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A Question about Selling Documents from Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 12th of July 2005 Other Income Streams 0 Comments

I have a question for readers who have experience with e-commerce.

What is the simplest way to set up the ability to sell a document/file from a blog?

For example if I were to have a file (pdf) that I wanted to sell to the readers of a blog for a smallish fee – how would the cheapest and most hassle free way be? I don’t want to have to set up a completely new site – or register as a credit card merchant. I do have a paypal account. I am willing to pay a service a small percentage of the income for a service that automates it.

Initially it would just be one type of document for sale – but down the track there could be others.

I’ve had limited experience with esellerate which I could use – but I’m wondering what other options there may be for a low level operation like this.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • PayPal can easily automate this. Click on Merchant Tools, then set up a Buy Now button, paste it onto your site, and you’re done.

  • Ah, I hate when I hit the button too soon. A warning: PayPal offers “encrypted” buttons. These don’t work when inserted into WordPress posts, as WP’s auto-formatter mangles them. If you’re inserting it directly into a post, use the non-encrypted button instead.

  • PayPal is the simplest way to sell direct. An alternative is to get it over on Amazon as an ebook, then just presell and provide a link to the Amazon page. That would take a while to set up though, and you may have to get an ISBN as a publisher. But if you’re going to do it big time, it’s almost certainly worth it.

  • I’ve actually just written a PayPal system into one of my sites so the process for sponsoring a category is automated. It hasn’t been that hard to setup. If you’d like some help, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  • You could also try:


    Have only used Xoom many times before.

  • Kim

    I haven’t used Payloadz ( as a seller, just a buyer, but it seems quick and easy.

  • Darren, you may be aware of Blog Lightning which is a 130 page PDF selling at $79 USD. It’s a good market if you’ve got a reputation in the field.

  • for memory Clickbank offered this sort of service with the abilty to offer an affiliate service as well. The selling part is easy, as everyone else has posted Paypal is easy as, but for serious money you’d want to put an affilate program

  • Hello Daren,

    Definitely PayPal. Within some days or programming, you will be able to do anything you want. Their API is ease to use and you can easily test what you do with their Sandbox. The first thing you have to do is checking what you want to sell, and where/how you want to sell it. After, go read the developer document to know about the services they offer with their API. I do not know what is the degree of integration you want, but you will not have any problem to do it. However, if you have any question, do not hesitate to leave me an email.



  • Grant Thomas

    This sounds very intriguing – is there an e-book coming soon Darren? I’ll be buying one if there is. I’d like to see a compilation of your best posts ever as your archives are so huge it’s hard to get around.

    Tell us?!?

  • I’ve used micropayment site in the past for anything less than US$5. It was OK, but I became disillusioned with the service and decided to stop there. If your documents will go for more than a couple of dollars, then I vote for PayPal too. Otherwise, check out other micropayment sites/services.

  • I would with something paypalish because of international users, so in this case payloadz.

    For me, I don’t use a credit card (have used it last month first time in 5 years for an denmark trip), credit cards are often not as distributedly used as in the US.

    Clickbank seems to add sales taxes where no sales taxes have to be applied (had that once, you might remember my email about that).

    As it seems, payloadz may also offer you an affiliate programm system.

    [As for the integrating: If WP messes that up, just use included.]

  • You can use PayPal with a custom IPN script for tracking and automation. As for the encrypted PayPal buy now buttons, if it’s only one or a few products, I’m sure you could wrap it up in a plugin.

    There is also clickbank which handles everything from payment to paying affiliates for you. I’ve heard negative and some positive things, but I’ve never used them personally.

  • Lee

    As John mentioned, I like the amazon idea – gives you an instant affiliate program for it too. One of the things that strikes me about e-books is that a good number of them are basically rubbish, with little value in the content. You only have to search ebay for ‘e-book’ to see what I mean.

    Thus, the amazon approach would likely be more reassuring for your non-regular readers who may assume it’s purely a way for you to get rich and little else.

    Again, it would take a little longer to do – but I definately think you would reap the rewards from it long term (as well as raising your own profile further!)

  • I rolled my own solution that used a credit card processor and some PHP code that serves up files to paid customers. It was a lot of work and honestly didn’t work as well as some of the solutions I have seen since. This was a few years ago now so I think some of them didn’t exist.

    My goals were:

    1) Don’t make the customer wait, so the file has to be up for download automatically or emailed to the user
    2) Don’t allow anyone else besides the customer download the file, so I can’t just have an automated reply that has a link to the secret file (something like /secret/file.pdf).

    It accomplished both of those, but in anything where you charge for people *will* have trouble and complain. And often before they even email you back they will request a chargeback. You have no recourse a lot of times. One of my customers emailed (at something like 2AM et) and then again 15 minutes later and said YOU ARE NOT ANSWERING MY EMAILS I WILL CHARGE BACK! THIS IS FRAUD!

    It’s a crazy world out there!

  • “What is the simplest way to set up the ability to sell a document/file from a blog? ”

    Because I use TruXoft in my own store, I can see the benefits of automating the e-purchase and randomizing the directories to locate the e-product and prevent abuse or misuse the download if you have multiple items. Amazon probably looks better, but I think it just detracts people’s attention.

    So, I would use your Paypal account. Don’t worry about auto-formatting and selling it in the blog, just create a page that sells the product (non-blog page) and link it from the blog in your sidebar or in the comments like you would link any other page. After one “click-to-pays” to buy your book, you can set paypal to go to another exit page, which could be another page or directory on your server which you can also control…. make the folder name about 20 characters and 1 folder per product ..

    Well, that’s what I would do.. // HART

  • Definitely start with any of the ‘free’ programs at the very beginning to see your success rate. I have used PayPal before and it was very easy to set up and have it linked so I got paid for some information. I did that 3 years ago though.

    Discount Shopping and Rewards
    My Blog

  • Hello Jon,

    It can easily be done with PayPal. I developed something for a designer to sell her images online. The client selects some images and passes the command, then pay via PayPal When the bill is paid he is automatically redirected to his personal, protected, online account where the stuff he bought stay. The client will always have access to his account with a login name and a password. However, with the functionalities that PayPal give to developers, you can do anything, you only need the idea.



  • gary

    If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee of $79, then look no further than

    they will password protect the download, email the buyer after the transaction and also delete the download after a set number of days so that the buyer can’t pass along the information.

    they integrate with paypal and a bunch of other vendors.,

  • Check out and click on Quick Shopping Cart. For less than $20/month you can process credit card payments as well as PayPal payments. The service offers other tools as well, such as eBay and Froogle listing tools.

  • Dean

    Darren – Here’s a short article just out from Dr. Ralph Wilson. Mentions Payloadz, which others here have mentioned, but also mentions Paypal IPN Downlonad Protector. And it requires a one time $35 (USD) payment but has no continuing monthly fees.

  • Surely Paypal is a good option. Paypal with PayLodaz will make your programming efforts simple to integrate.