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Income Diversification for Authors: Your book is more than a book

Over the past few months I've looked at why income diversification matters through possible creative income streams unrelated to your books. Today I’ll show how you can turn every book into multiple income streams.

The Basics: Publishing Wide

Publishing wide means publishing with more than just Amazon. Doing so requires more work; however, every store you sell your book through is another source of income. The amount of extra work required is minimal if you use a service like Draft2Digital or Smashwords. All you need to do is upload the various versions of your book, fill in the book's information, and ask the service provider to distribute it around the web. They'll get it into dozens of different stores so you don't have to.

Want to be in physical bookstores too? You can get print distribution through Ingram Spark. This widens your options to thousands of new retailers around the world, plus a massive network of libraries. Self-publishing is a respected option now, and many self-publishing services have been around for several years. These services have perfected what they offer. They're fairly intuitive to use, have extensive help sections, and provide excellent customer service.

I could go into the pros and cons of publishing wide, but I don't think I could do it half as well as this article by Joanna Penn does. For this article I'll stick with broad statements: Amazon exclusivity gives you access to free marketing tools, and publishing wide gives you multiple streams of income.

If you're traditionally published, whether by a small press or one of the big five, your books will automatically be published wide. Where they'll be available depends on the publisher, but any worthwhile publisher will sell their books in multiple places.

The Complicated: Intellectual Property Rights

Publishing wide can provide several new income streams, but that's only the beginning. The real money—and the real variety—is in intellectual property rights.

Here are just some of the rights you can sell for each book:

  • Print rights

  • E-book rights

  • Audio rights

  • Stage adaptation rights

  • TV adaptation rights

  • Movie adaptation rights

  • Rights to publish in different languages

You can learn more about the intellectual property rights associated with each book from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The important thing to know now is all of these rights can be sold individually. Doing this correctly can provide several new income streams with almost no work. After all, you've already written the book. All that's left to do is negotiating the contracts.

Most of these rights, especially adaptation rights, are most easily sold through an agent. Like traditional publishers, large theater/movie/TV companies are unlikely to consider a work from an unfamiliar and un-agented author. The same holds true for large publishers in other countries.

You may, however, be able to sell those rights directly to small or even mid-size companies once you've established yourself as an author. Some agents are also coming around to the idea of working with self-published authors to sell specific rights.

All of this only applies when you're an established author, but it's worth considering now. If you work with a traditional publisher, you need to know what rights you're willing to part with or keep. If you self-publish, consider the ways all your intellectual property rights can eventually contribute to your business.

Either way, always hire an intellectual property lawyer to look at contracts before you sell your rights. This article is in no way intended to be legal advice, and an intellectual property lawyer will catch things even the most experienced author can miss.

Additional Resources:

Dianna Gunn is the author of YA fantasy novella “Keeper of the Dawn” and a columnist at Writer's Corner. She also blogs about creativity, life and books at The Dabbler.


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