Generate More Income by Diversifying Revenue Streams

Screw Diversity
Screw Diversity by Martin Kenny on Flickr

The savviest and most successful of today’s authors diversify their revenue streams. The days of authors generating a living wage solely from Big Five royalties are long gone (if they actually ever existed). Thanks to publishing and ecommerce tools provided by super-sized and scrappy service providers, authors are empowered to sell more stuff, and make more money, than in years past.

Diversifying your revenue stream means creative and nimble thinking, iterative content creation, and clever marketing. It’s more than pushing your ebook products to multiple online marketplaces. Saying “Now available on Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo ebook stores” isn’t enough, not anymore. That’s table stakes stuff in today’s publishing landscape.

If you’re blessed to be a Big Five author: Diversify your revenue stream by releasing self-published ebook work. If your contract permits you to tell self-published tales in the worlds of your existing Big Five-published books, go for it. This scenario delivers an economic win-win for you and your publisher. Your existing fan base will happily gobble up a new adventure set in your Big Five-published storyworld … and a low-cost self-pubbed intro product—say a short story—can also provide an appetizing, low-risk gateway into your existing IP for newcomers. If they like what they read, they’ll likely check out your Big Five stuff.

If book (or other media) contractual obligations prevent you from expanding the worlds of your Big Five stuff in the self-pub space, cook up a new IP and start telling stories in that world. These don’t have to be novels, or even novellas. Reduce your creative risk by writing and publishing a short story or two. Make it a side project. Manage expectations—but also understand that, if properly promoted by you in no-cost channels such as Twitter and Facebook, your most enthusiastic fans will engage with this new content. They’ll happily pay for it. That’s money in your pocket … and again, if these readers are newcomers to your work, they might check out your Big Five stuff. That will make your publisher happy.

Further, consider the new IP you create using this low-risk method as a kind of market research. The stuff that resonates with your readership will, predictably, sell more. That’ll help you determine what stories (or storyworlds) you should invest time in creating and selling through channels that financially benefit you most.

If you’re blessed to be published by smaller media companies or independent publishers, the benefits are the same.

If you’re blessed to be a self-published author only, keep doing what you’re doing … but also consider cooking up an IP to pitch to smaller houses, or the Big Five. Get an agent. Level up your career. The revenue an advance represents is usually far more than most new self-pubbers will generate in years. Access to Big Publishing’s marketing, publicity, and PR teams (and their badass Rolodexes) will also probably deliver more promotional impressions than you can generate with no budget.

The odds of other rev-gen opportunities coming your way (such as film/TV options, licensing, etc.) also increase when your stuff is published by a mainstream house.

Also consider taking advantage of marketplace exclusivity. Can the benefits of Amazon’s KDP Select program work in favor of your new IP? Can publishing short-short stories in free venues (such as your author newsletter or pro Facebook page) generate interest and convert into sales at your website and beyond? Don’t shove your entire catalog into KDP Select; develop a low-risk IP and use that to test its waters and see if it benefits you. [Read more…]


Stop Feeling Like an Author Wishbone: First Do No Harm

If you’re a writer who mostly listens to your own counsel and it’s working for you, this post probably won’t help. In fact, turn away. I urge you to leave. There’s nothing for you here.

To everyone else, especially if you’re feeling yanked hither and yon by expectations about building platform, here’s a recap of Part I:

The impetus for this series was the realization I had been making many of my writing decisions based upon expert advice. (Where “experts” means agent, editors, marketing and publicity experts, and publishing insiders. “Decisions” often meant business-y things, such as whether to build a platform as I composed my fiction and if I did so, to what extent and where.)

In essence, I defaulted to the way I learned in the education system which, because of my medical background, was a protracted-but-enjoyable experience. However, the longer I’ve been around, the more I’ve observed that:

  • Experts in the same field seldom reach consensus, implying lack of universal truth.
  • The industry’s cumulative expectations can be unrealistic. (And that’s for the relatively privileged me. How could a single parent of small children be expected to work full time, write 1-3 books a year, tweet, keep a presence on a blog, Google+, Facebook, and do this on a sustainable basis?)
  • The publishing industry has the same cycles I witnessed in medicine when a new procedure or drug came along. For example, in the last half year I’ve witnessed this evolution of advice coming from admired and articulate publishing insiders:

To break in as a writer, you must keep a blog a minimum of three times per week. Aim for a minimum subscriber list of X.

You probably should have a blog.

Don’t keep a blog at all. They’re a waste of your time. Instead, comment on already established blogs in your genre and keep a mailing list.

Ultimately, I was growing increasingly unhappy and distrustful of my own instincts, which in turn stalled my writing.

I began to think about the quality of evidence supporting many of these opinions.

In most cases, it’s inferior to the evidence available in medicine, which as we noted in Part I, can still get it spectacularly wrong. To complicate matters further, the industry is in flux, so what little data is available to a single author might well be antiquated by the time it’s received.

How do we proceed when evidence is poor quality? When trends are disrupted by the time we know we’re in the midst of one? When the little data that’s accessible might not be specific to our situation? Is there a systematic approach to making decisions in the face of uncertainty?

It turns out one principle can be helpful in both entrepreneurship and medicine. It involves some Latiny goodness.

Primum Non Nocere

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