Linda Carlson (photo right) — lindacarlson.com) writes from Seattle for IBPA’s Independent magazine each month.
Found money. That’s one way to describe content that you sell more than once. “Chunking, and Other New Ways to Get More from What You’ve Got” (September) focused on how independent publishers are repackaging material they have already published, or material that’s forthcoming. In many cases, that means selling complete chapters of books, sometimes reprinted with the original pagination. This month, the focus is on creating revenue and awareness by licensing content and adapting book content for shorter publications and online applications.
Repurposing may be a fairly new term, but reusing content or characters from books is not a new concept. Think of how many stories have been adapted for other media or have prompted the creation of merchandise. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, adapted for the stage by 1902, for a film a few years later, and for the stage again and again. Tarzanstarted out in a 1912 novel and was in the movies by 1918 and in a comic strip by 1929. Johnny Gruelle patented the Raggedy Ann doll before his first book about it was published in 1918, and A.A. Milne authorized duplicates of his son’s real Winnie-the-Pooh soon after the first books came out in the 1920s and long before Disney got into that act.
What’s interesting about how today’s smaller publishers are selling content is the variety of markets they have discovered. Some are aggressively pursuing targeted markets; others report that they accept any offers that happen to come their way.
A few examples help show what independent publishers are doing and how you might follow their leads to multiply the revenue from your publications.
Excerpting Book Text for Smaller Publications
Sandwiching a chapter or two from a book between new or revised front and back matter and giving it a new cover is one of the easiest ways to reuse content. Privacy Journal, based in Providence, RI, started publishing the 403-page Ben Franklin’s Web Site: Privacy and Curiosity from Plymouth Rock to the Internet in 2001, and in 2004 it used one chapter of that as the basis for the 46-page Social Security Numbers: Uses and Misuses.
Lee Shoreham, the assistant to the publisher, reports, “We added detailed content about what the digits reveal, what court cases have decided about SSNs, alternatives to SSNs, and how to avoid providing a SSN.”
Publisher Robert Ellis Smith says the company is satisfied with sales of the special report, 100–150 copies per year. Because it’s sold only from the company’s Web site at $14.95, Social Security Numbers generates a couple of thousand dollars annually. Although the original book sells more copies and is priced higher (at $17.50), many copies are wholesaled, so the profit per unit is less.
Adapting Book Text for Different Markets
A little tweaking of text may be all you need to do to attract customers from very different markets. For instance, Gryphon House in Silver Spring, MD, publishes for early childhood professionals and for parents. Marketing and rights director Cathy Calliotte says it’s been successful with titles for teachers that have been revised for home use.
“Our book Cooking Art is primarily for classroom teachers, and the activities are written to be used with groups of young children,” she explains. “For parents, we created Snacktivities by selecting recipes and activities that were appropriate for home use, rewriting them, and packaging the material in two-color instead of the black-and-white we used for teachers, and with a 5½”× 8″ trim instead of the 8½”× 11″ format we use for teachers.”
Similarly, after publishing Teaching Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Gryphon House revised and redesigned material in it to create a book for parents, My Child Has Autism.
This year Gryphon House did a simultaneous release of Mighty Fine Motor Fun, directed at teachers, and Everyday Play, a version for parents. In production now are The Budding Chef and The Budding Gardener, both written for parents and being designed in full color, using material from previously published teacher guides.
Privacy Journal is doing something similar with electronic products. In 1974 it started publishing Compilation of State and Federal Privacy Laws. Today it’s abridging the book text and supplemental updates to create two $10 e-books for handheld devices.
“With one edition, professionals can tell wherever they are—in a meeting or on a plane—exactly which laws on privacy affect their companies and trade associations. The other edition is for individual consumers, so that they can tell at a glance—in the marketplace, at work, or while online—which state and federal laws protect their privacy,” says Shoreham.
Using Excerpts for Different Price Points
Revising text so that your primary market can use it in different ways is another means of getting your information out, creating awareness of your company and authors, and generating cash. At KIDBIZ Resources in Sauk City, WI, Patricia Dischler took excerpts from three chapters of her Because I Loved You, which retails for $16.95, and created No Regrets: Making Your Decision in an Unplanned Pregnancy, a booklet that she sells in quantity from her Web site, 10 copies for $40.
“The booklet itself sells very well,” says Dischler, explaining, “Counselors are reluctant to give away the book but happy to have something they can afford to distribute free. It is also successful as a marketing tool: I offer it free on my Web site to adoption agencies, and once their staffs read the excerpt, they inevitably order the entire book, often in large quantities.”
Dischler also uses the inexpensive booklets with potential clients for her speaking and training practice.
Excerpted material can’t always be counted on to sell well or promote your books, however, as Ellen Jean Diederich discovered. A painter who publishes two books at Givinity, in Fargo, ND, Diederich created a Where’s Petunia calendar using images similar to those in her children’s book of the same name. Her least successful product—which the publisher describes as “charming yet borderline cutesy”—the calendar didn’t appeal to the people who buy the products that use her fine art paintings. “The product and the images have to appeal to your primary customer base,” she believes.
Many publishers aggressively pursue rights sales. They place excerpts with magazines, especially prior to book publication; they sell book club rights and foreign rights, and they license special editions. Others profit by licensing text from their books for use in classroom materials, in test-prep guides, and in special sections of newspapers.
Jeff Minard, general manager of the William Carey Library in Pasadena, CA, reports that it often sells the rights to republish articles from its anthologies and collections, which include Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
Seattle’s Cune Press also sells rights to excerpts. Publisher Scott C. Davis says some of the 78 essays in An Ear to the Ground: Presenting Writers from Two Coasts are licensed for use in college courses. One recent customer, the University of Pittsburgh, paid $25 for the right to use one essay in one class.
