How to Publish a Book

How to Self Publish a Book in 2017

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:

  1. You have complete control over your book
  2. 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)
  3. Traditional publishers won’t market your book for you at all (but they’ll still take a cut from each purchase)
  4. “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).

Free Course: Discover my blueprint to go
from blank page to bestseller in 90 days

If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE.

Here’s what you’ll get:
The EXACT blueprint to FINALLY cross “write a book” off your bucket list — in just 90 days
The Bestselling Book Launch Blueprint behind dozens of bestsellers
Case studies of bestselling authors who made $1,287, $5,500, even $12,424.03 from their first book

Get FREE behind-the-scenes access now

 

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

Self Published Book Covers

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).

Published

Published. The Proven Path from Blank Page to Published Author

It’s officially launch day of my new book, Published.! This has been a long time coming and I’m so excited the day is finally here. Haven’t heard about it yet? Let me tell you a bit about this new book…

Are you tired of just “thinking about” writing a book (even planning on making it a New Year’s Resolution), but never actually doing it?

Are you looking for a map that will take you from blank page to published author as fast as possible…without the frustration, the heartache, and the dreaded “staring at a blank page” syndrome?

Are you curious what the “secret sauce” is that’s responsible for over 264 bestselling book launches (and millions of dollars in revenue and business growth)?

Then on behalf of myself and the entire Self-Publishing School team, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I’m announcing the release of my 6th and most recent book: Published. The Proven Path from Blank Page to Published Author.

And if you answered “yes,” to any of the above questions…I wrote this book specifically for you.

What is Published.?

Published. The Proven Path from Blank Page to Published Author is my most valuable book yet, and is a complete compilation of everything I’ve learned writing, publishing, and launching 5 bestsellers (and teaching over 1,000 students at Self-Publishing School to do the same).

Published. is not just another boring “how to” book on how to write & publish your first book…

Inside this book, I’m giving you the exact systems, tactics, and blueprints to become a successful bestselling author, even if you’ve never written a book in your life.

In this book, you’ll learn…
My 3-step method that takes you from blank page to complete rough draft in less than one week (or how to write a better book than you thought possible in 1/10th the time!)
How to save $1,000’s of dollars in your book editing and production process (or how to publish a book as good as or better than most “traditionally-published” books…on a budget)
My proven “Pre-Launch Buzz Blueprint” that will guarantee your book launches with a bang
How to leverage your book to maximize your product and service offering sales

In Published., you don’t just get a 204 page book packed with tips, tricks, and hacks…you get a SHORTCUT to becoming a best selling author.

I’ve Never Done This Before…

Whether you are a beginning entrepreneur trying to grow authority in your market and build your business…

Or an accomplished pro, looking to create something that will leave your mark on the world…

I know from first hand experience that writing a book is the best way to accomplish your goals.

But I also know that writing a book can be a frustrating, painful process…even if it’s your sixth book (and especially if it’s your first!)

I’ve watched from afar, feeling bad for the people who struggle through this process. They take months – even years – just to finish their first book….and then ultimately launch to the sound of crickets.

I’ve also seen firsthand the success, ease, and joy my students at Self-Publishing School experience…and how each book they publish changes their lives.

Which is why I’m doing something with this book that I’ve never done before.

I’m giving it away for free.

That’s right – no strings attached. This book retails for $14.95, but I’m buying it for you. We simply ask that you help us with the shipping/handling costs in order to receive it.

publishedHow To Get Your FREE Copy

To claim your free copy of Published., simply click here to fill in your shipping information, and we’ll have your book sent straight to the address you provide – free of charge and no strings attached.

I hope that by giving you this book, you’re inspired and empowered to finish your own.

Here’s the link to claim it: http://self-publishingschool.com/s/published

productivity

Take Control of Your Productivity as a Writer (Claire Diaz-Ortiz Interview)

The theme today is productivity: how you can take control of it and make the most of it as a new writer or even as someone who has been writing for a long time.

Our interviewee from the Self-Publishing Success Summit, Claire Diaz-Ortiz, is an accomplished author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. She holds a MBA among other degrees she has received from Stanford and Oxford Universities. She has been named one of the top 100 most creative people in business today by Fast Company and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. On top of that, Claire also produces valuable content at her in demand business blog: www.clairediazortiz.com.

