Want to influence a lot of people? Perhaps becoming an author won’t do it. I’m an author. 13 books since 1987. Lately, I’ve been wondering if writing books is really worth all the effort. I’ve come to the conclusion that, for most people, it’s just not worth the effort! I don’t think it gives you a big payoff in royalties. The big payoff comes from making appearances. And I don’t mean book-signings at Barnes & Noble. (The average number of books sold at these kinds of book-signings is three. Yes, only three!) I mean becoming a celebrity as a result of your bookand then getting paid big bucks for personal appearances. Cal Ripken Jr retired from baseball back in 2001, but he still gets $50,000 to $75,000 up front whenever he gives a talk. There are a lot of speakers bureaus, not only in the US but all over the world, who will book you. Ripken uses several speakers bureau, including Celebrity Speakers Bureau, Key Speakers Bureau, and Athlete Promotions.
But you’ve got to become a celebrity first in order to get lucrative speaking gigs. Celebrity-hood does not follow authorship. And you’ve also got to be a celebrity before you can sell a lotof books. Even then, the royalties suck! More about that shortly.
Remember celebrity Jason Segel? He played Marshall on the long-running TV series, How I Met Your Mother. News media breathlessly reported in April 2013 that he was going to write a series of three books aimed at children. The big-name publisher, Random House, was supposed to release it. 13 months later, nothing has been published. (By the way, the series is “co-authored” by Kirsten Miller, who probably is doing all the writing and who probably made the deal with Random House. She has written several books aimed at children.)
I don’t think authors are celebrities per se. With one exception—comic book artists. They’redefinitely celebrities. But they don’t make that much money, either. I’ve seen American comic book artists appearing in Manila, Philippines, with several hundred people waiting in line to get autographs. All had to buy tickets first. Most of the fan-boys had several comic books (bought at the event) for the artists to sign. And I’ve often attended the annual San Diego ComicCon. Fan-boys buy many comics there, and wait in line for hours to get autographs. And if you’re a good artist and want to become a newspaper-syndicated cartoonist, watch out. Big syndicates, like King Features, don’t pay that much either.
And even if you’re a celebrity, you won’t get much money from writing books. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are definitely well-known celebrities. How much do you think they made in royalties from their books—probably all ghost-written? Here’s how much—I mean here’s how little:
Biden’s 2007 book, Promises to Keep earned him less than $201 in royalties in 2013. In late May 2014, its rank on Amazon.com was 783,751. (This means that 782,750 books sold more than Biden’s book.)
Well, Biden’s only the Vice President. How did the big guy do? President Obama’s royalties from his 1995 Dreams from My Father earned him between $50,000 and $100,000 in 2013. (Amazon rank in late May was 16,263). His 2006 Audacity of Hope earned between $15,000 and $50,000 (Amazon rank 38,102). And his 2010 Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughtersearned between $5,000 and $15,000 (Amazon rank 14,178). Total royalties in 2013 for the three books: Between $70,000 and $130,000. Obama’s the biggest celebrity in the world, and he gets between $70,000 and $130,000 a year in royalties. Do you think you’ll get that much? More importantly, can you afford to live on less than $201 a year? Biden’s lucky he has another source of income.
Bottom line: Book-writing isn’t worth it if you’re in it for the money. If you’re doing it for ego reasons, go ahead and spend a lot of time. But here’s what will probably happen: You’ll end up buying a few hundred copies of your book from a vanity publisher, and they’ll stay in your garage for years and years. Most authors won’t go on tour to promote their book. And, remember, the average number of books sold at a Barnes & Noble book-signing is three!
Why do I write books, then? Because I have made appearances (talks and seminars) since the late 1970s—about 10 years before I wrote my first book, Battling for Profits. I’ve done this in 36 nations on six continents. People who attend my seminars buy my books at my appearances. But I make a lot more money from the organizers of my seminars than from my book sales. I always have several of my books for sale at my appearances. I don’t know how many celebrity groupies are in my audience. But around 25 percent of them buy my autographed books at the end of my appearances. And so I conclude that attendance at my appearances would be 25 percent less if I had never written a book. So thank goodness for my minor celebrity-hood.
There’s a lot more to think about in Part 2.
Dr. Donald Wayne Hendon is a consultant, speaker, trainer, and author of 14 books, including The Way of the Warrior in Business, Guerrilla Deal-Making (with Jay Conrad Levinson) and 365 Powerful Ways to Influence. Jay Levinson recently passed away. He specifically chose Don to be his final co-author—the person most qualified to carry the torch of guerrilla marketing into the 21st century. Deal-Making contains the 100 most powerful tactics from 365 Powerful Ways—along with 400 winning countermeasures. There are 121 aggressive tactics, 92 defensive ones, 24 cooperative ones, and 16 submissive ones to get what you want from other people. Plus 81 dirty tricks to watch out for and 31 tactics to prepare you for your interaction with them. Download Chapter 1, free of charge, at www.DonaldHendon.com. Play Don’s free online Negotiation Poker game by going to GuerrillaDon.com. Apps will soon be available.