Tools & Templates to Help Start Your Kitchen Table Publishing Business There are certain resources you'll need to grow your publishing business as effectively and efficiently as possible. Some of the most important resources are checklists, how-to guides, templates, and procedures that “work” for you.
With that in mind, here are some tools, guides, templates, and sample documents that will make it easier for you to grow your publishing business (and even automate parts of it).
Feel free to use these “as is” or modify them for your purposes. The goal here is to help you systematize your business as much as possible so it runs smoothly without too much additional effort.
Assembling and selling an e-book and is an excellent way to start earning passive income. As Mark explained in the introductory e-books Extra Income Opportunity essay, it's possible to write multiple books per year, with each book becoming its own income stream.
Multiply that stream by releasing several books, and in the span of a few months, you could be on track to $1 million in royalties and sales alone. If this is something you want to do, look no further. In this report, we're going to help you start your own kitchen table publishing company.
The first part of this report will focus on the nuances of writing and publishing. The second part will give you a crash course in marketing and promoting your book.
The Done4U Business series offers blueprints and templates to get started on an income opportunity so you don't get bogged down in research. Read the information below, follow our step-by-step checklists, use the tools we provide, and you should be able to publish and market your first book within a few months. After that, quick income should follow, and you can decide just how large you want your business to be.
So, let's get going on today's opportunity: creating your publishing empire from your kitchen table…
We're going to cover a lot of ground as we expand on Mark's introduction to the opportunity. So after this essay, you should know:
What production and distribution plan will fit with your profit goals How to research and write a book-even if you've never written one before Traditional or self-publishing: We'll tell you how to do both, but also show you which one is easier (and makes more money) The pros and cons of every publication method out there-so you can decide what works best with your business plan Two ways to make money publishing without having to write a word In Part 2, we'll cover:
How to market and promote your book How to scale up your publishing operation Two ways to leverage the internet to increase your sales The easy way to get a self-published book onto store shelves What you need to do to scale up and grow your business The 10 steps you need to take to get started TODAY Looking for a Template?
Whenever you see the symbol to the left, it indicates we've created a tool or template for helping you take a specific action we discuss. We'll note the name of the tool in the essay so you can look for it later.
§1 - Production and Distribution: Planning Is Everything Before you start your publishing business, you need a business plan.
One of the biggest mistakes e-book entrepreneurs make is treating this business too casually, refusing to devise even an informal business plan. It's one thing to author a book and self-publish-if you just want to see your memoir in print, that's fine. But you should keep in mind that you probably won't make much money unless you market it well.
On the other hand, you can make e-book publishing a lucrative enterprise by doing some preparatory work and weighing your options when it comes to production and distribution models.
For the sake of simplicity, let's explore two possible strategies. Both come with their own set of benefits and drawbacks that you must weigh before you begin.
1) Small money, many books. This is not to say you can't make “big” money with this strategy, but selling a best seller isn't the goal here. Instead, this is a strategy of attrition. Authors and publishers who use this production model aim to produce a dozen or more short (about 4,000-10,000 words), concise e-books and then sell them cheaply, from $1 to $4.
The goal here is to set up many books so they all trickle in a small amount of money over time. A few dollars in royalties per month isn't much, but when you multiply that by 15 books, it becomes a decent source of passive income.
For example, let's say you start with one short but informative e-book that you publish on Amazon. Selling a small number of books-about 10 a month at a price of $3.99-will earn you about $25 in royalties each month. This is only $300 per year.
For a more extensive discussion of royalties for self-published authors on Amazon, see here.
But what if, over the next few months, you can churn out 14 more books that build on or cover different facets of your original theme?
More books mean more sales, so soon, your income will begin to compound. Keeping sales at the same slow pace, you'll go from earning an extra $300 per year to earning an extra $4,500 per year. If you can keep producing at the same rate (on your original themes and others), in seven years you'll be making an extra $31,500 per year in passive income.
And again, that assumes you only sell 10 of each book per month. As you produce more and your name gets out there, readers will want to explore your “back catalog.” This will drive more sales.
This publishing strategy is ideal for people who want to devote all their time to writing and very little to marketing and promotion. It's especially popular among fiction writers. And many of the nonfiction authors who do this hire freelancers to speed up their content production (we discuss this below).
Pro tip: A great way to boost your content count (and income) is to compile your books into anthologies and collections that you sell at a discount. For example, if you publish 10 4,000-word short stories for $1.99 each, you can collect them into a 40,000-word book you sell for $9.95-a 50% discount off the total cost of buying each story individually, which you should advertise both in the description of the anthology and at the end of your stories (you can always update the text of your e-books after you publish them). You can do the same thing for non-fiction, whether you're writing cookbooks or knitting guides.
Regardless, the cost to begin doing this is next to nothing, especially if you become comfortable with production and formatting tools.
You do have the option to spend money to promote your e-books. But by using keywords and focusing on a particular niche, your books should automatically come up in searches, and low prices (and high reviews) will entice people to buy.
Another way to think about this strategy is that it “pulls” readers in. People recognize the topic and the author and they become serial consumers of the work without ever seeing an ad. This is one of the reasons why so many e-book authors have an array of pseudonyms-the goal is to build a brand.
Pro tip: If you want to publish in multiple genres, you should publish under a pseudonym for each niche and market. Your pen names should be unique; make sure no other author uses them. On publishing platforms like Amazon and in the front matter of your books, you can set the author as one of your pen names but assign copyright of the work to the name of your publishing company.
2) Big money, fewer books. Even though this strategy involves producing fewer books, it requires much more work and dedication. The risk is greater, but so is the reward.
The “small money, many books” strategy takes advantage of the marketing and e-commerce logistics of large sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Those sites are a one-stop-shop for hosting, distributing, and promoting a book. This strategy involves doing that all yourself.
Here, you need not only produce e-books. You also must set up a proper platform to market your books. This involves creating a website, publishing landing pages, collecting names, sending out e-letters, blogging, marketing, buying ads, etc. (We give advice on how to do all of these things in Part 2 of this guide.)
The point of doing all that is to create a relationship with an audience so that you can position yourself as a trustworthy source of the information (in the form of e-books) you're trying to sell. Without an audience's trust, this whole strategy falls apart.
Plus, this all requires the investment of capital and time. Purchasing and hosting a website domain costs about $35 to $50 per year. A web designer to create your landing pages can cost from $30 to $2,000 depending on the quality and complexity you're looking for. And spending money on Facebook and Google ads that direct to your landing page start at $1 per day. But to reach a wider audience, you have to spend more.
The total cost to produce and distribute an e-book using this strategy can run about $500 per book, depending.
But at $29.99-the retail cost of a new hardback book-you'd only need to sell 34 copies before you made more than a 100% return on that investment.
That's why, with this strategy, you would want to produce longer books (from 25,000 to 100,000 words) that you would sell at a higher price-ranging from $29 to $300 or more. The goal is to produce a book that will rake in a few thousand dollars over time.
Which model should you choose? Here's an important consideration: These strategies are not mutually exclusive.
You can publish a long series of short books very quickly, on topics ranging from fictional short stories about vampire romance to recipes, while at the same time working on longer books that you can market as an information product.