Being a journalist and best-selling author himself, Claire’s father was her biggest influence growing up. Naturally, writing has always been second nature to her. Had she been asked what she wanted to be as a grownup at the age of four her response would automatically have been writer.

It was a few years after finishing grad school that Claire seriously considered writing her first book. The first action she took was Googling “How to write a book.” That yielded her some information but she hit the jackpot of her search when she refined her wording to “How to write a book proposal.”

The internet is an invaluable tool that can lead you to discover various resources that will help you get started and guide you on your book writing journey.

You should banish any attempts at perfectionism unless you don’t want to make any real headway. Claire says, “It’s much better to have 10 terrible chapters than three great ones and seven that you haven’t even started.” 

It was during grad school that Claire was assigned a book called “The Clockwork Muse” while writing her thesis which greatly impacted her own writing productivity. In it the author proposes a methodology which assists prospective writers develop a workable time framework to complete all their projects. You can time your muse by setting up your writing schedule to conspire for your success. By understanding how you write, when you write best, and scheduling accordingly you can own your writing process instead of allowing it to overwhelm you.  

For your brain, the act of researching is very different from the actual writing process therefore it is crucial to separate the two tasks. If research is required for the type of writing you are doing it is better to complete this separately since you will want to call upon this information during your writing process. Otherwise, you will constantly be distracted from writing if you have to keep browsing the internet for supporting articles and other forms of research to back your claims. You have to keep trying to just write. When you focus your energy on one task it generates the best results. When you intentionally give yourself less time to work with through Parkinson’s Law your work will expand to fit into the time allotted for its completion. Editing down your time on tasks is another great tool because it forces you to focus.

Here are some helpful tips Claire gives on controlling your productivity:

Seek help from others: It is valuable to consider what others think about your writing because they could provide you with some great insight on how to make it even better. Regardless of how “right” you think you are due to the sheer amount of time and effort you’re putting in, it is wise to hear people out. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring someone’s input, criticism can turn into one of your best teachers.

Write when you’re most productive: Figuring out what time of day you have the most energy is vital. You may even discover what specific days of the week you’re more productive as well. This process is easy to do. You take two weeks out of your schedule and intentionally omit caffeine out of your diet. Then you proceed to monitor how your energy is feeling on a scale of 1 to 10 at every half hour or hour mark. You will soon see consistency with energy levels during certain times of the day versus others. By tapping into your “Magic Hour” you’re really unlocking a new level of productivity.

Plan a writing retreat for yourself: One final golden nugget that Claire relayed to you is to go on a writing retreat. The best way you can make some real progress is by literally disconnecting from the world around you and only focusing on your writing for a concentrated period of time. Even spending one full day will leave you with a lot of valuable thinking and work done to get your writing process moving forward. Ideally three or more days work best to get your first rough draft completed. Figuring out spaces where you can be creative and focused is critical to your success no matter if you’re in your usual daily rhythm or on a retreat. 

Increasing productivity as writers is becoming more challenging in a world where the number of distractions and demands upon our time and attention is growing. Given these circumstances it’s not surprising why so many people want to write but very few follow through. In spite of this, the advice you have been given can alleviate this struggle if you choose to apply them and adjust them accordingly to meet your personal lifestyle needs. Claire Diaz-Ortiz is just one shining example of an individual who took action on these tips and turned on the ignition to her successful career. Knowing what you now know, will you be next?

write a timeless book

How To Write A Timeless Book That Sells 500,000 Copies And Grows Your Business (Josh Shipp Interview)

A former at risk foster kid, Josh Shipp is now known for his renowned TV series, breakthrough work with teens, for being listed on Ink Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list, and for being the bestselling author of “The Teen’s Guide to World Domination.” In his interview with Chandler Bolt during the 2016 Self-Publishing Success Summit, Josh discusses many of the lessons he learned, as well as some advice that could dramatically impact the life of a writer. Some of his advice provides insight on how to write a timeless book that sells 500,000 copies and how you can use that book to grow your business. 

It’s easy to feel incompetent as a beginning author (or even as a well-known author!), but Josh’s story goes to show anyone can become an author. After countless hours of counseling, as well as being kicked out of multiple foster homes, Josh began speaking as a teenager. Wanting to find a healthy medium between doing work that matters and having a good business he began writing.

