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.
Finally, examine “beyond books” opportunities for your IP. Is your storyworld successful enough—and imaginative enough—to support adaptation to a licensed product? A comic? A play? A tabletop game? (Small role-playing game companies are often looking for cool licensing opportunities.) What about T-shirts? Branded hip flasks? Posters? Heck, autographed photos from fictional “celebrity” characters … the opportunities are nigh-endless, if you let your imagination run wild.
By using free e-commerce solutions such as gumroad.com and zazzle.com to host, sell and manufacture products on demand (meaning, you’re not responsible for the nuts and bolts of order processing, fulfillment or shipping, which further reduces your risk), you can push products to market quickly, respond to sales and demand, and remove products that aren’t working.
Have you had success with diversifying your own publishing revenue streams? Share your story in the comments!