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.
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.]
Even if you already have a personal PayPal account, you can go ahead and set up a separate PayPal business account. PayPal allows individuals to have one of each, and it’s fine if they’re connected to the same bank account. You just need to use a different email address for each account.
Once you’ve created a PayPal business account, you can link it to PayHip.
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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31 thoughts on “An author’s review of PayHip as a venue for selling ebooks”
Hi, Dale. Nice blog as always. My question is: do you not use KU at all? (Just trying to figure this all out.)
I don’t use it currently. I don’t like having all my eggs in one basket.
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
Thanks. I’m glad I could help!
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:
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.
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.
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!
Hi I am new at all this and I am considering using payhip for my ebooks sales.
What are the alternatives that are similar to payhip?
I don’t know anything exactly like PayHip. The thing that makes PayHip stand out is that, when someone makes a purchase through PayHip, the payment goes directly to you instead of being held until the end of the month or until you meet a certain payment threshhold. To get that kind of immediate payment, you could set up a store on your website using WooCommerce or something like that, but you would need a mechanism in place for collecting VAT (for purchasers from Europe) and enabling downloads.
Ganxy is an alternative to PayHip that I’ll be writing about in an upcoming blog post. It charges a higher per-transaction fee and does not pay out immediately. However, some authors view this as a plus because it’s easier for their accounting to deal with aggregated payments, rather than individual ones.
I tried using Payhip. Everything went OK until I was asked for a payment method.
They then did a big “No No” and asked me for my Paypal Email and password.
Why do they need my password? other then for fraud.
I would be opening myself to a Scam in that anyone with my password could access my Paypal account and send transactions for thousands at will.
“DON’T GO THERE”.
I have been caught before with Payloadz who wanted the same information and then slyly hit me for $30
Paypal did however refund me.
PayHip doesn’t ask for this information on their website. They ask you to log in to PayPal and/or Stripe to authorize to enable automatic future payments to PayHip. These payments are the 5% share PayHip earns whenever you sell a product using their website or API. This is actually a fairly standard arrangement, although outlets like Amazon may ask for your credit card number instead.
This is how it looks on my PayPal account when someone buys a book for, say, $4: I get a notice from PayPal that I have received $4 from a reader, minus PayPal’s fees. Then I get a second notice that PayPal has sent $0.20 (5% of the purchase price) to PayHip.
PayHip has never tried to access my account for unauthorized payments, and if it did this to authors, PayPal would shut down its relationship with PayHip fairly quickly.
As for PayLoadz, it is a subscription-based service and charges sellers who store more than 50MB of data or have more than $100 worth of transactions. You likely signed an agreement to this effect when you gave them your PayPal information (though they may not have made the terms clear), and they charged you accordingly. PayHip is not subscription based. The only fee is the per-transaction one.
Still, only you can decide what you’re comfortable with.
Hi Dale, following you on Instagram.
I love PayHip, made sales in late 2017. However, it’s people ignoring that I have ebooks on sale at half-price for now LOL! I’ll be removing one format out of the three offering for now and I’ll probably upload all of Novel One, which contains four Episodes (you call them Novellas) darn Kindle … annoying as people don’t get to know that Epub is the best format which can be read anywhere — I know, I’ve worked on getting it just right (I had two Kobo eReaders) and as I’ve worked for over 20 years in document publications my formats are easily readable, full thru-flow and as I’m using Lithium Reader app from Google Play Store for my Android Tablet — I have colours within my text and it comes out beautifully.
I’ve had a tough time in 2017. Lost my son and youngest in January, Google Plus went bust and I’m revamping my website to a new provider so I can have a tip jar and advertise my 3D eBook Covers and Formatting/Editing Services — oh and I was able to help someone who uses MAC IOS products to self-publish in Epub to reach readers outside of iBooks. Facing the first death anniversary of my son this month. I take things slow, but honestly, I was hoping to sell 500 eBooks for Christmas — didn’t happen unfortunately so still recovering from funeral fees…. Sorry for blabbing. Yours in blood, CeDany, BB, V-V!
Second account to reach you. Cheers!
Sorry for the delay in replying. I was sick when you sent this and I let it fall through the cracks.
Thanks for sharing your experience with PayHip. I agree, it can be difficult to get the word out to readers that you’re on PayHip. The only methods I have figured out are by posting to Facebook and other social media, and having links to it on my website – but then I need people to be looking for books on my website! Facebook ads might be another option, but I haven’t looked into it.
It would be great if PayHip had a search function on its website to allow people to search for a media type (for example, books or music) and then categories within that media type (such as genre).
Great run-down on PayHip!
One thing, though: I told them about their lack of instructions for set-up that can lead to revealing an author’s real name over a year ago. They told me they’d be looking into updating their instructions at that time, but if you had the same issue then for whatever reason maybe it’s not a priority for them? I’m not knocking them, but it’s a small flag for me that they’re still saying the same thing after all this time. Hopefully they’re working on it, as well as searches and other handy perks. 🙂
Well I wrote this post a year ago, so we probably contacted them around the same time.
