Last updated December 2016: At the time of writing this post, I’ve published 6 bestselling books on Amazon, sold tens of thousands of copies, and continue to collect thousands per month in royalty checks. The success of my books has been directly responsible for the success of my business, which I’ve grown to over 7 figures in revenue in less than 2 years.
Less than five years ago, this level of authorship success would have been reserved only for those select few authors who were lucky enough to catch the eye of an editor at one of the “Big 5” publishing companies (a process that relied just as much on luck and “who you knew,” as it did on the quality of your book).
Today, however, all that is changed. Not only do you no longer need one of the “Big 5” companies to publish your book to have a successful book launch, but many successful authors are turning publishing companies down.
Why are more and more authors turning to self-publishing (and forgetting about “traditional” publishing)? Simple:
- You have complete control over your book
- It is significantly more profitable (unless you are a household name like James Patterson or Nora Roberts, most authors earn mere pennies for each book sold)
- Traditional publishers won’t market your book for you at all (but they’ll still take a cut from each purchase)
- “Vanity” publishers are expensive, and no longer necessary.
Frankly, unless your name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling…there are very few reasons why anyone would want to be traditionally published in 2017.
Which is why, whether you are trying to grow your authority and your business by writing a book, or are trying to leave your mark on the world, self publishing is the best option for you. Read on for the exact steps you need to take to write, publish, and launch your first best-selling book.
1. Decide What To Write Your Book About
The very first thing you need to decide when self-publishing a book, is what you want your book to be about.
What’s your why?
Are you trying to build an asset that’s going to earn you passive income month over month?
Are you an entrepreneur or freelancer with a new business, trying to accelerate your growth and authority in your market by publishing a book?
Do you have an existing, well-established business, and you want to write a book to diversify your income streams and land speaking engagements?
Or have you already had a successful career, and want to build an asset that will share the knowledge and skills you’ve gained over decades of experience with those who come after you?
All of these are perfectly valid reasons to write a book, and we’ve had students at Self-Publishing School publish books that went on to be best sellers for each of those reasons.
2. Choose Your Book Topic
Once you’ve decided on your why, it’s time for you to decide on the topic of your book, not your title (that comes last). When choosing your book topic, there is only 1 rule to follow:
Use the rifle approach, not the shotgun approach.
When deciding what you want your book to cover, it’s tempting to try and make your book about anything and everything you know. This is a mistake I see many first time authors make, and it negatively impacts their book sales as a result. If you can’t summarize what your entire book is about in a few words, then it’s probably too broad of a topic (and sales will suffer as a result).
3. Write Your Book
You’ve decided what you’re going to write your book about, now it’s time to write it. Writing a book is a process that deserves its own blog post, so check out this post on how to write your book in 30 days.
After you read that, watch this video where I discuss the simple process I use to write over 1500 words per hour!
4. Market Your Book & Form a Launch Team
It might seem backwards, but you should start your book marketing process before your book is even edited (it’s that important).
The most effective way to market your book is to create a launch page where you can collect email addresses for those who might be interested in reading your book, and build your launch team.
Then, send people over to that page using social media (we have an action plan in our Mastermind Community that provides a step-by-step template for this). Post about your upcoming book, post about the process you’re going through to write your book. Ask friends and family if they’d be interested in helping you promote. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help make your book a success!
Tell people to visit your page and enter their email address to learn how to get your book for free or at a steep discount. Try MailChimp or Aweber for collecting email addresses.
Then, a few weeks before your launch, start reaching out to influential bloggers and podcasters in your market (there’s an Action Plan for this, as well!). If you think their audience would be interested in the topic, offer a free copy of your book, and ask them if they’d like to review your book or interview you.
For a more in-depth look at all the steps that go into successfully marketing your book, check out our post on the step by step guide to marketing your book
5. Get Feedback On Your Book
When writing your book, it’s important to get as much feedback as early in the process as possible. As writers, it’s all too easy to retreat into your cave for a long period of time, spend countless hours writing what you think is the perfect first draft, only to find that a) your draft doesn’t make sense to anyone else or b) no one else is as interested in the topic as you originally thought.
