Building A Sustainable Writing Career: How To Develop Multiple Income Streams

Let’s admit it: we are all very reliant on Amazon. Now, this isn’t a dig; there are lots of valid reasons why Amazon tends to be favored by indies.

Aside from having the most intuitive, powerful digital self-publishing platform and the majority of the market, Amazon is considered the most “indie friendly” of the retailers.

I don’t mean Amazon necessarily goes out of its way to do us favors, but at least they don’t actively sabotage our visibility like Barnes & Noble and Apple.

When you add all of that to relative ease of marketing to Kindle users compared to other e-reader owners, it’s easy to see why Amazon can be responsible for 80% to 90% of a typical indie’s sales, rather than the 60% or so of the market they are estimated to hold.

However, it should be clear why this situation isn’t healthy. If you sell all your widgets to one client, they get to dictate terms. And when everyone is making widgets, you have no power at all.

Relying exclusively on one retailer or one market leaves you particularly susceptible to outside shocks. But, if you spread the risk, if you develop multiple income streams, you can insulate yourself.

Then, when Amazon holds a Big 6 sale, or a storm knocks out power for 5 million homes on the East Coast, it will only put a dent in your sales, rather than grind them to a halt.

Looking longer term, Amazon might be paying golden royalties now, but that may not be the case forever. Spreading the love will leave you less exposed.

But how do you go about that?

The Magic Bakery

The first step is take all your content, upload it everywhere you can, and sell it in as many ways as you can. Dean Wesley Smith has a nice analogy called The Magic Bakery, which is worth reading in full, and will start you thinking the right way. (In fact that whole series, Killing The Sacred Cows Of Publishing is essential reading).

Seriously, go read Dean’s post. When you’re done, come back. Just remember that putting the books up for sale on the other retailers isn’t enough. You need to promote those listings too.

If you think your Nook sales, for example, aren’t worth the bother, ask yourself honestly, what are you doing to promote yourself to Nook owners?

Foreign Markets

What about foreign markets? I don’t just mean having your books on Amazon UK and Amazon Germany (that should be a given). What are you doing to sell them?

Germany might be tricky, but there are a number of venues where you can promote your work direct to UK readers. The KU Forum is a good place to start.

(As usual, don’t just barge in and plaster buy-me links everywhere. Respect the rules, take the time to get to know the readers on the site, and you will reap the rewards. Doing otherwise is a waste of your time, and annoying for the forum regulars.)

But this is only the beginning. The Spanish Kindle Store will be open before the year is out. Deals have been struck to sell thousands of e-books from the top Italian publishers on Amazon, indicating an Italian Store is on the way. And there were lots of rumors flying around yesterday that the French Kindle Store will open next month.

Your books should be listed there automatically, but to really exploit the potential of foreign markets you will need your work translated. Foreign publishers are one option, but not without their downsides. And anyway, only a limited amount of self-publishers will be approached.

Those of a more pro-active, entrepreneurial bent, may consider something along the lines of what Scott Nicholson outlined on Monday: working with translators on a profit-sharing basis, rather than paying up-front fees.

I will return to this issue again in a future blog post, discussing all the pros and cons of going with a foreign publisher, the ins and outs of hiring a translator, and more detail on the profit-sharing model, but you should start considering this.

Selling Direct

We have covered the issue of selling e-books directly from your website before. While it may not be viable for some writers due to local laws/regulations, for most, you should be thinking about this already.

By selling your own work through your own website, you are not beholden to any corporation. If Amazon changes its policies, algorithms, or royalty rates, that can have a dramatic effect on your income. Same goes for the other retailers.

If you can develop some percentage of your revenue coming directly from readers through your own site, at least some of your income is safe from such changes.

But there are other benefits too: collecting readers’ emails, offering deals, bundled content, selling other formats such as PDFs, or even some form of subscription deal if you have enough backlist.

It can cost you nothing too (other than minor PayPal transaction fees); there are plenty of free, professional-looking solutions out there. If you want to get fancy, only a minor outlay is required.

Collecting readers’ emails should be a priority, right from the start of your publishing journey. I have an occasional newsletter which I use to announce new releases; this has really helped my books climb the charts on day one, giving me instant visibility and reviews (and you have a note in the back of your books requesting those, right?).

