Writing a Book – Making Money


MMMMMMMM, money. How do you make money writing a book?

Earlier posts in this series:
Writing a Book – Finding Time
Writing a Book – Discipline
Writing a Book – Structure
Writing a Book – Marketing And Promotion

So, we’re at the end of the series, kids, but lots of you have asked along the way, “but can I make any money at this book thing?” Here’s the real answer first: yes, but you’ve gotta work at it. Sorry. You don’t get all that rich writing books, unless you’re James Patterson or Stephen King or that marketing guy who made 7 figures selling ebooks through the Kindle store and will gladly sell you his secret to selling you ebooks. I didn’t buy a new car based on my book money. (I bought it based on speech money.) So, now that I’ve burst your bubble, I’m going to share some ways you can make money writing a book.

Teaching Sells

Think beyond the pages for a moment. Is the information you’re selling worth someone’s money? Then a book might not even be the best medium to make that money. If you sell a book with a mainstream press company, you’ll make somewhere between $1 and $3 a book (in most cases). That means, it takes around 15,000 sales at $2 to make $30,000. (Please applaud at my math skills- I’m a marketer). Now, sell a class on the topic of that book for $97, and you only have to find around 310 buyers to make the same amount. Yep. 310 buyers are easier to find than 15,000. Consider that most US business books sell fewer than 5,000 copies in their lifetime, and it’s a pretty dismal thing to consider making money selling a book the old fashioned way. Oh, and I know this is another stupid calculator trick, but if you sell your course for $297, you only need 102 people. What kind of course is worth that? Hmmm. A real estate license course would probably be worth that. You see where I’m going, right?

Speaking Sells

Julien Smith and I didn’t exactly buy matching ponies with the money. We could have made more in a year selling popcorn than selling books, BUT books have this incredible power to them: they act as visible social proof that you might know something. A book with a “New York Times Bestseller” across the top means that you might REALLY know something. And thus, when CEOs wander into this or that store, or their marketing nerd employee (was that you?) drops our book off on the CEO’s desk and she raises her eyebrow in curiosity, there’s a chance for Julien and I to go speak professionally at their event, to their board, to whatever/whoever. And professional speaking certainly can pay well. So that’s another way to make money off a book: get it to a spot where people want YOU because they liked the book.

Selling Bits

So why not sell something digitally? There are great ways to do that. You could write something of value, post it up on ClickBank or similar sites, and get people to buy it digitally over and over again. That’s not a bad little plan actually. And if you do use something like ClickBank, they let you have affiliate sellers, which means that you can invite other people who have built an audience into your little project and you can split some of the money with them. If you’re going to do this, consider giving 50% and you’ll get a pretty decent bunch of people willing to run with your ebook. Nothing bad about that. There’s real money to be made, especially if you get a bunch of decent products moving. Thing is, everyone else who’s selling a bland and not-especially-amazing book is also selling through those channels, and so there’s a lot of competition for attention and thus, it falls back on you to be the most amazing marketer in the world. Again.

Pushing Paper

You can make money selling actual books. People do. It just takes a lot more work moving units. If you’re going to go that route, than I strongly recommend that YOU do all the work, that you get the book bound and pressed (there are a gazillion places that do this now), and that YOU go about getting the things distributed. There are tons of books on this. If you want to publish how-to information specifically, I own, have read, and can vouch for How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit: Your Guide to Writing and Publishing Books, E-Books, Articles, Special Reports, Audio Programs, DVDs, and Other How-To Content (amazon affiliate link).

But in that specific case, you know that you can do the distribution and you know that YOU can put those books in people’s hands. It’s a really tough row to hoe, and I hear about so many authors who have garages full of their amazing book.

So, Where’s The Money?

To me, the money was laid out to you in pretty much the order of best-to-worst money-making. You can make much more money faster if you sell your book as a course instead. You can make money if you sell speaking. You can make money by selling digitally instead of in paper form, and you can sell paper books, if you’re not scared off yet by my putting it dead last in the options of making money. Publishing in the mainstream doesn’t make the list exactly, because it becomes the bait in the larger game. Don’t cry for publishers, however. They make their money their own ways, and I still work with the mainstream press, so that tells you what I think of them.

The money for fiction authors? Oh, I forgot that part. That doesn’t work. Fiction is about passion except for the very few percent of the herd who really can move books like no one’s business. For every James Patterson and Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling, there are gazillions of people who have a much better secret agent, and vampire romance and bunch of punchy wizards who are just aching to be found by all the world’s already-sated crowds. You’re doomed. I mean, write fiction for love, but don’t call up Starbucks and quit just yet. It’s just not likely to happen for MOST of us.

And the Secret Is Last

Magazines pay pretty darned well. Between what I get from Entrepreneur, MPI, and a few other writing gigs, I make six figures. Yep, it’s not all that sexy. Nope, it’s not necessarily as glamorous some days as walking into Bord– um, Walden–…er, Barnes & Noble (they’re still around!) and seeing your book on the New Releases shelf, but cashing checks? Well, that’s pretty darned good. Magazines, especially ones no one has ever heard of, pay the best of them all. But the work is hard and fast-paced and not nearly as sexy.

There you have it, my friends. Money (and not money) in the publishing world.

Do it for love all you want, but if you want the money, that’s how I understand the game from my perspective. I wish you fortune.

orrrr, if you want another secret…well, never mind. Don’t go here. not worth it. just a thought.

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