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 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 ©, Image #12942957

Photo courtesy of ©

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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  • Patricia Zell

    Self-publishing my book this year was only one step in the process of getting my “message” out. I specifically chose this route  because I didn’t want the threat of taking my book out of print hanging over my head. My book has a lot of potential, but my biggest challenges are time and open doors. Since God specifically opened the door to my job as a high school English teacher (who keeps changing courses–lots of work), I make that work my top priority. Add to that family medical matters which have taken a lot of time, and my book has been on the back burner this fall.

    One thing I have been doing, though, is giving away my book. (I gave three copies to my school library and they are all checked out–one of my students from last year even told my book sounded just like me.) One of the first things I did in the process of writing my book was put a trademark on my brand in anticipation of ancillary products, so I’m waiting on God to give me direction of how to start that process and help to get it going.

    One of the ways I keep myself from stressing out about my book is to remind myself and God that my book is, first and foremost, my gift to Him. Even if sales don’t take off, my book is an expression of the love I share with Him, so every ounce of effort I’ve put into this endeavor has been worth it. Nothing is certain in this world except for God’s absolute love, so I’m trusting Him to lead and direct my paths.

    • Ben Patterson

      Great work, Patricia! I’m sure the students at your school appreciate your blueprint for this.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Patricia, just one note: unlike a copyright, unless you register a trademark, you have no protection. It’s a whole process of its own, and you will need an attorney. Thanks.

      • Vanterrius A’shiyahsFather Wes

        I had written a scary short story to Writer’s Digest for a short story contest. I had already submitted the story. Some time later, I had given some copies of my story to some of my friends and coworkers to read. I’m glad I have read your posts, Mr. Hyatt. I do need to be more careful on giving out my stories because I do have a fear of someone trying to steal my work if I win the contest or finally get published and start to make money.

        • Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

          @facebook-858785452:disqus, I think with your written work you have the copyright immediately at the time you create it. But the trademark is a different story. It protects other types of works I believe. Like phrases and things like that. I’m no attorney, so Michael or someone else may be able to clarify.

          • Michael Hyatt

            Yes, this is correct, Jackie. You own the copyright the moment you create the work, even if you never publish it. However, a copyright does not protect an idea; it only protects the expression (the words you use) of the idea. A trademark is a different animal altogether. It doesn’t really apply to a published products unless they are a series (e.g., Chicken Soup for the Soul). It is more focused on other products.

          • Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

            Thanks, Michael. That’s helpful!

    • Drew Snider

      Thanks for sharing that, Patricia! I have to keep reminding myself of that in my own experience, too …

  • Chris Patton

    Thanks for the insight, Dan!  I have heard bits and pieces of this information before, but I never realized the overwhelming potential in the after-the-book opportunities.  While it seems like common sense, it has never registered as the goal.

    Like Patricia’s comment above, taking this strategy means more preparation (trademark, etc) is advisable (in addition to the book itself).  I would not have thought to do that ahead of time.

    I appreciate the wisdom!

    • Vanterrius A’shiyahsFather Wes

      How can I get  a trademark?

      • Chris Patton

        I really do not know at this point. I have not looked into it.

        Chris Patton

  • Alan Kay

    A book is an expression of the value you bring to people. When you give it away, the value comes back. 
    I had modest expectations of my book, but have been regularly amazed by people I meet who say to me, ‘I’ve got your book and I really like it’. One such senior manager turned to his colleague and said, ‘You must get Alan’s book…your sales team need it’ I handed him a copy and we agreed to meet for a coffee. So, always have a copy in your briefcase    

    • Anonymous

      Alan – exactly.  Too many authors hold their book close to their chest and say – Give me your money and then I’ll let you see what’s inside these covers.  Your approach is much better – be prepared to give it readily and often.

      • Charles Specht

        True, Dan.  
        Ummm, this is a bit eye-opening.

  • Ben Patterson

    Fascinating! Thinking about only being 10% done after writing a book is encouraging to me.

    • Anonymous

      That can sound discouraging.  But once you really understand the concept it simply opens up a new world of opportunity.

      • Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

        Dan, thank you for sharing this post, and your Platform U Master Class (one of my favs). So many of my friends talk highly of you, and suggest your work. I will be engaging more with your platform.

        I’m working on a book now, and have been considering the 90% worth of opportunities and work. The book is just the beginning. This post has helped me better see this. Thanks, again!

        • Kimunya Mugo

          Very true @jbledsoejr:disqus! For me, experience has been my teacher. I’ve lost track of how many time I’ve listened to ‘This is your life’ Episode #095. Wish I got to catch it earlier on. Fortunately, I wrote my first book [Down But Not Out] to find healing. However, many people have found the content meaningful for their own lives.

          But it is what came out of the book that I now realize is part of the 90%. My new leadership coaching program is based on the framework of that first book. Got my first corporate client (10 people) and some good prospects in the wings.

          @48DaysDan:disqus, I am in the process of producing an audiobook for that first published book. Is my intention to give it away [including a companion workbook] a crazy idea? What do you think @mhyatt:disqus?

        • Dan Miller


          You wouldn’t believe how many times your name has come up in my circles. Everyone points to you as someone who is getting things done. I’m sure we’ll meet at some point.

          • Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

            That is humbling, as I feel I have a lot more to be done. I’m looking forward meeting you. Hopefully it’ll be sooner than later! :)

  • ScottWilliams

    Yes Sir!

