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How To Sell an E-Book on Your WordPress Site – The Definitive Guide

Today I'm gonna share with you how easy it is to sell an e-book (or any digital product for that matter) on your WordPress website and deliver it to your customer – instantly – without you having to do anything but set it up.

Who doesn't want instant gratification? When we buy something online we want it yesterday. When Amazon starts delivering same-day via drones you can bet I'll be jumping on that bandwagon! This method will deliver your digital download to your customer instantly! Now how's that for customer service?

And the best part about it is that it's not going to cost you a penny!

Here's what you need:

  • Something to sell – your e-book, a video, an audio file.
  • A WordPress plugin called Easy Digital Downloads
  • A free PayPal account
  • 30 minutes to set it all up.

The Definitive Guide to Selling an E-book on Your Website

Download and Install Easy Digital Downloads

Go to and click on the Download link.

In your WordPress dashboard, click on Plugins > Add New.

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Click Upload Plugin

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Click Choose File, navigate to the file you just downloaded (usually in your Downloads folder) and click Open.

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Click Install Now.

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Click Activate Plugin.

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You'll now see a welcome page, and you'll also have a new Downloads link in your dashboard menu. Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) also added some checkout pages to your list of WordPress pages.

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Configure Settings

Click on Downloads > Settings.

General Tab

You'll see that the pages EDD created are selected as the Checkout, Success, Failure and Purchase History pages, so you can leave those as they are.

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Enter your country, state and currency options.

Leave “Allow User Keys” unchecked.

It's up to you whether to check “Allow Usage Tracking” I'm checking it. Google already knows everything about me, why not share some info with the plugin developers since it's free?

Then click Save Changes.

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Next, click on the Payment Gateways tab. EDD comes with PayPal Standard for free, but if you use a different payment gateway you can purchase payment gateway add-ons. See a list of supported gateways here. But for this tutorial we're going to use good ol' PayPal Standard because it's my favorite thing: freasy (free + easy).

So check that box, check the credit card types you'll accept, enter your PayPal email address and leave the rest of the fields as is.

Click Save Changes.

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Email Tab

Set up your email confirmations for your customers.

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Select “Default Template” for the email template.

If you want your logo displayed on your purchase email (you do) then click on Upload File in the logo section and select or upload your logo.

In From Name, enter your company name, and your email in From Email.

In the Purchase Email Subject, be sure to make this something that your customer will know that it's not just a receipt, but it also includes a link to their download. Otherwise they may not bother to open the email and then they'll be asking you where their order is. Totally defeats the purpose of you not having to do work after you set this up!

Then enter the text of your purchase receipt. Leave the {name}, {download_list} and {sitename} fields alone – but you can change the other text and add to it.

You'll also see a list of template tags beneath the email field (not shown) that you can use to pull customer information into your purchase receipt. To use them simply paste the tag including the brackets where you want that information to display in your email.

Sale Notification Emails

Scroll down and you'll see the New Sale Notification section. This is a confirmation email that will go to you when a purchase is made. I typically leave this as it is, but you can edit it to suit your needs.

Enter the email address where you want sales notifications to go.

You can also click the checkbox to disable sale notification emails (not shown).

When you're done, click Save Changes.

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To preview and test your receipt, click on the “Preview Purchase Receipt” button (below the Logo section). You can also send yourself a test email (which you really should!)


Click on the Styles Tab. Here you can disable EDD's styling if you don't like how it looks with your site. I'd leave this alone for now – then once you get everything set up, see how it looks. Then if you need to make changes come back here and test these out and see how they affect your site.

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This next section gives me heartburn… But we have to do it! I'm not even going to pretend to know what other states' and countries' requirements are – but I know Ohio and I'll explain the options to you.

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If you have to include sales tax, check the box to Enable Taxes.

Then select your Country and State. In Ohio we only apply sales tax to Ohio orders, so I'm leaving “Apply to Whole Country” unchecked, and then I enter my ridiculously high county sales tax.

