Top Tips for Monetizing Your Followers Through Publishing

Created: Monday, June 3, 2019, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 10:00 am

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By Dan Kieran, co-founder and CEO of Unbound

One of the seismic changes brought in by the internet is the ability for creative people to build, directly, an audience for their work. The age of the bureaucratic intermediary is over. As a result, 75% of Generation Z, the first generation with no concept of life without the internet, are considering a career in online video. YouTube and Blogger take the top two positions of careers kids would like when they’re older.

But while building an audience yourself online is easier than ever, there are surprisingly few ways for influencers and creators to monetize their audiences outside advertising revenue – especially in an age of ‘free content’. Making entertaining or informative content people want to come back to over and over again is a full-time job, so online creators promote products or services on behalf of other brands, even though this may risk the authenticity and integrity of their online persona.

The Financial Times reported that an Instagramer with a following of 100,000 could charge up to $2,000 for a post. However, this is much more dependent on the quality of the influencer’s content and the relevance of their audience. Also, you might be able to charge $2,000 a post, but can you achieve a decent living wage by finding at least two or three or more companies a month, willing to pay that. And would they all be completely aligned to your brand, and willing to pay this kind of money? Because if you start promoting companies or products that are ‘off-brand’, you could see a drop off in your following.

One area in which you can maintain control over your personal brand while creating financial independence and longevity in your career is by publishing a book and offering content and off-line experiences that sit alongside it.

Here are my five top tips for monetizing your followers through a book.

1. Write for You, Not for Someone Else

Publishing a book gives you the opportunity to control the narrative so you can keep your work true to who you are. But you’ll need to find a publisher who shares your vision or publish the book yourself.

Finding a publisher is much easier said than done. The likelihood is that you’ve built your following by offering your audience something that mainstream popular culture has missed. Traditional publishing is designed around maximizing the chances of producing bestsellers, which means they look back into the past to try to emulate something that has already been done. It breeds a kind of unconscious conformity, which is not usually a place suited to the wild creative spirit that exists online.

Publishing the book yourself might then seem the best route to go – the time it takes to tout your book around the publishers could be better spent getting on with it yourself, and maintaining control of your work. However, publishing a book costs a lot of money.

2. Crowdfund Your Book

The obvious solution to this problem is to crowdfund your book. By crowdfunding your book, you will retain complete creative control over your work. You can produce something you care about, which in turn will appeal to your followers.

Traditional publishing is also limited by the public expectation of what a book should cost – typically up to £10 for a paperback and £20 for a hardback. However, by crowdfunding your book, you can sell additional experiences and merchandise around it. For example, video games influencer, Dan Hardcastle, raised over £300k for his book, Fuck Yeah, Video Games, on Unbound.

What’s interesting is that 80 per cent of the money he raised came from non-traditional book sales, unique experiences and greater access to Dan such as signed copies, exclusive illustrations and personalized videos. This is nearly £250k in revenue that he might not have received if he’d simply published through a traditional publisher. Such is the power a crowdfunded book can bring to an influencer.

3. Write Something They Want to Hear About

Writing a book for your followers sounds simple, but what should it be about? Only you know the answer to that. The key is to be as authentic to yourself and your audience as you can. Don’t try and write what you think someone else wants to read. Or even what you think will sell. Write the book you care most about and tell your audience what that is. They will back you if they believe this is core to who you are.

At Unbound, we’ve developed a machine learning algorithm that helps us to predict, with a high degree of accuracy, how much a book is likely to raise before an author crowdfunds it. By using data such as the size of the author’s following and the topic of the book, we can predict with around 80 per cent accuracy precisely how much a book will raise within 90 days of accepting pledges / pre-orders.

However, you don’t need to have a degree in data science to decide what to write about. You’ve got plenty of followers, so run a poll. Crowdsource your book idea and they’re more likely to buy it.

4. Be Creative with What You Offer

There’s a fairly simple rule to follow when offering rewards to followers: the more creative the offering, the greater the value. And make sure what you offer is authentic to who you are and what you do.

Never has this been so aptly demonstrated than with popular YouTube comedian, Stuart Ashen, when he offered a ‘box of mystery tat’ as part of his crowdfunding campaign for his book Attack of the Flickering Skeletons. He sold three boxes of junk at £250 each. But of course, it wasn’t really ‘junk’. Each box was a hilarious collection of unique things Stuart’s fans would recognize and value because they love what he does and they trusted him to deliver something suitably extraordinary.

5. Engage Your Superfans

Within any given audience, you’re bound to have a select few avid supporters who will pay a significant premium for exclusive access to you or your ideas. This is a fact traditional publishing simply cannot capitalize on. However, the digital economy has created untold new opportunities for authors to engage with their most passionate fans.

Dan Hardcastle created a reward level at £2,500 for Fuck Yeah, Video Games, which allowed a supporter to choose the video game for an entire chapter of his book. This was clearly only targeted towards the superfan. In some respects it didn’t even matter if someone bought it – it mainly served to demonstrate the depths of his accessibility and creativity, and to act as something that grabbed the attention of his followers. However, as a bonus, it did actually work and he sold out this reward level.

You would have to sell 312 copies of a traditional paperback to match this one purchase from a super-fan. Every high-level reward like this is bought by people who are die-hard supporters of what you do. They want the opportunity to have something unique. To connect with the creative people they most admire. You.

The other great thing about super-fans is that there’s a direct correlation between the quality and passion of an influencer’s audience and the amount of money they’re likely to be able to raise from them. What encapsulates your offering to your followers? What can you offer them that’s unique to you?

There are many people who are building up large numbers of followers. Publishing is one of the industries with the potential to embrace this new paradigm. If you have something powerful to say it is a fantastic opportunity to let your follower base hear you.  Keep creative control of what you write, and your fans will get your message loud and clear.

Dan Kieran
Dan Kieran is the co-founder and CEO of Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher that combines data science and an award-winning publishing brand with an online marketplace. Readers pre-order books through pledging, Unbound publishes and sells them, giving authors a 50/50 profit split and access to an engaged community.

The publisher’s 200k users from 195 countries have pledged £7m+ to fund 436 books to-date, including bestsellers like Letters of Note and The Good Immigrant. By predicting future trends, Unbound funds books more quickly and reaches instant, data-driven acquisition decisions.

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