5 Ways Non-Fiction Authors Can Make Money Far Beyond Selling Books
By Amy Harrop
When writing and publishing non-fiction books, there's tremendous earning potential just through book sales. This is particularly true if you become popular in a broad interest topic, and particularly if you're prolific with your writing and publishing.
However, unlike fiction, non-fiction offers you a huge amount of earning potential beyond simply the sales of books. In fact, in many ways, when a reader buys a book from you, that can be the very start of a customer relationship that can even be worth tens of thousands of dollars in income.
The reason for this is when publishing a non-fiction book, you're generally solving someone's problem, or answering someone's question:
- How can I make my garden look better?
- How do I get more leads and sales for my business?
- How can I get fit and bulk up?
- How can I increase the value of my home?
... and so on.
So your book will answer their questions and help solve their problems. And the better the book, the more it starts your relationship with the reader in a positive way.
Of course people who buy your book are interested in the topic. They may be superficially interested, or they may be hugely motivated to dive much deeper into the topic. With such readers, your book is just the start of your relationship with them.
So that's where your relationship with your readers becomes more of an "information publisher and coach" rather than just an author.
I'll be talking through five ways you as an author can build an entire portfolio of offers that can increase your income significantly, by turning a simple book publishing business into an information publishing and coaching empire.
Here's several examples of authors who have done just that:
Dan Kennedy is quite prolific as a book writing, with a focus on helping small businesses with their marketing. But that's just a tiny percentage of his income.
His books introduce readers to his website, his paid newsletters, his courses, and his consulting. For example, he mentions that just one reader who purchased one of his books from a $1 bargain bin in a store, turned into a client who's now paid him well over $100,000.
Anthony Robbins is a hugely well known motivational coach who publishes books and these introduce new coaching clients to him. His information and coaching business is vast, and even though the books bring him a small percentage of clients overall (the majority come through infomercials) they're highly qualified.
Melonie Dodaro publishes a popular book about successfully using LinkedIn to grow your personal and business brand. And that book leads the reader to her website where she offers more in depth courses, in-person coaching, and services.
Of course it's important to realize that a large percentage of people who get your book will look at it only briefly if at all. It will be a small percentage who really dive into your book and then visit your website, take up the free offer you make to readers in return for their email address (very important!), and then check out your other offers.
However that small percentage will come to you very much sold on your way of communicating, so they'll be hugely receptive to other offers of yours. In some ways, they'll transition from your book to your website already fans of yours, and this makes selling to them so much easier than attempting to sell to someone who's never heard of you before.
Okay, so let's dive into more detail about ways to turn a book reader into a hugely valuable customer, while at the same time offering tremendous value to them every step of the way (since every time you over-deliver to a customer, it makes them more likely to buy from you again, and to recommend your products and services to others).
Expand on Your Book With In-Depth Training Courses
If the subject you're writing about is particularly narrow niche, a 100 page book may cover the entirety of the subject. However, most books, even on very niche subjects, can go more in depth and be turned into a fully-fledged training course. And in particular can be communicated in multiple media formats: audio, video, and tool kits (more on this later).
So you need to transition your book readers to your website. A great way to do this is to offer them bonuses if they visit your site at private page (just for book readers) and sign up with their email address. This way, they get access to great bonuses that aren't available to regular website visitors, and you get their email address for regular follow-up.
And you follow up on them by email with great content, and also some offers (don't overdo it however of they'll stop reading your emails). This is a great opportunity to start presenting them with your courses and other offers, and also to encourage them to become a regular reader of your blog by emailing them links to your latest posts (or the best post from the last seven days) once a week.
Now, a training course can be delivered purely online as a download. Or it can be set up as a private member area (more on this in the next section). However, by also sending your customer something physical through the post, you can generally charge quite a bit more as it has a higher perceived value.
Plus, it creates a stronger emotional bond with the customer. Rather than just data on a hard drive, it's something that has pride of place on their shelves.
So for example, you can deliver everything immediately online, and also send customers:
- DVDs with training videos.
- CDs with audio.
- Printed out and bound manuals and transcripts.
The DVDs and CDs can be very light to post, whereas manual and transcripts can start to get rather heavy. However, the more you deliver, the larger the "Thud Factor" as it's called. The thud sound you get when a huge package is delivered at your door. So the higher the thud factor, the more perceived value a course can have, so the higher the price.
And with a training course, depending on how in depth it is, the intended target market, and how valuable the subject area is, can sell for anything from $30 to $5,000.
While a $30 course may be introductory, a $5,000 course could be the equivalent of a Masters degree in your subject area, and a percentage of your customers are going to be interested in that if they've been happy with previous purchases from you.
Often, offers to customers start at the lower end of prices. And then customer then gets higher priced offers as they purchase more and more products. Whereas other customers may want to jump straight to the most expensive course. So having these all publicly available to buy can be helpful.
