I have good news: After you learn how to write a book, figuring out how to self publish a book is certainly the easier step.
For one, it’s not a marathon like writing a book is, because the self publishing steps are broken down into manageable tasks. Secondly, you will hire people to do the majority of the work.
By using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, you don’t need a book deal and a publishing house to get your masterpiece published. You can publish your book and send it out to the masses.
So relax and follow the rest of this guide. You’re so close to realizing your dream of becoming an author!
Why To Self Publish
The traditional publishers are getting crushed by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Even famous self published authors like H.M. Ward have turned down huge traditional publishing deals (worth $1,000,000-plus) to self publish.
This shows there are huge advantages to self publishing. These are four big ones:
Keep your vision
Often authors send their draft to a publishing company and get a demoralizing list of 100 content suggestions that ultimately change the entire vision of the book. Publishing houses like control, and they have no problem changing your book’s meaning. However, I’m not saying your book doesn’t need editing. But there’s a difference between rewriting your book, and writing a book that’s turned into something else you wouldn’t call yours anymore.
Although you don’t get a book advance for self publishing like you would in traditional publishing, you’ll make more money in self publishing. Because not having to share your book sales with a publisher and keeping all the rights to your book (including international) is where self publishing is better for your bank account.
In a post I wrote called Can You Make Money Self Publishing, I describe the massive size of this industry and how even if you get a few bread crumbs you’ll be able to make thousands of dollars a month. Of course this assumes you write a quality book and market it like a beast. But the opportunity is there.
Decide the design
Another way publishing companies desire control is with the design of your book. You could have a great cover in mind that pops for readers, but the publishing company vetoes it and goes with their design. Sure you can complain, but there’s really nothing you can do about it since it’s their product.
Publishing companies usually take forever to push a book through—we’re talking around a year. The opposite is true with self publishing. Once you take the necessary steps to write, edit, and get your book ready (outlined below) for the public, you can click “Publish” whenever you want.
Think of the publishing companies as a giant elephant herd taking their time, and you’re a quick cheetah racing by them to publish your book and become an author. And the earlier you publish, the quicker you get paid royalties for your hard work.
How To Self Publish A Book In 9 Steps
Now that you know why to self publish your book, here’s how to self publish. Follow this step-by-step approach and your book will go from an audience of one on your computer, to an audience of millions on the Amazon Kindle store where it’s available to purchase.
1. Seek out feedback
Getting a few different people to review your book before you send it off to the editor will improve the quality of your book and save you time during the editing process.
A mastermind group or a select few of your email subscribers (if you have them) give some of the most helpful feedback. You can honestly have one of your parents, friends, or former professors check it out, too. Don’t worry that they’re not editors because their main purpose is to look at the book’s content and flow. You can leave grammar and spelling to the editor in the next step.
Ideally your feedback is positive or at least coated in constructive criticism. But there are times when people don’t know how to communicate their thoughts and so they only criticize your book.
Having your book get kind of torn apart can be tough. But if you have a positive attitude with the perspective that this is only constructive criticism, your attitude and your book will improve. And in this situation you get to practice one of the habits of successful writers: digging in when things get tough.
2. Hire an editor
If only you could put your manuscript through a spell check and call it a day. However, you don’t want to go cheap and skip this step, because editing is crucial to your book’s quality.
So after you get feedback and personally rewrite parts of your book, now it’s time to hire a real editor. A professional editor will know how to fix your book’s structure, content, and flow. And after the content is great, then your editor and you can focus on the grammar and spelling.
I’ve already written a long and detailed post on how to edit a book and hire an editor, so I’ll summarize it here.
Option 1 is hire someone in your personal network that you know and trust. Do you know any great editors who work for magazines, newspapers, or publishers? Are any of your friends English professors or former English majors who work in writing? If you can get creative and find someone you know to edit your book, that’s the most convenient option (and usually the cheapest).
You’re not down and out if you don’t know anyone with editing chops. Option 2 is to hire a professional editor. You can find expensive editors, but if you’re on a budget then I recommend using a site like Upwork.com or Fiverr.com. (Both of these sites will be mentioned multiple times throughout this article.)