[Information products are any collection of knowledge that has been recorded in some way. Whether it's in the form of books, videos, teleclasses, DVDs, newsletters, etc., information products take the intangible-the knowledge in your head-and turn them into something you can sell.]
Ultimately, though, you would choose one strategy over the other depending on your goals.
Do you want to create a small revenue stream on the side? Go with “small money, many books.”
Do you want to turn this into a full-time job with high profit margins? You should pick “big money, fewer books.”
No matter which route you take, here are some rules of thumb that will help your publishing business succeed (most of which we cover in depth in the materials we've provided you):
Publish high-quality books Focus on a specific niche or market Regularly look at best-selling ideas to see why they're succeeding Identify specialized subtopics in your niche Generate new content continuously Design excellent covers or hire someone who can Promote your books for free using platforms like Goodreads, Story Cartel, or KDP Select Create bonus materials, special reports, and free content to give away to your audience Record your sales and base your business decisions on this information. §2 - How to Research and Write a Book Whenever anyone asks best-selling author Stephen King how he writes, he answers, “One word at a time.”
When someone once asked best-selling author Neil Gaiman how to be an author, he replied, “This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy and that hard.”
Amanda Hocking has made $10 million from her self-published novels so far, each priced between 99 cents and $2.99. She has this to say about the process of writing:
[It's] not enough to have a passion-you have to have a work ethic. That's been the most life-changing advice that I got. Because I had a passion for writing-and I know a lot of other people do, too-but it's not enough to just want something. You have to be able to work for it, too, and put in the hours and the time.
The greatest misconception about writing is that it requires inspiration. In truth, it just requires work, and inspiration is a useful luxury. To succeed in the writing and publishing of e-books, you need to adopt this mindset and follow a set of procedures that streamline the work process.
If you intend to write and publish your own books, we recommend following the plan we provide. This will give you a formula for writing six books per year.
View our checklist “How to Write Your Book in Six Easy Steps” for help planning, organizing, and writing a book.
If you want a simple breakdown of what the process is like, here's a peek at the process:
Pick an idea for your book using keyword discovery. This will help you avoid wasting time on what you know won't sell. Mind map and brainstorm to flesh out your idea. Create an outline to give yourself a road map. Research your topic and fill out your outline with what you find. Visit the library, search the web, and interview people to get information regarding your topic. Write your book. Shoot to produce anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 (if you're doing “small money, many books”) or 20,000 to 100,000 words (if you're doing “big money, fewer books”). Try to write 500 words to 2,000 words per day until you hit this goal. Revise, edit, and proofread your book. It helps to have someone you know do this for you. Ultimately, though, watch for spelling mistakes, readability, and clarity. But if you hate writing and feel like you can't spare the time, no problem! You can hire freelancers or publish books in the public domain. Later in this report, we'll discuss how to start your own publishing empire without writing a word.
§3 - How to Publish a Book Much of this Done4U installment deals with self-publishing e-books and scaling that up to a full-fledged side business. But that's not the only way to publish a book.
For the last several hundred years, publishers have been in charge of selecting, editing, and designing books. These companies then handle the printing and distribution of the books they've arranged to publish.
This is a costly process. So in exchange for authors' content, publishers take on the financial risk. They typically compensate authors by offering an “advance”-a lump sum signing bonus paid before a book is published-and royalties, which are a fraction of a book's profit. But this sum is paid against future royalty earnings. Meaning if you received a $10,000 advance for your book, you would earn no royalties until the publisher recouped that $10,000.
When one factors in agents' fees and the fact that a full-length manuscript can take hundreds of hours to complete (and about 18 months to go from manuscript to published book), it becomes clear why so many people are ditching the traditional publication route.
But we want to be fair and make sure you know all your options. So in this section, we'll tell you what you need to know about the most common routes to publication.
Traditional publication: Going the route of traditional publication involves dealing with a series of gatekeepers and intermediary steps. Also, a lot (a lot!) of waiting.
The first thing you should do is figure out what your work's genre is. The reason being that the path to publication is different for fiction and non-fiction (a memoir is treated like fiction).
Fiction writers should complete a full manuscript before contacting agents or publishers. Nonfiction writers, though, should write a book proposal and three sample chapters that convince agents and publishers you're an expert on the topic and that there's a market for the book.
Then, authors should search for and query agents. It's possible to publish without an agent, but it's much harder. Plus, agents should help you shop your book around and negotiate a better advance and royalty deal. This will ideally allow you to focus on writing.
There are a number of ways to find an agent, but the magazine Poets & Writers provides a free database, and Writer's Market offers a more comprehensive subscription service to help you locate agents, agencies, and markets.
To query an agent, you will need to send them a one-page letter pitching your book. The first paragraph should explain the reason you're contacting them specifically. The second paragraph should give a three- to four-sentence synopsis of the book. And the third paragraph should offer information pertaining to your background and writing skill. (Writer's Digest has a blog that collects successful queries to agents.)
Every agent has their own submission guidelines, so make sure you send them the materials they're asking for.
If an agent wants to sign a contract with you, make sure you know what their “cut” will be (it should fall between 12% and 15%). Also make sure you know where the agent will be sending the book and whether you're giving away any secondary rights (like film, foreign, audio, or e-book rights).
Word to the wise: Legitimate agents do not charge fees. Agents who ask for reading fees or editing fees are scam artists.
Once you get an agent, the waiting game begins./p>
Before your book gets picked up by a publisher, you should begin working on your second book. (Having a pipeline of books will actually give you leverage during your publishing contract negotiations.)
You should also start marketing yourself and your work. That means starting a website, activating social media accounts, cultivating a fan base, and generally preparing to push your book the moment it hits the shelves.
While publishers do some marketing and promotion for writers, they tend not to spend much money on it. That's because publishing companies rely on advertisements, catalogs, and books simply being on the shelves to pull in readers. That generally leads to authors undertaking their own promotional activities.
(See the section “How to Market and Promote Your Books” in Part 2 of this report for more information on how to do this.)
By successfully following everything listed here, you could become a traditionally published author.
And if this is the route you wish to take, many of the materials we provide as a part of this Done4U business kit will help you in this regard as well-from the writing process to promoting your book after it's been published.
There are good reasons to not publish in this way, though. In fact, Mark now advises against it entirely…
Why I Fired My Publisher By Mark Morgan Ford
If you've ever thought about writing and publishing a book, I have some advice for you: Publish it yourself.
There is a stigma against self-publishing-the idea that it's not legitimate-and, historically, that may have been true. But the world of publishing has changed drastically in the past 15 years. Today, self-publishing is not only respectable. It's entirely sensible.
Take me as an example.
I have written and published about two dozen books in the last 15 years. John Wiley, one of the biggest business book publishers in the world, published 12 of them.
Several of those books were best sellers-not huge best sellers, but enough to get on The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal lists and to break the million-dollar sales mark. They were also published in about a dozen foreign languages, including Chinese, Japanese, and Polish.
That was enough to put me in probably the top 5% of John Wiley's authors. So you'd think they would want to support me by giving my books a marketing and promotion budget.
