If you can’t wrap your arms around all the build-a-business-around-your-book talk because you simply don’t want to produce courses, become a public speaker or turn yourself into a coach, don’t worry. There are other ways to profit from a book.
Today, on Day 28 of National Nonfiction Writing Month, professional copywriter and indie author Peter Bowerman, who is known for his “Well-Fed Writer” series, explains how he turns quite a profit spinning off digital products from his original books.
If you wrote a book during the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, consider how to follow Peter’s example. If you didn’t write a book during the Challenge, think about what content you have produced that you might repurpose and bundle into digital products, such as short ebooks, reports, white papers, resource lists, or checklists. Sell these now, and later package them along with a book.
The 45-Day, $12,500 Book Windfall…
A Non-Fiction Author’s 4-Part Strategy for Maximizing Ebook Profitability
By Peter Bowerman
Well, forget those for a moment.
There’s a whole other ebook world that people aren’t talking about much, but which potentially offers—depending on your book—true eyebrow-raising profits. In my case, it’s a four-part strategy that’s been unfolding organically since 2002. And before I tell you the “$12,500-in-45-days” story, let’s cover the first few components…
#1: Ebook Version of Physical Books
Creating an ebook edition of your physical book is a no-brainer, given their appeal to folks, 1) in remote areas; 2) into instant gratification; and 3) who’re tech-savvy. Just do it. And few things are better than making money from electrons.
#2: Ebooks as Purchase Bonuses/Standalone Purchases
Selling books off my own site (vs. Amazon and bookstore sales) is the ideal. Profits are much higher, I can capture buyer information, and maybe even get a visitor to subscribe to my ezine or blog. So, as an incentive to buy directly from me, I offer buyers a free ebook bonus and complimentary Media Mail shipping (~$3 within the U.S.).
In the case of The Well-Fed Writer (TWFW), my how-to guide about lucrative “commercial” freelancing for businesses (my career since 1994), the free bonus is a 200-page categorized compilation of 39 past issues of my monthly newsletter geared to my copywriting crowd (publishing since May 2002).
Buyers of my other book, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher (TWFSP), have two e-bonuses to choose from—digital versions of two appendices from the book:
- The Time Line, a printable, chronological to-do list, and…
- The Self-Publisher’s Resource Bonus, a 16-page resource listing, with all links hot.
Ideal purchase bonuses? Useful, high-value content peripheral to your main book (or from the book, but more user-friendly). I sell all the purchase bonuses “standalone” as well—primarily to purchasers of the book from Amazon or bookstores.
#3: Companion Ebook Products (to Main Book)
Hands down, this is the coolest and most potentially profitable leg of the strategy, and an ideal path for how-to books of all stripes. Let me introduce it with a question:
What digital content could you package along with your book, for which people would be willing to pay an additional $5, $10, $20, $30 or more?
Even five bucks extra would defray some or all production/shipping costs on that book. Let me backtrack for a second and share the $12,500 story…
A few years back, I put out my fourth self-published book, the updated edition of my first 2000 release, The Well-Fed Writer. I promoted it only on my own site (wasn’t on Amazon or in bookstores yet) and only to subscribers (~7,000) of the newsletter mentioned earlier. As of the release date, I’d invested $12,500 to design, edit, and print 6,000 copies of the book.
Within 45 days of its release, I was in the black.
600% Profit Margins?
Virtually every penny I’ve made since has been profit. And during that crazy launch phase (and to this day), even though my physical books sell for $20, my average sale hovered around $40+, yet had a fixed cost of roughly $6 and often, nothing.
The bulk of the profit came from companion ebooks with zero costs for production (only the time it took to create them), storage and shipping. Many of my sales were of the all-digital variety, involving no physical books at all, and hence, pure profit.
I stumbled on the companion-ebook idea while wrapping up the original edition of TWFSP in 2007. I gathered all the marketing materials I’d created in the course of successfully promoting my first two WFW titles (translation: at the time: 52,000 copies in print and a full-time living since 2001). We’re talking marketing proposals, various pitches, press releases, contracts, blurbs, sales sheets, and a bunch more.
At 101 pages, it was a pretty potent marketing template for self-publishers, and from someone with roughly three decades of sales, marketing, copywriting and publishing experience. I called it The Well-Fed SP Biz-in-a-Box (BIB; www.wellfedsp.com, then SP Biz-in-a-Box). $19.95 when bought with the physical book (or ebook version), $29.95 if purchased separately.
More than 60% of buyers of the main book off my site buy it as well. So, while the book alone purchased off my site is $20 (with ~$14 profit), the bundle is $40 with a $34 profit. OR the book’s ebook version + the BIB = $30 pure profit.
It went so well that I repeated the strategy for the updated version of TWFW, discussed earlier. Here, I created two companions: a 120-page Tool Box ($19.95 with book/$29.95 standalone), and a 16-page Time Line ($8/14.95). Together, they’re $27.95/$39.90 ($5 off the after-market bundle, giving it an appealing, under-$40 price).
Again, the key is high-value content. Take the time to create superior “must-have” products. If you package fluff or filler, you might sell a few, but bad word-of-mouth won’t sustain it. In my case, positive word-of-mouth about the products—through various online channels—ensures ongoing sales.
A Few Bucks More…
I added a final twist: the ebook version (normally $12.95) of the physical book for just $7 more if purchased with any bundle (“Can’t wait to get your hands on the book?”). So, with a print book, its digital version and two companion ebooks, there are plenty of possible bundles (see all at www.wellfedwriter.com, then The Book), but guess which one was, far and away, the top seller, during those first juicy months described earlier? The biggest one ($54.90). I was happily shocked. And at a nearly $50 profit margin per sale, it didn’t take long to earn back my $12.5K investment.
Casting a Wide Net
Course, many folks buy my physical books through Amazon and bookstores. So, to drive sales of the higher-priced, after-market versions of all the companion e-bonus products for both books, I’ve created “teaser” appendices for the companion products in both physical books, yielding an ongoing trickle of $30 or $40 sales. Love that.
#4: Complete ALL-Digital Packages
Finally, I created digital-only bundles priced from $19.95 to $39.90: the ebook version of the main book plus one or more companion ebooks. And ponder this: Over the past two years, 85+% of my web site orders have been digital-only products or bundles.
Since I released my first book in 2000, I’ve been contacted four times by publishers who’d observed my success, seen the quality of my books, and proposed the conventional route. But, with outcomes like the above—ones that completely crush the traditional publishing royalty model—the fact is, there’s nothing they can offer me that I’m not doing far better on my own. Something to shoot for?
About the Author
Peter Bowerman is a professional copywriter, self-publishing coach, and the self-published author of the multiple-award-winning “Well-Fed Writer” titles (70,000 copies in print and a full-time living since 2001). He chronicled his self-publishing success in the award-winning 2007 title (and its new updated edition), The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living. For more details, visit www.wellfedsp.com.