Self publishing is now becoming a more popular and credible way to write and publish your book to market.
It is no longer the rejected cousin of those who could not get a traditional publishing deal.
Early versions of self publishing were characterised by 10 or 20 page long ebooks which were usually put together quickly with little thought to editing, cover design etc.
Generally you could tell the difference between a traditionally published book and a self published book in the early days.
But now with more and more people connected to the internet, and with the launch of more services helping people to get their book out to market independently, there is no better time to start self publishing. More importantly for me, this is a great time to carve out a full-time career as an Author Entrepreneur.
The difference between self published authors and author entrepreneurs is that Author Entrepreneurs treat this as a business model.
They fully respect the creative process involved with creating the books but also understand that the business side is required to actually sell your books in order to carve out a full-time living. Below are some examples of very successful Author Entrepreneurs who are making a full-time living from writing books.
- Joanna Penn (thriller and non-fiction author who has sold over 450,000 books in 74 countries and 5 languages)
- Rachel Abbot (thriller author who has sold over 2 million copies)
- SJ Scott (42 non-fiction books on habits)
- Mel Sherratt (crime-thriller author who has sold over half a million books)
- Barbara Freethy (romance author who has sold 5 million books)
- Bella Andre (romance author who has sold 5 million books)
All the above authors understand self publishing is now a business model and if you want this type of success then model success! Do what they are doing.
So What Are They Doing?
They are writing books.
Yes that means actually putting pen to paper and producing those words.
Googling ‘how to write’ and ‘what to write’ does not count as writing. In fact this is just procrastinating. And I should know because I did this for many years. The only way to write the books it to actually write. You need to produce the content first.
Once you have produced your content / manuscript you need to invest in editing. It is no longer good enough to have a few close friends take a quick look at the book as a review. Family and friends can review your book but you need to ask yourself, are they your target audience? Will they actually be able to give you credible feedback and tell you the truth?
Investing in a proper editor means a professional will invest quality time and expertise into making your book better. You only learn from your mistakes and an editor can point out obvious mistakes in your manuscript that you may have missed because you are too close to the text.
Editors are experts in what they do so you will actually learn more from them and your writing becomes better as a result. Many authors stated above have said that the more books they write, the less editing they need because they better understand how to craft and write their books. Think of this as an investment in your learning.
Invest in Professional Cover Design
The next thing that you must do is have a professional cover design.
I didn’t think this was important and thought that I could whip up a design on Microsoft Word for free. But having looked at a few books on Amazon, there are still quite a few self published authors who have terrible covers. This instantly makes me turn away. I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover but in today’s world of instant gratification where no one has the time to wait, a book cover needs to be appealing and professionally made and catch the reader’s attention straight away.
A great book cover can have the potential to make the reader stop and take a look inside the book (or turn to the back blurb if a print book). Once the reader looks inside the book there is a good chance they will buy the book.
Author Entrepreneurs need to be as professional as traditionally produced books. This is becoming easier as many editors and designers who work at big publishers offer their work privately as well. Reedsy is a great platform where you can find some of these folks. I have not used them yet but plan to look for an editor there when I finish my manuscript.
Build & Own Your Author Platform
Finally I think every author needs to have a good website.
There are many free sites out there but you will look more professional if you can host your own website and have a paid theme. These in general look a lot better than the free themes and are not hugely expensive at all (my site runs on WordPress and I purchased this theme for $79).
It’s a small investment that has a lasting impression.
Don’t get scared of the tech elements involved in the set up of the site. I am not technologically gifted at all and my usual IT troubleshooting involves me throwing various pieces of furniture around the room when I cannot get my wi-fi or laptop to work*.
*This solution typically only aggravates the problem and I would suggest you find more suitable methods of dealing with technical issues. Normal people phone up the IT help-desk.
But take your time and learn it slowly. Get the basics up and running and you can always work on the site later as you get more comfortable with the WordPress system.There are also some great tutorials below which show how you can set up a WordPress hosted site like mine in under 30 mins. Check those out here. It’s what I used to get my site up and running:
Be a Savvy Author
Writing a book is plain hard! But the greatest challenge (so I have heard from those ahead of me in the Author Journey) is that selling the book is the real hard part!
I am still in the process of writing my book but I am already thinking about how I will be selling it. If you can start some of that groundwork now, it will pay off. This means building your author brand and profile.
Start to make relationships with your target audience and over time as you build a connection and trust, these people may become potential readers and consumers of your content.