But all I ever saw were the most routine efforts-the sorts of things that cost them very little. The only thing they did of any value, really, was to make my books available through their distribution channels so that people could buy them in bookstores and so my books could earn listings on the prestigious best-seller lists. (The best ones all are biased toward bookstore sales as opposed to online sales.)
As for money, I would say my compensation-advances and royalties combined-came to about 6% of sales.
If Wiley had done all the marketing and sales of those books, I might feel like my 6% take was within the range of reason. But the fact is that I sold 90% of those books by promoting them to my readers. (At the time, I was writing Early to Rise, a blog, which at one point had nearly a million readers.)
I'm not complaining about John Wiley. I did not understand their business model when I signed with them. But I understand it now. The way mainstream publishers work makes it just about impossible for them to spend money promoting any but a tiny fraction of their authors. Even if you sell tens of thousands of copies, as I did, that's not enough to get them to support you in any serious way.
Here Are 5 Reasons Not to Use a Conventional Publisher It's largely a waste of time trying to get a mainstream publisher to publish your book. Unless you're a celebrity, your chances of success are less than one in a thousand. All the time spent trying to get an agent and then a deal could be much more profitably put to use making and marketing your book yourself. If you do manage to get a deal, you won't make any money. A typical deal for a new author is five grand and then royalties. But unless your book sells huge volume, you'll never see a dime of those royalties. Conventional book publishers will do very little or nothing to actually sell your book. They make it available for distribution. That means it goes on a list that's marketed to buyers representing bookstores. If you're lucky, such buyers will spend about two seconds on your book. If they take it, they won't sell it either. They will just put it in the stacks. Your book's time on the shelves is less than a year. Most authors don't understand that getting their book into bookstores is a temporary accomplishment. At least once per year-and often more frequently than that-bookstores clear their shelves of underperforming books and “remainder” them-i.e., ship them back to the distributor. You're giving away the rights to your books forever. Your book is on the shelves and then off them for 20 years. Now you get lucky and get famous. Suddenly, people want to read your book. Guess what? Your publisher may decide it doesn't want to sell it. You can't say anything about that because you've signed a contract that gives away your publication rights. And Here Are 5 Reasons You Should Publish Your Own Book You won't waste time and money trying to get your book published. You'll know for certain that it will be in print. You won't have to be satisfied with 5-10% of the sales. Depending on how much you spend on marketing, your take might be as high as 60-80% of sales. You won't have to give away your rights to the book. You will hold rights to it all: print rights, digital rights, audio rights, and international sales-even movie rights! You will learn the skills of marketing and distribution as you go, skills you can then use to sell more of your books or other people's books. If something happens down the road and you get famous for some reason, you'll be able to be in charge of all the decisions regarding your book. You won't have to ask for permission or buy back your rights. Now you know why I have self-published my last dozen books and why I will probably never go through a conventional publisher again.
Self-publication: The best way to turn publishing into a moneymaking business using the methods we recommend is to become your own publisher.
For one, self-publication eliminates all gatekeepers. For another, the internet eliminates the high costs of distribution. That means your only required cost is time, and your profit margin can be huge.
It doesn't always work out that way, of course.
You might wish to self-publish hardbound books, for instance. This would incur printing and storage costs. Or you might wish to set up your own webpage to sell your book. Or you might wish to promote your book through advertisements. Or you might wish to hire someone to help you edit your books.
All of these things increase your costs and reduce your profit. That means you need to weigh your options carefully before you commit to a particular form of self-publication.
While many of our materials focus on Kindle publishing through the Amazon website, it's by no means the only way to self-publish. So, to help you make the best decision for your business, here's a breakdown of the different kinds of self-publication, some of their pros and cons, and resources you can explore to decide which might be best for you.
The Different Kinds of Self-Publication Print on demand
A print-on-demand publisher (POD) accepts all submissions. Anyone who is willing to pay the company gets his/her work published. Then, the company prints and ships a book when there's a sale.
Blurb Lulu Wordclay BookLocker CreateSpace Pros:
- The upfront cost of printing and shipping is greatly reduced.
- No need for self-storage.
- POD is not cost effective for larger print runs.
- Far more expensive than e-book publishing.
- Printing quality is generally not as good as other options.
Also known as book manufacturers, authors simply pay one of these companies to have a certain quantity of their books produced. Some of these companies house the book and pay the author royalties or simply print the books and hand them to the author.
Refer to Preditors & Editors for help determining which of these companies are legitimate and which might be a scam.
- The author keeps exclusive rights.
- The author gets to select their own price and distribution method.
- The author keeps 1oo% creative control of the project.
- Some companies give added services-like editing, warehousing, and distribution-for a fee.
- Publication is faster than traditional means.
- Vanity publishing is so frowned upon by traditional publishers that it might harm one's chances of going that route in the future. (It might be better to hire a printer directly.)
- You take on all the risk and expenses for storage and distribution.
- Some subsidy and vanity publishers keep a portion of your rights.
- The U.S. Better Business Bureau warns extensively about getting involved with these companies.
Authors post a copy of their book on their own site or an online distribution service for people to purchase/download.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Barnes & Noble NOOK Press Smashwords Inscribe Digital BookBaby Draft2Digital Pros:
- It's cost effective. You don't have to spend anything if you don't want to.
- The profit potential is higher than any other publication method.
- Easy to use.
- Publication is instantaneous.
- Access to global readers.
- There's less prestige than traditional publication.
- You have to create your own cover, format the book, and do your own marketing (or hire someone to do this for you).
Use our checklist “How to Publish an E-Book Online” to help you go through the steps of signing up for accounts with online platforms, formatting your book, deciding what to include in your front matter, and creating a cover.
Once you get comfortable with this material, we also provide a how-to guide that shows you the ease of preparing an e-book and publishing it online: “The Simple Guide to Publishing a Kindle E-Book in 20 Minutes.”
Keep in mind: These different methods of self-publishing are not mutually exclusive.
You can decide to enter the business slowly, publishing books in one manner. Then, once you become more comfortable, you can adopt a different strategy or simply add it to your normal process to increase your potential revenue.
For example, you might start by publishing individual educational reports or short stories online. Then, once you've made enough money, you can compile these into a collection, print them as a hardbound book, and sell that printed book through your own website at a higher price.
§4 - Two Ways to Make Money Publishing Without Having to Write a Word Hire freelancers The truth is that many nonfiction authors who self-publish on Amazon are not writing those books themselves. Instead, they're hiring freelance writers to do the job.
Freelancing services are affordable and easy to find. A freelancer who works out of his or her home won't have a lot of overhead costs and can offer cheaper rates than a staff writer. You can hire locally and get the benefits of face-to-face interaction, or you can hire online and try to find someone who will work for rates that perfectly fit your budget.
Most freelancers do this kind of work because they want to set their own hours. This can also benefit the client-that is, you. For example, you might be able to email your freelancer a list of assignments at the end of the business week and find that they are completed and earning you money by Monday morning. Freelancers are small-business people, too, and the good ones know they are more likely to profit when they meet your deadlines, exceed your expectations, and move on to their next assignment.