  • Timothy Fish

    That works for some people. If it does, I say go for it, but I suspect the kind of situation for that is nearly as rare as books that do well without it. You mention Cars, which is a very good example of when it works, but I’ve seen a lot of good movies that I doubt ever sold licensed merchandise. I would hate to think that someone would decide those movies shouldn’t have been made because they aren’t the kind that can license the brand. The same is true for books. For most books, it really is just about the book.

    • Anonymous

      Timothy – I agree that for fiction it is generally just about the book.  But I think any non-fiction author is missing the real market if he/she depends on just the book.

  • Anonymous

    Terrific advice. I made about $10,000 publishing a business book about ten years ago, but it entirely changed the course of my career. It opened new doors to a better job, and then another boost after that one… Ultimately allowing me to triple my salary in a three-year span. The credibility and exposure I received from the book was so much more important than the book itself.

    • Anonymous

      You’ve touched on the big reason most of us write initially.  The boost in personal and professional credibility is major.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    Dan! I have seen this concept of 5 % and 95%  (royalty and ancillary product) working wonders for some people like self-help author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy. But, at the same time , I have seen many authors deriving their sole revenue through royalty  income. 

    Though this concept may not be applicable under all circumstances, yet with intelligence and creativity, we can successfully adopt this model in our journey of writing at relevant junctures.

    • Anonymous

      Uma – I like to see this as not an “either/or” but a “both/and” approach.  If the royalties are significant – yeah team.  Either way, I want to add the ancillary revenue.

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Agreed Dan! And, I love this novel concept. I have thought from this perspective. Thanks for sharing through this post.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Forget the Royalties—Just Give Your Book Away

  • Michael Paddy

    I may be naive even a little ignorant but my thought is that my favorite books by my favorite authors get supreme satisfaction from the knowledge that they had created a manifesto that has influenced, even changed a life’s perspective…a process of thought…

  • leannegolan

    I so agree with this. I have a book ready to self-publish but I’m developing an online course/group coaching program so that when I launch it, there is a next step in place for readers to apply the principles taught in the book. 

    While writing a book may not be the cash cow it once was , if you’re ready for anything, it can open doors for opportunities not yet imagined. 

    BTW, Dan Miller’s 48 Days community is a great place to explore ideas like this with other wrtiers and aspiring entrepreneurs.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comments about our community.  Yeah the writers there are doing some amazing things in this new world of publishing.

  • John Richardson

    Nice to see you guest posting here, Dan. As a self published author, I can tell you the joy of publication is soon followed by the stark realization that nobody is buying your book. It takes a lot of work to get the word out. The greatest reward is to be able to say you are a published author and give people the link to your book on Amazon. Building a platform and personal brand takes a big commitment of time and resources. Your site looks like a great resource.

    We do share something in common. I have been a big proponent of working in 48 minute increments and have developed some resources to help people become more productive. My website at is very similar sounding to your I hope to be able to create a complete resource site around it in the coming year. The number 48 is wonderful, since it is divisible 10 different ways. Keep up the great work.

    • Dan

      John – how cool that you are using 48 minutes.  Having a specific, tangible timeline for making changes in our lives has been a powerful branding for us.  And yes, no matter how cool the title – it still takes a lot of work to sell a book.

  • Kai Roer

    My first book, The Leaders Workbook, is the basis of a range of activities – from speaking around the world (well, Europe, Africa and Asia so far), facilitating training seminaries in the same locations, to developing a franchise concept where other coaches use the book and trainings as part of their offerings. 
    Currently, we are making products too – a video is under production (I read); as well as an audio book version. In addition we are designing an app for the book, where the whole concept of the book (reflect on your leadership) is incorporated so the user can use the app and his/her device to write down their own thoughts. I fully agree with you, Dan, the book itself is a marketing tool. I do not expect to make much money directly from the book (in fact, we are donating all the profits of the book sales to Nothing but Nets, to fight malaria), yet the additional consulting and speaking requests I have received since the book entered the marked, is exactly what I wanted, and where I see the return on investment. Also, there is something in the saying “Wrote the book”. Suddenly, people perceive you differently.  

    Thank you Michael for posting Dan’s guest post! 

    • Anonymous

      Kai, It sounds like you see the big picture here.  As authors, we must see our books a part of a real business.

  • Chris Jeub

    I developed a concept called the “flagship publication.” I publish academic resources for high school speakers and debaters, but have one “guide.” It has a sticker price of $19.95 on it, but I’m constantly giving them away with no thought whatsoever to making any money. The cost for publishing is considered a marketing expense.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a great idea – to give away a “guide” to the real book.

  • Kevin Bushnell

    I enjoyed reading this, however I thought Dan would go in a different direction based on the title.  Seth Godin said something similar not too long ago about launching your book or product with an introductory period (my phrasing, not his).  It made sense to me; most books in traditional publishing need exposure through book reviews.  It’s essential for authors and publishers to give out dozens, hundreds or even thousands of desk copies or advanced reader copies (ARC) in order to create a pre-launch buzz and expectation for sales to immediately kick in.  

    The classic example for me still is Dan Brown’s _The DaVinci Code_.  I remember the splash that the book made, and I wondered from afar – literally – “how does a book just explode in sales and sensation like that?”  I was blown away to find out the inner workings of the publicity campaign behind that book launch.  If memory serves me well,  the number of free copies sent to reviewers was upwards of 10,000.  (That’s a lot of free books!)  And the high-profile publicity tour was well underway by the time the book actually hit the stores.  Of course it was a controversial book, but that controversy, too, was managed and leveraged into the service of book sales. 

    An older generation not familiar with the PR world might call those kind of machinations a “publicity stunt” or a “ploy” to get sales.  Having done a fair bit of research into the marketing efforts necessary to sell books, I have to say now that ALL publicity is an effort to get noticed, and getting noticed equals sales and residual business (like the article so well explains).

