Convert Your Personal Brand into Monthly Cash Flow | Personal Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel

How can you convert your personal branding book into consistent monthly cash flow? Unfortunately, many authors fail to address monthly cash flow issues soon enough.

How and when does your personal branding book convert into cash?

Although writing a nonfiction book is generally accepted as the best way to create and promote your personal brand, less attention is usually placed  on questions like how, where, when, and what:

  • How do other authors profit from their brands?
  • Where does the money come from?
  • When does a meaningful and consistent cash flow begin?
  • What can authors do to speed the process?

Let’s start by taking a brief look at how other branded authors traditionally profit from their books and their personal brands.

Origins of authors’ profits

Although there are always exceptions–some trade publishers are still offering occasional six and seven figure advances–these are the exceptions and can’t be counted on. Authors who receive the headline-generating advances are, for the most part, “celebrity” authors from the world of business or politics who have already established their visibility in the public’s eye.

Income from book royalties, after the advance has been paid back, likewise, is a problematic source of income:

  • Delays. Royalties begin only after the publisher’s advance has been deducted. In addition, royalties are typically only paid once or twice a year, although some publishers pay quarterly.
  • Terms. Author royalties depend on where their books are sold. Trade publishers sell through multiple retail channels, each typically paying different royalties to authors. Books sold through book clubs and warehouse outlets earn different amounts than retail chains and independent bookstores. Foreign rights are typically licensed, adding  to the complexity.
  • Deductions. In addition to standard deductions for tasks like indexing fees, significant amounts of money are typically set aside for returns. Most books on display in retail bookstores are displayed on a consignment basis–publishers (and, hence, authors) are only paid for books after they are actually sold.

Because of the above delays and uncertainties, many highly successful nonfiction authors don’t even count on income from sales of their book, even though their previous books may have sold 100,000 copies, and more.

Cash flow and self-publishing

Self-publishing eliminates most of the above uncertainty and offers a far greater per-copy profit, but requires more author investment upfront.

Granted, the “visible” costs of getting a print-0n-demand book published is low, in terms of investment needed to print 25 or 100 author copies for promotional purposes. However, from a practical point of view, most first-time authors require assistance from book coaches, developmental editors, proof readers, and cover designers to convert their book idea into files ready to be printed.

Traditional sources of author cash flow

Rather than count on income from book sales, most entrepreneurial authors typically depend on the following sources of income:

  • Professional services. Profitable coaching and consulting opportunities can quickly follow the publication of a book.
  • Speaking and presenting. Paid speaking opportunities range from short presentations to keynote addresses and producing conferences and workshops. Ten and twenty thousand dollar keynote addresses are just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Proprietary information products. Books offer numerous opportunities for creating so-called “back end” products like audios, videos, memory cards, reports, templates, and workbooks to help readers implement the author’s ideas.

The profit potential from the above is great, but the above profit options share a few significant disadvantages:

  1. Hard to leverage. All of the above demand the author’s personal attention and time. Authors can’t send someone to deliver their speech, and most coaching and consulting clients want the author, not a substitute.
  2. Consistent income. Many branded authors find it’s either feast or famine; there’s either more business than can be handled, or there’s not enough business.
  3. Vulnerability. As many authors have found during the past few years, economic conditions can cause one’s lucrative speaking opportunities to dry up–seemingly overnight, (i.e.,  post 9/11).

In addition, most of the above depend on “event,” or one-time, purchases that fail to create consistent income. Corporations don’t need a monthly keynote speaker, etc.

Continuity programs

To get around the limitations of the above, many authors have embraced subscription-based programs, like membership sites, to smooth their monthly cash flow.

Instead of buying a book or report, clients and readers can subscribe to a series of monthly events, reports, or coaching sessions.

All continuity programs, however, suffer from turnover; new subscribers are needed to balance those who drop out from the program–often for reasons that have little to do with the quality of the information delivered.

Implementation programs

In their Official Get Rich Guide to Information Marketing, Dan Kennedy, Bill Glazer, and Robert Skrob argue a new perspective.

In Chapter 2, Step 2: The Business of Selling Paper and Ink, they encourage authors and information marketers to develop on-going systems to help their readers and clients implement their ideas.

As they describe, the past 25 businesses have been increasingly looking for one-stop solutions to their problems:

  • Early information marketers sold “how to” guides for publishing newsletters.
  • Later, they offered workbooks and fill-in-the-blank templates.
  • Then, in the 1990’s, they began providing printed newsletters, ready for clients to personalize, address, and mail.
  • Now, information marketers not only provide content, they maintain client mailing lists and print, address, and mail the newsletters.

The benefits? monthly cash flow and client lock-in:

…these products create customers who pay every month for the service!

In addition, as Internet millionaire Ryan Lee has described, authors who provide monthly valuable implementation services lock-in their clients because, as he describes it, the “pain of disconnect” becomes too much to bear.

Because the costs and commitment required to take outsourced services in-house are too daunting, it becomes easier for clients to maintain the status quo.

Planning your cash flow

What can you do today to leverage your personal brand and your book idea into tomorrow’s cash flow? In many cases, the first step is to re-examine your book publishing goals and resources. Next, you might re-examine your back-end profit ideas from the monthly cash flow perspective, instead of just total earning potential. Finally, you can begin to explore ways you can lock-in monthly profits by helping your clients implement your ideas so they will stick with you longer. Share your ideas as comments, below.


Roger C. Parker shares ideas for planning, writing, promoting, & profiting from brand building books in his daily writing tips blog. His latest book is #BOOK TITLE Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, & Event Titles.

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