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How To Self Publish A Book (Everything You Need To Know)

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Table Of Contents

Advantages of Self Publishing A Book

Never in a million years did I think I would ever publish a book until the COVID 19 pandemic hit, and as a furloughed airline pilot, I was suddenly worried about my income and was keen to find a way to make money online!

Publishing a book has really helped me, not just financially but also mentally.

Writing my book gave me a purpose each day, and when I would have otherwise be sat at home worrying/ lost not being able to do the pilot job I love, it genuinely gave me something to focus on each day.

Before starting to publish, I had NO idea where to even begin. I watched various YouTube videos on how to self publish a book.

The overwhelming advice – and I am glad I followed it was to self publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. There were many arguments that as an author, you might be able to earn more royalty elsewhere – but for the majority, amazon KDP is the easiest path, and this is why:

  • Amazon offers a simple(ish) and straight forward way of publishing your book.
  • You have a choice as to whether to have your book available in print or ebook (kindle)
  • If you have a hard copy, you don’t have to risk the inventory as Amazon print to order.

How to self publish a book on Amazon

  1. Decide what you want to write about
  2. Have an idea of how you will promote your book
  3. Write the book
  4. Edit the book
  5. Format your book
  6. Get a book cover created
  7. Upload your book onto KDP

1) Decide what you want to write about

The advice that I was given when I wanted to write the book was that I needed to find a topic that I enjoyed and felt passionately talking/ writing about. My book was a guide to pilot training. 

Mistakes people often make when trying to self publish a book: 

  • The author forgets that the audience couldn’t care any less about the author. It is not about you – the book is about helping other people in whatever way you can
  • Unless you have got an amazing story of some incredible feat you achieved – most people won’t care (Unless you are Nelson Mandela!)
  • Try and solve a particular problem with your book. This may be about creating entertainment, providing a guide or answering a specific question
How to self publish a book mistakes

2) Have an idea of your plan to promote your book

Ive seen so many authors with good ideas and have written good books, but they have not thought about how they plan to promote the book beyond spamming LinkedIn/ Instagram/ Facebook with ‘this is my new book, buy it’ posts. 

Honest Truth – nobody really cares (other than your mum or dad) that you have written a book. Simply expecting that you publish a book in amazon, sit back and money roll in – it wont happen. 

Social media: unless you have a huge following – the realities are that social media is unlikely to give you the best seller book success!

The numbers: a ballpark figure in terms of who will buy your book is roughly 1% – 5% (if you are AWESOME) of your following. If you have 1000 IG followers, you may sell 10 books at best. If you have 1M followers – then you could sell 10k books… 

Organic search

The bulk of my book sales come through organic search (Google). The normal sales sequence for me is someone asks a question about my niche – pilot training on Google. They land on my blog.

From there, they may read a few FREE articles. It is only then that they may make a purchase, but it is usually only after they have signed up to my mailing list via one of my freebie e-mail opt-ins.

Unless you are JK Rowling or a noble prize winner – expect to have to work hard to sell your book.

If hoping to sell your book via Organic search, you need to optimise your book for search. I published a guide on how to become a pilot.

Ideally, you want to decide on a topic with a reasonable ‘search volume’ but also not too competitive – in terms of others wanting to rank for the same keyword to get you to the top of Google and Amazon search. 

When I did my analysis, “How to become a pilot” was super competitive. “How to become a pilot in Europe” was much less competitive but had a reasonable search volume.

The result: my book comes up 1st on Amazon search for ‘how to become a pilot’ and is the 2nd result google ‘how to become a pilot in Europe.

People spend a fortune on adverts each day/ week/ year to be found on search.

Spending the time on keyword research and targeting a topic you have the EXPERTISE, AUTHORITY & TRUST (from the audience) to write about can make the difference between permanently sitting in the top 10 in the Amazon category without doing any promoting vs constantly promoting the book and having the spend huge sums on adverts just to get the attention and even then have lacklustre sales.

I don’t want to discourage you from writing by spending huge amounts of time on keyword research (rather than writing), but I’m sure you will appreciate that it is important to write about what people want to read.

Amazon

To be recommended by Amazon – you need to be within the top 3 books in the category. Think of Amazon sales and promotion as a business partnership. They will help you push your book/ product, but you have to demonstrate that it is worth pushing by getting into the top 3 (ideally within the category).

When choosing your Amazon category, try and pick a category that is not too competitive (easier to get into the best sellers) but make sure it is relevant to the book your are writing.

3) Write the book

If I was to give advice – the best thing you can do is start writing. Many writers spend forever ‘researching’ / planning out their work and never actually start writing. I gave myself the challenge to write 1000 words per day.

Figure out what works best for you. I would have my iPad next to my bed, so as soon as I woke up each day, I would make sure I had written my 1000 words for the day before I did anything else.

One of the best books I read that truly changed my life was Atomic Habits by James Clear.

The whole idea is to get good at something; you don’t have to achieve massive performance steps overnight instead of focusing on getting 1% better every day. After a year, you will be 38% better than when you started.

See it on Amazon

With that same philosophy, just start writing. The first chapters you write will be horrendous and that was no different for me. But with more practice, you get better and better.

For that reason, when writing, don’t look for perfection; just get writing and be consistent. Writing a book is quite an undertaking, so you don’t want to burn out. Instead, pace yourself.

I targeted writing 1000 words per day, and that worked well for me!