    Michael, as always, you have posted yet another splendid piece from a guest blogger.

    • Anonymous

      The variations on “giving” your book away are endless.  As you referenced, Seth Godin made his book Idea Virus a free download initially.  Only after giving away approximately 250,000 copies did he publish it as a physical book.  And yes, that seeding of the market seemed to have worked extremely well.

  • Christopher Long

    Amen, Dan!

  • Paul Coughlin

    Loved your post Dan – but I have a question..

    If you want to give away your book – presumably you won’t be able to do that if you’re using a publisher – I’m assuming they make their money from the sales of your book..

    And so if you don’t have a publisher, my guess is you would lose a lot of the marketing benefits that come with an agent and/or publisher..

    So my questions is – how do you give away your book, and at the same time make sure people hear about – without a publishing company or agent behind you?

    I wonder if this calls for a new breed of publisher – who will publish a free book, and work on a small commission of other subsequent products, services that result from the success of the book..

    I suspect that this type of model is riskier, but also has a lot higher earning potential for the publisher..  [maybe something Thomas Nelson might be interested Michael? :-) ]

    Many thanks,

    • Anonymous

      Paul, you touch on a really big elephant in the room.  Most authors have a 50-70% discount off retail in their buy-back agreement.  I have never had a publishing contract with those discounts.  I negotiate DEEP discounts for my own purchases.  Then I can readily give out whatever copies I choose.  I certainly understand if you are paying $5-6.00 for your book, the mechanics change dramatically.  Buy-back is simply something to be negotiated in the original contract.  

      • Paul Coughlin

        Thanks Dan – actually I realise now I had the wrong end of the stick!

        I was thinking about the book being given away free – period. Even the publisher giving it away free!

        I’ve always understood the benefits of the author themselves giving away free copies, but without realising it, reading your post I was thinking of the idea of not just the author, but also the publisher publishing the book for free, and both parties making their money from the ancillary income!

        Of course, that works easily with an ebook – as production and delivery costs are extremely low. But with a paper version – that’s more like a partner investing in you and your business, rather than a traditional publisher publishing your book..

        It has got me thinking though.. :-)

        Thanks again,

  • Deb Ingino

    Dan what a great reminder that our book, while important because of the message may only be a big business card opening the door for other streams of income that message can provide.

    The other benefit to content products offered in multiple ways is that it provides more folks an opportunity to use the media that they learn best in. ie, video, audio, written word, etc.

    Thanks Dan and Michael!

    • Anonymous

      Deb – great point.  Providing our message in only one format these days would be pretty short-sighted.  Thanks for chiming in here!

  • Amy Lynn Andrews

    I turned down a book offer from a publisher earlier this year and opted to self-publish largely because of the marketing issue. (I owe much thanks to Michael Hyatt and Seth Godin as they’ve shed so much light on this for me.) 

    When I realized marketing was basically going to be up to me and when I realized I already had excellent marketing traction from my blog and other projects, it didn’t make sense to change course. 

    I love how the internet is making it easier than ever to “pick myself” instead of waiting for a publisher to pick me (as Michael and Seth say). Great post.

    • Anonymous

      Amy – isn’t that fun to realize you have those choices?  And then recognizing you are a partner in the marketing makes you a more attractive candidate to any publisher.  Everybody wins!

      • Amy Lynn Andrews

        Absolutely. Totally liberating.

  • Redeem Christianity

    Great article! In this day and age of blogs and youtube, I think it is much easier to self-publish, especially if you have a decent following. Simply market your book on your blog and others and if it is good, word will spread!

  • JamesWoosley

    As a graduate of his Write to the Bank seminar (and many other 48 Days events), I can prove that Dan has earned way more from me through that than through book sales! :)

    Seriously, what Dan is saying is absolutely true.  It’s easier than ever to write a book these days (and it doesn’t even have to be any good).  But you do have to market it and sell it yourself.  Write the book and then get to work.

    I’m proud to know Dan and Joanne and never hesitate to recommend 48 Days to friends, colleagues and strangers.  They are very real people with an extraordinary message.  If you don’t know them, plug into and start the process…you’ll meet a lot of other amazing people along the way (Kevin & Teri Miller, Justin Lukasavige, Andy Traub, Deb Ingino, Chuck Bowen, Jonathan Pool, Gary Barkalow, Pierce Marrs, Kent Julian, Alan Jackson, and Archie Winningham to start with!).  You will be blessed as I have been for the last three years!

    • Anonymous

      James – thanks for your comments.  And yes, you are a great example of this concept.  You may have spent $10 along the way for one of my books and then you’ve probably spent several thousand dollars on coaching, teleseminars, and live events in the 48Days community.   Thanks for being Exhibit A – ha!

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  • Phyllis Dolislager

    I’ve heard/read that it’s good to have one free e-book. This might entice people to buy some of our other books. I also have a small book, about one particularly stressful year in our lives. I give away about 100 copies a year. So far 350+ copies of the free e-book version have been downloaded.
     I also give workshops on writing. That’s where I sell books!

  • Sutton Parks

    To leverage my book I could add a cd, with music that I wrote, to the back of it and give that away, start speaking and maybe write a workbook. 

    • Anonymous

      Sutton – you’re on the right path.  Those things are like adding fertilizer to a dormant seed.

  • Mark Haines

    Thank you. I really appreciate hearing this. You’ve encouraged me to keep on keeping on.

