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E2A 018: 3 Key Strategies for Monetizing Your Book 

 November 2, 2021

By  Scott A. MacMillan

ROI. Return on investment. Is it just a mythic and elusive goal for the entrepreneur-turned-author? Unless you’re writing only for the love of it or to check an item off your bucket list, then it better not be. But with most part-time authors generating paltry income from book sales, how can you make sure your book delivers the goods?

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host and bestselling author Scott MacMillan discusses the 3 key monetization strategies entrepreneurs should focus on to deliver business results from their book.

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Episode Transcript

Scott A. MacMillan:

You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast, episode number 18.

Mike Manz:

Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now here's your host, Scott MacMillan.

Scott A. MacMillan:

When you wrote that first word of that first sentence on the first page of a manuscript, you most certainly had this stage of the journey in mind, the business end of your book, the tangible rewards for your writerly efforts, monetization. You had to have asked the most basic question every entrepreneur turned author has, that is will my book grow my business? And it has to, doesn't it? That's the whole point for the business owner publishing a book. It has to grow your business, your income, directly or indirectly. It needs to have a positive ROI. The question is how?

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, hopefully, this isn't the first time you've put some thought into that question. After all, we talked about the eight high-impact goals of first-time authors way back in episode two. Now it's time to realize those goals, to take advantage of that expertise you've codified in your book, that you're using to build your profile, your credibility, your authority. It's time to convert all of that into real results, real dollars and cents, to reap the benefits from all you've put in to getting your book written and published.

Scott A. MacMillan:

In this episode, I'll share the three major strategies that you as an entrepreneur can use to monetize your book, to deliver that return on your investment of time and money, strategies that work; the lead generation strategy, the product development strategy, and the serial author strategy. I'm Scott MacMillan and welcome to this edition of Entrepreneur to Author.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Monetizing your book. Traditionally, authors made money by selling books, but there's a problem with that business model, not only with books but with all pursuits born of passion; art, film, music, writing. Creators create because they love creating and many would do it for free. As a result, most creators don't make a living wage from sales of their art. Now, of course, some do and those are the names we all know; Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, Jared Diamond, and the list goes on. But the median income from book sales for full-time authors is only around $20,000 according to the 2019 Authors Guild Survey. That number drops to around 6,000 when you include authors for whom writing books is not their full-time profession. Now, what do you think that number would be if we strip out all of the full-time authors from that sample? Well, half of all part-time authors made less than $400 in author-related income, and the bottom 30% made no income at all from book sales.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, I share this not to discourage you. On the contrary, I share this with you to make sure that your head is in the game, in the right game. For us, entrepreneurs, business owners, publishing success is not about book sales. It's about your core business. But you know that. Your book and its contents supports your business. Don't forget it. Now, with that, let's start with the lead generation strategy. It's kind of self-explanatory. In this strategy, you use your book to generate and qualified leads for existing products and services of your core business. Lead generation has a few built-in goals. Reaching more people in a scalable way is one. Reducing sales cycle time is another. Improving conversion rate is another achievable goal. And so is improving customer quality. Writing a book that's relevant to your customers along with a strong lead generation strategy, well that can really boost your business. So how do we optimize your book to generate leads?

Scott A. MacMillan:

To optimize for lead generation, your book needs to do two things. It needs to lead the reader to a new need that you can help them with and filter for your ideal customers. When I talk about leading the reader to a new need, I'm talking about ensuring that your book leads your reader to a sharper understanding of the need for your core product, or highlighting a next order need that your core product addresses. In the first instance, you might freely share your ideas on your topic in the book and then invite your reader to work with you to implement these ideas in their specific situation.

Scott A. MacMillan:

In the second instance, you might help them fully solve a problem through your book, which then uncovers a follow-on need that you can help your reader with. For example, a financial planner might use their book to help her readers get their cash flow situation in order and then invite them to contact her about investing some of that freed up cash flow to save for the future. Do you see how that works? The other thing that you need to do to optimize your book for lead generation is to filter for your ideal customers. So what you want to do is one, attract the type of customers that you can serve well and profitably and two, repel those that aren't a good fit for your business.

Scott A. MacMillan:

So, that's what you need to do within your book. But then what do you need to do to execute the lead generation strategy after your book is published? Well, it's important to make sure that your book leads readers logically towards your core product. And there are four core pillars for how you do that through the lead generation strategy. And these involve distribution, events, lead magnets, and end-book call to action.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Distribution is about getting your book into the hands of as many of your ideal readers as possible. We talked about distribution generally in episode 15, so give that episode another listen. But when your primary goal is to generate leads, don't be afraid to distribute your book for free if that's what it takes. Viral giveaways, referral or affiliate partnerships, gifting to associations or other organizations. All these and more can be excellent opportunities to get your book into the hands of your ideal customer. And it doesn't take many high-ticket core product sales to cover the cost of giving away your paperback or E-book.

