How to Self Publish Your Book

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The following is a basic guide to how to self publish your book, based on my own experiences. I have two books that were self published, and in addition to making a little money from them directly, they led to two contract with traditional publishers.

It used to be difficult and expensive to effectively self publish. You often had to simply find a printer, provide all the cover materials, and be very careful about how you formatted the book. Plus, to get your per-copy cost down, you needed to buy a thousand copies or more. After an investment of thousands of dollars you were left with boxes full of books in your house and a lot of work ahead of you to find buyers.

It is easier now--and cheaper. For as little as $500 and in as little as six weeks, you can have your book listed for sale on Amazon.com. What has changed--apart from much better tools that typewriters--is the creation of numerous POD or "publish on demand" companies. For a fee that sometimes starts as low as $399, they can take your manuscript, do the layout and cover, and print it a few at a time as the orders come in. On-demand publishing has made it possible for anyone with a book to become a published author.

I used Outskirts Press, a Denver-based company, to publish my book Secrets of Lucky People. They did a decent job, and my impression is that they have improved their service since I worked with them (they still publish my book for me). When I wrote Beyond Mental Slavery I went with CreateSpace, a company owned by Amazon.com. They were cheaper--the package I chose cost about $750--and they actually designed a cover for me. Outskirts had me pick out a template and inserted the title, although I believe some of their packages include designing a unique cover.

Most of the common word processing programs can be used for your manuscript, and you should have a blurb for the back cover prepared, as well as a photo of yourself and a few lines of biographical information (optional). Keep in mind when ordering a POD service that you need to keep your costs down or you'll have to price your book too high to make a profit. A more expensive package may give you lower production costs. It also will keep the costs down if you have fewer pages, but you'll have to balance that against the needs of the book.

Here's an example of the breakdown: You typically need to be able to offer a 50% discount to cover the distributor and the bookstore, which means all of your royalty will come out of the other 50%. So if your books has a cover price of $13.95 and it costs you $6.75 to produce it, after the 50% ($6.98), you're only going to get 22 cents of each sale. If you set your discount at 20% (normally you get to choose the discount with most POD companies), you could make $4.41 each, but only from online sales, because no regular bookstore will carry the book. Shorten the book and buy a more expensive package up front and you might get your cost down to $5.50, and so make a $1.47 for each sale.

Note: To get the best of both you might consider using CreateSpace. They are owned by Amazon, and at the moment they will allow you to have a higher discount for bookstores while Amazon still settles for 20%.

How Much Can You Make?

There is no way to say what you'll make with your books. Most self published books do not even cover their costs. I have done okay because I write for audiences I already have through my websites and e-mail newsletters (I have 33,000 subscribers to my Brainpower newsletter, for example). Ideally, with your second one (I got lucky on the first, but this is uncommon) you'll have more marketing experience and you can sell two dozen per week for years. If you made $4 per book that would cover a $600 POD fee after six weeks or so, and then your profit would be almost $5,000 per year. Of course, you could have a runaway best-seller, but a more realistic plan is to write more than one book and develop several income streams.

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Publish your book as an Amazon Kindle e-book as well. These are normally priced at two-thirds or less of the price of the paperback, but your royalties can be as high as 70%, making you more per sale despite the lower price.

All the other ways to make more money that come to mind have to do with better marketing. Send out a few review copies to some influential reviewers, get the book placed in the "local authors" section of nearby bookstores, promote the book website using articles that are distributed online, and read up on marketing.

You can still publish for free (the last time I checked was in 2011) at Lulu.com. They have limited options, you won't get an ISBN number, so you won't be in bookstores or on Amazon.com, but your book will be printed as it is ordered by people who come to the site, and you can promote it in many of the usual ways, including on your own website.

You can always publish your books as e-books, and use the profits to eventually publish in paper. In some ways e-books are better in any case. I make about $4 on Secrets of Lucky People as a paperback that sells for $14.95. The e-book version, which I sell for $12.95 through ClickBank, nets me $10.97 each, or $5.48 if an affiliate sells it (I pay affiliates 50%).

Qualifications / Requirements

If you have a book you can be a published author. If you have no money, do it on a site like Lulu.com. Otherwise find a plan that gets your per-book cost low enough and plan to invest up to $1,000.

First Steps

Write. Find a service you like and follow their instructions. that's how you self publish your book. Then start studying how to sell books, because they don't sell themselves.

Resources

https://www.createspace.com - My favorite POD company at the moment.

http://outskirtspress.com - Another decent on-demand publishing service.

http://www.lulu.com - The only POD service I know of that has a free option.


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