eBook Authors: Pay Your Readers!

This seems strange, but it is a bloody brilliant idea that will help you sell your eBooks.

Four years ago I had this crazy and dumb idea to sell music in a radical way to beat piracy. Long story short, music is a complicated and disrupted business that is going down, and many musicians that I worked with are hobbyists and artists, not business people. That venture tanked. Musicians are more interested in fame, not fortune. Apparently fortune will somehow follow once fame arrives. I still wonder why so many of my rock idols from the 60s,70s and 80s are not retired, but still touring.


I may sound dumb to pay readers, but hear me out.

The problem of piracy, whether real or imagined, affects everyone. It affects successful authors by eating into lost sales, and it affects struggling new authors because customers devalue your work and try to pay you with likes, views and tweets. Sorry, but no MacDonalds have ever accepted 3000 Facebook likes as payment for a Happy Meal.
If we can give our readers an incentive that is BETTER than free, and still make a reasonably fair remuneration for our thoughts, ideas and writings, we must at least try doing it. This requires a shift in mindsets — and business models.

Currently we only know of one way to sell our eBooks — put it in a store, get as many people as possible to discover it, and expect 1 out of every 1000 people to pay for a copy of it. The store gets a cut from the sale, or charge you a fee for hosting it online…or both.

What if there was another way?


Amongst the hundreds and thousands of authors out there, only a handful become JK Rowlings, Jeffery Deavers and Tom Clancys in their lifetimes. Many famous authors gain success posthumously….kinda depressing, but I digress. 
Today, social media dominates our lives, and word-of-mouth is no longer just word-of-mouth, but posts, tweets and shares. The news we receive in our social media feeds are second, third, fourth and beyond shares from the originator. Someone posted a positive review, a friend likes and agrees with it, tells another group of friends, and it spreads from one group to another.
That’s how things go viral — whether it is good news, bad news, rumours or lies. Or cat videos.
If we are able to track HOW each pass occurs, we can reward everyone who helped spread it. Not just once, but multiple times. Just like how a flu virus spreads, everyone gets a little love for spreading. Okay, bad analogy, but you get the point.


I have an inner nerd, so let’s look at the numbers. By now you would realise I am talking about an alternate business model that departs from the norm. To have a sustainable business, you have to work out the sums and figure out your income and expenditure. If income exceeds expenditure, you make money. If income is less than expenditure, you make a loss. If there is no income, there is no business. Eyeballs are not currency.


Let’s start with an eBook that you wrote. You want to earn $5 from each sale. If you tell an online book store to help you sell it, the online book store also needs to earn money. So you say, “Ok, sell it for 5 bucks. Take a buck from the sale and pay me $4.”

But once you do that, you would realise that you are unable to earn $5, but $4. You then go back to the online book store and say , “ You know what? I will sell it to you at $5. You can sell it at whatever price you want that you think people will buy.” The online book store may sell it at $6 or $10, or whatever price it wants to in order to cover their costs and margins.

The reader pays $10 for the book, the book store keeps $5, and passes you $5. Done deal.


Now, for the same eBook with a $5 target, you sell it at $10. You tell your readers, “Hey, thanks for supporting my book. If you can help me tell friends about it, let me give you $2 when your friends buy as well.”

So your Customer Number 1, let’s call her Alice, buys your book, and goes on to post it on Facebook:

I love this book! Highly recommended! 
….and 5 of her friends bought your book based on his recommendation.
Alice gets 5 x $2 from that effort, so she earns $10 and effectively got your book for free.

5 of Alice’s friends — Bryan, Betty, Bob, Ben and Beverly — also does the same thing, and you tell them, “Hey, thanks for supporting. Let me give you $2 when your friends buy the book as well.” And you also give Alice $1 when anyone of the Bs sell your book.

So, as expected, Bryan, Betty, Bob, Ben and Beverly tweet, and each of them have 5 friends — Charlie, Charlene, Catherine…C25 (you get the picture), and they buy your book too.

EACH of the B friends of Alice’s get 5 x $2, and Alice gets 25 x $1 — that’s $25.

And this goes on until the $5 runs out. So, for each sale, $5 goes to you the author, and $5 is shared with your readers to bought and helped sell it.

Now if you extend this reward system with decreasing rewards, down to even just $0.01 or one cent at the 10th tier, the figure that Alica can earn is MIND-BLOWING.

Here’s the math: 5 to the power of 10 is :

5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 9.7 million.

Multiply this by just one cent, it is $97,000. And all Alice did was to spend $10 to buy a book and tweet or post about it to five friends.

That works out to $5 x 9.7 million dollars in royalty for you, the Author.


In this model, there are 3 parties — the Author, the Platform Provider, and the Customer. By sharing revenue fairly among all three, we can have a win-win-win situation for all, unlike today’s hyped up platforms that are damning authors and musicians, and screwing us all up.
Look at streaming platforms. The artists lose big time and are underpaid, earning only fractions of a cent per stream. The Platform needs to scale beyond a certain point in the millions of paid subscribers in order to break even or turn in a profit, but receive astronomical valuations in the billions of dollars ( uniCon …ooops, I mean unicorn) while the customer gets an all-you-can-eat buffet for a low-low price of 10 bucks a month.


Ideas are a dime a dozen, and someone has to get it done.

And I have. I wrote an eBook, I built the platform over three years, and now I can share it with you. 
Learn and Earn, my friends. Learn and Earn.

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