Saturday, July 6, 2013

Be Prolific - A Key to Prosperity as a Self-Published Author (Warning Math Involved)

I would love to retire from my "day job" and just write and engage in activities I want to but cannot because of the need to support my family, the time spent doing so and the lack of money to retire.

As a non-fiction author, I am probably not going to make that happen. There simply is not a large enough market for my books. But I can certainly pay for a lot of things I would not be able to  and possibly have a better, and perhaps earlier, retirement than I would otherwise.

Since I view my writing as part of a business, I also view it as a means to maximize my income. Since each of my titles will not sell thousands, but rather hundreds of copies (there have been three exceptions thankfully) how can I maximize my income through writing?

By being prolific. In a variety of formats.

The more books I have available for sale in a variety of formats, the more books I can sell. Of course, this requires effort and more time spent marketing, but it also means more income and the possibility of reaching more readers.

As I type, I have a total of 35 titles available in paperback. I have a total of 14 available as ebooks. Three of those 35 titles account for the majority of my sales. But those other titles, even while only selling one to five copies a month, add up financially.

I have also discovered via corresponding with the individuals who buy my books they don't buy just one, they usually by 7 to 8 total copies. Yes, the three most popular books I have are almost always in the mix of those 7 or 8 books, but the other various titles fill a need or an interest for these readers.

If those books were not available, I would not be earning as much income from the sales of my books.

It would seem my two most valuable marketing tools are my newsletter and those three books. Once I convince someone to buy one of those books, they buy more. They tell others and they buy books.

Following my own advice, I am working on a single new book this summer. The rest of my "writing time" is being spent learning how to use Calibre and the ebook template from Joel Friedlander's Book Design Templates.

My goal is to convert as many of my 35 paper titles to eBooks as I can myself. While I have used eBook Architects in the past and been very happy with their work and pricing, I am not willing to risk the investment in many of the books I am planning to convert myself to eBooks, particularly Kindle books.

I am certain all of my books would earn out their conversion cost. That is not the point. I can't afford to pay for the conversions at this time. I actually need the income from my book sales right now due to an impending wedding, medical bills from reconstructive shoulder surgery and the youngest daughter's travel team gymnastics costs (at least her other sport, distance running, is relatively inexpensive).

So my goals in terms of being prolific this summer include finishing and releasing one new title while converting another 7-10 titles to ebooks myself at no cost other than the ebook template and my time.

Hopefully the additional ebook titles will translate into 1 to 5 sales per title each month. Why invest the time?

Here is the part where I warned about math being involved. If I manage to achieve the minimum of my goal and covert seven titles to ebooks and sell them on KDP for $2.99 each, I will earn roughly $14.99 per month if I only sell one copy of each title. If I average selling three copies for all seven titles at $2.99 I will earn roughly $45 a month. Multiple that times 12 months and you have $540 a year.

Not exactly an amount of money to brag about. But that is $540 I would not have earned if I had not "been prolific" in the number of ebook titles as well as paperback titles I have available.

Keep in mind most of my readers buy more than one of my books after they buy the first one. My average customer buys 7-8 copies of my titles. By making my titles available in as many different formats as possible I increase the chances of reaching more readers and selling more copies.

More math. My books sell seasonally. Four months out of the year my sales have a huge spike. Titles that sell 2-5 copies a month for eight months out of the year will sell 25-80 copies in a month.  Let's take those same seven titles now.  

On average those seven titles will earn $360 for 8 months of the year. Even if those seven titles sell an average of just 25 copies each per month for the other 4 months of the year, at a price of $2.99 I will earn roughly $1450. Add $360 to that amount and I will have earned roughly $1800 for the year.

All for books I have already written, had edited and are in print.

Will I earn that much money as a result of my efforts this summer? I have no idea. But if I don't make the effort to produce a "prolific" number of ebooks from books I already have in print, I have no chance to earn that money.