Publish & Prosper

Can You Really Make Money Selling Books?

November 15, 2023 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 4
Can You Really Make Money Selling Books?
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
Can You Really Make Money Selling Books?
Nov 15, 2023 Season 1 Episode 4
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Matt and Lauren tackle the question on every author and creator’s mind – can you actually make money from books? We share our favorite tactics for maximizing your book’s earning potential, including doing your market research, selling direct, making effective use of all your content, and more. Plus, we share some Lulu authors & creators who are doing it right! 

Dive Deeper

💡 Learn more about Katie Cross
💡 Learn more about Scarred for Life
💡 Learn more about Daren Smith
💡 Learn more about Limelight Publishing
💡 Learn more about Creative Explained

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch These Videos

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [11:04] “If you start your marketing efforts for your book the day that the book goes on sale, you're already too late.

🎙️ [23:27] “The ecommerce landscape is shifting. It's evolving quickly, but it's also shifting to where we're not just talking about website driven sales anymore. We're talking about the integration of ecommerce into social media channels…So as a book creator and seller, you need to be aware of those things and understand, again, what channels are your potential buyers hanging out, you know, your potential readers and new fans, where are they hanging out and you really should get yourself familiarized with the way that you can sell on those channels.

🎙️ [30:00] “Monetizing your content with a book is great, but also using it as a way to establish yourself as a thought leader or an expert in your industry, using it to foster new connections, network, collaborate with your peers, open up new opportunities for something like a speaking engagement, guest podcast appearances. These are all ways that you're going to hopefully generate revenue and generate more business for yourself, and the book has helped you to do that.

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Matt and Lauren tackle the question on every author and creator’s mind – can you actually make money from books? We share our favorite tactics for maximizing your book’s earning potential, including doing your market research, selling direct, making effective use of all your content, and more. Plus, we share some Lulu authors & creators who are doing it right! 

Dive Deeper

💡 Learn more about Katie Cross
💡 Learn more about Scarred for Life
💡 Learn more about Daren Smith
💡 Learn more about Limelight Publishing
💡 Learn more about Creative Explained

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch These Videos

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [11:04] “If you start your marketing efforts for your book the day that the book goes on sale, you're already too late.

🎙️ [23:27] “The ecommerce landscape is shifting. It's evolving quickly, but it's also shifting to where we're not just talking about website driven sales anymore. We're talking about the integration of ecommerce into social media channels…So as a book creator and seller, you need to be aware of those things and understand, again, what channels are your potential buyers hanging out, you know, your potential readers and new fans, where are they hanging out and you really should get yourself familiarized with the way that you can sell on those channels.

🎙️ [30:00] “Monetizing your content with a book is great, but also using it as a way to establish yourself as a thought leader or an expert in your industry, using it to foster new connections, network, collaborate with your peers, open up new opportunities for something like a speaking engagement, guest podcast appearances. These are all ways that you're going to hopefully generate revenue and generate more business for yourself, and the book has helped you to do that.

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Lauren: Hi everyone, thanks for joining us today, where we are going to be answering the age-old publishing question – or maybe not answering, but asking – the age-old publishing question: can you really make money from books? 

Matt: What's the answer? 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Is that the short answer or the long answer? 

Lauren: That's the full answer. We're done, episode's over. Thanks for listening, everyone. 

Matt: What unit of measurement is age-old?

Lauren: Timeless. 

Matt: Time – age-old is timeless? 

Lauren: Mhm. 

Matt: I already regret bringing this up. 

Lauren: You should. Okay, so how about if we just talk about it right now instead? Right now, in the year 2023, can you make money from books? 

Matt: Yes, you've already established that the answer to that is yes, the short answer and the long answer. The long answer, though, involves adding this little qualifier there that if you do it right, you can make money from selling books. 

Lauren: The key detail. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So maybe the real question is not just can you make money selling books, but how can you make money selling books? 

Matt: Yep, yep. If only there was a duo of people who had some information about how to make money from books that could really disseminate that across the internet airwaves for free.

Lauren: If only I knew two such people. 

Matt: They would certainly not be high up on your list of friends, I would tell you that much. 

Lauren: That’s so sad. 

Matt: Yeah, all right. Let's move forward. I think today we're going to give you somewhere in the ballpark area of five to six tactics that you can employ that will, in fact, help you make money from books – your books, specifically, but books in general. And we will also be talking about the various different ways that you can make money from your books, other than just the idea of measuring direct revenue coming in from that book itself, right?


Lauren: Absolutely, which I think is actually a great way to lead us into the first of the tactics that I wanted to talk about, which is the idea of doing your research before, during, and after publishing, which doesn't maybe sound like a direct correlation. But my first point with that would be: [2:36] you cannot measure success if you don't have a goal in mind in the first place. 

Matt: Yep. 