Check out this short video clip from the Self-Publishing Success Summit:

How can a speaker turn into a writer? And how can that writer write a timeless book that sells more than 500,000 copies? The answer is simpler than you think. It might be difficult to change someone’s life through a one-hour speech, but it is possible to impact him or her through a phrase or few sentences that spark an epiphany. This strategy is one Josh uses when writing his books. Creating tidbits that stick in readers’ minds is a big part of the writing process, and a tactic that can be borrowed from speaking.

Also part of Josh’s writing career is his desire to elicit feedback from his readers. Creating a focus group using three groups of people (Twitter followers, personal friends, and random people), Josh then sends a portion of his book out to the group via a Google doc and asks for their feedback on how the book could be 10% better.

How Did He Do It?

There is one catch to his focus group: the group must consist of those who make up his target audience. Using outside friends or strangers who do not make up his audience would defeat the point of feedback. Josh desires to receive feedback on how to make his book better for his target audience, not random people. Getting advice from those who do not make up your target audience is counterintuitive as making the book more applicable to target readers is the goal.

In addition, it is important to get advice from as many points of view as possible to ensure clear and understandable content. As the author, Josh understands what he is trying to say. After all, he is the one who spends hours crafting his sentences, writing, and editing. His readers do not have his background with the content. Getting his reader’s feedback on what could be explained more efficiently is a big part of Josh’s writing process and ensures quality material.

Josh did not start as a bestselling author. He did not start as a man renowned for a documentary TV series. He started as an at-risk foster kid. But look what he has achieved with a few simple tips. With Josh’s story in mind, take encouragement. You, too, can become an author and write content that matters. You don’t need to shoot for changing a life but simply work to spark an epiphany in a reader’s life. You, too, can ask for feedback from your target audience. You, too, can become an author.

In the difficult times remember what Josh says: “Don’t think there’s something broken in you and that it’s only difficult for you.” Anyone who has accomplished something significant has at some point viewed himself as incompetent. This is natural because failure is part of the process. Yes, there is prestige in writing a book, and yes, there is a sense of accomplishment. As there should be! But in hard times, when the words don’t seem to be coming and the epiphanies seem lost, remember Josh’s words. “The icky period is the price tag.” Success is born of failure, and writers realize failure is always the precursor to success. Embrace the icky so that in the end you can embrace the success.

book sellers

Q&A: Indie Book Sellers Say Exclusivity to Amazon Publishing Costs You

When it comes to selling ebooks, Amazon is by far the market leader. According to Publishers Weekly, “Apple and Barnes & Noble remain Amazon’s two largest competitors, although they trail Amazon by a wide margin.” However, millions of readers across the world still turn to other sellers like Apple’s iBooks and Barnes & Noble to buy books.

For an author trying to figure out this business—especially for the first time—it can be confusing and overwhelming to find out how and why to sell your book on different platforms. Sometimes it seems easier sticking to what you know. But, by eliminating all the other players and exclusively publishing on Amazon, you are essentially closing the door to many potential readers. What does this mean for the self-published author? It means that Amazon isn’t the only game in town when it comes to considering who can sell books for you.

In order to demystify these options, we decided to let you hear directly from book distributors Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Kobo so you can decide what’s best for you and your next book. You may be surprised to hear that none of these distributors think you should say goodbye to Amazon publishing. Instead, they advocate broadening your horizons.

In this Q&A, we explore what Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Kobo have to say about what makes each platform unique and how you can see more success using their platform in addition to Amazon. Also, take note of their best insider tips and tricks to navigating the world of indie publishing.

Here is just a little snippet from each of these distributors.

Authors should spend more time writing and less time tinkering with administrative tasks or tinkering with the upload requirements at multiple retailers.” – Smashwords

“Here’s the painful reality of ‘going wide’—it’s a long game. The advantage of being exclusive to Amazon comes largely in immediate gains…. But it’s a short-term strategy, and the most successful authors recognize that they should be planning for long-term.” – Draft2Digital

“The three ‘secrets’ to self-publishing success are: Practice, Patience and Persistence. Don’t drop in and out. Keep your titles available while continuing to write new material. Keep writing, keep practicing your craft, be patient because it takes time for people to grow a following on any platform.” – Kobo

Read on to get detailed answers to your pressing questions.

