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 issued in 1954, showing Buchanan's home, Wheatland.
Buchanan was the 15th president, serving from 1857–1861, right before Lincoln. I don't remember much more about him. I do remember that 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 was used for an American Studies course in college.
- I also wrote a report on Warren Harding and used it in at least two classes. I think my brother recycled it, too.
Was there a subconscious pattern to my presidential picking? Who knows?
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:
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 five spinoffs, so far, plus other editions.
- 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.
- That spinoff led to another, an ebook: How to not Get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company
- I also updated the original book as Independent Self Publishing: the complete guide.
- I then 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.
I recently assembled several one-buck, two-buck, $2.99 and $6.99 ebook spinoffs of more expensive pbooks. 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
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.
Oh yeah, this blog post is based on one I published previously.
(Buchanan portrait is public domain, from the White House)