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10 Truths About Self-Publishing for Entrepreneurs With a Book Idea
Writing a book is maddeningly difficult but selling it is an even harder job.
By Kimanzi Constable
Research shows that 81 percent of people say they have at least one book in them, according to the New York Times. As an entrepreneur, a book is a great way to establish your authority in your industry.
It’s estimated that Amazon has earned $5.25 billion from eBooks so far this year, according to George Parker in The New Yorker. For entrepreneurs, this is an opportunity to add income to your business.
The problem is that there are 600,000 to one million books self-published every year in the U. S. alone, according to Nick Morgan. This has spawned an entire industry aimed at those wanting to self-publish a book. It’s also made it very difficult for your book to stand out and sell copies.
When I started my online business in 2011, I started with a self-published book. Self-publishing was becoming popular and stories like Amanda Hocking and John Locke convinced me a self-published book would be a great first product.
That book completely flopped. It sold five copies in the first six months. It’s estimated that the average book will sell fewer than 250 copies, according to Nick Morgan. It’s hard to sell books. Here are 10 hard-earned bits of advice that will help you sell your book.
1. Don’t make your book free through Amazon’s KDP select program. Amazon has a program called KDP Select. When you enroll in the program you have to make your book exclusive to Amazon. You can’t even sell it on your own website. In exchange for exclusivity, Amazon will give you a small portion of their lending program (about $2 per book).
They will also let you offer your book for free for five days every 90 days. The free promotion was a popular strategy in 2011 and it’s still widely used today. The goal is to get more reviews for your book and your book in more readers hands.
The biggest problem is you can’t sell your book on your own website. That costs you the opportunity to connect with your customers directly. You can’t add their name to your email list, you can’t tell them about your other products or services. Amazon gets to do that.
People don’t respect something they get for free and, since there are millions of other free books, chances are they won’t even read yours. During free promotions you give away thousands of books and in return you get maybe a hand full of reviews.
The former publisher of Writers Digest, Jane Friedman, has an excellent article about whom this program works best for. It’s not the average author.
2. You need to hire an editor. When all the big self-published authors are asked what was their biggest mistake, the overwhelming answer is not getting their book edited. Readers notice when your book isn’t edited. They will leave negative reviews about the grammar. That affects your book sales because reviews are the first thing a book buyer looks at.
3. Self-publishing is not easy. Self-publishing has opened many doors and taken away the gate keepers but don’t think it is easy. With a major publisher you write the book and the publisher handles the ins and outs of creating the book. With self-publishing, that all falls on you.
4. You don’t need a physical version of your book. Create Space is an amazing company that can print your book on demand. You can have a physical copy of your book but that doesn’t mean you need one. If you speak at conferences and want to sell your book in the back of the room, that’s one thing. If you just want to sell your book, an ebook works just as good.
5. It’s tough getting your self-published book into book stores. As someone who has a publisher, I can tell you that getting placement for your book in a bookstore is hard. Bookstores only want to give space to proven authors. There’s a self-publishing company called Lighting Source, which has a relationship with Ingram books, the world’s largest book distributor. Ingram distributes books to all the major bookstores. Yes, Ingram can get your book in the bookstores catalog but not necessarily in the actual bookstore.
6. You have to market your book. It doesn’t matter how good your book is, your book will sell or languish depending on the marketing. Remember the (at least) 600,000 books published every year? Many good books go unnoticed. Writing a good book is just the start. Marketing gets the book noticed and persuades people to buy it.
7. Don’t put your picture on the cover. Authors enjoy seeing their smiling face on the cover of their book but book buyers don’t. Your photo on the cover is a great strategy if you are Brad Pitt or someone with name recognition but seeing the picture of some random person actually pushes people away from buying your book.
8. Your book is worth more than 99 cents. With all the competition, you’re told you have to price your book for 99 cents to sell it. As an entrepreneur, you goal is not to be priced at the bottom of the market. Understand the value you provide and price your book accordingly.
Books are generally greatly underpriced for the value they provide. Let everyone else chase the bottom while you enjoy more profit on the top.
9. One book will not make you rich. Successful self-published authors have multiple books. It’s possible for one book to take off but that’s the rare exception, not the rule. Multiple books, especially series, give your other books a better chance to sell. If someone buys one of your books and likes it, they’re likely to buy your other books.
10. You need to launch your book. A book lives and dies by the marketing. To get the maximum exposure for your book you should do a full-blown book launch. What does this mean? You should form a launch team of about 100 people.
These 100 people are bloggers and website owners who will help you promote the book during the launch week. Your goal is to get concentrated sales during a specific week to drive the book to best-seller status and help it in Amazon’s algorithm rankings.
These 100 people will leave reviews for your book on Amazon and anywhere else your book is sold. They’ll promote your book on their social media pages and on their website and email list.
You walk away with 100 reviews and your book exposed on a larger network than you could have reached on your own. During this launch week you should also offer a few freebies to entice people to buy your book. The freebies are what you will give your launch team as a thank you for their help promoting your book.
The former CEO of Thomas Nelson Books, Michael Hyatt, did a great job proving this strategy. I have also used it with tremendous results.
Have a clear plan for your book. As an entrepreneur, a book should definitely be a part of your strategy for business growth. Establish your authority and earn some passive income through your book sales.
Follow this advice and your book will thrive. Take full advantage of the amazing opportunity self-publishing can provide every entrepreneur.