I use MailChimp; it’s powerful, the newsletters look great, and it costs nothing. I have an automatic sign-up right here on the blog (with a visible link both at the top and on the right-hand side). You should do the same. I will return to the subject of newsletters and selling direct in a future blog post.

Collaborations

Writing partnerships have been storming the UK charts, and successful self-publishers such as Joe Konrath have long seen the value in putting two names on the cover and doubling both writers’ potential audiences.

If that’s not for you, cross-pollination can occur on a simpler level, through things like blurb-trading, anthologies, and guest posting.

But there are innumerable ways that writers can collaborate, expanding their reach and spreading their message beyond their own audience. Collaborative blogs like Wicked & Tricksy and The Writer’s Guide To E-Publishing are just one possibility.

Networking through forums such as Kindle Boards, and Facebook groups such as Indie Writer’s Unite can lead to all sorts of opportunities, and if you are not active in some form of online self-publisher or writer community, you are missing out.

Traditional Markets

If you are a short story writer, you shouldn’t dismiss traditional markets, which are in reasonable health, especially those that are breaking new ground with online and e-book editions of their magazines.

In fact, you could easily set up a system where you submitted a story to a magazine or anthology, explored any traditional reprint sales when the rights reverted, then self-published them. This could maximize your return from each story.

You may not want to do it with all of your stories, but you should at least consider it for some. Magazines have their own built-in readership, and engaging their audience should expand your own.

I have a story now in a hardback anthology (for which I got paid, and will receive a share of the royalties). That book will reach readers I never could and I’ve since self-published the story.

Stop Aiming For Home Runs

When I was reading Scott Nicholson’s excellent book The Indie Journey: Secrets To Writing Success, he said that his aim is to sell 10 books a day each of 10 titles rather than 100 a day of one book.

That, to me, is doable, whereas aiming to sell 100 a day of one title is more like hoping for your lucky numbers to come up. You might hit that now and then, with a new release or some fortuitous promo (like getting featured on KND or Pixel of Ink), but we are looking to build something sustainable here, which requires being realistic.

Instead of spending all your time squeezing every last sale out of one title, you should be focusing on getting more books up. Spread the load. That way, if one has a dip, it doesn’t drag your numbers down disproportionately.

Even better, aim for a mix of stuff: novels, shorts, novellas, different genres. If you are a romance writer and 300 Barbara Cartland backlist books get uploaded at the same time, your sales could be on life support.

But if you have an erotic short, a YA novella, and a romantic suspense novel you wrote for fun, you will have other titles in other genres to keep you going until the storm passes.

Building A Sustainable Business

These are just some of the ways that you can decrease your reliance on one retailer and one market. But the only real limit here is your imagination.

Authors are trying new things all the time (I think Dean Wesley Smith’s e-book as gift card idea is a particularly good one). Keep your ear to the ground. Open your mind to new ideas. Don’t be afraid to experiment – especially when it costs you nothing but time.

As with any endeavor, don’t rush into anything without a plan. If you don’t have clear goals, you have no way of measuring if you are using your most valuable resource correctly: your time.

Time spent on anything like this is time spent away from writing. But, if you are hitting your writing targets, you should devote some of your energy to making your business more sustainable.

Doing that will insulate yourself from external shocks by spreading the revenue-earning load around.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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55 Responses to Building A Sustainable Writing Career: How To Develop Multiple Income Streams

  1. William King says:

    Another great post, Dave and I agree with every word of it. I really do think that the best thing a writer can do for their career is write the next book. In trad publishing there’s nothing boosts the sales of backlist like it and I am starting to see the same effects with my indie books. Ten sales from ten titles is a great goal too. It definitely puts a lot more under your control than one hundred sales from one title. And on which note, I shall head off back to writing and formatting!

    All the best,

    Bill

  2. Great post, David.

    It is the ability of the indie author to respond and adapt to changing conditions that sets us apart from those locked, by contract or lack of foresight, into the old system, and for now gives us a distinct advantage.

    But we have to be proactive and constantly looking for new ways to broaden our business base. Scott Nicholson and Dean Wesley Smith are fine examples.

    For our part, one of our new ventures is a cloud-based digital micro-press helping new authors get off the ground, and helping up-and-running authors broaden their exposure.

    One of the biggest problems for indie authors seems to be crossing the pond. Authors doing well on one side seem to get nowhere on the other. Our new initiative allows non-UK authors to let us take over their UK listings and sell *their* books *here*, using our proven experience of the UK market, our existing and future customer base, and our widespread social media platforms.

