Product is what you’re selling. Without a product, you have nothing. Without a product, whether it’s a course, a non-fiction book, your Youtube channel or a paperback, there’s nothing to say.
Now, since we’re talking about book marketing…
I’m setting aside the obvious side of ‘product’ for writing, which is the quality (i.e. craft component) of your writing. Again, there are other people more qualified to listen to on that. As always, you need a good book, though what people consider good, what they’ll read will vary.
I’m not touching discussions on what is ‘good’ or literary. I’m just assuming you have a product to sell.
Choosing your Product
You might not have much choice on what product to market. You might only have one book, one idea. Nothing wrong with that. Skip ahead further down.
Otherwise, there’s a step before all this where you consider the kind of book / series / etc that you want to write.
This might be something to consider or dig into (i.e. do research on what sells) if you are, like many writers I know, filled with ideas. If you have a half-dozen ideas that you’re equally interested in, there’s nothing wrong with choosing the one that’ll make you the most money. There are other books that discuss how to find a good genre to write in. The research methods constantly change, so it’d date this post if I tried to tackle it.
For that matter, writing for magazines, shorts, etc. as a form of product choice. Remember, there’s an opportunity cost involved in writing shorts or flash fiction or your non-fiction book or your fiction series.
Other things to consider in creating a product:
– format presentation (certain mediums dictate your writing – e.g. webnovel serials to novels to movie script)
– length of your work (flash fiction, novella, short story, epic fantasy)
– appendix, glossaries and additional material
Assuming you have a product, you have even written it. Let’s talk about the format of your product
We are getting into a longer talk about formats (and licensing), where you can potentially push your product (that initial idea, that initial universe) into multiple areas that aren’t directly related to publishing.
For example, your product could be :
– a movie
– an anime
– a youtube series
– a podcast
– merchandised bookmarks, posters, t-shirts, toys,
– a musical (and the CD soundtrack, which is another product)
– and on, and on, and on.
There’s a whole book on this, and frankly, I’m not qualified to discuss most of it. So, I just want to leave that niggle in your brain that just because I’m talking of books here, that doesn’t mean you can’t do other forms of products.
Now, let’s assume you wrote a book. Not a comic, not a movie script, but a book. There’s still a large question to ask, which is what kind of product format you want to make it. Here’s a few of the most common suggestions (and again, remember, there are other product types that might make sense).
Also, realise that each product type can cannibalise sales from other product types (e.g. having a paperback might cannibalise your ebook sales a little); but they also introduce you to a new market.
There are two major formats for ebooks – epub (used in iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, etc.) and mobi (Amazon). There’s Kindle Unlimited too which you might have heard mentioned but that’s not a format, that’s a distribution method. We’ll talk about it then.
Ebooks are how most of us make our money as indie authors. They make a large % of our income, anywhere from 60-99% (if you include KU which is delivered in ebook format).
This is a non-question if you have a book. You can and should produce an ebook.
Things to consider when producing one though:
– inclusion of images / appendixes / etc can affect your margin
– formatting for ebooks is different than for print
– this is often the ‘base’ form for most indie publishers. Every other format comes from here, and so the ‘base cost’ – editing, proofing, etc. is often pushed to this product
One of the fastest growing markets for publishing. Certain genres eat up audiobooks. The biggest concern about audiobooks is the high cost of production. Check out my other cost of publishing post for details of that.
To note, there’s been a major indication that there might be a seachange in the audiobook market as AI voices come into play. It’s just starting, but it’s possible that in the next year or two; AI voices could become acceptable at most audiobook distributors. This would drive the cost of audiobook production down significantly.
Another thing to note, is that audiobooks currently cost significantly more (for the consumer) than ebooks. As production cost drop, except the margin and the price to drop too.
Audiobooks are still anywhere from 1/5th to 1/10th of your ebook market, but can make up to a 1/3 of your income. Definitely consider audiobooks.
However, realise that promotional strategies & options for audiobooks is still in its infancy.
Here’s some options within print
– mass market paperbacks (smaller in size, cheaper quality paper. Often only viable if produced in the thousands but can bring price of paperbacks down to near ebook levels).
– paperbacks (soft cover, often done in PoD)
– large print versions of paperbacks & hardcovers
Print is often about 1% of your sales. Or less.
Having more options for print and on your product page can price anchor your ebook price, making it seem cheaper.
Large print is often purchased not by individuals but libraries.
Print-on-Demand is expensive. Check out people like KDP Print & Ingram. Look at my specific paperback post for more details.
Other somewhat common and/or related publishing product types. (Common as in bandied about and considered, not common as in you see them)
– co-authored works in the universe
– licensed works in your universe
– movies / TV
– foreign translations
– webnovels or series
The Strategy Side of this Post
Knowing your budget, knowing what you can afford, can you afford to:
– have audiobooks
– have multiple versions of your print
– make translations
– make a comic and use it as a ‘loss leader’ for your work
If not, what are you keeping aside to license for others. What products – and quality of the product – will you accept? If you don’t want to pay for foreign translations, will Babelcube work? Are you willing to accept really bad translations to be first in market? How about a comic?
What product types do you envision for your world, for your marketing? Can you make bit sized pieces of your work for audio via a podcast? Maybe you should instead write a webnovel and make your money that way, and only release your work in retailers later?
How about creating a short story or novella as a loss leader instead? To build up your e-mail list? Or a short for your dedicated fans who want to see more of the world.
Think about the products, the ways you can expand your product range and how it fits into your timeline and your overall brand and marketing strategy. Products, as writers, don’t just include the book you wrote, but all the books you can write in that universe, all the shorts, all the forms you can make the same story different – or maybe even entirely new series.
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