… the income streams, of course. Not the proton streams, of course! That’s just dangerous.
No, the kind of streams we’re talking about today are revenue streams–those avenues through which you as an author make your money. Because–here’s a fun fact!–the self-publishing experience is neither monolithic nor straightforward when it comes to making money, even though it may be simpler than the alternative. You might just be surprised where they money actually comes from! Most authors will say that the majority of their money comes from one of the following five sources, which include …
- … the books themselves: In an article for The Write Life, Alexis Grant writes of how UK-based author Mark Dawson has made a fortune off of selling his books–books which have sold upwards of three hundred thousand copies as of the article’s publication. It may seem a bit cliche to mention yet another self-publishing success story like Dawson’s, but we’re nothing if not thorough here on Self Publishing Advisor. Blockbuster success is still an exception instead of the rule, but many authors make a comfortable margin off of their self-published books these days.
- … the digital books: Says Joe Konrath, a “name” within the self-publishing world: “I’m outselling a bunch of famous, name-brand authors. I couldn’t touch their sales in print.” The parallel evolution of self-publishing and ebooks has seen the two threads of the publishing industry become deeply entwined, and it seems like a crime to conflate the importance of ebook sales with those of print when it comes to self-publishing! Many authors find niche success through digital sales that they wouldn’t in print for a variety of reasons. It really is a separate revenue stream!
- … the movie?! This is a thing that can happen!? In real life?! According to Drew Mackie of People, indeed it can, and has, to a number of self-published works–including The Martian, Still Alice, and even Legally Blonde! (Now that is a range I can get behind, for sure.) Indie filmmakers especially have a deep appreciation for indie books (as in Still Alice) but genre films (like the rom-com Legally Blonde or the space-based science fiction masterwork, The Martian) also have put roots down into the world of self-published books which should not be discounted. And while in many cases the books are then picked up by traditional publishers after the film rights have been optioned, this is not the only format worth looking into. You can self-publish, remain self-published, and retain full rights during the film optioning process. This could even be a significant revenue stream for you!
- … merchandising: We’ve written about this elsewhere and in great detail on SPA, but here’s the summary version: merchandising matters, and it’s both a money-making endeavor in and of itself as well as a way to boost book sales and therefore your primary revenue stream. Don’t ignore the merchandising!
- … speaking engagements and book tours: “For many writers,” writes Alexis Grant, “marketing is the most difficult part [of the self-publishing process], either because [authors] don’t have the skills to pull it off or simply don’t want to. But the truth is, if you want to make a living as a writer, you have to be more than a writer. Figuring out how to promote your books is the only way you’ll sell copies.” And while not everyone may feel qualified or cut out for a speaking engagement like a book reading, signing, or tour, there’s a chunk of change to be made in building up your profile as a public speaker. For many authors, this eventually becomes a primary revenue stream and not some fiddly thing on the side. This seems especially true of authors of self-help and lifestyle or fitness books, but it is often true for authors in other genres too. Think about it!
The key to success isn’t in any single one of these revenue streams, but rather in a combination. And for every author, that combination will look a little different. Take a moment and think about it: what kind of revenue do you expect to see from your life as a self-published author? And how can you diversify those streams to create a more long-lasting, rewarding experience?
You are not alone. ♣︎