Not only can a fresh set of eyes on your book help you catch typos and grammatical errors, but a new perspective can give you ideas for tightening up your story and making the theme more clear. Giving your book to one (or more) “beta readers” before giving it to an editor can also cut down on the time and cost of paying a professional editor.
6. Choose a Title
Contrary to popular belief, you should never decide on a book title until after you are done writing your first draft. This is because choosing a book title first often results in you writing yourself into a corner into the title of the book, rather than writing the book that needs to be written.
Therefore, it’s not until after your first draft is written that you need to worry about a title for your book. Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.
It’s incredibly easy to get caught in “Book Title Land” when trying to come up with a title. Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t try to be too clever, or try to be “punny.” The truth is…the simpler the title, the better. As you’re brainstorming ideas, always remember to Keep It Stupidly Simple. As catchy or clever as you might think your title idea is…it will probably go straight over your audience’s head (and they won’t buy it as a result).
For example – if you’re writing a book about Home Renovation, the title “7 Steps to Flipping Profitable Homes” is much better than “Zen and the Art of Restorative Architectonics.” The former is simple and to the point (and most importantly, people will know exactly what the book is about). The latter is fancier, but most people have no idea what that means.
Once you’ve narrowed down your book title to a few possible options, send out an email to your friends, family, and audience (if you have one), or put a poll up on Facebook and ask for an opinion. You might be surprised what your audience’s favorite is.
Tim Ferriss took polling his audience to another level when writing his first book which went on to become a bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim set up a split test in Google Adwords and spent $200 testing 3 titles for his book:
- The 4-Hour Work Week
- Broadband and White Sand
- Millionaire Chameleon
Companies like Pickfu.com also offer very simple and affordable polling services…you can even define your audience demographics and have your poll answered by people who match those demographics!
6. Hire a Great Editor
Hiring a great editor can mean the difference between writing a bestseller, or a mediocre book. Therefore, it’s important to take as much time as necessary on this stage of the process.
To find an editor for your book, begin with your personal network. Do you personally know any English teachers or others in the editorial field? Start there. If you don’t, then do you know someone who knows an editor?
If you don’t have any luck finding an editor within your personal network, don’t worry! Depending on your budget, you can either hire a professional book editor, or hire a more budget-friendly editor from Upwork. Self-Publishing School also has a Rolodex of approved and vetted book editors who all do a great job.
No matter how you find your editor, make sure you’re a good fit before committing to the full book by paying them a small sum ($25 or so) to edit a few pages or a chapter of your book. Make sure the editor is interested in the subject matter, that they can get your whole book edited in 3.5 weeks or less including back-and-forth revisions, and that their edits are both accurate and make sense to you. If you don’t feel you’re a good fit following a sample edit, then lat that $25 go, and find an editor that’s going to work out rather than sinking more money into a relationship that might be a mistake.
Whatever you do, don’t give up during the editorial process! If one editor isn’t working out for you or meeting your needs, find another.
7. Design a Book Cover that Converts
Despite the saying (and contrary to many writers’ beliefs) people absolutely do judge books by their covers…especially books on Amazon.
You don’t have to like it, but the truth is if your book doesn’t have a cover that looks 100% professional, people are simply going to skip it and look for something else. Which is why taking the time to purchase a professionally designed cover that converts is so important.
Unless you’re a graphic designer, you need to hire a professional to put the cover design together. However, before you approach a cover designer, you should have at least a rough idea of what you want your book cover to look like so you can give your designer a brief. This helps prevent wasted time and money on covers that don’t fit your vision.
