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Succeeding through Spin-offs

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Thanks to PMA Publishing University and other publishing seminars, I’ve learned that spin-offs from existing books, especially nonfiction titles, can provide additional income for a small publisher. These spin-offs could include videos, audiotapes, CDs, smaller publications that are essentially condensations or sections of a larger nonfiction title, or hardware related to the book topic. So far, I have exploited this idea for one of my titles with quite satisfactory success.

I currently self-publish three books, two that are nonfiction niche titles–The Slate Roof Bible, published in 1997, and The Humanure Handbook, published in 1995 with a second edition in 1999–plus one called Balance Point that’s fiction based on factual events, published in 2000. The books are distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing in Vermont, and they’re sold on Amazon.com and all of the other Internet booksellers. We at Jenkins Publishing also sell these titles directly via the Internet and via telephone orders.

The Tools Tie-in

The Slate Roof Bible

is a book about slate roofs with an important “how-to” section that provides information that is otherwise very hard to find (how to repair an old slate roof or install a new one, for example). The tools and materials required for repair and installation of slate roofs are also very difficult to locate. Then it dawned on me; I could offer tools and materials for sale as well as the books, set up a store on the Internet, and ship the items by mail. I could even bundle more expensive tool sets with a free copy of The Slate Roof Bible.

I didn’t expect much when I first started the tool sales a little over a year and a half ago, and I prayed I would sell enough at least to cover my expenses. To my surprise, I managed to do $15,000 in business the first year starting from a dead stop with a brand new Web site (jenkinsslate.com).

Those earnings then tripled in the following eight months. Swamped with orders, I had to hire office staff to run the “store,” which pays for itself and generates a little extra profit–certainly enough to make it all worthwhile. It also provides a valuable service to society by providing the tools and information necessary for the preservation of the millions of older slate roofs still in existence today.

Our online store is further embellished with pages of well illustrated “how-to” information that’s free to the public–how to repair slate, tile, and asbestos roofs; how to install a slate roof–that sort of thing. Of course, the instructions include a mention of the required tools, which are linked directly to the sales pages, making the purchases very convenient. We also sell hard-to-find copper nails and other slate roof fasteners, as well as some copper flashing materials. Our Web site includes an active message board open to the public, plus free lists of sources of new and used slates and tiles, and even a national list of roofing contractors.

Triple Whammy Tactics

I should clarify this all by mentioning that I also have a slate roof restoration contracting business and use the tools and supplies myself (you didn’t think I was an author without a day job, did you?). This puts me in a perfect position to be able to assess tool quality and to provide the exact materials needed for the customer.

Because The Slate Roof Bible established my reputation nationwide as an expert in slate roofing, I was able to launch a consulting service a few years ago, also available via the Internet. Since then, I have traveled around the United States inspecting some very interesting historical roofs, including one at the Smithsonian Institution and the one on the Ford Theater (site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination) in Washington, DC.

Our online store has definitely improved direct-to-customer book sales for The Slate Roof Bible, and it has boosted the direct sales of my other two books, which I now offer online in special discounted sets as signed copies. I am planning on producing instructional videos or multi-media CDs in the near future and selling them online as well.

Success via Internet Commerce

Here’s my advice to those of you who may be considering doing something like this–establish a credit card vendor account if you haven’t already done so, and then set up an online store. Buy additional domains and point them to your main Web site. For example, I bought slateroofrepair.com, slateroofconsulting.com, slateroofrestoration.com, and a number of others, and have them all pointing to jenkinsslate.com.

More and more people are making purchases on the Internet and using credit cards. I use Skipjack.com for the credit card service, and Quikstore software for the store itself. I create my Web pages in Dreamweaver and upload them via an FTP software, and I can manage, maintain, or modify the store quite quickly as needed. I did not do the technical set up of my online store, but hired a computer geek to do it for me. I simply maintain it, which is not hard to do.

Despite all the talk lately about failing dotcom entrepreneurs, Internet commerce has worked for me and my self-published niche books.

Joseph Jenkins’ “The Humanure Handbook” has repeatedly been a category best-seller on Amazon.com and “The Slate Roof Bible,” which won the prestigious Gold Circle Award from the National Roofing Contractors Association, has been an Amazon.com #1 best-selling roofing book. His latest book, “Balance Point,” addresses the predicted worldwide global ecological collapse scientists are saying will occur in 20 to 40 years. To learn more, visit www.jenkinspublishing.com or www.jenkinsslate.com; call 814/786-9085, or e-mail mail@jenkinspublishing.com.

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