The Spinoff Strategy: Make One Book Spawn Many
by Gordon Burgett
Once you have written a book, you have a core from which many more books can be developed. If it earns $50,000, you can probably earn another $50,000, or much more, by creating additional books from its information base.
The spinoff books can be new editions of the book (changed, updated, or both); they can come from further development of elements introduced in the book; they can be books about closely related topics of interest to the same niche market; and they can even be books for one or more additional niche markets.
Each successive book is easier to research (you know the sources), easier to produce (you know the process), and easier to sell (you know the buyers). Best of all, easier to sell. People want more good things from the same good source. Which is why the original book must be excellent. And why it makes huge sense to go to that same well time and again.
Here are 12 ways to turn a book into many more. (This list isn’t definitive. You can find other ways that apply to your topic and knowledge.)
1. The most obvious: Every three years or so, go back to the same book, update and expand it, include new quotes, review new research, and add new sources to the bibliography.
2. Write a time-dated book:Optometrists: How to Save 50% on Your 2008 Income Tax. Next year it will be the 2009 guide, and so on (see examples of tax-prep books in the bookstore). But it needn’t be taxes. It can be computers, where to find current cancer research, the National League pennant race, and much, much more.
3. Pick a part. With a many-pronged book such as Five Things Every Successful CPA Needs to Know, each of those five things can be the core of another book.
4. Write a follow-up to the many-pronged book, also many-pronged: Ten More Things Crucial to Successful Accounting. And, you guessed it, each of those 10 can be the core of 10 more books.
5. Focus on stages of importance to the targeted market, beginning with any stage and filling out the cycle with subsequent books. An example: (a) How to Form Your Own Band; (b) How to Double the Number and Value of Paid Gigs; (c) How to Multiply Your Band Income Through Product Sales; (d) How to Get Your Band Recorded, Played, and Rich!; (e) How to Take Your Band National!
6. Prepare an anthology. Having become identified with a core topic by publishing books about it, gather other writing about that topic or closely related topics. Most of this writing will already be in print as articles, reports, or studies. Additional material could be prepared by you or others in the field specifically for this anthology. You are the editor; if you also contribute, you are both editor and a co-author (with one or many).
7. Produce a book of comic relief. Unless you are extraordinarily gifted in a comedic way, this will be an anthology of jokes, cartoons, quips, anecdotes, humorous excerpts, whatever makes the niche market laugh. Comic-relief books can be marketed as gifts for those in the field to give each other, or for those outside the field to give the insiders (in the latter case, marketing must be expanded and different).
8. Use case studies about your book’s subject as books. A book—or a booklet—can be one case study, or a dozen clustered around the same point or theme. You could write these, co-author them, or publish case studies by others.
9. Create a sourcebook. This is a natural, because you are already familiar with the main texts in your area and know how the targeted market might use additional information. The sourcebook will be an extended, annotated bibliography, plus a list of all additional resources: experts, agencies, speakers in the field, key college or university departments, current research and researchers, money sources, and so on. Conduct a computer data search; contents must be accurate and current. Sourcebooks are especially saleable if the information and sources are problem/solution based.
10. Do a how-to, step-by-step action guidebook that addresses one problem your original book focuses on, and that provides one or various solutions. How-to titles are good sequels to relatively general books that broadly cover a field.
11. Transform the content for other target markets. With some topics, the basic information is roughly the same for a salesperson, a minister, a welder, or a piccolo player. Even the presentation format may require little change, although you do have to determine what is different for the new targeted market, and make changes accordingly; and you also have to make all examples pertain to the new target buyers.
12. Get guidance from your customers. You have won attention from the buyers of the original book; you have many of their names, and you know how to arrange and use your mailing list. So ask what other needs they have that are as pressing as the one dealt with in your earlier book. When they tell you about a new need, write a book about it. If they have many pressing needs, you have many potential books—or one or several books about various needs. Given the opportunity, I would respond in terms of both the urgency of a need and its proximity to the original book’s topic, starting with the one that’s closest to the original and most urgent.
In short, once you have established your expertise with a niche market about a particular subject, you can build from that strength, moving slowly both wider and deeper with related books, so that everything you do further enhances that perceived expertise. It is simply easier—and less expensive—to repurpose material to sell one person many good things than many people one good thing.
Gordon Burgett is a veteran publisher and the author of 35 published books and more than 1,700 freelance articles. He speaks nationwide about niche publishing and can be reached at www.gordonburgett.com. This article is derived from his new book, Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.
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