Self-Publishing is Now Mainstream

People still thinking self-publishing has a stigma don’t know about all the money being made by the authors.

The latest Author Earnings report is out, at long last, and the result was interesting. If you don’t know of this list, it is the most comprehensive and detailed analysis of the book market available to the public.

And, after listening to the Sell More Books Show discussing the Top 50 self-published authors list, I was extra excited to check out the latest report.

I was too slow though.

Data Guy, the man behind the report, had to remove the list of the Top 50 authors because half the authors wanted to remain anonymous. They didn’t want everyone knowing they were doing SO well as self-published authors.

Granted, these authors were primarily fiction authors, with multiple book titles. But, the reality is that there is a lot of money in books. And, self-published authors can make a lot more money than you might believe.

That said, it’s not that easy to be an author making the money. It’s easier than ever to self-publish, but the average book will sell less than 250 copies in it’s lifetime. So, just because you can go the easy and cheap route, doesn’t mean you should.

Here’s why most non-fiction books won’t sell that well:

1. The author wrote the book for themselves, and not readers.

Have people told you that you should write a book?

If so, you probably should … but even if it’s about your life, remember that the book is not for you.

This can be really hard to do when you write on your own.

Even after writing two successful books, I am amazed at how useful it is to work with a writing coach. After reading Chapter 1 of my new book he said, “That was a great story about your husband Dave, but what is your reader supposed to get from it?”

That story made me feel good to tell it, but it didn’t fit with the hook of my book. The reader wasn’t really benefiting from the story. That’s ok once in awhile, but if you do too much of that, your book won’t sell because people aren’t interested in you, they are interested in what they can learn from you.

2. The author worried about break even.

Breakeven for a professionally created non-fiction book that sells for at least $9.99 is around 1,500-2,000 copies. Less copies, the higher the price point. And, of course, it depends on how much you spend on marketing.

But, if you focus on break even that is all you’ll get. Instead, think about ways to 10x that investment. How many speaking gigs do you need to land as a result of your book? How many new clients do you need to get 10x of your book investment back?

When you do that, you won’t be afraid to invest in creating an amazing book, hiring a marketing team, and pushing hard to get the word out about your book.

3. Fear of Failure or Fear of Success.

The single greatest thing that holds people back from investing in their book’s success is fear. You’re afraid you are wasting your money. You’re afraid your book won’t be good enough. Or, you’re afraid it will be a great success and change your life.

As an entrepreneur, or professional, you’d never act as your lawyer, accountant, HR consultant, and PR person. So why are you trying to write your book alone?

Authors who are successful hire a great team from day one. They know they can’t do it well on their own.

The author earnings report declares that self-publishing is mainstream now. There’s no stigma. If you create a great book with your ideal reader in mind, focus on massive success, and get over the fear, the money, movie deals, and monstrous opportunities are yours for the taking.

Checklist for Choosing a Fantastic Book Title

“This might sound like I’m critical of avid book readers … and I’m not. But, those people will read almost anything. The trick is getting it in front of them.”

I was chatting with a PR pro. She’s behind some pretty incredible success stories including a New York Times Bestseller, a paid professional speaker who is booked 172 days a year, and a book that became a movie. After working as a talent agent, a PR professional, and a talent manager, she had a lot of insights to offer.

One of the things we chatted about was this:

The best marketing plan in the world won’t help you if you have a terrible book title.

The title is what people will have to remember to find your book. It’s what people will share when they tell others about your book. And, ultimately it’s what will get readers attention (or, not).

An author with a book that isn’t selling contacted us for help. I walked him through some of the changes we’d need to make to market his book. One of those things was a title change. He refused and said he’d rather have us try to market the book as is. But, I knew that it would be a waste of his money.

There were eight other books with the same title! The title was great for his subject matter, so I understand why he chose it. The cover was well done. I liked the hook of the book. But, it’s tough to overcome a problem title.

And yes … you can have the same title as another book … I explain that right here:

So what does make a great title? A great book title will capture attention, create curiosity, and be easy to remember. So does your title check off all the boxes? Let’s make sure.

Run it through our five-point book title checklist to find out:

Number one. Is it short? Three words or less is ideal.

Now there are exceptions to this rule, of course. I am sure just as soon as I say this, you’ll think, “Well what about “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and other book titles that are long but very famous?

There are always exceptions, but the majority of best-selling books in the non-fiction categories, and even fiction tend to be three words or less. Just check out the top 20 best selling business books right now, as noted in this video:

The books we’re talking about are:

  • Outliers,
  • Start with Why,
  • Option B,and
  • Boomerang.