Good freelancers have a lot of experience with a lot of different businesses. The more tasks they complete, the more experience and skills they add to their arsenal. Hence, the client gets the experience and professionalism, too.
There's no red tape. Edits and adjustments can happen right away. And if you find a good freelancer, you might strike up an ongoing working relationship.
Here's how to hire good freelancers…
Find the talent. First, know who you're looking for. Do you want to hire a writer with expertise in a particular area? Someone with a background in marketing and SEO? Someone with a beautiful, captivating writing style?
To find a good freelancer through your local community, you might ask coworkers or other people in your network for referrals. You can also consider putting up an ad on Craiglist.org or an online forum. If you're willing to spend more money, you can also contact an employment agency for creative talent, such as Creative Circle.
Fiverr and Upwork have writers who can turn out content for as little as $5, but the quality of their work will vary widely. Same with hiring writers overseas-some are talented, fluent professionals… but many are not.
If you're looking for someone to work on a long project, we recommend vetting your prospective freelancer by asking for samples of their prior work and having them complete smaller tasks first.
Pro tip: To get a sense of how much a freelancer will charge and how much you can expect to spend, take a look at the Editorial Freelancers Association's guideline of industry standard rates here.
Settle on terms. Experienced freelance writers will have an established fee schedule and a keen ability to estimate how many hours a project will take to complete. Nevertheless, know what you want from your freelancer: Do you need them to flesh out a detailed outline, or do you need them to create an entire piece from scratch? How much research will they need to do in order to cover the topic well? The more guidance you can give on a project, the more likely it is to meet your standards.
Budget both enough money to cover the cost of hiring a freelancer and enough lead time to allow them to work.
Decide when you'll both be in touch. Will you check in with each other regularly or leave the writer to his or her own devices? When would you like the writer to deliver the content? And how? All at once, or on a chapter-by-chapter basis?
Try to know the answers to all of these questions before you reach out to someone.
To legally protect yourself and set the terms for the freelancers you work with, we've prepared a ghostwriting agreement and a nondisclosure agreement for you.
Treat them like a partner, not an underling. Stay in contact throughout the process, and respond to queries promptly. Give the freelancer plenty of direction, but try not to micromanage. Remain open to new ideas he or she might propose, and give well-organized feedback with specific instructions. And, of course, paying invoices promptly will ensure a good working relationship with a professional writer who is happy to deliver quality content.
Publish public domain works Another way to publish without having to write is to put out public domain works under your own private brand or “imprint.”
Public domain books are not restricted and do not require a license or fee to use. Public domain status allows anyone to have unrestricted license to the content. All books published before 1923 are in the public domain in the U.S.
You can republish a public domain work as is if it's out of print. However, Amazon won't publish “undifferentiated” versions of public domain works. In order for a work to be considered differentiated, the book must meet at least one of the following criteria:
Translated - The book is a unique translation into or from another language. Annotated - The book contains annotations-additional content such as literary critique, detailed biographies, or historical context. Annotated versions of public domain works should be scholarly and fairly extensive. It's not enough to append a few pages of a study guide at the end. Illustrated - The book includes 10 or more unique and original illustrations relevant to the book. Instead of republishing a public domain work as is, you could also create an original derivative work, such as a screenplay of a classic novel or an abridged version. You would hold the copyright on the new version, but the original would remain in the public domain for anyone to use.
Another way to use public domain works is to create a compilation of public domain texts, such as a collection of poems or letters. In this case, you would hold the copyright to the specific arrangement of the poems as well as any introduction you choose to add to them.
Marketing, Promoting, and Scaling
In Part 1 of this Done4U installment, we discussed how to approach writing and publishing. Each book you publish can be an individual income stream… but with marketing and promotion, you can expand those streams by driving more customers to your books and boosting your sales.
An unpromoted book can bring in a few dozen dollars per month. But a well-promoted book can bring in thousands.
Though self-publishing online is a great way to generate small amounts of cash, you're unlikely to build wealth using something like Amazon's Kindle publishing service alone. You must also establish a marketing plan.
In this report, we'll show you how to do exactly that-and where to go from there…
§5 - How to Do Market Research for Your Book Saeed Rajan has been making $2,700 a month of passive income with e-books he sells on Amazon. He doesn't write them-he hires freelancers, and then he markets and promotes the books.
One of his books-Piece of Cake Paleo-that he released under a pseudonym cost him about $350 to “write” and $25 to format and get a cover for. That book alone has returned him $2,401 in profit: 740% and counting, since he still rakes in about $47 a month from it.
His secret is to find topics that are trending well on Amazon and the internet in general. He started doing this by simply browsing the Kindle best sellers list and seeing what was working, and reading customer reviews to see what people liked and didn't. Then he hired a ghostwriter to produce the text.
The key takeaway here is that Saeed never committed his time or money blindly. He made money with e-books because he went into production already knowing what would make money.
So before you ever put pen to paper, you should research to see if there's a market for your book idea. This is also a useful way to generate ideas for non-fiction books if you're unsure what to write about.
The first thing you should do is some basic market research by looking at what people are buying and searching for online (which is known as “keyword research”).
After that, you'll need to think about how to promote your book to a wider audience.
Market Trends To get a sense of market trends and capitalize on them, you need to do three things: 1) Find out whether there's money in your ideas (i.e., see if there's a market or niche to begin with); 2) find out what your competition is doing right or wrong; and 3) find out how you can create a “unique selling proposition” that differentiates your book from others.
Here are some tips and pointers to help you accomplish these three things:
Check on Amazon to see what's selling well. The site breaks book sales down into very specific categories and has “top seller” lists for each category. Looking at these should give you a sense of the sales landscape in your particular niche. You can also download free samples of most Kindle e-books to learn what other authors in your target niche are doing. For a simple breakdown of how to do this, check out this blog post that provides a step-by-step guide. A note about niche selection… If you're having trouble thinking of a niche to specialize in, we recommend three mainstays that always attract sales: dieting, fitness, and business. Consider starting out in a smaller subcategory in one of these areas if you'd like to test the waters and learn how this business works.
Read user reviews for other books in your niche. These people are your prospective customers and they have spelled out what they like and do not like about your competition-for free. Figure out what they're not getting and work to provide it. While you're reading reviews of your competitors' books, look at the user profiles of those reviewers. Or go to the social media pages of authors who've written similar books and check out their followers. You're looking for information about your ideal buyer-what they like and don't, where they hang out, how much they read, whether they're looking for solutions to problems or stories, and so on. Use this information to help you design books to cater to that audience. The more you know about the people who will want to buy your book, the better. Know your demographics. This post on Search Engine Land breaks down how to determine the age and gender of people using Google to search for a given term. It also helps to combine techniques. Brainstorm, then look up the search data on your ideas, then brainstorm some more, then look at demographics, apply that information, and so on.
When you're settling on an idea, make sure that 1) you know who wants to read this book and why (you're looking for a niche that will either allow you to add great depth to one topic or cover a wide breadth of similar topics); 2) what you're providing isn't a complete copy of something else; and, crucially, 3) that you want to invest the time and energy to research and write on this topic.
