At the start of July I self-published my first book on Amazon. Just a few short months ago I had no idea how to go about publishing a book. It took a lot of research to figure out all the steps, but it was definitely worth it.
Self-publishing on Amazon is not difficult. There are just a lot of things that you need to learn to make it happen. In this post I’m going to break down the process that I went through to get my book out into the world.
Please keep in mind that I am at the start of my journey and don’t have all the answers. However, I have learnt a few things which I believe could help those who are yet to publish their first book.
I initially released my book as a Kindle version on Amazon. I then created the audiobook and published it on ACX and I’m currently waiting for the print version proof from Createspace.
The figures that I mention throughout the article are in US dollars.
My book is around 15,000 words, so it’s quite a short read. It took me about six months to write it because I procrastinated like it was going out of business. Now I aim to write at least 1000 words a day, five days a week. If I had done this it would have only taken three weeks to write the book.
I wrote my book in Microsoft Word. I do plan to purchase Scrivener (a writing software many authors recommend), but I haven’t yet taken the leap. It costs $40 and I’m avoiding it due to the learning curve, but I know the sooner I get past this the better.
I hired a designer from Fiverr. Yes, I paid $5 for my cover, well, initially. I purchased a few add-ons so the final cost for the cover design was $20. I also provided the illustration which I found on 123rf. To get the illustration I wanted I had to purchase $38 worth of credits.
I would prefer not to hire someone on Fiverr to design the cover, but because I was on a tight budget I decided to try it out. I did a lot of searching to find a designer that I thought would do a good job.
Although I’m happy with the final design, I did have issues communicating with the designer. I have found that to get a design you are happy with on Fiverr you need to know exactly what you want and be able to communicate that effectively. At the end of the day, if you pay more for a designer you will get a better product and the process will hopefully be less painful.
I hired a different designer to convert my original cover to an ACX version and then hired another person to design the wraparound cover for Createspace. Together this cost $10. I had issues communicating with both designers so I’m not happy to recommend either.
To find an editor I posted on Facebook to see if anyone I knew would be able to offer their services. I also posted on the Goodreads Editors and Writers group and asked people I knew if they could recommend an editor. I ended up going with a friend who responded on Facebook and I paid around $100.
I went with a line edit and a proofread. The type of editing you need will depend on the book. Just like anything, finding the right person to work with is a process of trial and error. Always send through a sample of your writing for them to edit, so you can see what their skills are like.
I hired Polgarus Studio to format my book for Kindle and Createspace. They are a couple from Australia, were excellent to deal with and did a great job. It cost $45 for the formatting of both books. If you are looking to get someone else to format your book, I would definitely recommend Polgarus Studio. I have since learnt how to format for Kindle in Word and like anything, it’s easy when you know how!
I discovered this YouTube video called How to Format an eBook for Kindle by Tom Corson-Knowles. It’s an excellent video and clearly walks you through the process. I spent a good afternoon learning how to do it but it’s definitely worth it if you plan to self-publish a number of books. In saying that, you can easily format in Scrivener, so if you purchase the software you won’t have to go through the trouble of learning it all yourself. I have not yet learnt how to format for Createspace.
Launch and promotions
I emailed a PDF version of my book to about 15 people a week or two before I launched, in exchange for reviews. They were also able to pick up a few mistakes that were missed. It required a bit of effort to chase reviews but when I launched I had around 10, which I was happy with. I now have 18 reviews.
I do think that reviews are important. I’m not sure what the magic number is but I’d be happy to get at least five initial reviews when I launch future books. A lot of time can be spent chasing reviews but I often see books with around five reviews in the best seller lists on Amazon, so I think that as long as you have a few positive ones that will do the trick.
I started an email list about two weeks prior to launching and tried to gather interest for my book. I had 24 people sign up for my pre-launch list. I created a trailer through Powtoon to promote my book on Facebook, which seemed to be popular with my friends.
I launched with two free days, then switched it to 99 cents for a week and then $2.99, which is what it sits at today. I ran different promotions on almost every day during the launch, some of which were effective.
