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If you’re a writer who is thinking of publishing a book, you’re probably weighing all your options to see which path to take. 

With book publishing, you have two paths: traditional publishing and self-publishing.

While traditional publishing has always been the standard, self-publishing has been gaining quite a lot of traction and thousands of writers have taken this route successfully.

If you don’t want to deal with the competitiveness in traditional publishing and are looking for another way to get your book out there and start a writing career, this article is for you.

You’ll learn what self-publishing is, the benefits of self-publishing, and how to make money through self-publishing.

Skip ahead:

What is self-publishing?

Self-publishing is the act of publishing a work of art— especially books — as the author or artist without the help of publishing companies like Penguin/RandomHouse, Harper Collins, etc. Although self-publishing is mostly used in the context of books, people can self-publish music, paintings, and other works of art. 

With self-published books, the author writes the book and manages the entire publishing process themselves, including editing, designing, and formatting without the involvement of a traditional publishing company. 

When it’s time to publish the book, the author launches it on a self-publishing platform and retains full rights to the book. 

Some popular self-publishing platforms include:

  • Amazon KDP: Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is the most popular platform indie authors use to sell their books. It has close to 3 million published books across several niches — fiction and nonfiction. While KDP allows you to publish an unlimited number of books in eBook, paperback, and hardback formats, it won’t allow you to sell your books on any other platforms for the first 90 days after launch.
  • Apple Books: Apple Books is a great place to publish your book because it has a bigger market share than Kobo, Google Pay, and Barnes & Noble combined. It’s not as popular as Amazon KDP, but publishing on Apple Books exposes you to a new audience that you may not reach on KDP.
  • Barnes & Noble Press: Barnes & Noble Press offers great royalties, impressive print capabilities, and marketing services that make it a great place to publish your work should you decide to go wide.
  • PublishDrive: With PublishDrive, you can publish your book and distribute it to various channels, such as Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and hundreds of other bookstores. What’s more, you’ll be able to keep 100% of your royalties. 

Why should you self-publish your books?

While traditional publishing is still popular and is the preferred route, many indie authors are finding success with self-publishing. Here’s why:

  1. Higher royalty rates

With traditional publishing, an author receives an advance — a certain amount of money the publishing house gives the author upfront before publishing the book. This is usually between $3,000 and $100,000. The author has to earn back that money in sales before they can start collecting royalties. Those royalties are usually 10% of each book sale. 

Say you have a $20,000 advance and a 10% royalty rate. If your book sells at $11.99, you’ll need to sell 1,668 books before you start earning royalties. And when you start earning, you’ll get $1.19 per copy. 

Self-published authors, on the other hand, don’t get an advance, but they get about 70% per book sale from the jump. So instead of getting $1.19 per copy on a book listed for $11.99, you’re getting about $8 per copy from the start. So if you get $8 and you sell 1,668 copies, you’ll make $13,344, which is more than the advance a traditional publishing company will give.

  1. Complete creative control

If you decide to go the self-publishing route, you’ll have full control over your work. You’ll decide what your book is about, what the cover looks like, how it’s formatted, what the synopsis is, and everything else in between.

You’ll also be able to hire your own editor, cover designer, and formatter, so you have more control over the most important parts of the project. 

  1. Full autonomy over your business

Not only will you control the publishing process as a self-published author, but you’ll also have full autonomy over how you want to run your business. You’ll decide how many books you want to put out each year, what genres you want to write in, what books are sold and at what price point, and a host of other things.

6 ways to make money from self-publishing

If you want to make money from self-publishing, here are six things you should do:

  1. Write a good book

When you think of making money from selling something online, the first word that likely pops into your head is “marketing”. Or “sales”, perhaps. But the way you plan to make money is by self-publishing and selling books. So it’s important that what you’re selling is good.

Before you start thinking of how to reach every bookworm that exists, make sure you’re writing a book that people would actually like to read. If you were working with a traditional publishing house, they’d take responsibility for some of the steps that are involved in creating a good book — except the actual writing of it, of course.

But since you’re self-publishing, most of the creation process is your responsibility. If you find that there are things you’re not adept at, hire an expert to help you. The process of creating a good book is straightforward: 

  • Make an outline of your book.
  • Write the first draft. This is the “ugly” draft
  • Self-edit the first draft with tools like ProWritingAid, Hemingway Editor, and Grammarly
  • Hire a professional editor. Editing is nuanced and tricky. Getting a professional to help you is probably the best thing you’ll do for your book. You can hire an editor on platforms like Reedsy, Fiverr, and Upwork. If possible, hire a proofreader, too
  • Run some revisions to finetune the book
  • Design the book cover. If you’re a designer, you can do this yourself. If you’re not, I recommend that you hire a professional designer to design a cover that fits industry standards and catches readers’ attention. You can’t wing this part because, contrary to the popular saying, people do judge books by their covers.
  • Format your manuscript into an eBook file for self-publishing. When you have your final manuscript and cover design, you’ll need to format your .docx file to look like an eBook. Then, you’d upload your formatted manuscript to an eBook converter like PublishDrive.
  • Once you have your eBook, upload it to self-publishing channels, such as Amazon KDP and Apple Books.

The formatting process is important because it determines what your book is going to look like on the inside. So carefully work on this, or better still, hire a professional

This is a simplified version of the entire process, but it works. The point is that you do everything you can to make your book worth buying — and reading. 