    It costs nothing upfront to the overseas author, and they stand to see their current miniscule sales a week / month gradually pick up as they benefit from our local knowledge and the cloud-selling base we are putting in place.

    In similar vein we are looking for authors with short stories to contribute to a series of genre-themed anthologies, making the short story pay and increasing name-recognition for the contributing authors.

    Finally, a warning on Paypal. Paypal have draconian small print which allows them to close any account that breaks their very vague “acceptable use” policies. There is NO right to appeal against a Paypal account closure. ALL funds in that acount will be held for 180 days. Acceptable use breaches include violating their “mature audience” policy. Writers of erotica beware.

  3. James says:

    David,
    I’m not as savvy about the publishing world as I am about other areas, but the more I learn from the “names” the more uneasy I get about their advice. The “multiple passive income streams” philosophy is lifted directly from multi-level marketing schemes; and MLM famously benefits only a few, and those few are at the top. Yes, even in the Internet age, and even the hucksters who claim bottomless riches existed for those willing to game Google and ads (they don’t).

    In the writing business, that MLM success translates to “people who have an extensive backlist and name recognition from traditional publishing”. Coincidentally, those same few are pushing “how to” books on their schemes, holding themselves up as proof. Concidentally, they’ve either got many, many years of exposure, or have had a short-term success they can’t reliably explain.

    Just like multi-level marketers do. It’s profoundly seductive, especially to people who must write.

    I’ve read Dean Smith’s website through and through. His “system” is flawed, if for no other reason than it uses magical math that assumes consistent economies. And calling fiction genres “markets” smells like magical thinking.

    And, I’m already exhausted by the repeated trotting out of the same handful of people (Hocking, Smith, Konrath, Locke, etc.) as proof of a working marketing system–all of who (except one) are selling “how to” ebooks on the topic.

    Or, to put it in a sentence: show me the money. I am writing a lot, and that’s the only reliable advice any writer should give another. Write if you want to and must, but don’t write with the presumption that there’s a reliable system for making it a sustainable income (the key word here is sustainable). If the advice they give is reliable, and their story typical, wouldn’t most hard-working writers be Konrath in a few years? If not, why are we using them as an example, if not for reasons of wishful thinking?

    • James,

      I think you may have missed the whole thrust of the piece – which may be my fault, maybe I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.

      My aim is to make a living out of this; that means looking to build a sustainable career. I don’t use Hocking, Konrath, or Locke as “models”, I learn what I can from them and see how I can apply it to my own journey – which is what every writer should do.

      Part of the post focused on writers who are always looking for home runs – indirectly aiming at those who just seek to slavishly copy a bestseller’s system, thinking it will just work out like that for them. I’m not just saying that’s wrong, I’m saying that whole approach is wrong. Like Scott Nicholson said, it’s far better to aim for 10 books selling 10 each a day than for one bestseller. Presuming they are priced at $2.99, that’s a $200 income. Now, I’m not saying that is achievable or even possible for every writer. What I am saying is that it’s a far better aim than seeking to have a book in the Top 100.

      The first step in that aim is to write lots, and I think I have emphasized the importance of that both in this post, and repeatedly in others.

      Aside from that, the general thrust of the piece was that writers shouldn’t depend on just one source for their income: Amazon US. That’s not a healthy position to be in. They should upload their content to all the major sites, and promote it (the bit most leave out when it comes to the other sales channels). I’m not saying I have the answers, or that I am doing it particularly well myself, but I’m pretty sure it’s the right approach.

      But an astute business owner doesn’t just look at where the market is now, they also look at where it is going to be. I think foreign sales could form a significant portion of an indie writer’s income, if they can find an efficient way to get good translations. The markets are very small now, but they should grow rapidly, and there could be great opportunity to those who stake an early claim.

      Collaboration is just about expanding your audience within the original market. All writers will see sales dry up eventually for their titles unless they keep breaking new ground in terms of reaching new readers. There are innumerable ways to do that: guest blogging, contributing to magazines, cross-promotion, writing partnerships, blurb-trading – the list is endless. It’s no surprise to me that some of the most successful self-publishers are the ones who are working all those angles.

      I don’t really get the MLM analogy, to be honest.