It's possible to devote weeks to researching your audience. As you grow and target your business, this will become more important. But in the beginning, spend more of your time writing and setting up your promotional channels (e.g., your Amazon author page, your blog, your social media accounts, etc.).
Keyword Research If you're technically savvy and want to go into a bit more depth, you will want to do some keyword research as well.
What you're doing here is looking to see how many people are using specific terms when they search for things online. This will allow you to write in a niche that comes up when someone searches for those words, or to place words in your book, description, or title that will lead people to your book when they're searching.
(This is related to but not exactly something called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. You will want to be aware of this topic if you set up blogs or webpages to promote your books. We explain this in more depth below.)
Sites like Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker can give you an idea of where consumer demand lies by showing you how often people look up a given search term. (You'll know there's a market for your topic if there are 30,000-50,000 searches for it per month.)
Wordtracker also offers a list of related keywords. These will help you identify a specific niche you can focus your book on or point to subtopics that can help you flesh out and outline an idea.
For instance, if you are looking up “public transit” and “commute” and a common related search is “bus delay,” that tells you a specific concern people have. This is something you will want to address (or focus on entirely).
Google AdWords also shows you how popular a given search has been over the past 12 months. It even includes a popularity forecasting tool, if you want to see whether your book might have a market in the future.
§6 - How to Promote Your Book You won't be able to sell your book if potential readers don't know it exists. Few people will buy it if you just post it online but neglect to let anyone know.
In fact, we recommend you start promoting your book weeks before it's published (to create buzz and hype) and continue for weeks after it's released (to keep getting new readers).
The thing to understand here is that you're ultimately trying to create a personal brand.
This personal brand can emerge from your own name, the name of your pseudonym(s), or from your publishing company. But the goal remains the same: to create a consistent and recognizable author profile that readers can come to know and trust.
You can do this any number of ways: Rent table space at book fairs, create a Facebook page, launch a blog, etc. Some methods are better than others, depending on what you want to accomplish. (We list a variety of different strategies you can use below in the “Other Methods of Promoting Your Book” section.)
Every author/publisher is going to have a different spin on how they market their materials. Doing this creatively can help you set yourself apart from competitors and sell more books, but there are two mainstays to any promotional strategy. While they're not mutually exclusive, they do depend on whether you choose to publish a high volume of smaller books or a lower volume of books that sell for a higher value. In fact, as you build your business, we suggest you try to leverage both of these methods…
The first method is to use Amazon Marketing Services to promote your books enrolled in KDP Select. (Here's an explanation of the KDP Select program.)
What Amazon does is take ads you create and show them to people on Amazon's product pages or their Kindle e-readers. You put down an advertising budget, and out of that fund Amazon takes money for every click on your ad.
Amazon's services make business convenient for authors. The company handles customer service for you, as well as sales and transactions and taxes, and gives you instant access to a huge market: 240 million customers. And you can take advantage of the Amazon Associates marketing program to take care of your promotional needs. (More on this shortly.)
The downsides, however, include surrendering a portion of your royalties to Amazon for the upkeep. You have to cover downloading costs for e-books and shipping costs for print-on-demand books. Plus, you have less control over how your book is marketed and sold.
The second method involves building your own landing page and selling your product directly to the open web. A landing page is a dedicated website, sometimes called a “micro site,” that sells a single product. It is essentially a long sales letter posted online that you drive traffic to with paid ads and other methods.
A landing page is useful for advertising a single e-book or series of e-books, or for highlighting free or promotional content.
One of the biggest benefits of a landing page is that you can collect the email addresses of the people who click onto the page. You can do this by asking them to sign up for a free report or updates about related products and future promotions, or you can ask buyers of your book if you can let them know about other products in the future. Doing this will allow you to market to them in the future.
Another benefit is that you can test and split-test your landing pages to see what sells well and what doesn't. Testing can help you improve the conversion rate of your landing page and increase sales long term. (If all these marketing terms are new or confusing, Marketing Terms has a glossary that should help.)
A landing page might make it easier for customers to find your books through simple web searching-what's called “organic traffic.” But if your e-books cover a broad range of topics, you will need to pay for hosting on multiple landing pages. And if you're selling hard copies of your book, you'll need to spend time filling orders, handling returns and refunds, and answering customer inquiries. (That is, unless you plan to use Amazon's “Fulfillment by Amazon” program or a drop-shipping service.)
You can always combine the two approaches. For instance, instead of selling on your site directly, you can use a landing page to link to your books' pages on Amazon. Or you can use Amazon's Multi-Product Showcase.
The Multi-Product Showcase (MPS) is a campaign landing page format that allows advertisers to promote multiple listings on a page with branded videos and pictures. The multi-product showcase can drive the product sales of a group of listings or create a home for a brand of related products-such as an author's or publishing company's body of work. The MPS is built by Amazon media group designers for use on desktops, tablets, and phones. You can see an example of the MPS here.
If you choose to use the MPS to sell your e-books, you'll need to set an advertising budget with Amazon. Plus, your products will need to be reviewed for quality assurance, and some popular topics are off-limits for the MPS-erotica, for example. Be sure to check Amazon's creative acceptance policy before proceeding.
When selling and promoting your e-books on your own landing page, you also have to consider the fact that you lose the ability to earn 70% of royalties-the best rate Amazon sellers can get. Instead, you'll have to settle for 35%. (But don't worry: You can always change this later if you decide to switch your marketing strategy after you've published. Click here for a breakdown of Amazon's e-book royalty options.)
§7 - Setting Up a Landing Page The process of web design might seem daunting at first. We're not going to sugarcoat it: there are many options and variables to consider when doing this. It also requires a technical knowledge that many people are uncomfortable with.
So that said, we recommend getting started using other methods first and then gradually learning about and working up to this process, since it will be especially important if you decide to expand your business.
If you just want to get started by using only Amazon's services, we recommend skipping down to section 8, “Selling on Amazon.”
But to give you a sense of what this process entails here, we'll keep it very simple. Your goal is to create a single webpage that convinces people to do something.
That “something” could be to click, enter an email address, or buy a book. And the webpage can be as complex or as simple as you prefer.
That said, for many people the simplest way to set this up is to hire someone or use a template.
To hire someone to handle the web design for you, we recommend using Upwork or crowdSPRING. This can cost anywhere from $50 to $2,000, depending on the type or amount of work you want.
Templates can be cheaper but require more work on your part. Read WiX's “Create a Powerful Free Landing Page in Under an Hour” for a broad breakdown. Then check out this blog post that ranks and recommends landing page services.
Keep in mind that the price you pay for a landing page does not cover the cost of the page's content, such as any sales copy you might need. You would need to write this yourself or hire an additional person to create it for you.
Creating and optimizing landing pages is a business unto itself, and learning how to do it well can be quite lucrative. While it is outside the scope of this report to break down every aspect of this process, if this is something that interests you, write to us here and let us know whether you'd like to see an Extra Income Opportunity or Done4U Business on freelance website design and internet marketing.
