Is it worth it to pay to publish? Six ways to recoup your investment, beyond the bookstore

recoup publishing investment book author success

If you’re thinking of investing money in publishing your book through a hybrid publisher or by self-publishing, you’re likely trying to work out whether you’ll get a strong enough return on investment to make the endeavour worthwhile. And rightly so: publishing a book to a professional standard is a significant investment, especially if you are considering using a ghostwriter.

Most authors think online and in-store book sales will be their primary revenue stream, an understandable but overly limited assumption. There are many other ways in which your book-publishing venture can pay off, so it’s important to consider which ones you are in a position to exploit when working out your cost/benefit analysis.

Here are a few of the most common ways in which publishing a nonfiction book can add to your personal net worth or your business’ bottom line.

Direct book sales

While all eyes are on Amazon rankings and bestseller lists, direct book sales are often underestimated as the serious revenue generator they can be for some authors. If you are a frequent keynote speaker or panellist, back-of-room sales can be one of the most lucrative streams of income from your book. But even if you don’t do a lot of public speaking, you may have the potential to make direct sales in the form of bulk orders to your clients and their organizations.

The best thing about direct sales is that they are much higher margin sales than in-store consumer sales, especially for those authors who are working with a quality hybrid publisher. Under a traditional publishing arrangement, authors must buy copies of their own book from their publisher at wholesale cost, usually 50% of the list price. This doesn’t leave you a lot of room to mark it up, especially if you’d like to offer a special discount. But if you’re self-publishing or working with a reputable hybrid publisher, you could keep nearly every penny; be sure to ask your potential publishing partner about their policy on direct sales. Some of the authors we work with have seen their revenues from direct sales far outpace that of their in-store sales, because each copy they sell directly puts up to four times more money in their pockets than those sold through a retailer.

The best thing about direct sales is that they are much higher margin sales than in-store consumer sales, especially for those authors who are working with a quality hybrid publisher. Under a traditional publishing arrangement, authors must buy copies of their own book from their publisher at wholesale cost, usually 50% of the list price. This doesn’t leave you a lot of room to mark it up, especially if you’d like to offer a special discount. But if you’re self-publishing or working with a reputable hybrid publisher, you could keep nearly every penny; be sure to ask your potential publishing partner about their policy on direct sales. Some of the authors we work with have seen their revenues from direct sales far outpace that of their in-store sales, because each copy they sell directly puts up to four times more money in their pockets than those sold through a retailer.

Higher-paid and more frequent speaking engagements

Becoming a published author undeniably boosts the careers of professional public speakers. Aside from elevating your stature as an expert, having your name on a credible, well thought out book makes it easier for talent bookers to understand and promote you as a speaker. That leads to more speaking gigs and higher fees because event organizers are much more comfortable putting published authors at the top of their lineup.

It’s not uncommon for well-established public speakers to see their rates double, even well into the five-figure range, after publishing a book. And even those who are just starting out on the speaking circuit will find that their book will help to open doors to higher-profile events.

Business growth

If you are a consultant, coach, therapist or provider of services related to the content of your book, you are almost guaranteed to see an uptick in new business and sales after becoming a published author. Every dollar spent promoting your book also promotes your company or practice, and the book itself is the best business card of all. You’ll attract more and better clients, win higher value contracts, and increase your sales.

If stepping away from day-to-day operations is your goal, becoming a published subject matter expert is one of the best ways to get yourself into a position to do it, as rising demand for your company’s services allows you to hire behind yourself and focus on expanding your brand.

Foreign rights sales

There are plenty of countries in the world beyond the US and Canada, and you don’t need to have distribution there to reach those readers. What you do need to have is foreign rights representation, meaning an entity who can present your book to foreign publishers and negotiate the sale of your rights in that territory. That entity could be your hybrid publisher, or, if you are self-publishing, an independent literary rights agent or agency.

If an overseas publisher is interested in acquiring your book, they will make an offer to acquire publishing rights to your book for a set number of years in exchange for an advance against future royalties. Rates are usually modest, but your overall earnings can really add up, if you successfully sell into a number of territories. The acquiring publisher pays for translation, if the book is going into a foreign-language market, and all printing and marketing costs. If they want to use your cover art, interior illustrations, or print-ready page files, your representative should ask for a bump in the fee.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks are hot right now. With sales up 35% in 2016, audiobooks are challenging ebooks as readers’ favourite digital alternative to printed hard copies. Business books are especially popular in audio format because they are convenient for busy, productivity-minded executives to consume while in the car or on the treadmill.

If your book has strong in-store sales, you could land an acquisition deal by Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publisher. But even if your title fails to attract an offer from Audible, you can enter their program by self-publishing your own audiobook on Audible.com’s DIY platform, ACX. They offer several ways to produce and publish your audiobook, each with different royalty splits. None of them are particularly great from the author’s perspective (Amazon takes a big cut of sales), but the fact that they offer a turnkey option with no upfront costs means there’s no reason not to cast your line into this revenue stream.

Spin-off products

For many nonfiction authors and subject-matter experts, a book is only the beginning. The book may be at the centre of their author-expert universe, but online courses, apps, subscription-based services, and membership-based communities are increasingly important satellite products that orbit around it. This is one of the most compelling reasons that hybrid publishing and self-publishing are more attractive than traditional publishing deals to a growing number of new authors.

To fully exploit your intellectual property in these exciting and lucrative new ways, you need to own your subsidiary rights to these other types of content. In today’s world, it’s you, the author and expert, who are your own most important product. Readers want to engage with your ideas in a myriad of ways, and the opportunities to serve them and profit from your book are expanding all the time. The greater your imagination and ambition, the greater your financial benefit and impact on the world.


 

Want more tips on becoming a published author? Get our free emagazine.

 

Maggie Langrick

Maggie Langrick

Maggie Langrick founded LifeTree Media to fulfill a long-held dream to lead a company dedicated to aiding personal growth and conscious communication. A compulsive word nerd and cheerleader for the human race, Maggie thrives on a balanced diet of yoga and ribald humour.
Maggie Langrick

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>