When I was in Mrs. McGarthy's class in fifth grade, each student had to choose an American president to write a report on. I don't remember why, but I picked James Buchanan. It may have been because I was a stamp collector and had a "plate block" of three-cent stamps showing Buchanan's home, Wheatland, which was issued in 1954.
Buchanan was the 15th president, serving from 1857–1861, right before Lincoln. I don't remember much more about him. He was the only president from Pennsylvania and the only non-married president.
Buchanan's significance to me greatly outweighs my knowledge of him, because that report became the source of a valuable lesson that has served me well for over fifty years: You can sell the same words more than once.
When I was a school kid, I wasn't selling words for money as I did later, but I did have to convince my teachers of the value of my words to get good marks, so the processes were related. Then and now, it's good to maximize income and minimize effort.
- The Buchanan report I wrote for fifth grade was subsequently improved, modified, lengthened and submitted to my teachers in sixth, seventh and ninth grade, plus my junior year in high school, and for an American Studies course in college.
- I also wrote a report on Warren Harding and used it in two classes. I think my brother recycled it, too.
Ironically, U. S. News & World Report ranks Buchanan as the worst president ("He refused to challenge either the spread of slavery or the growing bloc of states that became the Confederacy.") and Harding as second-worst ("He was an ineffectual and indecisive leader who played poker while his friends plundered the U.S. treasury."). Was there a subconscious pattern to my picking?
After college, as a freelance writer, I often sold variations of the same article to multiple magazines with different audiences, such as Rolling Stone and Country Music, or Esquire and Ingénue.
It works the same way with books.
A few years ago, I published Become a Real Self-Publisher: don't be a victim of a vanity press, which was written for people who don’t use self-publishing companies. I later published a spinoff -- aimed at writers who do use self-publishing companies, Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book. I also updated the original book as Independent Self Publishing: the complete guide and published yet another spinoff, Brainy Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing, aimed at writers who are unsure of their path to publication. Parts of the first book were also used in my Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy book about Outskirts Press.
All of those books include material originally posted on my blogs, and some material written for my books eventually shows up on my blogs.
I've just assembled several $2.99 Kindle spinoffs of much more expensive p-books. Each book took less than two days to produce and put on sale.
- Writers Can Get Away With Apparently Absurd Tax Deductions That Ordinary People Can't
- What Do You Call That Funny-Looking thing? terminology for self-publishers
Look at what you've already written and figure out how you can Recycle, reuse, repurpose, revise, sequelize and serialize. It's the American way.
My first book about phone equipment has had three spinoffs, and more are coming.
My funny memoir has had two spinoffs, so far, plus other editions.
SPECIAL SALESMany thousands of books reach readers without booksellers. They are distributed—sometimes for free -- by entities that want information or opinions circulated. These “special sales” can generate high profits, with no risk of returns.
A book you’ve already written may be perfect for use by an association, corporation, government, charity, foundation, university or a political party. Perhaps a book you’ve written needs just slight changes and perhaps a new title and cover to become perfect. Maybe information in your book is fine, but the book needs a new point of view or emphasis. Make a deal.
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(Buchanan portrait is public domain, from the White House)