I just read an excellent article on TechCrunch.com by James Altucher called How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0. Altucher walks the reader through how he published his latest book, Choose Yourself! and turned it into a bestseller. This is his 11th book and he writes about how a self-published book is the new business card. I also like his definition of this new term Publishing 3.0
- 1.0 is the old way, using a traditional publisher
- 2.0 was the early days of self-publishing and into today, we could lump vanity presses into this area. Do you know that there were 15,000,000 million books published last year, almost all of them self-published.
- 3.0 is self-publishing today, with better editing, design, distribution everywhere, better marketing, and doing it independently. Hiring all the services that used to be supplied by the publishing houses.
James Altucher walks us through all the steps, how he did it, what it cost, and what happen. The article is excellent and pretty much covers all sides. I recommend reading it, some excellent lessons. My major issue with the article is that Altucher has a lot of money, or at least spends a lot of money to bring his book to market. He spent around $31,000 to sell 44,294 copies. He spent the money on editing, design, marketing, promotion. That is cool if you have it. I also have published a lot of books, I am about to release my 21st book, 52 Ideas to Inspire Your Business Blog. I have also had some Amazon category bestsellers, never a big time bestseller but some category ones. I don’t sell anywhere near his numbers but I am pretty pleased with my results so far.
How I Publish My Books
What I thought I would do is break down Altucher’s article subject by subject and tell you how I do it. Some of my lessons and results. I am a huge fan of self-publishing. I have all kinds of books; music chord books for guitar, mandolin, ukulele and banjo, geography text books, map coloring books, business books, fun kids coloring books, picture books and my new blog book. Most of my books are published using CreateSpace.com which is the print-on-demand side of Amazon.com. I don’t spend anywhere what he does to bring my books to market, so I thought I would share.
I agree with James’ self-publishing benefits; more money, royalties are way higher, control over design, speed, content control, and no one can say no.
The Keys to Publishing Your Book
1. Build Your Platform
This is key today, you need to have a following. Your followers are your platform. They are your fans, your customers, your followers. Build out your Facebook fans, set up websites for all your book categories, Pinterest pages for each book, set up a blog, Twitter, whatever your do, build out your platform and keep engaged with it. For two of my categories I have websites where I highlight the pages from the books, give away samples, build out related products. On AcousticMusicTV.com, my music site, I put up a web page for every page in the book. I make it easy for people to find and download, I describe every graphic on the page and in alt tags. Along the side I run ads for my books that link directly to Amazon.com. Not everyone is going to buy, but I reward every visitor with the information they were looking for. I also do the same thing on www.FreeUSandWorldMaps.com for my World of Maps clip art.
2. How Do You Build Your Platform?
Your platform are all the places and people who follow you. Your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, email list, your YouTube subscribers. Everyone that you have the ability to connect with. Publishers really like all these people because they are your first line of buyers. Marketing isn’t just one effort, it is a continual effort to build a fan base and a lot of followers for the things you say and do.
Some people write a certain number of words a day or number pages a day. What I do is try to just chip away at my projects. I have learned even small amounts like 20 minutes a day adds up and before you know it you have completed your project. I try to work on my writing projects between 8:00 and 9:00 am every morning before I go to work. I am happy if I get a solid 25 minutes. The other thing I do is schedule what I call “A Day of Thinking” I go off and just think or write for a day. I also love writing on airplanes. I find it a great place to write, no one bothers you. You have a fixed time to work and you can be really focused. I will often set up projects for myself to work on if I know I will be flying. One of the big keys that I have found to success is having fixed chunks of time. 30 minutes in the morning, 3 hours on a plane, 5 hours sitting in a coffee shop. I wrote the first draft of my new blog book sitting in the coffee shop in the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego while I waited for my plane. Having a stop time makes the go time much easier to manage. I told the wait staff to just keep bringing me food. They got a nice tip and I hand wrote the first draft of the book.