Lauren: So that's a really important part that I think a lot of people, kind of, skip over because they're so busy being excited about writing a book, or getting their content out there, or whatever the case may be. It's important to set goals for what you want your book to achieve, what you're hoping to accomplish, and what success looks like for you. 

If your primary goal is book sales, is to make money from book sales, that's something that you want to know right away before you even get started. If your primary goal is to use your book as a lead gen tool to help you get more business for your brand – which still technically you're bringing in more revenue as part of your business as a side effect of the book that you've created – that is an important goal to know too. 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And the goal should obviously directly correlate to why you're even writing, but I think there's one more goal that we don't talk about, really, in this episode, and for obvious reasons. But, you know, some people write a book just because they want, sort of, the awareness, and they want to write a book just to say they wrote a book. And whatever comes of that, whether that's financial or opportunity, that's secondary to them. They just want to write a book, maybe they just want to tell their story, or maybe it's a very personal thing for them. They don't necessarily have goals or benchmarks that relate directly to revenue and things, but clearly that is another reason that people write books. We obviously will not be focusing on that, but I just thought I'd throw that out there. 

Lauren: That's very fair. And, you know, I would still argue that that's worth knowing ahead of time. If that is your goal, you don't have to take the rest of this into account, but it's still worth knowing in the beginning. Like, I don't care if I sell any copies of this. I just want to write a book and get it out there. If I sell copies of it, great. And if I don't, I did the thing. 

Matt: That's a good point, because I have talked to somebody once – just once, but once – last year, I believe, at an author event, where that initially was their goal. They wanted to tell this story about a family member, and it was a pretty significant story, and so that was the only goal. So they did. They wrote this book, and they put it out, and they just kind of left it. Like you said, it was just like, ‘I did it. It's done. I'm going to move on.’ Six months later, started thinking like, ‘why isn't the book selling?’ And then came to the realization that, well, because my goal was just to write the book, there was no marketing plan put in place, there was no sales strategy that was executed. It was just kind of like, ‘here's the book, there's the market, I'm putting the book into the market and I'm done.’ If for no other reason, if that was your goal, just reminding yourself of that six months, twelve months, eighteen months down the road. When you start wondering like, ‘why am I not making money?’ Well, that wasn't your goal to begin with, so you didn't put in the work afterwards. 

Lauren: Yeah, exactly. So, let's assume that your goal is either directly or indirectly to make money. If your goal is just to write a book, say you did it, and get it out in the world, then great. Good for you. You are a better person than I am because I like making money. 

Matt: Me too.

Lauren: So, you know, let's assume that that is your goal, to make money from your book sales. Set your goals ahead of time, and then do your research when it comes to choosing your path forward. Whether that's choosing a path between self-publishing and traditional publishing. If you're going to choose self-publishing, who you're going to be using to publish your book, to distribute your book, what your various sales channels and distribution channels are going to be. You want to make sure that you're choosing a publisher that is going to help you achieve those goals, and is going to have the tools set up to help you achieve those goals.


Matt: Yeah, no, that's very smart, absolutely. Something else you wanna make sure you're doing when you're researching is looking at other books in your genre. That's extremely important, and I think a lot of people overlook that, and they just kinda get tunnel vision, and locked into what they're doing. Subconsciously, they're probably guided by books they've read in that genre, but that doesn't necessarily qualify as researching other books in the genre. By researching other books in your genre, you can string together what factors sort of define and unify them. 

Are there themes in cover design or the way that they format titles? Even something as simple as looking at the list price for the books that are in the same genre as you're going to be in. You want to have a pretty good idea of what the average list price is for a book of that genre, that size. You don't want to go to market way too low or way too high. So doing the proper research in that genre, understanding all of those things, even what type of format readers in that genre tend to prefer. Some genres are just naturally better suited for ebook or audiobook while others, you know, are dominated by print to a degree. Understanding all of that, I think will help you make really good choices in deciding A. what type of book you actually put out, but B. more importantly, which publishing platform or publisher you end up going with. 

Lauren: It's a great thing to pay attention to. I'm a diehard romance reader. The majority of what I read is romance. And romance is a genre that is paperback first, generally. So even like some of the biggest names, the books come out in paperback first, which isn't super common for traditional publishing. It's usually a hardcover edition first, and then after six months to a year, depending on the success of the book, they'll release it in paperback – which is also pro tip, something to keep in mind. If you're looking for ways to monetize the same book in multiple different avenues, consider doing staggered releases, consider doing a paperback and a hardcover edition

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: and staggering the releases on those. But for romance, for example, they usually come out in paperback first. And then if there is great success with the book or with a particular author, then you might see the publisher or the author doing a collector's edition in hardcover or an exclusive edition in hardcover. So those are great things to stay aware of, and great options for you to monetize your existing content if you already have some books out or if you're launching one now and you want to think of different formats, different ways to do that. 