One of the best tools recommended to me was to use Grammarly. My spelling, grammar, punctuation etc., is horrendous! Grammarly is a bit more than a spell checker in that it uses artificial intelligence to:

  •  Clarity-focused sentence rewrites
  • Tone adjustments
  • Plagiarism detection
  • Word choice
  • Formality level
  • Fluency

4) Edit the manuscript

This is probably the least enjoyable part of writing and self-publishing a book. I have a habit of word vomiting my thoughts and ideas, but ultimately, all the spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes needed to be corrected.

Grammarly was fantastic in this regard as doing my review with Grammarly and making corrections, as suggestions were made, meant that my manuscript was relatively ‘tidy’ when I then passed it on for editing.

It is often said that the cleaner your manuscript is before it is sent for editing, the more mistakes will be found during editing. If your manuscript is full of errors, then it makes it more difficult for those subtle errors to be found. 

I found that even after one edit, once it was checked again, there were more corrections to be made. Dont be surprised if there are several iterations.

On the note of iterations, if your book structure is relatively stable and not changing too much in terms of chapters and layout, you may want to edit chapters as you go along, so you don’t have all the editing to do at the end.

That is what I did, and that worked really well.

5) Formatting your book

You have two choices – either pay someone to format your manuscript for Amazon KDP kindle/hardcopy or do the formatting yourself. Doing the formatting yourself will save you some money. Amazon KDP provides the templates for hardcopy and kindle. 

That said, I was worried for the amount of time it would take me to learn how to format the the hard copy and kindle so it would accepted by Amazon KDP.

Not only that, I was concerned that I would have a full stop out of place, get the book rejected and then spend the rest of the time looking for my mistake.

I ended up getting my book edited on Freelancer.com. I paid $104/ £75 and it took around a week. Do your research and check for reviews etc, before handing over your prized work.

BE EXTREMELY PARANOID AND VERY CAREFUL ABOUND SENDING OUT ELECTRONIC COPIES OF YOUR BOOK. I had a good experience with freelancer.com though.

6) Get a book cover created

Although they all say that you cannot judge a book by its cover, the cover of the book is important as it needs to be eyecatching and ‘pull’ the user into clicking on the book to learn more and hopefully make a purchase.

I looked around for book cover creators, and the most economical I could find was Urban Writers. Urban writers charged me $99 / £72, and I thought their service was fantastic. 

The cover took around 1-2 weeks to be completed including reviews and iterations. Urban writers are fantastic, as, during the process of getting a book cover created, you can find book covers you like (both with them and also externally) and brief the design team on what you are after.

I thought this method was excellent and Urban writers at the first attempt created a fantastic book cover that I really loved. Since then, my book has been the number 1 best seller in its category, so it shows that having a good book cover is key.

The Urban writers base package (silver cover package) includes a kindle, hard copy and audible cover. You also get 3 revisions.

I loved that Urban Writers coached me and advised the best way forward, e.g. writing on the spine not being accepted by Amazon if the book is below a certain number of pages.

7) Uploading your book onto Amazon KDP

1) Login or create an account

2) create your title and fill out the kindle / paperback details

Some of the imporant sections to look out for are:

Book title: Think of how your readers are likely to search for your book

Description: Search optimisation is key here if hoping for you book to be found via search

Categories: This is one of the tactical areas that you need to think carefully off. You can pick 2 categories for your book. You obviously want to put your book in a category that is relevant, but you alsw want to choose a category that is not too competative that will allow you to get to the top of the category. If you can get into the top 3 in a given category, Amazon will suggest your book when people are browsing simialr titles.

3) Upload your manuscript and book cover

4) Decide on your book pricing including royalty, territory distribution and agree to the terms and conditions

5) Submit your book to be published!

How much does it cost to self publish a book?

You can make it as low cost or as expensive as you want the process to be. 

My total costs in self-publishing my book with Amazon KDP: $226/ £164

  1. Editing: £0 (my very kind family and friends edited my book for me)
  2. Book cover: $99 / £72 – I used Urban Writers
  3. Grammarly subscription: $11.66 /£8.50 per month but there are free options
  4. Formatting to kindle & hard copy for KDP: $104/ £75

How to self publish a book and make money

Once your book is on Amazon you can start to drive traffic and hopefully make some book sales!

For me, I write blog posts that can be found through organic search and through that, that then drives the traffic. People read the free blog posts and, through that get to know me a trust me. I may then have an opportunity to make a book sale through my Amazon Affiliate Link

At first, my book price was £1.99 to make a start, which genuinely helped generate the interest and get the first few reviews going! The more social proof you have with reviews, the easier your book will be to sell.

As you get more traffic, reviews and a greater awareness of your book, you can increase the price.

When I was trying to figure out how best to price and get by book going, there were many people with specific formulas online. Launch your book on Monday, sell it for ‘x’. On Tuesday, do this and that and the charge ‘y’.

The honest truth is every book and person will be different. Do what works best for you.

I was worried about increasing my book price as sales increased, from £1.99 to £9.99 (over several months), but the book’s sales haven’t slowed down. Only you know your niche and your book, so I’ve learnt that nobody is the true expert. Do what you think is best.

Some of it is trial and error, so the best advice I would give is to get out there, start writing and give it a go!

If you perhaps have an idea but don’t want to publish a book check out our post on how you could sell your story to the media.

If you have any questions on how to self publish your book, please leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear from you!

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