In the meantime, here are some of the basic things you will want to keep in mind as you create landing pages:
Arrange reliable hosting and set up pages There are many low-cost web hosting services available, such as WordPress and Squarespace. We won't go into the details of web design and setup here, but here are things you should consider in your selection process:
Space - Make sure the hosting service will be able to cheaply hold all your content. Click here for a discussion of this topic. Bandwidth - Your site should permit a high volume of downloads each month. (If traffic to your site exceeds your bandwidth, your website will crash.) Click here for a discussion of this topic. Page number - Some hosting sites will charge you depending on how many pages you have. If you have many books and products, each with their own landing page, this number can grow quickly-and end up costing you more in monthly hosting fees. Click here for a discussion of costs. Sales - If you plan to sell through your site, you will have to integrate an e-commerce platform so you can take payments. The most common are Shopify and PayPal. Drive traffic to your landing page To actively recruit and pull in prospective customers, you can use e-mail marketing, pay-per-click advertising, videos on YouTube, and other social networking sites, articles, affiliates, and other traffic-building methods to drive prospects to your sales page.
All of this is known as lead generation. Simply put, a lead is a person who indicates interest in your product (e-book) in some way, shape, or form. So lead generation is the process of attracting and converting your prospective customers into leads.
Even if the people who visit your site don't buy (i.e., “convert”), you can still turn them into leads by collecting their names and email addresses for future marketing efforts.
This topic is vast; we could devote a whole book to it! Our friends over at AWAI have an entire course on lead generation.
In the meantime, consider these simple introductions:
What is lead generation? Beginner's guide to lead generation Complete guide to lead generation Create compelling copy Getting people to your site is one thing. Convincing them to buy once they're there is another.
The simplest way to do this is through a sales letter. A sales letter is essentially a persuasive document that tries to get someone to buy. These can be anywhere from three paragraphs to 100+ pages-including examples, testimonials, video, audio, and a number of other things.
We will eventually have a Done4U on copywriting, which will teach you how to produce an effective sales letter. (AWAI also has a fantastic course on copywriting that you can take right now if you don't want to wait.)
In the meantime, you will want to produce (or hire someone to produce) copy and content that does the job of turning a visitor into a customer.
Writing good sales copy is an art, and learning how to do it well will take a large amount of time. You don't have to master it at first in order to generate sales, and as you do it more, you'll gain more practice. Here is the most useful advice we can offer for you while you're just starting out:
Capture a reader's attention early with a headline or “lead.” AWAI has an article on the three most powerful headline techniques here. Establish your credibility effectively and early. Prove that you know what you're talking about. Focus on the problems and needs of your audience, and prove (using as many specific examples as you can) how your e-book can solve them. Keep your writing clear and simple. Make your claims unique, useful, ultra-specific, and urgent. Always end with a strong call to action: for example, “Click here,” “Enter your email address,” “Don't delay, buy now.” Tell your readers what you want them to do. The goal is to create a powerful emotional response and spur your prospects into action.
Since the internet is a visual medium, high-resolution images and a clean, easy-to-navigate page design are helpful to this end.
Pro Tip: For a great resource on the art of writing compelling copy and propelling your readers to action, check out Mark's books: Persuasion and Copy Logic.
Optimize and test your landing page In marketing jargon, optimization is simply making it easier for search engines to categorize your webpage content. This way, when someone searches for specific terms on Google or Bing or Yahoo, the search engine knows to present your page alongside results that match those search terms.
The technique for doing this, as we mentioned, is SEO. This means using often-searched terms (and other related keywords) in the headline and copy of your pages as much as possible.
If you're unfamiliar with SEO, we suggest looking at Moz' “The Beginners Guide to SEO” PDF.
After that, you can click here for some basics on how to optimize your website. You may also want to check out this book here.
As you optimize your site, you'll want to test what you're doing to see if it's working. You can measure your success by clicks, email addresses acquired, or sales. When you've made a change, you want to test to see if any one of those metrics changes noticeably.
The cheapest way to test it to just look at trends. If your website uses one font in October and another one in December, you can look at your sales in both months to see if there was any effect. Higher sales mean something you did is more effective than the alternative.
This leaves a lot of room for error, though, since other factors could influence your sales.
The most effective, but slightly more costly, way of testing your landing pages is to do “split testing.” That means making two nearly identical copies of your landing page-the only difference being the thing you're testing (it could be a new format, different copy, alternate headlines, different pictures, and so on). Half of your ads would point to one copy and the other half would point to the other (we cover driving traffic in step 2 above).
Doing it this way allows you to control the variables and get a strong sense of what sells and what doesn't. This is an especially powerful tool if you're using the more money, fewer books strategy.
One service that can help you crunch the numbers and see how your optimization is working is Taguchi testing. Their testing can reveal which parts of your landing page are working well and which need tweaking-and more optimizing. Regular testing and improvement can help you increase the landing page's conversion rate, thereby selling more e-books.
Build a customer base Keeping in touch with your customers is essential to building a brand. The key to doing this is collecting email addresses from your customers or leads, and then periodically reaching out to them via email to let them know what you're doing and what new products you have available.
There are many ways to accomplish this. You can collect the email addresses of your customers when they make purchases through your site. You can have pop-ups on your website that ask for addresses. You can create what are called “launch pages,” which are landing pages for the sole purpose of collecting emails.
Once you have the visitor's email address, you use an autoresponder email series to persuade them to come back to the landing page and buy your e-book. (An autoresponder is a program that simply sends a series of emails over a specified span of time. MailChimp is one example of a service you can use to do this, but there are many more.)
In your autoresponders or mailings, you can offer a free newsletter with useful and relevant content to anyone who joins your mailing list. This can increase signups and also give you a vehicle for communicating with your online prospects and customers on a regular basis.
Every time you have a new information product, tell your customers about it. You can use a service like Constant Contact to send emails to your subscriber list. Your emails (called “lifts,” because they lift your readers to a landing page) will allow your readers to learn about and purchase your books.
§8 - Selling on Amazon Many of the above selling and promotional techniques will also apply to selling an e-book on Amazon. However, Amazon does a lot of the steps above for you in exchange for a portion of your profits.
For anyone just starting out, Amazon offers the best and most cost-effective opportunity to learn, experiment, and grow.
We cover how to publish on Amazon in Part 1 of this report. But for some general tips on selling well through Amazon, we suggest the following:
Unique listings; compelling descriptions Just like a landing page, your e-book's Amazon page exists to turn book browsers into book buyers. If your book isn't the first in its category, it's important to let your prospective buyers know that it's different from similar e-books out there.
We also recommend incorporating testimonials from people you know, reviewers, or other people/writers in that field.
Pricing and e-book length can also be a factor here, since you can either undercut other books' prices or describe how your book offers what other books are missing.
Wealth Builders Club Member Spotlight: Marlene Burns
Newly published author Marlene Burns and her husband, Richard One Club member who has recently entered the business of self-publishing is Marlene Burns, and her story is incredible.
Over the 30 years she taught high school, she also took in and helped raise over 100 foster children. She wrote her memoir of that experience, Kids Kids Kids, over the course of a few months and published it on Amazon. The book tells the stories of the children who crossed her doorstep and how every single one of them, through their struggles and triumphs, became family.
