Today, joining me is Chris Ducker, who is a keynote speaker and author of two books. His first book, Virtual Freedom, he had traditionally published, his second book, the Rise of the Youpreneur, is self-published. He is known as a Virtual CEO and regarded as an authority on virtual staffing and personal outsourcing. Chris is here to talk about using a book to build your personal brand and your business.
“For me, I believe that a book is one of the easiest and most important expert positioning strategies for anyone who wants to build a business based around their experience and expertise should act on – plain and simple.” This is the first action item he works on with coaching clients is to create and publish a book.
He knew that authoring his book would bring him more business. The trick was to put all the information he had in his mind into one definitive guide. Currently, his book has over 1000 five-star reviews on Amazon and continues to create monthly sales every quarter.
“We don’t give Virtual Freedom away, but we do pitch it as a great starting point for anyone who wants to learn how to work with virtual staff, and to learn how to hire support and run their business with a virtual team.” Chris considers his book a “tripwire product” to get the easy, low-dollar item out of someone to get them warmed up to his business. “I totally agree with qualifying a prospective customer.”
Chris recommends not to work on your weaknesses when building your personal brand, but to delegate them to others to get the job done. “Delegate your weakness and work with your strengths. Do the stuff that you’re good at but do it in a way that is uniquely your own path.” Completing this process with the right amount of transparency will build a community of people around you that will consume your content.
Listen in to find out why Chris put his face on the cover of his second book, why he self-published his second book, and his mistakes when publishing his first book.
[02:03] Why Chris writes his books and how he intentionally fits them into his business ecosystem.
[05:39] Chris’ experience with traditional publishing.
[07:27] Virtual Freedom launch party details.
[08:27] How Chris strategically used his book in lead funnels and sales.
[10:25] Using your book to prospect for future clients.
[13:21] Why Chris’ book is the $20 business card for his company.
[14:42] Why Rise of theYouPreneur is more of an aspirational book.
[19:20] Should you put your face on the cover of your book?
[23:48] Traditional versus self-publishing experience for Chris.
[27:38] Chris wanted to be an example of how to self-publish your book to his students.
[30:28] Have your foundations down before you build a personal brand.
[34:40] Building a personal brand around you as a digital marketing strategy.
A very basic tool in book marketing that all writers need is the book mockup. A book mockup turns your cover into a 3D rendering or a full advertisement.
A 3D rendering catches eyes and lets your readers picture themselves holding your book far more effectively than a standard 2D cover image would.
I could show you this plain depiction of my book cover next to a 3D book mockup rendering so you can see the difference:
Which one helps you imagine my book in your house? Which one makes you want it?
“Wow, Hannah,” you say, “that looks great! I wish I could do that with my covers, but…I don’t know how.”
What if I told you creating eye-catching marketing imagery is actually incredibly easy? That mockup of Little Birds took me literally less than four seconds to make.
Types of Book Mockups
If you’re not a super wiz in Photoshop, there are easier and faster alternatives called book mockup generators that we’ll cover in more detail below.
Book mockup generators help you create essential marketing imagery to promote your books.
Most of these give you several options for types of book mockups, including paperback, ebook, and even audiobook.
Audiobook Cover Mockups:
Here’s an example I made with a mockup generator for my audiobook:
3D renders bring your book to life. I added headphones to emphasize that it’s available in audiobook. You can add elements to your mockups that help your reader imagine a situation in which they’re likelier to enjoy your book–get creative!
Is it a romance? Generate a mockup with someone holding your book next to a fire with a glass of wine. Is it a horror? Make the backdrop a spooky abandoned building.
You don’t need photography skills, a fancy camera, a hand model, or editing prowess to create book mockups. All you need is your cover and a book mockup generator!
Banner Book Cover Mockups:
Banners are useful for almost every social media cover image, as well as any in-text advertisements for your website’s blog posts.
The banner above also only took me four seconds to make. It’s attractive, attention-grabbing, and did I mention it only took four seconds to make?
Even if you don’t want to make a full scene image like that, simply turning your cover into a 3D mockup will up your marketing game tenfold.
Full 3D Book Cover Mockup:
As mentioned above, you can use a plain flat image of your cover, but a 3D rendering makes it feel more real, and is far more eye-catching.
Isn’t a 3D render just a tastier experience? Let your reader see your book for what it is–a book!
The great thing about these 3D mockups is that you can also place them within other marketing images, which allows you to pick and choose which types of mockups to promote on specific platforms.
This leads us into the next point of what book mockups are used for…
What are book mockups used for?
Book mockups can (and should) be used in most of your promotional materials, branding, and platform elements.
If you have an author platform of any kind, your book mockups should be easily available to see when someone clicks on your profile.
A fun marketing statistic I often reference is that a consumer has to be exposed to a message, on average, seven times before they’ll act on it.
With that in mind, you could say you need to put your book cover in front of your readers at least seven times to make a sale. If you’re not showing them your book, how will they know it’s there?
Get those mockups generated and in front of your readers!
Having consistent elements, like book mockups, that you use on most or all of your materials can help to establish your brand. Let’s look at places you will likely put those elements.
Social media posts:
No matter the social media you use, algorithms favor images. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat posts are all heavily based on visuals.
Incorporate mockups to give your audience a tangible experience of your books.