The ones that worked best were James H. Mayfield’s promotion ($12 and highly recommended), BKnights’ basic gig ($5) and Freebooksy. I paid $80 to be featured on Freebooksy and although I did see pretty good results, I think I’ll skip them next time. At this stage I don’t want to be forking out that much money for one promotion. Once I switched to paid I found that Robin Reads ($15) and Fussy Librarian ($8) produced the best results for my book, other than Buck Books.
I couldn’t get in with Buck Books during my launch, but I was able to get featured a month later. My book was downloaded 46 times that day. Awesome for a promotion that cost nothing! However, I believe they are now charging $49.
During my launch I also submitted to a number of other paid and free promotional sites, but I wouldn’t say that the results from any of them stood out. I do think it’s important to submit to free sites but it can be hit and miss.
I also trialled Facebook ads for a week and spent about $21. I was not successful and it seems it takes a lot of trial and error to do well, but I’m told once you crack it the returns can be excellent.
That’s what you’ve been waiting for, right? Did I get filthy rich from launching my book? No, unfortunately I’m still living on the poverty line. However, I did have some pleasing results.
My book made it to #64 in the Top 100 Free Books on Amazon, which I was super happy with. I read that getting into the Top 100 Free list is not always easy to do. My book was also the #1 non-fiction free book, which was awesome!
It was downloaded around 3100 times during the free launch. When it switched to paid its best ranking was around 6,000. During launch I didn’t make it to #1 in a category, but thanks to Buck Books I can say that I’m a best selling Amazon author. During my Buck Books promotion I made it to #1 in the Humor & Entertainment Short Reads category. Yay!
Since switching to paid I have sold around 250 copies of my book. Here’s what my sales look like. I had spikes when I booked successful promotions. I was averaging around five copies a day for a couple of weeks, then it dropped off to one or two a day. Now almost two months after launching I am lucky to sell one a day. I understand it’s quite normal for sales to drop off at this point.
Since launching I’ve earned $198.57 from Amazon.com and a few dollars in some of the other stores.
I choose to only put my book on Amazon and enrolled it in KDP Select. Once I have at least three books I will look at putting them on other platforms. I am still learning my way around Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read so I can’t offer any wisdom on this subject.
The reader magnet that I created for my book was a mini video series with tips from the book. I created the videos through Powtoon, which cost me $59 for a month membership. Because I enjoy creating videos and believe that they are a great way to promote my type of book, I felt this was a worthwhile investment. I created a few links in the book to get people to sign up to my email list. I’ve had nine people sign up since my book launch, so the total number of people on my email list is 33.
It’s crazy to think that over 3000 people downloaded my book and yet I’ve had such a tiny amount of people sign up for my list. I don’t think I’m the only one to experience such a low number of sign ups.
Since launching I have done more research into building an email list and plan to continue to test things as I go. I also want the people on my list to only be those who are interested in my writing. I am working on ways to tweak the reader magnet and will look at giving away a book for free once I have launched more in the series.
If I were starting again the first book I would read on the topic is Better Book Funnels: How to Engage With Your Readers and Sell More Books!
I narrated the audiobook myself and recorded it at a local radio station. I work for a media company which owns the station and so I was able to get a good deal. It cost me about $100 and took around 4 hours to record and edit. Thankfully I didn’t have to edit it myself! A kind girl I work with helped me out with that.
The audiobook is now available for $5.95 on Amazon through ACX. It was uploaded seven days ago and I have currently sold nine copies. I’m stoked with this as I didn’t have any expectations for audiobook sales. I’m getting a 25 percent royalty from ACX because I choose to retain the rights to sell my audiobook elsewhere. This means I’ve currently made about $7 from my audiobook, but it all adds up and it’s early days!
Overall spending and return
Kindle, Createspace & audiobook covers: $68 (including the cost of buying illustration credits)
Total spent: $554
Total made: $217.10
Why have I shared these exact figures?
I want you to know the reality of what was invested in my book and what I’ve currently made. If you only take into account what I spent on promotions, I have just made that back. I definitely could have spent more but I also could have spent less. It’s a massive learning process and with the release of each book I hope to improve this process.
The results of my launch may seem disappointing to some, but a success to others. It depends on who you compare yourself to. I came into this with no prior knowledge or experience. It’s important to look at a person’s history before comparing results.
