Friday, May 4, 2012

The Newest Way to Make Money as a Writer: How to Make Digital Products That Sell

Today, I'm happy to welcome Alexis Grant to MNINB. As some of you may know, her Traveling Writer blog made my 2012 Best Blogs for Writers to Read list. So I'm excited to have her here. Plus, her topic today totally fits what many of us just went through for the April Platform Challenge. (Also, check out her social media course below.) Alexis Grant is a writer and editor who blogs at The Traveling Writer. Check out her free newsletter on the intersection of writing and entrepreneurship.

Alexis Grant, editor/writer/traveler

Even when you’re a great writer, it’s not easy to make money off the skill. That’s because you can’t simply write; you have to write something people will actually pay for.

Traditionally, writers have made money by offering services. We write for newspapers and magazines. We ghost-write stories for important people. We create newsletters and advertising content and anything that allows us to put our pens to paper in exchange for a paycheck.

Those of us who are really lucky graduate from selling our services to selling products. Often our products are books that are bought by a publisher and resold to readers. Many of us labor for years to create just one product, desperately hoping the publisher – our distributor and a key link in this money-making plan – will shell out some serious cash for our baby.

A New Dawn for Writers

But now that we’ve entered the age of the Internet, we no longer need a publisher to create and sell our books; we can do it ourselves. Of course, most of you have figured that out already. Yet what many writers haven’t yet figured out is how to take that self-publishing shift and apply it to other opportunities, how to take it one step further – by creating products other than books.

I’m now using my writing skills to create several exciting types of products, including digital guides (essentially short e-books) and online courses. In my quest to make a living doing what I love, I identified and adopted this relatively new way to bring in dollars.

How to Make Digital Products That Sell

So what do you need to make money by penning a digital product? A successful strategy includes two vital pieces:
  1. A fabulous product that people will want to buy.
  2. A way to sell that product.
The first piece tends to come easier to writers; after all, stringing phrases together to create value – a product that’s either helpful or entertaining or both – is what we’re good at.

But in this online world, creating something awesome isn’t enough. You then have to create a means of selling the product, what we often call platform. How will you get eyes on your product? How will you convince people to buy it?

Making Money Isn't Magic

Once you’ve got those two components down, you can write whatever, whenever and wherever you want; it really is that simple. And yet, too many writers fail to make a living doing what they love because they gloss over the importance of No. 2. They make the mistake of thinking that if they create something wonderful, that product will somehow magically turn into money.

But the truth is, as any writer working to build his/her platform will tell you, accomplishing No. 2 is just as challenging if not more challenging than No. 1. To make money from this type of writing, you have to be able to sell what you create.

If you can truly wrap your head around that idea, it will give you total freedom. After all, that’s why I’m so happy working for myself: because I can create the content I want to create without anyone else’s approval – so long as I can figure out how to sell it.


Use Social Media to Make Your Own Luck

By the way, Alexis begins a 4-week course on making your own luck with social media on May 7. Participants will learn how to get important people to notice you online, build your network strategically (instead of haphazardly), and more. In fact, maybe the most important lesson Alexis will teach involves how to spend less time on social media and still use it effectively. Since she's always filled with practical and actionable advice, I'm sure most participants will make their money back (and then some) before the end of summer. She's just that good.

Click here to view more details.


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Check out previous Not Bob posts for writers:


Lawrence Parlier said...

How about something that doesn't seek to separate money from already struggling writers?

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Hello Lawrence.

I'm not sure how providing ideas tries to separate money from already struggling writers. This post does include information about an upcoming course by Alexis, but that's separate of her blog post, which provides actionable information.

Laura Howard said...

You've given us a solid foundation Not Bob, and for those who still struggle, there is incredible value in taking it up a notch with a course like Make your Own Luck.

Alexis Grant said...

Thanks, Laura and Robert! Lawrence, there's LOTS of free info on Robert's blog and on mine :) Eat it up all you like!

Lynn said...

I'll dive into this more thoroughly after I have finished digesting all that Robert gave us in the April Platform Challenge. Thanks for sharing.

Sorry Gnat said...

Hey Not Bob - You'd better be careful because people, okay, writers, will decide to bronze you and erect statues in the parks of your Rodin like look, whatever that is, because you have just made a huge difference in our young lives! Thanks heaps.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this, Robert and Alexis! This is a subject I've been thinking about a lot (because of some projects I'd like to work on), so this was a great starting point. Alexis, I can't wait to read more of the advice you have to offer on your blog! Thank you again!

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John Yeoman said...

One problem with digital products is that a one-off sale yields little profit. Stars like John Locke might sell an ebook at $2.79 and gross maybe $400,000 a year - but that took five years of platform building.

Perhaps the only viable route is by branding: the initial book is sold at a loss-leader price, followed by induction into a reader 'club' where members get every future offer at a privileged rate. Social networking does that in a haphazard way, of course, but I've yet to see many authors doing it formally.

Is that the future for self-publishers?

JLC said...

As I said in a recent blog of my own, I wish there were more ways to get exposure that's useful without spending money we honestly can't afford. It's just a bit bitter-making to have to keep paying (reading fees) for the privilege of being rejected.