Another market, especially for those who publish children’s chapter books: publishers of prep guides for the standardized tests made necessary by the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind program. Although Pat Perrin of Chiron Books in Laredo, TX, says her company has never sold material for the tests themselves, it has sold an occasional excerpt to the educational publishers who create prep material for classroom use. Fees have amounted to at least $100 per paragraph, and, as Perrin notes, “Since book titles and authors are listed with the passages, the excerpts get that information in front of teachers.”
Many publishers of nonfiction could follow the practice at Rix Quinn Communications in Fort Worth, TX, which sells newspapers one-time rights to publish some—or all—of a book. Quinn wrote the 32,000-word Baby Boomers Speak! with each chapter as a standalone piece, so special-section editors can use whatever they want, in whatever order works with their layouts.
He solicited initial sales of reprints by e-mailing newspapers listed in the Bacon’s Media Directories (now owned by Cision, us.cision.com). The book, which he produces POD, is sold only online. “I wish I could say it’s a good seller, but it’s not,” Quinn reports. “From a profit standpoint, it made much more sense to sell the manuscript to as many daily papers as possible.”<
Initially priced at $300 and then reduced, Quinn’s material sold mostly to the advertising departments of midsized dailies. He estimates that about 15 newspaper groups have purchased content from him, with some chains paying to use it in several of their publications.
As Sandra Phillips at Smart Shopping Montreal in Roxboro, Quebec, notes, “We are in the content business. The more times you can sell your original information, the better off you are.”
Phillips has sold material from the book Smart Shopping Montreal for a newspaper column for 15 years and smaller amounts of text for a three-minute weekly radio segment. She has also sold excerpts to magazines and Web sites.
What Phillips considers “hugely profitable,” however, is using her book content for sponsored pages on her Web site, SmartShoppingMontreal.com. “When a business sponsors the page, it gets other benefits: a chance to be the rotating Feature of the Week on my site, and a mention on my shlog (shopping blog) and radio show. It all feeds in together.”
A real repurposing veteran, Vivian Dubrovin at Storycraft Publishing in Masonville, CO, has been reusing material since 1994. Like many others, she found that workshops she presented led to books, in her case textbooks for courses, and all that content led to the Junior Storyteller quarterly and the Kids’ Storytelling Club Web site, Storycraft.com.
“We’re now embarking on an even bigger program of repackaging all the bimonthly back issues of The Kids’ Storytelling Club since 1996 into downloadable storytelling activity units for e-readers to provide instant program materials for youth activity organizations,” says Dubrovin, who will also convert chapters of her book Storytelling for the FUN of It: A Handbook for Children into “booklets” for e-readers.
One for the Road
Phone apps! So 21st century! Quebec entrepreneur Sandra Phillips is among those translating book content into software for smartphones. This fall Phillips is revising her Drive I-95, and she’s researching how to use its content as a smartphone app.
“Forget making money on the sale of the app itself,” she recommends. “Make it free, 99 cents or $1.99. The money has to be made on the advertising.”
Her app will look like a GPS map, and, as she explains, “As you drive it will show you places to see, eat, sleep, play along the way. When you touch it, it will give you details (address, hours, phone) and an article we wrote. Eventually, it will either give you a video of the place or of someone reading material to you. We see this as where travel books are headed and would love to be one of the first ones there.”
Ready to Help with Rights
If you’re sold on the idea of licensing content, but don’t have the time, energy, or skills to prospect for customers and negotiate deals, consider outsourcing the job.
A new program of the well-established Copyright Clearance Center, Rightslink, is designed to generate revenue for publishers by publicizing content that’s available around the clock for reuse.
The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), established more than 32 years ago, is a member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) and probably the best member for U.S. publishers to deal with. Today it indicates what’s available from each listed book for what purposes, and either it makes the sale or, if requested by the rights owner, it refers potential customers on with a message such as: “Although Copyright Clearance Center may handle some requests on behalf of this rightsholder, we are unable to grant permission for the specific title and/or content usage you have requested. To pursue your inquiry further, please contact the rightsholder directly.”
In a recent phone interview, Bill O’Brien, the Rightslink contact, and Christopher Kenneally, his colleague in business development for the CCC, pointed out that the center has delivered more than $1 billion in royalties to publishers in the past decade.
There’s no charge to register a book with the center; publishers pay only when content is used, at commissions that range from 16 to 30 percent of the licensing fee received. (Commissions are lower for uses preauthorized by publishers and thus handled automatically.) Although material need not be digitized to be listed, working with Rightslink does mean four to eight weeks of lead time, so publishers and the center staff can determine what content to offer, prepare the metadata, establish charges, and run test downloads to ensure quality transmission of information once you’re “live” on Rightslink.
Eighty percent of the content available today is scientific and technical, because those fields put their publications online first, O’Brien says. But he also says that trade book publishing is one of Rightslink’s fastest-growing segments, and he expressed interest in working with IBPA members.
Another source of help for licensing content is the startup SavoirSoft, which allows customers to search by topic as well as by title, author, or publisher at savoirsoft.com.
This is part of what executive producer Robert Ross calls “microlicensing,” a service for artists and publishers whose work is digitized. Unlike the Copyright Clearance Center, SavoirSoft emphasizes licensing software to universities, corporations, publishers, and authors that allows them to control licensing, pricing, and distribution of e-publications in-house.
SavoirSoft also differs in that its “members” can see how many licensees and potential licensees have accessed a work, how many have evaluated a work, its average rating, and comments on it.
As a startup, the company has little brand recognition and thus limited traffic. Ross observes, “It is not the best place at this time for authors who want immediate income.”