Matt: Yeah, no, that's a great idea too. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: I don't think I was quite aware of that because I don't read romance. And, you know, based on what we do here every day, and the people we interact with, I would have assumed that romance was ebook first. I mean, I know back in the day, like romance were the tawdry little paperbacks that you would find. But seems like today it's so focused on ebook. But that's interesting. And now that I think about it, if I'm strolling through Target with my wife or whatever, like when you do hit the book section even at Barnes & Noble or somewhere like that, there are a lot of romance paperbacks, you're right. I didn't think about that. For some reason, I just assumed like it's all ebook. 

Lauren: Well, and it's also, you know, romance is a hard genre to use as an example because it's such a broad genre. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: There are so many subcategories within it. And there are, when you hit that point, there are, you know, certain subcategories tend to prioritize different formats. But I think in general, it's, it's definitely something that is worth doing your research on. You want to make sure that whatever genre or subgenre you're publishing your book in, you're keeping it in line with other books in that genre. 


Lauren: I think about that a lot when it comes to list prices on books. Which I feel like is one of those things that you might not be as aware of if you hadn't had a reason to be paying close attention to the list price of books. 

Matt: Retail pricing actually is important, and because if you're gonna employ a direct sales strategy, which everybody really should, you have ultimate freedom over what you’re pricing your book as. You might actually have a little leeway to come down a dollar if you're selling direct versus if you were selling through a third party retailer, you might want to go up a dollar because you're trying to account for the cut they're going to take out of your profits. 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: Whereas if you're selling direct, nobody's taking a cut of your profits. And so you could actually afford to drop your price a dollar if you wanted to, or things like that. I do also think that it's a very important thing to think about at some point in the journey, is understanding retail pricing and the relation to your profit margin. And again, your ultimate goal of how much money you want to make.

Lauren: Oh, yeah, I completely agree. I wouldn't have brought it up. I didn't think that was a very important detail. 

Matt: You never know. I was just checking. 

Lauren: Well, that's true. I do tend to ramble about anything. I'm sure no one listening to this podcast has picked up on that yet. Matt and I both tend to ramble a little bit.

Matt: In fact, now that I think about it, we are probably the worst two people to do this podcast because we both ramble, especially about books. So 45 minute episodes are getting harder and harder for us to create. 

Lauren: Three hour episodes? 

Matt: No. 

Lauren: Coming soon. 
Matt: Nobody wants or needs that. Yeah, you just shrunk our audience from five to two. And that's my parents probably, or my mom and your mom. 

Lauren: Thanks moms. 


Matt: Exactly. Let's move on to the second one. 

Lauren: Alright. So another tactic to keep in mind if you want to sell copies of your book, or sell more copies of your book, is that you should start selling it long before you're publishing it. 

Matt: What does that mean? 

Lauren: That's a great question because I don't mean preorders. I don't mean that you should be selling advanced copies of your book. You should start marketing already. If you start your marketing efforts for your book the day that the book goes on sale, you're already too late. 

Matt: Yeah, you're behind the eight ball at that point. 

Lauren: You should start well in advance. Depends, I guess, if you have an audience already or if you're building an audience. But if you have an audience already, you should start by paying attention to them, paying attention to what they want, what they like, what they're interested in. Is there a problem that you're solving for them with this book? Is there content of yours that they really like, that they really resonate with, that they want more of? If you're targeting a specific audience, you want to make sure that you're targeting them with content that they want and hopefully need.

Matt: If you're in the process of building an audience, a great way to continue building that audience or maybe accelerate the growth of your audience, is talking about the book you're writing and gonna be bringing to market. We've seen a number of people do that and do it really successfully and really well. Not only does it keep whatever audience you've already built engaged and kind of hanging on for a little more, but it's a great way to start expanding that audience, again by talking about what you're doing. People get really interested in things that people are doing in public, and writing a book in public or at least publicly talking about the progress you're making, the things you're doing. It really keeps people interested and engaged and it adds another level of accountability for yourself.

Lauren: That too. 

Matt: If you're publicly talking about this and letting people know you're working on it and this is your hopeful deadline for getting the manuscript done and then the cover done. And there's a level of accountability there that's not necessarily there when you're writing it completely in private. So yeah, absolutely depending on, again, whether you have a large audience already or you're building a small one, either way, pre-marketing the book, pre-selling the book is the way to go. You don't wanna start at launch like Lauren said.

Lauren: It's also a great way to get your audience invested in a little bit more personal way in your content or your book. You know, whether you're writing a how to guide or you're writing the next high fantasy novel that Tik Tok is going to be obsessed with. It's a great way to get your audience invested from the beginning. If you get them involved in the publishing process, if you do things like cover reveals, you know, an opinion poll on, do you like this cover better in blue or red, or help me name a minor character that's going to be in the book, or something like that. Whatever the case may be, like you're getting people excited about your content because they feel personally involved in it. 

