How To Make Money With Your Book
One of the most common questions I get from potential authors who want to work with my company is something along the lines of:
“How do I use my book to make money…how can I make sure I get an ROI on the investment?”
It’s a reasonable question.
The bad news is you will NOT make (much) money by selling copies of your book.
The good news is there are SO MANY OTHER ways you can make money with a book—and usually a lot more than you’d ever make selling copies.
I’ll run through the most common ways, with examples for each:
1. Promote Your Consulting Services
There’s a reason every major thought leader writes a book and then ends up developing a consulting firm or working for a consulting firm. In fact, most “thought leaders” are actually just consultants who have written good books that became very influential in their field, e.g. John Hagel at Deloitte, Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School.
At Scribe, our largest client base is consultants. Once they reach a certain level of success, they can’t really go much higher without a book.
For example, Kirk Drake owns a consulting firm that helps credit unions learn to market and sell better. He was successful, but it wasn’t until his book came out that he was able to command high six-figure fees and sign the biggest credit unions in the industry.
Another great example of this is Dorie Clark. In only a few years, she went from an out-of-work journalist to such a well-respected marketing and branding consultant that she is now a professor at Duke. She also speaks to such groups as the World Bank and the IMF.
How’d she do that? She attributes most of that success to her two books and how they really put her on the map, driving people to request her consulting services.
2. Get Paid to Speak
One of the major ways to make money from a book is through speaking engagements.
It’s very hard to be a professional paid speaker without a book. People have started speaking careers without books of course, but almost all professional speakers eventually write a book; and when they do, the amount they charge goes way up.
A great example of that is John Ruhlin. He was a very successful corporate gifting expert, but was only able to charge about $5K for an engagement. Then he published Giftology, and now he regularly books keynotes for $20K or more.
This is because a book is a business card for a speaker. It’s a basic necessity. A book is the way people know for sure you are qualified to speak to their group on your topic.
Another great example of this is Kevin Kruse. His blog “An Authorpreneur’s First $100K” details how he made money in his first year as an author; and while he did $70k in book sales, he made $170k in speaking fees.
3. Get Clients for Your Professional Service Practice (Medical, Financial, etc.)
One of the very best ways to use a book is to establish your authority in your field of service and then use that authority to generate new clients.
An example is Alex Andrawes. He is a high-end wine broker and helps people invest in fine wines. He was successful before writing a book, but after he published his book on investing in fine wines he doubled his inbound leads and tripled his highest net worth clients—in only a year.
The fact is, most people have no idea how to pick a doctor or a financial advisor or any other related professional service practice. They don’t know anything about the skills necessary, what to look for and what to avoid, and how to think about the service. A book is a great way to establish your authority and show people what it would be like to work with you. Beyond that, it does a great job educating your client on what they should expect, making your job easier.
For example, Dr. Michael Lewis has a specialized practice centered around traumatic brain injury. His book When Brains Collide is a great introduction to traumatic brain injury and how to treat it, so much so that his practice has greatly grown in size as a result of the book.
4. Promote Your Coaching Services
If you are a coach of any sort, chances are that people have problems differentiating between you and any other coach—what makes you the expert and why they should work with you.
A book is a great way to both show them your expertise and explain what your work with them would be like.
You might be thinking, “But if I write a book talking about what I know, why will people hire me?”
Well, that’s the point. People who hire consultants and coaches are hiring them to teach them and their team; they’re not just hiring the knowledge in the book.
A great example of this is Cameron Herold—his book made me want to hire him to be my executive coach. Most of what Cameron teaches me on a day-to-day basis is in his book. What I’m paying him for is his help in applying that knowledge to my situation. And for the 10 percent of weird one-offs that aren’t in his book. Plus his connections and support, which you can’t find in a book.
Another great example is Cliff Lerner’s book, Explosive Growth. Cliff was one of the original growth hackers, having turned his tiny dating company into the fastest growing public company. He wanted to do some coaching for startups, but it wasn’t until his book released that people really understood what a genius he was and how much he could help them.
5. Raise Money from Investors
It’s hard to raise money for projects from investors. They are trusting you with their money, so they want to know you and to understand who you are and what you believe. Once they do, they’re much more likely to want to give you their hard-earned money.
For Jorge Newbery, this was a revelation. He was a successful real estate investor who’d fallen on hard times, then worked his way back to success. But he couldn’t get investors to understand this. So he wrote a book about his journey, Burn Zones.
It was so successful that Jorge now has the problem of raising TOO MUCH money. That’s a problem all investors wish they had.
6. Get Clients for Your Agency
Every agency owner knows what a pain client acquisitions can be. A book doesn’t magically solve this problem, but it does make it much easier to both find and close new clients.
Deb Gabor had this problem with her branding agency and used a book to not only solve that problem, but catapult her agency to the next level. She now works with companies like Dell, NBC, and Microsoft, and she credits her book as the reason her agency stood out from other agencies.
Another great example is Melissa Gonzalez. She put most of what she knew about pop-up retail in her book, and it was the ONLY reason she got hired by major retailers. They wanted to know what she knew BEFORE they hired her.
