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Monetize Your Writing and Photo Content in 11 Steps

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by Lee Foster, Author, An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing

Lee Foster

1. Get your writing organized into a book, and get the book securely set up directly as print on demand in Amazon CreateSpace (for Amazon’s huge worldwide audience) and in IngramSpark (for bookstores and libraries).

  • Tip: You will want to use print on demand (POD). Someone in England can order your book today and, tomorrow, Amazon can deliver them a physical book, printed in England. Benefit from this revolution.

2. Get the e-book version of your book content set up directly (and nonexclusively) with Amazon Kindle (likely your main revenue source) and Smashwords (your access to all the e-book selling worlds beyond Amazon).

  • Tip: Amazon will incentivize you to go exclusively with them, such as allowing participation in their “subscription” program, but I recommend that you choose a healthier diverse economic and cultural ecosystem with nonexclusive deals. Expert opinions from self-publishing enthusiasts will vary on this important matter.

3. Get your book content up as a website book presentation on your WordPress website. Your website book, meaning the exact book or some parallel approximation of your book in a range of articles/posts, may ultimately be more beneficial to you than your print or e-book versions.

  • Tip: A robust website presentation of your book content may be your most secure path forward to survival as an author. With a website, you can monetize by means of Google AdSense ads, private ads, and sponsorships—plus you can sell your products. See my Northern California Travel: The Best Options book as an example. The book is 30 chapters, which appear as 30 website articles.

4. Set up Google AdSense ads, private ads, and/or private sponsorships on your book website as an incremental income stream. You can put three Google ads on a page. Nurture your content with new posts, each with the same pattern of three ads. Increase the number of products that people can buy. Focus on attracting people back to your website where they can become aware of and buy your products, or just hang out and endure ads.

  • Tip: I earn about 25 cents from Google when 100 people visit my website. It is reported that Google pays you, the publisher, 68 percent of the ad revenue it earns from ads on your website. Google makes the decision about whether the ad revenue will be greater from click-throughs or from views alone. You and Google are beneficial partners on the ads.

5. The more products you have, the likelier you are to survive financially. Your book is a printed book, an e-book, and a website book, correct? If you have just one book, why not more? Think of more titles in your repertoire. And what else are you selling?

  • Tip: Your book makes you an expert in your field. Do you consult for a fee? Do you offer speeches and appearances for a fee? Everything you do and all the promotional publicity associated with that can draw folks back to your website and your books/e-books, which are for sale, at least on Amazon.

6. Focus your social media efforts on a pattern of posts that will help promote your book(s). Pace yourself. Consider a once-a-week post on your website and social media of something interesting that relates to your books. Draw folks back to your website, where the complete post resides. I concentrate on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

  • Tip: I will not tell you how to behave on social media. My advice is only helpful if you want to sell your book(s). Become the cat video expert if that is your path. But consider the possibility of a consistent weekly blog post on your website related to your book content and then an announcement about it on social media. Your fans will appreciate it and may buy your book. The pattern will take a while to set up.

7. Where could your book content be helpful to someone in a form that you might not immediately consider? What do people want, and how do they want it? Do you offer folks: 1) entertainment and insight; 2) advice and guidance; 3) good experiences; 4) saving money and time; 5) or other? How can your book and its writing content get in front of them?


  • Tip: Think outside the printed-book box. Could your book also be an audiobook, such as my book Travels in an American Imagination? (adbl.co/1ZTMj1M) Some folks will only “read” books by listening to them, perhaps while doing a necessary daily commute. Could your book be translated into Chinese and sold in China, such as my book Northern California Travel: The Best Options? If the consumer wants your book content in Chinese, you need to make it available to them in Chinese.

8. Think of licensing your book content. The great travel agency system, Uniglobe, came to me recently and asked to license more than 100 worldwide articles from my website for three years. Their license included 10 chapters from my book Northern California Travel: The Best Options. They wanted to have my travel writing content available, such as an article on Easter Island, as a consumer thought about buying a tourism package to Easter Island.