For example, this is an image I used on Instagram to promote my book tour stream. Including a 3D render of the book on all of my promotional materials helps to instill the book and brand in my audience’s mind.
Anytime I mention my book, a sale, or an event, I make sure to include a 3D mockup of the cover.
This is an ad I made when I released my audiobook, so obviously I wanted to include a cover mockup on it. Imagine a book advertisement that didn’t include a cover.
There’s nothing to catch the reader’s eye, so they’ll scroll right past it. Any advertisements you create should absolutely include the book cover.
There’s no point in having an author website if you don’t spotlight your books on it. You might use your mockups on a front page banner, a gallery, or a project page.
This is an example of the Starlight page on my website. Some elements you might include on a book or project page are reviews, buy buttons, descriptions, excerpts, and a 3D mockup!
Banners, endscreens, platform material:
I use 3D renders of my book covers on all of my social media platforms. Like we mentioned earlier, a consistent brand and repetition are important elements in book marketing.
Here’s an example of my Twitch background, and you’ll see an endscreen I use in my YouTube videos later on. This is a small, subtle use of a 3D render that I don’t even call particular attention to–it’s just in eyesight during every Twitch stream I host.
Remember: seven exposures = one sale.
Double-dip into your book income by expanding your product offering. Get yourself a 3D render to slap on T-shirts, mugs, and other swag for a bonus income stream.
Having products out there with your name and books on them is also great for marketing and building your brand.
Now that we see the various ways book mockups can help with marketing, let’s look at some options for generators to create those book mockups.
Five Free Book Mockup Generators
All of the following mockup generators allow you to create imagery for free, but premium versions will most often give you access to things like extra features, more downloads, or watermark removal.
Some book mockup services will mass produce hundreds of images at once, while some only let you produce one piece at a time.
Some services are completely free, while some will cost a premium to access their full suite offering–if you decide to invest in marketing software, it’s likely worth your money. Like any business research, just do a little research to make sure it’s a good move and will show a return on your investment.
Adazing is a free, quick, and easy service to produce book mockups. The drawbacks I see with Adazing are that you can only produce one at a time, and that they aren’t the most realistic-looking renders out there.
Along with mockups, Media Modifier lets you design logos, apparel, and products. Media Modifier allows more precise customization with their mockup generator, like the ability to edit backgrounds and drop shadows.
They do require sign-up to remove the watermark on downloads, but here’s an example of a mockup I made with Media Modifier, again using Gloria’s collections:
While Media Modifier does offer more customization than Adazing, I still don’t find they look particularly realistic.
This one provides a very limited selection of free options, but you can access many more formats and customizations with a premium account. Smart Mockups provided the most realistic-looking mockups of all of the generators I’ve tried.
Here’s an example I made of my own book with the free features on Smart Mockups:
Book Brush is a service I use regularly for creating covers, mockups, videos, and more. They’re constantly expanding their service offerings and templates, so I like to check up to see what’s new.
I love that you can make a bulk amount of hundreds of mockups at once with their Instant Mockup tool. Here’s a brief rundown of how to use Book Brush’s tools and platform.
And these are a few mockups I made instantly with Book Brush’s mockup tool:
Book Brush has a ton of tools available with their free version, and I’m always happy with the quality, so I definitely recommend checking them out!
These are only five of the book mockup generators I found with free options, but there are LOTS more if you dig around. My favorites of the ones listed are Book Brush (for the Instant Mockup tool) and Smart Markups (for the amazing quality).
But maybe you’re not interested in an easy breezy mockup experience. Maybe you’re the kind of pal who wants to roll up your sleeves and get in there with 100% customization.
Let’s talk about how you can do it yourself.
DIY Options for Book Mockups
You can skip the immediate results and manually make your book mockups with a program like Photoshop (or a free alternative, like Canva).
For example, this is my YouTube endscreen I made with Photoshop:
I used the Starlight mockup from Book Brush, but I inserted the Little Birds cover directly into my PSD file. This allowed me to customize the dimensions to fit the YouTube endscreen elements on top (like putting my subscribe button in the coffee cup).
You can also make great marketing imagery with free services like Canva, PicMonkey, or Gimp.
For example, this is an Instagram post I made using a 3D mockup from Book Brush in Canva:
But here I’ve done the same thing without the 3D mockup, and it still looks pretty nice:
You can make marketing imagery with 2D book cover images, but it just lacks the spice of a 3D render.
I’ll manually make my marketing imagery for specific items, like livestream promotional pieces, but I love using mockup generators for base imagery (like those adorable coffee table pieces from Book Brush) and 3D cover renders.
Whether you go manual or use a book generator, a book mockup is one of the most important marketing tools a writer has for selling copies. Take advantage of the tools I listed above and get started on creating your own book mockups for social media, advertisements, websites, merch, and branding!
Do you have a favorite tool or method for building book mockups? Let us know in a comment or tweet us @Self_Pub_School!
Today, joining me is Jenna Moreci, who is known as a YouTube star with a subscriber base of over 200,000 watchers. She is the author of two books. Jenna has authored The Savior Series with The Savior’s Sister edition debuting in September.
While she writes full-time, she is also a full-time caregiver. Jenna isn’t able to fully devote her day to writing. If you are writing fiction, a good goal is to release one book per year.
