Gone are the days where getting your ideas into print required a picky agent and an even pickier publisher. Thanks to technology, self-publishing is a very real possibility for entrepreneurs looking to boost credibility, educate more people and maybe even make some extra cash.

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.”

The Benefits of Self-Publishing

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.

Make 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.”

Generate leads. Realistically, e-book sales revenue might not make you rich, 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? “Fitness pros always ask me how I got to be a fitness writer and how they could do the same,” says Vogel. “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. “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? “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?”

Get Organized

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.

Next Steps

You’ve organized your thoughts, put fingers to keyboard and written your first e-book. But before you publish, consider hiring an editor and a graphic artist, the former to make sure your content reads well, and the latter 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 every penny.”

“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.

Ready, Set, Publish!

Horney, Goodman and Liz DiAlto, fitness and lifestyle consultant in Laguna Beach, California, 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.”

He also suggests submitting your work to free book sites and telling everyone you know about it. Some examples of these sites are www.pixelofink.com and www.ereadernewstoday.com.

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.