I remember the scene as if it happened yesterday.
I heard the delivery truck’s engine as it pulled around the corner and, as quickly as my feet would take me, bolted down the stairs to meet the driver.
“Where do you want ’em?”
Little did he know my future was in the back of that truck. Little did I know it would play such a pivotal role in everything to come. I suggested an open space on the sidewalk. He flung open the door, wheeled down the pallet, and plopped “’em” two feet in front of me. With a signature and shake, he was gone.
He left behind a pallet of my latest book–my first real book–and I couldn’t have been more excited. I ripped open the top box and pulled out a copy to hold in my hands. Nothing like that feeling.
I had visions of selling this book to tens of thousands of people around the world. When that happened, I would finally achieve the goal of making a full-time living as a writer. Turns out I was as wrong as I was right.
I achieved the goal a year and a half later, but the vision of selling countless copies had nothing to do with it.
If you viewed a spreadsheet of my book sales compared to total profit over the years, you would find an inverse relationship; as unit sales went down, profit went up.
Things didn’t start this way. At first book sales were my only sales, so the more books I sold, the more money I made. Eventually unit sales topped 10,000, but the income generated from books was nothing compared to what would come next.
Books are seeds. They are eye-opening, problem-solving, life-changing seeds. But they’re just the beginning. They’re only one way to gather, contain, and deliver information.
The book could become a platform.
This was the change in perspective I needed. This was the change that allowed me to drastically alter the course of my business and drastically increase my income. That same potential lives within every how-to book.
I took many twists and turns over the past decade, but in the end I turned what started as a $20 book into $1,000,000 in sales. What follows are the five steps I took to make that happen.
The Path to $1,000,000
It started with a website. There are many virtues of selling through outside platforms such as Amazon, but my story never touched the company from Seattle. As a lead generator, Amazon and company can serve as powerful tools, but the benefits of cutting out the middleman and going direct are too plentiful and powerful to overlook.
Developing real relationships, delivering consistent value before the purchase, building an in-house database of readers, total control…the list goes on and on.
Tech used to be a valid excuse for shying away from selling directly from your own platform. Not anymore. WordPress, themes ready to go out of the box, and payment solutions a preschooler could manage put the process within reach of every author.
Create an Offer They Can’t Refuse
After the website came the lead magnet. (If you don’t already know the term, lead magnets are free pieces of content offered in exchange for a visitor’s name and email address.) Lead magnets come in many shapes and sizes including training audios and videos, PDF reports, checklists, or cheat sheets, and–often used in the author market–free chapters.
As my book was in the personal development space, I created a short report of 50 tips on goal setting and motivation.
As authors we have a leg up on nearly all other occupations. Our books, the seeds, already contain everything we need. Lead magnets fit that bill. To create your own lead magnet, simply pull content from your book that would instantly attract your ideal reader and solve a real problem they’re facing right now.
Fill Your Stadium
If you know about Carrie Wilkerson, author of The Barefoot Executive, chances are you’ve heard her talk about filling your stadium. I’ve always loved thinking of traffic in that way. Let’s say you’re Justin Bieber and your objective is to fill a stadium for an upcoming concert. It’s only natural that you’d want fans to fill the place, true fans.
Thousands of people who weren’t interested in pop wouldn’t make for the greatest of concert experiences.
So it goes with traffic to your website. You want people who are interested in what you have to offer. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who don’t like what you do and don’t want what you have. Though it seems obvious, few people think about attracting their ideal audience. Instead, they put their message in front of the masses and fill their pop concert with country fans.
How do you draw the right people to your website (who in turn request your lead magnet)? There are as many traffic theories and strategies as there are stars in the sky, but two distinct paths exist. First, you can start from scratch and seek them out one by one. Second, you can piggyback on people and platforms that already have the people you want. I did the latter.
I found and connected with experts in my field who already had my people gathered together in their digital audience. Through guest posts, ad swaps, paid promotions, or simply a friendly mention, I was able to reach my ideal audience at scale, welcome them back to my website, and place my lead magnet directly in front of them.
I filled my stadium.
Build the Relationship
One of the strongest reasons to go direct is your ability to build a relationship over time. If you exist only on Amazon, there is no two-way connection, no back and forth in which you can deliver value and develop a bond with future readers. It’s all or nothing.
Another way to think about it: Walk into a room of 100 people and ask them to hand over money to buy your book. One to two will agree, if the offer is right. Ask those same people if they’d like free information to solve their most pressing problems and the majority will raise their hands. Then, over time, you build that relationship with value while making offers for your book.
In the end, sales will be ten times what they were.
Value comes in many forms: email newsletters, blog posts, podcasts, training videos, webinars, teleseminars, etc. In my case, I sent my audience weekly tips and ideas to help them continue moving toward their goals. Each message came with an offer, but the focus was delivering value.
Unlock the Product Potential
It’s at this point in our story that we meet the inverse relationship between units and profit. After selling several thousand print copies of my book, the market started slowly shifting toward digital (this was before Kindles, Nooks, and iPads). I created a PDF version of my book, but the digital itch continued.
The book was just the beginning.
Building on the material from the book, I created an in-depth audio course, tripling the price. I then pulled out a particular piece of the book and turned it into its own digital program, bundling it with the audio course as a special package and quadrupling the price.
By diving deeper into the material and building out the ideas in the book–and upgrading the format from printed book to audio course–I increased the value of my content right along with the price. It was the perfect win-win situation.
After products came premium services that, once again, walked right off the pages of my book. The same thing can be done with any how-to book. Chapters can become course modules, sections can become workshops, themes can become coaching programs.
From 351 pages of a paperback came the means to a million-dollar seller. I grew my platform, delivered value, built relationships, and sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of courses and coaching. The book truly was just the beginning.
What I had evolved into, and what I now teach others to become, is an authorpreneur. As a writer who shares advice and information, you have the potential to create a life-changing business. It all starts with your book.
About the Author
Jason Gracia is the author of Shifting the Balance and founder of Authorpreneur U, where how-to authors discover the keys to growing their platform and profit. For a copy of Jason’s free Authorpreneur Handbook, visit authorpreneuru.com/handbook/.
Photo courtesy of okalinichenko|Fotolia.com