The driving force behind Indie Plot Twist has always been to help you write and publish the best books possible using the tools that are the best fit for you. From before the first post, Danielle and I intended to share our experiences in creating and marketing books.
Part of that picture is something most of us never think we’ll do. Unpublish something we’ve published.
But lets face it. Even the most popular bestsellers have a shelf-life. New books are published and rise to bestseller status. Old bestsellers fade down the list and eventually drop off it.
Traditional publishing houses eventually stop publishing books. That’s where the out-of-print list comes from.
We’ve all thought that independent publishing means you never have to unpublish a book and that’s true. You can leave a book published for as long as you like.
But there may come a time when the better course of action is to unpublish a book.
I’ve always been both an artist and a writer. The two don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but they are both creative outlets for me. And lessons I learn in one area often translate into better work practices in the other.
I’ve been a professional artist since high school. Suffice it to say, a long time.
In 2007 or 2008, I started my first art blog and it gradually transitioned from being about me and my art to being about how I draw and paint. In other words, it became a teaching blog.
The how-to demonstrations in which I described how I drew various drawings and painted portraits were so popular that I decided to publish a couple of books. That happened in 2013.
Last month, I unpublished all of them from Amazon and I removed the permafree book from Smashwords and their distribution chain. This month, I unpublished one of two remaining books.
There are two primary reasons for this decision.
First is the fact that while I’ve sold enough books to earn royalties from Amazon almost every month and from Smashwords every quarter, the books have never been as popular as I’d hoped they’d be. My last royalty payment from Amazon was 21 cents. Not even enough for a candy bar.
Mind, I’m grateful for every penny that comes my way. They do have a habit of adding up.
But the tax paperwork involved with Amazon required a lot more time to assemble than those pennies paid for. My time can, quite frankly, be better used elsewhere.
Second, my primary marketing push is now and has always been the art blog. The more it has grown, the more more true that has become. Yes, I had MyBookTable installed on the art blog and yes, it did get traffic. Unfortunately, that traffic did not translate to proven sales.
I could have spent time marketing books through Amazon and Smashwords and in other ways, but I didn’t think that was the best way to market this content.
Nor did it advance my overall goal with the blog.
A Better Alternative
Given my readership and their needs, the best way to make sure this content got into the hands of the people most likely to find it helpful was to present it as a series of lessons rather than as books.
I decided to offer content as PDF documents students could download and print. I had reason to believe that would work because I’d purchased that type of content myself.
I started with the permafree book. I unpublished that in late June, updated the content, removed some of the book-specific content, and offered it as a free downloadable PDF formatted so it could be printed.
I will soon be selling the unpublished book in the same way.
I’ve also begun converting existing content into lesson downloads, beginning with the most popular post. But that’s a post for another time.
How Things Are Going
It’s still too early to tell you how things are going. I uploaded the first two documents Monday of this week.
But I am hopeful.
After all, this method of content delivery gives me more control over what’s published, offers a much higher profit margin than self publishing anywhere else, and makes my blog the point of sale on everything I have to offer. What’s not to like?
This marketing tactic isn’t likely to work with most fiction, since so many readers use ereaders for pleasure reading.
But if you’re writing and publishing nonfiction content and especially content that is designed to be educational, you might want to consider this option in addition to publishing more traditional books.
It can be a great source of more direct income and can also be a great marketing tool to point people to books available in other formats.