How to Make Money Writing: What's the True Value of Your Book?

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I’ve written several books and published a few of them. I’ve had a great deal of success considering my small status as an independent or self-published author. I’ve blown expectations for average book sale out of the water, and managed to find two distinct ways to make an incredible living attached to my being a published author.

This guest post is by Jaimie Engle. Engle was once sucked into a storybook, where she decided she would become an author. She has modeled, managed a hip-hop band, and run a body shop. She loves coffee, trivia, cosplay, and podcasting on The Write Engle. Basically, if it's slanted toward the supernatural or nerdy, she's into it! She lives in Florida with her awesome husband, hilarious children, and the world's best dog. She also happens to have the world’s best literary agent, Saritza Hernandez. Become a fan at theWRITEengle.com. Follow on social media @theWRITEengle and pick up books at jmebooks.com.

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But first, I had to learn the value of my book.

Not only that, but I had to learn how to translate that value to the right audience. And that was way harder than writing or editing any novel. I’ve said it before, but it stands to be said again: as an author, you are not an artist; you are an entrepreneur. A small business owner, who most likely has used their own capital to invest in their new enterprise. And that’s a completely different scenario than being “a writer.”

So how do you measure value?

Let’s start by being honest. Does your book bring a value greater than the list price to the consumer? You can’t answer that by saying, “I worked really hard on this and people should want to buy it,” or even, “It’s a great story, of course it will bring value to the reader.” While all of this might be true, how often have you purchased a product because the store owner appeared to have worked really hard to get their shop going? Probably only if you are personal friends with them. Here are some considerations:

  • Does your packaging (book cover, logo, book marks, business cards, etc.) bring aesthetic value to the reader?
  • Are you providing ongoing social media contact with your fans in a way that engages, inspires, and improves their lives?
  • Do you give back to your community or fans in a unique way through your time, knowledge, or physical books at no or deeply discounted costs?
  • How much time and effort do you spend on improving your writing skills and marketing know-how?
  • Is there a platform you are building toward, and is it unique enough to secure your individual spot in a competitive market?
  • What strategies do you have in place to cultivate new readers, reward loyal customers, and encourage word of mouth viral sharing?
  • Is your story providing enough of a difference for your readers to become fans?

This should get you thinking and answering some basic questions about you and your small business. When I started out, I was certain I had the next NY Times Bestseller in my hands. Only it was rejected by 98 different agents, who mainly told me they couldn’t connect with my story. Today, this little book is self-published through my JME Books line, where it has done tremendously well in the market. Were these agents wrong? No, of course not. In fact, they were absolutely correct in their deduction. The book has a tight niche market because of its local geographic connection. If it had been picked up by a traditional press, it would have bombed within the first year and been shelved forever. I’d probably never write another word and be working at drugstore somewhere. Instead, after that first year of bombing, I discovered a beautiful message woven within the pages: BULLYING. This is my book’s unique value. A fantasy adventure novel with dwarves and dragons teaches kids about their part in bullying. Once my value was determined, it was easy to supply a demand. I began to contact schools regarding my anti-bullying program. They readily paid for my appearance and offered pre-order book sales to students (or purchased books for the school directly).

Suddenly, the value of my book had grown exponentially.

My book hadn’t changed, only the message I had built in was now a focal point to bring value to readers. I even went a step further with creating more value by:

  1. Creating a teacher’s novel study guide in print and ebook formats
  2. Including standards in both the study guide and my presentation
  3. Providing schools with a pre-visit package to include order forms, posters, and introductory video
  4. Follow up with a thank you card, exit survey, and post-visit video to thank the students

My sales have increased tremendously and I have an income from speaking that I never foresaw in my future. My passion for kids, teaching, and writing have translated to a unique value that only I can provide. So my question to you is: What’s Your Value?Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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