Forget the Royalties—Just Give Your Book Away

This is a guest post by Dan Miller. He is the author of 48 Days to the Work You Love. You can read his blog and explore his community at 48Days.net. You can also follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I have yet to meet an author who thought his/her publisher did enough marketing or who was satisfied with the royalties received. Most have the fantasy of writing the book, submitting the manuscript, and then sitting in a lawn chair next to the mailbox, waiting on those big checks to show up. The reality of publishing and the source of real income is a quite different picture.

A Hand Coming Out of a Computer Monitor with a Book - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BsWei, Image #12942957

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BsWei

Several years ago Mark Victor Hansen, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, told a small group of us author wannabes something that revolutionized my approach to writing. He said, “Everyone I meet wants to write a book. I tell them, ‘Write your book. Do a great job. Now you’re 10% finished. The remaining 90% consists of marketing, promoting, developing ancillary products, etc.’”

Jay Conrad Levinson is best known for popularizing the term “guerrilla marketing” in his many books. He comments, “Some people asked me how much I made from my first book. The answer I gave was $10 million. The book itself only paid $35,000 in royalties, but the speaking engagements, spin-off books, newsletters, columns, boot camps, consulting, and wide-open doors resulted in the remaining $9,965,000.”

How are you approaching your writing? Are you frustrated that in return for submitting a great article you are paid $70 and that the royalties from your book have covered the cost of your morning Starbucks but have done little to impact your mortgage?

Are you hoping for the unexpected success of The Shack or Heaven is for Real? What if you strategically developed products and services around your core concepts and saw the sales of your book as simply a promotional piece to draw people in to the more profitable part of your business?

The original movie Cars was released in 2006. Though it made a respectable $462 million in worldwide box office receipts, the real story is in ancillary sales. With the key demographic being boys from 2 to 8 years old, Pixar has had an estimated $8 billion in product sales and licensing and continues to haul in around $2 billion a year.

The first edition of my book 48 Days to the Work You Love was released in 2005. It continues to do very well and I am thankful for the royalty checks that come in. But as I have little control over those, I’ve never depended on that income for any real expenses, vacations, or retirement funds. My wife Joanne and I typically have fun guessing the amount before we open that twice-yearly envelope. And then we squeal with delight or groan in fake agony when the dollar amount appears.

However, since the original release I have:

  • Developed the complete twelve-session 48 Days to the Work You Love seminar which is now being taught by facilitators around the world;
  • Written multiple 48 Days to manifestos;
  • Been deluged with career coaching requests;
  • Licensed over 350 coaches to which we refer coaching requests;
  • Conducted countless teleseminars on the concepts;
  • Delivered speeches all over the country;
  • Supplied related content for periodicals from Christianity Today to Success magazine; and
  • Hosted Write to the Bank conferences three times a year for other writers.

Guess where I’ve made 95% of the money from the content in 48 Days to the Work You Love?

Questions: What could you do to leverage the potential from your book? What are the things sitting right in front of you that could generate more income than your royalties? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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