If you want to learn the basics of producing books quickly I would check out Daniel Hall’s Real Fast Book course. Click Here to Visit the Site. I took this course when I start writing books and it really helped me to speed up and understand a lot of the basics. Daniel takes the point of view of a non-graphic designer which is great. He leads you through each step of the process of getting your books up on Kindle. I recommend this product as a great way to get started. Also see my recommendation in the section 7 below on making Audio books.
4. Know What You Want
James Altucher writes about knowing what you want to ultimately do with your book. What is its purpose? Once you know that you can then determine how much work and money you want to put into it . Don’t spend a ton of money making the book if you are just going to publish it using a quick print shop. Most of my books are produced as print-on-demand through CreateSpace/Amazon. I am not after the book store market. I am not building a large distribution system. I just like writing and publishing and CreateSpace works just fine.
My next world to conquer is getting all my books up on Kindle. The average book doesn’t sell over 150 copies in its lifetime. Hard to believe but that is true. What that tells me is, don’t go crazy spending a lot of money, you will never get it back. But what I do know is that most of my books sell copies every month. My best sellers sell 40-50 copies a month and my worst sell 1-2, and lots in between. I can make nice short 30-70 page books, get them up on Amazon, do a little promotion using free social media sites and make some money. I currently make $5-600/month selling my books and it just continues to grow. It is very steady and very cool. Update for July 2013, 235 books sold, over $700 in royalties, cool.
Altucher hired a professional editor. I agree, having an editor makes a huge difference to your book. I am amazed how many things my editor found that I never saw. You don’t have to go crazy on this, in fact I used my sister who is a former reporter and a freelance writer/editor. Someone needs to look at your book. Editors are also available on outsourcing services like Fiverr.com or Odesk.com. Also take a look at the included editing/design packages that most of the print-on-demand services use.
I also recommend for your own writing process, write today and edit tomorrow. Your writing will move along much faster if you don’t try to edit while your write. Giving your writing a little breathing space will really help.
A professional designer makes a big difference. My day job is being a graphic designer so I am able to handle my own book covers and interiors. But just like for editing you want someone to handle the design and also the preparing of the files. I design my books using the Adobe Suite of products, InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator. I write in MS Word and Evernote. These are the standard programs design, layout and writing. Remember books have front and back covers so you need one of each.
If money is a concern you have some nice options, you can use outsourcing services like 99Designs.com. Designers all over the planet will bid on your interiors and covers and give you some great options. Also each of the print-on-demand services have both templates that you can use or relationships with designers and set packages.
We get caught up in the cover designs but don’t forget the interior. If you are releasing a print book the inside of the book also needs to be designed and produced. CreateSpace and the others take a pdf file. These files can be created very easily from the page layout programs like InDesign and also from word processing programs like MS Word. Either way you will need a file. If you are doing a Kindle ebook or Nook/iBook epub book these will also need to be set up in a program like MS Word. A great trend that is starting to happen is that you can build your book right on line. Kobo the international epub reader now has a site called Kobo Writing Life that lets you assemble the books live. I think this will be the trend of the future, it will make producing a book just so much easier.
Along with the cover you want to make sure you also have the designer give you cover graphics in a variety of sizes for your blog, social media, Pinterest, Facebook etc. pages. The success of being an author these days is going to be about how well you manage your social media and on-line presence.
Here is a really important thing to keep in mind. Most books these days are sold on Amazon. Most books are marketed with a book cover the size of a thumbnail. The covers are very small and will be mixed in with many other small covers. Your book title needs to read when the cover is about 1.5 inches wide. Make sure you view your cover design tiny to make sure you can still read the title.