Matt: Yeah. We see our good friend Austin Church doing that right now as we speak. He is getting ready to publish his book called Free Money. And I noticed over the weekend, he made a post on LinkedIn with some cover choices that he was given by the designer and the amount of engagement he got on that post and just comments and activity is crazy. Probably one of his higher ranked and engaged posts and he gets a lot as it is. So clearly people really enjoy that. Yeah. I think you're right. I think being able to do things like that is a lot of fun. 

Lauren: There's also a secret pro tip hidden in there. It's come up with a catchy title. Free Money. You have my attention. Yeah. Tell me more.

Matt: Austin's a very smart guy. He's, he's clearly got it figured out. 

Lauren: I look forward to reading his book. 

Matt: You should. 

Lauren: Oh, I will. So, whatever you're doing with your audience, whether it's connecting with your existing audience or working on building up a new one, because you can't sell a book to an audience that doesn't exist. So you need to work on building up that audience before you start trying to sell that book to them, just make sure that you do that before the book exists.

Matt: And then also you can really get a jumpstart on your email list. That way, if you haven't started building an email list, and even if you have, it's a great way to encourage more people to sign up for your email list by teasing out the fact that you are working on this book. And then if they'd love to get early access to it or be a beta reader for you or, you know, any number of really fun things involved with that to sign up for your email list. So they'll, they'll be the first to know. So having things like that to encourage people to get onto your email list is great.

Lauren: It's a great way to connect with that target audience and start building relationships with those communities, which if you've listened to any of the other episodes we've posted so far, we have talked about – at least a couple of times now – talked about the importance of building that community. 

Matt: Just a little bit important. 

Lauren: So just a little great way to do it. 


Matt: Alright. That's going to carry us on to number three. We talked about doing your research, making sure that you kind of know the direction you're going to head with the book, understanding your genre, other books in the genre. We talked about how you really need to start selling that book before you actually publish it and what that means. And now we're going to talk about some of the tactics. that are related to actually selling the book. And we're getting to the part now where you're actually making money. 

So here's the fun part for all of you that tuned out the last 10 minutes or so, wake up. Here's where we're gonna talk about actually making money from the book. And we're gonna start by talking about a newer topic for most authors and creators. And it's this concept or tactic of selling direct. As consumers, we're used to buying direct to a degree, we buy direct from certain brands that we like, that we wanna support. Buying direct and selling direct just means there's no middleman in that transaction. You're either buying something directly from, you know, a creator, an author, a brand that you really like, or they are selling it direct to you. There's no middleman like Amazon or Walmart or Target or any of those things. So, not a hard concept, but it is a newer concept for individual small and medium sized creators, brands, and businesses that's really been catching a lot of steam, especially with the onset of tools like Shopify and some of these other ecommerce platforms that make it really easy for you to do so.

Lauren: It is definitely something that's becoming more and more prevalent in the ecommerce world in general. Also in the Lulu world in general. If you are familiar with any of our content, you've certainly heard us talking about selling direct before. If you have listened to the last two episodes of this podcast, you've heard us talking about selling direct. Both of our last two episodes were specifically on the topic of selling direct. Hopefully you're familiar with the idea and we've done at least a little bit of work to convince you about why it's worth doing and give you a little bit more information about how it can be very helpful to help you grow your brand or business. What about actually making money off of it? Is it helpful for making money selling your books? 

Matt: Yeah, I think, you know, again, when we start to break down the math and the numbers of things, and you really look at your options for your book and books in general, and you look at third party retail systems, how that works, you know, distribution, the percentages they take every time you sell a book versus if you have a direct sales process and what those numbers look like, or if you're doing a blended or hybrid approach where you're doing all of them – which is a good idea, by the way. The math doesn't lie, the numbers don't lie. So selling direct is, hands down, the best way to maximize your profits because you are literally cutting out the middleman. So there's no arguing that if you can set up a direct sales approach, you're going to make more money that way your profit margins will be higher. And when you streamline a lot of that work and you get automated fulfillment tools in place like Lulu Direct and stuff like that, you're also saving yourself a lot of time. And for most of us, time is also equal to money. So there's no denying that selling direct is probably the fastest and best way to maximize your profits. Because again, when you're selling direct you're keeping all that profit, you're not giving any of that over to a third party retailer like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Ingram, any of those other sources for selling books retail online.

Lauren: It's also a great way to not just maximize your immediate revenue because yes, obviously that's the goal for right now. [18:07] But if you're trying to build out your book selling business or your business that you happen to be writing a book to support, you're looking for long-term growth and success and selling direct is a great way to set you up for that because it'll give you tools to foster long-term relationships and remarketing strategies with your customers. 

