As I’ve written before, writing a book is a great way to boost your credibility and attract new clients. But there’s another great reason to write a book that I don’t often talk about: money.
Publishing books is a tried and true way to make money. No it’s not as glamorous as the latest software product or app, but people do still read books to be entertained or informed. As a freelancer, you’re probably familiar with the ebbs and flows of client work. Having another source of income can be a great way to level out your cash flow.
That’s what happened to us. Switching to book publishing helped us deal with the recession. In fact, we planned for it.
About 4 years ago, our small 2-person company offered only services (Web design, programming and graphic design). We realized that the idiocy in the real estate marketplace was going to cause a big problem down the road. As it turns out, we were right.
After living through the “dot bomb” recession of 2001, we knew that consulting is often the first thing to be cut when things fall apart. So we opted to put a lot of our online content into book form. All of my 10 books are based on material from our blogs or other online content, such as articles, special reports, or autoresponders.
We have published 10 books and sell them through both online booksellers such as Amazon.com and our own Web sites. Over the years, books and various other products related to our content have netted us six figures.
Six figures may sound like a lot of money. But no we didn’t make it in a day on a huge launch. But we do have a consistent flow of income from our content-related products. Plus, realistically surviving a multi-year recession is no mean feat for any small business. We have taken a “slow and steady” approach toward publishing and enjoy a nice passive income stream. But in no way do we view book publishing as a “get-rich quick” scheme.
Assuming the a book you write is good, it might make you money, but anyone promising that a book will make you a millionaire overnight is lying. Most authors who make a lot of money use the book as a starting point to form a larger “platform.” Generally, they think up a new concept like Ken Blanchard did for the “One Minute Manager” or Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield did with Chicken Soup for the Soul. Then they take that idea and run with it. In Blanchard’s case, he came out with more One Minute books, audios, speaking tours. And of course, the Chicken Soup folks leveraged that brand into everything from speaking tours to dog food.
How Do You Publish a Book?
So now you might be wondering exactly how we published our books. As noted, we’re a small company, so I wanted to figure out the most profitable and least expensive way to publish books.
I researched the publishing process and opted to do true self-publishing by establishing an independent press, purchasing ISBNs, and printing “on-demand” through a company called Lightning Source. My publishing process is described in detail in my award-winning ninth book: Publishize: How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise (http://www.Publishize.com) but I’ll give you an overview here.
If you decide you want to self-publish and do a Google search on the term, you’ll see ads for companies like Xlibris, iUniverse, and Outskirts Press. The problem with these companies is that they act as a “middleman” between you and the real print-on-demand printer they are using.
The printer they use is Lightning Source (LSI) and like I said, that’s the printer I use. What I figured out and what often trips up a lot of aspiring publishers is that it’s far better to go directly to LSI than to work with companies like iUniverse.
In the book publishing world, companies like iUniverse are referred to as subsidy or vanity presses. Virtually every person in book publishing recommends you avoid them (including me). The reason is because subsidy presses mark up their printing costs, and then pay you only a percentage of sales (called “royalties”).
Subsidies also often have complicated contracts and keep rights to artwork you paid them to produce. Most people regret going with a subsidy once they discover the alternatives.
To make the most profit on your books, you need to be the publisher of record. To do that, you buy your own ISBN block from Bowker at http://www.myidentifiers.com. Owning your own ISBN makes it possible for you to go to the printer directly and get the same distribution the subsidies offer.
Armed with your ISBN, if you need help, you can hire freelancers to help you lay out your book. Or if you’re a graphic artist, you can read the specs and do it yourself. Hiring a freelancer to lay out your book usually costs less than the “packages” subsidy presses offer and you are sure to retain all your rights to the art.
Once you have your print-ready PDF, you can go to Lightning Source yourself to get the book printed. Another good option is CreateSpace (http://www.CreateSpace.com), which is owned by Amazon.com. If you opt for CreateSpace, again, you’ll want to use your own ISBN and provide your own art (don’t go for one of their “package deals.”) You’ll also want to sign up for the Pro Plan to get the best price on your printing.
The reason I use LSI instead of Create Space is because you get better distribution for less money on online bookselling sites. However, Lightning Source has higher setup fees than CreateSpace and doesn’t have forums you can turn to for community support like Create Space does. If you only plan to release one book and aren’t worried about distributing books anywhere other than Amazon.com, Create Space is be a good option. Also recently, Amazon has been playing games with LSI inventory, so as of this writing, I’m actually putting one of my books into CreateSpace as an experiment.
Publishing books can be a great way to add an income stream, but just like any new business venture, a little knowledge can save you a lot of money. Learning a bit about how book publishing works can save you a lot of time and gray hairs in the long run.