Scott A. MacMillan:

In-person events have taken a backseat to online ones over the past couple of years. However, as the world emerges blurry-eyed from pandemic restrictions, expect to see people chomping at the bit to get together safely, in person once again. When done well, in-person events can generate a great deal of credibility and establish a personal connection with your ideal reader. And they give you an excellent opportunity to gift your book to qualified leads and then convert interest into sales of your core product.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Lead magnets are another way to use your book in your core product sales funnel. Whether using your book itself as a lead magnet or adapting the content from it to create digital resources that are valuable to your target clients, you can offer them in exchange for content information.

Scott A. MacMillan:

And finally, don't ignore end-book calls to action. They're important. At the end of your book, make sure to let the reader know of the various ways that they can work with you and make it clear how they can take the next steps in doing so. But realize that a hard upsell doesn't often land. Instead, give them a valuable reason to reach out to you. For example, directing readers to your website where they can find bonus material that can help them take action on what you've taught them is another approach that can work quite well.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, if you're going to all of this trouble to generate leads, don't forget to put into place the things that you need to capitalize on them. Make sure you have the tools you need to capture the lead, the internal capabilities to follow up and nurture the sale, and that you have a clear next product in mind to sell to the prospect. Now, these may all sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at how often authors leave money on the table because they weren't set up to act on a lead when it came their way. A lead is not truly generated until you have the prospect's contact information stored in such a way that you can make use of it. And there are multiple ways to do this.

Scott A. MacMillan:

For online needs, you'll need website landing pages with an email marketing tool that allows you to add a sign-up form and then store the contact information that you collect. For in-person leads, at a live event, for example, printed collateral is an underused tool. I'm talking brochures and sign-up forms. And, of course, you'll still need a CRM to enter the information into so that it can be used. If you're the only person on your sales team, you might get by with a spreadsheet or a whiteboard for a time, but as your business grows and more people need to coordinate, you're going to need a more robust customer relationship management platform. A good CRM not only stores contact information but also lets you move prospect through stages of your sales funnel and manage the value of your sales pipeline.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Once you've generated leads and stored their contact information, you need to make sure that you have the sales capability to convert the lead into a sale. That sales capability could be just you, and that's fine. But whoever it is, make sure that you're set up to handle both prospects who are ready to buy now as well as the vast majority who express some degree of interest but need to be nurtured over time until they're ready to buy. Large or small, make sure you've developed a sales strategy that acts on the leads your book generates, otherwise it's a huge missed opportunity.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, I mentioned the next logical project as also being part of your lead generation strategy. You'll need a product to sell to your leads. That's obvious. But what you need to consider are the synergies between your product or service and the book that you've just written about your expertise as it relates to those products or services. That's key. Ask yourself, is your product designed for your ideal reader? Does it relate to the methodology described in your book? Does it pick up where the book left off? And regarding pricing, if you're giving away your book for free, does the price that you're charging for the product or service make that free book give away work?

Scott A. MacMillan:

Okay. You can understand why lead generation is a major pillar in the monetization of your book. There are two other pillars I mentioned. The second is product development strategy. This strategy essentially uses your book as the foundation for an ecosystem of related products. Why develop products instead of just delivering a service, you might be asking, especially if you're used to billing yourself out at an hourly or daily rate? Well, here's why. When you turn your services into products, a few things happen. First, the perceived value of your offering improves. Second, you're better able to scale your business with demand. And third, you discover additional income-generating opportunities that you hadn't considered before. Keep in mind, the real goal here is more than simply developing a product. It's to develop an entire product ecosystem based on the intellectual property or IP in your book.

Scott A. MacMillan:

So what does that ecosystem look like? Well, let's start with this. It's made up of a number of different but related products or packaged services all connected to your book's IP. These might include coaching, expert services, trainings, physical products, software, licensing and certification, subscriptions, memberships, and even experiences. We don't need to go into detail for every one of these because some are self-explanatory. But the real power of the product development strategy comes not in just these isolated products but in how you bring them all together into an overall product ecosystem.

Scott A. MacMillan:

I want you to think about your product ecosystem in terms of five different components that all work together. One is attention products. These are products offered for free that pull prospects in and get their attention. This podcast is an attention product. Same with a blog, diagnostic quizzes, YouTube videos, and so on. Second, entry products. These are lower-cost products that allow customers to begin a relationship with you at relatively low risk and allow you to prove out the quality of your work. Third, are core products. A core product is your flagship offering that you're known for and that represents the bulk of your revenue. Fourth, are add-on products. These are products that layer on top of your core product, allowing you to customize it scalably for common subsegments of customers. And finally, fifth, are follow-on products. These are high-margin products that you offer to existing customers to extend and expand your relationship with them. Most of the product types I mentioned earlier could be used as any of these, or you could bring together multiple components to create a high-value packaged solution as your core product, for example.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, at the beginning of this episode, I made a point of talking about how unlikely it is for an author to make a living directly from book sales. That was intentional, and I stick by that. However, it would be wrong to suggest that there's no way to do it. Of course, there is. Authors, nonfiction authors, entrepreneurs do it all the time. So I will present a strategy that focuses on monetizing your book directly through book sales. But I'm going to caveat in the following ways. First, realize that this is a long game. More to come on that. Second, know that it's a lot of work. Fine. Nobody here is afraid of hard work. And third, know that even with this strategy you would be wise to make it part of a broader monetization strategy using the other approaches we've already discussed. In fact, I recommend you start with one of those first and come to this one over time.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Okay. With all that said, the third and final strategy that will help you deliver return on the investment that you made writing and publishing your book is called the serial author strategy. It's a long game, no question about it. This is where the focus is on building a portfolio of related books that over time will snowball into a collective asset that delivers enough value to support your income goals. If done well and executed properly, this strategy becomes more and more effective the longer you stick with it.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, you've heard the cliche that the overnight successful author was years in the making. Well, it's very true. And those overnight successes very likely employed the serial author strategy. I want to talk about the compound effect of this strategy. When you find an author you like, odds are good that after you've read their first book you'll look for the release of their next book. You might even go back and look for books that they've already published. Now, this strategy hinges on that. There are three approaches to the serial author strategy. There's the deep dive series, the ideal reader series, and the reader segment series. Now, let me touch briefly on each.

Scott A. MacMillan:

With a deep dive series, you start with a foundational book that covers a subject in its entirety. This is your first book. Then you pick a topic within your foundational book and write a second book that delves deeper into the subject. Subsequent books follow the same approach, resulting in a thorough body of work on the same broad topic. Now, this is the easiest of the three approaches.

Scott A. MacMillan:

As mentioned, the second approach in this strategy is called the ideal reader series. Now, it also starts with a foundational book, but for the second book you broaden your focus beyond the scope of your first to address a different problem for the same ideal reader. That makes sense, right? Because your ideal reader will have more than one problem to solve. For example, you may want to begin where your second book left off. This approach is very, very effective at building a fiercely loyal following of readers. The more books you write and the more your books serve your ideal reader, the more those readers will see you as their go-to guru.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Finally, there's the reader segment series. This final approach is most effective at building a broad base of readers over time. Like the previous two, this approach also starts with your foundational book, laying out your core methodology. But the books that follow focus on different segments of readers and help each segment apply your methodology to their unique situation. As you can imagine, with a serial author strategy and its various approaches, there are also multiple factors that will determine the success of your serial author strategy. You need to establish a strong writing habit. The more comfortable you get at writing, the quicker you'll become and the quality of your output will improve as well. And before you can really start executing the strategy, well you need to have multiple books published, a book series. This strategy picks up steam with every new title published, but really that momentum starts to pick up after the third or fourth book, although that depends on your subject matter. It's also important to make sure that your content doesn't go stale or lose relevance over time for the strategy to work.

Scott A. MacMillan:

As you publish your books, you need to pay increasing attention to your author brand. Now, that's similar to your personal and professional brand, but because some people will only know you as an author it's important that you focus on it specifically. Your ideal reader will want to connect with you. They'll want to get to know you as they consume more and more of your books. It's that habitual reading that leads to reader engagement, and that engagement building over time is what helps make the serial author strategy work. Building an email list is vital so that you have an audience you can nurture and then activate each time you launch your book. And you need to engage those readers regularly. You need to stay relevant with them and stay in touch.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Finally, as you build out your book series, think about how it will work as a series funnel. That's right. Think of your book in the same way you think about your product ecosystem. Plan it in advance. What is that series of books? Knowing that, of course, it's likely to change, but which of those books should readers start with? Which one should they read next? What do you want them to do at the end of each book? Design each book, the calls to action, pricing, and supporting promotion to encourage this journey. And like I said, don't be afraid to employ this strategy alongside one of the others that I've mentioned. In fact, because this strategy takes some time to gather steam plan for it, but focus on one of the others for your first and second books at least. With each book you publish, your authority and following grows, making everything else you do more effective.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, there's a lot of material here. A good way to choose a monetization strategy is to consider your objectives. So think about that. Which strategy is best suited to accomplish the goals that you have for your book? Tailor the strategy accordingly. And remember this, there are three main monetization strategies you can use to return value to you and your business using your book; the lead generation strategy, the product development strategy, the serial author strategy. You don't have to use all of them, but knowing about them will expand how you think about your book and how to get the most from it. The best time to think about how you'll monetize your book is before you even write. But the second best time is now. That's right, now is the time, time to write, time to publish, and time to grow.

 I'm Scott McMillan, until next time.

 


Scott A. MacMillan


Scott A. MacMillan is a speaker, international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and the President and Executive Publisher at Grammar Factory Publishing. He and his team help expert entrepreneurs write and publish books that build their authority and grow their business.

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