Posted on October 25, 2011 by Colin

My New Indie Publishing Model

 

New Publishing Model

In September, I started up a new project called Exiles, and began publishing handfuls of blog posts and essays and articles each month to a small group of subscribers.

Since then, I’ve made some significant changes to the way Exiles operates, and the business model behind it.

Now that I’ve relaunched the project with a spiffy new landing page and some added benefits, I want to give a quick overview of how it works, so that you can steal and/or help me improve the business model behind it.

 

People Like Impulse Purchases

This is something I’ve know for quite some time, but I didn’t realize it applies to long-term impulse purchases, as well.

When I first started up Exiles as a paid newsletter, I offered the option to subscribe monthly for $5, or yearly for $36. Amazingly, people didn’t look at the $36 figure and think “That’s way more money than $5!” Instead, they did the math, realized that for $3/month they could get more of my writing delivered to their inbox (for a whole year), and signed up.

I still offer both options, but now I emphasize the latter, yearly price. Out of a little over 100 subscribers, 95% have chosen the yearly option, and this is before I upped the ante and offered even more for people who choose that route (more on this below).

 

People Are Skeptical of Paid Newsletters

One piece of feedback I got over and over from people I talked to about Exiles was that they didn’t really think subscription-paid emails were worth it, and that they didn’t see why anyone would pay for information they could easily get online on some blog or another with just a little searching.

I didn’t get the same push-back when discussing ebooks, however, so I decided to ‘rebrand’ my offering and try to better describe what it is, and how it stands out from paid newsletters as a whole.

My key value proposition, I decided, is that I tell stories rather than just writing longer blog posts and delivering them to subscribers’ inboxes.

Exiles is really just a book, much like My Exile Lifestyle, though ongoing, with about 5-6 new chapters delivered every 2 weeks. I relate my experiences, express my thoughts about them, and share what I learn. I give inside info.

Another unique value proposition that I offer is a look into the goings-on in a non-traditional lifestyle.

I travel full time, start and operate passion-based ventures, actively seek out new experiences all day, every day, meet incredible people, and have an unusual approach to relationships that some would describe as ‘the best thing ever,’ while others might just shake their heads at the strangeness of it all. A peek into my day-to-day, I realized, could be entertaining and valuable to people.

In the end, I decided to go with the tagline ‘An Ongoing, Tell-All Travelogue.’ This repositions Exiles as what is really is: a long book that subscribers receive a half-dozen chapters at a time.

 

People Forget About Things They Subscribe To

People to block out anything that doesn’t happen regularly enough to keep in the forefront of their mind.

Seth Godin writes on his blog every day, and this has helped him gain traction in the minds of hundreds of thousands of readers. They know when he’ll be writing, and they make it a part of their day.

I had to ask myself:  “how will I keep in touch with people between emails that happen two weeks apart?”

Also: “how can I imply the pseudo-tactile value that ebooks have, but with an email instead of a PDF/EPUB/MOBI file?”

My first thought was to pitch Exiles as an e-magazine, but this ultimately didn’t pan out, as there seems to be a lot of baggage tied to that term (I have the magazine industry’s general inability to elegantly bring their product online to thank for that, methinks).

I finally decided that I would simply try to lock the 1st and 16th of every month into the minds of my subscribers as the days when their next batch of chapters will arrive.

I also added a countdown to the Exiles landing page, so that folks can check how long is left until the next issue, which also creates a sense of urgency and tangibility for the publication, since people who aren’t subscribed when the countdown reaches zero will miss out on that set of chapters.

 

People Like Authors As Much As Books

This is something I learned long ago, when I worked at an indie bookstore throughout my childhood (“Do you have anything new by Michael Crichton?”), but it’s become even more apparent now that I have a handful of books on the market, and know many people who have their own offerings available, as well.

People read books and blogs because of the author just as often as they read books and blogs for the topics they discuss. If you find someone whose writing you appreciate, you give whatever they release a chance, because based on past experience with their work (or their brand), you’re fairly certain you’ll enjoy it.

I was thinking about this while trying to figure out a solution for a problem most indie authors have with the business side of their industry: namely, the lack of predictable income brought in by their work.

What if, I thought, people could subscribe to ME, rather than just some portion of what I’m up to? What if, by paying a lump sum for a year, I could just send them everything I publish? Eliminate the complications and hurdles and just have an active reader-base that supports my work, and for whom I continue to create the best possible work I can?

It’s an idea I quite fancy, and now it’s a part of the Exiles business model. Anyone who subscribes to Exiles for a year will receive a free copy of every book I publish in that year, as well. I’ve got a new book that will be released at the beginning of November called ‘How to Travel Full Time,’ and the first people to get their hands on it (free), will be the folks subscribed to Exiles.

 

Final Thoughts

So that is the crux of my thinking behind how Exiles is set up and run.

I’ve created a system wherein people will be able to subscribe to me, not just small portions of my work, and I’ve aspired to do it in such a way that the value is inherent and so folks need not break the bank to get in on it.

Please feel free to steal any of the ideas I’ve mentioned above (including the entire business model), and I would love to hear your feedback on the project, and the model itself. Drop me some knowledge in the comments below, or shoot me an email with your thoughts.

You can also check out the Exiles travelogue landing page, and if you’re sold on the concept, you can subscribe using the form below.