5 Ways to Make More Money from your Books in 2017

Author and entrepreneur Joanna Penn gives authors a January pep talk on extracting the max from their published works

It’s an incredible time to be an author. We can now reach readers all over the world and make a diverse income with our words through the internet.

However, as The Guardian reported in October 2016, and ALCS in 2014, most authors do not even make a living wage from their creativity. Here’s how you can change that in the year ahead by taking control of your intellectual property rights.

1. Take an inventory of your books

You have to know your baseline before you can start expanding. Write down a list of all the properties you have created over the years, including books, articles, short stories, essays and any anthology submissions. Which rights have you licensed for each and which do you retain control of? You might need to dig out old contracts or find out from your agent or publisher. As long as you didn’t sign away World English in all formats and all languages, then you can still publish your books in all kinds of other ways.

2. Publish an ebook version

Data released at Digital Book World in January 2017 shows that 45% of all books purchased in the US are digital, and adult fiction sales are now 70% digital. Where the US leads, other markets usually follow, so you’re missing out on a lot of revenue now and in the future if your book is not available in ebook format.

You might need to dig out old contracts or find out from your agent or publisher.

If your publisher has not produced your book as an ebook, then follow up with them and ask for your rights back. If your book was published over ten years ago, it’s possible that you did not even license ebook rights anyway so you can publish them yourself immediately. For example, J.K. Rowling did not license her ebook rights and publishes Harry Potter through her own company, Pottermore.

If you have articles, essays or short stories, you can combine them into a collection. Length is not an issue with ebooks as long as the price is representative of the value to the reader. In fact, novellas are enjoying a renaissance with digital because spine size in a physical bookstore no longer matters.

3. Publish an audiobook version

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry  because of the increase in people listening on smartphones and while driving. The Amazon Echo, integrating the Alexa intelligent personal assistant, sold millions over Christmas 2016. One of the most popular ‘skills’ is playing audio, meaning the potential audience for audiobooks just grew even bigger.

If you own the audiobook rights to your book, or you can get them back from your publisher, then you can use ACX.com  to post your project, hire a professional narrator and work with them to produce a quality audiobook and sell it on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.

If your publisher has not produced your book as an ebook, then follow up with them and ask for your rights back.

4. Make your book available in all territories

Are your books available in 190 countries? Even if you licensed World English rights for all formats, it’s unlikely your book is actually available everywhere, because most publishers don’t see the benefit of selling so widely.

But if you publish independently through Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life  and iTunes Connect for iBooks, or use a distributor like Draft2Digital, then you can make your book available in 190 countries as an ebook. You can also reach many of these territories with print-on-demand through Createspace and Ingram Spark. When a customer orders a print version of your book, a single copy is printed and sent to them and you receive the profit. There is no warehousing, no shipping on your part. Just a happy reader with a new print book.

As of December 2016, I have sold English-language books in 83 countries as an independent author, with my book sales income split as follows: 46% USA, 22% UK, 20% Canada, 11% Rest of the World. With companies like Google and Facebook aiming for global internet penetration by 2020, more and more people will be shopping for ebooks on mobile devices. Are your books available to this growing global market?

5. Turn your books into other products

…a book is always new to the reader who has just discovered you.

Here are just a few ideas:

A. Make an ebook box set of multiple books appealing to the same type of reader.

Over 50% of my book sales revenue from iBooks and Kobo in 2016 came from the sale of box sets. In an era of binge consumption driven by TV ‘box sets’ on Netflix and Amazon Prime, readers increasingly want a series they can sink into for a longer period and they are happy to pay for it. You can also combine older books in a series to attract new readers. For example, in August 2016, I hit the USA Today bestseller list with a box set of my first three thrillers, first published in 2011. After all, a book is always new to the reader who has just discovered you.

B. Turn a non-fiction book into a workbook or journal.

If you’ve written a book that gives the reader an opportunity to consider questions, then why not do a workbook which leaves space for them to write inside the book?

C. Turn your book into a multimedia course.

Writers have always used teaching as a way to make a living alongside writing. Now you can reach people all over the world with services like Teachable that enable you to easily create and sell courses on the internet.

These are just a few of the ways that you can turn your ideas and intellectual property assets into multiple streams of income in 2017. All you have to do is take control. So what are you waiting for?

Joanna Penn  is a New York Times  and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers under J.F.Penn. She’s an award-winning entrepreneur who also writes non-fiction, including How to Make a Living with your Writing, listed as one of INC magazine’s Top 100 business books 2015.

For more information on global publishing and making money from your books, get your free Author Blueprint at TheCreativePenn.com/blueprint