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Why authors don’t make money selling books and what to do about it.

I’m re-reading this rather lengthy article today which reminds me of all the reasons authors don’t make that much money with their books. Tim Ferriss highlights all the math and percentages so I don’t need to go into all of it right here. At the end of the article, he also suggests speaking as a side gig for authors…

Speaking: Particularly in the business category, if you target your Fortune 500 audience well enough, you can stair-step your way into $20,000 per 60-minute keynote without needing a miracle. Hundreds, if not thousands, of authors earn this kind of money. The higher echelon can make $80,000 or more per speaking engagement. Needless to say, this adds up fast.

Even with all the disclaimers in that paragraph one would think that this is all you need to do to start making the kind of income you want. Well yes and no. Authors who write in business, medical or self-help categories can parlay their book into a speaking engagement pretty easily. But what happens if you’ve written a cookbook? How often have you paid to go hear a cookbook author speak (and no, I’m not talking about those cookbook writers who also happen to host their own shows).

Consider that your book is but one component of your entire brand.

Your book is your calling card. It gives you entry into larger venues, and establishes your credibility. It should not however, be the only tool in your toolkit. Nor should it be the primary focus. You are the brand. Your life experience, knowledge, unique perspective, upbringing, training & education all combine to make you the brand. Anyone can write a cookbook, but there’s only ever going to be one you.

Plus a strategy centered solely around selling a cookbook is not as strong and looks something like this:

  • publish the cookbook
  • publish a website with the book on the front page
  • include links to sites that sell your book
  • send out periodic updates to your Facebook friends
  • schedule local or regional book signings
  • hope for the best

You’re left wondering why Amazon or Barnes & Noble are making all of the money when clearly you put a considerable effort into making the product. Plus who is reading your cookbook and are they enjoying it? And why on earth are you not pocketing more than $75k in sales?

Alternatively, a platform strategy centered around the chef or baker looks somewhat different:

  • Launch a platform that positions the chef as an expert
  • Create an endorsement strategy
  • Partner with key influencers
  • Publish the first of multiple cookbooks with a clear focus and special content that directs your reader back to your platform
  • Automate sales of your book and release an interactive product connected to your book
  • Capture all email addresses of your readers
  • Turn your readers into fans by sending them unique content
  • Plan your book launch, press junkets and events and collect more fans and create landing pages and websites for each event
  • Automate sales of products that are licensed to use your image/logo
  • Keep giving the media a compelling reason to promote you
  • Offer services that bring your brand forward – this could anything from cooking classes to custom menu/recipe development
  • Sell and promote your expert knowledge about ingredients, products, locations, cookware, style, etc.
  • Market and re-market products, services and ideas to your growing number of followers
  • Create new campaigns, products, events and mini-sites that you market with your industry partners (for example other chefs, restaurants, bartenders, celebrities, lifestyle mavens, designers, etc.)
  • Innovate

Happy writing, launching and selling!

Lise

Expanding Your Brand when you’re on HGTV. A Case Study on Fixer Upper, Magnolia Market and Chip and Joanna Gaines

Expanding Your Brand when you’re on HGTV. A Case Study on Fixer Upper, Magnolia Market and Chip and Joanna Gaines

I am in the process of scaling back my consumption of Reality TV while I ramp up my intake of news stories I’m researching for this project. I have to tell you that whenever I find myself taking in too much negativity I must find balance somewhere.

Enter HGTV – my largely positive and favorite special interest channel.

One of my favorite shows – Fixer Upper revolves around Chip and Joanna Gaines. They are a super-cute and very talented couple that create wonderful new spaces in older homes for families in the Waco TX area. They are awesome at the transformation process.

Brand Insights:

Chip and Joanna are engaging, funny and have very good energy. Their out-takes are everything. Their expertise, along with Chip’s really funny (and sometimes really gross) antics, will pull you in. Even if you’re not a fan of her specific design style I’m going to predict that before long you will Google them and… you will discover that they have their own website featuring their work with local real estate, a silo project, and an online retail component Magnolia Market.

They are in demand. Social media shows that they people want them to be cloned because they don’t want to move to Waco, but instead come to them to build and design their personal projects.

 

Geek Notes:

Here’s a quick peek at what their website is doing as of today:

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My Quick Insights and Analysis:

  • They are ranking pretty high in comparison to their local competition, no doubt due to HGTV’s influence.
  • I’m not surprised to see that people are searching for Joanna, but I am surprised to see that Chip isn’t ranking on that keyword list. Chip has an opportunity to strengthen his part of the brand.
  • Perhaps their e-commerce component is the weakest link? Recently, their shop was temporarily lagging behind in delivery times which suggests (though I can’t be certain) that with their current team they can’t keep up with the amount of traffic that HGTV is pushing their way.
  • It’s a pretty intense undertaking to scale e-commerce when you consider all the details like buying, customer service, technical support, shipping and logistics, returns, etc. And that’s without all the other ongoing business ventures. This is why DIY e-tailing is not my first choice especially when you have a large media following or smaller budget. But, if they wanted to stick with product sales, I would choose to license their brand, and negotiate the outsourcing of the whole retail enterprise to someone who has the infrastructure to handle everything really well.
  • Given all this – they might want to explore other less resource-intensive revenue streams. My long-term choices for Chip and Joanna would probably be paid public speaking gigs, classes and/or workshops and a series of lifestyle books that incorporate the energy they bring to their show each episode. Specifically for Chip, I would suggest doing his books on transforming old homes and building new ones, with his insights on how to be a great husband to a great wife.
  • There are a few takeaway’s on Sarah Susanka’s brand expansion in this building/design area.

I hope they capture and hold onto their raving fans and consider their long range plans while they dance with a medium that is always changing (I remember Susie Coelho, do you?)

Wishing them much joy, great adventures, ever expanding circles and time to do more of what they really love.

Cheers!

Lise

 

 

The Rule of 5 or How a Super Successful Author Made it to the New York Times Bestsellers List

I finished up a proposal yesterday for a new author (who we are super excited about launching!!!) that included a bit of history of how Jack Canfield pushed his first Chicken Soup for the Soul book to the New York Bestsellers list.

Here’s a little snippet ::

Jack Canfield and his team sold over 8 million copies of the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book and went on to produce over 40 New York Times bestsellers. They did this despite being self-published and almost unknown in the publishing industry then. Canfield developed a strategy after consulting with a variety of industry experts including marketing guru, Dan Poynter and John Kremer who wrote “1001 Ways to Market your Book” ultimately creating their own practice known as “The Rule of 5.”

The Rule of 5 suggests that we do a minimum of 5 tasks each day to move us toward our goals. Team Canfield used a combination of sustained effort, enthusiasm, eagerness and a strong desire to see their book catapult to the best seller lists. With each team member executing five things every day, Jack Canfield’s first book hit the New York Times bestseller list in 1 year.

This story had a profound impact on me when I read it; and all of our business development, sales and project plans are now based on this Rule of 5 and the power of sustained team effort.