stay away if you love freedom of expression and respect all your sisters and brothers, fellow human beings.

    • That sucks. Please let me know if you ever hear from them, or if you end up posting about this to your own blog. I’ll contact them as well.

    • Did they get back to you yet? This was their reply to me:

      Hi Dale,

      Hope you’re well. We were required to remove that sellers products since they contained images and videos of a graphic nature. We have no problem with any written content so long as they’re legal.

      We have to abide by Paypal’s terms, otherwise they’d simply shut down our account. This did in fact happen at one point, until we removed products which they disagreed with.

      Many thanks

  3. I have a question:

    Since Amazon handles money by the month/quarter, the PayPal processing fee is applied much less than with PayHip sending each transaction individually. Is there an option to have PayHip group each transaction by period, like Amazon does?

    Also, about those stories you sold for 99¢, what was the total page count for them? I’m looking to start publishing a story in serial format soon, and I want to make sure I don’t end up price gouging my audience.

    • Individuals don’t pay PayHip; they pay you directly through PayHip’s interface. That’s why each transaction comes through individually. The only way to group transactions is to encourage individuals to buy multiple books at once. PayHip doesn’t group transactions, and can’t with its current business model. You can always put in a request with them, though. Or you can try a service like Ganxy. They take 10% of your retail price, and you’re responsible for PayPal fees, but they only pay out when you direct them to, not with each transaction.

      My stories were around 3,000 and 9,000 words. Page counts vary so widely among ereaders that I don’t find them reliable. 99¢ was a special for PayHip. On other venues, they’re $1.99.

      In any case, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how to price shorter works (or any works, for that matter). Try to find a sweet spot where your book will sell, and you’ll also get decent compensation for all the effort you put into it. It’s a creative work, not a commodity.

  4. When they shut you down, did you receive an error message when going to your url? Were you able to log in to your account? Also, how did you contact them? I am freaking out at these issues. It is my only way of selling my book.

    • Hi Brandi,

      Are you having trouble accessing your PayHip account?

      My account hasn’t been closed, so I can’t speak to your questions from personal experience. If you’re addressing your questions to Matteo, he doesn’t appear to be following comments on this post any longer, so I don’t think your question will reach him. You could try looking him up on Facebook to see if you can get in touch with him that way.

      From the way Matteo described the situation, it was my understanding that he received a notice (presumably an email) that PayHip was closing/had closed his account. So it appears that their practice is to notify people of closures, rather than shutting the accounts down and leaving it for creators to figure it out on their own later. I don’t know whether they gave Matteo a chance to download purchase histories before his account was closed, so it seems good to err on the side of caution and download those on a regular basis.

      All that said, PayHip can be contacted even if you don’t have an account with them. They provide contact information at payhip.com/support/.

      Good luck, and please keep me updated!

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