Writing a Book—What a Waste of Time
The other day I was on a call with my business partner John, scheming about the upcoming launch of his second book.
As an aside I asked him how much revenue he was earning from his first book, “Soft Skills: A Software Developer’s Life Manual.”
I won’t disclose the details here, since that revenue is separate from the rest of the Simple Programmer business.
What I can say is this:
“Soft Skills” is one of the reining champions in the software development and programming categories on Amazon.
The book has sold 10s of thousands of copies, and in the traditional publishing world where most books sell just a few hundred copies, this pretty much qualifies as a home run.
And I’ll add that John’s royalty deal for this book is on the generous end of what traditional publishers typically offer.
Even given those two advantages, John’s YEARLY earnings from this book barely equal a single MONTH of revenue from our regular product sales on Simple Programmer.
If you stopped there, you’d get the impression that writing the book was a colossal waste of time.
That’s not the end of the story though.
As John and I continued to talk, I dug around in our email database to pull up a list of subscribers that we *knew* had purchased the book. (More on this in a minute.)
And I tallied up the amount of revenue those subscribers had generated by purchasing our other products.
What I discovered is that on average a subscriber who had purchased John’s book spent THREE TIMES more with us than a subscriber who just wandered in one day from a lucky Google search.
In fact the total dollar amount they’d spent directly with Simple Programmer was more than the annual revenue from the book itself.
Most authors have no idea about this.
They view their book as the end product, pour their heart and soul into writing it—only to realize that a book or even a series of books makes a pretty lousy business.
The real value in publishing a book is in getting your readers to take the next step: joining your audience.
John was thinking this way when he wrote “Soft Skills.”
Sprinkled throughout the book are links to additional resources that the reader might want to check out.
And when you visit one of those links, the first thing you see is a “splash page” with an offer of a free bonus chapter for “Soft Skills”—in exchange for an optin, natch.
The book has dozens of these hooks that send readers back to the site.
And while most readers will never opt in, the ones who do are our very best customers.
Now admittedly this is easier for non-fiction authors.
There are a million “value-add” offers you can put in a non-fiction book: related resources, “content upgrades” like a spreadsheet tool, video tutorials, and on and on.
Even novelists can use a variation on this technique though.
You could offer a free copy of another book in the series.
Or give away a short story about a mysterious secondary character.
Or leave ooooone crucial “open loop”—a loose end that the reader is dying to see tied into a neat little bow. Write an epilogue that answers that last question, if they’ll go to your site to download it…
Point is, as often as possible you should be nudging your readers further down the rabbit hole.
(to be continued)