Question: What Makes Your Platform Unique? Why Should Authors Sign Up With You?

Smashwords

Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. Since 2008, we’ve helped over 120,000 authors and small, independent presses release over 415,000 titles. Dozens and dozens of our authors have become international bestsellers and have hit the bestseller lists of traditional media like the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal.

Smashwords’ global retailer distribution network also includes distribution to public libraries through our partnerships with OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Odilo and Askews & Holts.

We make it fast, free and easy to publish and distribute your ebook, and we provide free resources to help guide you along the way to becoming a more professional author. These resources include the Smashwords Style Guide (how to format your original manuscript to prepare it for ebook conversion); Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (41 tips to help authors reach more readers); and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (reveals 30 best practices of the bestselling indie ebook authors). We also provide free video tutorials.

Books sold at the Smashwords store earn the author about 80 percent of the list price as their royalty. Books sold at one of our retail partner stores will earn the author 60 percent of list as their royalty.

Although Smashwords does operate a retail store at Smashwords.com—where readers can download books in all of the most popular formats so that our authors’ books can be enjoyed on any device—95 percent or more of your sales will come from our global retail partners. Our biggest value to authors is through our distribution, though I believe some authors think Smashwords is only a retailer.

Draft2Digital

‘Going wide’ is a topic Draft2Digital is addressing a lot recently, especially with the introduction of their new Universal Book Links (UBLs). A lot of authors are struggling with the question of should they or shouldn’t they, when it comes to branching out from Amazon. The biggest reason Draft2Digital created UBLs as part of their offering through Books2Read.com: authors can use a single URL to promote their work, and Books2Read finds every store where their book appears online. Meaning readers only have to click on one link, and they’ll be taken to the store of their choice. Even if the author is exclusive to Amazon, the link uses globalization to direct readers to the regional Amazon store of their choice.

Draft2Digital’s uniqueness comes largely from their relationships. One of the first things most authors notice when comparing them to the competition is that they aren’t necessarily in all of the same sales channels. There’s some crossover, but there are also some missing faces. They are constantly expanding vendor relationships to include new sales channels. However, they are selective when choosing distribution partners because they are a company founded by authors, and they know exactly how much authors can struggle in all of this.

A founding principle of the company boils down to this: Find the biggest pain points for authors, and eliminate them. And if it’s at all possible (and it usually is), do it for free.

That’s what makes us different than any other distributor. We have authors on staff who know the struggle to find good resources and tools, without busting our budgets. So we want to provide those resources and tools. We generate our revenue entirely from a percentage of royalties, and we avoid charging authors directly for services, unless there’s just no alternative. That means we only succeed if the author succeeds—and that’s the right business philosophy for everyone.

Kobo

Kobo Writing Life was built for writers by writers. We have the world’s best dashboard for easy and simple analytics in understanding two things: 1) where in the world your books are selling and 2) approximately how much you’ve earned. (Compare that to the dozens of ways you have to re-filter your info on the Kindle dashboard just to see what’s selling and in what territory. It’s truly a feat of mathemagic to try to determine what your royalties are actually going to be. Lots of confusion and hidden costs too (such as the hidden processing costs for payment which means you’re NOT really making 70% even though you think you are.

KWL offers authors 70 percent for items prices $2.99 USD and higher. WITH NO CAP. IE, you don’t have to limit your price to $9.99 USD. We still pay 70 percent no matter how high you price. This allows authors to create larger box sets that provide value for readers without the author losing too much money in the process. Also, Kobo customers care more about QUALITY than bargain basement 99 cent novels. That’s a huge thing that makes for a longer term sustainable opportunity for writers.

Also, at the lower end, we pay 45 percent (between 99 cents and $2.99) rather than 35 percent

Authors should understand that Kobo sells into 190 countries and also partners with different retailers. In Canada, our ebooks sell directly on Kobo.com but also on www.chapters.indigo.ca – our Canadian retail partner (think of them like a “Barnes and Noble” in Canada. In the US we’ve partnered with the ABA so Kobo ebooks are also available through hundreds of indie bookstores across the US. In the UK we’re partnered with WHSmith and Waterstones. In France it’s FNAC. In Italy it’s Mondadori. In the Netherlands it’s BOL.