      No-one here is saying “If you do X you will have a million sales in 5 months.” What I am doing is outlining some potential strategies so that writers aren’t dependent on just one source for their income. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth after Amazon ran 2 huge Big 6 sales during the summer. I’m convinced that things like this will become more common. The marketplace is getting more competitive. I think its prudent both to seek out new markets, and redouble your efforts to expand your audience in existing ones through creative approaches.

      Dave

      • James says:

        “My aim is to make a living out of this; that means looking to build a sustainable career. I don’t use Hocking, Konrath, or Locke as “models”, I learn what I can from them and see how I can apply it to my own journey – which is what every writer should do.”

        David, I’m not sure I get the semantic difference between “models” and “examples” here.

        “Like Scott Nicholson said, it’s far better to aim for 10 books selling 10 each a day than for one bestseller.”

        Can you prove why it’s better? What’s tripping me up here is: there’s actually no proof whatsoever that that’s true. It *sounds* like it *would* be true, but I’m not seeing it. can somebody point me towards information that shows a significant comparison of results of those two scenarios in the real world, and shows that one performs better?

        “Aside from that, the general thrust of the piece was that writers shouldn’t depend on just one source for their income: Amazon US.”

        I agree with that.

        “But an astute business owner doesn’t just look at where the market is now, they also look at where it is going to be.”

        Yes. But translating that to writing and promoting fiction reminds me of the writing and promoting of music. I recommend that every writer seeking to self-publish study the history of indie music publishing, because it trods the same path as self-publishing of books seemes headed. Several years after the advent of indie music, independents found that it’s much harder to self-promote than have pros do it on a budget; that reaching an audience happens in wildly unpredictable ways, and is never logical (even in the age of social networking), and that the “traditional” music publishing world is still where nearly every successful bands ends up.

        I’m enthusiastically for self-publishing, but I really think there’s a enormous amount of magical thinking about the true possibilities, sustainable income-wise, of making a living fiction writing.

        “The markets are very small now, but they should grow rapidly, and there could be great opportunity to those who stake an early claim.”

        There have been foreign markets for decades. Aren’t you really just talking about Amazon here?

        “All writers will see sales dry up eventually for their titles unless they keep breaking new ground in terms of reaching new readers.”

        I don’t discount the power of social networking, I’d like to see some real, hard, significant data on the number of readers making purchases based on Twitter feeds and Facebook mentions. I haven’t found any. What I have found is a lot of noise and almost no signal.

        “There are innumerable ways to do that: guest blogging, contributing to magazines, cross-promotion, writing partnerships, blurb-trading – the list is endless. It’s no surprise to me that some of the most successful self-publishers are the ones who are working all those angles.”

        Yet one of the most stellar examples did very little of any of that before her first million sales–Amanda Hocking. Konrath explains that he doesn’t do a lot of that–and his blog isn’t for readers, it’s mainly for writers. Other than Locke, can you name a half-dozen of the “most successful self-publishers” who are working all those angles? And by successful, I mean really successful.

        “No-one here is saying “If you do X you will have a million sales in 5 months.” ”

        But your primary example–Dean Wesley Smith–does exactly that, more or less. he makes specific claims about likely sales, their range, the expected sales benefit of x number of titles, and so on. Locke does a similar thing.

        “There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth after Amazon ran 2 huge Big 6 sales during the summer. I’m convinced that things like this will become more common. ”

        Me too. I predict worse–that Amazon won’t be the self-publishing life support system it is now in the next several years. A lot of folks who are making career decisions based on the existence of Amazon (and there are many) are going to be disappointed. I will be too.

      • Rather than go point-by-point, I think I know the source of the confusion here.

        Dean Wesley Smith is not being held up by me as the model example for all indie writers. That’s not what I was saying. I linked to Dean’s post to share The Magic Bakery analogy – that’s it. I think you interpreted that as me saying that’s the exact model to follow. That’s not what I meant, and apologies for the confusion. I was specifically and exclusively referring to the Magic Bakery.

        Each writer has to follow their own path.

    • James, my advice is to do the opposite of advice. That’s why MY guide is philosophical and doesn’t promise to make you rich or sell a million copies, because you probably won’t. But this isn’t about my guide–I genuinely don’t care whether anyone buys it or not. I was going to give it away for free but I decided people would find it worthless (it’s odd, but we tend to pay more attention to the “advice” we pay for.) I even grant the right to share the book if the next person doesn’t have the money to buy it. I really don’t worry about it. Because my advice is to LOOK TO YOURSELF for the truth. Because you’re the only one who knows.

