It is possible to make a very good income as an author these days, but you need to think further than one book, one format or one platform.
In this short, 12 -minute presentation from the London Book Fair 2017, I share how you can make more money with your books. I presented alongside Orna Ross, Adam Croft and Gabriel Mercer and you can get the full session from the Alliance of Independent Authors here.
You can watch the video with the slides, or download the audio, or read the transcript below.
You can also download the slides plus other useful links here.
Watch video with slides
Listen or download audio only
Transcript with slides
Joanna: This presentation will be rapid-fire things you can do to reach more readers and make more money from your books, so I hope you're excited.
The problem with authors is they so often think, “Oh, I've finished a book.” It's a book. But it's not one product. It's actually multiple products, and as indies, we can do this ourselves.
So, first of all, e-book, print book, audio book, we can do all these as indies now, and many of us do all of these very successfully. So, many people think, “Oh, oh, you publish online. You just do an e-book.” But no, you definitely want to be doing print and audio as well if your business gets to that point, but at least do e-book and print.
Who writes non-fiction? Here's a little tip for you guys, one print book doesn't need to be one print book. So, both Orna and I have workbooks.
You can sell it on Amazon as another product, so, and it cost me about 40 pounds to turn my print book into a workbook, and it adds another income stream. And multiple streams of income is what it's all about at this level.
You can also expand your book into a course, and many of us now sell courses, or a full-day event, like Orna and I are doing in May, and there are some leaflets around about that. So you can turn your knowledge into these multiple streams of income.
Sell on multiple platforms
Then, coming back to e-books, you don't just need to sell on the wonderful Amazon. Obviously, Amazon changed all of our lives with the Kindle, but this is my graph, those of you who can't see it, 51% of my book sales income is from Amazon KDP. That's a lot smaller chunk than a lot of big publishers actually. But I make 14% from iBooks, 13% from Kobo, 10% from CreateSpace, and then a whole load of other smaller ones.
So, if you have enough books to make it worthwhile, you can go wide. And that means your e-book is also multiple streams of income, which can be very exciting.
Sell in multiple countries
You can also sell in multiple countries because, believe it or not, the UK is not the center of the book sales universe. There are 300 million readers waiting for your book in America. Which is pretty exciting. And, of course, with the pound dropping at the moment, making money in US dollars is a good idea!
So, this is my graph again, if you can't see that, 46% of my book sales income comes from America. 20% from Canada, 22% UK, 7% Australia, and then a whole load of other countries.
In fact, this is my Kobo Writing Life map.
I've sold books in English in 83 countries. There are many traditionally published authors who have not sold books in 83 countries. So, that's pretty cool, right? That you can reach readers all over the world with your words through these multiple sites. You know, including places like Namibia, which I really love. I think it's cool to have a readership there.
And, there are English speakers all over the world, so there are actually 125 million English speakers, educated English speakers, in India.
And, of course, Amazon's expanded into India, there are many different opportunities in India, so don't just think your book in English will only sell in, like, US, UK. The UK has 63 million, so it's actually a lot smaller market than some of these other places. And make sure your book is available everywhere.
And if you have sold your rights, or some of your rights, to a traditional publisher, consider self-publishing in these other markets.
So, if you haven't sold Canada, then why don't you self-publish in Canada, for example. If you've only sold UK Commonwealth, then self-publish in America. You are empowered, as the creator, to license your rights to whoever you like, and to self-publish elsewhere. So, that's pretty exciting, right? That you can do that, you can reach these markets.
You are empowered, as the creator, to license your rights to whoever you like, and to self-publish elsewhere. So, that's pretty exciting, right?
So, many people, because of the traditional publishing industry's obsession with spine size in physical book stores, assume that a book has to be a certain size, but it actually doesn't. With digital and online sales, readers are less sensitive about the size of the book.
So, here's two examples of authors who've made multi six-figure, no, seven-figure income, from short books. Steve Scott, or S.J. Scott in the non-fiction space, and Holly Ward, H.M Ward, in the fiction space. So, these are authors who have put out short books under 40,000 words for two dollars ninety-nine, making two dollars a book profit on that, and have made a very good living.
One, it's quicker to write. You can write 30,000 words in a lot shorter time than you can 90,000. And two, it can keep things going. And you'll have seen, even authors like Lee Child, with the Jack Reacher books, is putting out novellas now. So this is something traditional publishing has got into as well. So go short.
Write more books.
So, there is a myth in publishing that you write off your first novel, and you make a million and you can retire. That's it. That's actually not the reality of most of our lives.
Adam Croft is a bit of an outlier with one particular book that went nuts, but Adam also has other books too. Joseph Alexander who was here yesterday, don't know if he's here today, but he has a guitar series doing very well. I've put myself up there, and the lovely Mark Dawson.
You know, we all have a business because we have multiple products. If you went into a pie store, and there was only one pie, it wouldn't be a very good store. So, you've gotta think about this as a long-term business as a writer. It's not just about one book. And, of course, the more books you have, the more money you make, the more choice you have around publishing.
