It’s amazing how many folks want to write books…
People I’ve known from all walks of life, from bowlers to bloggers, seem to share a similar jones. Sometimes, it’s about the love of writing, creating, expressing, influencing. Sometimes it’s about legacy, the desire to teach, share or guide or just straight up ego. Other times, it’s all about business, making money, either directly from the book or indirectly from where the book leads. For me, admittedly, it’s a combination of all of the above.
Why does it matter?
Because, what you are looking to get out of writing a book, your desired big-picture personal fulfillment and revenue-model will effect how and what you write.
So, let’s get back to the question…
How do you really make money with books?
For this post, let’s focus on nonfiction books with more of a prescriptive bent, because so many fall into that category. Here are 3 approaches I’ve seen used successfully over the last year or two.
The Uber-Brochure & Upsell Model…
This is the approach used by authors like Robert Kiyosaki in his first book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and Harv Eker in his Secrets of The Millionaire Mindset and many others in the personal finance, making money, coaching and personal development niches. The idea is to position the book essentially as a teaser, interest-builder and sales vehicle for any number of up-sells, from products to seminars or services. That doesn’t mean you don’t want the book to make money, it just means it’s not the primary focus.
So, for example, personal development rockstar, T. Harv Eker’s book, The Millionaire Mindset, has some interesting, provocative, engaging content, but the book is largely positioned to sell the reader on attending one of his trainings (the book grants you free access to the first-tier program). And, it works like a charm. In fact, I received a copy of the book from someone who’d been to an event, become an “ambassador” and given me the book. The event was free and I, along with more than 2,000 others, shared in an interesting experience and, while there, I was also offered the chance to to buy next-level trainings.
Eker’s approach is just one variation of the Brochure & Upsell strategy, but you can morph it into nearly any type of secondary revenue stream you like, like coaching, product sales or consulting. If this is your strategy, one thing to think about when writing the book is just how much information you’ll reveal in the book and how much you’ll hold back. The general trend seems to be to give just enough to peak interest, prove value and create credibility, but hold back a solid chunk of information and pitch additional services or products as a way to get “all the way home.”
No doubt, Kiyosaki and Eker’s books have also sold millions of copies and generated millions in book sale revenue, but that’s more a welcome side-benefit of this strategy than a primary revenue goal.
Thousands of other lesser known folks have used this strategy without selling huge numbers of books and succeeded in both generating buzz and driving the sale of products and services related to the topic of the book.
The All-In Model…
This is likely the riskiest strategy, because it depends on you relying largely on your ability to deliver a fiercely compelling book at just the right time, tap a sizable platform and mine a network of influencers to drive book sales and go for the big bestseller lists. This very often also has the secondary effect of opening up speaking and keynote opportunities, if that’s something that interests you. But, the main revenue driver is the book, itself.
Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Workweek is a great example of this. Tim has shared in a number of interviews that in writing the book, he gave it everything he had. Nothing was held back. He packed with a huge volume of information and resources and offered some highly provocative concepts and ideas that resonated with a lot of people. These inluded things like the low-information diet, virtual outsourcing, finding your muse, dissociating your job from an office-setting and checking your e-mail only twice a day and setting autoresponders to let people know.
So, rather than delivering a healthy taste of a solution and saving the “good stuff” for the higher-ticket upsell, he went all-in. And he hoped what he shared was compelling, valuable and unique enough to make his book as Seth Godin puts it “remarkable” on a level that would inspire people to evangelize it and fuel mega-sales.
Tim is also one hell of a marketer and a really bright guy. So, for him, the strategy worked like a charm. In fact, more than a year and a half later, the Four Hour Workweek is still in the top 100 on amazon.com and has hit many bestseller lists.
No doubt, though, this is much more of a cowboy, eggs in one basket approach. It’s not for everyone. So, what about a middle way?
