How Authors Really Make Money (It’s Not Selling Books)

(Originally featured at Media Magnetism)

The other day my wife nearly tripped over a box of books on the floor of my home office. It was the most recent shipment of a book I had been a contributing author in, and it launched us into a discussion of how much money I had made as an author.  She was thinking that being an author had not really paid off for me because none of my books had ever made it on the best seller list.

What she didn’t realize was how many business opportunities had come from the fact that I have written several books.  Not being an author herself, she did not realize that most authors don’t make their money from selling books, but rather from how the book positions them as an industry expert.  I reminded my wife of all of the amazing opportunities I had simply because I was an author; opportunities that led to being paid as an expert in my field.

When I decided to write my first book, I was naïve enough to think I was going to make a lot of money by solving a problem that had never been solved before in a book. I later found out that the target audience actually did not want a solution to the problem; but rather they were content to stay ignorant and for the most part, had no interest in learning the inner workings of an industry that was taking advantage of them. Even though I did not make loads of money in book sales, writing the book paid off in many other ways, such as opening the door to several business relationships, and eventually selling advertising on the books website.

On another occasion – after writing my third book – I found myself transitioning from being self employed to finding a job. I was blessed to only have one interview before I was offered a (well paying) job and after I had started the job, I saw a copy of my book on the desk of the person who hired me. I have to think that the fact that I wrote a book in the field that I was seeking a job played a role in the hiring process.

Fast forward a few years later; I had moved across the country and was in the process of re-writing the same book that had helped me get the job I mentioned earlier. The hiring manager and I discussed why the job was not a good fit for me at the time, but he seemed interested, and most of all impressed that I had written a book about our industry. Three years following the job interview, I ran into the same hiring manager at an industry event and I introduced myself, asking if he remembered me. He said, “Yeah, you’re the guy who was writing the book; how did it turn out?” Again, the fact I was an author made an impact and, in this case, launched us into discussions of partnership and collaboration; we have since developed a working relationship where my company receives leads from his.

When I meet with prospects these days, I usually have a copy of a book to give them. If we discuss doing business over the phone and I want to increase my odds of closing a deal, I will mail a copy of my most recent book to them and it has worked out very well in my favor. I also give copies of books to my current clients which reinforces that they are working with a true expert and gives them more confidence to refer me to those they know. In fact, some people want to boast that their consultant is a published author which makes for even stronger referrals without them realizing it.

I used to say “There is a book inside of everyone” and that was before I ever wrote a book. I guess something inside of me knew I would do it eventually. If you haven’t yet written a book, I want to encourage you to do so for the simple fact it will help you go farther in your career or your business. There is no better business card than an autographed book, and writing a book (while challenging) is simply a matter of taking small steps over time until you get the job done.

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