Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Make Your Content Work Harder for You

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Image: MorgueFile: Gracey
I’ve been pretty single-minded with my plans to expand the self-published side of my book income.  My focus has been on writing more books.  Keep writing, keep doing what I’m doing with my brand and platform.  Volume and consistency.

I continued reading articles like this one by Dean Wesley Smith (Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can’t Make Money Writing Fiction)—encouraging self-published authors to completely exhaust all available formats/platforms for our content. 
As Dean put it:
Every story we write, every novel we write, is a magic pie full of copyright.
We can sell parts of it to one publisher, other parts to another publisher, some parts to overseas markets, other parts to audio, or eBooks, or game companies, or Hollywood, or web publishers, and on and on and on. One professional writer I knew sold over 100 different gaming rights to different places on one novel. He had a very sharp knife cutting that magic pie.

Still, limited by the clock as always, I made a mental note and kept doing what I was doing. I wanted to spend more time considering my options, but....there’s never a good time to figure out our writing career.  Life doesn’t ever really slow down.

Recently, however,  readers started really…well, I’d like to say encouraging me since badgering me sounds rude, to explore other formats for my work.  I’d received random and scattered emails since the ebooks released, asking about print versions.  I’d always been able to gently respond that I’d get around to print at some undetermined future date.

Then I received a particularly direct email in January.  Actually, it was an exasperated one.  The reader had no intention of buying a reader just to read my books although she’d enjoyed the print versions of my other series.  I told the reader that I’d put print versions of my Myrtle books on my New Year’s resolution list.  I’m sure she thought she’d believe it when she saw it, but I did put a monthly reminder on my calendar at that point.  Last week I set the process in motion.  No, I still didn’t have the time to figure out print formatting (both text and cover), so I’m paying someone (Dean Fetzer at GunBoss Books) to take care of this detail-oriented task for me so that I can sell the books through CreateSpace.  I tend to have a do-it-myself attitude toward self-publishing, but I've found that subcontracting designers and formatters makes a huge difference--and that my time is worth money.  Here (and it will seem like I'm contradicting myself later), you need to be careful to pay upfront for services.  We shouldn't have our royalties garnished forever for these types of one-time, basic tasks...there are folks who are eager to take advantage of us that way.

Audio was another format that I kept hearing I should explore.  I’m on a couple of writer email loops and they all were enthusiastic about audio--and the surprising amount of income it generated.  But the usual lack-of-time, coupled with my concerns over a costly investment, held me back.
 The reason I suddenly decided to spend time researching audio is that I heard the magic phrase “royalty share.” The author (or “rights holder” as far as ACX is concerned) can split royalties 50-50 with the narrator with no money upfront.  Now, as I mentioned above, royalty sharing can be a scary thing…you want to make sure you know what you’re in for.  This particular agreement (with ACX) can be renegotiated after seven years—so there’s a sunset clause built in.  As a self-published author, we need to be very careful about not signing away the rights to our content for an indefinite period of time.  In this instance...I know I wouldn't get my books into an audio format without a royalty share agreement since I considered the financial investment fairly prohibitive.  The reason for the expense is that audio books take many hours of narration, editing, and production.

But an initial investment of $0?  I’m pretty sure I can handle that.  I’ll report more on Friday about my experiences so far with ACX (although it’s early days still.)

I’m always irritated with myself for dragging my feet with these things, but at least I’ve gotten the ball rolling.  Because it’s true—we don’t only need to create more content, we need to figure out how to make our content do more for us. (Yeah, there’s foreign rights, too…and I’m dragging my feet again on that one.)

If you’re self-published, have you explored all the options and formats available for you?  If it's something you're interested in, have you set yourself a deadline for working on the project or learning about the process?