“For me, focusing on the quality of the story really matters. One way I make sure that quality is focused on is that I have a lot of people read the book before it’s out. I have critique partners, which are solo writers, who critique everything from the story to the grammar. I have beta readers who like reading.” She enlists 20 beta readers from very diverse sexual, ethnic, and demographic backgrounds. From this list of people, she collects market data, looks for trends within her betas, trends that they like and dislike.
Jenna doesn’t sit around and wait for her beta readers to finish. While busy critiquing her work, she is busy working on her author platform, looking for cover artists and editors. Her time efficiency doesn’t elongate her publication date as these tasks are being done simultaneously with her beta testers.
She gives advice on which type of criticism is constructive “If someone gives you feedback that doesn’t stick right, sounds funny or doesn’t make sense, you have to discern that this may not be the best feedback to listen to.”
In addition to her writing, Jenna also has a YouTube channel. “In terms of reserving the creative energy, for me, that’s what I’m passionate about. That’s me being myself. It’s me expressing my personality.” Jenna explains how she manages scriptwriting for her videos without intruding on her book writing time.
Listen in to find out how Jenna uses the Rule of Three with her beta reading group, how she manages her beta reading group when someone reading her book is late, and why it’s essential to write what you’re passionate about.
[02:59] Quality and quantity balance of writing for a living.
[04:27] How to focus on the quality of your book.
[05:25] Make sure to implement feedback given on your book.
[06:27] Streamlining and discerning the beta reader feedback.
[09:00] How Jenna uses the Rule of Three when writing a book.
[11:38] Recruiting people to read your book grassroots style.
[12:20] Joining reading and writing groups are great places to find beta readers.
[15:08] Creating videos for her YouTube channel and balancing writing.
[16:50] Differences in the creative process of videos and writing.
[22:39] What you should do when you get a 1 star review.
[24:18] Jenna gives tips on what works best when marketing your book.
[26:50] Advertising dollars that work for your book.
[30:33] How Jenna gets hundreds of reviews on her books with ARC readers.
[34:28] Pros and cons of building a platform on YouTube for book authors.
[40:33] The importance of paying attention to writing analytics and data.
[44:00] Pre-orders and giveaways and how they work for Jenna.
[45:47] Video creation dos and don’ts on YouTube.
[47:47] Reading your metrics on YouTube and what they mean.
[51:33] Advice Jenna would have given herself when she wrote her first book.
Nowadays, if you want to be successful with your book, you have to know how to use social media for writers.
Marketing is one thing all authors will need to know how to do, no matter if you want to self-publish a book or traditionally publish. That’s right! Even traditional publishers are now looking to your SOCIAL PLATFORM as a decision-maker for buying your book or not.
And no matter your goals as an author, whether you want to write fiction full-time or want to use your book to grow your business, social media is important.
We’ll not only cover which social platforms are most important for authors right now, but also where to find your audience, and what content actually performs the best on each app.
Do you want to sell books? Do you want to make a career out of selling books?
Then yes, writers need social media. It’s for book marketing, and one of the most powerful types of marketing in this day and age.
This isn’t to say that you can’t sell books without social media. There are certainly people who do so, but unless you really know how to use ads or you get a lucky break and hit some charts in the rankings, (or are a student of our Sell More Books program where we teach those methods), your best bet for long-term success in writing is by building your author platform.
So while you don’t need social media, it increases your chances of long-term success exponentially.
The difference with social media marketing (especially for authors)
Social media is so different from “traditional” marketing methods. It’s not an email, it’s not a flyer in the mail or a commercial on TV, and it’s certainly not a radio ad.
What makes social media marketing different from other forms of marketing is that it’s personal.
It’s a person doing the marketing, very rarely a full brand speaking from behind a logo (though this does happen). With social media for writers, it’s certainly personal.
And this means that traditional methods of marketing a book are a bit different.
In fact, we’d say social media marketing is less about actually promoting your book and more about promoting your thoughts, ideas, and interests while keeping your book easily available.
This concept is a little confusing at first, but we’ll get into what this looks like with each social platform. But the main idea behind this principle is this:
If someone likes you and enjoys what you put out into the world, they’ll likely enjoy your books because of how much we place ourselves into them.
Yes, we even do this when writing a fiction novel. Our themes and messages come from within us, and when someone gets to know who you really are and likes that, they’ll probably like what you write about.
What’s the best social media for writers?
By and far, Twitter is extremely useful for anyone trying to have success as an author, especially as a self-published fiction author.
Does this mean it’s the best platform for you and your specific book? Not always.
While we recommend every writer be on Twitter, there may be other social platforms better suited for your audience. Meaning, certain people of varying ages and interests use different social platforms.
You’ll have to understand where your audience is if you want to operate on the best social media platform for you.
Thankfully, we cover those details below by going over the demographic of each platform (info by HootSuite) in detail so you can decide which will house your target audience, along with how you can connect with them.
Twitter for authors
As stated above, we believe all writers should be on Twitter. There is an extremely large fiction reading and writing community on Twitter, but it’s also really useful for nonfiction.
The struggle with a platform the size of Twitter (and really all of the ones we’ll cover below), is that they’re too big. It’s hard to find where your audience is. But that’s why we’ll also cover some useful hashtags to pay attention to.
