See how an excellent website is critical in empire building


How can one double and triple their income quickly from writing, photography, speaking, consulting, teaching, or other related means?

The process is called empire building, and I focus on it in my free monthly newsletter.

Atypically, I’m going to prematurely share the key article in this month’s newsletter as this blog post because I so like Lee Foster’s website structure I want to share it with all actual and budding empire builders now.

The heart of Lee Foster’s empire is visible at When this award-winning photographer-writer is out capturing breathtaking views and gathering facts for his articles, his website is tending shop by showing what he has to say and sell—and collecting the fees for the purchases.

Some deserved bio accolades first. Lee Foster has published with the major houses and top travel magazines; he’s self-published as well. Four of his current books are The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco; The Photographer’s Guide to Washington, D.C.; Travels in American Imagination, and Northern California’s History Weekends. Enjoy some of his many-thousand photos at his website (from 250+ worldwide destinations)—plus his photos in more than 225 books from the travel publisher Lonely Planet. Finally, check his exhausting list of credits under “News” on the guide line of his website’s index page.

What I want to focus on here is Foster’s selling structure through his website so we can build our own empirical castles from stealing and using what he does so well. Fortunately, Lee wrote an excellent, detailed article that outlines his belief that you can earn income today through both the old and new travel journalism models if you move from the passive “being published” to the more active direct publishing while you create your own market for its sale. (This also applies to almost any other topic where writing, speaking, and photography are involved.) Please read Lee Foster’s “Entrepreneurial Travel Publishing” to see how all of the parts of his program support each other to create a steady and growing income flow. (This article closely parallels Lee’s first-rate, recent Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association presentation.) The article also expands on what follows with actual prices, costs, and procedures.

I’m extracting (sometimes in Lee’s words) from that article and his talk what impressed me most—or what I’d like to know (or share) most about his website support structure.

1. Foster blends photography, articles, blogs, books, some video, and apps, and to that he offers a do-it-yourself mechanism through which one can purchase a photo-use license for anything they see through the web or an agency, for their blog, a book, or almost any other legitimate application.

2. He actively seeks ways to sell his photos and his writing to the leading book companies and major magazines in his field.

3. If someone sees a Foster photo and wants to talk purchase, the website provides a process or directions to make that happen.

4. It’s time to bypass royalty book publishers and move forward with your own “independent” print book and/or ebook. Particularly if it’s true that Amazon sells 60% of all books bought in the U.S.

5. Use print-on-demand to provide your bound book stock as needed, though it’s still too expensive for color photos.

6. Consider Portland’s BookBaby’s model for producing and selling your ebooks. Your part of the production is alarmingly simple: use Word text with places allocated for photos. (You also have to write a good book, and have proofing as good.)

7. Even at $2.99 a book, earning 70% royalty from Amazon and Apple, you will get a better net return than from a $14.95 book in the traditional royalty publishing model.

8. Get your own ISBNs from Bowker for your books. You will need them anyway for LSI/Ingram POD printing and for some Smashwords editions.

9. A good website requires substantial ongoing attention. Use a WordPress structure, get a pro to set that up, but make the daily changes yourself. Your website will have static pages, a blog capacity, plus ecommerce and subscription lists.

10. What are the income-earners at Content licensing, Google Adsense income, private ads, affiliate ads, and product sales (books, apps, photo prints or cards).

11. Set up a monetizing website first, then do social media outreach and promotion to bring newcomers to your website. He uses Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter. To flourish, the site must have a steady flow of new viewers.

12. 90% of Foster’s website users come from search engines (like Google), 10% from click-through referrals.

13. The website must be attractive and enticing to visitors. Does it have a good commercial structure, with seller links and a way to pay for the purchases? Can users comment on your blog?

14. Why not license your photos? And your writing, like derivative presentations of the articles. You must check the agreement every time you sell (particularly on Internet sites and in contests) to be sure you still own all rights, free and unencumbered; remember also to license non-exclusively.

15. All used articles should be bylined and include your photo and bio.

16. Apps are hard to sell, but worth serious pursuit. Physical books hardly sell outside the U.S/Canada. but one of Foster’s apps sold in 46 foreign countries. Compare printed physical books with ebooks/apps and ask which media has the brightest future? Alas, apps aren’t static; they require ongoing attention to improve them.

17. To effectively sell photos from a website consider Photoshelter. Lee sets the selling price and gets an upfront PayPal payment. Large photo agencies are particularly important now. Consider Alamy; you must technically know how to prepare the photos for submission.

18. Travel videos will be important, particularly since YouTube is the second largest Search source. They could be narrated slide shows with voice, still photos, and video clips.

19. Says Foster, “Because of the many tools now available for independent publishing, success is more assured for content creators who adopt a trajectory to ‘take charge’ of the publishing process rather than wait to be ‘chosen’ by others to be published.”

20. Check Lee’s website for lots of useful articles about writing and publishing. He writes well, he’s a veteran, and he’s plunk in the middle of it.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

(Also, travel writers might be particularly interested in my last post about selling second and reprint rights and other derivative presentations. That post is listed in the column to the right.)

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