To boldly publish where few authors have gone before…
Most people have heard and swallowed the hype that ebooks are all there is to self-publishing, that making 6-figures with a few Kindle ebooks is the trophy every player wants to walk away with.
Unfortunately, that’s all but impossible. Statistically, those bestsellers on Amazon are less than 1 percent. (This is from Amazon’s own sales rank.) On top of that, the 6-figure authors I’ve chased down sell all possible other versions of those books everywhere else they can, not just ebooks only.
In short, you can’t get there from wherever you are right now.
The bottom line to succeeding with ebook publishing is being covered over with a bunch of misdirections and strategies which are over 99% wrong.
Let’s back this up then.
First: You don’t succeed only with ebooks – they are only the start.
Second: Books are containers for ideas. They can take many formats. You’re probably familiar with paperbacks, hardbacks, audiobooks.
Third: Successful authors publish in all possible formats.
Fourth: There’s a scale of formats.
Your “books” start out with an idea, and usually in text format.
Your text is usually started or converted to digital.
Polished, this becomes an ebook.
Take that digital data and flow it into a Word (or LibreOffice) document and then you can upload it to create print versions, paperback on CreateSpace and Lulu, hardback on Lulu.
Record that text and you can have an audiobook, which can be published through ACX to Audible. Or uploaded to CDBaby. (Or – see Author’s Republic.)
If you make a presentation and match it to the audio, you wind up with a video and posted to YouTube or others to promote your various book versions.
What remarkably few writers talk about (but most non-fiction authors are doing) are leveraging all these different book-versions in order to create a course.
Courses are the top of the heap, as they make use of all these re-purposed materials you’re able to create. They can also bring you in the most income of all the other formats. (Except where someone makes your book into a feature-length movie, like the Martian, or Fifty Shades of Grey.)
Up to this point, I also haven’t talked about courses. These finally hit my radar after I took a few. When you look at these, you can quickly say – “hey, these aren’t anything I couldn’t do.” If you’ve followed my steps, you’ll know that I’ve personally done everything I’ve talked about. This is to test everything for you and then give you the rundown of the simplest way to do it for yourself.
I’ve not gotten into videos as these are far more time-intensive than writing, editing, and recording audio. They are also harder to monetize, which takes even more time. Courses, though, make video’s possible to be utilized, and monetized.
Western courses tend to be linear and top-down, with the provider as authority. That aligns to our linear books, so an author creating courses is not that far from their work in creating books.
The great scene is that this also allows us to have more distributors bring us more passive income.
How do distributors make you income? Promotion is getting your offer in front of other audiences so they can choose it for themselves. Each distributor has a marketplace with an existing audience. (This is what separates the wannabe’s and vanity/subsidy publishers from the rest – they expect you to bring your own audience for a price you pay up front.) Bonafide distributors usually take a split of your price for themselves in order to finance that platform. The one’s I recommend here let you start for free, they don’t charge you on a annual, per month, or per book basis.
Let’s look these over. We have multiple distributors at nearly every echelon…
ebooks: Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, B&N, Lulu, Smashwords, Scribd, HummingbirdDM, own hosting
printed books: CreateSpace, Lulu
audiobooks: ACX/Audible, CDBaby, HummingbirdDM. own hosting
presentations (mostly for free): Slideshare, HummingbirdDM, Scribd, own hosting.
video: (free and paid) YouTube, Vimeo, MetaCafe, etc. (and inside presentations on Slideshare), own hosting
courses: Udemy, eLearningMarketplace.com, OpenSesame, own hosting.
The criteria I hold here is that you have to be able to submit for free, just as Amazon or others. The others not mentioned in each category require you to pay up front. And most of these have paid upgrade options. What I want to tell you about is how you can start from scratch without any out-of-pocket costs.
All of these levels of formatting have increasing amounts of work and organization, but are all able to be created by an individual or solopreneur. You can have a content business located anywhere you can get an Internet connection. No boss, plenty of income if you organize it right. The idea here is that you can get started for nothing more than just sweat equity.
Each formatting level has varying numbers of free-to-publish market places. It’s interesting to find that the bottom and the top have the greatest number of marketplaces who want your book-content.
If you’ve followed my articles and podcast episodes, you’ll know the answer I recommend: all of them.
Simply because once you have the book-container in the format you want, then you have a digital product you can host anywhere. So you might as well – you won’t know what money you are missing otherwise.