There are many variables when it comes to successfully launching a book. Does the author have a background in marketing or business? Do they have a platform or connections? Did they spend thousands of dollars doing a course on how to launch a book? These will all make a difference to the success of a book.
I didn’t take a course on how to launch a book. If I had more money to invest in learning I would have looked into it. I believe that taking a course would be a shortcut to learning all the things that you need to know and lead to making great connections with other authors, which is extremely important and valuable.
If you are going to do a course just make sure you do a lot of research before investing. There are plenty of scammers around looking to make a quick buck off wannabe authors. Also remember that you don’t need to take a course to learn this stuff. There are plenty of successful authors who went the DIY route.
The best resources
The number one resource I would recommend is Pat Flynn’s Kindle Publishing Facebook Group. I owe a lot to the members of this group. Whatever question you have on self-publishing there is bound to be someone in there who will be able to answer it.
If you do have questions take advantage of the search box on the page to see if they’ve been answered before. At times I would ask questions that had already been answered and this is a waste of everyone’s time.
Joanna Penn is a successful fiction and non-fiction author. She is genuine and shares heaps of helpful information on her website and podcast.
I learnt a ton through this podcast by Steve Scott. Although Steve hasn’t published an episode for a while there is a lot of helpful information in the archives. Steve Scott is a successful non-fiction author with over 40 books.
These are excellent articles by Martin Desconocido who has published over 50 titles.
Lise Cartwright’s success is inspiring. Not only because she’s a fellow Kiwi (New Zealander) but also because she’s proof of what can be achieved. I definitely recommend checking out this podcast episode.
Jyotsna recently successfully released Job Escape Plan: The 7 Steps to Build a Home Business, Quit your Job & Enjoy the Freedom, which is a great book. I was able to learn a lot from what she shared about her launch on the Pat Flynn Kindle Facebook Group. I recommend searching the page to find the posts she’s shared on her launch.
Books to read
There are a lot of good books to read on the topic. Don’t get too bogged down with all the learning. Just pick a couple of books, learn what you need to know and then take action.
Last bits of advice
Just focus on the next step
In my life I have wasted so much time learning things that were 10 steps ahead of where I was. It’s easy to fool yourself into believing you’re making progress when in fact all you are doing is over-consuming information that you will probably forget.
Trying to learn all the things you need to know can be overwhelming. Just focus on learning the next step, do that and then learn the next step. We are all learning as we go and with each book we will improve. You can’t expect to get everything right from the get-go.
Don’t get too caught up in the results of your first book
This is an excellent quote from 7 Pieces of Wisdom that Will Change the Way You Work to remember:
“Start something new right away and don’t look back. Don’t check the grosses, don’t look up the reviews on Amazon… When we “start the next one” it keeps us vigilant for the long haul, to remove the desire for immediate gratification, and to ultimately create a mindset that serves as a foundation for sustained and disciplined creativity by enjoying the process and not the outcome.”
It’s unlikely you will get rich and earn a full-time living from one book. Yes, we all wish that would happen but it’s extremely rare. Just focus on putting out quality books and learning how to effectively market them.
Try not to compare yourself to other authors
As I mentioned earlier, there are many different things that may contribute to the success of a book. We can waste so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others and being envious of what they have achieved. Everyone is on their own journey. We are all coming into this with different experiences. You also may not be hearing the full backstory.
It is good to learn from other authors, but also be aware that even if you do all the same promotional strategies you may not get the same results. Just focus on doing what you can to make progress with each book.
Although I’m at the start of my author journey, I’m a big believer in persistence. If you aim to put out quality and work hard, you will eventually get there. I have faith in this. From what I’ve seen from other authors, persistence is the key.
Don’t give up. Yes, it’s hard when you feel like you’re so far from where you want to be, but if you continue to work hard you will continue to make progress. If you continue to make progress then one day you will wake up and be where you want to be.
These are the main steps that I took to put out my first book. I hope you have found this post useful and I wish you every success as you work toward your goals!
My first book All By Myself: A Humorous Guide to Navigating the World When You’re Single and is for single girls in their 20s and 30s. I’m currently working on the next book in the series which will be a humorous guide to surviving a quarter-life crisis.