      And, I don’t believe any writer has stumbled onto a surefire marketing method. To me, it looks amazingly like luck and good timing (another form of luck) with a little bit of talent (yet another form of luck.) Luck, luck, luck, with a little effort to start.

      I don’t care how my buddy Konrath did it. I don’t care how anyone did it, or how I even did it myself, because what worked once won’t work again. Anyone who wants a sustainable career should be dealing arms or drugs or politics, not creative work. There is no career, there is no stability, there is no future. It’s a word at a time.

      Good luck and best wishes for wild success!

      • It’s amazing how hard work and good timing and some luck can be a potent combination. But as we both know you don’t get *any* of the luck without at least getting out there and trying to make things happen for yourself. Almost no one is handed a successful writing career, most successful authors had to work like crazy to make it happen.

      • James says:

        “James, my advice is to do the opposite of advice.”

        Wait–does that mean I *should* buy your book? :]

    • Werner says:

      James, I agree with David, I don’t see a clear correlation to what is written in the article and MLM. I was involved in MLM’s in the 90’s, and this is not a case where one person recruits hundreds to sell product for one company and only the initial recruiter makes any real money.

      You are right that in order to sell books, you need to write them, but nobody will know they’re for sale if they aren’t properly marketed. There a series of articles about Book Marketing for Beginners over at The Book Designer’s site.
      http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/09/basics-of-book-marketing-for-the-beginning-self-publisher-part-1/

      • James says:

        “this is not a case where one person recruits hundreds to sell product for one company and only the initial recruiter makes any real money. ”

        The “recruiting” part is the author who’s selling an e-book on how to sell e-books, and claiming that there’s a systematic way to make a living writing fiction (they’re nearly all fiction writers, coincidentally).

        As for Joel’s site: I like it, but Joel’s claims about what makes a successful book are no more certain than anybody else’s.

      • We are selling products based on a disruptive technology in a market that is rapidly changing as it expands at lightning speed. What is true today could be false tomorrow. Nobody can speak accurately of the future. All someone can say is “this is working for me right now”. And they may not even be right – there are so many variables to anyone’s success that anyone who says they can speak with absolutely surety about anything is surely false.

        What are we to do? Throw our hands in the air and just admit defeat? A lot of this is running on gut instincts, vague understandings. And anyway, what might work for me could be really bad advice for you. All people can do is lay it all out there, and people can cherry pick the things they think might work for them. One of the huge advantages we have is that most self-publishers seem to be quite open about sharing what works for them and what doesn’t.

        But a lot of time we are all just guessing. It’s up to each individual to decide whether they are educated guesses or wild shots in the dark. Choose your flavor.

      • Werner says:

        “As for Joel’s site: I like it, but Joel’s claims about what makes a successful book are no more certain than anybody else’s.”

        James, other than taxes and death, what other certainties are there in life? There are no absolutes when going into a new business. You get out of it, what you put into it. People spend the time gathering the right information and resources, but at some point they have to make the leap and just do it. It’s scary as hell, yes, but worth it.

  4. JM says:

    I was tech blogging long before I ever started self-publishing, and I quickly realized that having one post that gets a hundred hits a day is nice, but it’s much better to have a hundred posts that get five hits a day.

  5. KR Jacobsen says:

    Great post, David, and timely for me. Even though I’m spending 95% (or more) of my author time editing right now, I’ve been thinking that I ought to do spend a touch more building a better framework for the future.

    Some of that, framework of course, is reliant upon getting other things out (“10×10”), but others like a simple note about the email list and diversifying my KB time are doable now and great suggestions.

    Cheers!

  6. Amazon announced 11,000 libraries will have Kindle books, starting today. Who knows what this means for sales? Nobody has announced that part of it yet.

    • I saw that – fascinating – and just the beginning. I really need to know more details though – a lot will depend on the deal struck in terms of how it’s going to work in practical terms. But my first thoughts are all positive, for sure.

      • William King says:

        This is really interesting news. In the UK there used to be a whole bunch of publishers who catered only to the library market, Robert Hale springs to mind. Libraries used to provide a guaranteed market for a few thousand hardback sales. If something similar happened to ebooks it might provide a baseline level of sales for some writers. I am curious to see how this plays out.