These books are all selling exceptionally well, and the titles are super short.

Number two. Is it easy to remember?

Tell your friends what you’re thinking of calling your book. A few hours later say, “Hey listen, do you remember my book title?”

Don’t tell them that this is a test because then they’ll make sure to remember. What you want to find out is, is your book title memorable? Because you want people to be able to tell others, and of course remember which book they want to look up when they go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to buy your book.

Number three. Is it easy to say?

Now you might be thinking, “Why does that matter, they’re reading?”

If you’re doing a great job of selling your book, you’re going to be talking about your book all the time. And, other people will be saying the title all the time.

If it’s a tongue twister, it will get messed up. The New Brand You, which is my second book, has a title that wouldn’t check off Box 2 or 3 on this list. If I’d had people try to remember it or say it over and over and over again, I would have discovered that there’s something about this title that people just can’t seem to get it right.

I did test the title in written format and used a focus group to come up with the title. But, I should have tested it with repetition. Now you won’t make my mistake.

Say your title over and over and over again. Do you still like it? Ask a few friends to do the same thing. Do they find that it is still easy to say after repeating it several times? Great, check off this box.

Number four. Is the URL for your book title available?

You’re probably writing your book to position yourself as the authority in your marketplace, right? Now, imagine a potential reader types your book title into Google and finds four other websites and not yours. That doesn’t position you as the leader in this category.

Or, maybe you’re thinking series, or brand extensions? If you are thinking a series of books, a workshop, products or an app to monetize your book in other ways,  owning your book’s URL makes all of that much easier.

If you love your book title, and it checks off the other boxes in this book title checklist, but you can’t get the URL, then hopefully you can at least get Your Title, that’ll fill in a bit of a gap.

Number five. Does your title pop?

There’s a great book on this called Pop by Sam Horn. She talks about how to break out not blend in. The big thing is you want to make sure that your book title stands out and doesn’t sound like every other book in its category. Think about what will create curiosity. What will have people grabbing your book saying, “I need to know what’s inside?”

So, can you check off all five things? Even if you can, you should run a few tests just to be sure that your title will have people running to the store to buy your book.

So how can you test it?

If you’ve got an email newsletter, you could split it in half and send out one title to half of the list and the other title to the other half. See which one people click on more.

Ask people, “Would you wanna buy this book or this book?”, and just see which titles are making people feel like they will pull out their credit card and buy your book.

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P.S. If you’re wondering what a laughing baby seal has to do with any of this … the answer is, very little. It made me smile, and I thought I would share that. If something makes you smile and is memorable, you’re off to a great start!

Print vs Digital – Do You Need to Publish Your Book in Both?

When I went to publish my first book, I never asked myself the question of print vs digital. I knew that I wanted my book to be published in a physical form.

Without holding my book in my hands, signing copies, and seeing it on book shelves, I would never feel like an author. 

That’s me, though.

Your goal may be to publish at the lowest possible cost or, to make the most money on every copy of your book sold. Because of that, you may be thinking that a digital only version of your book is best. But, is that really the case?

Print vs Digital? Or, do you need both?

The answer is, it depends.

Whether you go print vs digital, or do both, depends on your niche, your goals and your target market. And, to a smaller extent, your budget may play a factor in the decision.

If you write fiction, you may not need a physical book.

If you’re in the romance genre specifically, digital is going to reach a huge portion of the market. For a great break down of the numbers on this check out Author Earnings presentation at Digital Book World 2017.

If you’re a non-fiction author the print vs digital decision is simple.

You should have both print and digital formats for your book. 

Print vs DigitalLooking at three years of sales data (June 2013 – June 2016) for my first book, More than Cashflow, 14% of my retail sales were from the digital format.

If you add in the 1,500 copies of my book sold at the back of event rooms and as part of speaking packages, the percentage of books I sold in digital format was even smaller.

More importantly, a digital only format would have limited my ability to use the book for a lot of marketing. Without a physical copy, I wouldn’t have been able to partner with Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine to do a big promotional campaign. They wanted physical books to give away to new magazine subscribers. If my book was only in a digital format, real estate clubs across Canada wouldn’t have bought my books for author signings when I came to town.