HOW TO USE TWITTER FOR AUTHORS:
Each social platform is different. Depending on the people and its interface, different content will perform well.
For Twitter, it’s all about relateability. The posts that do the best are the one that speak to people directly, in a way they can relate to really well. It’s not really about you on Twitter, it’s about others.
So when you take to Twitter, remember that while it’s a social platform where you can divulge your own information, making all of your posts solely about you isn’t the right game here. We can save that for Instagram in a minute.
Type of content that performs best: short relateable questions and statemetns
Hashtags to note: #amwriting, #writingcommunity, #WIP, #writerlife
Other hashtags for genre-specific depend on what you write and the niche (particularly for nonfiction, the examples above leave heavy for fiction users).
Want to see a few author profiles on Twitter who are doing it really well? Here are some examples of social media for writers you can follow and emulate:
The reason this bio is really successful is because this author’s book is available, but it’s not spammy or pushing people to buy. Another reason, is because her main bio is short, sweet, to the point, and also showcases her personality.
When it comes to sharing posts on social media, especially when “promoting” your book, it works best when the words come from others. We tend to not believe authors who say their book is great, because of COURSE they think that!
Retweeting praise for your book is one of the best ways to share proof and get others interested.
Instagram for writers
Instagram is one of those social media platforms you really have to mess with to get right. Meaning, some people can find great success with one strategy, and that same strategy won’t work for you—even if you do everything the same!
Part of this is because of the story feature, and that you have to actually put yourself out there on Instagram. While it does have a somewhat negative reputation for being “fake,” people do congregate here for connection and to follow people’s lives closely.
HOW TO USE INSTAGRAM FOR AUTHORS:
As mentioned, Instagram has more to do with daily life/lifestyle than it does only branded content. That, and memes. Yes! The meme culture has shifted somewhat away from Facebook and is everpresent on Instagram’s platform.
So what works here then? Relatable memes, intimate stories where you show up with energy, and “pretty” images on your main feed.
Remember that you’ll have to find out what works for YOU here. Does your audience wants to see more of you? Of what you’re reading? Of your book-writing process?
Demographic: 52% female, 48% male — 67% ages 18-29
Posting frequency: at least once per day on your main feed, several times on your story
Type of content that performs best: Stories! Getting on your story and showing you, your real face, your real life. On your main feed, aestheticlaly appealing images of your book, you, and your life will do best.
Hashtags to note: #amwriting, #writerlife, #writersofIG, #writersofinstagram, #bookrelease
Facebook for writers
Facebook’s seemingly everchanging interface has increasingly frustrated people. In truth, Facebook is dying as a means of self-promotion unless you pay for ads on their platform.
Determine if you want to use a personal profile (not recommended), a page, or a group.
The main differences here are that a profile allows friends, a page allows for likes (and your stuff shows up on their feed like a profile’s would), and a group allows for a specific place for members to post and collaborate.
For writers, we usually recommend a page. But, if you are looking to build a brand, or maybe even an exclusive “club” for your readers, a group will get far better engagement than anything else. Facebook has continued to deprioritized page’s content, while boosting group posts.
It all depends on what your goals are as an author, and if your audience is even hanging out on Facebook.
Demographic: 79% ages 18-29
*Note on this: while this number reflects those who have Facebook, personal insights tell us the most active group of users is above 40-years-old.*
Posting frequency: 3 times per day max
Type of content that performs best: Images, videos
Hashtags to note: While Facebook has hashtag capabilities, they’re not really used to nearly the same extent as Twitter and Instagram
BONUS: Youtube for authors
Youtube isn’t for everyone. We’ll go ahead and say that right now. Not everyone has the presence for it, and not everyone will even like this style of platform building.
However, if it is something you’ve considered and need a push to start, it can be very lucrative as a secondary form of income, as long as a massive means of marketing your book—especially if you start “making it big” and gaining a lot of subscribers.
Our Youtube channel has over 40,000 subscribers and has grown immensely over the last year. We’ve seen this success first-hand, but we’re not the only ones.
There are several self-published authors who have used Youtube to quit their full-time jobs and pursue writing and creating videos.
HOW TO USE YOUTUBE FOR AUTHORS:
The first thing to think about here is what type of content you can post about, and what audience that will bring in. Many writers post videos with advice for writing books and publishing.
Others take the route of being on “Booktube,” where they read and post book reviews for other readers.
Each has their own pros and cons, but the bottom line with Youtube is that you have to be authentic, be something different (which can even simply come out in your own personality), and be consistent. One of the biggest common factors of success on Youtube is that people didn’t give up—they kept doing it through even a couple years of very slow growth.
If you are someone who’s not writing fiction and you’re looking to create awareness for a nonficion or a book to grow your business, the topics you talk about should be related to your book.
Demographic: 81% ages 15-25
Posting frequency: two times per week, 1 time per week at a minimum if you want sustained growth and engagement
Type of content that performs best: videos, helpful tips, how-tos, relevant updates, reviews, etc.
Author platform growth on social media
By far the best tip we can give you is to be consistent. With social media, it really is all about showing up regularly with content your audience wants to see, whatever that may be.
