ASP 12: Two Types of Self Publishing Business Models

Quote of the day:

“In any business that grows big on one business model, transitions can throw everything in the air.”

– Bing Gordon

Since we are hard at work on our soon-to-be released self-publishing course, Barrie and Ron are sitting this episode out. Steve is solo-hosting this episode, and will discuss the fact that if you only rely on one business model, things can go awry quickly if/when that model changes.

This episode is actually from our forthcoming course, and will give you a teaser of what the course will be like. Barrie and Ron follow a different book model from the one I use, so I thought it would be great to compare the two.

The reality is that there is no “one size fits all” answer. There are many ways to generate revenue with self-publishing—it’s not just about writing books. In fact, many authors use their books as an entry point into their income funnel—they don’t even make money with direct sales.

So what is your business model? It is important that you make a decision about this early on. That way, you will know what’s important and what’s not. You can redirect as you build up a market, but it is important that you focus early on before doing so.

Use your frame of reference—there is a lot of content throughout this course. It’s important to know what your long-term plan is and focus on the strategies that will get you there. (For instance, if your goal is to write a series of books, then you might only start a blog if you’re looking to expand beyond the books.)

Remember that there are two types of book-based businesses. We will review both, how to generate revenue with them, and their advantages and disadvantages.

1. The “Book Catalog” Business

Attributes: Like any other content platform (blog, podcast, or YouTube), focus on a major topic. Each book should go into specific detail about one topic or strategy. With books such as these, you want to be an inch wide but a mile deep.

Goal: Solve very specific problems. You are looking to get buyers to buy your 2nd, 3rd, 4th and even 10th book. Similar to fiction authors, you are looking to build an audience through your books.

Income model: You will focus first on book sales through Amazon. Then progress to book sales through platforms like iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Draft2Digital, as well as alternative income sources such as audiobooks, print books on Kindle Direct Printing, translation partners, foreign rights, and affiliate sales (but these should not be your major focal point).

Example: My business model is a classic example of these. I have been self-publishing for three years, and 80% of my income comes from straight book sales.

Advantages: This strategy is perfect for introverts, and for short-term success. All you have to do is crank out books and get traction, then create a production line where many aspects of your process are automated with teams and virtual assistants.


  1. You have all of your eggs in one basket, so a major change in platform or the industry could destroy your business
  2. It is easy to get stuck in your comfort zone, and not push yourself to grow and progress.
  3. There is potential to get ripped off.
  4. It is hard to get a consistent level of reviews. People can get tired after the 20th review request, so your reviewers are not always consistent.
  5. Lower margins. You will need larger volume to turn $2 to $3 per book into full-time income. On the other hand, you could offer a course at $100 and make more per sale.

2. The “Brand Builder”

Attributes: In this model you will write books and make some money with them, but that is only one aspect of a larger business model.

Goal: Publish every 6 to 12 months. Create in-depth books that cover your concepts, but also use them to seed a product, service or speaking career.

Income model: There are many more opportunities here, including book revenue, large information products, “Done for you” services, coaching, consulting, affiliate marketing or other ways to grow your brand such as YouTube, podcasts, or blogs.

Example: Barrie’s Live Bold and Bloom brand is a great example. She has done well with self-publishing books, but also provides courses, coaching, and affiliate marketing.


  1. Better protected from market fluctuations, due to the fact that you have a diversified income.
  2. Better revenue per customer.
  3. More enjoyable. Some people like the in-person interaction that comes with coaching, consulting and speaking.
  4. High income potential. Great coaches and speakers command high rates for their time.


  1. Coaching, consulting, and speaking are all time-intensive. You are trading your time for money.
  2. Traveling. Travel can be great, but it tends to throw off your schedule.
  3. Not easy to systematize.
  4. Requires new skillsets. This can be fun, but also challenging.
  5. It is hard to publish consistently when you are doing all these other things.

Remember these two models as you go through modules of the course, or as you develop your business. Focus on the strategies that fit best with your market, and act accordingly.

Again, It’s okay to pivot or redirect farther down the road. But you won’t really know how successful each approach is until you have committed at least six to nine months to each, so don’t try to do too much too soon.

As always, join the wait list for the course at and get your free self-publishing checklist at

The Authority Pub Academy launches in January, and includes six modules with 70+ five-minute videos that are all tightly focused on individual topics. Mark Dawson will be a guest author in this exciting and robust course that has something for everyone, no matter where you are on your self-publishing journey.

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