Ownership & Delivery

I wrote my first book, Born to Succeed: How to Release Your Unlimited Potential, in 1993. Of course it is great to see your own work in print, to be not just an author, but a published author. And prior to the Internet with all the myriad of self-publishing opportunities that it has made available to everyone, having your book published was the biggest reward. Because, let me tell you, there is very little to be made from royalties generated from ‘traditional’ retail sales.
When it was published in 1994 I received a royalty of 7.5% of the £6.99 cover price – around 50p a book. If you sell 100,000 copies that is the same as earning £50,000 passive income.

Unfortunately it does not work like that. New authors will call their publishers regularly, often on a weekly basis, to ask how the book is doing. Seasoned authors get to know that 80% of all books sold are written by less than 50 of the more famous authors and that a bestseller in the UK only has to sell 10,000 copies to become a bestseller. 60% of the 100,000 books that are published every year sell less than 10 copies each.

This is really not a surprise, because people no longer read books. The majority of books sold comprise celebrity biographies – which remain unread; franchised thrillers by Patterson, Cussler and Robert Ludlum (who died a while ago but still publishes a book every year).

The UK’s most widely-read and popular library book author is Catherine Cookson, who is also no longer with us, and children’s story writer Jacqueline Wilson. The average income for an unknown author from libraries is less than £30 a year.

The harsh reality is that the majority of people do not read; the average reader reads buys less than 4 books a year and only a small percentage of the population buy books. At the time of writing, Amazon’s electronic tablet, the kindle, now accounts for more sales than all hardback and paperback sales; and the last remaining chain of bookstores in the UK, Waterstones, has just been sold as a loss-making business.

Every few years there are indeed publishing money-machines. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series and Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series, for example, when sales generate a huge income for the author, or his estate, like Steig Larsson (who promptly died soon after handing in his Millennium Trilogy featuring The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

Then there are the media-frenzied (outrageous to other poorer authors) advances for celebrity ghost-written autobiographies, while average royalties for authors amount to less than the lowest of income. In addition the traditional publishing model is designed to remunerate publishers, not authors – as Charles Dickens soon discovered which led him to publish his own work in monthly editions in his periodical, Household Words.

A Turning Point that leveraged his talent.

There were 4 experiences with my book Born to Succeed that caused me reach a Turning Point. The first was in 1994 when Born to Succeed became a bestseller, reaching No. 6 – for one week – in UK Charts, between, Wilbur Smith and Jilly Cooper. I received less than £3,000 in royalties, having sold around 10,000 copies. (The small print of my contract allowing for reductions if the publisher chose to negotiate a discounting deal for retailers.) The publisher had only engaged in limited marketing, but the timing was right for the book as we were in fall-out of the 1991 recession. The publisher earned £15,000.

The second Turning Point was that I negotiated an order of 20,000 books to the Network Marketing Company IBS, the biggest UK distributor of Amway products at the time. This was the biggest single order that Penguin UK, which my publishers, Element Books, were associated with, had ever had. Although it was understood that Colin Turner ‘the sales negotiator’, was a different entity to Colin Turner ‘the author,’ and as such would be entitled to commission also, this was later denied and I received a royalty only of £4,900 (due to being discounted.) My publisher earned (because the production cost was reduced due to the bulk quantity) £24,000.

The third was that the most royalty received was from Foreign Rights being sold, where I would receive 50% of the rights fee. This could be significant because…

I learned in 1996 that Born to Succeed had reached No. 1 in Japan and sold 250,000 copies in its first month of publication. (The name was changed to The 100 Ways to Success and Inner Happiness – incidentally at the same time the title of the western bestseller Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, was changed to Good Partners – and did not become a best seller in Japan. Which illustrates the importance of the right title for the right culture). My publisher had not informed me that we had sold the rights. 6 months later it had sold a million copies but unfortunately my publishers went into liquidation and I received a fraction of my royalties that were due.
Foreign rights were sold to Russia and China, and though my books sold well and continue to sell well with 2 bestsellers in Russia, I have received zero royalties.

These experiences led to a big Turning Point for me: Take ownership of your product and of your marketing. I immediately flew to Japan, renegotiated the rights and sold 6 more titles over a 3 year period. The titles I sold were with another publisher Hodder & Stoughton, but I have since re-acquired the rights and over the past few years have negotiated the foreign rights in a more effective way.

That is: selling for a larger single payment without royalties – in the knowledge that in a modern world when few value what they can get free from an illegal download, it is pointless to engage in trying to get royalties that are almost impossible to measure. It is preferable to receive a larger sum that can deliver the value up-front and is attractive to the foreign rights publishing purchaser, as they have more incentive to market their newly acquired books and not have to pay royalties. This is good for the author as it allows you to leverage your talent in those countries.

My books have been published in 45 countries and I have been invited to speak in most of them, receiving sums in excess of what the rights were sold for. For example, in Greece I have sold the rights for 4 books at £5,000 each over a 5-year period. But I have earned £50,000 from speaking engagements in Greece.

At the time of writing I have just returned from Poland, where I have received only a nominal amount in royalties; and have been invited to Russia, where I have received no royalties for the 2 bestsellers I have, yet will earn much more speaking because my books are there.

It is because of the clear advantage of what leveraging your talents can do that I made The Turning Point that I did several years ago. I re-took ownership of my work, became a publisher and producer of books, audio programs and downloads. I then follow a simple formula:

• I contact the rights agents of Foreign Publishers Direct.

• They visit my website and choose the titles they would like to purchase.

• We agree a one-off fee for the publication rights with a simple contract – usually about £3,000-5,000.

• When the books are published I contact the main speaking agencies.

• I receive an invitation to present a keynote address – payment being around £5,000 plus expenses.

• I direct the audience to my website where I have a special offer for them. On average 50 people buy a £200 product, which generates a further £10,000.

• At the event I am introduced to the movers and shakers of that event.

• I continue to build a relationship with those people.

• I am invited to consult with a company from that country.

• I receive a fee of £10,000.

• In addition, the participants at the seminar become my customers and over several years continue to download new products and programs. The life-time value can be £20,000 from the seminar.

So from just one book in one country I have leveraged my talent from a nominal royalty of a few hundred pounds to £50,000. And my work is in 45 countries.

And how I am best leveraging my talent?

• First by taking ownership of what I produce.

• Second by marketing to the right audience.

• Third by mastering the skill of public speaking.

These leveraging tools are the ones that make the difference. Charles Dickens delivered literally hundreds of reading presentations of his work in the UK and US. Thousands of people queued to attend his events, eager to hear their favourite characters brought to life with Dickens’ mastery of mimic and delivery. A skill he had mastered, considering it essential to leveraging his product, marketing and talent. And the more he did it, the better he became at it.

Make the mastery of public speaking a skill that you use to leverage your own talent, and you will soon discover that it is a Turning Point that will benefit you and your business in every way.

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