And secondly, don’t be afriad to iterate and try new things. If memes aren’t working for you, try being more real and personal. If your Twitter one-liners just aren’t working, try asking more questions and creating polls.
The people who gravitate to your social platform will respond differently to content that might “work” elsewhere. Find what works for you, be generous in how you give content, and make your book easily available. If people like you, they’ll search for how to consume more of your goodies—you don’t really have to push to promote your book on social media.
Today, joining me is Leif Babin. Leif is a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, co-author of #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, and co-founder of Echelon Front, where he serves as President, COO, leadership instructor, speaker, and strategic advisor. In this episode, we will chat with Leif about how he launched one of the most successful books ever published.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Leif served thirteen years in the Navy. During his last tour, Leif served as Operations Officer and Executive Officer, was again deployed to Iraq for a second time with Special Operations Task Force. He is the proud recipient of the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. Upon his active duty departure, Leif co-founded Echelon Front, a premier leadership consulting company that helps others build their own high-performance winning teams.
Leif served with Jocko Williams, another author, in sustained combat regions as Navy SEALS. They talked and realized there was a real need for leadership training in companies. “Everything we learned in combat applied to any team in any organization and any situation.” As they started working with companies, many of their clients and followers were looking for a reference manual. “We wanted to get the message out about leadership from Navy SEALS that can humbly speak about this, reflect well on the SEAL teams, and pass these lessons onto others.”
“We launched the Echelon company in 2012, and our book was published in 2015.”
He had talked with people and found out he didn’t want to go with a ghostwriter because once they had given over their story, they completely lost control of the end product. Leif notes two examples of fallen servicemen who were written about as “bravados.” However, in reality, they were two humble men who gave their lives for our country.
On writing their story, “We didn’t want to write a memoir, we wanted to write something that talked about leadership lessons learned and gave the application of those leadership lessons learned so that people could take and implement them in their professional and personal lives.”
Listen in to find out how Leif and Jocko decided to tell their story when they co-authored their book, why you shouldn’t let your ego get in the way, and how Leif and Jocko marketed their book.
Don’t you agree that there’s almost too much information online about how to self-publish a book? So much that it can be really hard to actually determine what’ll be helpful to YOU?
We get it. We’re in the space every day, and we have to say…not all the advice you read will work.
Much of it is outdated in this everchanging space and doesn’t help you self-publish on Amazon in a way that actually brings you SUCCESS.
There’s far more to self-publishing a book than simply uploading it on Amazon and hitting “publish.” You can absolutely do that.
But don’t you actually want to sell books?
No matter what your goals are, to grow your business with a book, become a full-time fiction author, or simply to publish a memoir or self-help book to create an impact, we here at Self-Publishing School know what works.
We’re in the weeds with hundreds of students every week, learning, growing, and even expanding our program’s content to ensure it’s up-to-date.
And you know what? We want to give you a full, complete guide right here…for FREE. Nothing. Because we believe in you and the story you want to tell, no matter what it is.
WARNING: This blog post will be lengthy, and will cover topics not JUST related to uploading your book and self-publishing it on Amazon. Because again, there is MORE TO IT than just that. So focus, even bookmark this page, prepare to take some notes, and know that it’s possible for you to do 🙂
If you want to skip over some important points and JUST get down to the how-to list, click here.
Self-publishing is when you publish a book without a publishing house first buying your book’s rights and producing the book for you. With self-publishing, you maintain 100% creative control as well as 100% of the royalties.
While traditional publishing requires writing a manuscript, querying, landing an agent, agent selling to the publishing house, and ultimately, you only writing and editing based on what your editor wants, only to receive 8-10% royalties AFTER printing costs and AFTER your advance gets earned-out.
There’s really no wonder we believe, in today’s world, self-publishing is the superior option.
But hey, you can decide for yourself after reading through this post 😉
Is it a good idea to self-publish a book?
The best way to publish a book is dependent on what your own unique goals are. Some people will find great success in self-publishing while others are better suited for traditional publishing.
Ultimately, unless you have a good amount of experience as well as connections in the traditional publishing world, this route will be difficult, and you may not ever get published.
With self-publishing, anyone can do it. Anyone can get on Amazon and upload a book. HOWEVER, not everyone can do it well in order to succeed.
There are thousands and thousands of authors making full-time income and MORE from self-publishing. Those people have figured it out. Some of these people are our very own coaches here at Self-Publishing School, teaching our students what it truly takes.
Others, have done the work and have spent years honing their craft and series’ in order to see success.
So ultimately, you have to ask a couple of questions in order to determine if self-publishing is a good idea for you:
Do you want to maintain creative control and tell the story the way YOU want, with a cover that YOU want, and keep 100% of the royalties?
Do you want to simply write and let others dictate the rest?
Do you want to market your own books? SPOILER: this is required for BOTH publishing avenues.
Are you serious about this?
No matter which way you choose to publish, you have to do the work. You have to do the book marketing. You have to commit, set writing goals, and work toward it.
You have retailers to publish, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and more. You also have aggregators like IngramSpark, Lulu, Bookbaby, and more that print your book and distribute it TO the retailers.
And then you also have self-publishing education companies, who teach you the ropes about how to self-publish the right way, with resources to help you get there.