  • Tip: Become aware of entities that might want to license your type of book content. Have some content related to your book, if not the exact book, available in small chunks on your website. Good things can happen. When people are involved in some kind of transaction, especially on the internet, could your licensed content be there as information, opinion, or entertainment to assist in the process?

9. Think of assignments that might result from a robust website display of your book’s writing content. Chances are that there are people looking for your kind of book content and willing to assign you to write parallel or derivative content. This has happened to me. The big website Answers.com (No. 23 in traffic on the internet) decided to hire 150 experts, including 10 in travel. They hired me to be their San Francisco region travel expert and to develop 80 short articles on the area, where I live and have specialized expertise.

  • Tip: I asked my Answers.com handler why she selected me, since I have many competitors who are also experts on travel to the San Francisco region. She said, “I was sitting behind my desk in St. Louis. I saw all your website articles on the Bay Area, including all your book chapters about San Francisco and Northern California. I could see immediately that you could develop the kind of articles we wanted.”

10. You might go viral on the internet with your writing/book content. This has happened to me. My travel app “San Francisco Travel and Photo Guide” was declared by Apple to be a “Staff Favorite.” The next week, a thousand apps sold. This past December, one of my blogs/articles “Light Arts Proliferate in San Francisco” went viral and has now been read 131,521 times. Viral can happen to you.

  • Tip: Viral is a potential positive that can balance many factors diminishing your possible success as an author. For example, physical books that you sell will not stay sold. They will get re-sold over and over as used books on Amazon. Goodwill and other charity entities will dispose of your book, after it is donated to them, for one cent plus postage. They will make $1 on the postage. So, be aware of the negatives. However, on the positive side, you can go viral. You can assemble an unheard of number of fans. There is always hope that you can profitably sell your book(s) and book content to those fans in the modern world.

11. Beyond words, some of us license photos as content. Could you develop your own photos for your blog/articles/books and also sell them? I sell (meaning license) photos to magazines, newspapers, book companies, and individuals, plus I use my photos on my website as slideshows and illustration.

Could you sell photo content now and in the future? Over the years, I have published in all the major US travel magazines and newspapers with travel sections. I have also published travel photos in more than 300 Lonely Planet travel books.

How does the photo market work? There are four aspects:

  1. Create your photos and put into the photo file the appropriate descriptive information, called metadata, using your cameras and Adobe PhotoShop/Lightroom.
  2. Develop your own photo marketing website. Such a website displays your photos as digitally ready-to-go for buyers.
  3. Use your photos as slideshows and stills on your own website to illustrate your articles. “Advertise” your photos, by their existence and display on your website, to potential buyers. My Easter Island slideshow is an example. Begin the long process of alerting potential buyers to your photo resources. Make contact and establish a price. Most magazines offer a going rate, which it is usually wise to accept.
  4. Place your photos in the one worldwide photo marketing agency, Alamy.com, that will welcome you and that maintains decent prices.

Despite all the doom and gloom in some photo circles, the photo market has not totally collapsed, overwhelmed by all the free photos offered and by the marketers (such as the agency Shutterstock) that seem to be racing to the bottom with ever lower prices.

Selling photos is like selling your writings/books. If you are looking for one-shot-wonder super success, it is likely you will be disappointed. If you take a long-term approach and make a commitment, there is a good chance you will experience moderate success.

Developing your own photo skills has another positive result. You will always need photos for your blog/writing/book activities. Where will you get these photos? Do you have the actual licensed right to use photos from the internet for your purposes? If you develop some photo skills, you can bring this visual element in your ongoing needs under more control.

Many writers are infringing on the copyright of photographers by using photos found on the internet without proper licenses. Writers who would be horrified at anyone using their writing without compensation are happy to use photos without a proper license. Be sure to check the license indicated at any free photo site to determine if you are infringing. More and more infringement cases are being brought against writers, especially as the technology of visual recognition of infringement on the internet, such as PicScout, advances.

Lee Foster is a successful travel and literary book author who has 18 books on his Amazon Author Page, including four indie books. His advice on all aspects of self-publishing is expressed in his latest book, An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option. Lee has more than 250 worldwide travel writing/photo articles on his website at fostertravel.com and has published in all the major US travel magazines/newspapers.

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