7. Audio Book
Well yes, we need this. People travel a lot these days and many of them listen to audio books and podcasts in their cars. They aren’t that hard to do, the script is already done, basically you just read your book. For distribution you can use a service like CreateSpace. Not only do they do print books, they also host audio books and streaming video. You can use programs like Garage Band that comes with every Macintosh computer, or applications like Audacity. Audacity which is a free, open source, cross-platform audio recording and editing program for audio. It is very popular and has everything you pretty much need. You will also need to download the mp3 module. What I understand is that it best to record the book in chapters and then upload them to CreateSpace along with a cover graphic. (see Design above) I will be working on my own audio version of 52 Ideas to Inspire Your Business Blog so I will be able to give a lot more info on the process.
If you want to learn more about how to produce audio books, check out Daniel Hall’s Real Fast Audio Book course. I have done several of Dan’s courses and he leads you very clearly through all the steps. Nice and simple.
Titles are super important for blog post, email subject lines, videos and books. People need to be able to figure out what your book is about. Titles and subtitles are key. Don’t fall in love with the working title. We all have a working title for our books when we are writing them. We might have them for a long time and we forget that while we know what our book is about, our readers don’t. Spend some time on the title. A great exercise is to drop your book title into the Google and Amazon search boxes and see what comes up. Do books similar to yours come up or something completely different. Watch the words that appear as you type the title into the search box. This is instant search and it can be very helpful to see how people phrase things. Some great key words will appear. Look at the example below and how close it comes to my new book title.
I also really like the suggestion that Altucher mentioned in his post. He used Facebook ads to see what people clicked on. On my current book I posted a question on 4 different Facebook group pages that I am in with about 4,000 people to ask for help with my title. I gave them 5 different titles and subtitles and ask to everyone to pick one or make corrections. I had a great answer within 2 minutes of posting on the subtitle. The person just flipped a couple of words around and fix a big problem. I have also used this technique for picking cover designs. I put up an A and B option and let people select. This alone is a great reason to be active on Facebook, fantastic resource. Remember how people perceive your book has a huge impact on its success.
We are back to the Platform again. Remember your Platform is all of the places where you have expose to your fans and followers. Your email list, blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads etc. This is where you connect and let people know about your book and hopefully they will buy. I use websites to highlight the content of the book and then wrap ads around the edges with direct connections to Amazon.com. Books can be stand alone things or part of an entire package. On my current book, 52 Ideas, I am planning a series of videos that are mentioned in the book as bonuses but also sit on YouTube and will drive traffic to the book webpage and to Amazon.
Writing the book is just the beginning, success takes a plan and constant effort. An idea I hadn’t ever thought of for this current book was the one mention by Altucher. Set up a SlideShare presentation. SlideShare.net is kind of like YouTube for PowerPoint presentations. You can load your presentation up and it gets distributed to the world. My book is a business book, SlideShare is a business site, what a great idea. I just need to take each of the 52 ideas, drop them on a slide, add a footer with a picture of the cover, drop in some calls to action and people will be able to view it.
Every book these days needs several videos on YouTube. Don’t go crazy, just talk about the book and what benefits it brings to the reader. I even saw one author that read chapters from his book right into the video camera and put those up. Check out Don Georgevich’s YouTube channel, and look at some of his older videos. It really is quite amazing and such a simple way of marketing a book. Remember to have a live link back to your website as the first word in the video description and drop as much of the book’s text into the description area as you can.
You can do a virtual book tour with other similar blogs that you have set up relationships with and do guest posts or video interviews based on your book. A great resource for how to do a virtual book tour is D’vorah Lansky and her VirtualBookTour21Ways.com.
10. Foreign Rights
I don’t know really anything about foreign rights but I do know that selling on Amazon or Kobo or Nook is selling to the world. These are global platforms. Remember Act Local Think Global. I sell a lot of books in England and ebooks sell everywhere and more countries all the time. I always take the full distribution package in CreateSpace. It is only $25.00 for full exposure. How can you beat that. My websites pull in visitors from all over the planet. Don’t just rely on a single listing on Amazon, be everywhere. You can set up your own sales page on your own website, I model mine off of Amazon. Have one link to Amazon, have another link to the other ebook sites like Kobo and Nook. Have a link for a pdf version, use a site like e-Junkie.com or Gumroad.com to sell your book. Have all versions available all the time. Here is an example of how I set up one of mine. I show the book, have specs, do a video, have related books, show examples. I just copies Amazon. They pay big bucks to figure this out, why not use their knowledge.
