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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  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ 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 amazon.com barnesandnoble.com or https://historypress.net/indexsecure.php?prodid=9781609493141
    Signed copies are available by emailing me at brucewells1962@gmail.com
    Thanks so much and God Bless!@gmail:disqus 

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com 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!

  • http://twitter.com/DonnaPyleTX 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?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

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

  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike 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 (http://craphound.com/?cat=5) Also, a book about some of these ideas called “Print is Dead” was a real eye opener for me. (http://21tiger.com/2011/11/15/print-is-dead-how-creative-professionals-will-survive-the-internet-tidal-wave/)

    • 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.  

  • http://twitter.com/NathanAndersonJ Nathan J. Anderson

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

  • http://twitter.com/ronbrooks77 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

      Ken,
      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 (http://www.amazon.com/Start-Something-Matters-Blake-Mycoskie/dp/1400069181/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321701260&sr=8-1).  Blake is doing some amazing things around the world to spread the word about his company and his book.

  • http://www.mary-kathan.com Mary Kathan

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

  • Anonymous

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  • http://twitter.com/CaryGraham 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. Noisetrade.com), 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.  

  • http://twitter.com/thehacknovelist 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 (www.thehacknovelist.com), 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. Noisetrade.com), 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.

  • http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com 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.   

      • http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com Dorothy Greco

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

  • http://twitter.com/iyasostuff 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 :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vanterrius-AshiyahsFather-Westbrook/858785452 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

    Dan,

    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

      Karl,
      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.

  • http://www.MacStartup.com 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.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com 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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  • http://www.meeklabs.com 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.

  • http://paulcoughlin.com 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!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Strait/100003275756611 James Strait

    Hello,

    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,
    James

    • http://michaelhyatt.com 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.
     
    Thanks
    Roger Elam

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ 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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  • http://www.chrisdaoanis.com/ 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.