If you're interested in seeing what other Wealth Builders Club members are doing, we recommend checking out her book here.
Choose your genre carefully Since many Amazon customers browse by category, be sure to select the most accurate genre and subgenre for your e-books. Go ahead and reference popular writers or popular titles in your genre and subgenre to help you drill down to where your book will do the best.
Frontload Keep in mind that the first 10% of an e-book will be made available to Amazon customers as a preview. Be sure the first 10% of your e-book is especially strong and well written. You can also test the preview feature, determine where the first 10% of your book ends, and tweak the content to end on a cliffhanger or the promise of more ahead.
Solicit customer reviews Books with more customer reviews are more likely to appear in Amazon's search results. At the end of each book, thank the reader for their time and ask them to leave a review at their point of purchase if they enjoyed the book or found it useful.
Drive traffic using Amazon's keywords Using keyword prediction tools, you can identify potential search terms for your e-book. You are looking for phrases that closely relate to high-traffic searches, so that you'll get a lot of traffic to your product page. Check out Jungle Scout's post, “3 Tools to Do Keyword Research for Your Amazon Product,” for advice on how to do this.
Create a Kindle Author Central page Your Amazon Author Central page contains a headshot, an author bio, and a listing of all your books available for purchase on Amazon. Readers can easily browse and purchase any of your books. However, in order to maximize the power of your Amazon Author Central page, you need to tell people about it. Include links to your Author Central page in all your publications and on your personal website, if you have one.
Use KDP Select wisely You can choose to enroll one or more of your e-books in KDP Select, making them free to Amazon Prime customers. This can be a powerful tool to drive sales and reach new readers all over the world. However, when you enroll an e-book in KDP Select, you cannot sell or distribute it in its electronic version anywhere else. The royalties from KDP Select, which are drawn from a pool every month, can also be unpredictable. We suggest using this in the beginning and then withdrawing from KDP Select once you're ready to start marketing your books on your own website.
Offer a print-on-demand version through CreateSpace CreateSpace offers print-on-demand versions of Kindle e-books, which would allow your books to appeal to customers who prefer paperbacks to e-readers. Since the fees for print-on-demand publishing and sales are slightly higher than Amazon's royalty structure for e-books, most authors price their CreateSpace books higher than their e-book versions. This strategy also makes the e-books look like a bargain by comparison, which can lead to better sales (and more royalties for you, since the sales margins are better).
Maximize profit using affiliate marketing When you sign up for Amazon Associates, you're assigned a URL with a unique tracking code. Whenever a customer purchases your Kindle e-book, provided that they've clicked on your URL with the unique tracking code, Amazon will pay you a commission for your e-book as well as a 4-10% commission for anything else the customer buys within 24 hours. This also allows you to link directly to your book's Amazon product page in online ads or blog posts and capture those profits.
§9 - Other Methods of Promoting Your Book Now that you know the two basic ways of promoting your book, here are some other ideas for alternative and complementary strategies you can use:
Social media Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to take advantage of free marketing wherever you can. Many new authors promote their books through a Facebook page for free. You can also use Twitter to link to your books as well.
Blogging Starting a blog is easier than it sounds. There are several online tutorials that will guide you through, step by step. Once your blog is fully functional, you can post articles that build on or point to the content of your e-books. Of course, you want your blog posts to link to your Amazon product pages or your landing page. To drive more traffic to your blog, link to your articles on social media websites.
Contribute articles Use the content in your e-book or blog to create interesting and informative articles that target your market. There are many popular sites where you can post these articles, such as Medium. It is important to also mention and link to your e-book or blog in the article. Also, many sites that allow you to syndicate your blog posts will allow you to provide author information at the end, so make sure it includes the URL of your website. By presenting yourself as a professional and expert source through free material, you will gain a lot of credibility.
Get your book reviewed Contact friends, family, and colleagues. Offer them a free copy of your e-book. Ask them to write testimonials or reviews on Amazon that you can use on your product or landing pages. If possible, politely ask other bloggers to write reviews of your e-book. Blurb.com describes how to do this in their post, “How to Get Reviews on Amazon Once You've Launched Your Book.” You should also consider the Book Blogger Directory.
Announce your book release and have an official “launch” Just as a traditional publishing house would do, promote your e-book release well in advance. You can send out announcements to your email list or at least post an article on your blog announcing the official launch date of your e-book. You can also use a press release to pitch your book to publications such as blogs and local newspapers. This blog post has some tips on writing and distributing a book launch press release.
§10 - Books on the Shelves: How to Sell Your Book on Consignment As we wrote in Part 1 of this report, the big publishing houses market physical books mostly by getting them on bookstore shelves.
It's possible for you to do this, too, using a process called “selling on consignment.”
This process is attractive to self-published authors who want to sell printed copies of their books. Not only does it allow authors to boost their sales, there are other benefits as well…
Selling on consignment allows you to connect with local businesses in ways that can lead to future deals. It makes it easier for people to buy your book. You'll be able to delegate the sales process (the stores typically do it for you). And it allows you to see your book on a bookstore's shelves without the meddling of a big publisher. Selling on consignment is simple. First, contact a local bookstore or shop. (It's more effective to do this in person.) Ask if they'd sell your book for you. If they say yes, all you do is supply the books and split the profits. Whatever copies the store doesn't sell, they give them back to you (so you can sell them elsewhere).
Every bookstore has its own consignment rules. Some will buy a quantity of books at a discount to the retail value you set (expect to give the bookstore a 40% discount at least). Others will simply split the profits with you, the author.
The profit split is typically 60/40, with you getting the 40%. But this is negotiable-especially once you start making a name for yourself. In fact, this split is currently better than Amazon's 35% royalty option, which you would have to select if you plan on selling your book outside of Amazon anyway.
So if you want to print your books and sell them in stores, here are the five most important things to keep in mind:
Aim for an indie beginning. At first, you'll want to start a relationship with local businesses and small independent bookstores. It's easier to convince a bookstore to stock your book if you can prove that there is already demand or you already have an active marketing plan. They'll only shelve a few of your books at first, but if the books sell well they'll ask for more. Big stores like Crossword bookstores often have many regional buying managers; store managers don't make stocking decisions. To get on the shelves of a big store, you might need to go through a book distributor (which we'll explain in the section “How to Scale Up to Become a Competitive Publisher”). Make yourself known. Ask bookstores in your local area if you can host readings, signings, and other events. If these go very well, they might approach you and ask to carry your book (even the big stores!). People judge books by their cover. Having a tasteful, professionally designed cover is even more important to the success of a printed book. When your book is on the shelf, it has to both leap out at browsing customers but not seem so out of place that it's passed over. Sales drive stocking, not the other way around. If your book doesn't sell any copies, you might not be able to continue selling your books through local stores. Think of it this way: Writing and publishing your book is step one, but promoting and selling your book is every other step after that, ad infinitum. Paper the deal. Prepare a consignment agreement once you've agreed to terms with the bookstore. Have the manager or an authorized representative sign it. This way, the terms are laid out plainly and clearly. Many bookstores have their own consignment agreements. But if a bookstore (or non-bookstore) doesn't have one and wants to carry your book, we've created a consignment agreement template for you here.