Most KWL authors sell about 75 percent of their titles through Canada and Australia. The breakdown is different for different authors, but Canada and Australia are two of the larger markets – and they’re markets that Amazon doesn’t have nearly the same foothold in. Compare Kobo sales in Canada to Kindle and you’ll see that Kobo (born in Canada and that’s our largest territory) has as much of the Canadian market as Kindle has of the US – I mentioned that Canada is our largest territory – but of note — Japan is now becoming a larger market than Canada – not hard to imagine given the population there and the fact our mother company Rakuten is headquartered there). Authors’ global sales through Kobo Writing Life are where they find new customers in new territories outside of the ones that Amazon is large in.

Question: How Can Authors Find More Success Using Your Platform?

Smashwords

Authors should spend more time writing and less time tinkering with administrative tasks or tinkering with the upload requirements at multiple retailers.

Smashwords’ biggest value to authors is through our distribution network. This is a HUGE time saver for authors. Imagine if you wanted to update the metadata on five of your books. You would have to go to each retailer, one by one, to update that information for each book. With a distributor, you update the metadata once and you’re done. The distributor does the heavy lifting for you. The same is true if you need to upload a revised edition of your book. If you work with a distributor, you upload the revision once and you’re done. If you decide to work directly with the retailers, you have to upload the revision one by one at every store and contend with every retailer’s unique formatting and upload requirements.

Authors who are enjoying the most success with us are distributing broadly and not opting out of any retail channels. As a distributor, we have a unique vantage point which enables us to see how each of your books are performing at each of the retailers. By contrast, the merchandising managers at the retailers can only see how books are performing at their specific store. When the merchandising managers at the retailers ask us to recommend titles for them to consider for upcoming promotions, we can quickly see how authors’ books are performing. If an author has opted out of some of our retail channels, we can’t see how her books are performing and therefore can’t make a recomendation. On the other hand, for an author who’s opted in to every channel, if we see that the title is selling well across multiple channels, then we can recommend that author’s book with confidence. We just responded to a request for romance titles from the mercandising managers at iBooks and were pleased to see that dozens of titles were accepted to run in the promotion.

Draft2Digital

Here’s the painful reality of ‘going wide’—it’s a long game.

The advantage of being exclusive to Amazon comes largely in immediate gains. For zero overhead, you can participate in the KU fund, and get paid just for the normalized page reads that come through. We’ll never argue that this isn’t a boon for authors. It is. But it’s a short-term strategy, and the most successful authors recognize that they should be planning for long-term.

Most of the authors I know want to be read by more than just a thousand or so folks who happen to own Kindles or read on Kindle apps. They want to have their work read and loved by people all over the planet. And sad to say, but Amazon only has 11 or so regional marketplaces at the moment. That covers a lot of countries worldwide, but not all of them.

There are huge emerging markets in regions such as Africa and Indonesia, where technological evolution jumped from stone age to smartphones almost overnight. Now we have English-speaking people in underdeveloped nations ravenous for information and stories. They’re consuming everything they can get onto their devices. And that means that those of us who are getting to those markets first will have first-mover advantage. There are entire nations who have never head of Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling. To them, any given indie author could be the biggest megastar they can imagine.

So for success—what authors need to do more of is think strategically and globally. They could go dig up tons of research about these emerging markets—that would help. But the shortcut to that is to use Draft2Digital to go find those markets for you, which we do.

Authors should stop thinking in terms of “How do I funnel more people to my Amazon book page?” and start thinking in terms of “How to introduce my work to a few million brand new readers in emerging markets around the world?”

Kobo

The three “secrets” to self-publishing success are: Practice, Patience and Persistence. Don’t drop in and out. Keep your titles available while continuing to write new material. Keep writing, keep practicing your craft, be patience because it takes time for people to grow a following on any platform. And keep at it; even when times are tough and things are slow. The industry and sales go through different waves, different highs and lows. Being patient and being in for the long haul and continuing to write and produce top notch professional material are the keys to success.

One of the most common complaints from authors is that they only sell on Kindle and no where else. Interestingly when you check their websites and social media and newsletters you see them directly all of their links to Amazon. Then they wonder why Amazon is always the largest platform for them. Little bit of self-fulfilling prophecy happening there. Authors should include links to all the platforms and let customers decide where they want to buy.