Read more: How to Write an Ebook

  1. Build a launch team 

A launch team, or street team, is a group of people that help you launch your book. These people don’t have to be writers, but they should’ve read your book and enjoyed it.

Your launch team will be responsible for helping you garner traction so that you’ll start getting preorders and sales as soon as you launch. They will:

  • Schedule social media campaigns and events to generate hype
  • Get in touch with content creators and readers for reviews
  • Leave reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads to give your upcoming book a boost

Your launch team doesn’t have to comprise a lot of people. If you can get just five people with a sizeable audience to spread the word about your book, that’s great. Just make sure you build a team that you can communicate and work with to ensure that your book is a success. 

You can find these people on social media or they could be authors/bloggers in your personal network. Where you recruited them from doesn’t really matter as long as they have a genuine desire to see your book succeed and are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

  1. Craft a marketing and launch plan

After getting a launch team together, you’ll have to create a plan or roadmap everyone should follow to maximize the reach and success of your book — especially in the weeks after launch.

Marketing a book involves a lot of things so you’ll need a guide to ensure that you and your team are on track and you’re not leaving any important thing out.

For self-publishers, the marketing process involves:

  • Designing and setting up social media and PPC ads
  • Planning quizzes, challenges, and giveaways
  • Running PR campaigns
  • Appearing on podcasts and other media to discuss your book, and more

In your publishing schedule, break down your publishing costs — all the money you’ll spend to hire an editor, a proofreader, a cover designer, and a formatter. When you find out how long it will take each of them to finish their jobs, start mapping out your budget for ads and giveaways. Also, note the podcasts and interviews you’ll do before your book launch. 

This entire process usually takes 3 – 6 months for self-publishers, but you should leave some wiggle room in your schedule just in case something doesn’t go exactly according to plan.

A schedule that is too tight might cause you to make mistakes. It’s better to have everything set up a month earlier than planned than to rush to fix a book that’s one week before the launch date.

  1. Build an audience 

Let’s be real: Most self-published books sell few to no copies. Scary, right?

But don’t fret. Most people who self-publish don’t focus on the most important of making money through self-publishing: building a dedicated audience.

Below are a few ways you can build an audience. The great news is: you can start doing this before you finish writing your book. The goal is to get as many people as you possibly can in your corner before your book launches so that when it does, you’ll start making money right away.

  • Social media: Building a social media presence is the easiest way to build an audience. You don’t have to do anything fancy — a Facebook page or a Twitter account will do. If you’re trying to appeal to a younger audience, try platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Post regularly, connect with people (especially other writers) and respond to comments. You might not see results right away, but if you keep at it, you’ll grow.

  • Author website: If you don’t have a website, you must create one ASAP. A website is where your readers can go to learn more about you, buy your books, sign up for your email list, and learn of any other services you offer. You can’t rely on social media platforms and Amazon because they don’t belong to you. They can crash at any time. Your website, however, is yours and you can do with it as you please. You can set one up using WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix.
  • Email list: Emails are one of the most effective ways to reach and communicate with your readers. Why? Because it’s direct. You’re talking to people who are so interested in your work that they gave you their email addresses so you could send them updates on what you’re doing. That’s powerful.

To build an email list, you’ll need to sign up with an email service provider (ESP). After doing that, design some opt-in forms and strategically place them on your website. You can also put a link to your forms in your social media bios.

But don’t expect people to just sign up. People hardly give away their email addresses unless there’s something in it for them. So offer them an incentive. This could be a short story, a poem, some writing prompts, or even the first three chapters of your next book for free. As long as it’s valuable, relates to your work as an author, and is free, people will sign up for your list.

  • Podcasts: Podcasts are the new craze, so get on the train. As an author, you could create a podcast discussing everything from books in your niche, to the writing process, or just fun stuff that your target demographic is interested in. You could interview other writers or even cohost the podcast with a writer friend of yours. 
  1. Publish more books

If you really want to make money with self-publishing, you’ll need to publish more than one book. 

If you write one book and never publish again, your reader base will slowly reduce till you have no one reading your work anymore. Once people read your first book and love it, they’re likely to look forward to the next one you release. So you have to keep writing and publishing. 

But you need to strike a balance. 

Some self-published authors in popular niches like romance can churn out five books a year. While this may work for them, it doesn’t mean you should do the same. Ideally, you should publish two books each year. But publishing one book a year is great too as it gives your readers time to catch up before you release another body of work. It also gives you time to craft an ironclad marketing plan for each book.

A great way to make a full-time income from self-publishing is to write a series of books that follow the same main set of characters. This almost guarantees that people who loved the first installation would want to read the other books in the series. And people who are new to your work would have to start at the beginning and continue down the series.

After your series is complete, you can bundle them together as a boxset to make more money. 

Note: To ensure that you don’t burn out, wait till you’ve finished writing your second or third book before publishing the first one. This gives you enough time to work on the next one.

  1. Make your books available in different formats 

Self-publishing platforms allow authors to publish books in different formats: eBooks, paperback, hardback, and audiobooks. While eBooks are the most popular format for self-published authors, you shouldn’t only offer your book as an eBook. If you do, you’re missing out on buys from people who prefer printed books — paperback or hardback — or audiobooks.

Make money with self-publishing

The key to making a living through self-publishing is to think of it as a business rather than just putting out a book. For you to succeed as a self-published author, you need to write an amazing book, market it to your target audience, and nurture your fans to ensure that they continue buying subsequent books.  

Doing this will help you generate passive income that you can rely on. 

Read more: Top 11 Ebook Tools