ROI. Return on investment. Is it just a mythic and elusive goal for the entrepreneur-turned-author? Unless you’re writing only for the love of it or to check an item off your bucket list, then it better not be. But with most part-time authors generating paltry income from book sales, how can you make sure your book delivers the goods? In this article, I’ll share three key strategies for monetizing your book:
- The lead-generation strategy
- The product-development strategy
- The serial-author strategy
These are strategies any entrepreneur can focus on to deliver business results from their book and generate a return on their investment of time and resources. Let’s start with the Lead-Generation Strategy, which is the priority for many entrepreneurs.
Monetizing your book: The lead-generation strategy
The lead-generation strategy involves using your book to generate and qualify leads for the existing products and services of your core business.
Your book, used correctly, can help you achieve several lead-generation objectives:
- Reach more people in a scalable way. Your book works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, wherever and whenever you can’t.
- Reduce sales cycle time. Your readers have already spent a significant amount of time with you before you speak to them. They’ll already know, like, and trust you, so the time from contact to sale is less.
- Improve conversion rates. For the same reason, leads who’ve read your book are already pre-sold and more likely to convert.
- Improve customer quality. Finally, these leads will have learned about you, your business, your methodology, and how you work. If they contact you, then they like what they read and are much more likely to be the type of client you want to work with.
As you can see, if you can write a book that’s relevant to your customers and use it to execute a lead-generation strategy that super-charges these metrics, that can really boost your business.
So, how can you optimize your book to generate leads, and what are the core components of an effective, book-led strategy to generate them?
1. Optimize your book for lead generation
While your book will typically generate leads for you regardless, if this is your primary goal in publishing, there are a couple of things you can do within the text itself to optimize its effectiveness as a lead generator:
- Deliver the goods. It goes without saying…but I’ll still say it. Your book must deliver for your readers. It has to answer the central question the reader has and provide enough value that they’ll believe that you can help them further.
- Lead to a new need. While it must fully answer its central question and address the reader’s problem, it should also naturally lead your reader to a sharper understanding of their need for your core product or uncover a new need that your core product addresses.
- Filter for your ideal customers. The content of your book must attract the type of customers you want to work with and repel those you don’t.
If your book delivers for the right readers (your ideal customers) and leaves them with a clear understanding of how you can help them and why they should work with you, then the next thing you need to do is get your book into the hands of your prospects.
2. Turn prospects into readers
Having lots of people read and enjoy your book is nice. It might even be ego-boosting and provide some pocket-change to cover your Starbucks latte addiction. But for the serious entrepreneur using a book for lead generation, it’s important that you focus on getting your book into the hands of the right readers – prospective customers of your core business.
Don’t be afraid to gift your book freely to anyone and everyone who you consider to be a good fit for your ideal customer, absorbing the printing and distribution costs as a marketing expense. While footing the bill for printing and shipping 1,000 paperbacks may sound like a big expense, it doesn’t take many high-ticket core product sales to make that up.
With that in mind, here are five proven approaches for getting your book into your ideal customers’ hands:
- Make it sharable. Often your best customers know your best prospects, so make it easy to share your book. You can do this in the analog way by giving clients multiple copies so they can pass one to someone else in their network. Digitally, consider a viral giveaway using a service like KingSumo, Gleam, or Shortstack, that encourages people to share it. Just be careful in how you design giveaways, so they attract your ideal readers and not just people who want to win free stuff.
- Seek out partnerships. Identify organizations (companies, associations, even influencers) with access to large numbers of your ideal readers. Develop an offer that will be valuable to them and their members and pitch it. This could even be a bulk sales opportunity, but if the audience is a great fit, don’t get caught up on price. Seek creative ways to increase your exposure to the group, perhaps layering in a workshop, speaking engagement, and bonus resources.
- Organize (or speak at) in-person events. Done well, in-person events generate credibility and establish a personal connection that can be more difficult online. Organizing your own event is a great way to generate high-quality leads, prime them, gift them your book, and move them along the buyer journey. Once you nail the format, repeat it annually, monthly, or even weekly. Not keen to organize your own event? Speaking at someone else’s event involves less effort on your part, and, if the audience is aligned with yours, it can be a great lead generator.
- Pony up for paid ads. Use content from your book to create valuable digital resources, then use paid digital ads to drive traffic to a landing page. By offering your book along with this bonus content at a hard-to-resist price point, you can not only get your book into the right hands, but also collect contact information at the same time.
- In-book call-to-action. At the end of your book, let your reader know about the various ways they could work with you. A hard upsell is rarely as effective as giving readers a valuable reason to get in contact with you. Then you can nurture the relationship toward a sale when the time is right.