An excellent book to help you market your nonfiction Kindle book is 61 Ways to Sell More Nonfiction Kindle Books by Steve Scott, it is available at Amazon.com and contains many excellent tips on what to do. Especially helpful are his 10 Pillars of a Rock-Solid Kindle Business (Strategies 1-10). I would use a lot of this book to help with fiction books also.
11. Other Merchandise
This is a cool one. You have written your book, what else can you do with it. On my AcousticMusicTV.com music book site I take the art from the book and upload it sites like Zazzle.com and CafePress.com and made t-shirts, mugs, clocks, pillows, iPad cases, waterbottles. On Cafepress I have over 50 products for each illustration. On Zazzle I made information posters from the music chord charts from my book Essential Chords for Guitar, Mandolin, Ukulele and Banjo book. All of these sites are actually print-on-demand sites but instead of printing on paper they are printing on physical products. I am not getting rich doing this but it all contributes to the mix.
12. The Numbers
Ok so how much can you make writing and publishing books. I think it can be from nothing to millions. But generally it seems to add some extra thousands to your pocketbook. The average book doesn’t sell over 150 copies in its life time. So what does this mean, it means that you need to make lots of different kinds of books until you figure out what works. Don’t just do one book. Even if you are doing one big book, release it in smaller pieces. Instead of one 500 page book, how about 5, one hundred page books and then a compilation book with all five. Now you have 6 books and 6 times more ability to attract a reader.
The average book distributed by a traditional publisher pays about $.70 for each sale to the writer. Most writers make most of their money from the advance. These days this is getting harder and harder. My books on CreateSpace make about $2.50-$3.50 per book and I don’t have to chase anyone for the money. I also retain full rights to the books and can do anything I want with them. Make an audio version, a video version, pull out the art and slap it on waterbottles. How about make a simple version and a deluxe version. and ebook version, it just goes on and on. I am a huge fan of CreateSpace.com but you should also check out Lulu.com and Blurb.com. Both sites are excellent and have options that CreateSpace doesn’t have such as hard cover and super high quality photo printing.
I currently sell about 200 books a month spread over 20 different books. Some books sell 40 a month and some sell 1. No one tells me I can’t publish a book. Sometimes the odd ball book is the best seller. My books pull in about $500-700/month. They just continue to grow and grow, slowly but continually. I have many more books coming. Below is my sales report for July 2013, 235 books sold, over $700 in royalties, US, England and Europe. All paperback.
My cost for most books is basically just time and the $25 I spend for the expanded distribution on CreateSpace. I am lucky, I am a graphic designer so I don’t have to hire someone like me. I choose CreateSpace’s ISBN numbers, at this point I really don’t care, I just want to sell books. I don’t worry about books stores at all though occasionally one will call and I ship them 10-20 copies. Book stores don’t really like print-on-demand books because you can’t return them. I give the stores a really good price and they never come back. You can see all my books on my book page here on the blog.
I do run several websites with my books featured on them. I did the html programing in Dreamweaver myself, learning how from YouTube videos. I am a huge fan of doing this, you have to promote your books. Working with Amazon is excellent. They take care of everything, selling, hosting, printing, shipping, and dropping the money into my bank account every month. My job is getting customer to my book pages. If I had to do all the selling stuff it would never happen. It is amazing that you can just upload a pdf file and be selling everywhere.
Ok enough for now, the article by James Altucher on making his books How to Self-Publish A Bestseller: Publishing 3.0 is excellent, I highly recommend reading it. It is just one of many ways to bring your books to market. I hope I have been able to show you another.
I would love your comments and thoughts and if you liked this article I would love a like on my Bruce Jones Design Facebook page. See this is called building your platform.