Think about it, you will be more likely to purchase something from a person whose writing / blog you have been following for years rather than someone who you have never heard of and they send you an email saying ‘buy my book’.
Regardless of the fact the internet has allowed us to reach millions of people, word of mouth and trust is still the very thing that gets people to part with their money to purchase your product.
Look at your own buying patterns. I know 90% of all purchase I make are typically because a friend or someone who I trust has recommended it to me, or I know and like the person who is selling the product.
I have been a long-term following of Joanna Penn’s blog and I have paid to attend a number of workshops at which she has presented as well as purchasing her books and online courses. I would rather purchase her course on writing than someone else who I have not heard of. Trust building is what gets people to buy your products.
So lay out the ground work now by:
- Setting up a website. It can be simple. Just have a page that talks about who you are and perhaps a contact page.
- Add a mailing list. This is a simple tool to collect your readers email addresses. Perhaps offer a free newsletter or e-book as a lead magnet to sign up to your site.
- Get writing! Focus all your efforts on producing the best book you can.
- Start thinking about your Author Brand. What do you want people to think of when they think of you? What types of books do you want to be known for writing? I am still trying to figure this out for myself at the time of writing this but hey, no need to rush. We are multi faceted human beings and you can’t be pigeon-holed into one tiny thing. Writing is an exploratory activity and sometimes you don’t’ really know what / who you are till you actually start writing and expressing yourself. Start to have a think about this topic. (Take a look at the authors mentioned above to see their brand for some ideas).
Social Media & Self Promotion
I know that most writers, myself included are introverts. This just means we prefer to spend time by ourselves than with others. And guess what? It’s ok to be an introvert!
But like it or loathe it, social media is here to stay and the longer you ignore it, the harder it gets. And for us introverts we may not want to be so vocal on social media or get involved. Perhaps you find all that stuff rather overwhelming (like I do!).
My advice? Pick just ONE social media platform that you like and are comfortable with using.
And what should you do whilst on social media? Do NOT constantly self promote yourself. Social media is all about being social so use your chosen tool to reach like-minded people and build relationships with other authors, agents, publishers etc.
I am not very vocal on social media but I do use it to follow my role models and I will comment on the posts that resonate with me. I also use social media as place of research where I can find lots of inspiration and ideas. Joanna Penn is a great example of someone who has balanced sharing her own personal work and sharing the work of others.
As a general rule, 80% of what you say on social media should be about others (sharing / commenting on their work in a positive way) and the remaining 20% can be used to promote your own work.
Whilst online and on social media, I prefer to keep it positive and not engage in negativity – it’s just not worth my time. Think about how you want to be perceived and ensure your image remains intact. This is a long-term career path so behave professionally even whilst online.
Social media is all about relationship building and an important way to connect. It’s not a platform for announcements but for conversations. Neither is it a silver bullet solution to sell more books but an important way to connect.
Technology has made it easier for us to be able to self publish but at the same time it has made it harder for your book to be discovered due to increased competition. Social media is a cost-effective way to promote your book if you know how to use it effectively.
If you can show that your name / brand can sell books then you also become more attractive to traditional publishers and agents. Building a brand is imperative in today’s crowded marketplace.
Your Book as a Business Card
Your book can lead to lots of other opportunities. Many non – fiction books are typically a business card for the author. For example Tony Robins has only 2-3 books but has a multi millionaire dollar empire running his coaching business.
His book showcases what he has to offer, then people go and purchase the other products he has at ‘the back end’ of his sales funnel. These are typically higher priced items like one-to-one coaching sessions or workshops and seminars.
If you are only writing fiction then everything rides on the content and quality of your book.
What Do You Want Your Book To Do For You?
Ultimately ask yourself what do you want from your book? Do you want to carve out a full-time living from writing? Or do you want to be a speaker and use the book as a side offering? Or perhaps you just want to tell your grandkids that you published a book as a side passion project with little intentions of making money? Your decision will impact your long-term goals and strategy as an Author Entrepreneur.
My personal goal is to be a full-time Author Entrepreneur making a living from my writing. I love the process of creation (currently trying to unleash my creativity after years of corporate stifling) and I have a pretty good understanding of the business side of things (thanks ex-corporate job). But I know I still have a lot to learn. This means studying those ahead of me in the Author Journey and using their success as a blueprint from which I can model.
To be a full-time Author Entrepreneur, you need to be willing to learn, have patience and commit for the long-term. So are you ready for the challenge?