When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007, it changed publishing. It turned thousands of hopefuls into authors. Many of those authors make a good living writing nonfiction books.
Sadly, many authors do not. I work with authors every day, and the biggest error I see authors make is that they category-hop. They write a recipe book. Then a book about dog breeds. Then a book about fish. Next, they try the self-help category.
They make a few sales, but they could be selling many more books… if they wrote in series.
The biggest opportunity in nonfiction books: series
- A series gives you a chance to brand a name;
- A series increases your visibility;
- A series gives you an opportunity to build a readership; and
- with the right series, you can build a great income.
Popular series: think Chicken Soup
Chicken Soup for the Soul was a early-1990s self-published book which turned into a bestseller. These days, it’s an entire conglomerate, which not only publishes books, but also sells pet food and makes movies. That’s what I mean by a brand. 🙂
At this stage, very few authors think longterm. They think about the ebook they’re writing now, worry about their ebook sales, and think about the other ebooks they hope to publish.
Think Chicken Soup. If you hit the right series, you can turn it into an empire.
Is it easy? Heck no. Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected many times, but Jack Canfield believed in the book. Over the years, there are endless stories about how tirelessly he worked to push Chicken Soup for the Soul. According to his website, there are now 123 million copies of the book in print.
Toss your hat into the ring: you never know what will succeed
As you may know, I coach writers. I love it, because I love writers and writing. However, it can be frustrating when I see writers make the same mistakes I made. Here’s one of my biggest mistakes.
Early in my career, I spent way too much time waiting for my editor and agent to get back to me. Finally I dumped my publishing house, and my agent, and struck out on my own. No, that wasn’t the mistake.
The mistake was waiting. I waited around for others to do stuff, instead of writing, and I listened to others, instead of believing in myself, and taking risks. These days, I believe in myself. I know that if I make a mistake, it’s just feedback on something that didn’t work, and the mistake is MINE. After suffering through others’ mistakes instead of taking control, I’m proud to take the blame when things don’t work out.
Don’t wait. Write, and sell.
As soon as you finish one book, write another nonfiction book on the same topic. And then another one. And another. By the time your third ebook in the series has been published, you’ll have some idea whether you’re making enough sales.
Trust yourself: what do YOU think?
Let’s say you’ve written four books in a series. You’re selling ten copies a week. That’s not a huge amount. On the other hand, you haven’t done any promotion yet. Now it’s up to you. Consider that you have FOUR ebooks.
- Create a bundle, so that you have FIVE books in the series;
- Make one of your ebooks permanently free;
- Create audio books out of the ebooks;
- Create print books from your ebooks;
- Buy advertising;
- Create a mailing list…
I could go on, but you get the message. Once you have three or four books in a series, even if they’re only short ebooks, you can make a splash. If you want to…
On the other hand, perhaps you think that the topic you’ve covered doesn’t have an audience which is eager for your ebooks. In that case, let the series lie fallow for a few months. Do a little promotion, but focus on writing your next series.
A series gives you options that you don’t have when you write standalones
One of my students wrote 20 ebooks, on 20 different topics. When you write standalones, it’s a real challenge to build a following. I encouraged him to turn his bestselling standalone into a series.
Just three months later, he’s selling 100 ebooks a week. That’s not enough to make his fortune, but it’s showing him the value of writing in series.
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