Five years ago, author and poet Kwame Alexander gave a fantastic keynote at IBPA’s PubU conference in Salt Lake City. In it, he told a story about how he was frustrated by the lack of sales for one of his early books. His wife suggested that he try selling at the local farmer’s market.
At first he was like, “C’mon … a farmer’s market?” Then, realizing that he really had nothing to lose, he gave it a shot … and it worked!
Soon Kwame was selling boxes and boxes of books at local farmers’ markets. This victory helped pave the way for other much larger successes later on, including New York Times bestseller status and the Newbery Medal for children’s literature.
I love Kwame’s story for four reasons:
- Inspiration in publishing can come from unexpected sources
- Indies have the flexibility and agility to try things that the big publishing houses and imprints would never dream of
- The farmer’s market sales test was totally in line with Lean Media principles, and what he learned there could feed into product improvements
- Experiments often fail, but every so often they lead to real successes in marketing, hit titles, or alternative revenue sources
For my company, most of my alternative revenue sources started out as experiments, but almost all are rooted in the books themselves.
The IN 30 MINUTES YouTube channel, launched in 2013 as a way to promote IN 30 MINUTES guides with quick how-to videos, eventually attracted enough subscribers and views that YouTube allowed me to enable monetization through advertising. The channel now generates more than $5,000 per year. I didn’t set out to make the channel a source of alternative revenue, but as with other experiments, once they reach a certain critical mass, new possibilities arise to launch new products, use new sales channels, or tap new sources of revenue.
The biggest alternative revenue success story is the specialized genealogy stationery my company sells, which originally started out as a complementary product to the book Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes by author Shannon Combs-Bennett that we published in 2016. The stationery, sold through EasyGenie.org and Amazon and a few smaller sales channels, now accounts for 3/4 of my company’s revenue.