A truly independent author does not rely on one product, one retailer, or one stream of income.
Because what if that one stream dries up?
That's why I emphasize the importance of developing multiple streams of income for author-entrepreneurs. Direct sales from your website are one possibility, and although I personally choose to use selz.com, there are other options.
In today's article, Amy Young explains how authors can use Gumroad.
Like many of you, as a student of Joanna’s diversification philosophy, I agree with her.
Agreement, however, did not lead to immediate action and at first, I didn't think I could diversify my income by creating products related to my book.
However, I was wrong, and if you remain on the lookout for multiple streams of income, you will find them.
Multiple Streams of Income
When Looming Transitions was published, I thought it was a standalone book. I was proud of the writing, the cover design, the layout, and the editing; in essence, I believed for this particular book my efforts would shift from producing to marketing.
Two recurring questions started rolling in from readers about a month after publication. “Can I print off and distribute the questions in chapter ten?” and “What do you have for kids in transitions?”
We can get so immersed in our creative projects that we can forget the land beyond the borders. But our readers help us see further than we can see on our own. Both questions pointed to additional ways to serve the readers and earn additional income.
What stumped me was that my audience is primarily international. The first question was an indirect way of asking for a workbook. Workbooks are not a good fit for an ebook. But working with a POD like Createspace was not going to get the material to my readers in a timely or economical fashion.
[ Note from Joanna: You can make print workbooks for print-on-demand if you want a print edition. I have them for How to Make a Living with your Writing and The Successful Author Mindset. ]
I needed to get physical products into the hands of my readers when they needed it and in a format they would pay for.
Surely I could not be the only one with this problem.
In my mastermind group, a colleague said that Gumroad.com would solve my problem. With the help of a graphic artist I created a downloadable PDF with textboxes—so those who want to type answers could and those who want to print it out and write their answers could. Not only has Gumroad solved a problem, my eyes have opened to product possibilities for you, my fellow authors.
Gumroad: an overview
Gumroad is an avenue for selling both digital and physical products.
They charge a small fee and take a small percentage per transaction. I have found compared to other services (like Amazon), I earn noticeably more.
Since I discovered Gumroad I have made PDFs for a workbook (with textboxes for readers to type their answers) and a resource for families in transition (this was also converted to a kindle book) based on Looming Transitions. You can also upload mp3’s and I decided to publish the audiobook version on Gumroad.
Although initially I thought my book could not have any spinoffs, I found that once I got started, the ideas and products snowballed. Ideas beget ideas. It will be the same for you.
I find examples helpful, so look at these pages to get ideas of how you could use Gumroad to sell courses, PDFs, books, audiobooks, t-shirts, and other products related to your book.
How to publish on Gumroad
The process is easy and you do not need to be overly techie. After you create an account and set up banking information (you will be paid every two weeks), upload a product, add a cover, set the price, and write a description.
You can also bundle products. So, you might have an audiobook, a t-shirt, a map, and an mp3 file with a guided tour of the map. Each could be sold separately or bundled together at a discounted rate.
One tip for audiobooks: upload each chapter separately (for people who listen through the Gumroad app) and as a zip file (for people who listen through their own device).
Features of Gumroad that help authors:
- Ability to create discounts or giveaways: On every product page the second tab offers “options.” You can set up discounts based on a dollar (they also have a large selection of currency) amount or a percentage. You can also set a certain price tied to a number of sales, for instance, $5 on the first 100 purchases. On your sales page, customers can see how many have are left at that price.
- Pricing flexibility: From free to whatever price you believe the market can bear, you get to determine the price without the percentage of your income being influenced. Gumroad also has an option to set a price that is a minimum, so if a customer wanted to throw in a little bit more, they can. I’ve been surprised how often customers have used it.
- Widgets available for embedding on your blog or social media: The third tab on each product page offers sharing options. Options include Facebook, Twitter, and building personalized buttons such as “Buy the workbook” or “Take a tour here.” In addition, code is created to easily embed your product in a website or blog.
- Apps: Both for the seller and purchaser. As the seller, your app allows you to track sales and income. For the purchaser, all of their purchases on Gumroad are easy to locate. Audiobooks and albums will seamlessly transition from one chapter or song to the next.
The help center is truly helpful: I am techy enough to hold my own, but I am no tech expert. Every time I have contacted the help center with a question about how to do something on Gumroad (or if it even possible), they have gotten back to me promptly and with clear instructions.
- If you update a product, you have the option to send the updated version to all who purchased it.
- There is a “Follow me” option at the top of your Gumroad page and you can gather email addresses.
But this will never work for me (or could it?)
Whether you are a fiction or non-fiction writer, look at your book or series as a starting point for what is possible instead of the finished product.
One of the beauties of Gumroad is that you can package different types of products. How could you leverage one—or more!—of these ideas:
- Create a workbook.
- Create a quiz/test. Let’s say you have a series where you have created a new world, people are drawn to test their ability on how well they know the world. You could hold a contest and offer a prize to the three highest scores. You could also create quizzes related to mastery of your non-fiction material.
- Create a map, family tree of characters, or some other visual related to your book and record an mp3 file of you interacting or explaining the material.
- Record lectures or talks about additional information. Ideas include information you couldn’t include in the book, how you did your research, an interview with an expert in the field, or even having a friend play the role of one of your characters and interview the character.
- Create PDF helping people to implement or process the information in your book. An author in my writer’s group writes mainly about tea parties. After we brainstormed, she realized that for her tea parties were easy to throw together, but not for all of her readers. She is going to create a “to do” list for hosting a tea party.
- If you have songs or dishes in your book, record the songs or make a cookbook. Be creative when it comes to providing your readers with other sensory experiences.
- Ask your readers what they would like to know more about. Their questions will help point you in the direction you can create material.
What started off as a problem — how to get products into the hands of those not living in the United States — has turned into another revenue stream. It also opened the door for me to see my books no longer as a stand alone project but as an opportunity to continue to engage with readers.
I am almost done editing my next book and as soon as I get it to the formatter, I’m going to create a ten-lesson course for readers related to it. You can guess where readers will be able to purchase it . . . on Gumroad.
Does this article prompt any ideas about products you could create related to your writing? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Amy Young, author of Looming Transitions, lived in Asia for almost twenty years. She blogs at The Messy Middle, leads the Velvet Ashes book club, and claims the gym as her happy place.
Lee David Daniels says
Great article. As a non fiction author, I like the idea of creating a workbook.
Jasmin Hajro says
thanks a lot.
Looking for selfpublishing opportunities, to reach more people..
I had stumbled upon gumroad, but didn’t know that I could sell my book
as a mp3 there.
Now I do, I am going to work to release it.
Hey there Joanna and Amy, love this article! And I love Gumroad – I’ve been using it for a few years now, selling digital downloads and training courses.
Today you’ve opened my eyes a bit wider and I can see how a Workbook for many of my published books will be faaabulous 🙂 Now why didn’t *I* think of that?!
Plus it’s so easy to add the Workbooks (and links) to the original books, and re-upload to amazon. Plus if I put this info in the front pages, it will be easily seen in the
Adding my ideas to my 2022 “To Do Before I Forget” List 🙂
Thanks possums for the bright spark of creativity I needed right now!
Hugs to you both