  • Daren Sirbough

    Wow this is great. Though I am not really driven to write a book, as a musician I want to make recordings, record an album etc etc. I can take the same principles and apply it to my focus. There’s something really genuine in what you are saying here and perhaps if I can give away a quality product, the other opportunities will come in which I will be able to develop my career as a musician and an artist.

    • Anonymous

      Musicians seem to really struggle with this.  But as with a book, just selling a CD will never be enough.  More and more musicians are experimenting with giving their music away in order to build a loyal audience that will then come to live concerts, buy other merchandise, come on a themed cruise, etc.  Or just do like RadioHead did in 2007 with their album, In Rainbows, where they gave it away and just asked fans to pay whatever they wanted.  They seem to be doing okay – now having sold over 30 million albums.

  • Leah Adams

    Now you have the wheels in my tiny little mind turning. How could I capitalize on my Legacy Bible study?  Perhaps a Legacy journal? A Legacy flip calendar? A Legacy devo app? Mulling over all this. Thanks!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Leah – I use a Venn diagram.  Three overlapping circles that then create 7 different segments.  So we have 7 distinct areas of revenue with my books being ONE of those.  

      • IntrepidRotts

        Would you outline the other 6 areas of income. Would love your perspective!

  • Wanza Leftwich, TGW

    This is an awesome post and it confirms what I truly believe about writing a book. Writing the book is only the beginning. 

    • Anonymous

      Wanza – and if you see writing the book as only the beginning you will not end up discouraged and resentful.  You’ll be having a blast and reaping the rewards of all the subsequent components.  

      • Wanza Leftwich, TGW

        Thanks so much!!

  • Jack Lynady

    Great read Dan. You just confirmed what I’ve been suspecting for awhile. It seems like you write a book about what u most care about. About the conversations you most want to have. And if that’s the case, you can continue the conversation long after the book is written and in a variety of contexts. Many of which may result in income. Thx Dan

  • Kelly Combs

    This is a completely new idea to me.  I love the managed expectations! If I finish a book and think “I’m done!” I’m setting myself up for disappointment in this new reality.  The 10% philosophy is a very interesting prospective and makes me rethink my goals and expectations.  Thank you so much, Dan Miller.

    • Anonymous

      Kelly – absolutely.  This is just a way to reset our expectations.  It’s not “right” or “wrong” – just a realistic way to maximize our success.

  • Mary DeMuth

    Dan, you would be a perfect keynote for the next re:write conference (this year’s speakers are set). Here’s the link: Let me know if you’re interested.

    • Anonymous

      Mary – thanks so much for the invitation.  The conference looks awesome.  Not sure I can make those March 2012 dates work on such short notice.  

      • Mary DeMuth

        Perhaps 2013. :)

  • Mary DeMuth

    Dan, you’ve confirmed something that’s been brewing in my heart some time now. It’s not the book that will make the living. If we only myopically see the book as THE THING we’ll be dissatisfied. It’s the message that counts. The book is the springboard for more messages, speaking, teaching, etc.

    Thank you !

  • Anonymous

    All I can say is “Thank You!” for your tips and transparency day after day. You’ve been an inspiration and a person to whom I can refer others for legitimate wisdom.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your kind comments.

  • Jeff Randleman

    Interesting thoughts.  You’ve given me some things to chew on while I finish writing my book.  Thanks!

  • Cara Putman

    This is an interesting post…just not sure how it applies to fiction authors. I love to speak and have done more of that this year. But in many ways, it is separate from what I write. Yes, I can sell books when I speak, but that’s about it. Maybe I need to look more at the connections between the themes in my fiction and my speaking. Something to think about. My only non-fiction was the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Law, an assignment I got in no small part because I teach a class or more of business law each year at Purdue.   

    • Anonymous

      Cara – I totally agree that fiction is a different animal.  Certainly there have been big merchandising and events around books like the Harry Potter series but I do think in general it’s more challenging than with non-fiction.

  • Drew Tewell


    I just recently published my book through CreateSpace on Amazon and soon I will be selling it on I currently give it away ( and I also do coaching locally around it’s concepts.

    Just over two years ago I started my business, before I wrote the book and Dan, your book No More Dreaded Mondays and your podcast were very encouraging and inspiring. So thank you! I’ll have to send you a copy!

    • Anonymous

      Wow – your site and message look great!  I just went to your site and signed up to get a copy of your Dream Job Program.  I read on your blog where you were given the ultimatum –  “Do what you love, or, work here.”   Ouch – what a horrible positioning.  

  • Bryan Hart

    The story of my self-journey is the greatest tool I can use to leverage the writing I am doing. Without leaving port and having an adventure with life no one will care enough to listen to my awesomely brilliant ideas.

    So, I’d best be packing…

    Seriously Dan…you and Joanne Squealing? :-D

    • Anonymous

      Bryan – well put.  Our writing comes alive because of our engagement with an adventurous life.  So you can’t visualize Joanne and me squealing??  You might be surprised.

  • Judith Heaney-mcKee

    Thanks for getting my mind ticking today.  I’ve got things in my head, but they get pushed aside by the day-to-day.  Today I’m going to dedicate some time to brainstorming and getting some of those ideas out of my head and onto my computer.

    As always, Dan Miller, thank you for the inspiration!

  • Chris Lautsbaugh

    I’m not quite at the income phase, more the exposure
    My book came out six months ago. Since then I have started a blog and begun speaking in seminars to get the word out.  I am loving both of these endeavors!

    • Anonymous

      Chris – isn’t it fun to discover the other things that fuel our writing opportunities?