    • James says:

      Libraries in my area have had e-books for eight years. Public library use in my area is officially the highest in the nation. So far, e-book check out has grown very, very slowly. I asked a librarian directly, and she said that most patrons (especially children, one of their largest demographics) expressed no interest in them.
      I’m curious about this though, so I’ve been following it.

  7. Werner says:

    Excellent and timely article David. Thanks to your article on Monday, we’ve begun translating an ebook into Spanish for a well-known author. We’re hoping to do many more and experience a true win-win relationship.

  8. Lots of good stuff, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I also highly recommend MailChimp for your mailing lists. They’re great people, the system is easy to use, and I’m pretty sure they even have a “free” option until your list reaches are certain size… It’s the best mailing list program/service/site I’ve used and I’ve been running lists since 1994.

  9. josephine wade says:

    Great post Dave. This will be one I’ll come back to.
    Thanks for the ideas.

  10. James says:

    “A lot of this is running on gut instincts, vague understandings. ”

    Not according to Joe Konrath. and John Locke. I agree with you, David, and I don’t think throwing up hands is an option for committed writers. But I do think that many writers are desperately searching for marketing methods that will make them successful, so they’re very uncomfortable hearing the most popular advice critiqued. Time after time, I’m seeing writers writing and commenting publicly about how important this strategy or that strategy is–but they’re not basing their statments on experience or data, they’re basing it on wishful thinking, and hoping that what Konrath or Locke says is true.

  11. Good post. First I’ve heard about the French version of Amazon. I guess they’ll be churning out a new foreign site every few months now…

  12. It’ll be a sad day if Amazon corners the market and starts dictating terms for writers ala big 6, and we end up right back to where we started. Don’t think it can happen? Already Amazon kindle boards limit where self publishers can promote their work. We’re better off trying every avenue available. There’s a small site called Indie book Lounge. Go everywhere and try them all.
    http://www.indiebooklounge.com/

    • Werner says:

      I agree with you completely Christopher. The monopolization of Amazon will lead to them dictating to writers as much as the Big 6 did for decades. Helping other quality venues to become competitive is the best way to avoid Amazon being the Big 1.

  13. Great post! Don’t put all yer eggs in one basket or something along those lines. To avoid the great freak out expand to other places in the world…internet….universe.🙂

  14. –James wrote: “Libraries in my area have had e-books for eight years. Public library use in my area is officially the highest in the nation. So far, e-book check out has grown very, very slowly. I asked a librarian directly, and she said that most patrons (especially children, one of their largest demographics) expressed no interest in them.”

    I’m in the UK and live in the rural north, ie miles outside of the capital. The Amazon Kindle Store has been live here since Aug 2010, the Kindle available to purchase since the September. Ebook borrowing via our county library systems is either still in test or not even on the agenda. When I see someone with a Kindle it is still such a kick that I go over to speak to them to see what they are reading and, more important, to ask if they now read more than they did (a unanimous ‘yes’ so far).

    In July this year I was down in London, and going round an exhibition in the British Museum I was following a mother pushing a large toddler in pushchair (stroller). Not a sound from the toddler. Why? Because said child had an I-Pad strapped across the pushchair and he/she was immersed in a picturebook game where it touched characters and things happened. I am writing for that child as much as I am writing for its parent. *This* is the long tail ebook marketing talks about.

    • James says:

      “I am writing for that child as much as I am writing for its parent. *This* is the long tail ebook marketing talks about.”

      Yes, and I’ve written about that myself on my own blog. I’ve tried to explain to writers that the iPad/tablet device is the mobile future, not the Kindle, and that tablets are invading all levels of education (K-12 and higher ed here in the States). Everything from textbooks to e-learning.

      My anecdote was about the library system, though, and library patrons and configuration (at least here in the US) aren’t automatically analagous to the latest tech trends. Also (again, here in our area) libraries are far more than just “places to get books” or e-books. They’re gathering places for people and children, and hold events, readings, etc. Physical books are wildly popular there, and becoming more so, especially for children.

      What’s stunned me is an almost hostile response (not from you, but others) when I discuss printed book usage or trends. There’s almost a religious-like response, as if I’m threatening the viability of the e-book. Far from it–I’m likely more tech-immersed than the average person, and carry an iPad, iPhone, and use other devices daily.