Matt: Yeah. And again, long-term, that is your best solution as well. Short-term, you're going to maximize your profits and start building customer data for yourself. Which again, that's where the giants like Amazon really pulled ahead of the game on everybody else. Yeah, they built an amazing ecommerce platform and yes, they can get things to you in two days sometimes. Yes, you'll find the lowest prices there and blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah. But ultimately what Amazon did and what their goals were all along was to A, build the world's largest customer database and all the information that comes along with that and B, build a logistics network. And they've successfully done both and continue to build both. So you can essentially do that yourself. You can be the seller. You can capture that transaction data when you're selling direct. And then there are tools to help you fulfill and ship those things that you never have to touch one of those books or products, it's all done on the back end. So absolutely, that's a long term strategy. That's something there. Like Lauren said, if you're serious about what you're doing and building a sustainable practice for long term, that's definitely the route to go. Yeah. And we'll go over some examples of people who are doing that when we get towards the end of the episode here, but absolutely a hundred percent selling direct should be a very key part of your strategy, your sales strategy. And in the future, direct will be the default. I'll argue that till the day I die. That’s going to become the default, and all of these other strategies and paths to market will become secondary. Not that they're not needed, but they will become secondary for sure.


Matt: But for now, we can go into number four, which is basically: you really kind of want to be where your buyers are to a degree. It doesn't have to be an either or scenario, it actually can be an and scenario so that you kind of maximize all channels. 

Lauren: Absolutely. This is a question that we get a lot. Probably the number one question that I get when I'm talking to people at conferences, when we are at content entrepreneur events or author events, where people will say, yeah, Lulu Direct sounds really interesting, selling direct sounds really interesting, but I don't want to lose my presence on Amazon or on Barnes & Noble – 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: – or or something like that. And I always tell them, you don't have to. These are not either or situations. You can do both. 

Matt: That’s right. 

Lauren: And we argue that you should because, you know, like Matt just said, you do want to be where your buyers are, which does also go back to that first tactic, that first point up there about doing your research and knowing where your buyers are. Knowing where, you know, if you are a romance author, you might know that you've got a lot of Kindle Unlimited readers in your audience, so it is valuable for you to be on Amazon. But you might also know that a lot of romance readers like having physical copies of their books to add, like trophies on their bookshelves.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So you want to give your readers a print option too, that is not just the Kindle Unlimited edition. 

Matt:  One of the other places too – so we talk about selling direct, we also talk about retail distribution and third party retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, those types of things. But I think something that goes unlooked sometimes is when people are deciding who they want to publish their books through or what platform they wanna use for self publishing, things like that. They often don't think about the post sales or post launch sales path. And is there a place that their publisher offers for them to list their book as another sales opportunity? So in other words, does your publisher have a website where they also list the books for sale, where you might be able to generate some more attention and eyes on your book as well as money, obviously profit? So you should look at that. The goal is to really maximize your discoverability. So again, utilizing direct for all the audience you currently have, because you don't want to give them away, but the audience you don't have yet could potentially be found on these other channels. So yeah, use all the channels that you can, including something like social media.


Lauren: Absolutely use social media. We're seeing this a lot more and more lately with these apps, that the algorithms on them are getting so great at predicting what their users want. That we've gotten into this habit of not searching for things, but instead getting them delivered to us by these predictive algorithms. And that includes shopping. That includes products. I am a big Disney nerd. We've talked about this in the past and I love small businesses that create and design cool t-shirts or cool products that are related to Disney, or something like that. Instagram knows that about me. And I follow a couple there, like a few favorites that I have that I follow that I interact with enough that now Instagram is just constantly delivering: ‘here's another small business that does like Disney inspired t-shirts,’ or ‘here's one that does Disney inspired backpacks.’ Instagram is still like, we know you're interested in this. We know you're interested in this. You like this and it works. 

Matt: Yeah. I mean, social media channels for sure are definitely moving into the ecommerce space. Some of them already have been through the types of advertising they allow. And some of them actually facilitate like TikTok now actually facilitates transactions for sellers. TikTok understands, they've now built in a way for people to sell directly from TikTok. You don't have to leave the channel anymore. And that's really smart on TikTok's part. And it's also just indicative of what you just said, where, you know, the ecommerce landscape is shifting. It's evolving quickly, but it's also shifting to where we're not just talking about website driven sales anymore. We're talking about the integration of ecommerce into social media channels. So you never have to leave that social media channel. These developers, these designers, these companies are very smart and you're just going to continue to see that happening more and more. So as a book creator and seller, you need to be aware of those things and understand again, what channels are your potential buyers hanging out, you know, your potential readers and new fans, where are they hanging out and you really should get yourself familiarized with the way that you can sell on those channels. 

Lauren: Especially, and again, this is circling back on that idea of knowing your audience, knowing your genre, doing your research ahead of time with massive communities like BookTok and Bookstagram on TikTok and Instagram. Don't sleep on those opportunities. If those audiences are the right audiences for your content, don't ignore them. Those are huge. 