The latter is what Self-Publishing School is. So of COURSE we’ll put ourselves at the top of this list, because we truly believe it’s the smartest and best way to self-publish.
Why not take the guidance from those most experienced? But because we want you to make the best choice for your needs, we’ll cover the other types as well.
Here are some of the best self-publishing companies you can work with:
Self-Publishing School (That’s us!): An education company with 1-on-1 coaching, a private and exclusive Mastermind Community, and an entire digital course you keep access to for LIFE, all dedicated to helping you not only write a high-quality book, but also publish it for increased visibility and that coveted “Bestseller” banner. Learn more about our various programs for various types of authors-to-be here!
Amazon, Kobo, B&N, iBooks: These are retailers, places readers can go to purchase your book and have it shipped to them. Amazon is by far the largest of them, however, you should aim to self-publish across all mediums to increase buyers.
IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, Smashworlds, Lulu: Through these companies, you can have your book printed and distributed to the retailers listed above (and more). Amazon also prints its own books. So you could go exclusively with Amazon. But Amzon doesn’t publish hardback covers, like IngramSpark does. Do some research, and check out some reviews to choose where to print yours from.
When you self-publish a book, you’ll use a variety of these types. You can go it alone and simply upload with Amazon, using KDP Print (their book printers), or you can learn what it REALLY takes to do this successfully, and potentially work with us.
Cost of Self-Publishing A Book
Since you don’t have a massive publishing company backing you, there are expenses you’ll incur on your journey to self-publish a book.
Most are very mild, but they may seem like a large chunk of change to invest in your book (really, your success).
Thankfully, there are ways to cut costs. Our students have discounts through book designers, formatters, editors, and other book production services they’d have to pay full price elsewhere.
It’s likely that you can cut self-publishing costs by opting for freelancers or even checking out Reedsy’s resources to find someone to work with.
Editing: $200 – $2,000+ (this depends on word count)
Cover Design: $300 – $500 average (this is IMPORTANT!)
ISBN & Copyright: $100 – $400 (depending on country and number of ISBNs you choose to purchase)
Interior Formatting: $150 – $300 (depends on internal design)
Proof Copies: $50
Launch Team Goodies *Optional*: $100+ (signed copies, posters, etc.)
Self-Publishing Resources to Succeed *Optional*: $500 – $5,000+ (education companies)
TOTAL COSTS: $850 – $3000+
DON’T LET THESE NUMBERS DISSUADE YOU! You can save up while writing your book (which takes a good chunk of time). Just be prepared to invest in this if you want to be successful.
Also keep in mind, this is to produce a HIGH quality book. Which is the entire purpose of finding success in self-publishing a book. You have to be able to compete with traditionally published books, which are backed by massive budgets.
You can stick to the low-end of these costs and NOT opt for a developmental edit, which is one of the most expensive components.
But ultimately: do NOT skip at least a copy edit and do NOT skimp on the book cover. The book cover design…is the most important in today’s world of visually stimulating content.
What is the best way to self-publish a book successfully?
As the leading experts in this industry, we here at Self-Publishing School know we have the best way to self-publish.
It’s about more than just how to upload your book onto Amazon. And most people forget this. Most people who want to succeed in self-publishing a book, at least.
So we’re breaking down the best way to self-publish a book for maximum SUCCESS, from start-to-finish.
#1 – Create a self-publishing plan
You want to do this the right way, yes? And skip over the crap that’s not useful or the stuff that won’t really make a difference?
Good. Then you need a plan so you understand what it really takes to succeed. We don’t mess around here at Self-Publishing School.
So this includes putting together a timeline—or at the very least, a to-do list—of all the steps you’ll need to accomplish in order to self-publish your book.
You can even just jot down notes from this blog post in the order they’re here, since we’re handing you the ultimate blueprint for self-publishing in this blog post.
If nonfiction: what do you know the most about? What do people often tell you you should write about? What do you find yourself explaining over and over (for example: I often get asked “how’d you turn out successful?” from those who know my upbringing–this would be a great topic for nonfiction).
If fiction: start with some writing prompts. Try the “what if” strategy: what if a character in a certain town comes across a certain oddity?
Let your mind wander, come up with a book idea you think is GREAT, and dive into the rest of the self-publishing process.
#3 – Mindmap your idea
Have you heard of a mindmap? This is a powerful tool we use here at Self-Publishing School to help our students when they “don’t know where to even start” when they have an idea.
It allows you to get ALL your ideas out so you can better organize in the next step.
A mindmap is what you create when you start with a blank sheet of paper, and in the middle you draw a circle with the main topic of your book, or the main plot.
Then, you draw branches from this for other main elements, where you create more branches to fill out those ideas. It’s hard to describe in words, so here are some examples:
A mindmap is the space to dump ALL of your ideas, no matter if they’ll make the final book outline or not. Anything you can think of, the more, the merrier.
Then move on to the next step.
#4 – Create an outline for your book
Outlining a book can be really fun, and really difficult at the same time. It’s when you’ll finally put your ideas in the order you want them to appear in the book itself.
You trim the fat. You add the details. You have a clear blueprint for writing your book.
This step is also completely up to you. Different people outline in different ways.
Here’s a brief overview of only a few of the various methods to choose from (we suggest watching this video for more tangible examples):
Sticky Note Method: This is when you find a blank wall or large poster and use small sticky notes to write your main plot point or book elements and then arrange them in the order you want to write them.