Okay, so, box sets. Something like 87% of my book sales income at Kobo and iBooks are box sets. So, box sets, digital box sets, are essentially bundles of books that you sell at a discount, and the readers love it.
I've put up there several of my boxes of three, but also a box of eight that they recently did a promo at iBooks on. So, you've got eight, you get eight thrillers, and I think the full price was around 25 pounds, that reduced to \$9.99. Great deal, right? So, you sell all of these books, and you might think, “Oh, well, I'm taking a cut on that,” but that's a reader. If a reader reads eight of your books in a weekend, like a binge, do they love your books? Are they a fan? Yes, they are. And, also, you've got more money from that one customer. So that's awesome.
And on sites like Kobo and iBooks, the bundling can be some of your biggest promotional deals. So, just a recommendation, that it's best if you have three books, either in a series, fiction or non-fiction, or three that will suit similar audience. So if you're literary fiction, they have to be related in some way.
Okay, and it's also easier to hit the best-seller list when it's a bargain. So, last August I hit the USA Today list with one of my own box sets, and before that, hit the NY Times with some other authors. So this is the type of thing you can do with promotion that we'll be talking about that will enable you to hit some of the best-seller lists.
Write books that people want – by search term.
I know, it's shocking, isn't it? Really is. But basically, by search terms, this is an example of the Amazon Kindle store's search terms. I just put in “How to be a D,” and those of you who can't see it, starts with “How to be a Dominant.”
I haven't actually written that, but maybe some of you would like to!
“How to be a Demonologist,” but my example, my first book, was called “How to Love Your Job or Find a New One,” which was not exactly a catchy title.
When I did some keyword research, and changed the book title to “Career Change,” it sold a lot more books, and that is because people are searching for ‘career change' in the store.
Remember, as an indie, you can change your book titles. You can change your covers. You can do whatever you like and rebrand later on. So, writing books that people want by search term, particularly useful for non-fiction authors.
Write books that people want – by genre.
I'm sorry to tell you, poets, that, you know, poetry is not one of the biggest selling genres. It's for the love of the craft. But if you go to authorearnings.com, if you guys don't know authorearnings.com, definitely go there and have a look at the data.
But essentially, they found that on the Amazon top 50,000 e-books, 69% of that is genre fiction. So that's mysteries, thrillers, romance, sci-fi, fantasy. These are the biggest selling genres for indies as well. And, actually, if you look at the Forbes top-selling authors in the world, they're pretty much all genre fiction.
I know many of you already have books, right? And you're like, “they're not selling well enough.” Well, this is some examples of my own first attempts, and the original titles and covers, and the new titles and covers.
So, again, many of you can't see it, but basically, my original books were “Pentecost,” “Prophecy,” and “Exodus.” I have a Masters in Theology and a bit of an obsession with Dan Brown, and now they're rebranded as “Stone of Fire,” “Crypt of Bone,” “Ark of Blood,” and that's my ARKANE series.
Now, I retitled them, I changed my author name, I changed the covers, I pretty much changed everything except the story, and it sells more through the rebranding. So that's something to do. Very important, if you start as an indie, you will make choices that later you might want to change, and that's fine.
That's how we all learn. Get started.
Write a branded series.
The big names do this. James Patterson, you'll see, has loads of them in his verticals. Janet Evanovich there, Chicken Soup for the Soul, these are big brands. If you're writing books for the same type of market, you're going to sell more books. And again, you can also put them in box sets and bundles.
So, writing a branded series means that the covers should look similar so that people will know that this is the type of book they're getting, and they're like “Oh, it's another one of those books.” You know, you guys have seen that with traditional publishing. Well, that's what you need to do as an indie.
Do some kind of marketing
And then finally, you can do all of that and you still need to do some kind form of marketing, because, you know, there are lots of books out there. I mean, you can see that at the book fair, right? It's, in one way really exciting and another way really depressing to see how many books are out there.
So you have to do some kind of marketing, but it depends on you as to what that is. So, for example, I have a podcast. Some of you are podcasters. Orna blogs, I blog. You don't need to blog, but we do.
You can use Facebook ads. You can use Amazon Marketing Services, or BookBub, or KDP Select. There are a lot of marketing options, and we'll be talking a bit about that next, but the point is, you have to do something.
Don't be one of those authors who comes up to one of us and says, “Oh, hey, my book's been out for like six months and I've sold nothing,” and we're like, “So, what have you done to try and get some notice on it?” And you say, “Nothing, I just uploaded it to Amazon.” That's not going to be enough anymore.
So those are just quick-fire things that you can do to reach more readers and sell more books. And, as I said, you can download the slides at www.TheCreativePenn.com/lbf17 and there's also a whole load of other things on that page, webinars, and our day together and stuff, so there you go.
For more ideas, check out How to Make a Living with your Writing, available in ebook, print, workbook and audiobook formats.