Income Streams for Authors

New authors often have the misconception that they will sell a million books and be wealthy for the rest of their lives. But the book is just the beginning; authors shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket—better to use the egg to hatch more golden egg-laying geese. One book can lead to a product line and multiple streams of residual income.

The author who gets rich on just one book, or even has the luxury just to stay home and do nothing but write books, is a myth, especially today, but in truth it always has been. It is the rare author throughout history who only had one book, one golden egg. Even authors who became famous and wealthy based on one book did not solely become famous because of the book.

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, is a perfect example. She only wrote one novel, but she leveraged it into income not only from book sales but also movie rights and foreign book rights. Today J.K. Rowling does not make money solely off one Harry Potter book. She used the first book to build a series of novels, which also resulted in a film franchise and countless other merchandise products including wrist watches, lunchboxes, book lights, and board and video games. In addition, she gets paid for book signings and speaking engagements.

You may never reach the fame level of J.K. Rowling, but it doesn’t hurt to aspire to it, and more importantly, like Rowling and Mitchell, you can create multiple streams of income. The book is just the beginning—it is the lead-generation tool to plenty of other work, income, and success coming your way.

A successful author is also a successful businessperson. He might begin with a book, but he uses that book to become an expert so he can offer many services or products that will be in demand. For example, once an author publishes a book, other people who want to publish books come out of the woodwork—they want to know how he did it; they want him to help them with their books. The author thought everyone would want to talk about his book—his novel, his characters, his ideas. Instead, he gets asked to talk about how to get published. If he’s smart, soon he branches into offering seminars on publishing, writing books on the publishing industry, and leveraging his experience to create income for him—he might also sell some of his books for additional income. Different authors may similarly choose some other avenue of the publishing world to provide income. They become publishing coaches, literary agents, editors, book reviewers, printers, cover design artists, magazine columnists—often they become several of these, wearing multiple hats. The book was not the golden egg. It was the goose that laid all these golden eggs.

But publishing may be just one basket. Put your eggs in several baskets. Multiple streams of income that have little to do with books are possible for authors. The people above love books—they always wanted to be writers. But there are authors who don’t even like writing. These authors wrote their books to prove they were experts in their fields. Many one-book authors are life coaches, public speakers, doctors, personal trainers, investment coaches, or politicians. They wrote their books so they could get their messages out and so they would gain credibility. Think about it—if you’re planning an event and have an option between a speaker who has published a book and one who hasn’t, chances are you’ll hire the author because that person appears more talented, knowledgeable, credible, and professional—all qualities you want in a keynote speaker.

Often one book is enough. You might create multiple incomes by writing multiple books, but you could use that one book to give you the edge you want in other ways. Your book can get your foot in the door to generate income through teaching workshops, speaking engagements, business consulting, or a variety of other opportunities. People also want current books, but rather than constantly producing new books, you can capitalize on the credibility a book gives simply by coming out with a second, third, fourth or revised edition, updating the information, adding a new chapter, giving the book a new look. Then the book is new and you did little work to make it so.

Remember that many formats are available for publishing one book. Most books published are paperbacks, but don’t overlook those customers who like hardcover books. Print a number of hardcovers so your customers have an option—they may only buy a paperback for themselves, but they will be willing to spend money on a nice looking hardcover to give as a gift. You could even come out with special limited collectible editions and charge quadruple prices for them if you think the market will bear it.

And what about e-books? There are multiple e-book formats out there. Yes, you might make more money on your print copies—but it depends on how you sell them. If you’re selling through a book distributor, you might only get 5-10% off your cover price for each book sold. But with e-books, you may collect 50%. The income from a print book at 10% versus an e-book at 50% may be equal—the e-book might even provide you greater profit. And don’t forget the value of your time. Print books require time spent working with printers, delivering, mailing, and storing books. Once set up, e-books require nothing more than collecting your income—residual income. Nothing is better than money that keeps coming in that you don’t have to labor for (other than initially having written the book of course).

Create products that complement your book. Why not sell your self-help book with special affirmation cards that can be purchased separately or packaged with your book? Provide a free copy of your book with ten hours of coaching sessions. Create a workbook to go with your book. Create coloring books or paper dolls to go with your children’s book. How about a trivia game to go with your history book? Any product that helps generate continued interest in your book is fair game. Brainstorm the possibilities. Your book is a lead-generating tool to more and more income, more and more opportunities to get your message out there, and more and more chances to live the author lifestyle you always dreamed of living. I guarantee it won’t be exactly how you dreamt it—it may not be as grand—but it will still be fun and exciting.

Your book is a goose. It can lay golden eggs for you. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and let some of those eggs hatch to create more geese to produce yet more eggs.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

3 Responses to Income Streams for Authors
  1. Rosanne Dingli
    September 26, 2010 | 11:49 am

    Irene – this has given me a couple of excellent ideas that I’ll try next week.