If you'd like to learn more about selling on consignment, check out the Self-Publishing Advice Center. They offer great resources for new authors to sell their books on consignment or otherwise.
§11 - How to Scale Up to Become a Competitive Publisher Answer this question: Would you rather buy the book How to Cure Your Cancer from Kindle Digital Services or International Health Sciences, Inc.?
We know the answer, and we hope you do, too.
So it's clear that-if you want to approach writing and publishing as a business rather than as a hobby-establishing your own publishing company is a must.
In addition to looking more professional, starting your own publishing company can save you tax money by separating your business and personal finances. If you form an LLC or an S corp, you can also shield your personal assets from bankruptcy and lawsuits. You can even publish other authors and hire employees.
Some new self-publishers won't need to start a business, since they already have a business structure to some degree. However, if you don't have a company, you should start one as you grow.
To learn the intricacies of starting a business in India refer to our Indipreneur series.
You may want to contact a small business attorney and a tax professional to discuss your needs. Whichever you choose, make sure you know the laws relating to your business, especially around collecting sales tax and filing taxes.
Choose a business name that fits your brand and isn't taken by another business in your state. File a “Doing Business As” notice in your state and publish a notification in a local newspaper.
Once you have your incorporation paperwork and Employer Identification Number (EIN), you can start a business bank account, hire full-time employees, and more.
Should You Buy ISBNs? The ISBN contains within it a “publisher identifier,” which enables anyone to locate the publisher of any particular book or edition. It also identifies you or your company as the publisher of record.
Bowker, a company that maintains the bibliographic records of every book for sale in the United States, sells ISBNs. You can purchase them either separately or in blocks of 10, 100, or 1,000.
Owning your own ISBNs gives you the ability to control the bibliographic record of your book. This is an important part of your book's metadata, and it's a key component in your book being discoverable by online searchers. You need an ISBN to sell your book in brick-and-mortar retail stores or through a distributor such as Ingram, as well as to get your book into libraries.
However, some small publishers find ISBNs an unnecessary expense. For one, ISBN numbers are expensive-$125 for a single one, although the fee drops to $275 for a block of 10.
Print-on-demand services can assign a free ISBN to a book, while retaining themselves as the publisher of record. This means that when you publish a print-on-demand book through CreateSpace and choose the option to use CreateSpace's free ISBN, your name will be listed as the author, and CreateSpace will be listed as the publisher. While some readers are fine with this arrangement, many bookstores won't carry books published by print-on-demand publishers.
If your business model requires brick-and-mortar retail sales, or if being listed as the publisher of record is important to you, consider buying your own ISBNs.
§12 - Putting It All Together: A 10-Step Guide to Getting Your Kitchen-Table Publishing Company Started in 60 Days To get your publishing venture off the ground, here are the steps to take and questions you should ask:
Step one: Plan ahead.
Think about your production model:
Are you going to write your books yourself? Are you going to hire freelancers to help you finish them? Think about your distribution model:
Do you want to publish exclusively on Amazon's platform to take advantage of its convenient resources for authors? Do you want to publish on multiple platforms to try to maximize your revenue? Do you want to sell through your own webpage? Think about how quickly you want to scale up your operation:
Do you want to eventually distribute books through brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries? Do you want to solicit manuscripts and hire editors to look through submissions? If you plan to scale up your business, look into setting up a company.
Ultimately, success will come from smart planning, efficient execution, and rapid adaptation.
Step two: Consult with experts.
Depending on the type and scale of publishing business you plan to start, it's important to consult with experts before making final decisions.
If you are just planning on self-publishing without setting up a company at first, consider speaking to local authors and booksellers to get their advice.
If you plan to create a large, self-sustaining business, however, you'll want to talk to professionals. Many lawyers and accountants offer a free consultation to answer your questions. They can advise you on the best path for your particular situation.
Speak to an intellectual property attorney, business attorney, tax accountant, or any other professional you may need.
Make sure you learn the laws relating to your business. For example, in the U.S., there are laws about collecting sales tax when you sell goods at live events. But the specifics vary from state to state. You may also need to register for a sales tax license in your state and/or city.
Step three: Set up the business.
Once you decide on which type of business to set up, choose a name. Ensure your name isn't trademarked or already in use in your immediate area.
The name should also be professional and suit your brand. Once you have the name of the business, you can now finalize the set-up of your publishing company.
During this stage, it's important that you get an employer identification number. With this number, you can now apply for a business bank account. Each bank has its own procedures, so you must consult carefully with local banks around you. You may also set up a business PayPal account for transactions online.
You'll also want to establish an accounting system. A lot of problems are solved through proper bookkeeping. QuickBooks can help if you're new to accounting.
Also, make sure you implement a system for tracking receipts. Don't buy personal items with a business account. Keep receipts for web hosting, advertising, etc. Know the laws around taxes and if needed, refer to a CA for financial advice.
Step four: Open your self-publishing accounts.
Open accounts with Kindle Direct Publishing and any other companies you wish to sell self-published e-books through. We cover the requirements for this step in Part 1 of this report.
Step five: Build your website or landing page.
Create a professional-looking website or landing page to feature your books. We cover how to do this in the sections above.
Step six: Produce your content.
See our guide to publishing e-books. Hire freelancers if necessary.
Check out our recommended apps and tools to assist you with writing and publishing.
You may choose to release your books one at a time, in a series, or as a cohesive catalog.
Don't skimp on editing and proofreading. Crowdsourcing or hiring a freelancer can be very helpful here.
Step seven: Create your covers and interior images.
An attractive, professional-looking cover image is a must, as are any in-text images you plan to use. Freelance graphic designers can make excellent covers for a relatively low fee, as well as design an attractive e-book layout.
However, if you feel comfortable designing your own e-book cover, stock photos are available for a small fee, or you can buy an exclusive license to a professional cover image. (Shutterstock is an example of one such service.) Use the highest resolution available, and add your title and any cover text using photo-editing software.
Always test images by looking at them in an e-reader and multiple browsers before uploading them to make sure they will look good.
Step eight: Assemble and format your e-book.
Most e-readers use the EPUB file format. Kindle has a proprietary format, MOBI. Several free and low-cost programs are available, such as Sigil or Calibre, which will convert a PDF or Word document to a ready-to-download e-book file.
Make sure to include SEO keywords and tags in your e-book's metadata (see explanation here), as well as the cover and book description.
Link to your other books in the back matter of your e-book, and include a free preview or related content from a similar title.
Step nine: Launch your e-book.
Upload your content to all your chosen platforms. This is the time when you also want to be promoting and marketing your book heavily and testing to see what works and what doesn't.
Step ten: Celebrate your success, then do it again.
Once you've established your publishing company-complete with your first e-book-take a step back and appreciate the fruits of your hard work. Take stock of what worked well and what didn't, and tweak accordingly.
But don't rest too heavily on your laurels. While it's important to enjoy your work, it's just as important to get back to work. Start brainstorming your next book… or think about how you can continue promoting your current one.
We hope the information we've shared in this report will help you kick off your kitchen-table publishing business. We look forward to hearing about your successes!