My first book was a bunch of blog posts pasted together. It sold 20,000 copies and has earned me $4.5 million to date. I’ll save you the math: I didn’t sell each copy for $225.
But the book still generated $4.5 million.
I drew the cover myself in Microsoft Paint. I called it “Two-Brain Business” because I thought the left-brain/right-brain analogy fit so well.
The book didn’t have page numbers.
It didn’t have a table of contents.
For some reason, I had a “Section 2” but no “Section 1.”
And it became the bestselling fitness business book of all time.
I didn’t write a book to make money. But I did—just not from books sales.
Here’s how I did it.
Self-Publishing by Necessity
In early 2010, I was invited to speak at a gym owners’ gathering in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had been blogging my journey for two years and had a decent bank of content, but my role was really to be the “middleman” between two industry figureheads.
One guy essentially said “be an excellent coach and you’ll succeed eventually.” The other, a marketing expert, was about to launch his gym franchise. His message was the opposite: “Market hard or die.”
My job was to talk about systems and relationships. I knew the others would bring materials to hand out. I thought about printing off my most popular blog posts—some of which had dozens of readers!—and carrying a bunch of paper with me on the plane. But I’d already self-published a textbook on exercise and cognition and thought it would be simpler to ship the blog posts as a book.
So I created the book myself and sent 30 copies to Fort Lauderdale.
Writing Books and Making Money: The New Reality
You don’t make much money selling books. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, R.L. Stine, George R.R. Martin or any of the very few authors who command large advances and sell millions of copies.
Even at full royalty—just over $4 per book on Amazon—it’s hardly worth quitting your job to be an author anymore. We don’t even need to get into agents, contracts, book tours, printing costs, marketing, print on demand, ISBNs, updated versions, brick-and-mortar retail stores or anything else.
But the purpose of a book today isn’t to sell a million copies: It’s to create something meaningful that helps your audience.
Doing that will make money.
How “Real Authors” Make Money With Books—Or Don’t
Since I was a kid, I wanted to be an author.
In 1975, authors wrote books and publishers bought them. The authors made a living from the royalties. That’s not how it works anymore.
I was parted ways with the romantic idea of “author” two years ago. Despite having a good book that had sold 12,000 copies at the time, I still wanted to be a “real author” who had a publisher behind him. Then my son got a chance to meet a room full of real authors, and I was cured.
“Tell Dad ‘Good Luck'”
My son’s class was invited to a lecture on writing and then a “book fair” with several of Canada’s top authors. These writers had all won awards in the previous year for their work.
After the seminar, they all sat behind tables selling their books. This was the “tour.”
My son, Orry, really loved books about haunted houses and ghosts, so he lined up to meet the author of a popular title. He’s a shy kid, but when the esteemed writer took his 20 bucks, Orry said, “My dad writes books, too.”
The author asked which books. Of course, he’d never heard of them.
He rolled his eyes and said, “Tell your dad ‘good luck.'”
Here’s the irony: All the award-winning authors had day jobs, mostly teaching English to college kids or sorting books in a library.
I wasn’t a “serious” author, but I could take an afternoon off to bring my kid to a book fair, and I had earned a big multiple of their salary.
I was cured: I finally understood that being a “real author” has nothing to do with elbow patches and everything to do with attitude.
Now I get to write every day, and I get paid very well for it. I can also take a day off to visit book fairs whenever I like.
And I help others learn how to do the same.
Write a Book, Make Some Money
At Two-Brain Media and Two-Brain Business, we consider writing a book a step on the Authority Ladder.
A book is more than a business card: It helps your audience get to know, like and trust you.
In 2019, having a book with your name on it still sets you apart from others in your field, but that won’t last much longer. Self-publishing isn’t all that hard. Now it’s important to have the best book in your field—to own the authority platform.
Writing a good book? That’s hard. But it can be very lucrative.
Beyond Book Sales
A good book can hold the door open for speaking engagements or consulting. You can create courses that guide others through your work, and you can host workshops to teach them or provide mentorship to lead them.
Some authors use their books to fuel merchandising campaigns or generate ad sales on website. Others license TV and film adaptations. Some give their books away for free as a “lead magnet” if you sign up for a mailing list that’s used to promote products or service.
In my case, hundreds of entrepreneurs wanted step-by-step instructions and mentorship after reading my first three books. So I developed a platform to help them, and we now have clients all over the world.
And I’m about to publish another book: “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” It’s going to help a lot of entrepreneurs.
I hope it helps some writers, too.
You Don’t Need to Write to Write
When combined with good marketing, your book can change the lives of thousands of people. You’re an expert, and people need to hear what you have to say.
The best news (and my daily source of glee): You don’t have to be a writer to write a book. I love writing; most people hate it. So Two-Brain co-founder Mike Warkentin and I have assembled a team to do the mechanical parts for you.
I think everyone has a book in him or her. The trick is pulling that rabbit out of your hat.
More good news: We have a team of magicians at Two-Brain Media who can build your book, build your platform and build your income.
No elbow patches required.