  • Michael Cheshire

    That is so true. I was blessed to know people who understand this before I published my book.  One wonderful man told me that if I really wanted to make money with writing the best shot would be writing ransom notes!  But what I have quickly found is that the book gave me a voice and influence that I could have never imagined.  Ive been invited to speak and write now in so many places that my head is spinning.  And isn’t that real currency? Influence.  Ill take a place at some tables and a voice in conversations over cash anyday.

  • Roger

    Mike, how can I protect ownership of my text before publishing. Regards. Roger Rumbu at

    • Michael Hyatt

      If you are a U.S. citizen, your content is protected from the moment you create it. It is copyrighted at that instant. You don’t need to register anything.

      • Roger

        Mike, thanks for your answer but I am not us citizen (there is some that aren’t) and I want my book be printed and published in USA. My question remains. Regards.

        • Michael Hyatt

          I am not sure. Perhaps someone else can chime in.

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Being a writer is really becoming an entrepreneur. You’re so right about the face that only 10% has to do with the writing itself. There is so much about the business side a writer has to learn.

    Has anyone thought about starting a school for this? :)

    • Anonymous

      Theresa – you are so right; there is much to learn about the business side.  We do a conference three times a year called Write to the Bank ( where we focus not on the writing process but on building multiple streams of income from your writing. 

  • Roger

    Hello, how can I have my book registered in library of congress. Thanks.

  • Rick Carr

    When Word Music wanted to sign my friend, Dennis, to a recording/songwriting contract, they kept offering him the standard contract, because there was more money for them as a publisher than as an administrator of his songs. Dennis had strong convictions that God had made him steward over the songs he wrote and did not want to give up ownership of the copyrights. I pointed this out to them – that for Dennis it wasn’t about the money; and if they would offer him an administrative deal, they could set it up financially the same as a publishing deal & he would probably accept it. They did, and he did.

    I would love to find a publisher that would think outside the box. I have no problem working very hard to promote and support my book. I am short on cash when it comes to paying a subsidy publisher, or even totally self publishing by through a local printer. I’m not interested in advances or royalties. I’m just faced with somewhat of a chicken or the egg dilemma in that it’s easier to get speaking engagements, etc, if you are published (and hence viewed as having more credibility), and it’s easier to get published if you are already speaking and have a platform (and hence viewed as having more credibility and market share).

    Writer’s Edge accepted my manuscript, but so far, the only “offers” I’ve received have been from subsidy publishers. In the meantime, I’m researching, learning (Michael, thanks for your blog, it’s been a blessing), Facebooking, tweeting and blogging (….

    • Anonymous

      Rick – I know that may seem like a Catch 22 but it’s a whole lot easier to negotiate with publishers if you are actively building your own platform.  So if you are already speaking, blogging and selling product you can have the discussions you describe with publishers.  Believe me, in this volatile publishing world, EVERYTHING is negotiable.  

      • Rick Carr

        Thanks, Dan, that’s encouraging. I’ll keep working on the platform.

  • Charles Specht

    Love, love, love this article!
    Perspective is everything and too often we (okay, me) lose sight of the “fringe” benefits to the products we create.For me, I have a non-fiction manuscript complete, have submitted it to a number of agents (and have been declined by most), but I also have a few smaller Christian publishers interested.  My main outlet for selling the books is the guest speaking I do for churches.  Maybe self-publishing is the best avenue for me, after all.


    • Anonymous

      Charles – the key is just start with the opportunities you have now.  Don’t wait on anything.  The more activity you can show, the more attractive you will be to any publisher.

  • Bryan Van Slyke

    This was a great article. I am in the process of writing my first book, but I know it won’t be ready for at least a year. So in the mean time, I am building my platform and idea through social networking, building relationships and learning everything I can. I agree that the book is only the beginning, but I can do so much more to prepare before it and after it is released.

    • Anonymous

      Bryan – you are absolutely on track with this.  Build your platform now and then when you have an actual book you’ll have your marketing already in motion.

  • Anonymous

    Because of the video interview Michael posted this summer with Seth Godin, I started giving my first book away this week! Besides the income potential of future opportunities, there is a complete and total satisfaction of knowing my book isn’t sitting on my shelf, but in the hands of other moms whose lives could be majorly impacted.  I’m so excited to see what God does!

    • Anonymous

      We have to trust “the law of the harvest.”  Just keep sowing seeds, be faithful in watering and fertilizing and you can expect the harvest to appear.

  • Michael Worley

    This is a brilliant post. Working for a publisher I constantly have the conversation with authors about the big what if______The way that all of our most successful pay their bills is not by  merely creating a resource but a movement that their message is about.

    Their is beauty in the simplicity Dan, thanks for writing this.

    • Anonymous

      Michael – thanks for your comments.  I’m sure it’s been rewarding to help authors see the light!

  • Ian

    I’m a fiction writer and would love to hear what both Dan and Michael have to say about the ancillary oppurtunities for fiction books. Licensing and products are great for non-fiction books and child targeted properties (i.e. Cars) but I would think it would be a tough sell for more adult targeted books. So that brings me to my main question/idea. Is it possible for a fiction author to create a non-fiction ancillary brand? For example speaking on topics and selling products that are featured in the author’s fictional story?  

    • Anonymous

      I agree it’s more challenging with fiction.  Obviously, we’ve seen it done with books like the Harry Potter series or even Left Behind.  Any book provides the “potential” to create ancillary products, games, mugs, hats, t-shirts, interactive worksheets, live events, cruises, etc.  The issue is creating enough momentum initially to justify the extra merchandise.  Thus you may have a chicken and egg challenge.  You really need to commit to ancillary products right from the start – and promote both the book and the added products.

