7 Smart Ways to Earn Multiple Streams of Income from a Single Manuscript

7 Smart Ways to Earn Multiple Streams of Income from a Single Manuscript

Joanna’s new book Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur is out now in ebook, print and audio.

Your manuscript starts as just one document.

Because of this, authors generally think in terms of one book — and they don’t realize that multiple streams of income can flow from this small beginning.

Six years ago, I started out with one book — just like everyone else! At the time, ebooks weren’t mainstream and I didn’t know how to publish internationally. I had one print product in one country, but I had the writing bug! Now, my 12 books provide a full-time income, selling globally in several formats and languages, and I left my day job three years ago to become a full time author-entrepreneur.

So yes, it starts off as just one manuscript, but you can turn that one book into multiple products. Here’s how.

1. Understand scalability

Scalability is a key concept for creatives, and it’s pretty exciting for authors. It means that you create something once and then sell it multiple times.

A book is the perfect example of a scalable product. You write it once, and it can earn you money for the rest of your life and, thanks to copyright law, 70 years after your death. It’s scalable because you put in the effort once, and the returns just keep coming. That’s the magic of publishing in a digital age!

2. Publish an ebook in all its varieties

An ebook is not a single entity anymore — you can have multiple ebook products. The main file types are mobi (for Kindle), ePub (for most other devices and platforms) and PDF (which most bloggers use to sell direct). You can create these yourself using tools like Scrivener or pay for conversion services.

Once you’ve created these files, you can sell them on multiple devices: Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Apple devices, smartphones (through apps), as well as online through your website. These ebook versions alone can give you multiple income streams, as the indie author is paid from each store and distributor separately as well as receiving individual sales from customers.

Use Amazon’s KDP, Kobo Writing Life, iTunes Connect and NookPress to publish directly, or use services like Smashwords, Draft2Digital or BookBaby to distribute for you.

3. Publish a print book

Print-on-demand technology means you don’t have to pay upfront or store and ship physical products anymore. When a customer orders your book, one copy is printed and sent directly to them, and you receive whatever profit margin you set up.

Use services like Createspace or Ingram Spark to upload formatted files and have your print books available for sale online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many other online bookstores.

4. Publish your book in audio format

With many people commuting for hours every day, and the ease of using digital audio files, audiobooks are an expanding market. Sell your books in audio format through Audible, iTunes, Amazon and other services, as well as selling directly from your site.

For indie authors in the U.S. and U.K., ACX.com is a great way to get your books into audio, and hopefully this will be expanding to other markets over time. You can also record your own work and sell direct using Selz, e-Junkie, Gumroad or other services.

So that’s already one manuscript into multiple products … but it gets better!

5. Go global with all formats

Through online book retailers, you can now reach multiple territories yourself as they distribute to 170 countries. The Kobo Writing Life platform even has a fantastic world map so you can see where people have purchased your books. I’ve now sold books in 58 countries, including such diverse places as Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Nepal and Iceland. For a travel junkie like me, that’s exciting!

Most of those country sales are small right now, but that’s because the online book sales markets are only just beginning. Fast forward a few years and I think you’ll see how different things will be. The story in the last few years has been about the maturing U.S./U.K./Canadian digital market, but over the next few years, the focus will be on the rest of the world.

6. Collaborate on translations

Germany has a population of 80 million, and Germans are big readers. There are also German speakers in Austria, Switzerland and, of course, the rest of the world. Ebook adoption is increasing and Germany is the third-largest ebook market after the U.S. and U.K.

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world after Mandarin, with more than 400 million native speakers. For the ebook market specifically, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the U.S., which is the most mature ebook market.

Those are just two examples of opportunities for expanding your work into other languages and reaching new readers. The sales may be small initially, but with a longer-term view, it’s likely to only get better.

[bctt tweet=”Consider opportunities to expand your work into other languages and reach new readers.”]

You can work with an agent to find foreign rights deals for you, or you can use IPR License or  PubMatch to sell your own foreign rights. Indie authors are also now doing joint venture deals directly with translators — I have books out in German, Spanish and Italian that I produced in partnership with translators. You can also use a site like BabelCube, which works as an intermediary and publisher in these types of deals.

7. Collaborate on other creative projects

I firmly believe that creative collaboration is the next big thing in the writing community. It’s already established in other creative industries, like music, dance, film and other media, but authors have often worked alone and used intermediaries like agents.

However, in the last year we’ve seen the rise of multi-author box-sets, which have propelled some onto the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Authors have collaborated on new stories together — and not just anthologies, but graphic novels and even film and TV with their books.

Anything is possible in this new creative world, so take your one manuscript and turn it into multiple streams of income — and then do it again. Happy creating!

Do you earn multiple streams of income from a single manuscript?

Business for Authors: be an author entrepreneur

Featured resource

Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur

Ready to make a living as an author? Full-time author Joanna Penn explains how to manage the business side of your writing habit.

27 comments

  • Elke Feuer says:

    Thanks for the information on translation and audio books, Joanna! That’s the next step for me.

  • gabriella says:

    Great article. I am sure going to take this advice when I launch my first eBook. Thanks, Joanna.

