Wendy is an author who writes and publishes indie fiction on Amazon.
Her husband Josh, a loyal reader, is giving her a hand with marketing.
Over the last year they've built up a healthy email list—and now Josh finds himself at a crossroads.
Because selling Kindle books for $2.99 isn't the path to a sustainable and profitable business.
The issue I have is that fiction eBooks are in more of a tripwire price point and selling them on Amazon gives us almost 0 conversion info. I've been using affiliate links to at least track some conversion info, but I don't know WHO is converting at all.
My thoughts are that I should move ‘upstream' and sell a product directly on her site that is at a higher price point. I am kind of stuck at this point trying to come up with a digital product that won't require time/effort to deliver outside of the initial creation phase.
Josh's instincts are right on the money here.
The “right” way to think about books is as an entry point into your marketing funnel.
In other words, books are “lead magnets” you get paid to promote.
Not a bad deal at all—as long as you have something else to offer.
Which gets to the heart of Josh's question:
What else can an author sell?
This is a question that my business partner John and I are wrestling with right now.
In a few months we'll be launching his second book, and it's looking like part of the plan will be to price the Kindle book low to start with—probably $1.99.
At that price we'll be making next to nothing on those front-end sales.
However the book will have a *ton* of embedded offers and “hooks” to get people to visit our website and sign up for the email list.
And after the initial launch push, I'm planning to roll out a “deluxe version” of the book…
A premium package that might include a signed, limited-run hardbound edition of the book (leather bound? maybe), an audiobook version, video interviews with John and other famous software developers, a Simple Programmer T-shirt, and whatever other goodies we can come up with that will increase the value of the bundle.
Now admittedly non-fiction authors have an easier row to hoe here.
So how exactly does this translate for an indie author of New Adult fiction?
A useful approach in situations like this is to look around for examples of other businesses that have already solved a similar problem.
And an obvious parallel that springs to mind is the TV and movie business—especially Disney.
They're also in the business of selling entertainment, and they've found lots of ways to repackage the same basic product in ways that get fans to happily fork over wads of extra cash.
A few ideas that spring to mind:
– The “director's cut” edition, only available on your site. Polish up a few chapters that didn't make the original release, and offer the expanded version exclusively on your site.
– Write a collection of short stories around secondary characters that your audience has questions about and offer it exclusively on your site.
– Create a “making of” video series where you talk about all the ups and downs of creating the books. Many readers are secretly aspiring writers as well and they will eat this up.
– Ebook + audiobook package—they get both at a discount if they buy direct from you (since Amazon won't be taking its pound of flesh).
– Limited-edition runs of signed hardback books. (Any time we offer this on Simple Programmer, our audience goes nuts. Even in this age of digital books, people still love them some dead trees.)
– Create a paid fan club for your best readers, where they get all of your books for a low monthly subscription fee.
– Do a limited release of your books to your list first, then move them to Amazon a few months later. In this model, Amazon becomes the equivalent of the $1 movie theater I used to frequent as a broke college student. It sure was cheap, but you had to wait 6 months to see “The Matrix: Reloaded”…
– Create a membership program for the hardcore fans of your genre. Negotiate with other authors to give away their books to your members for free.
I can't guarantee that any of these suggestions will be a home run.
The best clues and ideas will likely come from listening to and studying your audience.
What seems to “light them up”?
What questions are they asking?
What else are they buying and consuming?
The answers are there, just waiting for you to uncover them.