One easy method to spark some ideas when creating your design brief is to take a look at other books in your market (especially other bestselling books). You’ll notice that in most genres, book covers tend to follow a design theme, and these themes are what your audience expects. While you certainly don’t want your cover to be an exact clone of another design, you also don’t want it to look completely out of place. A good designer will help you to find this balance.
To find a designer, check out Fiverr.com or Upwork.com. Make sure your designer has experience meeting the specs for an Amazon book cover and plenty of positive reviews. You may wish to pay more than one designer, and choose the best design from all of them. The choice is up to you, just make sure the end result is something you’re proud of. It will be your reader’s first impression of you!
7. Format Your Self-Published Book
If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of resources online that can tell you how to format your book yourself for free. You can start by looking at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) forums where there are plenty of discussions on book formatting. You can also use KDP’s free resources to help format your book. Formatting can be a frustrating experience for the uninitiated though, so if you have a few bucks to spare, you might consider paying someone to help you.
If you want to pay for formatting, Liber Writer is a low-cost, effective option for converting a Microsoft Word file to Amazon’s Kindle format. If $60 is too much, you can also find people on Fiverr to format your book for Kindle. No matter what option you choose, preview your book using the Kindle previewer to make sure there are no formatting errors.
8. Complete the Self Publishing Process
When you feel confident your book is ready for the public, you can create a KDP account and upload your book. You should be just about ready to transform into a published author, but you aren’t quite ready to publish yet, so hit “save as draft.”
Create your Amazon author central account after uploading your book. Include a bio, photo, and link to your website or blog to help you stand out among authors. After a few more steps, you’ll be ready to publish your book, at which time you’ll click “save & publish” in your KDP book dashboard.
Amazon allows you to select 7 keywords or keyword phrases to make sure your intended audience can find your book when searching on Amazon. It’s highly recommended you also select two different categories your book might fit into so you can reach a broader audience. To select keywords and categories, look at other best-selling books in your niche and notice what keywords and categories those authors chose.
9. Decide on a Price
You’re almost ready to hit publish, but there’s just one more step before you can do that: price your book. This is not a “set it and forget it” process. You’re going to select a list price, but then you’re going to choose a discounted launch price by clicking “Promote and advertise” within your KDP dashboard.
Amazon crosses out that higher list price and shows how many dollars buyers will save. This lets users know they are getting more bang for their buck during your discounted launch, which will tempt more readers to buy. Now you can hit publish! (Doesn’t that feel good?!)
10. Reach out to readers and influencers
Now it’s time to really leverage the launch team you created in step 4. As soon as your book goes live on Amazon, the time is right to reach out and let your email subscribers know that your book is available.
Sending as sales email can be scary, but you’ve got to do it for two reasons: first, these people signed up to your list because they want to know about your book! And if you’re launching it for free or a discount, then they’re going to be very happy to hear about your deal. Furthermore, these people have been with you and have been following your success since early on in your book launch process. They want to help you!
The initial sales generated from your launch team will help push your book up Amazon’s rankings, and will increase the chances of Amazon’s algorithm recommending it to shoppers, which will drive even more sales.
During this time, it’s also a great idea to follow up with any influencers you’ve made contact with and firm up plans to promote your book. You might offer to give away a free copy of your book to a winning audience member, or make some other offer to sweeten the deal.
11. Celebrate! (Now, decide what’s next)
Publishing a book is just the beginning. Depending on your goals for your book, self-publishing can get you more customers, free publicity, and establish you as an expert in your niche. This can help you land speaking gigs and build a business within your area of expertise. Your book sales can also help fund your lifestyle with passive income.
Dream big about what you want your book to do for you. When you have a vision for where you want your book to take you, it will be easier to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Getting clear on what you want will also help you to be more effective when expanding your network along on your journey.
If publishing a bestseller is something you want to do, and you’re serious about changing your life and your business for the better by getting your book out there in the world, then you need to watch this free 4 part video training, where I walk through the exact steps I’ve taken to write, publish, and market 6 of my own best-selling books (and how I’ve helped over 200 students do the same).