Of course, converting prospects to readers is one thing, but how do you then convert readers to leads and ultimately to customers? Let’s dig into that question next, shall we?
3. Capture, nurture, convert
This last step in the lead-generation strategy is vital in monetizing all that work you’ve already done. Unless you capture, nurture, and convert those leads, you’ll never make the high-ticket sales you need to make this strategy work.
Collect contact details
A lead is not truly generated until you have the prospect’s contact information stored in such a way that you can use it to make a sale. Online, you’ll need landing pages and an email marketing or CRM (customer relationship management) tool – we use ActiveCampaign – for this. The in-person equivalent to this is printed collateral – a brochure and sign-up form – though you’ll still want to transfer contact details into a digital system for easier management and tracking.
Nurture and sell
You’ve got leads! Now what? Now, you need a sales team to reach out, be helpful, and ultimately convert leads into paying customers. Your sales team may just be you selling one on one to individual clients. Regardless, develop a clear conversion strategy that includes ongoing communication that moves leads who aren’t yet ready to buy toward an eventual sale (this can often be automated), and effective sales processes and scripting to close sales with those who are ready to buy (this is usually best done live).
Have something to sell
Obvious, right? Plus, you already have a core product or service. But there are some considerations around what products work best for this strategy. Your product should meet the following criteria to be most effective and profitable:
- Be designed for the same audience as your ideal reader
- Relate to the methodology described in your book
- Extend from or pick up where your book left off
- Be priced high enough so that it offsets the cost of gifting your book and provides enough profit for your business
If your existing business and product ecosystem already lend themselves to this, you’re well on your way. If not, the next strategy may be one you consider executing alongside this one.
Monetizing your book: The product-development strategy
The product-development strategy uses your book as the foundation for an ecosystem of related products. Some use this strategy to launch a business, particularly subject-matter experts leaving the corporate world. But it can also be an effective strategy for those who already have an established business but want to re-orient it to match more closely with a branded methodology.
Why develop products?
The terms ‘product’ and ‘service’ are often use interchangeably. But I prefer to use ‘product’ to refer to any offering that has been packaged up as a value-based offer that isn’t tied to effort or time. For instance, a plumber that charges $40 per hour would be selling a service in my view, whereas a plumber who charges $200 to install a dishwasher would be selling a product. The difference may not sound material, but it is. Why? Because, when you turn your services into products, a few things happen:
- The perceived value of your offering improves. Converting your services into products makes it easier for prospects to understand the value of the outcomes you provide.
- You’re better able to scale up with demand. Productizing your services forces the discipline needed to systematize what you do in a way that makes it easier to scale up sustainably.
- You discover more income-generating opportunities. A product focus to your service business expands the ways you can package what you do for your customers, which increases your options for generating revenue.
But the goal here is more than simply developing a product; it’s to develop an entire product ecosystem, based on your book IP. Having said that, this ecosystem will be made up of specific products and services. So, let’s look at the various kinds of products you might create from your book IP, and then we’ll go over what you need to do to execute this strategy effectively.
1. Develop products using the IP from your book
There are many products and services that can make up your product ecosystem. Your book is a vault of intellectual property you can transform into most if not all of these, even if the specific delivery mechanism requires the content to be adapted.
- Coaching. Coaching improves the client’s performance through teaching, assessment, feedback, and training and can be done one-on-one or in a group, in person, online, or both.
- Expert services. People hire experts to provide them with a variety of expert services, ranging from advice to analysis to the delivery of a specific outcome or activity. Expert services are most often sought when the client lacks internal knowledge in an area or lacks enough capacity to perform an activity in-house.
- Trainings. While mentioned a subset of coaching, training can also be a standalone offering. If coaching involves improving the client’s development of knowledge or skill, training is more narrowly focused on transfer of knowledge.
- Physical products. Physical products are tangible products that customers either consume or reuse. Consumer goods are either durable, with a lifespan of three or more years – like homes, furniture, and vehicles – or non-durable, like food, clothes, and supplies.
- Software. Many businesses build software as their core product, but others have developed simple tools that play a specific role within a broader product ecosystem.
- Licensing and certification. A type of product that few entrepreneurs think of is licensing – that is, selling (or leasing) the right to use your methodology, brand, and/or technology to other businesses. This is often paired with certification, where training is provided to the licensee to ensure a certain level of delivery quality.
- Subscriptions and memberships. Subscriptions are recurring revenue products that deliver a product or service at a regular frequency (typically monthly) in exchange for a recurring fee. Memberships take subscriptions a step further, providing a basket of benefits rather than a single product, which gives you more levers to pull in structuring a differentiated and valuable offering.
