Is the Content Inc. Model a Good Fit for Author-Publishers?
Short answer is “yes.”
Long answer is “depends.”
Depends if you get what he’s saying, understand it, and put it to work.
The bottom line is that author-publishers are content merchants. They deal in content, no matter what form it’s in. Like screenwriters and song writers, authors put out content as a steady diet and a profession.
This also includes those who write a single book and then do consulting and speaking gigs for the rest of their lives. Their content just changes form, it doesn’t change the action of producing it. This isn’t new: Genevieve Behrend wrote three bestsellers about the Law of Attraction in the 1920’s and made a nice living from speeches and consulting.
Now, to figure this out, I went and bought the book Content Inc. to get the model by Joe Pulizzi. (Maybe you should, too.) In the talks he gives, he usually lists just 6 points when he talks about this model, but there are actually 7. Pulizzi didn’t omit it in his book, he just put it at the very front. Let’s call it Step 0.
Even then, this steps are not just sequential, they overlap. (See image.)
0. Set your goal and stick to getting it achieved.
“Begin with the end in mind.” Decide what you want to accomplish and then burn your bridges so you have to.
This is where your personal knowledge and your bliss/passion intersect. What you like to do best and what you know how to do have to agree, and then you can start living large at what you can and want to do best.
Writers love to write, producers live to produce. Creative thought alone has it’s own rewards – but it doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. So, follow your bliss – but only if you have prepared by learning what you need to know in order to pull it off.
This essentially is to “…find a problem area that no one else is solving and exploit that area with content.“
For writers, it’s a specific approach to a very specific sub-genre which they know best – and then execute it with style and originality. Like the Harry Potter books. Like the James Bond series. Like the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Each genre already existed long before these authors were even born. But the authors brought in their own specific style of playing that game.
Songwriters do this scene as well. Elton John sings songs about the same subject as John Lennon and Paul McCartney did, as well have thousands of others through our modern age. But they don’t just do what everyone else did, they did it uniquely. This is their own personal tilt.
Successful authors do this. They have a fan base that they relate to and even get story ideas and critiques from. They serve this base by writing stories that their fans actually want to read. Modernly, this means having an email list they can subscribe to, and then keep building the relationships with them.
Here’s where you need to study Pulizzi’s book closely. Because “books” are no longer the only format you can write toward. Content can be poured into multiple formats. Right off the bat, there are at least four types of “books” which all sell differently: ebooks, audiobooks, paperbacks, hardbacks. Each has their own audience-preferences, and sell differently.
So you have to work smart with this. Yes, the 6-figure authors usually have at least one series of 10 books going for them. Most have several series. And the books aren’t all just digital versions, they are also audio and print versions. And they are in foreign translations. And there could be movie deals… See where this is going? Lots of content everywhere at once. One book series, and lots of versions.
Pulizzi gives the caveat here for beginning author-publishers who need to build their base are these:
“1. Focus on one content type.
“2. Publish on one platform.
“3. Deliver consistently.
“4. Continue to deliver over time.”
The formula for a beginning success is to: publish in one narrow sub-genre, just on Amazon, and get your series coming out regularly. This is how to start. Once you have your base, then you start expanding into multiple versions and multiple platforms.
There’s far more to this in the book. Like most authors have their own website, for instance. You can’t count on anyone distributor being able to do everything for you, no matter what their promises are.
So while theoretically, you are publishing books, actually you are using that platform to get subscribers you can talk to through your email. Every single book you publish, every single format, should have an invitation in it for your fans to join your club.
Yes, you get those books out there, but do it smart and build your subscriber base as you do. No, it doesn’t have to take a long time. But it does have to get done. Otherwise, that one-shot wonder you produced will dry up and blow away. Ask some of the Motown and other recording-label artists that did just that – where are they now?
(Hint: not headlining on the Vegas Strip.)
And when you get those subscribers, you have to keep them engaged.
Again, there are tons more ideas of how to do these two steps in Pulizzi’s book.
Once you have a single platform (publishing books) worked out, then it’s time to diversify and expand your audience. While Pulizzi recommends book, blogs, and speaking, this may not be the most efficient. Writers write. Blogs would be a simple extension, but elsewhere, I’ve recommended getting into audio. Those 6-figure authors I’ve followed have found that appearing as guests on podcasts have worked wonders to promote their upcoming book and existing series.
Also, as part of proofing, you read the book aloud and correct errors as you go. Why not create a podcast of your upcoming book? Even though the final proof will do other corrections to it, if you were to read chapters each week, or every other week, of the raw version, this would be something readers could enjoy as an audio book. Meanwhile, you can get sponsors and also run your own ads for your earlier books in that series – right in the same feed.
Blogging is logical, as you already have the text and can link to the podcast in that article. Fans would love to get the text as it comes off the line and then buy the finished book as well.
Again, as a note, these steps aren’t sequential, they overlap. So you can be working on several steps while you’re just getting a single book out in several formats, on several platforms.
You’ll see examples of this by following various authors. Steve Scott and Mark Dawson were interviewed on podcasts long before they started their own. Amanda Hocking got chums with the book bloggers to start her own rise. You don’t have to do public speaking as Pulizzi did and does. That is also very useful for John Jentsch and others. In these, your follow-up books extend your brand while adding even more value.
The classic author-publisher model is built from the beginning on book sales. Monetization is built in – if you can get your book discovered. Again, most authors don’t start to get real traction until their 5th book. To do this, you need to be collecting subscribers from day one. Just update all the books you already have out there.
Your list and those relationships prime all pumps. Mine your content and re-purpose it. Bundles, podcasts, any other services you want to provide. Check your knowledge base for inspiration.
The point is to expand and diversify your number of formats, types of formats, number of platforms, and types of platforms. Monetize each and every one of these as you go.
Then you are on the route to real success as an author-publisher-entrepreneur. The real point is to decide from the beginning that you are creating and running a successful business, and align your goals to that.
The Content Inc. model is an outline you can use to build it all from. You just have to know and use it.
The sky’s the limit.
Time to get started…
UPDATE: Found this book trailer (mis-filed – oops) in my massive archives. Please enjoy.
If you want more information on entrepreneurial book publishing,