Matt: Yeah. 


Lauren: Last, but definitely not least kind of the exact opposite of that – brick and mortar bookstores are absolutely still relevant. They are still a thing. I was literally, I was out of town this past weekend. I was in St. Louis. I left my hotel for like 15 minutes to go for a walk, found an indie bookstore. And as a general rule, anytime I find an indie bookstore, I have to buy something in there because it's very important to me to support local indie bookstores. You know, it is absolutely still possible to have your book as a self-published author carried in a bookstore. So if that's something that you want, it's worth the effort. It's going to take some effort. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Cause it's not a guarantee. It's not just like automatically if you do retail distribution, your book is going to be in every Barnes & Noble in the world. In fact, it's probably like a 0.01% chance of that happening. But if that's something that is important to you, especially if that's relevant to you, if you're a particular, you know, if you've written a book on local history or, you know, something that is specifically relevant to like your area, absolutely take that time to go make that connection with those local booksellers or local bookstores and get your book stocked in their stores as well. 


Matt: Yeah, that's a good one as well. All right, number five. This one probably skews a little more fiction than nonfiction, but it can absolutely apply to both types of content. And that is make sure you do not ignore your backlist. So…fifth tactic is to leverage your backlist, paying attention to trends in your industry, pay attention to general media trends and things like that. And most certainly in your audience, you can certainly find excuses to bring back some of your older titles or bring some newfound attention to those older titles, maybe based on something that's going on socially right now, economically, things like that. Or again, you know, there could be some resurgence in the genre that you write in of a particular style or something else along those lines. So really making sure that, you know, that research we talked about at the top of this episode just continues to carry on always being aware of what's going on in your genre, in your industry, in the general media, you've always got those opportunities available if you have a backlist to be able to shed some new light on a title and maybe even repackage it and republish it.

Lauren: Yeah, it's a great opportunity to incentivize some of your newer content as well. If you're looking for ways to sell your new book, if you were selling direct when you were selling your backlist, and you want to reach out to people that bought those older books

Matt: That's right. 

Lauren: That's a great way to do it. Maybe there's also something in there that you can use for an exclusive incentive for your email list, you say to people like, ‘hey, if you buy a copy of my new book in the first week that it's out, I will also send you a free ebook of one of my older books that is similar or relevant in some way,’ or something like that. It's useful content that you have available to you. So make sure that you are holding on to that and that you're not forgetting about it. It's also a great way for you to potentially repackage – we mentioned that already, talked about this a little bit earlier in the episode – if you want to do different editions of your book, if you've got a book that's a few years old, maybe it's something as simple as you wrote a book on social media marketing a few years ago and now you want to update it and replace every every use of the word Twitter with the word X.

Matt: I knew that's where you're going with this, I knew it. Control F.

Lauren: You know, control F and what's the replace command? I only know control F. Don't do that. First of all, that's – that is absolutely not the way to edit your book. Don't do that.

Matt: That's a whole other episode. 

Lauren: Yeah, probably, you could just get me up on my soapbox for an hour and a half about editing. But that's fine. But you know, that's a great example of saying, hey, all I've done to this book was made some minor edits. Maybe you repackage the cover on it, maybe talking about different formats. Maybe you'd originally put it out in paperback. Now you want to put out, like, a nice limited edition hardcover just in time for the holidays or something like that. You have this content. Don't ignore that content. Don't let it languish forever on your backlist. Matt already brought up Taylor Swift, so, you know, friendly reminder that she is currently in the process of rerecording and re-releasing all of her old albums and people are buying it. 

Matt: Yeah, probably better than the first time. 

Lauren: Maybe. 

Matt: Looking at you. 

Lauren: Look, the vault songs on 1989 are really good. I'm just saying they might be better than the original album. 

Matt: Are we going to do deep cuts here with Taylor Swift? 

Lauren: No, this is, this is topical. This album came out literally last Friday. This is – well actually okay, we're recording this a little bit ahead of when the episode comes out. So this is no longer topical, but it's topical in my mind 

Matt: Probably not topical for anybody listening but that's okay. 

Lauren: I don't know if that's true. She does have a pretty large fan base. There's got to be at least one other listener out there, some overlap. Maybe it's my sister.


Matt:  Let's move on to number six. This is our sixth and final one for those of you that stuck it out this long. Thank you. Last tactic we're going to talk about right now for how you can actually make money from your books. This one actually is one where it doesn't rely on you making money from the book itself. It relies on the opportunities that the book creates. And Lauren alluded to this at the top of the episode. It's basically using your book as a lead magnet or a business card. And we've definitely talked about this before in previous episodes, but books are a great way to bring in revenue aside from just the book sale itself. And in fact, you can give that book away for free, depending on the type of book it is, to generate revenue from either other book sales or other opportunities that are related to the book, like online courses, speaking engagements, things like that, right? 

