Sunday, October 31, 2010

Patience and Planning Essential for Self-Publishing Authors

A fair amount of what self-publishing expert Morris Rosenthal writes about on his blog is the business of self-publishing and achieving the goal of self-sufficiency. For many self-published authors, one of their goals is to earn a living as an author. Certainly a worthy goal. 

It won't happen overnight. I don't want to hear about the stories of the lucky few who struck it rich. They are a statistically an anomaly. My goal when I entered the adventure known as self-publishing was to generate extra money to help pay bills and our daughter's college tuition. I am not there yet in terms of making a big dent in our bills.

Having said that, my wife, the Chief Financial Officer of our little business enterprise, informed me if our sales continued at the current level each month, she would fell confident enough to start using some of that money to pay down what we owe on our eldest daughter's college education. 

What have we achieved so far? Sales are completely covering the monthly cost of web hosting and my e-newsletter maintained by Constant Contact. My first book was published using Dog Ear Publishing and sales have long since recouped the investment in getting Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball into print. The costs of getting all of my other books into print have been paid for be income generated through sales of books already in print.

The last big cost to recover is the amount we paid for our website. Morris Rosenthal would scold me if he knew how much I spent on the website, but I am happy with the website and it was necessary as a means for me to share information with coaches and in turn build a following interested in purchasing my books (Morris would agree with sharing content). All of the costs of researching my upcoming books and learning about the business of self-publishing have been paid for with revenue from book sales.

I have learned a great deal in the entire process I want to share with other authors who are self-publishers or considering self-publishing. Some key points:

1) Have a plan. Even if it is flawed, you need a business plan. Yes, a business plan.
2) Be flexible with the plan. As you gain experience and learn from successes and mistakes, improve your plan.
3) Be patient! Aaron Shepard states, and my experiences have proven his principle to be correct, it takes a year for a book to begin to reach its potential on Amazon (if you are Aiming for Amazon!).
4) Develop a backlist. The total sales of your backlist will help your bottom line each month.
5) Take the time to learn as much as you can about the business of self-publishing. It is not enough to have a good (great) book - you have to sell it. You have to do your homework.
6) Develop an author platform - this is essential to build a following and there is too much involved to address this in this post.
7) Communicate with other self-publishers. We all make mistakes and we all do things right. Learning from the experiences of others is a great way to shorten the learning curve.

If you are new to the self-publishing business and have yet to publish your first book, or have only one or two books in print, I would suggest the following books as part of your homework:
  • Print-on-Demand Book Publishing by Morris Rosenthal covers the business side of self-publishing using POD technology.
  • Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard covers the business model of selling on Amazon.
  • Self-Publishing With Amazon's CreateSpace by yours truly, Kevin Sivils covers how to use CreateSpace to truly self-publish and an overview of the business model of using POD to sell on Amazon.
  • 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing by Kevin Sivils (Good for individuals who have limited knowledge about the self-publishing industry - a great starting point in the learning process) covers a wide range of basic information about self-publishing in an easy to use question and answer format.
  • POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard covers using LSI to self-publish.

All of these books are available from Amazon.