OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
There's a learning curve for all indie authors, which I have covered before in the arc of the indie author.
But once you get the hang of the process – writing, editing, publishing, marketing – then you start to think about the business side.
If you want to make more profit, then increasing your revenue will be next on the list.
Derek Sivers sold his company CD Baby and now sells ebooks about starting a business in foreign markets at Woodegg.com. I read this interview with him and he talked about how to increase cash-flow in a business. It struck home as true for authors as well.
There are four basic ways to increase your revenue:
(1) Increase the number of customers you serve
There are a couple of ways to do this:
a) Use KDP Select and go exclusive to Amazon in order to take advantage of the enhanced visibility on the platform that way. I noticed that the Kindle app on the iPhone changed recently to add a Book Browser function, which is entirely dominated by Kindle Unlimited. The emails I get from Amazon are also increasingly KU dominated. As a READER, I have tried KU and didn't like it – mainly because I like owning the books and don't want to borrow them – but clearly it is a very popular service. If you're a new author with only a couple of books, this is definitely the way to go, and many authors are exclusive with all their books. Here are the pros and cons of exclusivity.
b) Publish on multiple platforms and take advantage of a completely different audience who shop elsewhere. This is my preferred approach. Although Amazon’s KDP Select program offers benefits, it limits your sales to people who buy on that particular platform. Amazon may also dominate in the US and UK, but Kobo dominates in Canada, and iBooks dominates in many other global markets. In 2014, I published Pentecost and Desecration-Verletzung in German, and in Germany there is a challenger to Kindle in the Tolino reader, which has 40% of the market so is not to be ignored when publishing. I've now sold books in 65 countries – the pic left is my sales from Kobo Writing Life. It makes me happy just looking at it!
c) Use marketing and building your platform to attract more customers. There are a LOT of different marketing avenues for authors. I suggest focusing on the one or two methods that you enjoy and make it sustainable for the long term. Whatever you do, make sure that building your email list is a key focus.
d) Publish in multiple formats and multiple languages. If you only publish in ebook format, you will only attract ebook readers. By using print on demand as well as audiobook formats as well, you will reach different customers. If you publish only in English, you will only reach those readers. Indie authors are now branching out into self-publishing in foreign languages or selling rights to those markets.
e) Expand your streams of income. You can increase the customers you serve by adding to your portfolio of services and products. For example, I serve a different customer base through public speaking and live events, and others use online video or audio courses to reach new customers.
(2) Increase the average size of the transaction by selling more
- This can be done by having multiple books that customers might like within product lines. If a customer buys one book and enjoys it, they are likely to want more. This is why many authors write in a series, and why many publishers prefer books in a series, or within a similar brand.
- If you have more books available, the customer may buy more. The power is in the backlist, which is why being an author is a long-term game. At the London Book Fair 2014, I talked to Barbara Freethy, who has over 35 books and, as I write this, is the bestselling KDP author of all time with over 4.5 million books sold. She mentioned that when someone new discovers her books, she sees an overall effect as they dive into her backlist.
- Bundling is another way to do this. You can do ebook boxsets as a single author and charge more for a single transaction, which is also a great deal for the customer. For example, I sell ARKANE Books 1-3, Pentecost, Prophecy and Exodus, in a box-set for $5.99. If bought separately, they would cost $9.98, so it's a good deal for everyone. All you need to do is create a file with multiple books in, and get a cover designed that looks like a boxset, which you can get from Fiverr.
(3) Increase the frequency of transactions by customer
This can be done by releasing books and products more often, so that loyal customers return. It's also important to use an email list to capture their information so that you can tell them when you have a new product available.
- Some authors are doing this through serialization and novellas. H.M.Ward's Ferro series is a good example of this, currently with over 18 books in one particular series with many of them 20,000-30,000 word novellas.
- Others are doing this through co-writing. For example, Jeremy Robinson's Jack Sigler Chess Team series has several co-authors writing in his world.
(4) Raise your prices
There are a couple of ways in which authors are doing this:
- Charge more for all books. When you're first starting out, you often need to lower the barrier to entry so that people will try your books with little risk. But as you become more established and more people are aware of your books, you might find that people are happy to pay more. For non-fiction in particular, if you can help people with a problem, they are more likely to pay more. Amazon KDP now has a pricing feature on the publishing page which will analyze books like yours and suggest a new price point. You have to be selling a decent number before it shows any data. As right, it suggests that my Business for Authors should be at $9.99, but I still keep it at $7.99 at the moment.
- Make the first book available for free and then raise the price of others in the series. If you do the math right, you'll see that you can make more money this way than using a 99c entry price point.
- Sell direct to loyal fans through hardcover specials and limited editions. Scott Sigler does a galactic football league series that he self-publishes and sells direct. Cory Doctorow did some brilliant hand-bound hardcover editions of his book, With a Little Help.