We often tell our authors to think about their book as more than just a book. If you limit yourself to seeing only the pages between two covers, you measure its success based on sales alone. Unfortunately for most titles, that’s a disappointing measure. But when you see your book as something more, the definition of success is tied to metrics that are often more meaningful.
When I wrote Publish with Purpose back in April 2019, I knew from the beginning that I planned to use it to build visibility for my publishing company, Emerald Lake Books. My primary goal was to have readers feel a deep appreciation for the work we do to the extent that they would want to work with us, so we used many of our own authors as case studies and examples (with their permission). This allowed us to paint a picture of what working with us would look like. Since I also linked to our authors’ books, it generated sales for them as well.
In writing Publish with Purpose, I explained the importance of authors knowing their goals for their work. I also provided exercises to demonstrate how authors can approach their writing and marketing to achieve those goals. The core concepts from the book involved identifying your ideal reader, outlining your objectives as an author, and mapping out the book’s overall impact.
I wrote in enough detail that readers could work through the core concepts on their own. But I seeded invitations to work with me on specific exercises that often benefit from having feedback.
Then we did what many publishers do. We staggered the release of our formats so paperback and e-book came out first, and the audiobook came out a few months later. This gave us a reason to market the book heavily a second time. Of course, we promoted and advertised it along the way, too.
Up to this point, the potential revenue streams presented by this book included: 1) an invitation to publish with us, 2) opportunities to purchase books we had published related to case studies that interested the reader, 3) coaching invitations for specific exercises, and 4) book sales (with a second bump when the audiobook came out). There were also multiple ways to stay connected with us without having to buy anything, such as joining our newsletter and bonus materials they could opt in for.
Launching a Virtual Conference
I knew that those types of opportunities existed in many other books we were competing with in the authorship space. So, I took things even further by creating a five-day virtual conference centered on the core concepts of the book, which was held in October 2019 as the first-ever Publish with Purpose virtual summit.
We chose speakers and topics that fit nicely with the three main tracks of connecting with ideal readers, building an author business and brand, and making a bigger impact with your book. This was easy to do because the core concepts of the book were clearly defined.
At the time, the common business model for virtual conferences was to offer free admission for a limited period and the opportunity to purchase replays for those who wanted longer access to the material. So, that’s how we structured our fees. In addition, we had a VIP ticket that included the replays, plus additional bonus materials and discounts on premium products and services, some of which we were affiliates for.
While we did generate money from the conference, we found that offering free admission attracted many people who signed up but never actually watched any of the material before it expired. So, it didn’t support our goal of creating more familiarity with who we are and what we do.
Learning and Growing
When we held our second Publish with Purpose virtual conference in October 2021, we charged a nominal ticket price that granted all attendees three months of access to the recorded content. We also held five live events across the five days that prompted attendees to participate and interact with us, our speakers, and each other. The result of this change in approach was that we had only 20% of the attendees, but we doubled the revenue from the conference, and we actually got to know many of the participants. We weren’t just faces behind the curtain; we were interacting and engaging with people who took the opportunity to ask us questions and get to know us.
We also prepared a conference bookstore catalogue featuring the books of both speakers and attendees. While there was a nominal fee for attendees to list their book in the catalogue, the catalogue itself was sent out to all registered attendees at the conference.
Given that 100% of the attendees of the 2021 conference who responded to our post-event survey said they would come again and that they’d bring a friend this time, plans are already underway for our 2022 conference to be held in October. (Visit emeraldlakebooks.com/summit2022 for more information.)
Identifying Additional Opportunities
In addition to the usual revenue generators mentioned earlier, we can now add 5) replays from each prior conference year, 6) tickets to the next virtual summit, 7) catalogue listing fees, and 8) affiliate income. And each year we hold the virtual summit increases the longevity of my book by promoting it yet again to an interested and engaged audience, resulting in additional book sales. This year, we hope to add yet another revenue stream: 9) securing sponsors for our event.
To date, our conference has generated significantly more revenue than all three formats of the book combined. But the conference wouldn’t have ever existed without the book.
Getting Started Yourself
So, the question is … how can you do this with your own titles?
The key is to match the core concepts of a book with speakers and topics that are aligned with its message. What is the book about? What are its major themes? Are there clearly defined concepts that can be handled distinctly?
Once you’ve answered those questions, do your research to find out who the experts are on those topics. Check out their websites. Look at their YouTube channels. What are they talking about now that can be tied in nicely with an event you want to host? It doesn’t have to be as large as a five-day conference. It could be a webinar series or a one-day workshop. Find the format that feels most comfortable to you.
Remember to always keep in mind how each expert’s topic meshes with your book. When you reach out to the potential speaker, be sure to tell them details about the conference but, more specifically, share how you see their message tying into its theme. The more aligned they feel with what you’re trying to accomplish, the more likely they are to say “yes.”
During the event itself, as you introduce each topic, describe how closely it is aligned with your book’s philosophy and which of the book’s tenets it supports. This creates a constant reminder that encourages discussion about the principles you share, not just about the speakers they hear.
When you pursue alternate revenue streams like this, the true measure of your book is so much more than the number of units sold.