- Experiences. Events and experiences are a unique type of offering that can be either the primary focus of a business, such as a restaurant or a theatre troop, or just one component of its offering, like an annual industry conference or retreat. Live experiences may be delivered in person or virtually, but the distinction, as compared to live trainings and webinars, is that the value here comes from being live and the focus is on the experience, first and foremost.
So, yes – you can clearly develop a product from the IP in your book. But the real power comes not from developing a single product, but rather from designing an ecosystem of inter-related products.
2. Assemble products into a product ecosystem
Products aren’t profitable on their own, at least not over the long term. Think about high-ticket purchases you’ve made in the past. You pay a lot for a car, but dealerships don’t profit on the vehicle sale alone. Financing and ongoing maintenance both contribute significantly to profits, not to mention the upgrades they sell on top of the base model.
Similarly, think not only about your core product, but also about products that bring prospects in and those that will allow you to continue selling beyond the core product purchase.
The 5 types of products you need in your product ecosystem
There are five types of products that make up your product ecosystem, each of which should relate to and can build off the IP from your book. It’s this ecosystem that you need to have in place to execute well on the product-development strategy.
- Attention products. Attention products get the attention of your target customer, provide value to them, and position you as an expert. They’re offered at no cost and, once created, should be low cost or no cost to deliver, so that you can offer them freely to anyone who’s interested. Think blog articles, YouTube videos, podcasts, guides, interactive tools, self-guided tutorials, and the like.
- Entry products. Entry products serve three purposes. First, they offer a low-risk way to become your customer. Second, they qualify someone as a suitable prospect. Finally, they deliver a valuable outcome for the customer that gets them ready to move on to your core product.
- Core products. Your core product is the product you’re known for and that delivers the bulk of your revenue. It’s a high-ticket, profitable product that delivers a fulsome solution to your target customer in a competitively distinct and superior way and implements the methodology laid out in your book.
- Add-on products. Add-on products are options that can be added onto your core product to address a need that a sub-segment of your customers have and is delivered alongside your core product.
- Sell-on products. In contrast to add-on products, sell-on products are ones that become relevant for your customers only after you’ve delivered the outcome of your core product.
Nearly any of the products mentioned earlier could be used as any one of these ecosystem components, and you might even package multiple together into a single offer. In fact, that’s called productization, and it’s important to understand. Why? Because productization is how you turn what you do into something that feels tangible. In fact, it may be even more important to productize your services if your business is service based, since your customers can’t physically touch what you do.
3. Productize your products
Productization involves designing four elements of each product offered: branding, features, value pricing, and scalability:
- Branding. Your product needs a name. It helps turn something intangible into an offering that feels very real.
- Features. Explicitly design what your customers get when they sign up for your product. Write the copy that would go in a brochure, have the brochure professionally designed, and get it printed. Not only will this force you to get crisp about your offer, but the collateral also turns even an intangible service like “advice” into something that customers can feel, touch, and show to others.
- Value-based pricing. Don’t price your product based on the time you and your team spend delivering it. Price based on what its benefits are worth to your customers. If your product isn’t profitable enough at that price, find ways to add profitable value to it or accept the fact that it isn’t viable and design a different product.
- Scalability. Design your product so that it can scale – one that you design once, and then deliver at increasing volumes without scaling your time input costs at the same rate. Digital products are great for this, but products that can be systematized and delivered using lower-cost resources or labour are also scalable.
Product development and lead generation are the two most common (and most appropriate) strategies for an entrepreneur’s first book, and they’re both continue to be entirely appropriate and relevant for subsequent books. But for the more prolific among us, there’s another monetization strategy that becomes more feasible the more books an author publishes: the serial-author strategy.
Monetizing your book: The serial-author strategy
This final strategy is unique in that it’s squarely focused on books themselves. Entrepreneurs usually aren’t too concerned about selling books, because they can earn far more income using their book to grow their core business. And the truth is that book sales aren’t likely to be big money-makers for most entrepreneurs anyway.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Niche focus. Books by entrepreneurs tend to be focused on a niche that’s too small to support the sales volume required to provide significant income from book sales alone. That’s intentional, because that’s what makes them so effective as a lead generator for high-ticket core product sales.
- First-time author. First-time authors aren’t yet well known enough to attract the attention and partnerships needed to sell lots of books. In fact, this is often why they’re writing their book in the first place – to build their profile.
- Protracted sales. Except for well-known authors with big-budget marketing pushes, book sales tend to happen over time rather than when the book first launches.
An effective strategy to address these challenges is what I call the serial-author strategy. It’s a long game where the focus is on building a portfolio of related books that, over time, snowballs into a collective asset that delivers enough value to support the author’s income goals. When done well, this strategy is one that becomes more and more effective the longer you stick with it.
