It used to be that in order to publish a book, you needed to gain the attention of a literary agent or a publishing company. Even if you were lucky enough to secure an agent, success wasn’t guaranteed.
Unfortunately, rejection is the norm in the publishing world. However, thanks to the Internet, you can bypass agents and publishers and produce your book yourself. Companies like Amazon and Kindle make it easier than ever to self-publish titles at minimal expense.
Self-publishing can bring extra money into your business while providing a platform for a host of other rewarding endeavors. Is it a path worth exploring for you? This article will help you decide whether to put self-publishing on your to-do list.
Self-Analysis First, Self-Publishing Second
Before you delve into the self-publishing world, be sure to think carefully about whether it’s right for you.
“Some people think they have a book in them, but, really, the ideas or content might not support it,” cautions Amanda Vogel, MA, creator of Active Voice in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Or maybe the content is not that original. Before you start writing, scope out the market for books that might be similar. And lay out a framework for the book, ensuring there’s enough content to support a whole book or e-book.”
If you are confident you have something to contribute, accept the challenge! Self-publishing a book can be an arduous, painstaking process, but it offers many significant benefits.
The Benefits of Self-Publishing
While there are a multitude of rewards to writing a successful book—prestige, increased exposure, elevation of your “expert” status—most people agree that making money and generating leads are at the top of the list.
Making money. Jon Goodman, owner and operator of The Personal Trainer Development Center in Toronto, wrote his first book to make extra cash. So far, he’s brought in “over six figures from self-publishing” and other ventures that were launched as a result of his several books. He notes that his first book, Ignite the Fire, became a platform that helped generate more than 20 different income streams.
“There is money to be made,” says Vogel. “Once the initial costs are paid, it’s pretty much (close to) 100% profits.”
Generating leads. Realistically, e-book sales revenue might not fill your bank account, but it can be used as a foundation to generate income. Goodman, who coaches professionals about self-publishing, encourages his clients to use their e-books to attract new customers.
How to Come Up With Great Ideas
Your first great challenge when writing a book is to come up with an interesting idea. To generate ideas for your book, ask yourself these questions:
What questions are you asked on a regular basis? Vogel admits that the ideas for her books pretty much fell into her lap. “The topics of my e-books are very niche: fitness writing for fitness professionals,” she says. “Fitness pros always ask me how I got to be a fitness writer and how they could do the same. I thought an in-depth resource like my How to Write Winning Queries e-book—with step-by-step guidance and insider advice—would help answer those questions.”
What’s missing from the fitness industry? Kate Horney, postpartum fat loss expert and founder of BeyondFit Physiques, decided to write a book because she felt that the fat loss information available to new moms was inadequate. “The fitness industry is not where it should be when it comes to resources for new moms,” observes the New Bern, North Carolina–based Horney. “I became frustrated at the lack of information for new moms on how to actually lose the extra body fat they were left with after having their babies. This was my small attempt to begin to change that.”
What have you already done?
Sometimes the best way to develop a book is to repurpose content you’ve already written or presented. Liz DiAlto, a fitness and lifestyle coach in Laguna Beach, California, did just that. In preparation for her “Tighter in 10 Days” online program, she hosted a webinar that she then transformed into a book. “I had someone transcribe the webinar, and then my assistant edited it into a book,” she recalls. “Once she put it together, I re-edited it to make sure it really sounded like me.”
“Ideas for [two of my] books came from popular blog posts,” Goodman remembers. “The response was incredible so I decided to delve deeper into the subject, build a system for solving the problem, gather a test group, tweak the solution, and eventually publish it in a book.”
As you answer the above questions, keep in mind the benefit your readers will get from your book, states Goodman. Always ask, “What’s in it for them?”
Now that you have a book idea, flesh out the content and get it organized.
To come up with material for 101 Tips for Post-Natal Fitness, Horney used her best resource: her own life.
“I carried a small notebook around with me everywhere I went for my son’s first 3 months of life,” she recalls. “I noted everything that worked and didn’t work in relation to motherhood and fitness. Eventually I was able to narrow down my training, nutrition, lifestyle and even hormonal insights into 101 of my best tips for postnatal fitness.”
When Vogel started her first book, she took a traditional writer’s approach. “Create an outline and start writing,” she states. “It took me maybe a month or two, writing a little every day.”
Goodman’s approach: “I use brain-mapping [software] to organize my writing.” He then collates the information onto cue cards, each representing about 300–600 words. “After that, it’s about filling in the blanks,” he adds.
You’ve organized your thoughts, put fingers to keyboard and written your first e-book. But before you publish, consider hiring an editor to make sure your content reads well, and a graphic artist to create a polished, visually pleasing final product.
“I’ve hired great copyeditors on oDesk (www.odesk.com) for around $15/hour,” says Goodman. “An editor is more expensive. For Ignite the Fire, the editing cost was $9,000 from start to finish, and it was worth
“I recently hired a designer to put all of my e-books into an attractive layout that’s easy to read online,” notes Vogel. “Easy online (or tablet) reading is key for e-books.” She also suggests having a designer create a “cover” that looks similar to what you’d see on a hard copy book.
DiAlto took a more do-it-yourself approach. “I actually designed a few cover options in Keynote myself and polled . . . some friends to see which they liked best,” she recalls. “Since I really had zero attachment to the results, I wasn’t super stressed about the details and kept it as a fun project.”
A note on cost. While Goodman spent around $11,000 total on his first book, he believes that self-publishing doesn’t have to break the bank. A high-quality, 20,000-word book can be produced for less than $300. “This includes word processing software that will convert your file to make it ready for Kindle, the cover design and a copyedit,” he says.
Ready, Set, Publish!
Horney, Goodman and DiAlto all used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com) to publish their books, which are all live and for sale on Amazon. To learn the nuts and bolts of this process—which are too many to discuss here—visit Amazon .com and download the free e-book Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing. It provides step-by-step instructions on everything from preparing your manuscript to making your first sale.
An alternative to using Amazon is to create PDF versions of your books and make them available for purchase on your website, as Vogel did.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Congratulations, your book is published! Now, it’s time to tell the world.
When DiAlto published her book, she opted to take advantage of an offer to run a free promotion on Amazon for 5 days. “The purpose is to get a ton of downloads and reviews so you can get the book ranked high in the ‘Free’ category, which will help it perform once the promotion is over,” she notes.
It might seem ludicrous to give away all your hard work, but Goodman emphasizes that most e-books are produced as a means to a more lucrative end. “The goal of a Kindle book is to get people to read your work, become interested in you, and contact you for coaching or whatever other services you offer,” he explains. “I’ve had coaching clients who have moved 20,000 copies in 5 days—that’s 20,000
people in your target demographic who now have a copy of your book.”
If you decide to use your book as a marketing vehicle or a lead generator, pepper its pages with information on how readers can get in touch with you, or with links to an email opt-in form on your website, Goodman advises.