Authors Are the New Gatekeepers to Large Audiences

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Authors Are the New Gatekeepers to Large AudiencesFor decades, the gatekeepers to reach large audiences of book consumers have been retailers, publishers, libraries and national media outlets. These organizations hold the keys to reaching millions of readers. But access to their audiences is limited unless one purchases paid advertising, hires a publicity firm or undertakes an expensive, time-consuming tour of the country. For the most part, authors who want to reach the masses have been at the mercy of these options. Until now.

Today, many authors are building audiences so large that they have actually become the new gatekeepers. For example, consider the audience size of these three New York Times bestselling authors:

Author/Organization:                                           Email Subscribers:
Lisa Lillien / Hungry Girl                                         1,200,000
Lysa TerKeurst / Proverbs 31                                  500,000
Ruth Soukup / Living Well, Spending Less               130,000

(Note that I chose to display each author’s email subscriber lists rather than their website stats or social media figures. Their numbers in those categories are certainly substantial, but research has shown email to be 40 times more effective than social media at acquiring new customers.)

As these authors built huge audiences over time, they made it much easier to sell thousands of their books. But more importantly, they began to attract attention from other entities seeking access to their audience. That interest has created exciting new revenue opportunities for the authors through paid advertising, joint partnerships, corporate spokesperson roles, etc.

In an ironic reversal of roles, authors who had to pay companies for advertising now charge companies to advertise products to their audience. The authors listed above routinely receive thousands of dollars for individual ad space. This growing trend represents one of the most exciting times in literary history to be an author.

If you’re an author, how can you capitalize on this opportunity?

1. Focus on building your own audience. Your writing career will feel much more stable when you own the numbers rather than rely on someone else to bring the numbers to you.

2. Place special priority on growing your email subscriber list. Facebook is constantly changing the rules, while your email list is the one audience component that you can completely control.

3. Success breeds success. I’ve consulted with numerous A-level authors, and I always tell them, “Success is the key that unlocks bigger doors.” Below are examples of what I mean:

• Offer paid advertising and attract like-minded companies and sponsors.
• Make yourself available as a paid corporate spokesperson.
• Start your own national radio program, TV show, podcast or YouTube channel.
• Host your own live events that attract thousands of attendees.
• Create inner-circle groups where people pay premium fees for exclusive access.

The digital revolution has made today an exciting time to be an author, especially if you learn how to build a sizeable audience. Why rely on the old gatekeepers to reach readers when you yourself can be the gatekeeper?

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3 thoughts on “Authors Are the New Gatekeepers to Large Audiences

  1. Michael W. Perry

    These authors also have another big advantage with their digital sales. They can steer their fans to the ebook retailer who pays them the best. Here are the numbers, assuming this popular author sells 100,000 copies.

    For an ebook priced at $4.99 (call it $5 to make the numbers easier). Apple always pays 70%. In this range, Amazon pays 70% less an inflated download fee that lowers the real rate to the 60-65% range. We’ll be nice to Amazon and assume 65%.

    Apple: 5 x 100,000 x 0.7 = $350,000

    Amazon: 5 x 100,000 x 0.65 = $325,000

    So this fortunate author can earn as much as $25,000 more without costing her readers a penny more simply by steering them toward Apple.

    How about a starter novel in a series that’s priced at $1.99, which we will call $2. Apple still pays 70%, but in that price range, as well as with ebooks priced over $9.99, Amazon only pays 35%. As you might suspect, that makes for a huge difference in an author’s income.

    Apple: 2 x 100,0000 x 0.7 = $140,000

    Amazon: 2 x 100,000 x 0.35 = $70,000

    In this case, this bestselling author could double her income by shifting readers from Amazon to Apple.

    There’s also an easy way to encourage readers to shift. Do an ‘early bird’ release through Apple’s iBookstore discounted, as above, to $1.99. After a month or so, raise the iBookstore price to $2.99 and also release it through Amazon for $2.99.

    Will Amazon complain? Given how popular this author is, almost certainly. But she can point out the madness of Amazon’s convoluted pricing scheme. If she included Amazon in that early bird pricing, she’d be only making half a much per sale as through Apple. It’s Apple’s policy that lets her sell at $1.99 and still earn a decent income.

    That popular author be a heroine to other authors. She would be doing what more average authors can’t do. She would be putting pressure on Amazon to quit being so miserly and pay market rates at all retail prices. Amazon could easily do that. It doesn’t because thus far authors have let Amazon get away with short-changing them. That needs to end.

    1. Ryan Petty

      A great article by Rob Eagar and a great, expansive comment by you. I really appreciate your analysis, calling to mind facts and implications we so readily overlook.




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