      • TNeal

        Ian raises the very question I had as a fiction writer. I know you mentioned t-shirts, mugs, etc., but your idea seems more serviceable within the world of nonfiction. I see how certain types of fiction lend themselves to ancillary product development (fantasy and sci-fi seem naturals) but this almost seems like one more thing to add to the “to do” list in being a fiction writer. I’m still mulling over your insight. I know it’s good advice. I just don’t know how to apply it.

      • Ian

        Thanks for the reply Dan. There are certainly some great examples of fiction books that have sold tremendous amounts of ancillary products but most of them are targeted towards the more youthful reader, Harry Potter is a prime example where the licensing alone is likely worth as much as or more than the literary property itself.  

        However you don’t see authors like Stephen  King, Vince Flynn, John Sandford, David Baldacci etc etc selling other products. They make it on their book sales alone and sometimes the sale of the movie rights. It seems to be the forumla for success is first getting published and then slowly but surely building a reputation as a reliable storyteller. I think giving the book away to as many people as will read it is a great way to create an audience…the only problem I see is how do you convince a puplisher to stay with you if your not selling right out of the gate?  

  • Drew Snider

    That’s some great insight, and thank you for sharing it, Mike! It has me thinking of other approaches with my own book … but I’m also reminded of The Grateful Dead and their (non) business plan, which included freely allowing people to tape and share their concerts. Somehow, they managed to survive.

    • Anonymous

      Drew – the Grateful Dead want all industry wisdom and gave people special up-front seating to “illegally” record their concerts.  This is a time for authors to experiment with equally radical ideas.

  • Joe Lalonde

    I always love reading what you write Dan. Your view on life and the way the business is changing always provokes me to think. Glad to see you get a chance to guest post over here.

    • Anonymous

      Joe – thanks for your note.  I do indeed consider it an honor to be in Mike’s house today.

  • TCAvey

    I’ve been thinking a great deal about this.  While my book is not published I have been thinking ahead and to be honest I am not getting very far in my marketing ideas.  But I’m not giving up, just doing research and learning as much as I can.  I trust God to lead me and that His purpose for my book will be accomplished. 
    Thank you for this post.  

  • Anonymous

    In 1998 I self-published a book of pencil drawings with a friend. It was of a specific geographical area, we knew about how many we could sell and we knew how to reach the customers. We sold out our run 1000, had a blast and made a profit.

    Now I am working on a new book of pencil drawings (different geographical area), no partner this time, and am just stunned by the changes in the world of printing and publishing. Stunned!

    So, in addition to 250 drawings, I have to learn Adobe InDesign, find a printer, find a binder, AND figure out how the book is just one piece of my whole plan. Hopefully I can find a print-on-demand kind of place so that I don’t have to store the books!

    I need to go lie down. Maybe have some chocolate first.

    • Anonymous

      Don’t be overwhelmed with all the details.  There are competent people readily available to help with every piece you’ve mentioned.  I don’t do many details – just the writing.  

  • Brucewells1962

    Dan, Great article! I recently had my first non-fiction book published and your insight is invaluable. Michael, if I may use your comment section for a shameless plug, the title of my book is, The Bermuda Hundred Campaign: The Creole & The Beast. It’s a book about a pivotal campaign in the American Civil War. If your a civil war buff, know someone who is or simply love history, I encourage you to pick one up. Available now at or
    Signed copies are available by emailing me at
    Thanks so much and God Bless!@gmail:disqus 

  • Brandon Weldy

    I have been doing a lot of reading on self-publishing and marketing, etc. There is so much that I don’t know or that I have never thought of. This has been very eye opening and helpful!

  • Donna Pyle

    Michael, I couldn’t agree more. As a Bible study writer and non-fiction author with an established speaking ministry, my book will be a wonderful addition – not the ultimate goal. Thanks so much for affirming that.

    • Anonymous

      Donna, congratulations on being in the game even before your book is ready.  That gives you an amazing head start on leveraging your book audience.  

  • Yankeesdownunder

    I loved the post and am thinking about buying the book.  However, he needs Michael’s help with his website.  Not focused.  Way too much going on.  I was interested in looking around but I couldn’t even tell what -was-what and lost interest. 

  • Kelly

    Ive often wondered about that too. Is there a website you can recommend with details for newbies? A “US Copywright Law for Dummies” perhaps?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m afraid I can’t without doing some research.

  • Michael A. Robson

    Thanks MH for hosting this post! This kind of thing is exactly why Publishing houses are less and less important nowadays, books simply aren’t where authors are making their money.  ;)

    Also, the writer of this guest post didn’t and does not give his own book away, so the title is a teeny bit misleading.Someone who DOES give his stuff away is Cory Doctorow ( Also, a book about some of these ideas called “Print is Dead” was a real eye opener for me. (

    • Anonymous

      My formula for years is to give away 95% of my content and charge for 5%.  We’ve probably given away 5,000-6000 thousands copies of 48 Days to the Work You Love.  We have massive amounts of ebooks and audio downloads freely available as well.  

  • Nathan J. Anderson

    I’m being coached by one of Dan’s coaches, Kent Julian, to try and answer that question right now. 

  • Ron Brooks

    I agree…I recently put together my first ebook, and made it available as a free download.  I think it is a bit unrealistic to expect to write something and get rich off of it.  My book is aimed at families with children, and my goal was to help parents take the leading role of discipleship of their kids.  So far it’s been viewed/downloaded about 100 times.  If something comes of it in the future, that would be great, but if not my hope is to be a help to some of those people who read it.

    • Anonymous

      Ron – I think you may be surprised at the unexpected ways money may show up.  Financial rewards are just the by-product of doing something with excellence.  If you do that and help people in the process the money will track you down.

