How and Why to Self Publish and Distribute Your Book

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Step 1. Write Book

Step 2. ???

Step 3. Profit

Let’s focus on Step 2. There are a number of ways you can disseminate your book, and since I’ve tried the most popular of them, I’m going to share my experiences and advice for each.

Self Distributed eBook

This is when you whip up a fancy PDF and sell it through your site, probably using Paypal. I currently sell Make Her Chase You like this for $47 (bundled with a 30 day mission-by-email course, 70 minute audio, etc) and Life Nomadic for whatever-you-want to pay.

Since internet marketers seem to be the people driving Lamborghinis and posting up possibly-photoshopped pictures of huge checks, this is the obvious first choice. It’s how I figured I’d make the most money, so it’s what I did first.

The pay-what-you-want method works poorly financially. I’ve gotten everything from $.01 to $135, with an average of around $125 a month. I’m happy to have $125 a month I wouldn’t otherwise have, but the real benefit of this strategy is that LOTS of people can read my book. Most people don’t pay anything, The book is downloaded about 500 times a month. At this point, spreading my message is more important to me than being paid for it, so I’m happy to continue with this plan.

The high-ticket with extras works better. I make a steady $500 a month on that after returns (maybe one every few months).

I don’t do Adwords or anything like that, because I really hate Adwords. I used to make $1500 a month from the $47 Make Her Chase You, but it took a lot of work to stay on top of the Adwords, and eventually Google didn’t like my landing page for some reason.

Bottom line on self distributing is that it’s a cool thing to do because you get 100% of the money, but unless you’re a real Adwords jockey, you probably won’t actually make enough to sustain yourself.

Self Published, Amazon Distributed, Paperback

Confession time: the only reason Make Her Chase You became a paperback is because I thought it would be cool to have my book on Amazon and because I really enjoy laying books out with InDesign. I expected that it might sell a few copies a month, make a hundred or two, and that would be it.

But I was wrong. It took off, reaching a peak ranking of somewhere around #2000 (of all books sold on Amazon), and was consistently above serious books by authors like Hunter S. Thompson and Mystery (haha… had to throw that in there. He’s beating me now!). Then a couple people left 3 and 4 star reviews and sales went way down, from 12+ a day to about 5 a day. Still great, but a real lesson to make sure your book is as good as humanly possible.

The best way to publish on Amazon is through CreateSpace. They make it insanely easy: upload PDFs of the cover and interior and they print the books on demand and ship them. Other than the one copy you order to make sure the book looks right, you never see one. I’ve sold over 1500 books through Amazon and never had to ship a single one. Pretty awesome! For the service they take roughly 55%, and you get the rest. Compare that to approximately 5-10% that an author might get through a publishing house. You can sell 10% as much as a published author and still make the same amount of money.

It seems to take a while for books to get traction, as most sales seem to come through Amazon recommendations. Once enough sales go through, your book gets associated with other books and starts showing up on their pages as well. Life Nomadic hasn’t gotten that traction yet, so it only sells a dozen copies or so a month.

CreateSpace also has a backend which allows bookstores to buy books. I signed up for it, not really expecting that any book store would find my book, but sure enough there’s some store somewhere that’s buying 25-30 copies every month.

Last, occasionally Amazon marks down books and they eat the discount. Make Her Chase You is currently 15% off, but I still get paid the same amount.

Self Published, Amazon Distributed, Kindle

For a while Amazon would actually pay the author less for a Kindle distributed book than CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary, paid on a book they had to print and ship. Recently the upped the percentage to 70% from 35%, with certain conditions. I agreed to the conditions, so now both of my books are available on Kindle for $9.99.

Formatting for Kindle wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but after a couple days of wrangling with the conversions, I got the process down. My books have only been available on Kindle for a week or so, so I can’t really report numbers on them yet.

I was also going to distribute the books on iPad but I was infuriated that they wanted me to download iTunes to do so, so I gave up. Take that, Apple.

Bottom Line on Self Publishing

I think the key to self publishing is to not expect to become a millionaire by it, and to distribute on as many channels as possible. Once you do that you’re rewarded with a relatively stable amount of income that has no expiration date and requires no extra work. Every month doesn’t increase, but overall my sales continue to go up on average.

If you’ve successfully published a book, I’d love to hear about your experience and tips as well.

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Heading out to Boston tomorrow and then Burning Man on the 3rd. I bought Jet Blue’s “All You Can Jet” ticket for September, so I should be all over the place until Oct 6. They go to Colombia, so I guarantee you I’ll be there at some point.

No ETA on the RV book. I’m working on a different book which will come out first and then maybe I’ll finish the RV one. Then again, there was more interest in it than expected in the last post, so maybe I’ll bump it up the list.

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