So you’re wondering how to publish a book and if Amazon self-publishing is the way to go.
Perhaps you haven’t had any luck in the traditional publishing space. Maybe you don’t care about traditional publishing and haven’t even tried to land an agent or catch the attention of a big publishing house. Possibly you just want to put a little book out there to boost your business or make some extra bucks.
Whatever the case, Amazon self-publishing may prove to be the perfect path to your authorial dreams. Whatever your why is, we’re here to talk about the how.
Because who doesn’t love a good how?
All lame jokes aside, if you’ve been wondering how to self-publish a book, then I’ve got your back, Jack.
A caveat, though. The world is absolutely awash in self-publishing on Amazon guides, and I don’t believe I can give you a more accurate or detailed account than the other experts have already done. For that reason, I’m going to get very specific in this guide. We will talk only about how to publish an ebook, not a paperback.
I’m also going to talk at the bottom about how to make this work for you specifically as a tool to grow your writing career. That could be fiction, nonfiction, copywriting, coaching or obscure Chaucer-style epic poems.
Whatever your fancy, there is a way to make Amazon work for you as more than an author. By that I mean I believe you can grow your writing career beyond the obvious fact that you are … writing a book.
You with me?
Let’s dive into the finer points of Amazon self-publishing starting … now.
I believe there are a ton of reasons to consider Amazon self-publishing, beyond the fact that it is, today, a decent way to wrangle yourself a traditional publishing contract, or so I’ve heard.
For one thing, it forces you to practice in public, which is critical to success. Most new writers (myself included for a long time) expected to have a success (e.g. land a book contract or be hired for a really great copywriting gig) before ever putting any work out into the world. But that’s not how it works. In fact, it’s the other way around. You should expect to put your work out into the world for two years or more before you see any success at all. Publishing on Amazon is a good way to do that.
For another, it gets you good at the mechanics of marketing. Between publicizing my book on Instagram, reaching out to people via email and social media, running Amazon ads and leveraging my network contacts, I do a lot of pavement pounding to promote my books. This is a really critical skill, and if you haven’t developed it, you won’t go far. Publishing a book will help you get there.
Amazon self-publishing also shows others you can write full-length, not-just-blog-post-word-count pieces. If you’re a copywriter, this is critical. The best gigs are the longest ones, because you minimize the overhead expenses associated with contracts and client back-and-forth, while maximizing your paycheck. When you write an ebook – short nonfiction or full-length novel – you show clients what you’ve got.
Plus it’s really fun. You control the entire process. You get to write what you want. And you get to majorly expand your repertoire of skills. #worthit
Of course, there are other platforms as well. I’m only talking about Amazon today because that’s the platform with which I am familiar. It’s the one to which I upload my books, and it’s the one I’ve done a ton of research about how to use. That doesn’t mean it’s the only one, though, so don’t interpret this guide as saying the others don’t have value.
That said, I also want to take a quick detour into why I primarily publish ebooks.
This post is mostly about ebooks because with the exception of the first two books I published – which I’m not taking down because the Amazon listing never goes away – I’m moving to an entirely electronic format.
Personally, I believe this is the best move for a self-published author, whose books are less likely to get read multiple times than a traditionally published book. (In all fairness to the boutique publishing industry, I don’t think there are many new print books that get read that many times either, though.) To me, it seems like the environmentally responsible thing to do to take each book on a case-by-case basis. I hope to get into mini-guides soon, and certainly will not put those in physical format.
If I ever decide to go the traditional publishing route, which I have not yet explored, I will also rethink it – and with the high-quality processes to which I would have access at that point, I think I would be much more comfortable with it. If I felt confident that the product would be of a caliber I myself would want to keep forever, I’d be much more comfortable putting that book out into the world.
One note: I have absolutely no opinion about whether or not you should put out a physical copy. I think it’s fair we all acknowledge that print-on-demand resources lag behind those of the traditional publishing houses, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. They’re pretty awesome, really; think of all those books you can print one at a time, without having to commit to a huge run or waste all that paper when you’re not sure you’ll sell those books. That is environmental, to be sure.