  • Ken Ihedioha

    Brilliant tips! Thanks for them – and I’ll now go back to work on my manuscripts. But in my environment – Nigeria – it could be different. The leverage potentials may not be that attractive, but at least it will help to give subtle visibility and set the author out as accomplished in his field. Who knows? – it may attract benefits.

    • Anonymous

      My son lives in Mombasa, Kenya.  He is co-authoring my next book with me – Wisdom meets Passion – set for a September 2012 release.  We are already planning some events in Africa to promote that book (possibly in partnership with Dorman’s Coffee).  I would suggest you read Blake Mycoskie’s (Toms Shoes) new book Start Something That Matters (  Blake is doing some amazing things around the world to spread the word about his company and his book.

  • Mary Kathan

    Great post.  Dan’s Write to the Bank Seminars are awesome.  Highly recommend.

  • Anonymous

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  • CaryGraham


    Originally, my plan was to follow the traditional publishing
    route (get an agent, find a publisher, make peanuts on the deal, and pray it
    sells enough copies to warrant a repeat performance), and up until a couple
    months ago, that was still the plan. However, the closer I came to completing my novel, the more the traditional route seemed like a bad fit for my goals.

    Yes, there was self-publishing, but I had
    always assumed only the terminally rejected considered self-publishing a viable
    option, and then, only as a last resort. The more I thought about it, the more
    I began to realize that both of my options were inadequate and restrictive.


    Then one day, a trusted friend gave me a third option to
    consider, albeit unorthodox.


    Give it away.


    His logic was simple. Give the novel away for free on your
    blog, build an audience, ask for their support, and then offer it for sale. In
    other words, use my chief asset to promote my chief asset. The model had
    certainly worked for musicians in recent years (e.g., so why
    couldn’t it work for novelists as well?

    I’m releasing the
    novel in serial format (around 2,000 words per week). By the time the print and
    e-book versions are released, I will have disseminated around one-third of the
    book. At that point, if folks wish to continue reading it bit by bit on the
    blog, they most certainly can. I’ll continue to release it once a week for
    free. However, if they’d like to know how the story ends without having to wait
    for it, the print and e-book versions will be available for a reasonable price.


    Will I convert every single reader into a book buyer?
    Absolutely not. But my guess is I will convert a good number of them, and those
    that don’t purchase the novel will more than likely share the blog version with
    others, which is arguably more valuable in the long run. 

    • Anonymous

      Stephen King did that with The Plant – one chapter at a time.  And the book was about a guy who had a manuscript and was rejected by all the big publishers.  

  • The Hack Novelist

    Originally, my plan was to follow the traditional publishing route (get an agent, find a publisher, make peanuts on the deal, and pray it sells enough copies to warrant a repeat performance), and up until a couple months ago, that was still the plan. However, the closer I came to completing the novel, the more the traditional route didn’t seem right for me.

    Yes, there was self-publishing, but I had always assumed only the terminally rejected considered self-publishing a viable option, and then, only as a last resort. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that both of my options were inadequate and restrictive.

    Then one day, a trusted friend gave me a third option to consider, albeit unorthodox.

    Give it away.

    His logic was simple. Give the novel away for free on your blog (, build an audience, ask for their support, and then offer it for sale. In other words, use my chief asset to promote my chief asset. The model had certainly worked for musicians in recent years (e.g., so why couldn’t it work for novelists as well?

    I’m releasing the novel in serial format (around 2,000 words per week). By the time the print and e-book versions are released, I will have disseminated around one-third of the book. At that point, if folks wish to continue reading it bit by bit on the blog, they most certainly can. I’ll continue to release it once a week for free. However, if they’d like to know how the story ends without having to wait for it, the print and e-book versions will be available for a reasonable price.

    Will I convert every single reader into a book buyer? Absolutely not. But my guess is I will convert a good number of them, and those that don’t purchase the novel will more than likely share the blog version with others, which is arguably more valuable in the long run.

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Thanks so much for the great advice – I remember reading and listening to Mark Hansen on all the work the authors of Chicken Soup put into making that first book a huge success- they were RELENTLESS! 

    • Anonymous

      Louise – I’ve learned a lot from Mark Victor Hansen about this wild book business.  I usually listen to someone who has sold 100 million copies of their books.

  • Dorothy Greco

    This “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?” is intriguing. And seems to be skipping a step. Unless I’m missing something, which seems to happen more frequently after each passing year, how can those of us who lack a national platform hope to find an audience/patrons for our products, ancillary or otherwise? People come to you with requests for coaching speaking etc., because they have heard of, read about you. It seems a catch 22 from this vantage point. Unless I were to rent a truck, do a cross country drive and prolifically hand them out. Just wondering…

    • Anonymous

      Dorothy – the first thing I did just a few years ago was offer to teach a Sunday School class. That led to people asking for material based on the principles I shared in that class. That led to more requests for speaking.  I started a free newsletter in August of 2000, sending it to the 67 email addresses I had.  I’ve now had more than 130,000 people sign up for that newsletter.

      No one starts at the top of the game.  We all start at zero – just choose the 2 or 3 things you can do to make connections and expand your audience.   