Skeletal Method: This one is like what you may have written in school. You start with the main point as a title (chapter title maybe), then the next bullet can be the overarching idea, and then beneath that, you’ll have the supporting details or events you want to write about.
Basic Bullet Points: For this method, it is as it’s named. You start at the top and create bullet points for all the events you want to happen and write about. After this is complete from start to finish, draw lines to separate chapters.
Snowflake Method: This method involves starting small and broadening the outline. You start with one sentence of what will happen, expand this into a full paragraph, and then multiple for each chapter of your book.
#5 – Complete the book you’ll self-publish
This includes the entire writing-to-finished-product process, and we’ll outline this in just a moment below. But just know that this is the longest and most difficult part of self-publishing.
Yes, the actual self-publishing part isn’t as difficult as creating and maintaining the discipline to finish your first draft, self-edit, revise, hire an editor (YES, you need one), format the book, have the cover designed…I think you get the point.
Getting the first draft done is the most difficult part for most of our students. So let’s break down what this looks like, along with the other steps mentioned above to complete book production.
Here’s how to actually complete a book:
Start writing, and follow our outline IN ORDER
Maintain a writing schedule to finish your book
Once the first draft is complete, let it “rest” for a week or so
Book an editor (do this now, they usually have waitlists and you can do the next step while you wait. Plus, it’ll give you a deadline ????)
Self-edit the book chapter by chapter, rewrite, and make any changes
OPTIONALBUT SUGGESTED: After you have it the best it can be, send it to beta readers or critique partners for feedback (DO THIS BEFORE SENDING IT TO AN EDITOR)
Book a formatter and cover designer (some services have packages that include both)
Perform book edits from the editor (really take their feedback to heart. It’s easy to be offended or not want to listen, but if they’re qualified they DO know best) and set up launch team and marketing goals while you wait to get it back
Send to the formatter when it’s 100% edited
Get your ISBN and copyright your book
Work with the cover designer on tweaks (they’ll also need the barcode, ISBN, etc.)
Order proof copies and review, adjust if needed
This process is extensive and what our students truly get a lot out of our programs, since each of these steps is thoroughly outlined with video tutorials. But, we’ll still cover a few more points below.
We do have blog posts and/or videos for many of the steps above if you want more details. Just do a quick search in the bar at the top (or click the three bars to see search if you’re on mobile), or head to our Youtube channel and check them out.
#6 – Get an ISBN & Copyright your book
Amazon provides a free ISBN if you choose to use this. However, keep in mind that with an Amazon ISBN, you cannot sell your book on other retailers (like B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc.) with that same ISBN.
For this reason, we always recommend our students buy their own (and get a package of them if you plan to publish more than one book).
First, make an account (you need this to check out)
At the top right, under “Register and copyright your book” hit “CopyrightsNow!”
On the right, select which package option you’d like and add it to your cart–we suggest the 1 ISBN and Copyright, but if you plan to publish more than one book soon, choose another
Click “go to cart” from the pop-up screen
Follow the process to check out
This process is pretty painless, but it does cost $184 USD for 1 copyright and 1 ISBN. These are essential costs.
If you want to add a copyright paragraph into your book, we have an actual book outline template you can use for those opening pages. Just choose fiction or nonfiction, fill out your details, and check your inbox for DIRECTIONS for how to use and access.
Book Outline Template Generator
Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your book.
Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.
In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.
There are a growing number of options for where to get your book printed and distributed from. For self-publishing a book, Amazon is a typical go-to, but KDP print has some limitations that can move your attention elsewhere.
Why do you want to go with someone besides Amazon to self-publish a book? Because you can get your book into other online retailers, like B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and many more.
Amazon keeps everything on Amazon.
Here are the main print/distributors and their differences in self-publishing:
— Amazon’s KDP Print —
This is Amazon’s own printing press, which used to be CreateSpace. It was acquired by Amazon so they could serve self-publishers on their platform all in one place.
Ease of use: 5/5
Cost to publish: $.85 flat fee per book over 108 pages + $.12 per page (for a 300-page book, Amazon would take $4.45 in printing costs out of your retail price)
IngramSpark is one of the most popular book aggregators out there because they include hardcover in their printing options, where Amazon’s KDP Print does not. Many find this to be more appealing and a higher benefit.
Ease of use: 3.5/5
Cost to publish: $25 – $49, with a $25 per book edit fee, plus handling fees per book. You can see a breakdown of the costs here in the review linked below.
This is another distributor that’s been around for a little while. They have a flat fee for using their service, plus a royalty rate for you. Their services range from book printing to distribution to even ad management serivces. However, in all honesty, you can get the same level of service with a higher royalty rate elsewhere, but you may find they work best for you!
Ease of use: 4/5
Cost to publish: You pay $99 – $399 depending on distribution choices, but only KEEP between 11% – 20% of your royalties. PLUS, there are fees for editing your books.
It’s time to start building your launch team! This is such an exciting time, because self-publishing your book is getting REAL!
If you’re not sure what a launch team (or street team) is, it’s a group of people who are dedicated to reading your book, writing a review on the platforms you want, and helping your self-publishing journey become a success.