I'm not sure what a fallback tax rate is, I'm leaving that blank.

I'm entering my product prices without tax, so I chose “No, I will enter prices exclusive of tax.” Then I want to display tax rate on prices so I check that box, and then I select “Including Tax” to display the tax amount during checkout.

Then click Save Changes.

Misc Tab

Okay, so this page has a million options on it that I'm not going to bore you with going over them all in detail. Read through them, see if you think any apply to you.

The ones you should take a look are near the bottom of this screenshot.

File Download Limit – do you want your customer to be able to download your file only one time from the download link you send them?

The pro of the limiting it to one download is that if they forward your purchase email to a friend after downloading, their friend can't download it too.

The con is that if your customer forgets where they saved their download and just keeps referring back to that email to re-download it every time and they can't, they're going to be contacting you. And you don't want that because you're trying to work less, right?? You can see which one I'm rooting for, right?

Download Link Expiration

This is set to 24 hours by default – but I'm going to recommend that you change it to several days (in hours) or 9999999 – because once again, you may have someone buy something and not try to download it right away. The next day they go to download it and they can't – now they are frustrated and contacting you. So just make the link never expire and save yourself some time and frustration.

Disable Redownload

You can probably guess that I'd leave this one alone too. Why make it difficult for people? Most people are honest, and I don't like making things harder for honest people.

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Wow, that was tedious! Glad that's over, and the great thing is that you'll never have to do that part again! Now on to the important stuff!

Set Up Your Product

In this section you're going to create your product – or as many products as you're gonna sell on your website. This part's easy-peasy.

Click on Downloads > Add New

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The next part is just like writing a blog post. Enter your product name in the title field, and a description in the area below.

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Next you'll give your product a price. Scroll down and you'll see pricing fields. Leave the variable pricing box uncheck, and enter the price of your product.

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Then you'll upload your download 🙂 In the Download Files section, you'll see a dropdown called Product Type Options. Leave that option set to Default.

Then enter your file name, and then you can either link to an existing file or you can upload a file. If you are hosting the file somewhere else like AWS or Dropbox, then paste a link to the file in the file URL field. Since my file isn't stored anywhere else, I'm going to upload it by clicking Upload a File. If you're selling more than one file as part of your product (for example, an e-book with a video), then click Add New and repeat the process.

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Add notes If you have any notes or special instructions you can add them to the next field (not shown) and they'll show up on the receipt.

Set the number of times your product can be downloaded after purchase. In the sidebar, there's a section called Download settings. If for some reason you only want your item to be able to be downloaded once or 5 times you can indicate that here. Otherwise leave it 0 for unlimited downloads.

Set Featured Image

If you already have a cover image for your download you can set it here in the Featured Image section.

If you don't have one you can make one really easily in Canva (I used the Facebook Cover dimensions to create my banner).


Click on Set Featured Image and upload or select your image just like you would a normal WordPress post.

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Click Publish. 

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That's it – click on View Download to see the product page, and make a note of the URL.

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This is where you are going step through what your customers are going to experience and test to make sure everything is working.

First, you're going to go back into Downloads > Settings > Payment Gateways and change PayPal Standard to Test Payment. Click Save Changes.

Then go back to your download (Download > All Downloads > mouse over the title and click View). Click on your Purchase link. It will show a message that it's adding the product to the cart, and then the button will change to Checkout (and it will continue to read checkout even if your customer leaves the download page and comes back).

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Click Checkout. You'll land on the Checkout page created by the plugin upon installation.

Enter your name, email and billing address.

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You'll notice that taxes are added based on the settings we entered earlier.

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Click Purchase.

You are immediately taken to your purchase confirmation page, where you'll see your payment details (free because we made a test purchase) and a link to the download.

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You'll also get the email your customers will receive with a link to the download.Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 1.32.58 PM

If you don't like the way these look, or if you forgot to click Save after changing your settings (which I did in this case), you can go back into Downloads > Settings > Emails and tweak your emails. You should make them as personal as you can because it's a great opportunity to connect with your customers!