Some things to communicate to your editor include how many words your book currently is, the budget for their service, and the deadline to finish editing. I wouldn’t spend less than two weeks or more than a month working with an editor.
If you want to be sure they’re editing ability is going to work for you, give them two sample pages to edit before you officially hire them. If it works, you got your man or woman. If it doesn’t, then move on and find someone else.
The editing phase is the last phase requiring writing and revisions. So be sure to finish strong by staying motivated and setting deadlines with your editor and yourself (just as you set deadlines when writing your book).
You’ll notice a huge difference between your first version and what comes of it after you get feedback and work with an editor.
3. Finalize a book title
Deciding on your book’s title is a big deal because I’ve found that when it comes to book sales, title matters more than anything else for customers. Yes, you heard that right. Title matters more than the book cover, author name (unless you’re Stephen King or have similar name recognition), price, table of contents, etc. So it’s crucial you get yours right!
In my post What Makes A Good Book Title, I lay out the four ingredients for a quality book title: 1) unique/memorable, 2) promising benefits, 3) intriguing, and 4) content summary. Your book doesn’t need all of these ingredients, just make sure it has at least one so it’s appealing to the potential buyers and you sell a lot of books.
But before you strikeout picking a title you think potential buyers will love but they actually aren’t a fan of it, you can minimize your risk by simply asking them. If you have an email list, shoot out an email with a poll that asks your readers to choose between three titles. Not only do you verify your idea, your subscribers will appreciate their involvement in your major project and be more likely to buy it when it comes out.
Another outlet for you to get information before you make your title official is through social media. Set up a Facebook poll and ask your friends and family to decide on a few book titles. When I did this for my first book someone commented that the grammar in the subtitle could be misleading, so I tweaked it a bit. This activity also builds buzz around your book and helps your marketing effort when it’s time to go live.
4. Get a book cover
I bet 95% (or more) of aspiring authors don’t double as graphic designers. If you’re the rare breed who does, then you can design your book cover and ignore the following information.
For the rest of us, including me, we’ll need to hire someone to get our book cover. But that’s no problem because it’s actually easy. And if you hired an editor then you already have practice doing this.
But before we tackle the hiring part. I find it’s best to have a vision or idea for your book cover to pass on to the designer. The more you do upfront, the less expensive it is and the less you have to go back and forth with a designer. Answering these questions will be beneficial:
- What are some bestselling books on Amazon in your category that you want your cover to emulate?
- What kind of color scheme do you imagine? (I would stick to two or three colors.)
- What type of words describe your book?
- Do you have any initial themes or ideas to go off of?
Of course, you could have your designer take a stab in the dark and pray that you like it. But I find that covers turn out better when the author has somewhat of a vision for them. So no matter what option you choose below, be sure to write the answers to the questions above and include it in your instructions when you hire a designer.
To hire a graphic designer, you have a couple of different options. If you know someone who does this kind of work then start with them—but make sure they’ve done book covers before.
For my second self published book, I hired a photographer who doubled as a graphic designer. I found him through my personal network after asking around. Although he charged a much higher rate than Fiverr, I liked his work with the cover and I consider it well worth it.
If you want an extremely inexpensive option, then use the site Fiverr.com. Put your cursor over the “Graphics & Design” tab then a scroll down bar will show “Book Covers & Packaging” for you to click. Or you can type in “book cover” on the Fiverr search bar. After this, pick a highly rated designer who has experience designing Amazon book covers. I used Fiverr.com for my first self published book and it turned out pretty well, especially for the value.
Another option (that’s more expensive but maybe better quality) is to hire a book cover designer on Upwork.com.
5. Book formatting
Here’s another step that you can outsource. You can pay someone to format your book through Upwork.com or Fiverr.com—be sure they have experience converting to Kindle and will do a manual conversion. Some people use automatic conversion and it causes mistakes.
Ask them if they want a PDF or Word Document to convert, and then they should return you a .mobi or .epub file when they’re finished.