The worst aspect to deal with is the “race to the bottom.” Amazon is infamous at this. They are the only ebook distributor that penalizes you for setting a price higher than $9.99 – they want to commoditize ebooks and so, commoditize authors. Most of the “how to” books on dealing with Amazon work only within these limits. Few tell you to simply take your book to other distributors as well. Or to sell it directly and pocket even higher percentages.
One example was a guy who wrote a very authoritative PDF on Evernote. And he makes a few thousand every month from that single book selling on his own site. Yes, there are a lot of wannabe ebooks on Amazon for 2.99 or 3.99 – his is around $25 and isn’t available except on his site. So is he losing money? Not as much as if he tried to “compete” on Amazon.
This is a research work in progress. I won’t have all the details in for some months from now, due to the complexity of the subject.
In all of the above, the additional choice is to self-host. I’m torn between all of these, actually, since they each have different advantages.
My current approach will be to build my courses on my own site, list them on eLearning Marketplace, and then create additional versions on Udemy and OpenSesame. (But I’m using the Rainmaker Platform.)
If you don’t have an option already for creating a course via your web host, then I’d recommend starting with Teachable or Thinkific to build your course, and then port it as above.
Do watch their preferences. Udemy is a stickler on pricing, but arguably does the most work in pitching their courses to potential students. Note that you won’t put any high-end courses here. Intro courses, with links to your main site where they can find your upper-end sequels would be a logical choice.
Teachable has probably the best backend for enabling you to get started. Thinkific is close behind.
As in books, I’d recommend you create the course once and port it to every marketplace you can.
There are also other options for courses (and for any bundle of digital products) such as pitching them through affiliate sales platforms, which are nothing but marketplaces for affiliate sales people. That is completely a different subject area, and a research project still incomplete. Several of these course platforms have built-in affiliate programs you can take advantage of.
Check them out for yourself as part of your due diligence.
The point of this is to get started building courses and leverage what you have to the next level.
Let’s review a bit. You have these levels of platforms:
paperbacks / hardbacks
Those are in order of logical production, but not necessarily in the order of most leveraged marketing:
While you create your book in LibreOffice (or Word), you’ll port to ebooks first in order to get quick sales.
Creating the PDF will give you paperbacks on CreateSpace and Lulu, hardbacks on Lulu.
Then port your PDF to Scribd if it’s an original work. Lulu will also sell it for you on their marketplace. (And there are other places to sell PDFs, beyond the scope of this article, and the radar of most book sellers.)
Part of your editing is reading it out loud, so it makes sense to create at least a podcast at the same time. Then get the final version professionally recorded, or DIY.
From that audio, you can create a matching presentation. Save this as a PDF or a series of individual images (GIMP will generate images out of those PDF pages.)
Combine the audio and images into MovieMaker (on Windows, or iMovie on MAC, or OpenShot on Linux – there are many other non-linear editors available on all platforms.) Now you have a video.
Create a course outline, probably according to your book chapters, and you can build your course with all these materials. Note that the best experience is where you post all versions of the material available for the student to download according to their own learning preferences.
What is interesting is that you can work this all backwards from the course you want to create.
You begin with the audience, and for that you need to write a sales page, write an ad, and do a course outline. Create the course on whatever platform you’ll be using. Start running the ad and getting opt-ins with emails. Give them access with their purchase, and survey them for just what they want. Then start producing it, modifying your outline and adding lessons as you go.
As you produce your text, audio, slides, and video, you can be producing short-read ebooks which are available for purchase as part of the course materials. Combine these books so that they result in 32 print pages and you have a slim paperback. Combine all these slim volumes and you’ll have a thicker paperback to offer. That paperback can become a deluxe hardback as well.
Meanwhile, your students can give your books reviews and start moving them up the Amazon rankings.
This then gives us an unsuspected way to write and publish books – by teaching. And I don’t know that this couldn’t be adapted for non-fiction. Certainly, all the “cutting room floor” leftovers from creating a book could be used for a fan course. It would be much as the bonus material found on DVD’s, I expect.
Other than some small details, this is the capstone of my research into book publishing. It was as surprising to me as it probably was to you.
Next for me is to actually take these four years of blog posts/podcasts and turn them into a full-fledged course.
Of course, you’ll be invited to pilot it.
Luck to us all.
Until next time…