How to Self Publish a Book on Amazon

How to self-publish on Amazon

So you think you want to write a book and self publish it. I have some good news for you: it’s easier than ever to self-publish with Amazon’s self-publishing platforms, KDP and CreateSpace. I have some bad news for you too: although I’m not inside your head, I have a feeling that in order to actually make any money off of it will be far harder than you actually think it is. It’s not impossible, but it will require some serious work, perseverance and dedication.

Who Am I?

You may be wondering who I am and why you should listen to anything that I have to say about self-publishing. Although I’m still a bit of a newcomer to this world in that I only published my first book exactly 1 year ago, since then I’ve become obsessed. I’ve published 7 more books and have 3 more in various stages of writing and editing. I’ve done all the things you shouldn’t do and learned a whole lot from those experiences.

I compulsively listen to self-publishing and online business podcasts in order to glean as much knowledge as possible from the pros. And finally, I’m planning to make this into my full-time career when I move back to Canada in 6 months from now so I certainly have some incentive to figure things out quickly. Check out my author page on Amazon.

You Need an Idea

First of all, you’ll need an idea if you want to write a book. But, if you’re reading this right now, chances are you already have one. You’ll need to do some market research to make sure your competition isn’t insurmountable and also that there’s a market for what you want to sell. For example, if you want to write a book about using the snowball method to pay off debt, well I don’t think it’s going to be better than Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Or, if you want to write a book about following your dreams and working in a totally different way, you’d be hard-pressed to write a better one than Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek.

The key is to either find something that is different from everything else out there, or improve on something that has already been done.

In my own self-publishing career, I’ve done a bit of both. I first got my start through my blog, My Life! Teaching in a Korean University because I used to get so many questions about how to get a university job in South Korea. I realized that there was at least a small pool of people that would buy the book and there was literally nothing else out there at the time, which was why everyone was coming to me for information. I wrote the book, How to Get a University Job in South Korea, sell at least a couple copies a week and so far have no competition.

Another example is this book: The Wealthy English Teacher, which is all about personal finance for English teachers abroad. There are plenty of foreign English teachers working abroad so the market is there, but there is no financial book written specifically for them until I wrote mine. I also sell at least a couple copies each week of this one and often a lot more.

Finally, there is this guy on Amazon: English Teacher X. He has a bunch of books about teaching English, but his Speaking Activities that Don’t Suck is quite popular. It’s useful, but it’s also extremely crude, which made me think that I could write the “G” version of that book and appeal to a wider audience and hopefully get some of his market share. The result is a whole range of ESL activity books, including this one: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities for Adults.

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An Author Platform

Writing the book is the easiest part of writing a book. By far the harder part is selling it. At the very minimum for your marketing efforts, you’ll need an author platform. Most people go with a website (I recommend self-hosting it with the extremely user-friendly and reliable Bluehost), but you could also consider a YouTube channel or something like Instagram or Pinterest. Your own website kind of rules all though because you control it 100%, unlike those other platforms.



An Audience

Once you have your platform, it’s time to being building an audience. Put some content out into the world and find people to connect with. Get active in some Facebook groups or forums. Let people know that a book is coming. Do some guest posts on other people’s blogs. Get your name out into the world, but avoid doing it in a spammy or sketchy way. Check out this post for how to do online business, the non-sketchy way.

An Editor

By this point, hopefully you’ll have written your first draft and hit the self-editing hard. Now, it’s time for an editor. NEVER think that self-editing is going to be good enough. It’s not. You either need to pay someone to do it (use Elance) or get a friend or family member to help you out. I find my editors by posting on my Facebook wall and my friends have pulled through. A lot of them are English teacher types who are quite good at that sort of thing and they get a benefit too-their name on Amazon and another job title on their resume.

A Cover

If you’re going to spend any money on producing your book, it needs to be on the cover. People really do judge a book by its cover so at the very least, go on over to Fiverr and get one done there. While you’re at it, pay the little bit extra to get the CreateSpace cover (the physical, print on demand one) done by the same artist so it looks awesome. Be sure to read the reviews and see some sample work so you know what you’re getting.

A Small Amount of Technical Know-How

It requires a small amount of technical know-how to format your book correctly and upload it, but it’s really possible to just do it yourself. Be sure to read the formatting guides before you get too deep into the writing so you can do it as you go along instead of it being a massive burden at the end. The key for me is to pay attention to the headings and format it while I’m writing.

Plenty of Persistence

There are going to be setbacks. Annoying, frustrating things. For example, I LOATHE editing. Self-editing and also working with an editor. It’s not that I get angry or defensive, I just loathe going through the document and making the required changes. Even if it only takes an hour or two, I feel like it was an hour or two longer than I wanted to spend. I do know however, that editing is a part of the process that is impossible to skip over so I just put on some inspiring music and power through it

A Lot of Marketing Genius

If you want to sell your book, you’ll need to market it. I think a lot of people put a ton of work into producing a masterpiece of sorts, hit “publish” and then are underwhelmed at the amount of people who buy the book. There’s just so much other stuff out there in the world today, that it can be hard to get any attention to your thing. You’ll need to hit the marketing to get some sales and attention to your book. There are a few different ways to do this:

1.Social media. But, think of social media as more of a way to connect with an audience than a way to sell books.

2. Paid advertising-Google or Facebook seem to be the 2 big ones.

3. Author platform. Use it to promote your book.

4. Write another book. If people liked the first thing you put out into the world, they’ll spend money on the next thing.

5. Guest posts on blogs.

6. Going on podcasts

7. Submit articles, well, everywhere!

8. Build your email list. This is the most important thing you can do, if you’re going to write another book. I use MailChimp and can’t say enough good stuff about them. Check out this post for 3 Ways to Build Your Email List Quickly.

Ready to Self Publish your First Book?

What step are you going to take to get your self-publishing career up and running? Will you find an editor? Build an author platform? Hire a cover designer? Write another book? Leave a comment below and tell me.

Take some action today to get that book of your self-published.

8 Comments

  1. I took some action last night. I have 5 outlines for books and I am currently doing market research.

    Thanks for your useful tips!

  2. Wicked! That’s a great start and it sounds like you’re definitely going to get there.

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