At lunch the other day, a friend told me she was almost finished writing her book. She hopes to sign with a traditional publisher, but in case that drags on for months (or years), she also wanted to know how to self-publish. Her main concerns were that it would be expensive, difficult, and time-consuming. My reply was just the opposite; self-publishing can be done on any budget, and really isn’t difficult. It can also be done quickly once you have a finished book. And if her book does sell well, she’ll earn a lot more money self-publishing. That made her smile.
Conversations like that happen frequently, since I know many writers, and also teach self-publishing. I shared with her the same basics I tell others who want the skinny on this business. While there are plenty of ways to go about it, the fundamentals are fairly similar for everyone.
If you have a finished book, there are just a few things you need to do to start selling at Amazon and other major retailers. These are the 6 steps to getting your book to readers around the world.
- Make sure your book is ready. Typing the words “The End” usually happens long before the book is actually ready to publish. A combination of beta readers and a professional editor (or editors) will take your book to the next level. They’ll see issues that need addressing, issues you have trouble seeing because the author is too close to the story to view it with fresh eyes. I recommend at least four competent and candid beta readers who are not afraid of hurting your feelings by pointing out what needs fixing. Once you’ve addressed their issues, the editor’s job will be that much easier because your beta readers will have helped with some of the groundwork.
- Format the interior. Since ebooks function differently than print books their formatting is different. For example, ebooks have a Table of Contents with active hyperlinks that go to corresponding chapters. Formatting sounds tricky but is simpler than you might think. Since Microsoft Word is the world’s most common writing program, the major retailers initially designed their platforms to accommodate your book in MS Word. Then the retailers would make conversions. Amazon converts to .mobi or .azw files for Kindle readers while other retailers convert to .epub files (e.g. Apple, Barnes & Noble).
Some authors think they need to do the conversion themselves, but that’s not the case if you have a well formatted-document. However, I do recommend you have your own .epub version, which is simple to do and explained in detail in my courses. For authors who still prefer to hire out, there are plenty of affordable formatters available.
- Design the cover. There are thousands of cover designers that can be found online. You’d be surprised to see some of the quality designs created by people working at places like Fiverr and Upwork, and the cost can be incredibly affordable. I have yet to see evidence that one must spend huge amounts of money on a book cover to be successful. Decisions like these often come down to your finances and what feels right. Whether you hire out expensively, affordably, or even decide to design it yourself, I recommend learning as much as you care to about the process and the standards expected from the retailers. Your communications with the designer will be better plus you can easily learn some elementary graphic design. That will come in handy for using images and text in marketing efforts down the road, like for blog posts.
- Pick your retailers. Some authors use Amazon exclusively for ebook sales. While there are benefits to that option, others additionally sell from retailers like Apple, Google, Kobo and many more. These decisions get into your skill sets, free time, and your preference for working with multiple vendors or simplifying things.
- Marketing. As you probably know, marketing books is an ongoing effort that can begin before you’ve published and may last for years to come. Most self-publishers use social media for marketing. Some also use email campaigns, blogging, podcasting, YouTube videos and a myriad of other possibilities. I recommend doing what you enjoy the most and sticking with it.
- Patience, Persistence, Perseverance. Wouldn’t it be great if every book achieved the level of success that the author dreamed it could? Unfortunately, only so many books can squeeze into the bestseller lists or get optioned for television and film contracts. Sometimes success is measured in other ways, like receiving an email from a happy reader who wanted you to know how much your book meant to them. Sometimes success is you feeling good about giving your project life beyond the swirling thoughts in your head.
Since it isn’t easy to make a living from book sales, be prepared for doing this over the long haul. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no need to rush through any of it. Take your time, doing everything related to your book as well as you can. Patience, persistence and perseverance will pay off in the long run.
All of my courses explain in simple terms how to accomplish self-publishing goals. If you have any inclination to get your book out there for readers around the world to enjoy, check out my courses. You can make it happen whenever you’re ready.
Matt Clark is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Amazing.com, a serial entrepreneur, and investor. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Entrepreneur.com.