  • Jojo says:

    Wow. In one short and concise article you have described so many opportunities. I’m pleased there is more than one way to publish these days, and so many creative ones at that! I won’t remember them all but I’ll certainly find my way back to you, Joanna for inspiration when I need it. Thank you for your commitment, passion and positive advice.
    🙂

  • Hi Joanna,
    Great tips. Since finding your site, I’ve come to see it as a new learning ground for myself and others that I share with. I am in the process of reading your book, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur because I was having problems keeping focused between writing and also taking care of business to market my books.

    I look forward each evening to reading more of your book. Thank you so much for this great resource.

  • Gai Reid says:

    hi Joanna,

    Congratulations on your success…wow you have been busy since your first book. We met in Brisbane several years ago at a publishing workshop.
    I’ve slowly progressed in that I now have the “right” version of my book, ready for the next steps. I have tried to buy your book Business for Authors, print version, but keep getting directed to other formats. Any tips to get me to the right place?

  • Terrie says:

    Wow, Joanna! Great, concise article with lots of practical information. As always! I appreciate you and all you do to inform and encourage other writers. Thanks!

  • Great tips, Joanna! I’m working now on getting my first trilogy out in audio and yes, each one of these avenues expands our reach. Because I do a lot of comic cons and book festivals, I’m thinking about creating hardcovers for my next series. I think fans may like purchasing hard covers at festivals and cons.
    I also like your tip about collaboration. It’s on my list to find such opportunities. Great ideas. Thanks!

    • Hi Natalie, great to see you and to hear of your success!
      I think you’re right about conventions and hardbacks – I know a number of authors now doing limited edition hardbacks – most seem to recommend Ingram Spark for this, but I know Blurb is also expanding. Have fun!

  • your conscience says:

    Wow. This is far and away the most intrusive, obnoxious website i’ve ever seen.

    TWO pop-ups?

    If this is the sort of thing required to become a successful writer, I want to remain unsuccessful. I say a hustler, rather than a writer. You sully the word “Writer”

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Hi there — We always welcome feedback from readers, so no need to hide under a fake name; we appreciate your input!

      You shouldn’t have been hit with two pop-ups. If you want to let us know more about which pages you visited that prompted that, we’d love that feedback to improve the experience for other visitors. In the meantime, I’ll have a look at this page specifically and see whether we’ve crossed wires somewhere to prompt two.

      Thanks,
      Alexis Grant
      Founder of TWL

  • Bobbyanne says:

    This is such wonderful advice I can see I’ll be visiting your site and this one again and again!! 😀 really, thanks so much for all this advice, I’m just starting out x x

    http://Www.promisingyellow.blogspot.Co.UK

  • Hi Joanna,

    Thank you for this awesome post! I will definitely be putting these tips to use and will be visiting your site more often.

  • sasha varda says:

    Amazon/Kindle does NOT pay royalties on books converted to text.
    So if you convert your book to text with them you will never see
    any royalties.
    Amazon/Kindle is working very hard to empty every other eBook providers shelves.
    They take the largest royalty cut.
    They have a ‘trade in’ program that allows people to trade in books
    they have already read for new ones. No royalties for authors.
    When you sign up with Kindle you MUST join KDP… a share program. They say they offer you a choice but I urge you to go find the button to click that removes you from this program.
    Kindle isn’t the best thing out there for eBook authors but they sure have us believing they are.

    • Hi Sasha,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, but I’d like to correct some misinformation. I’m not sure what you mean by “books converted to text.” If you’re referring to print books on Createspace, they do pay royalties: here’s a calculator. According to this post on Publishers Weekly, Amazon’s royalty is about equivalent to Nook’s and Kobo’s and slightly better than iBooks’, though not quite as generous as Smashwords’ or BookBaby’s.

      I’m not familiar with the Trade-In program, but it appears to focus on electronics and textbooks, not ebooks.

      Thanks,
      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Thanks for the great advice. I currently have one of my books in the process of being translated into Spanish. It is a great thing to see one’s work being read in various languages and places.

  • C. S. Lakin says:

    This is a great post and resource! I’ve been expanding in the way you suggest, and have just completed my first audio book with ACX/Audible, and it’s been so fun I plan to put all my indie books out on Audible. I’m very interested in exploring translations, and wonder if you have further advice and/or warnings about venturing into that field. I would love to have my writing craft books translated for those foreign markets, so any suggestions are appreciated!

  • Another helpful article, Joanna! I continue to find all your articles full of tips and great suggestions. Reading this helps me think about different options available. I’m not sure which option is best for me yet, but createspace.com is something I am considering. Although I have articles of a variety of topics (with heavy focus on computers and eLearning), I am branching out from tech writing and I have been practicing a lot with creative writing, which I really enjoy.

    So like you, I enjoy fictional and non-fictional writing. Your articles are helping me see things more clearly and set more realistic goals with writing.

    Thank you.

  • Brenda says:

    Hey Joanna,
    Thanks for this awesome post to earn from multiple streams through manuscripts. But, I want to know wether you recommending this “Scrivener” for ebook publishing or just a reference sort of. B’Coz m facing tough time in judging platform for ebook publishing in epub digital standard format like we have in Kindle etc.

    Thanks again. It was really helpful
    Keep it up 🙂

    – Brenda Winslet

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