      • Werner says:

        “I’ve tried to explain to writers that the iPad/tablet device is the mobile future, ”

        James, with this I do agree. You also have a cool blog btw.

  15. All good points to ponder here. I’m not sure I can take it all in today. I “get” the idea of not relying strictly on Amazon for sales. I “get” that their little tweaks this summer (also bought’s, separate Kindle best seller lists, the flipping Sunshine deal) affect Indie book sales, plus and/or minus. However, as I’ve said before, here or somewhere, Amazon does more for me from a marketing perspective than all the others combined. With my author page, I have links to my web site/blog, Twitter, and Amazon garners more reviews from readers. I would estimate 95% of my sales come from there.

    Barnes and Noble? Ugh. They marginalized Indies months ago; right? My books used to be compared with traditionally published best-sellers now there’s one or two suggestions of an indie’s book with subject matter that has no relation to mine.

    I have ZERO control at Apple iBooks because I have no visibility beyond my iPhone unless I want to buy a Mac computer to upload the books myself. The whole process with Apple is absurd. So, I use Smashwords to get there (Apple) and to Sony, but IMHO, the Smashwords website is abysmal. I try not to send anyone there if I can help it.

    I agree that us mere mortals need to be careful in terms of following or taking the advice of the Hocking’s, Locke’s, Konrath’s, and even Dean Wesley Smith’s of the world. In Hocking and Locke’s stories, the e-publishing world has changed yet again, since their trajectory rise (in a matter of months, weeks maybe). And, in the case of the Konrath’s, Eisler’s, Wesley Smith’s et al…, a traditionally published authors going Indie have different experiences, just because their readers know who they are and just follow them there.

    I am unknown as a writer with a handful of readers who have found and read my work. I’m doing okay, not great. But I have hopes of a breakout with my work at some point, but I view it with this simplicity:

    “Luck and timing~elusive things, like butterflies.” ~Katherine Owen

    Thanks for the post, Dave, much to think about…

  16. “You get out of it, what you put into it”

    Werner, that’s actually one of the best pieces of advice I’d give a self pubber. I’m not commenting because I think there’s too little certainty–I’m commenting because I see advice being given all over that has little to back it up–and that advice is being given by people selling the advice. I’m not talking about David here.

  17. karincox says:

    Still smashing them out of the park I see, Dave. Another great post! Thank you.

  18. Using Paypal to sell directly is certainly an attractive option. However, to get the eBook right after a user pays for it is technically complex for the standard self-publisher (PHP script, API knowledge, etc.) Hopefully the folks at Paypal will make setting up the sale of digital goods easier in the future.

    • Werner says:

      There’s always Clickbank for that

    • James says:

      eBay owns PayPal, and from all reports and signs, eBay wants PayPal to generate *more* income. I expect PayPal to get more costly and less friendly to small operators, just like eBay. I only use it for small exchanges–it’s a poor choice to run a business through, unless you’ve got a very, very large business (selling a million e-books is not large enough) so you can negotiate terms.

      Werner’s Clickbank idea is a useful one to check out.

  19. Pingback: In a way I’m… relieved? « Kat's Blog

  20. Tonya Kappes says:

    Thanks for the WG2E shout out, David! Thank you so much for putting all this out there in one post! I’m always looking for ways NOT to rely on Amazon because I do wonder WHEN they are going to cut those royalties. I LOVE Amazon, but I did read Dean’s books before I self-published my first novel, Carpe Bead ’em, and I formatted and uploaded my book where ever ebooks could be sold. I’m now looking into translations and learning so much.

    I’ve never thought about using Paypal, but that definitely something I’m going to look into.

  21. Dave:
    This thread is compelling enough to make me put aside my writing this morning, comment with a short note, think about it for some days, and return. I am an older writer, lived a long and exciting life, and figure I have to live actively to 108 to make sense of it. What writers are doing now, so exciting and disorienting, is entering a chaotic world. Jobs, Wozniak and Gates with colleagues changed the world we knew. Most do not quite understand how the magical (and cheap) microchip brought about the collapse (factually with a touch of metaphor) of the Soviet Union and then onto to corrode other hierarchical societies (i.e. IBM, etc). Now the Big Six. The publishing industry and authors are confronting problems which American officers confronted, and now and then solving, in the 1980s, feeling our way forward on a very dark landscape. We talked though, and wrote a lot.

