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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