Lauren: Yep. I think it's important to remember, actually, that when we're talking about making money from your book, you're not just talking about book sales.  Monetizing your content with a book is great, but also using it as a way to establish yourself as a thought leader or an expert in your industry, using it to foster new connections, network, collaborate with your peers, open up new opportunities for something like a speaking engagement, guest podcast appearances. These are all ways that you're going to hopefully generate revenue and generate more business for yourself that the book has helped you to do that.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. And on the nonfiction side, we talk a lot about establishing yourself as an authority or some credibility within the sort of the vertical that you move around in. And again, you know, we've talked about this before, a book is a great way to do that. I'm not even going to say the old adage, but you get the picture. 

Lauren: I will. 

Matt: Let's not. 

Lauren: Okay. 

Matt: And on the fiction side, many of you have probably already seen this. Also using a book as a lead gen or lead magnet is a great way to get somebody interested in maybe a trilogy that you've written or a longer standing series, you know, by giving ‘em that first book for free and they get hooked and they come back for the others. Things like that, I think are great ways to encourage more business, more revenue. And so again, a book can be used to generate revenue, not directly tied to that single book, but parallel avenues that that book brings in for revenue opportunities. 

Lauren: You might find the case where if you're a fiction author and you also want to have a side hustle as a developmental editor or something like that, and you say, ‘hey, I'm freelance editing for people – 

Matt: Hard pass. 

Lauren: You don't pay me enough to do that. 

Matt: I know, shout out to all those developmental editors out there doing the Lord's work.

Lauren: Absolutely incredible work. There's a reason that I sailed right past editorial when I was applying for jobs in the publishing industry. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But yeah, there's a great way to say like, ‘Hey, if you've seen my work here and you're a fan of it and you're looking for somebody that can help you do the same. Hire me.’


Matt: Yeah, I agree. So, just to wrap it up a little bit, we've given you six tactics so far on how you can actually make money from your books. So hopefully you took some notes, which meant there was some value added there and we like that. But just to sort of close out the podcast, we're going to give you a few examples of some creators that we've worked with that we know are using a lot of these tactics and others, you could say they're doing it right. They're having a lot of success with their books, their titles, their business. In many cases, some of these that we're going to touch on real quick have gone on to create other businesses around their books or their writing.

I'm going to start by talking about one of our friends, Katie Cross. She is a romance fiction author. She writes serial romance fiction. She is somebody – 

Lauren: And fantasy.

Matt: That's true. Yeah, sorry. I don't want to miscategorize. She uses a lot of the sales channels that we've talked about a lot of the tactics we've talked about. But ultimately, I think what's important is that you know that she uses all of them. She uses distribution. She's on Amazon. She's on Ingram. She goes to a lot of events in person. She also sells direct from her website. So she's doing all of the things and as a result, she is really seeing the benefits pay off in terms of not just financial income, but units moved. We see those numbers. She's moving thousands and thousands and thousands of units, copies of her books. But on top of that, she's doing a great job of building her own customer base, her own database of fans and followers and customers that she could remarket to. So Katie Cross is doing a great job in the world of serial fiction, putting a lot of these tactics to use.

Lauren: I'm not going to point this out after every one, so I'll just say it now. If any of these people sound interesting and you want to learn more about them, see how they're using their books to grow their brands or what their bands look like in the first place, I’m linking to all of their sites in our show notes. So you can always check that out, including Katie's, her website is great and her book covers are beautiful. So I always like seeing those. 


Matt: Yeah, no, I agree. 100%. Another favorite of mine is two guys that created this book, it's called Scarred for Life, it’s Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence. Two guys had a shared interest in a pretty niche topic and just decided they were gonna put a book together. The goal was to create a book that they would want to read that they would enjoy owning and they did a wonderful job of it again, it's called Scarred for Life. But since then that has turned into a lot of other opportunities for them. Uh, not only did they sell a lot of copies of the book and continue to – so financially they're doing well with the book sales itself – but they've got a series of books now, uh, live shows, a podcast, I think there's even been talk of potential TV, um, spawn from that. So again, that book not only brought in some immediate revenue from the book directly, but they're a great example of somebody or two gentlemen actually who have been able to parlay that into a lot of other really cool opportunities based on that book.

Lauren: They did a webinar with us recently and they were talking about how, like, how Matt had said that they had just, they wrote the book they wanted to read. They were looking for a book on the subject and they couldn't find one. And so they decided to write their own and they thought, ‘oh, you know, maybe there'll be some interest in this. Maybe there won't be. It doesn't really matter.’ This is more of a case of just wanting to maybe get that book out there and have this content available. And I don't remember which one of the two authors mentioned it, I'm sorry to them in advance, but one of them said that they had set a goal, a lifetime goal for book sales and they surpassed that goal in the first day. 

