How Authors Make Real Money (Hint: It's Not From Books)

Your book is so many things. It's your life's purpose, your contribution, and your baby--not to mention, a tangible representation of your own considerable sweat equity.

Let's not forget, however, that it's also the world's most convincing business card.

The question is, as an existing or aspiring author, how can you leverage the credibility your book gives you to have a bigger impact, make more money, and pursue your passion to its full potential?

The best answer I've found, both as an author and former book publicist, is by creating online products for your audience.

But how, exactly, does an author do that? How, exactly, can you turn your expertise into successful products that help you build the life and career you've so long imagined?

It's a question I recently posed to Pam Hendrickson, owner of Pam Hendrickson Consulting Group, and the expert who spent twenty years developing the hundreds of successful products that now comprise the Tony Robbins empire.

Pam shared the three critical questions authors should ask themselves before creating their beyond-the-book products:

Question #1: WHAT are you selling?

"Everyone focuses on format," Pam says, when, in fact, your content is what will make you successful.

To determine your product content, write down all of the major steps you want your audience to take to achieve the end goal. For example, let's say your book details your amazing new diet. While that diet is an important first step, your ultimate goal may be to teach your audience to live a new lifestyle. Each major step your audience must take to achieve that healthier lifestyle "is a product," Pam explains.

Whatever your expertise, you'll ultimately want three tiers of products, the sum of which becomes your product funnel:

  1. Introductory Content: This is free or inexpensive content that introduces your audience to your expertise, explains your solution, and gives them an understanding of how their life can change. In most cases, your book, as well as eBooks, webinars, and sample chapters, will fall into this category. All of this introductory content helps you build a trusting relationship with your audience, which is critical in the second phase of your product funnel, when you'll need to start selling them higher-ticket products.

  • Primary Content: The content in this second phase of your product funnel, Pam explains, should "be about doing," motivating your audience to take action that gets them results. You can accomplish this through an online training program or a system you deliver digitally.
  • Advanced Content: This third and final phase of your product funnel is your highest-ticket product. Advanced content is typically more personal and customized, like a high-end mastermind group or one-on-one coaching.
  • Question #2: WHOM are you selling to?

    Above all, "know your audience," Pam asserts. You must understand their problems so well that your offer feels like the magic balm they've been searching for. In every way possible, your offers and your products should meet their needs and fit their lifestyle.

    Question #3: WHAT will get them to buy?

    The answer to this question is an extension of how well you know your audience.

    Both your offer and your product must thoroughly address (and solve) their problem. To create targeted offers that resonate with your audience, you'll need to understand what "triggers" them to purchase your products.

    Most often, sales triggers are related to your audience's dreams, desires and/or fears. To pinpoint these triggers, you'll need to interact with your audience frequently, through multiple media, including surveys and polls. You'll also want to test different sales messaging and offers to figure out what works best.

    While the product creation process can be labor-intensive, as an author myself, I've found it hugely satisfying. In addition to allowing you to increase your income (and enjoy more peace of mind), your product funnel gives you endless opportunities to share your knowledge, which is, after all, one very important reason you became an author in the first place.

    So when you find yourself recording on-screen video training courses, or designing eBooks for your next webinar, keep in mind that it's yet another part of the author's rich and rewarding journey.

    Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books.