This is the 13th article in my self-publishing series. It’s also the next-to-last article in that series. If you’re looking for other content, check back in two weeks.
Distribution is something that most indie and small authors think about. What distribution channels are good? Which ones provide the most royalty? Which ones give the most access to potential buyers? etc. Should the books be kept exclusive to reap certain benefits from one retailer, or be set wide to saturate the market as widely as possible? These are questions that everyone asks. But, there are other ways to get distribution and marketing to work together. In this article I’m talking about ways that you can improve your piece of the Profit Pie (TM), and also ways that you can dip into entirely new Profit Pies altogether.
There are some other venues for distribution that are sometimes overlooked by other authors. First, and perhaps the most potentially lucrative, is audiobooks. Work with talented voice actors to convert your books to audio format and get them out there. Unless you are a voice actor, have done voice over work, or are just genuinely skilled in this area, I wouldn’t advise you to read it yourself. Spend some time checking out audiobooks from the library (Overdrive is a great app for that!). Listen to them, find out what a good audio book sounds like, and then find talent. The best place is ACX is you are looking for book narrators. However, if you have the cash to just pay someone out of pocket to read it, there are also some talented folks on some of the other voice-actor websites (including, but not limited to: VoiceBunny.com, Voices.com, Casting Call, Voice123.com, and many, many others). There’s even a Reddit subgroup. The point is, you can get your voice talent from all over the place. There are lots of places to find talented actors.
Another area of potential distribution is foreign language rights (and their associated audio rights). You can either hire a translator to translate your work into another language and then self-publish, like you did with the English language version, or you can assign the foreign language rights to a publisher to do it on your behalf. I would not recommend trying to use Google Translate or any other free online translator to translate your book. These translator tools are unreliable. Even if you do use it, and I seriously recommend not doing that, you still will want to pay a native speaker to proofread and check things.
Another area authors often overlook is the small, local booksellers. Sure, you’ve got your books in the big stores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but what about Sally’s Book Boutique? Or Clyde’s Cozy Corner? Or any number of the smaller book stores in your are that aren’t part of a mega-giant chain. Build relationships here. Establish yourself as a local author. You’ll gain the support of the local book stores, and also build a local following – and thanks to social media, the more the local following likes you, the more they’ll talk about you and spread the word about you.
Speaking of establishing a local presence, something my author-friend M. D. Thalmann brought to my attention; libraries. Talk to the local libraries in your area and donate a few copies of your books to them. Sure, you’re giving away merchandise. But if you give away “book 1” of your series, and people check it out and like it, they may be compelled to buy others.
I’m fairly certain I already mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating. Do local events. Have book signings at all of these local bookstores. Go to artisan fairs that your area may have. Get out and meet the people.
Other ways that you can build extra Profit Pies probably won’t work until after you’ve built a largish following. Depending on the genre and style of your books, you can look at converting them into games. Do you have an epic Scifi Space Opera with dozens of planets? Have you thought about writing sourcebooks and turning it into a Role-Playing-Game? The same could easily be done with Epic Fantasy. If your story focuses on a war of some kind, have you thought about turning it into a Risk-style board game? Or even a “miniatures” style game? With 3D printers it’s pretty easy to make some prototypes, and with Kickstarter, it would be easy enough to fund – if you have the fanbase for it.
“Swag” – general merchandise is also always useful. Maybe a specific item that one of your character carries or wears, for example. A knife. A hat. A fancy space gun. 3D printers can be used to great effect to fill the gap and create replicas of different things Then there are also just hats and t-shirts, and coffee cups, and that kind of thing. Icons and symbols are terrible ideas in general for a cover, but they are fantastic for swag. The Star Wars logo. The Harry Potter House Emblems. The Star Trek triangle-thing. The Mockingjay Bird. Any of the House Symbols for Game of Thrones. Etc. All of these have no place on your cover, but you could build a store to sell this kind of merchandise. However, this works best if you have a dedicated website to sell it from. You could sell if from your author website. Or if you anticipate (hope) that one of your settings will be large enough on its own, you could build a separate website for that, like I’ve done for The Starsong Chronicles.
Of course, there’s also TV and Movie rights to consider as well. But this requires getting your books in front of the right producers and network talent scouts. I have absolutely no advice on that other than it’s hypothetically possible.
I hope this post gave you some ideas on other ways that you could sell your stories. Next week will be the last article in series. In that article I’ll talk about the pros and cons of starting an actual publishing business. Should you do it or not? What is required? What are the risks and benefits? How much work is involved? Where do you start? Etc.