The compound effect of the serial-author strategy
Books are different to many other products. When you find a phone you like, you don’t use it and then immediately start looking for other phones from the same manufacturer that you might also enjoy. But when you read a book you enjoy, odds are good that you’ll want to read more books by the same author on related topics. Over time, authors can develop a following of engaged readers who buy their new books as soon as they’re released.
Three ways to serial-authorship
There are three approaches to executing the serial-author strategy. They can be (and often are) employed together, but I recommend you start with one or it may take longer to see the benefits materialize. Choosing one of these approaches will help to give your book series a consistent thrust, which will be more effective in building an author platform:
- The deep-dive series. With a deep-dive series, you start with a foundational book that covers a subject in its entirety. You then pick a topic within your foundational book and write a second book that delves deeper into that topic. Subsequent books follow this same pattern, resulting in a body of work that can become the go-to source on the subject. This is the easiest of the three approaches, and it pairs well with the other two monetization strategies because it keeps your focus contained to the initial methodology laid out in your foundational book. For this reason, it’s usually the best place to start.
- The ideal-reader series. An ideal-reader series also starts with a foundational book. But for the second book, you broaden your focus beyond the scope of your first to address a different pain or problem for the same ideal reader. A logical place to look for this additional focus is where your first book left off. Subsequent books then follow the same approach, addressing more and more of your ideal reader’s problems. As you might imagine, this approach is incredibly effective at building a fiercely loyal following of readers. The more books you write that hit home and solve real problems for the same reader, the more they’ll see you as their go-to guru.
- The reader-segment series. This final approach is most effective at building a broad base of readers over time. It too starts with your foundational book, laying out your core methodology. But subsequent books then focus on different segments of readers and help each segment apply your methodology to their unique situation.
If you aren’t already, you need to get comfortable writing regularly to succeed with this strategy. The more you can increase the speed and quality of your output, the more quickly you’ll be able to release new books. But apart from a writing habit, what other factors are important for the serial-author strategy?
1. Build your author brand.
Just as customers connect with you as a person more than they connect with your business, readers want to connect with you as an author. This is especially the case as they read more and more of your books. Use the Authority Strategy from Chapter 14 to build your author brand. This lays a strong foundation for building a following of readers who feel like they know you, want to engage with you, and are eager to read your next book.
2. Engage your growing audience.
Building an email list is vital so that you have an audience you can nurture and then activate each time you launch a new book. But emailing your list once a year for a launch won’t cut it. You need to engage with people between launches and stay relevant by providing consistent value. Love your readers, and they’ll love you back.
3. Treat your series like a sales funnel.
Think of your book series in the same way you think about your product ecosystem. I suggest you plan, in advance, what your series of books is likely to be, realizing that this will probably change. Which book should readers start with? Which should they read next? What do you want them to do at the end of each book?
Design each book, the calls-to-action, pricing, and supporting promotion to encourage this ideal journey. For example, once you have a few titles, you might consider making the first one permanently free to pull readers in. With a series, you can look at marketing ROI across the entire series, rather than myopically for a single title.
Not a solo strategy
Don’t forget – as with the other strategies, there’s no reason not to employ this strategy alongside one or more of the others. Some of the most successful serial authors super-charge their business by converting their loyal, engaged reader base into clients of high-ticket products and services. With each book you publish, your authority grows, making everything else you do more effective.
Choosing a monetization strategy
A good way to choose which strategy to prioritize is to consider your objectives, as each strategy is better suited to accomplishing certain goals more than others.
If your primary goal is to build authority or influence opinion, then focusing first on using your book to build your profile and professional credibility may be the best place to start. But if you’ve already got a strong base of authority and personal brand, focusing on one of these three monetization strategies will serve you well:
- The lead-generation strategy is a good choice if your goal is to generate leads for your existing business or extend your reach to serve more people.
- The product-development strategy is a good choice if your goal is to launch a new business or new products, codify your knowledge, or learn a new topic and build capabilities around it.
- The serial-author strategy is a good choice if your goal is to build an author platform and ultimately sell books.
You may very well employ more than one strategy and they do support one another, especially when used in sequence, rather than concurrently. For example, you might start with the product-development strategy to build an ecosystem of products, then pivot to the lead-generation strategy to drive sales of those products. Then, if you’re so inclined, you may write and publish additional books that create an author platform as you pivot toward the serial-author strategy.
Regardless of which strategy you start with, only one of these should be your dominant thrust at any point in time, so that you’re better able to prioritize activities if and when trade-offs need to be made.
If you believe writing and publishing a book could benefit your business, and are focused on how it can deliver a return on your investment of time and money, I’d invite you to visit www.entrepreneurtoauthor.com and discover how to bring your book to market the right way.
Now is the time…time to write, time to publish, and time to grow.