Much of my work is a big experiment around self-publishing informational ebooks. But I also follow self-publishing trends for the industry as a whole, partly in case one day I choose to self-publish my travel memoir.
What’s the difference between what I’m doing now and self-publishing a memoir? People buy info guides because they want to learn something; it helps them directly. Selling a memoir can be more difficult because you’re sharing a story, and one about your own life. I believe readers are more willing to shell out money for a product that will help them improve their life (and perhaps even make money), rather than a story that’s intended solely to inspire.
Plus, most writers who self-publish memoir want to offer a physical copy of their book. I only sell digital copies — which has a much higher profit margin than selling physical books. Yes, you have to hire an editor and cover designer in both cases, but the costs of printing a physical book end up eating much of what would otherwise be your profits.
While self-publishing still has a stigma, I also see a HUGE opportunity for those of us who are entrepreneurial and knowledgeable about online marketing.
If I were to self-publish my memoir tomorrow, here are two big things I’d do to make it worth my while:
1. Sell directly through my website
Sure, you need a copy on Amazon because that will help you reach a wider audience. But don’t overlook the major benefits of selling directly through your own site, especially if you have even a small community who follows your work.
If you sell on your own site, you get to keep all the profits, as opposed to selling on, say, Amazon, where you have to handle over a percentage of what your book brings in. The point of Amazon is to reach new readers, many of whom find you through the site’s search function. Why should you pay Amazon for people who already know about you and your work? Setting up a process to sell to those people directly will help you make more money.
Check out this fabulous post by self-publisher Andrew Hyde about how Amazon’s markup for digital delivery is about 119,000 percent. (The post got picked up by the Domino Project and a few other big sites — that’s how I heard about it — which has no doubt helped Andrew’s sales.) What I find fascinating isn’t that he makes far more profit when he sells directly through his site, but that his readers bought through his site rather than Amazon when he asked them to.
I already do this for my informational guides. (And yes, if you buy directly through me, you can still read on your Kindle.) I sell on my own website using a third-party e-commerce tool called e-junkie, which only charges $5/month (TOTAL, not per book), far less than what I’d have to hand over if I sold through Amazon. That means once I cover the costs of cover design and editing, nearly every cent the buyer pays goes to my business. (I also pay a per-purchase fee to PayPal.)
I am working on getting my digital guides up on Amazon, simply to increase my reach. But if I can direct potential buyers — mainly through guest posts and SEO — to my website to buy, it’s far more lucrative. And since my whole goal is to make money through my own writing projects, those purchases go a long way toward helping my bottom line.
2. Run a Kickstarter campaign
Figure out exactly how much it would cost to self-publish, and then create a campaign on the crowd-funding website to cover those costs. Supporters would pledge enough to cover a digital or physical copy of the book (plus other high-end pledges for true fans).
When supporters pledged, however, I wouldn’t call it a donation. Instead, I’d frame it as a pre-order. They’d pay up front for the book, and I’d deliver it within a certain time frame. That would allow me to fund the project on the front end, rather than putting a ton of work and money into self-publishing without being sure people would actually buy what I’d created.
This is a smart strategy partly because, as Andy Drish said to me recently, what people say they’ll buy and what they actually buy don’t always match up. Solidifying pre-orders for your book takes the risk out of self-publishing, and it may even allow you to make a bit of money beyond that if you end up selling more copies than were pre-ordered.
What other self-publishing strategies appeal to you? Would you create a Kickstarter campaign for your book?