      • Dorothy Greco

        Could I ask you to send me one of these so I can get a sense of what you did? Thnx

  • Osayi

    This is so timely.
    I was just telling a friend the other day about Dan’s statement that his book is more like a business card than anything else.
    I like the idea of always keeping a copy on hand to give away. It’s not about making money from the book, but about getting your ideas out there…to change the world, which usually changes your bank account…eventually…
    Thanks for sharing :-)

  • Vanterrius A’shiyahsFather Wes

    I would look at everyday life and see how can I make it more interesting. I’m currently writing a scary story about people spontaneously combusting. I titled it, “As The Leaves Fall”. I thought about it one day when I was driving down the street to work. I saw leaves falling down on the ground while I drove. When I was younger, I had done a little research on spontaneous combustion, so I put the two together. It’s becoming a great story.

  • Anonymous


    Loved your blog. I was particularly challenged by your November 15th deadline for next year’s goals.  Although I’ve missed 11/15, I still have time before 11/30.

     Just a thought:  The RSS feed button on your blog isn’t that prominent.  I had a bit of difficulty finding it.

    • Anonymous

      The November 15th deadline has been a wonderful reminder for me for many years.  I love the freedom and sense of anticipation that comes from identifying the future I want to come into view.

      • Anonymous

        Just found your interactive worksheets. Love them. Very helpful.

  • Kevin Cullis

    The one thing I’d say in “giving away” your book is: Watch out!! I have had a number of “friends” and potential customers ask for a “copy” of my book to “look it over and I’ll bring it back,” they’d do a “giveaway of my book on a blog post,” and assorted other comments just to get a physical FREE copy of my book, but they NEVER fulfilled their quid pro quo actions.

    Now I only giveaway SECURE PDF (only digital thieves know how to break that) copies of my book and I ask them to send me an email with their request and I send a PDF to them. Now it does not cost me any money to send a PDF but just time to giveaway my book, and I have their contact information.

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  • Jim Donovan

    Great post, Michael. Like you, I learned the idea of back-end products and services, probably from Mark Victir Hansen as well.

    For non-fiction authors in particular it’s important, maybe crucial, to think about a line of products and services from your book. And it’s a natural progression since your reader, if they like your work, naturally wanted more.

    If there’s a master at this, besides Mark, it’s Tony Robbins whose offerings range in cost from around $20 t o $75,000 or more.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Tony does an amazing job. I just went to his UPW conference in L.A. with Gail. It was our second time. I was particularly impressed with the ancillary marketing.

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  • meeklabs

    I admit that I dont write books, but I’ve been researching Christian writers that use Twitter.  I find it extremely impressive that so many authors have well over 10,000 followers each, in many cases above 30,000.  This is really great to see this kind of exposure that authors are creating to build awareness around all of the ideas you express for driving greater income.

  • Paul Coughlin

    I noticed that in this month’s issue of Success magazine – Brendon Burchard is giving away copies of his book for free. Brendon is a guy who has also achieved incredible success..

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  • Mary Swick

    I completely agree with this article, and about giving your book away.  I wrote a book after the passing of our 3 month old son due to SIDS.  I had never been a writer, but here we are 6 months later, with a book, that is doing quite well for living in a town of 800 people in central Iowa. One of the things I did, even though my book is a Print on Demand (POD) is contacted the local Christian book store, who has actually put in on their shelves for me, posted a sign about “the local author” and have already sold out of the book twice.  I was also blessed enough that one of the workers was so willing to help me market the book to other areas, and act as not only my marketing coordinator, but my secretary as well, calling local newspapers, businesses, other bookstores, radio stations, and other medias.  This has given me a boost, that I never would have received had I not taken the chance to ask people for help.  I also have a lot of my family giving the book away to others and letting them know that all we ask is that they “pay it forward” and pass it along.  Good luck to you all and God bless!

  • James Strait


    Not to be argumentative, but, you’re premise that “most” authors want think that they can sit by their mailbox waiting for big royalty checks to arrive, is patently ridiculous.

    For all but the established authors, the entire process is a mystery. A new author would no more have an idea about payment schedules, than they would about operating the publishing house printing press.

    This idea of agency is one that is rapidly becoming a moot point. But, on the point of agency, where does one get a degree, or a license, or certification in the trade of agency?

    Looking forward to your reply,

    • Michael Hyatt

      James, you might be right. I think Dan was using hyperbole to make a point.
      With regard to agent’s getting a degree, license, or certification, I don’t know of any programs. Most have learned by being editors or attorneys. Regardless, this is why it’s important to check references.

  • Roger Elam

    Dear Mr. Hyatt.
    My plan is to give a tenth of what I heard one secular writer gave away, which would total for me 1000 books. Now the challenge that hits me, more specific direction on the rest or how did they really get themselves/their book published, not the generalities that are often heard :

    As a first time author who believes in the little novel God nudged me to write, generally framed as a “Baseball Story with 2 Christians on the Team,” with funds nonexistent at this time, would you consider a traditional approach to Christian publishing houses or something more grassroots.
    Would you give three non-negotiables in seeking publishing houses or is there another blog that deals more with them?
    Are there some superstars out there who gave it a go on their own, self-published, who I should track alongside their efforts?
    How highly do you value taking an individualized specific approach in self-publishing, trying to innovative on your own, or are there even for self-publishing, certain tried and true concepts to not miss?
    Are there any books you’d recommend beside the Christian Writer’s Market for reaching publishing houses and self-publishing.
    Roger Elam

    • John Tiller

      Hi Roger,
      You have a lot of great questions.  Here is an interview by Michael that should answer many of your self-publishing questions.

      I hope this helps! 

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  • Chris Dao-anis

    I so like this post. Thanks to Jeff Goins for mentioning this in his newsletter. This is an eye-opener to somebody who is aiming to publish a book.

    Indeed, writing a book is about sharing wisdom. Do it excellently and (as for money, if any) cashflows from ancillaries will come secondarily yet automatically.