Make your changes, test again and repeat until it looks exactly how you want it.

Important! Go back to Downloads > Settings > Payment Gateways and change to PayPal Standard. Don't forget this step or you won't get paid. And then test some more – add the product to your cart again and checkout. You should be redirected to PayPal to pay.

Once you've tested and re-tested, you're ready to start selling!

 Sell Your e-Book!

There are lots of different ways to sell your e-book:

  1. Send a direct link via email to your mailing list. (Remember, you can get this link from Downloads > All Downloads > View)
  2. Advertise the e-book on your homepage with a direct link to your download. This can be with an image, a button – it depends on how your site is laid out. If you took the 5 Day Website Challenge I would have you put it the body section of the homepage as an image linked with a purchase button beneath it. This is super easy to do because you now have an Insert Download link in your text editor!Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 2.05.33 PM

So click on that and you can either insert a text link by selecting the options below, clicking insert download and saving the page.

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And this is what it looks like on the front end:

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So it's easy to insert, but depending on your theme and how this button looks you may want to create your own graphic and use the direct link approach.

3. If you sell multiple products, you could create a Store page where you describe your products, then enter a shortcode to add a purchase button to your description. The shortcode for the purchase button can be found in Downloads > All Downloads near the right-hand side (Purchase Short Code). Simply copy the code, including the brackets and paste it in the text editor where you want the button to appear.

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4. If you sell lots of e-books then it might be worth improving on the basic Store page layout. The Easy Digital Downloads Store page is ideal for selling a few products, but each one takes up a lot of space and it doesn't have extras such as search, sort and filters. This is a shame, as you obviously need a quick way for people to find the e-books they want.

If you're willing to pay for a premium plugin then you can create a complete e-book library with the Posts Table Pro WordPress table plugin. It's fully compatible with Easy Digital Downloads and lists your e-books in a table layout with keyword search, sort options, and filter dropdowns. You can use it to show extra data about each e-book such as custom fields and taxonomies (which are useful for displaying information such as the year and page count). People can add as many products as they like directly from the e-book library page, so it's a good way to encourage customers to buy more.

Barn2 Media, the company behind the plugin, have published a complete guide to creating table layouts for your Easy Digital Downloads products.

5. Add the product to your sidebar. Click on Appearance > Widgets, drag the Download Details widget to your sidebar. Give your download a compelling title, select it from your dropdown, and check at least Show Title and Show Purchase Button. Then click Save.

If you want to display the cart in the sidebar, drag the Downloads Cart widget to the sidebar also.

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This is what it looks like on the front end:

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6. Social Media – if your goal is to sell your e-book, you should link, tweet, Instagram – whatever, the direct link to the download. Why? You want to give your user ONE CHOICE – buy, or leave.

Important! If you don't get the sale, try to get the email!

You should be using a pop-up plugin like Pop Up Ally to try to encourage your customer to opt-in to your freebie so you at least get their email address and can market your e-book to the them via your email list. If you want more information on growing your email list join the Nathalie Lussier's 30 Day List Building Challenge and grow your list more in the next 30 days than you have in the last 3 months. It's a free challenge and you won't be disappointed.

Now you are all set to start selling that e-book (or video, audio) online!

Once you've configured it, post a link to your e-book or other digital download in the comments below and let me know how long it took you to set it up!

And if you haven't already, join some amazing women entrepreneurs that are taking WP*BFF's Free 5 Day Website Challenge and discover how to create a WordPress site in just an hour a day.

Here's what our challengers are saying!

“It's going great for me! I am at day 3.5. I completely re-branded my business this week and I'm looking forward to finishing things up next week. Thanks, Shannon!” – Jenn W.

“This is really an answer to my prayers and intentions for my biz in 2015.” Isis A.

“I just installed WordPress with the first day of the challenge! I've been avoiding WordPress because it seemed too daunting but quickly regretted it when I realized the limitations of a drag and drop type website service. Can't wait for the next five days! Thank you so much!” – Jenn W.