When we started putting together our sales channel numbers for 2018, we realized there was a whole classification of income we’d never really thought about systematically—money that comes in without book sales.
We’ve titled this channel sort of satirically, based on a favorite scene in The Right Stuff. Betty Grissom is upset after her husband’s spaceflight; his capsule had ignominiously sunk, lost in the Atlantic Ocean, and he’d flown the second Mercury flight anyway, rather than the first, so instead of getting lunch at the White House with Jackie Kennedy, she and her husband have been “treated” to a meager little ceremony in Florida. But when they get back to their hotel room, he’s excited to see someone had filled their fridge with beer. To which Betsy says: “Is this the goodies?”
In other words, this is not a lucrative channel—not a pillar of the business, by any stretch. But it is a channel where money comes your way unexpectedly, based on your work in the other channels.
We listened to an excellent podcast episode (probably the JDO Show episode with Michael Seidlinger) where they talked about how your book is your business card. This does overstate the case quite a bit; for many of us, the books are the end, the whole point, the raison d’etre. But it raises an interesting point; your books are also representation of yourself, a point of entry into the book world.
To put it another way, we’ve heard it said that people generally figure out how to treat you by looking at how you treat you, and this extends to your books, too. If you go about this haphazardly, and put out sloppy work, and present yourself as a dilettante, people will ignore you, and they’ll be right to do so. But if you take your books seriously, and present them well, and make it a point to be as professional as anyone in the business, people will take you seriously. (This is even true if you’re manufacturing books via POD. We’ve met booksellers who were surprised to learn that we were using the same Ingram and KDP technology that any ol’ self-pubbed schmo uses. If you put enough work into the cover and the layout, the only people who will notice are the ones who know the tells. POD covers never have printing on the inside surface, and maybe lack some of the bells and whistles of traditionally printed books, like embossed lettering or mixed glossy and matte cover finish; they also always have an extraneous blank page with printing info on the last interior page.)
So even if you are publishing POD books without a formal distribution deal, take your books seriously. Then if you, say, sell books at a book fair, you may get invited to speak at a library or a school, and get a speaking fee for doing so. If you spend enough time putting out good books, you might be invited to teach a class, or sit on a panel at a writer’s conference. The money isn’t insane—we’ll get into that in the next post, the big reveal, the money shot—but it’s there, and it helps make the dream possible.