The world of publishing has changed dramatically over the past two decades. You no longer need to be a Stephen King or John Grisham to get a bestseller out into the mainstream and earn a six or even seven figure yearly income. And it’s all thanks to self publishing.
This year alone a good handful of self published authors have outsold some of the most popular traditionally published authors of the past decade. And they did it without investing more than a few dollars! Case in point, Amanda Hocking, a 26-year old woman from Michigan sold more than one million copies of her latest literary efforts through Amazon.com. She specifically targets the electronic book market via the Kindle and sells her books as low as $0.99 – keeping 70% of that as money in her pocket. In other words, she is making $70,000 plus or minus every single month for a book she writes one time and lets Amazon do all the work of selling and fulfilling. Not too shabby!
Okay, so now you know there is money there – how do you get your hands on it? It’s not as hard as you might think. The first step is, of course, to write your book. Or is it? That’s actually a rookie mistake made by more than 90% of first time self-published authors. If your book is just for you and some friends, then writing your book is your first step. If you want to sell gobs of copies, then you should first research your topic to see how popular it is.
Topic Research 101: The fastest and easiest way to research your potential book topics is to do so using Google’s free keyword research tool. It basically tells you how many people are searching on any given topic (or keyword) for the previous month. Just run a search for “Google keyword tool” and it will pop right up at the top. You simply visit the site and enter any topic of interest such as “homemade dog biscuit recipes” (no need for the quotes) and you will see the number of people who searched for that topic last month (Google always presents the previous month’s data to keep it fresh). You might even learn that a slight tweak such as “homemade dog treat recipes” draws even more attention. This is great to know when you get ready to put a title to your work!
Of course, this is just one example. If you want to know the general interest for a topic like Bass fishing, just do the same for “Bass fishing”. You might even want to narrow it down to something like “Bass fishing Cape Cod” if you are thinking about a more niche target audience such as those who would like to fish bass on The Cape.
Formatting In A Flash: Once you sit down to write your masterpiece you should consider investing $25 or so in a formatting package. You can get some very inexpensively that act as a plugin for MS Work by Googling ” book formatting software”. I have used the same one for five years and it only cost twenty five dollars. You can also do a search for “free book formatting templates for MS Word” and get some great free tools.
Cover Design: People really do judge a book by its cover so plan on spending some time – and possibly money – on this all important area. If you need great cover art give a place like iStockPhoto.com a shot. You can get illustrations or photos for a few dollars. Another good option is to hire a freelancer at a service like VWorker.com, Guru.com, or eLance.com. I used such a freelancer for my first book cover and spent just $60.
Edit Like Crazy: The minute your book goes to print you find ten “obvious” mistakes that you cannot believe you missed. After you do your own editing, have someone knowledgeable do a second pass for you. You might even try a local college or university and as an experienced (or post-grad) Lit major to do it for a nominal fee – or to be included in the book credits for the world to see. It helps everyone.
Getting Published: Once your manuscript is ready to be published, explore some of the self publishing options available. I have used both Lulu.com and Amazon’s new self-publishing system at CreateSpace.com. Both are amazing and there are many more. I only advise that you select a service that offers the most and costs little to nothing up front. If they make their money from your book’s actual sales – instead of from your pocket – they are more likely to have your best interest at heart.
Getting Credit: We could end at getting published, but don’t stop there! Now that the tough part is over, enjoy yourself and get some well-earned recognition. The best way to do this is through winning awards. There are several specific to self publishing as well as many for just about any book niche you can imagine. But be wary of scams. Although some book award programs charge a legitimate fee for processing some others are just looking to make a buck (many charge $75 to $150 per title and category!) That said, consider looking for book award with no fees, such as those from IndependentBookAwards.com. Your chances of winning are just as good and the award will mean a lot more (plus, it’s free).
Mike Little is a self published author and contributing analyst for such works as SEO 3.0 – The New Rules of Search Engine Optimization.