Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Monetizing Your Intellectual Property

So you've got this story you want to e-publish. It's about 5000 words long. You've seen the success Barry Eisler has had with The Lost Coast, selling a short story on Kindle for $2.99, but you don't have Barry Eisler's fanbase. So you decide to price it modestly at 99 cents.

After it goes live, you mention it a few times on your blog, on Twitter, on Kindleboards.com. Then you move on to your next project, content that you'll forever earn money on this short story.

But are you truly maximizing this story's potential?

No. You're not even close.

Let's look at five of my short stories. The Screaming, a vampire story that originally appeared in an anthology six years ago. Symbios, a sci-fi/horror take that originally appeared in Apex Digest. Shapeshifters Anonymous, which was originally in the Wolfsbane & Mistletoe anthology. Serial, which I wrote with Blake Crouch expressly for Kindle as a freebie. And Truck Stop, a Jack Daniels/Jack Kilborn crossover I wrote for Kindle.

The Screaming appeared in trade paperback, mass market paperback, and then in a reprint anthology. I recently released it as a standalone ebook for 99 cents on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. But I didn't stop there.

The Screaming is in my $2.99 collection Horror Stories (which is also available as a self-published trade paperback.) Horror Stories is part of a larger, omnibus collection called 65 Proof (also available as a trade paper.)

I did the same thing with Symbios and Shapeshifter's Anonymous. They're both available as singles, in Horror Stories, and in 65 Proof.

Three stories. Fifteen ways to buy them.

Serial, which Blake and I wrote a few years ago, is still available for free (and still in the Kindle Free Top 100.) We also released it for 99 cents, and, incredibly, people are buying it. Since authors can't release ebooks for free on Kindle, Nook, Sony, or the others, we went through my legacy publisher to do so. But realizing that Serial might be missed by those who don't shop for freebies, we put it out at 99 cents for those surfing Amazon,'s other areas, and we sell a few hundred copies a month.

We also sold Serial to Cemetery Dance for the anthology Shivers VI, where it appears between the covers with Stephen King and Peter Straub. Serial is also in 65 Proof, and Blake's collection Six in the Cylinder. And Six in the Cylinder is in his omnibus Fully Loaded, which is also available in print.

But we weren't done monetizing Serial.

Banking on Serial's popularity, we released a longer version called Serial Uncut, on all ebook platforms. It's also available as a trade paperback, which includes my story Truck Stop, and Blake's story Bad Girl, along with more original content. Naturally, Truck Stop and Bad Girl are also available as 99 cent stand-alones.

Serial Uncut has proven to be very lucrative, earning us tens of thousands of dollars. We just wrote a sequel, Killers, which is now available.

Can you guess where we're going next? Killers Uncut will be out soon, in ebook and self-published trade paper. Then it's a no-brainer to bundle both versions (which will be a whopping 90,000 word novel) into Serial Killers Uncut, which will be a $5.99 ebook and a $15 paperback.

Horror Stories and Serial Uncut were also sold as audiobooks to Brilliance Audio. And Serial had its film rights optioned. My agent is working on foreign deals for these properties.

You're getting the idea, right?

A single intellectual property can be exploited in multiple ways. It can be sold as a single, as a part of multiple collections, as an expanded version, as a bundle. It can be sold to anthologies and magazines, to audio and foreign markets, and can be self-published in print.

The more ways you package it, the more chances you'll have to reach new eyes.

In the past, a brick and mortar bookshelf had limited space. If authors wanted to be discovered, they improved their chances by taking up as much of that bookshelf as possible.

These days, the bookshelf is the internet, and it is infinite. The more IPs you have for sale, in various packages and formats, the more potential fans you'll find.

You don't need to have fifty unique IPs to have fifty products for sale.

Different people are looking in different places for different things. But if you properly package your story, you can vastly improve your reach. Just as in the print world, the more places you appear, and the more shelf space you occupy, the more you'll sell.

And for those keeping track of such things, I'm selling about 1500 ebooks a day.