How to Sell eBooks on Your WordPress Site

I’m deviating from my normal topics here today to talk about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: WordPress! Most of my freelance work involves writing about this awesome content management system. I know I talk about the business of freelancing and writing here most of the time, but I thought I’d take the opportunity today to combine the two through a topic as likely as any: ebooks!

Here’s a quick tutorial to help those currently immersed in or looking to get into the publishing game. If you want your ebooks flying off the virtual shelves, keep reading. Because if you use WordPress, you can easily configure your site for selling ebooks in just a few minutes. And all it takes is one easy-to-use plugin.

Sell eBooks Using WordPress iSell

Let’s say in all your years of experience, you’ve written up some excellent material (if you do say so yourself) that you feel would benefit your target audience. I’m talking beyond your standard blog posts here. Rather, I’m referring to in-depth content that offers timeless tips or instructions. If you step back, it’s likely you’ll find you have a book’s length worth of material to work with. And instead of letting it languish on your hard drive, you can really make the most of it by, you know, selling it.

This is where a lot of people jump off board. After all, the prospect of trying to sell something through Amazon can feel intimidating to say the least. Even some of the indie publishing sites have a bit of a learning curve to them. Plus, these sites often take a cut of your revenue, which kind of stinks. But there’s no reason why you have to go that route at all. Especially when you can sell ebooks from your WordPress site directly. Yes, that means everything from receiving orders to processing payments to delivering your content. And that also means all of that potential revenue stays right where it belongs, i.e. in your pocket.

Instead of going for a complex solution, why not keep it simple? Thankfully, WordPress iSell offers exactly that.

If all you’re selling is a couple of ebooks, you don’t necessarily need a full e-commerce system. You just need a way to present your ebooks, accept payment, and deliver the goods. WordPress iSell does this by processing the sale of digital products through PayPal. Here are a few of the plugin’s most notable features:

  • Sell an unlimited number of products
  • Sell products of many different types from PDFs to .mobi to MP3s.
  • Downloads are sent automatically to customers following payment.
  • Uses a custom post type for easy management of your downloads and orders.
  • Download links are delivered via encrypted links in email.
  • Add thumbnails to each download.
  • Shortcodes let you display downloads anywhere on your site.

So all of this is fine and well, but how do you actually go about using this plugin? Good question. Here’s how it breaks down…

Installation & Page Creation

Installation is easy. Just go to to the Plugins menu  in your WordPress dashboard and select Add New. Use the search box in the upper righthand corner and type in “WordPress iSell.” Click Install Now next to Sell Digital Downloads. The plugin will be downloaded onto your site. On the next screen click Activate Plugin.

Now you need to make some new pages on your site for the plugin to work properly. So, go to Pages > Add New and create three new pages. According to the plugin’s official documentation, this is what they should be and what they should contain:

  1. Thank You. This page will be displayed after a customer buys your ebook. It thanks him for his purchase. Include whatever text/images you want here.
  2. Transaction Error. All you should put on this page is this simple shortcode: [isell_errors]
  3. Product Download. The last page you need to create is the page from which customers will actually download your product(s). Once a customer makes a purchase, they will be sent to this page to complete the transaction. Just put this shortcode on it to make everything work as it should: [isell_download_page]

Modifying Your Settings

Your next step in the setup process is to go into the Settings menu for WordPress iSell and make whatever customizations you prefer. There should be an iSell option in your WordPress dashboard now. Click it to go to the plugin’s specific settings page. Most are pretty self-explanatory:


For instance, you should input your PayPal email address in the PayPal Email field and your preferred currency should be input in the Currency field.  Under Directory input the directory on your site where you want to store your downloadable files. For the Error Page, Thank You Page, and Download Page fields, select the URLs for the pages you created previously.


And a really important one is the Use fsockopen or CURL field. For this section you need to pick what method you want to use to validate Instant Payment Notification with PayPal. Not all hosting providers support this so you might need to contact them directly for guidance here.

Adding Your First Product

With all of that hullaballoo out of the way, you can get down to the fun part: adding your products! To do this, go to the new dedicated menu in your dashboard called Products > Add New.


From here, you can add all of the specifications of your ebook. Type in a name and how much you want to sell it for. Copy the Buy Now URL for the product. You’ll need it later.

Next, upload your ebook file. Upload it via this interface or upload it via FTP to the appropriate directory, if you want. If you opt for the latter, you’ll just need to input the right URL in the File URL field after the fact. Lastly, create a name for your file that the customer will see in the File Name field. This will mask the actual file name to help prevent theft. Click Publish when you’re done.



All you have to do at this point is make sure that Buy Now URL I told you to copy earlier is inserted in the right place. Create a new post or page or modify an existing one to add this via a text link, image link, or button link. Write some snazzy sales copy and you’re good to go!

And if you want to view your previous orders to modify transaction details, you can go to the Orders menu in your dashboard at any time.

Wrapping Up

See, I told you it was pretty easy! Now you have no excuses. Go put that ebook up on your website and make some extra cash. It’ll be worth the extra few minutes you spend on setup here, I promise.

Have you ever used WordPress iSell before? Have you sold ebooks on your site in some other way? I’d love to hear about your experience with freelance publishing as it relates to WordPress in the comments below!

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Brenda Stokes Barron is a freelance writer and blogger for hire. When she's not hunched over her laptop, she's spending time with her husband, daughter, and two crazy cats. Keep up with her antics (which often include trips to Starbucks) on Google +.

This post is excellent for both developer and writer at once. I found it to be a great read.

Hassaan Khan
Hassaan Khan


Nice Post. I told you on twitter that it's great piece of advice. I'll surely consider this plugin in near future. 

Thanks Again!