Now, that’s just a couple of marketing methods that worked really well for me. What about you, and your goals? Maybe you aren’t considering selling your book with those kind of promotions, where does the print vs digital decision land for you. Here’s my thoughts …

Print vs Digital: 5 Reasons To Publish in Both When You’re a Non-Fiction Author:

  1. Costs Aren’t Much Higher When You Look at Print Vs Digital. Most of the costs you’ll incur as a publisher are going to be incurred no matter what.If you’re producing a high quality product, you’re hiring an editor (or maybe a few different editors), a layout designer and someone to create a compelling cover design no matter what version of your book you are doing. (If you’re wondering what each element might cost – download our Book Publishing on a Budget Workbook).

    You’ll spend a little extra to have your book formatted to suit digital as well as print formats but many  layout designers will include it in a design package.

    For my first book I paid an extra $500 to have it laid out for digital. Three years later, for my second book, that formatting was included in the layout charge. When I hired a cover designer one price included digital and print covers, as well as thumbnail and 3-D versions of the cover.

    And, the days of having to pay for a big print run to get copies of your book are gone. CreateSpace and Lightning Source’s Ingram Spark really support the indie author with print on demand solutions. You, and your distribution network, can order books as needed, one at a time.

    For roughly less than $7 USD you can get a copy of your book printed. This blog post breaks down costs for a 202 page paperback. There are no minimum orders and you don’t have to mess around with taking orders or shipping.

    So, really, except for the fact that you’ll incur costs to buy and ship copies to give away for marketing purposes, the costs involved with printing a book minimally more than that of creating a digital copy.

  2. The Sales Happen in Print: 70% of Non-Fiction Books Sold are in Print. Author Earnings studied print and digital sales, and found that non-fiction authors should pay close attention to print. 72% of books sales are happening online, but non-fiction readers are still buying print.
  3. Print Books Have a Long Marketing Life. Very few people will throw a book out (unless you don’t create a high quality book… another reason to produce a book that is comparable to a traditional publishing house). When your client gets your book, it usually sits on their desk or shelf for awhile. Other people will see it. Your client will be reminded of you. It may even get people talking about you. When they are done with the book, they will probably give it away rather than throw it out – so now you get to reach new people your business card or pamphlet never would have reached. A digital book doesn’t get any of this marketing juice.
  4. Your Marketing Opportunities Are Endless. You can use your digital book as a free give away when you speak, or as an opt-in gift online.

    If you’re a speaker, many organizations will pay you to speak and buy a copy of your book for every person in the audience. I had a lot of real estate clubs who would buy a case of my books when I was in town. They would promote my presence at their events to draw people to their event and offer a certain number of signed books as an incentive to get there early. Or, they would sell the books at the back of the room.

    I also used my books to generate revenue at events that I spoke at. If I sold my book for $25 I would make about $15 a book. At a larger event, that allowed me to pocket another $600.

    Digital books can be given away as part of other author’s promotions too. This is a high value give away to the author and potentially great exposure for you, with no out of pocket expenses.

    As a non-fiction author, you’re probably writing the book to share your message, help people solve a problem and make more money for yourself, right? That means the more marketing juice you can squeeze out of your book, the better you’ll do. Because of this, print vs digital isn’t really a question in my mind.

  5. Book Events are Weird without …. BOOKS! Try getting your local library to host a book event for you if you only have digital books. You have nothing to sign! Book stores won’t carry your book on it’s shelf in digital format.

    My two favourite moments as an author were seeing my book on the shelves of Chapters Indigo in Canada, and signing books after speaking at a major event.Plus, for events, an e-book just doesn’t have the same perceived value as a physical book. And, nobody is ever going to carry your e-book around waiting for you to sign it!

Ultimately, given the data and the market, the REAL consideration is:
First, what type of book are you writing? Fiction or Non-Fiction

Second, and most importantly:
What is YOUR GOAL for your book?

But, here’s one last thought to consider. It’s even more difficult to stand out if you JUST do an e-book.

There are over 4 million titles today in the Kindle Store on Amazon. This is from the New York Times in late 2015 … so those numbers are even higher today.

Your single biggest issue when you write and publish a book is:

How can I get my ideal readers to find my book?

How do you stand out?

When you focus on e-book sales you face a lot more competition. And, your competition prices their book anywhere from FREE to $19.99.

So … it is a tough battle ahead if your goal is sales volume and you go e-book only.

Every option has trade offs … but let me ask you this:

Are you REALLY going to miss out holding your book in your hands?

I don’t think I would have felt like a true published author without an actual copy of my physical book in my hands.

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And … if you enjoyed this, here’s something else you might like.

Wondering how to hire an editor. Here’s a video I created to help you: