While once self-publishing might have carried a certain taboo, many authors are seeing the benefits of going it alone.
Not only has self-publishing allowed many writers to put their work in front of people when they wouldn’t have had the chance before, it also allows an author to keep a greater share of the profits.
The latter is one of the main reasons that online entrepreneurs are seeing the benefits of creating their own books, not just aspiring writers.
This article is a guide to creating your first book. We’ll look at everything from choosing your subject, to formatting your book correctly. What formats you can publish your book in and how to market it effectively.
Most authors have found the best success doing this on Amazon and that’s what we’ll be focussing on too. There’s still a lot to take into account however, whether to publish on KDP select, what price you should put on your books, and what promotions will work best for you.
So, if you’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a published author, or are looking at adding another revenue stream to your business, read this step-by-step guide to self publishing for profit.
What we’ll cover:
- Choosing Your Subject
- Finding the Right Keywords
- Creating a Title That Persuades People to Buy
- Getting into the Right Categories
- Writing the Book
- KDP Select or Not?
- Other Formats
Choosing Your Subject
This guide will be looking at non-fiction books and the ways in which to research a topic that will appeal to a large audience. Fiction is a very different market all together and there are a lot more fiction writers releasing books.
If you are planning on writing fiction, understand that this will primarily deal with non-fiction and while some topics will be relevant, it’s a whole different ball game.
So with that being said, we’ll move on to choosing a subject and the best way to do this.
First of all, it helps if you have experience in the subject you are writing about. A lot of non-fiction writers will research a topic and release their results in a book, however, readers prefer an author to have their own slant or personal anecdotes on a subject.
For example, if you’re giving someone advice on starting a company, sure, you could research and and detail your findings in a book. However, if you can add your own experiences, funny stories, advice on what to do and what to avoid, you’re going to engage your reader to a much higher degree.
This is key for accumulating reviews which is a major determining factor on how many books you’ll be able to sell, but we’ll go into that in more detail later.
Think about what you know, you don’t have to be an expert but think about what you do know about and most importantly, speak about your experience on.
It helps if it’s an area you’re particularly interested in. It’s also very useful if you can see yourself being able to turn this into some kind of series.
Choosing your subject and the categories your book goes into is incredibly important. Too little competition and you’re not going to sell many books even if you hit the coveted top sales. Too much competition and you’re going to find it incredibly hard to come in at the top of results, which also affects your sales.
For the purpose of this article, let’s say we’re going to write a book based on ‘Clean Eating.’
Finding the Right Keywords
Keywords are very important as you want to rank well for the many people that use amazon search every day. Your Title and subtitle will need to be carefully optimised and you also need to ensure that your search terms are relevant and popular.
Your usual keyword research isn’t going to cut it as searches on Amazon are very different than Google ones.
There are a couple of ways you can approach keyword research on Amazon. The first is to search manually and check the amazon selling rank at various points, the second is to use a tool called Merchant Words.
We’ll start with the manual search first.
Type ‘Clean Eating’ into the Amazon search bar and make sure you have Kindle eBooks selected as your search category. You’ll be given a list of all books that contain this phrase in their title, subtitle, or tags.
So, as we can see this search brings up over 1600 results. Also take care to notice the categories that are listed at the side and make a note of these for later. These will help us to decide to two best categories to assign our books into.
You’ll notice that the first result has the coveted orange best-seller banner listed next to it. This is what you’ll be aiming to get your book into swell. Click into the title and scroll down to identify the best sellers rank.
It’s listed as the 2,432 best seller in the paid kindle store. It’s important that you make sure this is the paid store and not free as these are completely different ranking systems which we’ll go into more detail on a little later.
Being the 2,432 best seller means that this author is selling roughly 80 copies a day. Not bad at all. Notice that it’s also listed as the #1 best seller in three categories also.
Now we’ll skip down to see what number 20 on the ‘Clean Eating’ search results is at on the best sellers list. This has a ranking of #18,452 which is about 12-15 books a day. Still not bad.
Finally we’ll check the results for the book in 50th position.It’s listed at #119,953 which is just less than one book idea.
Ideally you would like the three books you see to be in the top 100,000 best selling rank. This means the subject is very popular. However, there is still a lot of potential and by analysing the different categories themselves and using other tools, we’ll get a much better idea if this is a good category to target.
We’ll look at Merchant Words now before looking at categories in more detail as this is a very important focus as it will be a big factor in the success of your book.
Merchant words is an Amazon specific keyword tool that allows you to see exactly how many times a keyword is searched for on Amazon in a monthly period. You can get 5 results back for free and anything above that will require you to sign up.
Personally, when looking for book keywords I think 5 results is ample enough for the research that needs to be done. If you were selling multiple products etc. then the paid plan might be more useful for you.
Ok, head over to Merchant Words and enter your search term in the above bar. Select Kindle Store in the categories section and sort results by ‘Highest Search Volume’.
You’ll get 5 results back. As we can see, clean eating is searched a lot in a monthly period so it’s definitely an interesting topic. Merchant Words also throws up some other related keywords that are going to be useful as they have high search results.
This research allows us to construct a title and subtitle that makes the most of these search terms and allows people to find your book more easily. Save this research down somewhere and start thinking of a title that utilises the most of these keywords.
A lot of people like leaving the title until the end but you need to have a firm idea of what your book is about as well as the people you are targeting. So, for the purpose of this article, we’ll play around with a few potential titles.
Creating a Title That Persuades People to Buy
Contrary to what people say, your title and your cover are going to be major determining factors as to whether people will buy your book or not.
People need to know from the title exactly what they’re going to get and what this book will allow them to achieve.
You’ll notice that nearly all the books on the first page of ‘Clean Eating’ are called just that – Clean Eating; follow by a subtitle that doesn’t jump off the screen immediately. There’s a real chance to distinguish yourself here. Remember that your cover shows as a thumbnail and all though you have the chance to input a subtitle, the title is the first thing that’s going to grab people’s attention.
Affordable Clean Eating
Clean Eating for Busy People
The Clean Eating Lifestyle
Simple & Easy Clean Eating.
All of these immediately make you stand out and are targeting specific groups. A lot of people shy away from clean eating as they think it’s too expensive or takes too much time. By addressing these issues in the title, you’re already alleviating their worries.
You can then get more specific in the subtitle once you’ve caught their attention and use some more of your identified keywords.
Affordable Clean Eating: 101 Clean Eating Recipes That Won’t Break the Bank
Clean Eating for Busy People: The Eat Clean Diet That Will Save You Time, As Well As Your Health
The Clean Eating Lifestyle: Eat Clean For Life With These 101 Clean Eating Recipes
Simple & Easy Clean Eating: No Fuss Clean Eating Recipes for Beginners to Eating Clean.
Not perfect by any means but they should give you a good idea of what you need to do. Also note that i’ve listed 101 recipes. This again tells the reader what exactly they can expect to find in this book.
Create 10 potential titles and then survey people. Use your friends and family and ask them to choose their favourite. Once your book is finished, ask in authors groups what the best title is. This is useful as you become engaged in the groups which comes in handy when your book is launched.
This will help you to narrow down the one that will perform the best.
Getting into the Right Categories
Back to categories. This really is an important aspect as, with the keyword research, the popularity of a certain category will help with your books sales. Go back to your manual keyword search and look at the categories that the ‘Clean Eating’ books displayed on the left.
Again, you don’t want a section that’s overcrowded and you also don’t want one that get’s little to no interest.
On the premise that we’re going to be aiming our book towards people who want to eat clean but have little or no time, lets navigate to the Quick & Easy section in the kindle store with no search selected.
You can do this by going to departments in the top left -> Kindle E-readers & Books -> kindle books, to get to the main kindle store page. Then in the left column, navigate through the categories to get to Quick & Easy (Kindle Store : Kindle eBooks : Cookbooks, Food & Wine : Quick & Easy)
As soon as we get here we can see there are over 6,000 results. This is very high and could be quite difficult to get to the top of. We’ll take a quick look at the best selling ranks of the books in 1st, 20th, and 50th positions, however.
1st – #1,778 (90 books a day)
20th – #98,793 (1 book a day)
50th – #183,521 ( >1 book a day)
Over saturated and the sales drop off quickly. This isn’t going to be a category we’re interested in.
When you’re uploading your book onto Amazon KDP, you’re allowed to choose a maximum of 2 categories. It’s essential you get this correct, however, all is not lost if you don’t as you can change categories once your book has been published. But, you can lose the momentum that comes at the start of a launch so it’s much better to get this right from the start.
So, let’s look at another category, this time ‘Natural Foods’ (Kindle Store : Kindle eBooks : Cookbooks, Food & Wine : Natural Foods).
This looks more promising, it has 2,700 results which is still quite high, but holds it’s high selling rank throughout the top 50.
1st – #2,432 (80 books a day)
20th – #28,052 (10 books a day)
50th – #46,765 (6 books a day)
Now 6 books might not seem like a lot, however with one book this can still add up. If you have your book priced at $2.99, which is the lowest point you can to receive a 70% royalty, you’ll receive about $2 per sale. That’s $12 a day, $360 a month, $4,320 a year.
That’s not bad for 1 book. What if you had 10 up there performing as well? That’s over $40k a year.
It sounds good but remember a lot of work has to be put in. However, it’s completely doable as long as you approach it in the right way,
Analyse your categories until you find the two that are going to give you the best chance and set that research aside until later.
If you’re wondering what a rank on the best sellers list equates to in book sales per day, check out the following chart. Amazon sales ranks are updated every hour and some days more sales are made than others so it’s impossible to know exactly how many sales to expect. However, the following will give you a good indication of the average.
Writing the Book
Now we’re onto the process of actually writing the book. Many people get daunted here and think that they can’t do this. If you have these feelings that stop looking at the end process. Break it down into achievable steps and take it from there.
The first thing you’re going to need is an outline.
A good non-fiction book is highly informative and leaves the reader feeling like they know a lot more than they did before reading it. You need to address a topic and cover everything about it. This is why it’s much better to be specific rather than overly broad.
You need to cover the What, Why, Who, When, & Where, to the best of your ability. Some sections will take up more room than others, but they all need to be addressed.
So, carrying on with the ‘Clean Eating’ example.
What – What is Clean Eating?
Why – Why should the reader be Eating Clean?
Who – Who would benefit more from clean eating?
When – Making time for clean eating. Preparing meals, how to shop etc.
Where – Eating clean at home or out socialising.
So here we’ve covered the 5 W’s. This will give the reader a broad understanding of the topic and then leaves you free to list all your recipes at the back. Making sure every aspect of Clean Eating is covered, such as eating out, meal prepping, food shopping, storing meals, meal times, expense etc. leaves your reader feeling more in control and engaged in the subject.
This kind of template will work for all non-fiction books, you just need to really think about the topic, and then put your own slant on it.
Obviously, you’re not going to label your chapters with the 5 W headings. To create your book outline, start by creating chapter headings and know what you’re going to talk about within them. For example, your outline might look like this:
Clean Eating for Busy People:
The Eat Clean Diet That Will Save You Time, As Well As Your Health
Who you are, what you are trying to accomplish with this book, what the reader can expect etc.
Chapter 1: Clean Eating: A fad or lasting
Describe what clean eating is
Chapter 2: If you haven’t started, you really need to
Why the reader should be eating clean
Chapter 3: The Many Health Benefits of Eating Clean
Health benefits of a clean eating diet
Chapter 4: Eating Clean, Being Green
How eating clean helps the environment
Chapter 5: Clean Eating for Busy Schedules
Meal Plans, batch cooking etc.
Chapter 6: Knowing Your Food
Identifying clean food in supermarkets etc.
Chapter 7: Staying in or Going Out?
Eating Clean at restaurants.
Chapter 8: Clean Breakfasts
Chapter 9: Clean Lunches
Chapter 10: Clean Dinners
Chapter 11: Clean Snacks
And that’s your plan.
Yours might be more detailed with more chapters etc, but this will give you you main template to work on.
Now you can construct a writing schedule and stick to it. How about 1,000 words a day? That’s more than doable.
In terms of book length, it really varies. One of the biggest complaints you’ll see in reviews is that a book is too short. However, if a topic has been thoroughly covered then this shouldn’t be an issue. Many people purchase an ebook with the intention of finding a solution to a problem they are facing.
Whether its’ adopting a clean eating lifestyle, learning to train a pet, giving up smoking etc. They are looking for answers to an issue they are facing.
The sweet-spot for non-fiction is between 14,000 – 20,000 words. Remember it’s harder to hold a readers attention for too long in non-fiction than it is in fiction. A huge book is just as likely to turn someone off reading it if they can find a solution in a book with less pages to sift through.
The same can be said for books that are too short, how are they going to find their answer in something that’s no longer than an essay?
14,000 – 20,000 words is about 60 – 100 pages and gives you enough time to cover a subject without waffling.
There is also the issue of formatting an ebook, checking spelling and grammar, designing the cover etc. This is quite a long topic so we’ll be covering it in a separate article. Using, linespacing of 1.2, font size 14, use page breaks, and assign headings to chapter titles is only the tip of the iceberg. However, get writing and you’ll be able to format your book when you’ve finished.
If you stick to your 1,000 words a day, you’ll have it written in 14-20 days. Not bad!
KDP select or not
As we’ll be writing this book to be featured in the Amazon Kindle store, there are a few things you’ll need to be aware of. You’ll need to create an Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account and fill in all of your details, including billing, before you’ll be able to upload your book onto the Kindle Store.
When you upload your book, you’ll be asked if you’d like to enrol in KDP select or not. This is a specialist program that allows you to take advantage of people borrowing your book through Kindle unlimited while you get paid for page views, as well as running different campaigns. The downside of this is that you can only sell your book on Amazon Kindle for the three months that your book is enrolled in the program.
I say downside, however, this isn’t really an issue for most people. Other ebook marketplaces will not perform as well for you as the kindle store so that leaves selling via your own website. You can still advertise your book on your site and drive people towards your book listed on Amazon. Personally, I don’t see this as being a bad comprimise and don’t hesitate to enrol on KDP Select.
Above is the window you’ll see in KDP select. As you can see there are 2 different price promotions you have the option of running. Keep in mind you can only run one of these within your 3 month enrolment period.
The first is a Kindle Countdown Deal. You’ll need to have your book listed for 30 days without changing the price previous to this. The Countdown deal allows you to set prices that climb over a certain period, listing the discount and attracting people to buy the book at a lower price.
This is a useful campaign if you have a following in place already, but you’ll find that there are much fewer places to advertise this than the free promotion. However, it can be a useful campaign as you’re still earning money while the campaign takes place.
The free book promotion allows you to list your book for free for a total of 5 days in your 3 month KDP select enrolment period. You might choose to run all 5 days together or break them up. In my opinion it’s better to run them together as you can build some real momentum and make your way up the free rankings.
There are also many places you can advertise the free promotion across Facebook, Twitter, and specific free kindle websites. All though you should note that these websites will require you to give them at least 7 days notice, some require 30!
You can begin a free book promotion as soon as you launch however, you need to keep a few things in mind.
While you might get hundreds, to thousands or downloads, you’re not going to make any money from them. There are people that will only download free books to stuff their kindles who might never get around to reading them. Lastly, if you’re expecting a huge amount of reviews from this campaign, don’t. You’ll be lucky to get a handful, and that comes from asking clearly for them at the end of your book.
For me, the best tactic is to try and run the books for a while first before running any promotion. The free book works better when you have more than one book listed under your name. Many authors have found that running a free promotion on one book has boosted sales on another.
It is also a good idea to leave the first book free in a series. In this way you’ve engaged a reader for free and if they’ve enjoyed the first book at no cost, they’re likely to go on and purchase more.
We’ll be going into more detail on marketing your books in another article but it’s always important to keep in mind how you’re going to attract people to your book and how you’re going to amass reviews.
Finally, the last thing we’ll cover in this article is publishing your book in other formats. These will still largely be sold through Amazon but the compliment your ebook well and make you look like a more serious writer.
The first format we’ll look at is getting physical copies of your book copied.
Now you might be worried about shelling out a fortune on getting a stack of books printed that people might not even buy. Luckily there’s a solution that minimalists this risk.
It’s known as Create Space.
Create Space is actually an Amazon company that lets you print on demand. You will need to reformat your book to fit their dimension but they’ll provide you a template to do this.
They’ll also run you through the costings and let you select exactly how you want your book to look. Obviously, printing a physical book is more expensive that sending a file to someones reading device so you’ll have to sell at a higher price in order to make a return.
When you’ve uploaded your file you’ll be able to order your own copy at cost to make sure you’re happy with the end result. You can link your file with your existing kindle edition and when someone clicks onto your page, you’ll be able to see both formats. Although ebooks are on the rise, some people still prefer physical copies and you’ll be able to cater for this. On average, authors report about 10% of their sales come from paperbacks so if you’re not doing this you’re missing out.
The other format we’ll look at is Audio Book.
Audio book sales have been rapidly increasing over the past two years and are contributing to a large part of an authors earnings.
Traditionally it would have required a lot of work to find a voice over artist and then forking over anything up to $5,000 in order to get your book recorded into audio format. Luckily, there are services that get rid of that cost as well.
This is where ACX come in.
ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) does provide a list of highly qualified voice over artists that you can hire for a fee you negotiate. However, it also offers a Royalty Share option which means that you pay no upfront costs but royalty payments from Audible are shared equally between Rights Holder and Producer.
Now of course this comes at a cost. As well as splitting your royalties equally with your producer, you also need to cover fees. These leave 40% to be split evenly between you as the author and the producer who records your book, meaning you’ll get 20% each.
You can work out what you’d receive using the following guidelines. Depending on the duration of your audiobook you’ll receive:
- Under 1 hour: under $7
- 1 – 3 hours: $7 – $10
- 3 – 5 hours: $10 – $20
- 5–10 hours: $15 – $25
- 10–20 hours: $20 – $30
- Over 20 hours: $25 – $35
It might seem a little on the low side but for a starting author it’s really useful in getting your books onto audible with no upfront cost. On top of that, as the producer stands to make as much as you do from each sale, they’re going to be promoting the hell out of it.
So, maybe not an ideal service for when you’re an accomplished author with a lot of money and a huge following, but it’s a really great service.
Now the downside is that only a couple of countries can avail of this service at this present time. If you’re based in the US or UK your fine. If not, then you might have to look at other options or hope that this service expands to your country soon.
Did you make it to the end?
Great! I know it was a long post but I don’t even think it’s long enough given the amount that needs to be taken into account when considering becoming a self-published author.
We’ll be looking at formatting and marketing in separate articles which we’ll link to here. We’ll also be recording videos that will take you through everything mentioned here for those of you who want to save your eyes from all of this text!
All joking aside, this is a profitable revenue source is you put the work in.
It might not have been as easy as it was in 2012 but it’s certainly doable. The focus needs to be on quality, but it always should be on everything you put out there if you want you brand and reputation below.
Let us know what your thoughts are, if you’re already an author and think there’s something people should know, or even if you have any questions you’d like us to cover,
We have a couple of books in circulation, but we’ll be creating one specifically for the purpose of using as a case study here. In this way you’ll be a part of every step in getting the book published and promoted after. Exciting times!