By Ali Shaw, Executive Editor

Image courtesy of Unsplash

I often talk with aspiring authors whose main vision is to get the book out. And with the magic of seeing their name on the cover and holding that long-awaited volume in their hands, who can blame them?

And, I add, don’t you as an author want to keep that shine glowing for as long as possible?

The way to do that is to treat your book as a business. As with any business, hopefully you’ve already determined your target audience and your methods for getting your book in front of them. But there’s more to it!

What’s also important in any business but tends to be overlooked in book businesses is having multiple levels of entry for your customers. I recommend four levels, to be specific: free, low cost, mid cost, and high cost.

Why? Well, because it’s hard to get people to buy in at the high-cost level when they’ve never heard of you, and it’s also hard to make money when all you do is free events. And as much as I hear “I write because I love it, not for the money”—and I love that, I really do—I also know that you could probably do more of what you love if you had the money to give yourself more free time for it, right?

If you look at large corporations, you see these various levels of entry all over the place. Cell phone companies allow you to sign up for e-updates for free and have cheaper low-data plans and range on up to unlimited plans. Technology companies have something similar, except that their products range from lowish high tech on up to the highest of tech (and the highest of prices).

Service companies—like Indigo!—have free writing tips, low-cost Q&A sessions, mid-cost services like focused feedback on a few chapters, and higher-cost services for folks who need all the editing, design, ebook conversion, publication management, audiobook production, and more to launch their book in all its glory.

The reason why I think so few people use this strategy for their book businesses, though, is because it’s hard to think about what more to offer beyond the book.

Here are some ideas:

  • Free:
    • Products: E-newsletter, blog, social media, stickers, sneak peeks, cut scenes, writing tips
    • Events: Most readings are free events because we hope attendees will buy some books. That’s great, but don’t stop there. Think about it like an introduction with people you plan on building a relationship with. Definitely mention your low-cost, mid-cost, and high-cost offerings as well.
  • Low Cost:
    • Products: Low-cost merch, whether it’s directly related to the book (ex., hats like the main character’s) or just for creature comforts while people enjoy your book (ex., lattes)
    • Events: Speaking gigs at book clubs or writing groups. You can also charge a small fee for free readings—have people register through EventBrite and pay a $5 registration fee, which then becomes $5 off the book at your event.
  • Mid Cost:
    • Products: Your book!
    • Event: Generative writing workshops for writing groups or at your local bookstore. $20 to $35/person can bring in a chunk of change for you without breaking the bank for the attendees. The cost should include a small gift (ex., bookmark, pen, cupcake). You decide if that price includes a copy of your book.
  • High Cost:
    • Product: Book bundles with your book and other authors with similar books that you’ve teamed up with. Everyone can help promote and sell the bundles.
    • Event: Ticketed events where people receive the book, a bottle of wine, and a selection of cheeses while listening to you read and speak about your book. Change out the details for items that make the most sense for partnering with your business neighbors and the themes in your book.

The idea here is that the lower-cost events and products invite people into your circle of community, but they take time, effort, and sometimes some money to produce. The high-cost events and products reward the dedicated members of your community and also help you make enough money to keep doing free things to reach even more people. And to keep writing and sharing your stories—which is what this is all about, right?

Get creative! The more unique your event is, the more people will be interested and the more likely you (and your book) will receive some press coverage for it. Invite others! The more performers you have, the larger the audience will be. Always spread the word for your own events—don’t rely on the venue to do it all for you. On all events, be sure to have displays of books that relate to the topic and also have products of all price levels for impulse buys. Share your experiences in the comments below.

You got this! Happy entrepreneuring!

What’s the best book event you’ve ever been to? What made it so fun?

Ali Shaw (she/her) is the founder of Indigo: Editing, Design, and More, which has aided in the publication of more than a thousand books. We approach all angles of our business with a community-building focus to connect with writers and support the literary world. Some of our events have included the Sledgehammer 36-Hour and 36-Minute Writing Contests, the Ink-Filled Page literary journal with linked nationwide reading and writing events, Sit Down Shut Up and Write nights, publishing Q&As, and much more over the past eighteen years. Ali also teaches Entrepreneurship in Publishing through the Portland State University master’s in publishing program.