What’s Your Top Advice for Authors Seeking to Make More Sales?

Smashwords

First, realize there is no single magic bullet to help you suddenly become a bestseller. Everything that you do right, every incremental improvement that you make can have an impact on your sales over time. The top three pieces of advice I’d give are:

  1. Have your books professionally edited. Books break out and become bestsellers based on reader word-of-mouth more than anything else. Don’t thwart your chances of success by not having your book professionally edited.
  2. Hire a professional book cover designer. As a reader, whether you realize it or not, every time you enter an online or offline bookstore, you’re rejecting dozens of books until that one cover catches your eye and pulls you in. Your cover image is both marketing and content, and must provide a promise to the reader you’re attempting to reach. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Ask yourself what it is they’re looking for, and deliver the message through your cover image that this is THE book for them.
  3. Write more books. Every book you write provides the opportunity for you to hone your craft. The more you write, the better you will become. Just as important, every book you release affords you the opportunity to cross promote your other existing titles. Once a reader finishes one of your books, they’re probably delighted they just finished a fantastic story, but they also may be wondering what they’ll read next. Don’t squander that opportunity. Ensure that backmatter of all your existing titles includes a list of all your available books and links back to your Smashwords author page and/or personal website.

Every year I have the privilege of attending publishing conferences around the country (and occasionally outside the country). As such, I also have the opportunity to listen to bestselling indie authors tell their audiences how they became successful. I’ve never heard of a bestselling indie author doing absolutely everything on her own. The two tasks that all bestselling indie authors tend to agree upon, in terms of who you’ll need to hire, include a professional editor and a professional cover designer. Big NY publishers are adept at finding good books and turning them into great books. If you self-publish, you’re taking on that responsibility.

Draft2Digital

There are two pieces of advice every author gets for improving sales: Build a mailing list and write more books. People groan hearing these, because they hear them all the time, and also because they are a lot more complicated than they appear. But that’s the start. That’s the general advice.

The specific advice, at least for Draft2Digital, is to start using our new (and free) Universal Book Links as part of your marketing push, and get yourself into as many markets as possible. Then start focusing your marketing on hitting those hot new emerging markets. Take out targeted Facebook ads, Goodreads ads, and Twitter ads, and aim them at these regions. Do your research and find out how regional tastes run, and write some books specifically to target those markets, if you can. And if you can’t, then craft your book descriptions and ad materials so that your book will appeal to those markets. Writing to market will make it much easier for you to appeal to these emerging readers.

These are all long-term strategies, by the way. It’s likely you wouldn’t see mega sales within days of releasing a book in Africa or Indonesia or anywhere else. It will take some time, and some work—mostly in terms of promotion and marketing. But if you’re continuing to produce new books as you do this, eventually all you’ll need is a tiny spark to get a big flame.

Think about it this way: If you have one or two books, and suddenly German readers discover you, they will really enjoy reading your stuff, but then have nowhere else to go. But you have ten, twenty, thirty books (or more, go nuts!), suddenly your revenue is increasing exponentially. There’s more of you to be discovered, and more of you to explore. Your discoverability goes up by bounds.

And if you’re using UBLs, you don’t have to spend extra time making different sets of marketing materials to target different regions. You can use one link, and that will let readers worldwide find your work in the store they prefer. If they don’t happen to have access to the Kindle store, then they’ll still be able to find you in hundreds of other places online.

Kobo

To be successful outside of the US, authors need to think about their global pricing. Don’t just set a USD price and walk away. Optimize your pricing in the other currencies. KWL allows you to price in 8 currencies, and very soon you’ll be able to opt in pricing in 14 currencies; meaning you can make your price look good to localized customers.

Example: $3.99 USD auto converts to something ugly like $5.24. Authors who manually over-ride that to $5.99 aren’t just making the title look more appealing (a normal .99 price point) – but customers also round UP in their head to the next dollar anyway – it’s a pricing psychology thing – so a customer willing to spend $5.24 CAD on a book is just as likely to buy it at CAD – so you get an extra 70 cents in your pocket rounding UP to the nearest .99 Do the same in AUS and NZD.

