Since I let slip that I was a wannabe fiction writer, a few people have asked me questions about the modern author/publishing business:
“Can you make a full time living as a writer, without being freelance?”
“What should a modern indie author do to maximise their business?”
“For successful self-publishers, what would we do differently?”
I’ve answered these questions and more in various comment areas, forums, and social media. In fact, I am going to be talking about this subject on the SPP podcast/Google Hangout on Friday. I thought I would expand my answer to put my thoughts in one place.
I love the second question above in particular because while obviously I am not (yet?) a successful fiction writer in the Hugh Howey league, there are things that worked for me and others in the non-fiction world that are ripe to deploy in the fiction space.
If you are in non-fiction, even easier – the tools now exist for you to go beyond the usual model of publishing a book in order to have something to talk about on the speaking circuit, rinse and repeat!
Why is this strategy capturing people’s imagination?
Many people are making a good go of selling on Amazon and other related sites. My concept is to change your relationship with Amazon. To sell and promote on those platforms, but use them as a lead-generator.
I’ve seen too many people have great businesses that relied on a powerful third-party, such as Google or Facebook, only to see the rules change and their business to flatline. You don’t control Amazon, they can change anything they like without consulting you. Your best defence is to use them, but build your own assets.
It’s not just that the strategy would probably (properly executed) make you more money, but it gives you more control as a writer business.
Benefits of controlling your platform
Instead of being a Kindle sharecropper, insulate yourself from Amazon’s changes (revenue split, visibility, pricing, etc), plus …
- Boost your profile as a “real” author and build a true fanbase “platform”
- Build a customer list and prospect list so you can sell future books more easily, with or without Amazon
- Endless bundling and packaging capability
- Get sales commissions by referring related books/products that your customers would enjoy
- Grow your own community, with more interaction and engagement
- Business model testing and optimisation flexibility (sponsorships, patron funding, Humble Bundle “pay what you want” approach)
- Increase customer lifetime value (loyal customers, share of customer)
- Premium/enhanced versions of your work
- Provide DRM-free rather than DRM-crippled downloads to treat your customers as friends and not potential criminals
- Sell spin-offs and merchandise
- Know where your fans are based so you can book better signings and speaking, plus get more people to turn up
- Find out what else your fans would like from you
There are probably more advantages, but you get the idea 🙂
Cross-promotion of uses of your intellectual property
Once you have experimented with the packaging options you now have complete control over (singles, serials/series, bundles, audio), consider how you might expand the use of your intellectual property. Opportunities exist for translation into other languages, or licensing your work to gaming companies (board and video game licensing). You never know, there might be possibilities for film/TV/radio play licensing, graphic novels, and so on.
For non-fiction it is tough to get a film deal, but repurposing your content, serials, chapters, slide shares, infographics and excerpts can be a great outreach approach.
Even though you licensed to another party, you still need to do your promotion work, and these partners are going to be far more eager if you can show you have grown real demand for your world and characters.
For non-fiction authors, it’s possible companies might want to license your intellectual property for training and education materials. This fall I will be teaching at a local university, based in part on my online profile, business background and experience.
Where it gets really exciting is if you consider moving to a subscription! Many authors are doing well with series and serials, so why not allow someone to subscribe to you like they would a series on iTunes, or even everything you do in the style of HBO or Netflix?
They could binge-read or get each episode “dripped” into their download area and email, the same way non-fiction membership sites, interview series, and online seminars work.
How your funnel might work
- You start where most indie authors are now. Use free and paid catalogue of books on Amazon and associated sites as lead-generator and source of reviews, in addition to your blog, podcast, social media, appearances and guest writing.
- Build your list with a call to action in your books, but rather than just an email list, consider a free membership model, giving fans greater access and value (forum? downloads?) – this way downloads don’t get lost in inboxes, the member can set their own profile/forum signature/avatar, and you get useful usage/engagement stats.
- Get the opt-in in return for a sense of community, higher perceived value freebies, and interaction.
- Immediate ability to up-sell to bundles (only pay merchant %, no Amazon fees) – with the added ability to base the recommendations on previous purchases if they have already bought direct from you (“we see you own episode 1, buy the remainder of the series for x”, “you might also like …”)
- Up-sell to Premium/membership model (audio version, print-collectors-edition, early access to new releases, beta readers, “DVD-style” behind the scenes extras, maps, novellas/short stories, events, signings)
- Non-fiction authors can run online courses, coaching, events and masterminds – same platform, different products and access levels.
- Create follow-up sequences and themed funnels so that you can nurture new free and paid people to keep them happy and sticking around
- Once you have your funnels optimised and revenue is increasing, experiment with
- collaborations and multi-author bundles
- allowing partners to refer customers for a commission
Can you see how after #1, it doesn’t really matter what changes Amazon makes? For your customers you can add a great deal of value that is just not possible in a Kindle ebook. You have a direct communication channel with your fans. Everybody wins 🙂
Amazon is great, I love Amazon, but they are a business that has already moved the goal posts a couple of times, with charts, with free versus paid pricing, and with royalty percentages. They are still the biggest game in town but you don’t have to make your business 100% or even 50% reliant on them. In what little spare time I have I am slowly writing some stories. If I ever finish something worth publishing I will let you know how these ideas work for me 🙂