Thinking Beyond the Book: What's Your Demand Curve?

At the Writer’s Digest Conference, Richard Nash delivered an inspiring keynote. Writers loved it.

Deep in his talk, a slide flashed up on the screen that, to the untrained eye, might not have seemed like much. It was a piece of innovative and critical business advice that spoke to the transformation of how authors should envision the growth and profitability of their careers.

Thinking Beyond the Book
Nash’s slide shows all the things that authors might do to earn money beyond just selling a book. It speaks to the famous 8 intangibles that Kevin Kelly once wrote about—the factors that now drive the so-called “new economy” in our digital culture.

  • Immediacy (priority access, immediate delivery)
  • Personalization (tailored just for you)
  • Interpretation (support and guidance)
  • Authenticity (how can you be sure it is the real thing?)
  • Accessibility (wherever, whenever)
  • Embodiment (books, live music)
  • Patronage (paying simply because it feels good)
  • Findability (when there are millions of everything
    requesting our attention, being found is
    valuable)

The trick is think of all the ways that you can deliver special experiences or unique products to your audience that carry a high value. You will sell or offer fewer of them (because they make greater demands on your time, energy, or resources), but you will also charge more for them.

The curve Nash shows is not the only or final curve, just an example. Here are the categories I’d pull out and order as most common:

  • E-books (cheapest)
  • Limited edition books
  • Personalized or customized books
  • Classes & workshops
  • One-on-one experiences (most expensive)

See how these take advantage of the 8 intangibles that Kelly outlined? Personalization? Authenticity? Embodiment?

Yes, this is, in part, a marketing exercise. But just as much it’s about being creative and imaginative—about doing things that fit with who you are, and what your readers want.

There are many other high-powered models you probably know about, like The-Book-Is-a-Souvenir Seth Godin or Hugh MacLeod.

You won’t be Seth Godin overnight. But always think beyond the book when envisioning how your career will grow.

Your turn: What have you seen authors do that take advantage of the 7 intangibles, and go beyond the book? Share examples in the comments!
 

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14 thoughts on “Thinking Beyond the Book: What's Your Demand Curve?

  1. Jackie Paulson

    I am a new and up coming author who would love to learn from those who have published before. A friend of mine linked me to you and I am going to absorb all the comments and this site to help my future book. Thanks. Jackie

  2. Jane Friedman

    @Steven – Sometimes it’s easy to immediately jump to: THIS CAN’T WORK FOR FICTION. But I’ve seen imaginative fiction writers come up with ways to tap those other intangibles.

    Richard Nash used an example of someone who created a limited edition where the created covers had his blood mixed into the paper pulp. (I assume that was appropriate and appealing for his audience!)

    Cory Doctorow’s experiment involved:
    – hardback limited edition, only 250 signed copies (scarcity, perhaps another intangible!)
    – donations (patronage)
    – story on commission (personalization)
    – advertising in his books (not sure how to classify this one)
    – and other facets you can read about at his PW column

    I’ve also heard about authors selling the rights to name their characters (sometimes this is used as a marketing handle instead), or selling merchandise that ties into the story, or hosting trips/travel that relate to the story’s geographic locale.

    All depends on what you like doing, and what your readers are interested in.

  3. Jill Kemerer

    When I stop by your blog and read posts like this, I feel like I’m entering a hidden world of publishing–the future of it. I’m drawn to innovation, and this post highlights cutting-edge promotion. Thank you.

    One example I’ve seen is by Stephanie Bond. She sells articles for writers on Amazon for bargain prices. You can get a great article about business plans for under a buck. She’s definitely a forward thinker!

  4. Steven M Moore

    Hi Jane! Very interesting and informational comments, but I’ll observe that Immediacy and Findability are the only categories that seem to apply to fiction writers. In fiction, the problem with Immediacy is that our stories may quickly become dated. While my novels aren’t quite dated yet, the first, The Midas Bomb, may soon be overtaken by events, while some of the third’s events, i.e. those in Soldiers of God, may already be happening in the Middle East (toppling of Arab despots). Still, most fiction can’t be written in a vacuum and readers, the good people that they are, are forgiving about future historical details. With respect to Findability, I think that is the number one problem in selling books for new authors trying to break into the game. It’s related to, but not quite the same as, name recognition. How to achieve it?
    r/Steve

  5. Mary Tod

    Hi Jane – enjoyed your post and as a former PowerPoint jockey, I also love Richard’s diagram. Not sure if this is appropriate etiquette for commenters, however, I’ve written two posts that might augment the discussion. One is on my own blog, One Writer’s Voice, called To Market, To Market (http://onewritersvoice.com/2011/01/04/to-market-to-market/) which talks about gaining, retaining and growing readership. The second is a guest post on Joel Friedlander’s blog, The Book Designer, called New Writer-Reader Relationships in a Self-Publishing world (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/01/how-self-publishing-changes-the-bond-between-readers-and-writers/).
    Both posts explore how the dynamic is changing between writers and readers, in my case with a focus on fiction. Hope they are of interest.