Visit the KWL Blog for various different bits of advice from our team and from the global merchandising team.

Question: What Else Do You Want Authors to Know About You and Your Platform?

Smashwords

We think Amazon is the smartest in the business and would never encourage you to not have your books there. For the long-term success of your author career, however, I would encourage you not to go exclusive with any one retailer. Diversify. Make sure your books are everywhere readers go to find books. Use a distributor–even if it’s not Smashwords–to help you save time reaching a wider, global market.

Take advantage of ebook preorders. Even if your second book doesn’t yet have a finished cover image or a completed manuscript, at Smashwords you can set the book today as an “assetless” preorder and we’ll ship it for you to iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. You’ll need to upload the finished manuscript and cover art no later than 10 business days prior to your release date. At iBooks they’ll let you accumulate preorders for up to 12 months. Your readers reserve a copy of your book but their credit cards aren’t charged until release day. When it comes to bestseller lists at the retailers, they look at sales volume of course, yet the most recent sales are weighed more heavily than older sales. So, for example, sales in the last 12-24 hours are weighted more heavily in the bestseller algorithms than books that sold in the last two days or two weeks. Since iBooks allows you to accumulate up to 12 months worth of preorders, and each of those orders counts as a full sale, it’s like having a concentration of sales all hitting on day one which can cause a spike in your sales ranking.

Kobo and Barnes & Noble allow up to 8 months of preorder accumulation, I believe, and your book receives partial credit for your accumulated orders. Amazon does not grant credit for accumulated preorders, and as such your Amazon preorders can cannibalize your first day’s sales rank. Some authors choose to upload new releases to Amazon on release day so they can concentrate more sales on day one. Still, having an preorder listed at Amazon still provides the author the benefit of better advanced marketing leading up to release day.

Draft2Digital

The thing you most need to know about Draft2Digital, honestly, is that we’re right here in the trenches with you. Aaron Pogue, our President and one of our founders, is an indie published author. I (Kevin Tumlinson, Director of Marketing) am an indie published author. Most of our team is comprised of people who study self-publishing and the whole publishing industry day and night. We’re out there identifying exactly what pain points plague authors most, so that we can beat them up and give you back your lunch money.

Basically, we went and built the tools we need most to make it as authors, so we know other authors need them as well. And our focus is “make it easy.” Making things easy for authors is what we do, because we can’t stand how complicated things can get. We want to take care of all the garbage that weighs an author down, so they can focus on the one thing they really want to do: Write books.

We’re expanding into new sales channels all the time. We’re adding new cool feature all the time. We’re making new inroads and building new relationships within the industry, all the time. Everyone who is part of the D2D catalog today is seeing the growth of the company, and they’re going to benefit from all of it. There’s a reason why our authors are so loyal to us, once they come onboard—because we’re unfailing loyal to them.

I guess I could sum it up with one phrase then, aimed at every author, everywhere: You are not alone.

Kobo

First thing that authors need to understand is that Amazon is, by far, the world’s largest online bookstore and has been in existence for about 20 years. They were (behind Sony) among the first to come to market with an ereader and in the market longer than anyone else, so it’s far easier to gain traction on the platform that everyone knows and goes to for “books” (even, though, of course, Amazon is an everything store and books were just one of the first items they started selling.) Gaining traction on other sites takes two important things that aren’t as common in a lot of indie authors (particularly those who give up easy and early and drop off the distributing wide path) – TIME and PATIENCE. It takes time to grow on different platforms.

Opting in and out of a platform doesn’t help, because you have to start from scratch each time you opt in – continually crippling your own development of an audience outside the one platform where you lay all your eggs.

The other thing that authors from the US are typically unaware of is what is happening in the publishing world outside our borders. One thing I would challenge authors to consider would be seeing WHERE their Kindle sales are coming from. IE, the .com Amazon site? Perhaps also the UK site. Nook, of course, is now just .com and US. But iBooks has a lot of reach outside the US (as well as inside), and Kobo has a lot of reach outside the US market as well.

So, consider, when looking at your sales, what platforms sell better in what countries. And if authors are fine to sell only within the US and perhaps the UK, then KDP Select might be an option. If they want more global exposure to other customers (and in markets that are growing now the way the US was 3 to 5 years ago), then go wide and include Kobo in your sales channels.