Why Authors absolutely must build Direct Channels to Readers

Firstly, the reality is that if there were a Direct Channel between an Author and the Author’s readers, then Authors would have control. Authors could decide what to pay people who help them create books. Authors could decide what to pay people who help them with marketing. Authors could decide what to offer readers.

Secondly, things are in place for Authors to finally create direct channels to customers.

  1. Readers are more and more familiar with technology and devices.
  2. Authors are more and more aware of options they have.
  3. Authors and Readers are realizing they have all the control and power now.
  4. Mobile Devices are spreading and they are getting better for reading.
  5. Technology is cheap now. Lots of companies offering things like payment gateways and sites and blogs for very reasonable prices.

Thirdly, every non-direct channel is undependable.

  1. WalMart might decide to start using books as loss leaders. So the value perception of books goes to zero.
  2. Amazon might decide to start favoring Amazon published books. So either you sign a deal with Amazon or you are a second class citizen (invisible, just doesn’t exist).
  3. B&N might decide it wants to favor Publisher published books. All non-Publisher Authors will be in trouble.
  4. Facebook started this new stunt where you have to pay if you want all your Fans/Likers/Whatevers to see your posts. So, you spend a ton of time getting a following on Facebook and now you have to pay to talk to them?
  5. Instagram started this stunt where every photo you take is their property and they can advertise using it. So your book cover, your book signing photos, and all your photos belong to them the minute you upload them.

The only channel you can depend on is one you control completely. That’s just the truth – There is no Free Lunch.

Fourthly, readers are willing to, and happy to, pay authors for their work. Let them. Make it easy for them.

  1. Readers complain about things that make it difficult for them to get books.
  2. Readers aren’t happy to pay Publishers unfair prices.
  3. Readers aren’t happy with DRM and other things that make things inconvenient.
  4. Readers aren’t happy about international lack of availability.
  5. Readers aren’t happy about format issues.

However, readers are very happy to pay authors. The interesting thing is that despite the Gatekeepers making it hard for readers to easily pay for books, they still want to pay because they want to make sure Authors get paid.

Fifthly, you can TALK and COMMUNICATE with your readers directly. This is priceless because no amount of marketing can rival the power of a direct relationship.

Sixthly, you can get more sales from people who love your books and you can use stacking.

  1. If you have a direct channel then you can sell readers more than one book. Contrast that with a site that sells millions of books. A site will show ’50 other books bought’ and try to take readers away from your books in thousands of directions. You can direct readers to more of your books if its your own channel.
  2. If you have a direct channel you can stack sales. Want to get a good sales rank? Send an email newsletter and do a blog post on the same day as someone mentions your book or reviews your book. That will not only generate direct sales, it will boost your sales rank massively and get you exposure via the bestseller lists.

Seventhly, you don’t have to pay taxes or tolls.

  1. Publishers want a cut.
  2. Bookstores want a cut.
  3. Platforms want a cut.
  4. Your Agent wants a cut.
  5. Your cousin from Tempe wants a cut.

It’s your hard work and everyone wants a cut. Well, are they contributing enough to merit getting a share of your hard-earned profits?

Your readers will be happy to buy directly from you provided you make it a win-win situation. And you avoid paying cuts to every Tom, Dick, and Harry along the way.

Eighthly, your direct channels are going to be the only thing that is permanent (other than your readers).

  1. Publishers might find another flavor of the month.
  2. Stores might switch to selling movies.
  3. Stores might go out of business.
  4. Platforms might get corrupted by piracy and platform issues.
  5. Booksellers might create problems by trying for too much control i.e. readers get a license and don’t really own the book.

You can avoid all these risks by making sure that the core readership you have has a direct channel to you and to your books. Equally importantly, you can ensure that your readers can always find you. A store can kick you out or bury you.

Ninthly, the direct channel has power in itself.

If you build up a direct channel of 35,000 readers who love Historical Romance -

  1. You can ‘selectively’ introduce other authors. Take a cut from them.
  2. Niche sites and lists are valued at $25 to $100 per subscriber. That’s $875,000 to $3.5 million if you build up a list of 35,000 readers. Even if the economy tanks it’s still worth a few hundred thousand dollars.
  3. You can sell your other books.
  4. You can sell merchandise.
  5. You can do tie-ups with Publishers.

Tenthly, your chances of getting a deal go up if you have direct channels to your readers.

  1. Publishers and ePublishers will be MORE likely to sign you to a deal if they know you have a readership of 5,000 to 50,000 that you can reach directly and sell your next book to.

This is one of the biggest fallacies. You don’t increase your chances of getting a deal by becoming less powerful and more at the mercy of Publishers. You increase your chances by becoming more powerful. The minute you don’t need Publishers they’ll come looking.

Good Aims to Have for Authors

To build a direct channel to your readers that you control 100% and that can generate enough revenue to sustain you provided you keep writing one or two books a year and keep marketing your backlist smartly.

To accept the reality that Marketing is just as important as your Book and that the Direct Channel is the lifeline for your Book’s sales.

To treat the direct channel as the absolutely critical part of your marketing efforts to sell in the big stores.

To build more than one channel. Again, channels you control 100% are much, much better. Use Facebook and Twitter if you must – but use them as funnels to channel readers to your email newsletter and your blog.

The truth is that we don’t know where Publishing is headed. However, it does seem quite likely that instead of bookstores, where thousands of books are given shelf space, we will have eBookstores. The only books that will get visibility in eBookstores will be the Top 100 Bestsellers and Books ‘curated’ by the eBookstores. We’ll shift from a world where gatekeepers decided what gets published to one where eGatekeepers decide what gets seen and how often.

Authors absolutely must build their own direct channels to readers and Authors absolutely must build strong relationships with their readers. If they don’t, they would have just exchanged one cruel fate (can’t get published) for another (can’t get seen by readers).

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