    Last week, per you, I made arrangement to have my novels translated into Russian (now how in the hell is that going to work?) Next week I am having lunch with a dear Italian friend who normally translated Italian to English, but eh.
    The magic bullet is the microchip. There it is. Figure out how to use it. Yakking about it works quite well.

  22. ddscott says:

    Great post, David!

    And thanks sooo very much for The WG2E shout-out!

    It is all about extending your brand and increasing your visibility.

    My goal is to build my online “real estate” to include as many “property locations” as possible.

    To break that down into daily doable tasks, each day I find 5 new sites, people, and/or communities with which to share everything D. D. Scott.

    And it’s NOT about buy-my-books. LOL! It’s about connecting with people – genuine connections. Getting to know each other and paying it forward anyway you can.

  23. Lindsay B says:

    Great post, David. I used to make most of my income from Google Adsense, and you definitely feel vulnerable, no matter how well you’re doing, when your livelihood is dependent on one source of income.

    One of my projects for 2012 will be to set up an e-store on my site, so I can sell my books directly from there. So many projects…😉

  24. Joan Reeves says:

    Great post! I’ve been thinking about setting up a subscription newsletter on my blog, and you propelled me into taking action. I did use Mail Chimp and am pleased with the results so far. In fact, that made me start thinking about a few other things so have a couple of projects on the drawing board now.

  25. Ryan Chin says:

    “But the only real limit here is your imagination.”
    You said it.
    Let’s not forget hitting the streets and your ‘hood’ the old fashioned way. A few books on consignment at dozens of coffee shops, pet stores, my dog’s vet ((pet people are part of my audience), my chiropractor’s waiting room, and a few local book store can start the reaction. We can spread the “Word” one real conversation at a time. We can be social without Social Media. 🙂

    Keep it coming Dave.

  26. Pingback: The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself Before You Publish – Anne R. Allen « mark williams international

  27. Neil says:

    David,

    You point out, with good reason, the new Amazon stores upcoming in Spain, Italy, and France. Long term, I think the most important new store, in particular for English writing authors, will be India! 🙂 Sometime (probably late) 2012. 😉

    I do not get why Barnes and Noble has become anti-Indie. Apple? They’ve always been warm and fuzzy… with big content providers. 😦 So here is the deal… Amazon cannot suddenly change their terms unless B&N, Apple, Google, Sony, and Kobo all exit the field. If they do, I suspect authors will ‘window’ their works starting with the most Indie-friendly distributors.

    It is already happening. Right now, a large fraction of Indie authors first release on Amazon. They then work on the formatting for the other venues. Why wouldn’t they? Amazon is the big Indie selling place so Authors work on bringing in the income as quickly as they can. If/When Amazon is no longer the best source of ebook income, than we will see a natural window to launch first on the most profitable site.

    The risk is Amazon will win. Yahoo is almost out of search as their results are too corporate (paid) to be of value. Google won search based on good search (not paid search). But the day Amazon pays less than Google… expect Google ebook sales to do far better. This is the same reason BING is struggling to compete in search. It isn’t focused on delivering the best search. The day Amazon gets too greedy will be the day it looses ebooks.

    And ebooks are but the gateway into the Amazon ecosystem. They won’t be the big business for Amazon in a decade. Heck, considering how much Amazon dominates the online young family market,(diapers, clothes, etc.) it might not be today!

    I love ‘game theory.’ I simply do not find a scenario advantageous to Amazon to squeeze out Indie authors. Oh, they might lower their payout to Google’s… But not so low they loose their gateway drug into their retail empire.

    Neil

  28. victoria says:

    Awesome post! I’ve learned so much from this! Thanks!

  29. Good advice, David! You are right that we shouldn’t depend solely on Amazon. That would be a huge mistake.

  30. saraflower says:

    Yet another helpful post. It is good you are helping other writers to think broader than just going with Amazon. And showing us that some can make a sustainable living off of writing if we have the drive and work hard.🙂

  31. Pingback: Building A Sustainable Writing Career: How To D...

  32. Reblogged this on Lalien Cilliers and commented:
    Have a look at some great ideas by David Gaughran on “Building a sustainable writing career: How to develop multiple income streams.”

  33. Pingback: Why Writers Need to Think Big | Writing and Wellness

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