  6. Porter Anderson

    J. Randayle, it occurs to me that the reference we’re hearing from Seth Godin may well be to "the other Jane Freidman" — she’s the CEO of Open Road Integrated Media, and was with HarperCollins before that.

    Jane, care to check Seth’s video at 1:40 and see what you think? Either way, you’re still gutsy in my book. 🙂

  7. Porter Anderson

    "How do you ‘architect’ ideas to have them spread?" That’s a set-up question asked by Seth Godin in his 2008 TOC presentation, the video Jane is sending us to in this good post.

    Two quick writerly points: (1) yes, "architect" can be used as a transitive verb as he uses it, I checked. Who knew? And (2) this is a pretty gutsy reference from Jane for us, check him at 1:40 – he refers to her and, frankly, he’s wrong about her, too. So sue me, Seth. 🙂 It takes one secure cookie to send us to a video that dings her, and without a defensive comment. I’ve got that Janey Friedman Fever all over again.

    And in response to Jane’s call for examples? Turn down your volume and stand well back.

    Jim Cramer. You’ve seen him making money maddening on "Mad Money" on CNBC, right? http://ht.ly/3LuGg Are you into investing? If you’re in the markets as a retail investor ("retail," as opposed to the big institutional investors), you know the guy is for real.

    Cramer is so platformed up he can barely walk. Let us count the ways:
    • Free: Watch the show, which offers hard market analysis, specific stuff, translated for "real people" and, yes, yelled at you by one of the most hyper-passionate characters on the air.
    • Free: Call in or e-mail a question about a stock you’re interested in. You have a chance he’ll answer it, and with a direct buy or sell seriously put together by Cramer, a former hedge-fund manager, or his staff, very much the real thing.
    • Free: Download the full-hour video podcast ready for your iPod overnight. Tip: The yelling is often easier to take on headphones the next morning during your pre-market walk.
    • Free: Follow his tweets during the day in which @JimCramer sends you to articles/videos with his thumbs-up or -down. You’re learning market-driving coverage.
    • For sale: Ah, buy those books. "Jim Cramer’s Getting Back to Even." "Jim Cramer’s Real Money." "Jim Cramer’s Mad Money." "Jim Cramer’s Stay Mad for Life." "Confessions of a Street Addict." Here’s his Amazon page, the Kindle editions: http://ht.ly/3Lu3h
    • For sale: Buy investment-guidance services you use to follow Cramer’s moves in his charitable investment trust, his several daily blog entries on RealMoney.com, even the tchotchkes you see on his set – the bull, the Jim Cramer bobble-head. Lots of bobble.
    • Then there are the appearances. You can get to shows he takes to remote locations (Ford in Dearborn, a university campus), speeches at brokerage conferences, watch a cameo on "The Buried Life." All in what he terms Cramerica, crawling with fans who want to shout his money-making rebel yell to him, the "booyah!" you hear all around him.

    Cramer holds up his latest book on the show at least once each evening. But that’s it. Here’s the book, gone again, he’s roaring on to his "Lightning Round," Skidaddy, of rapid-fire stock queries.

    For my money, and that’s what Cramer’s about, we should all be so lucky as to tap into a forum for so much immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and findability. Not much reachy transmedia, granted. As far as I know, "Cramerica" hasn’t yet witnessed the hologram-manifestation of Jim Cramer in suburban living rooms. Give him a few more minutes.

    Cramer’s beat is non-fiction, so are his profits. Can you get at this kind of stir-up if you’re coming out of fiction? Literary fiction, let alone vampires-in-love fiction? Seems to me we fiction writers had better figure out how to say "yes" to that.

    Booyah, Jane. 🙂

  8. Bob Mayer

    Multiple streams of income are essential for the independent author.
    I have income from traditional publishing, with next book coming out in May from St Martins and with royalties coming in and with a new manuscript going to my agent next week.
    Income from Who Dares Wins Publishing, which we started last year with my backlist and now has expanded to 4 other authors and is doing quite well. We have over 20 titles out now and a dozen in the pipeline, particularly books and shorts about writing and the publishing business.
    Inside WDWPUB we have multiple streams from Direct Sales, Kindle, PubIt, iTunes (both print and audio); Lightning Source and other platforms.
    We just started a new program of teaching various writing and publishing topics on-line with Write It Forward monthly workshops and the response has been great.
    I also have an income stream from my Who Dares Wins consulting business.
    And some from teaching writing at conferences and for groups.
    I also teach one course in the fall at the University of Washington.
    I also get some disability income from the Army from my time in Special Forces. I don’t recommend the latter. Involves going strange places and letting people shoot at you.

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