Overall a launch team helps you build hype and market your book before and during your launch.
When you build your launch team, you’ll want to find people who are actually interested in your book. Yes, friends and family can certainly help, but tapping into the market you WANT to sell to can be more effective.
Here are a few steps for building your launch team:
Create a social post, email, or announce it anywhere else you see fit
Offer a FREE version of your book (a PDF copy is usually fine) to get people to sign up
If you have an email list or a website, use a form to capture their information for use later
Create a Facebook Group or a Discord or something equivalent where you can communicate with the launch team all at once in a singular location
Set up a list of tasks, challenges, or other initiatives to ensure your launch team is invested in helping you market the book
Set them up for success by clearly communicated and listing DATES you expect things completed by
HAVE FUN!! This team is here to help you succeed! Be kind and treat them well.
#10 – Create a launch plan
This highly coincides with the previous step on building a launch team and creating a plan for THEM. Ultimately, to self-publish a book successfully, you should also set up an effective launch plan.
Today, joining me is Dave Chesson. He is a full-time entrepreneur, stay at home dad, author of 7 books, and software creator. Dave built his business starting in 2014 and is now making a six-figure income every year.
“What we are talking about today is what you need to do when someone types something into the search box, they show your book over somebody else’s.” Discoverability is key to selling your book on Amazon. “If Amazon does not choose to show your book, no matter what, you won’t make sales unless you find the person and point them to your book.”
Dave has dyslexia and isn’t a good writer. “For me to overcome my lack of Hemmingway capabilities, I understood the core principle that if people want something and they can’t find it, but you have the answer, then you don’t have to be Hemmingway to be the person that solves their problem.”
BISAC code – Book Industry Subjects Codes list are sent to retailers as part of your book’s metadata. They are also used as the subject or genre codes. Intended to guide shelving, categorization, merchandising, and marketing efforts, these codes signal to potential buyers, retailers, distributors, and search engines what your book is about. BISAC will tell the buyer the primary genre, topic, and theme which relate to your book.
“Knowing which categories to choose, finding the ones that give you the best chance to be a best-seller, are extremely important.” There are three times you want to use Publisher Rocket: before you write your book, while you’re writing your book, and last, when you go to publish.
Listen in to find out how you can validate your book idea before you start writing, choose the best categories for your book, and write a book using Publisher Rocket. Learn how to find out the best keyword phrases to add to your Amazon search, run Amazon ads, and make sure your keywords fit your book content.
[02:29] Why SEO is important when you want to sell more books.
[04:26] How Publisher Rocket sells more books.
[06:40] Validating your book idea before you start writing a book with Publisher Rocket.
[08:02] Learn how to use BISAC code when marketing your book.
[09:48] Using Publisher Rocket to validate a book idea and set up for success.
[13:16] Discovering kindle keywords to get your book found on Amazon.
[17:05] Questions to ask when researching keywords.
[18:06] Why it’s important to make sure your keywords fit your book.
[20:26] Two ways that categories help with your book.
[23:31] How to set up and run Amazon ads.
[27:30] Biggest mistakes people make with Amazon ads.
Today, joining me is Qat Wanders, an author, editor, and speaker, and a successful self-publishing school student. She has published numerous books in both the fiction and non-fiction categories. We are going to dive into her story and how she used books to build her seven-figure business.
She found the traditional publishing route very time-consuming and painful. Qat decided she wanted to move to self-publishing.
Dealing with severe chronic pain and looking to work from home. “I was doing freelance writing and editing, then I stumbled across a webinar from Self-Publishing School and signed up for it immediately.” She signed up for SPS intending to get her first book self-published.
“Days after I joined, my dad called me and told me he had three months to live.” Her dad’s dying wish was to hold her book in his hands, and he wanted to see her become a bestseller. She decided to switch from her memoir to writing a book about yoga. Qat had her book published in 29 days. Her book became a bestseller, and her dad held the book in his hands a week before he passed away.
Qat’s daughter was eight when she came up with a fiction storyline, which she helped her daughter, Ora, turn into a published book. Her final book was a 400-page fantasy novel. However, the process was long; her daughter published, and her book became a big success at school, with her teachers and her social media following. Her advice to parents when helping your child write a book, “Be encouraging. There’s a fine line between encouraging and nagging.”
“I’d say my writing has improved the more I learn. Because the more you edit, the more you learn.” She is very familiar with the genres of the books she has coming out, which gives her specific areas to focus on while editing.
Listen in to find out how Qat set up her business after her book launch, why she moved from traditional publishing to a circus entertainer, and why you should stop double spacing in between your sentences.
[02:03] How Qat found Self-Publishing School and started her journey.
[04:04] Her process of self-publishing.
[07:14] The most challenging aspect of publishing her first book.
[11:06] Her rewarding work helping her daughter to write and publish books.
[15:16] Be encouraging and persistent with your encouragement when your child writes a book.
[16:24] How she moved from launching a book to retaining clients.
[18:05] Business details of Qat’s coaching program.
[23:57] Her advice on how to build a business quickly.
[28:40] How she writes her books differently now that she has edited her own books.
[30:45] What authors should look for in a good editor and what should they expect to pay?
[34:08] How to find a good editor.
[37:49] Her biggest takeaway from Author’s Advantage Live