The Hybrid Model…
The above two strategies can be blended in a number of innovative ways to create a balance between book based revenue and indirect product/service based revenue. But, the defining elements, regardless how it’s implemented are:
- A substantial volume of highly-useful information, stories, insights, strategies, tips and ideas capable of being so remarkable they can drive substantial buzz and book sales, and
- One or more highly-desired, secondary income vehicles, from coaching to speaking to blog ad revenue, product or event sales.
Michael Port and his book, Book Yourself Solid is a great example of this blended approach. The book is loaded with a lot of great, prescriptive, instructional information, stuff you can take action on. Enough to make it remarkable, insanely useful, drive substantial sales and be a primary source of income. But, at the same time, the information offered raises a lot of questions that are ripe for “support” type of services or coaching, which he’s recently launched. And, because they are also business building tactics, there’s a strong market for not only coaching, but keynotes that offer snippets of high-value advice and products designed to assist in implementing the ideas in the book.
Bloggers Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett, who released Problogger: Secrets For Blogging Your Way To A Six Figure Income earlier this year, also took a hybrid approach. The book, itself, was jammed with great information and was positioned to potentially generate a significant amount of sales. But, that wasn’t the end of the revenue story. There was a clear path to indirect income, as well.
With the blogosphere evolving in the blink of an eye, the best way to stay on top of the niche is to read the leading blogs on blogging. That would include, Darren’s ProBlogger.net, the book’s namesake. And, in the world of pro-blogging, more people means more ad exposures and more revenue.
But, what about Darren’s co-author, Chris Garrett? Even though the book provided enough information to jump in and “do it yourself,” launching and effectively monetizing a blog is still a lot of work. More work than a lot of people are willing to undertake. So, for those who want a higher level of assistance, Chris is perfectly positioned as a co-author to offer new media and blogging consulting on his own blog, Chrisg.com.
David Meerman Scott took a similar approach with his recent book, The New Rules Of Marketing & PR. He laid it all out, giving readers a ton of great, usable information and strategies. And, he even pre-released a shorter manifesto featuring a small bit of the information from the book that was downloaded more than 250,000 times.
Before the book hit the shelves, most of Scott’s income came from consulting. And, no doubt, the book would have allowed him to do even more. But he had other plans. The book’s success allowed him to shift much of his energy away from consulting and into speaking and keynoting, which he loves to do.
I am actually using a hybrid strategy with my forthcoming book (Jan 13, 2009), Career Renegade: How To Make A Great Living Doing What You Love as well. Like Tim’s book, it offers a ton of strategies, processes, resources, links and case-studies for do-it-yourselfers, enough to make the it radically different than anything else out there. It solves a pervasive problem and reveals a world of opportunities that are completely unknown to most people.
My goal was to write an “all-in” book, something packed with eye-opening concepts and ideas and more than enough actionable strategies to launch a career evolution. But for those who want more guidance, support or highly-specialized entrepreneurship and marketing services, there’ll likely be a series of options available beyond the book. Because, my bigger picture vision was to create the opportunity to write more books, speak here and there, launch more of my own ventures and help other people launch and market theirs.
In the end…
There are many different ways to make money writing a book.
But, most people don’t really think about them until after the book’s already been written. That could be a huge mistake, because your big-picture revenue model can and should impact what you write about and how you write the book. So, the better you understand the different approaches, the more capable you’ll be of writing the book that’s needed to further your overall revenue and writing goals.
Of course, when push comes to shove, remember, too, that this is all just planning and projecting. You never really know how the book will be received or what people will really want from it…until they’ve actually read it.
So, be flexible…
Because if the market tells you they want something different once the book is out, and you have the ability and the desire to give it to them, your ability to adapt and deliver on the fly may become your most valuable revenue asset.
As always, I’m writing this as someone who’s currently immersed in the process. It’s a fascinating exploration. And, while I’ve learned a ton, I am quite sure there’s far more I don’t yet know.
But, I’d love the benefits of your insights, thoughts, stories and perspectives.
I am really curious, do you have a dream of writing a book?
Are you working on one right now?
What’s it about or what would it be about?
What would your big picture revenue model be?
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