And hire her they did: Macy’s, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, they have all worked with Melissa since her book came out.
7. Promote Paid Community/Mastermind Groups
There are many people who have paid mastermind groups, and many of their clients, when they find out about them, want to join their group because they’ve written books that show everyone how much they know.
A great example is James Maskell. He runs the Evolution of Medicine Summit and mastermind group where tens of thousands of health professionals meet and discuss topics, and his book The Evolution of Medicine has been a great way for him to find and recruit new members.
Another example is Ari Meisel. He runs the Less Doing mastermind group, and many of his clients find out about him and his group through his three books.
8. Get Freelance Clients
If you’re a freelancer, doing a book is a no brainer. In fact, the problem is that as soon as you do a book, you get so slammed with work you can’t handle it all.
This is exactly what happened to David Kadavy. He wrote a book called Design for Hackers. He wrote it for a very niche audience, and it ended up crushing him. He was flooded with design work. He had to create an agency and just pawn everything off by hiring someone to run it for him (and he did a course which does very well too).
If you’re a great freelancer, if you have a specific skill that you sell, writing a book that explains how you do it creates an almost uninterrupted supply of clients.
Think about it—if I’m looking for a freelancer, I have no idea how to pick one over the other, no idea what I’m supposed to look for or how to decide.
Why not pick the one who wrote the book?
9. Workshops and Group Teaching
Often this goes along with speaking, but is not always the same thing.
Many consultants and speakers also do what is called “group workshops.” The point is that a business will bring you in to teach your method to their employees and train them over a day or a series of days. It’s really easy to get relatively larger businesses to pay you to teach their employees what you know in a one-day workshop.
Why? Because so few people take the time to read all the way through a book.
If you read books you are way ahead of the curve; but I know, as most employers know, if they pass out a book, their employees aren’t going to read it. But, if they get the author to come in, give a presentation, and answer questions for a day, they can really teach the stuff.
A great example is Mona Patel, a client of ours who wrote the book Reframe. She now does workshops based on applying the book that routinely sell out, and both the book and the workshops reinforce each other. The book leads people to the workshop, and she sells copies of her book to people who come to the workshop.
10. Promote “Done for You” Services
Scribe is a great example. We developed a new and innovative way to turn your ideas into a book, something no one else was doing…and then we proceeded to write a book that explained our entire process.
I mean, literally the whole process—including the templates we use with authors, everything.
Why would we do that? It’s similar to the coach method I described above: our book shows potential authors our process so they can understand it and see how it works.
We’ve had so many clients who were skeptical of us, read the book, and said, “This is genius, but it’s way too hard for me to do myself.”
Plenty can’t afford us and use the book to do the work themselves. That’s totally fine; they would never be clients anyway, and using our process to do their book helps us by creating word of mouth on their part.
11. Recruit Employees to Work for Your Company
This only applies to business owners and high-level executives; but for them, there is almost no better way to get great people to work with you than by laying your vision for your company out in a book.
A great example of this is how Stephan Aarstol used his book, The Five-Hour Workday to lay out his vision of a different way for a company to work. His vision struck a chord and he was flooded with both attention for his company and product sales. But most importantly, he was flooded with applications. Thousands of people rushed to apply to work with him.
Another great example is William Vanderblowmen’s book, Culture Wins. William’s company was already winning culture awards, and his book explains how his culture works. It makes a great recruiting tool for a company that is already strong in that department.
The best example of this is, of course, Zappos. Not only did Tony Shieh write his own book, but Zappos also wrote a different book about their culture that they give away on their site for free as a way to get people to come work for them.
12. Change Careers
This is something that not a lot of people think about; but the fact is, even if you have no business of your own or entrepreneurial aspirations, a book can help you substantially advance your career, either within your current company or by helping you switch careers entirely.
Simon Dudley is a great example. He wrote a book called The End of Certainty.
He was a big influencer in the video teleconferencing space, but because of various technological changes, he didn’t believe in the field anymore. He thought they were going to be disrupted and he didn’t think they would change.
He wanted to move totally out of video teleconferencing, so he wrote a book that was about his theories on technological change and how to adapt to them, and it never mentioned teleconferencing at all. That way he could go to other businesses and pitch them, saying, “Listen, I know exactly how you’re being disrupted. I can help you.”
He created a firm called Excession Events, and now he’s doing great as a consultant on technological change. He essentially created a new career.
Here’s the supreme irony: no one in the teleconferencing business listened to him before he wrote the book. Since he wrote the book—and though he never mentioned teleconferencing in the book, the parallels were obvious—half of his consulting business is made up of the firms that wouldn’t hire him in the teleconferencing business.
13. Sell a Video Course/Information Product
Using your book as the marketing tool and lead generation for a video course is a good way to make money from a book.
Basically, if your book teaches something for which there is a high ROI for the reader, you can create what amounts to an advanced version that is delivered as a video course, charge much more money for it, then use the book to push people to that course.
One of the main benefits is that while people will not pay more than about $25 for a book, they will often pay $500 or more for a video course of the EXACT SAME material.
This actually is rational, because many people learn more easily from video and audio materials than they do from books.