It’s not clear to me whether they have updated their literature on PayPal, since I haven’t tried changing my PayPal account. They did mention the identity thing when I opened up a separate account for a pen name, but that was in a chat. I don’t remember seeing it in the instructions—though I haven’t finished setting up that account, either.
Thank you for this honest review of Payhip, and for the updates! I’m looking at it as an “instant buy” option for a mini course. Typically I sell courses on Kajabi, but they require a username and password, which doesn’t really cater to the tripwire effect I’m going for (buy now before the timer disappears). Seeing that payhip doesn’t charge you unless you sell kind of made me suspicious, but your review cleared that up! Thank you!
I’m so glad it was helpful. Good luck with your course!
Thanks for this post as PayHip is new to me and I’m in need of something similar, not to sell eBooks (as yet). Thanks for the tip re PP Bus Account etc, very useful info.
I want to take a payment and then have a form available to someone in a suitable format, so I guess I need to explore that with PayHip, i.e. they need to be able to fill it out and return it to my email address, in Word, Open Office or as a scanned PDF.
What you’ve covered sounds ideal, provided that last bit works. I’ve a question about your calculation thought, just so I’m clear, is yours a typo?
( $0.99 * 0.95) * .971 – .30 = $0.61
should it be:
($0.99 * 0.95) * .971 – .30 = $0.941
Or have I misunderstood the charges? And how does peeps being able to see your PP Account details comply with GDPR? Just a thought, but it’s meant to be a UK company isn’t it, and their data protection info was a tad weak considering we’re now over the line.
$0.30 is the correct number. It’s what PayPal charges to transfer the money to you.
Also, it’s PayPal that shows your account name to the buyer, not PayHip. In the US, that’s done as an anti-fraud and anti-crime measure; here, buyers have the right to know who they’re sending money to. Sellers agree to this when they sign up for a PayPal account, although I’m sure a lot of them overlook this part of the Terms of Service.
Because of those security issues, I would expect that PayPal would have a legal basis for revealing this information even with GDPR in effect. But I’m not a lawyer, and especially not an EU one. You can find the PayPal privacy policies and terms of service here: https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/ua/legalhub-full?locale.x=en_GB
Question, Payhip allows the mobi, sells the mobi, sends the link to the mobi – how does that get to the Kindle? When I download it vanishes and I don’t see any way of emailing the file to my Kindle.
I’m probably being stupid, I often am. But the chances are if I’m having a problem on this trial run, my readers will too.
Are you adding it to your documents folder? That’s the way to add purchases from places other than Amazon to your Kindle. You can also email the book to your Kindle account. Here are some directions: http://www.janicasmith.com/2017/add-non-amazon-book-kindle/
I had a Payhip account. I accidentally uploaded eBooks which I thought were OK for resale, I had been on Payhip for about 2 years and suddenly Payhip closed down my account. I asked why and they said I was not allowed to sell resaleable eBooks. So I said sorry about that but would it be ok to upload my own eBooks, I have two which I wrote myself which have no resale rights but they never got back to me. I emailed them again but still no word from them. Payhip closes people’s accounts for little or no reason, they don’t give second chances even if you make a genuine mistake. My advice is fuck them there are other and better platforms out there.
i have been using payhip for 1 year now very neat and simple to use tool.
When someone buys from Payhip & use Paypal they get a receipt from Paypal, if you have a business account you can make it so the receipt doesn’t show your real name – a business name instead.
When I discovered Payhip, it was like Eureka! for me-finally a place that would sell my book online (this after abandoning the idea of using Smashwords as they require files to be provided in .doc, a 15 years old format so I would have to convert back my Win 10 created files; this would take weeks of work). Getting established on Payhip was relatively easy and I got first purchase! But then, nothing, although 11 people visited the site, unable to make purchase. They were faced with all those statistics of interest to seller, but no BUY button (as shown in the FAQ’s). And Payhip support does not respond, even in workdays.
Can someone successful please let me know how should I instruct potential customers how to buy on Payhip? Thanks. Peter L.
Hi Dale. Thanks for the info. I have a question….do you know if you can change a file once it has been uploaded?? I want to pre-sell my Ebook, which is not done yet. So I don’t have a file to upload yet. It won’t let me continue with my set-up without uploading something so can I upload a small blurb and then upload the rest later?? I shot them an email, but have yet to hear back so I thought you might know. Thanks
I just signed up for Payhip today and it is great. I only wish that I knew about it before I paid my webguy to add a Woocommerce store to my blog. Payhip has great features like the ability to start your own affiliate program and have people sell your products for you for a small fee. I have been wanting to do this for the longest time and Payhip made it a seamless process. I only wish that they offered some kind of marketing platform as well.