So I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. What I’m saying is, I am choosing not to, because it seems to me like a good way to save a few resources. So that way I can fly in a lot of airplanes with less guilt, I guess. And eat bacon.
One other note (otherwise known as two notes): I do have two books that have physical copies because I put them up before I decided to Save Mother Earth in this fashion. For now, I do not plan to continue that trend.
It’s important to give yourself a head start by choosing a good subject and title.
Because you don’t have the guidance of an experienced publishing house when you publish on Amazon, you may unintentionally hamper yourself by focusing on a subject no one wants to pay to read out.
I recommend two strategies. Either:
That said, I don’t think there’s really a right subject or a right time. If you write passionately about a subject you love, you will reach an audience. If you know a lot about a particular field and pour that knowledge into your writing, nonfiction or fiction, it will sell. Assuming you are marketing your book effectively, that is.
That’s up next.
This topic is enough to fill a book. Scratch that: a library. So all I can tell you is what has worked for me, so far, in my limited experience. There are two basic approaches.
Most people agree that, with the exception of superstars names like Rowling and King, you’re probably not going to do super well with organic traffic. Once you stop advertising, sales pretty much dry up.
However, organic traffic does do one great thing for you: reviews. Personally, I get my reviews through Instagram. I happen to have a sizable account to help me do this, but I don’t actually advertise on my feed almost ever.
Instead, I simply search for reviewers on #bookstagram who look like they’re reading content similar to mine.
Then I … get this … message them and ask them to read my book.
I offer to send them a free copy, and in return, I ask for an honest review on Amazon. The results are by no means stunning, but they’re enough to get me dozens of reviews on a book, which is all you need to convince potential readers that your book isn’t total shit.
This strategy, I believe, can work for authors of all kinds, with social platforms of all sizes. The key ingredient is balls. Or, in this case, ovaries. All you have to do is do it. Make the ask. That’s it.
So. Once you have those reviews, it’s time to market with …
I love Amazon Ads. They’re easy to use, they are available to all and they actually get results.
The best book I’ve ever read on the subject is Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks. Read it. Trust it. Implement it.
He also has a course, by the way, which I will be taking in May. I’ll report back then.
There are other ads I still need to explore. So many, in fact. Facebook ads, BookBub, Google and more. But for now, I’m happy with Amazon. I’m having great results and there’s still tons to learn.
Speaking of lessons …
Once you have your cover, it’s time to format that Kindle book, my friends.
Let me tell you a quick story about that.
This story is about a girl named Sarah. A girl who wrote a pretty good novel and thought, “Hey! I have a design background, Illustrator, and a tablet! Why not make the cover myself??”
This is a short story, as you might imagine. The lesson learned: Don’t make your cover yourself. As my actual, professional cover designer put it later – kindly, but firmly – “Just because it’s pretty to look at doesn’t mean it will sell books.” And lo, it didn’t.
I have since returned to Archangel Ink, who did my first cover and will henceforth do all my covers, and have been happy as a pig in, um, CMYK ever since.
Formatting your book in Calibre might take a minute to master, but seriously – it only takes a minute. Okay, maybe an hour or so. At first, you might want to tear your hair out, but don’t.
You need your hair.
And it’s really not that hard.
Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to talk paperback publishing, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging if your dream is to put out physical copies as well. Here are my two favorite resources:
So if you’re interested in either of those, there you have it.
Okay, this section happens to apply only to me and those very like me.
HOWEVER. If you are a copywriter, and part of your goal is to:
It’s simple, really. When you publish your own book, you’re not limited to the standard one paragraph at the back. Instead, you can make your bio a whole dang chapter, so why not do it?
Everyone will find what works best for them, but my approach is to share a bit about myself and my writing expertise before encouraging the reader to learn more about writing themselves. It’s a pep talk while being informative.
My true passion is helping other people who aren’t happy in their work become happy in their work – whether that means helping them build their business through done-for-them copy or coaching them to their own writing success through calls or courses.
If I can help, please let me know. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to reach out. And if you have any other ideas about what I could add to this post, feel free to tell me and I’ll see about adding them in!
Bottom line: We’re all meant to be heard. I truly believe that. If you want to share your voice and message with the world, it’s time.
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