A great example of this is Josh Turner. He is a client who did a book with us called Connect, which hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. His book is about how to use LinkedIn to drive sales in your company; and the book, along with being very good, ends up driving many people to his advanced video course.
14. Sell a Software/SaaS Product
A book is a great way for a company to sell software, especially SaaS software.
The book only minimally pitches HubSpot. The book is essentially a massive advertisement for their method of marketing (inbound marketing), and guess what?
Using their software is the easiest way to actually do inbound marketing; so, not only does the book provide real value to the reader, it ends up converting a lot of readers to customers.
15. Sell a Physical Product
Another very profitable way to monetize a book is by using it to promote a physical product.
Go search Amazon under books for “lose weight” or “eat paleo.” You’ll see thousands of books, and a lot of them are essentially buyer’s guides for physical products like supplements, food companies, or one-off products.
Take Mark Sisson for example, who started Primal Blueprint. He’s published nearly a dozen books about his version of the paleo diet. They’re great books. He sells them on Amazon, and even gives many of them away on his site.
Not only do they help people eat right, but Mark also has a complete line of Primal Blueprint supplements and food that people can buy. They don’t have to buy them, but it’s there and easy to do, and the books and product dovetail perfectly.
Think about it—would you respond to an ad about supplements? Probably not.
But what about a book that teaches you what supplements to take, when, and why? If you trust the book, you’ll trust the supplement recommendations.
Because Mark has great books on eating that you trust, you automatically give his supplement recommendations more credibility.
16. Taxes and Write-Offs
This is a GREAT way to make money that way too few business owners use.
If you are using your book as a legitimate marketing tool to promote a business, the costs of production are 100 percent deductible. That means everything you spend money on that is part of creating the book can be deducted. For example:
- the book cover
- the layout
- the printing costs
- the editing and proofreading
- any professional services you use to create it
- the books you buy to teach you how to write your book
- the software you buy to help you write the book
- etc., etc., etc.
It’s all 100 percent deductible as business marketing expenses. Just like you can deduct what you spend on Facebook ads and website designers, a book falls into the same category.
Here’s the rub with that: YOUR TIME IS NOT deductible.
If you spend 500 hours at a computer typing away, you are totally out of luck. You cannot deduct the opportunity cost of your time from your taxes, even though those 500 hours are stopping you from making money doing other things.
For example, if you are a coach and people pay you $200 an hour for coaching, spending 500 hours writing a book (instead of charging for coaching) costs you $100,000 in forgone income.
You absolutely CANNOT deduct that, even though it is a very real cost to you.
BUT if you hire someone to help you write your book, then you absolutely CAN deduct that cost.
This is another reason why so many people use our service, even if they can write the book themselves. If they pay us $25,000 to help them author their book, not only is that cost fully deductible, but they save HUNDREDS (and oftentimes thousands) of hours—and can spend that time working on their business, doing what they do best.
When you figure in the tax savings, plus the time savings, it’s almost like getting the book for free for most of our authors—and that is BEFORE they get any of the attention and ROI from the book.
NOTE: I am talking about tax laws in America. Though this is what my CPA and many other tax lawyers have told me, you should never take legal advice from someone on the internet who does not know the laws of your specific jurisdiction. And not only that, I live in Texas—it’s legal to shoot wild hogs with machine guns from helicopters here. We’re different.
17. Promote a Conference
Books are a very underexploited marketing avenue for conferences. We’ve been working with a conference called the LDV Summit, which is about vision technology and pairs venture capitalists in that space with the inventors and thought leaders.
What we do is record the entire conference, turn it into a book. Then, what the conference host does is two things:
- The conference owner (Evan Nisselson) sends copies of the book to LP’s or potential entrepreneurs, people like that, and he gets all the benefits of doing a book without having to be the one who actually writes it.
- He includes a copy of the book when he mails out the physical applications for each year’s conference. It has tripled his re-up rate.
By spending $5 to mail a nice book to past participants, he gets them to spend $500+ on a conference that is more than six months away. Pretty good deal.
Not to mention, TED does this. They even have their own publishing imprint.
18. Book Sales
I said that book sales are not the best way to make money. I never said you can’t make ANY money from them.
What I did say was it’s the worst way to think about monetizing books, because it can create bad decisions and make authors try to position a book in such a way that they don’t know how to write it. If they can’t write it well, it won’t drive the best results.
Once you have a book that appeals to a specific crowd, there are lots of ways to help spur book sales:
- Facebook ads can often convert into book sales.
- With bundled promotions, you can give free things away to incentivize people to buy books.
- You can sell live at events (where you are a speaker, for instance).
- Guest posts that feature key lessons from the book can also draw book interest.
I’m not going to spend much time talking about how to directly implement these things because, quite honestly, it’s not worth the time for most authors.
If you positioned your book as discussed above, you don’t need to worry about selling copies—you only need to worry about how the book converts to what really matters to you.
I hope this helps you see all the different ways you can use your book to generate income. The most important thing to realize for most authors is that the book doesn’t make money directly; it makes money by promoting other things.
If you get that idea, than the rest is easy.
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