If you’re really tight on cash and have the time (and patience) for it, you can format the book yourself for free. Amazon provides a Simplified Formatting Guide to design your ebooks in Microsoft Word. And you can get information on formatting from Amazon’s KDP forum.
I don’t know much about formatting it yourself because I always pay people to format my books. I believe my time is better spent preparing for book launch and setting up marketing channels. To each his own.
Whether you hire someone or do it yourself, it’s wise to check out how your ebook looks on different devices through the Kindle Previewer tool. Make sure the formatting is perfect and there aren’t any common self publishing formatting errors. Because this is how your book is going to look when readers buy it.
6. Prepare for launch day
I’m going to be honest, if you don’t have a blog then your book is fighting at a disadvantage to get the attention and sales it serves. In my post Why You Should Blog As An Author, I explain how a blog can turn into your book promotion headquarters.
For example, sure The 4-Hour Body is a huge success thanks to Tim Ferriss’ savvy marketing skills. But arguably the biggest reason it did so well is because of Tim’s blog that gets millions of views per month!
If you’ve written a book, creating a WordPress website through BlueHost is 1,000 times easier. So create a website (there are many guides on Google and YouTube) and then create a landing page that describes your book and collects email addresses for those interested in getting it. A service like MailChimp (free) will help you collect emails.
The goal is to capture as many email addresses as you can leading up to your book launch. Because when your book goes live, these are the people you can reach out to who will order your book right away and write book reviews.
7. How to self publish your book
We’re so close! The next step is to create a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and upload your book with the .mobi or .epub file. Then hit “save as draft” because we have other stuff to do before we make it live for the public.
One step before you officially publish is to create your Amazon Author Central account. Personalize it by adding a picture, including a short bio, and then you can link to to your blog/website or Twitter feed. A well put together author account helps sell more books.
You’re allowed 7 different keywords that will drive searches to your book, so choose these carefully. I recommend using the Google Keyword Planner tool to see what keywords get searched for the most. Then I would spread out between 2 heavily search keywords, 3 medium, and 2 low competition keywords.
And lastly you’re allowed to select two subcategories that describe your book. A smart strategy is to spread your book out into two different categories, like Business & Money plus Self-Help. This works better than picking two subcategories in Business & Money.
8. Set pricing
Pricing depends on your niche and author reputation. If this is your first time publishing, then setting a price between $0.99 to $2.99 is probably best.
Here’s where things get interesting. If you’re a new author, I then recommend you enlist your book in Kindle’s Free Book Promotion during the first five days. To set this up just go on your KDP Dashboard and click “Promote and advertise,” then you’ll see the option to do this.
Setting your price at $0 for these five days helps drive as much traffic and as many downloads as possible during launch week. This will help your book’s Amazon ranking and help you bring in book reviews—a major influence in whether someone buys your book or not. Once the promotion ends, then your ebook will cost the initial price you set up in the beginning.
Already successful authors or those with a big blog following would be better off selling their book right away and taking profits from the beginning. That’s their reward for building a big audience.
9. Market it like crazy
For your book to do well, you need to market it like a madman. Send a book launch update the day your book comes out to all the email addresses you collected from step #6. If you have a blog with subscribers, email them the exciting news.
If you decided to make your book free for the first five days, use this as a valuable marketing tool in emails and social media updates. Or if you’re charging money for your book during from the beginning, many subscribers will happily pay for your product if you’ve given them valuable free content in the past.
Also reach out to bloggers and podcasters to share the news that you published a book on a topic relevant to them. Ask if they would be interested in interviewing you to give their audience more information and value. Or send a PDF copy of your book to influencers and ask them to share it if they enjoy the content.
There are other ways to get more eyeballs on your books. For example, you can create a book trailer, record an audiobook, or pay a marketing agency or service. But these can get expensive and the return on investment is unknown.
It’s surprising, but I believe the best way to market this book is to write another book in the same niche. Then you will have readers who enjoyed one of your books order the other books for a similar experience. That’s repeat business and good money for you!
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