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

by | Oct 3, 2014

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, digital products, 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?