So sales of these courses will come from:
- Your email list.
- Your website traffic.
- Promotional partnerships where other sites promote your courses.
- Online advertising campaigns.
Making Predictable Income with Membership Sites & Newsletters
A membership site is a private area on your site with fantastic information. Often membership sites also include tools that members can benefit from, and even private discussion areas where members can get in depth answers quickly.
The reason for having a membership site as well as training products is because it's regularly updated, and can have an interactive element to it. In return the customer pays either monthly or annually to keep access to the site.
And a newsletter is effectively a "real world" version of a membership, where a newsletter, CD, DVD, or combination of these, is sent to the customer once a month. The customer then again either pays monthly, or even annually. And this can be either instead of, or more likely alongside access to a membership site.
- If we return to the example of Dan Kennedy, he has a monthly newsletter that goes out to thousands (more likely tens of thousands) of business owners. He's said that he consider his newsletter the core of his business, and this alone produces millions in annual revenue for him.
- An even more successful example is Lynda.com which was recently sold to LinkedIn for well over a billion dollars. Lynda is a job skills training site that is over 20 years old, and has training videos on hundreds of different subjects.
You'll find in fact that both of those examples, and with billed monthly offers in general, a free or low-price trial period is required. There's a resistance by customers to being billed monthly, so you can overcome that resistance with a low-price or free trial so you can prove the value you're giving them.
And one huge benefit of billing customers monthly (automatically onto their credit card) is it creates very predictable monthly cash flow for your business, which takes a lot of worry out of entrepreneurial life. It also means you have a captive audience that you can promote other products and services too, and since they're already buying from you, their response rate will be high.
Charge For Your Expertise & Time With Coaching
If you're an expert in the subject you're writing about, then beyond just offering books and training products for your audience, you can work with them on a one-to-one basis to answer their questions directly and offer a much more personalized approach.
This could be offered as consulting or personalized training (much the same thing, although they have slightly different connotations), and can be very helpful to clients that are confused about certain areas of your topic, have very specific questions, or just want to move forward quickly.
This is often offered at an hourly rate, or even a day rate, and is generally done remotely over the phone or through Skype, or can sometimes be done in person in certain instances.
You can even take this further if you choose, and actually offer services to customers where you do the work for them. For example, if you published a book on small business marketing, you could offer marketing campaign management for clients, and depending on the size of the project, could cost the client more than $100,000 a year.
The example above of Melonie Dodaro publishing her book about LinkedIn as a lead generator for her business, helps attract clients to her coaching and marketing management services.
Selling Tools is Much Easier Than Selling Information
When selling information, there's always a resistance from the person you're selling to as information takes effort to internalize and to implement. That said, if the information is about a hobby the person reading may be truly passionate about it. But for information about solutions to a problem, there likely isn't that same passion. The easier you can make it, the better.
So if you can find a way to give your customer a tool they can put into action and that solves their problem with minimal effort on their part, that can sell very well. Because in an ideal world, people want things done for them, so the less effort they have to exert to solve a problem, the happier they'll be.
If you're selling a training course, you can include tools as part of it. You can then start to present the product as a toolkit which can make selling it a lot easier. Here are examples of tools you can sell as part of a course, or even as their own offers:
- "Fill in the blank" templates
- Spreadsheets for quick calculations
- Quick start guides
Now some tools can take a long time (and a lot of money) to develop, particularly software. So make sure you know your audience well if this a route you're going to take.
Put Together High-Priced Seminars and Retreats
To maximize your income while at the same time catering to multiple client types, it's important to have low priced and also high priced offers. One of your lowest priced offers is of course your book.
Then you can offer more in depth information, leading up to high-priced coaching, consulting, services, and tools. And towards the highest end of prices is putting together seminars and retreats where your absolute best and most valuable information is presented to customers.
Plus, people often greatly enjoy the social aspect of seminars, and it can be a fun getaway. It can also be a great way to network with people that have similar interests.
When putting together seminars, you have two main options:
- High priced and exclusive.
- Low priced with the maximum number of people you can get.
The high priced option may even sell for thousands of dollars, and you may have quite limited seating. This is often offered to your best customers first, so they get first refusal.
Whereas the low priced option is designed to get you the biggest captive audience possible. Often then you sell your highest priced offers to that audience, since selling from the stage can be the most receptive place to make those offers.
This can lead to what's known as the stampede effect, where you make an offer from the stage (especially if it's time or quantity limited), and people see audience members going up to take the offer, so the fear of missing out kicks in and other people rush up too. Such offers at seminars have been known to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars over a weekend.
By thinking strategically, you can leverage your book and increase your profits through more than publishing.
Check out my blog for more publishing tips. Amy Harrop Blog