Matt: A lifetime goal. That's bold. But I like it. 

Lauren: Yep. So that was a great example of just people finding like, you know, we've got this interest in this very niche subject and we want to talk more about it. And it turns out other people want to talk more about it too. 

Matt: Yeah. People like to talk about stuff they like. 

Lauren: Yeah. So definitely definitely check out Scarred for Life. Their books are awesome and they're doing great stuff with their content.


Matt: This next example is a gentleman named Darren Smith. He is a great example of somebody who really doubled down the idea of using his book as a lead generation or a lead magnet tool. He wanted to bring in more consulting work to his business. He wanted to draw more attention to what he was doing in the way of online courses and things like that. So the book really was meant to be a lead magnet. And in many cases he would give the book out for free, or he would sponsor events and in exchange for the sponsorship they would allow him to give each of the attendees a copy of his book. And it did just that, in terms of direct sales of the book, he didn't make a lot of money and didn't sell a ton of units. But in terms of parallel business brought in from those books, he's done really well with that, he's landed some consulting gigs, some podcasts interviews, some speaking engagements, and all those things that he really set out to do. So that's a great example of how Darren was able to take that tactic, that concept, and really put it into work.


Lauren: I think another great example of an author being able to use their book and their book content to grow their business is a Lulu author, Lynette Greenfield. She's an incredibly prolific author. She has written a bunch of different novels, poetry. She's done some nonfiction too, published them all with Lulu and she does a great job with her books. The covers are beautiful. The formatting is very professionally done on the inside. She knows how to do it right. She's doing it right and she's been doing it for years. And she finally reached a point where she said, you know, I'm doing this. I know what I'm doing here. Like I've gotten this down. I know what I'm doing. I'm gonna help other people do this too. And she launched her own business. She has her own publishing imprint now, Limelight Publishing, where she helps other aspiring self-published authors and creators get their books self-published.

Matt: Yeah

Lauren: And do that work whether it's editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, all that. She turned around and took the success that she found doing that and is now helping other people do that and has turned that into a business in its own way. 


Matt: Yeah that's awesome. We love Lynette. She's worked really hard within the industry and has done some really great things and that's a perfect example. You're right. I could talk about Lynette all day long but I won't. We'll move on to the last example I think that we'll give for this episode. And this one tends to be one of our favorites too. This guy is so energetic and in his content is just so fun. And he started, I think, basically with his TikTok channel and got that to a ton of followers, I think in the millions. But his content was mostly around plants, and sustainability, and things like that, but he made it really fun. And people were asking him, like, you know, ‘how do I get more of your content?’ 

He decided to put it into a book. And so his first book that he did through Lulu, he made the decision to sell direct, which I think was the smart thing to do. And what he did was he went back to that massive audience that he had built and said, ‘hey, you know, I've got this new book coming out. I'd love for you guys to buy it from me directly and support me when this book comes out. His story is amazing. I think in the first couple of months, he moved something upwards of 10,000 plus units, copies. Yeah, it was great. His name is Armen, but the name of his channel is Creative Explained. And that's the same name for TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, if I'm not mistaken. Again, his videos are really fun. They were short and people wanted more from him, more content, something a little more sticky as well. And the book did great, continues to do great. He did a volume two, which is doing great. 

What really happened was for Armen in his brand Creative Explained, this became an immediate and long-term financial play for him. I mean, when you're moving those numbers of units, that's no small drop in the bucket. But then, you know, later on, it did open up more avenues for him. He was able to start really focusing on his passion, which is sustainability. He got invited to speak at some schools, and some other things like that. So this was a big financial play in the beginning for Armen, but he was able to parlay that into long-term opportunities after the fact as well.

Lauren: I think he even has a third book coming out now. And Armen's just a phenomenal example of someone saying, I have this content already, I have this audience, they like what I'm talking about. they want more of this specific subject from me, I'm going to provide it for them in a book. And the audience proved that they wanted what he was selling.


Matt: I agree. So I think we've done a pretty good job of talking about how you can actually make money from books. What do you think? 

Lauren: I think so too. I'm sure there are plenty of other things we could talk about and maybe we will. 

Matt: Not today. 

Lauren: Not today, though. 

Matt: If anybody disagrees, that we did not prove the case that you could make money from books, please email us and tell us. 

Lauren: Once again, getting ready to give out Matt's email at the end of an episode. 

Matt: I was going to list yours, but all right. 

Lauren: Good luck with that. I delete almost every email that comes into my inbox. 

Matt: All right. Well, like Lauren said, we will link to all of these creators that we talked about and authors in the show notes, as well as some of the other resources and things we talked about early on in the episode. We thank you guys for joining us. We hope you found some value and until next time. 

Lauren: Thanks, everyone.