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Self-Publishing For Profit: Getting Started

Before you start imagining the success of self-publishing your book, make sure you have a few things covered first: be determined, hone your writing skills, find funding, have a marketable idea, identify your audience, and research the market.
A huge pile of books.

If you're reading this, you've no doubt at least considered self-publishing. And if you've considered self-publishing, you probably at least have a smidgen of hope that you'll make some money doing it. Which is good, because that's what this is about. (In case the “Self-Publishing for Profit” title didn't clue you in.) But first, anyone considering self-publishing with some hope of making a profit needs to hear this:

  • According to Bowker, the leading provider of bibilographic information management systems, about 3,500 books were published every day in 2013.
  • Not all of those books were successful.
  • Not all of those books were profitable (and some even lost money)

Have Determination

If you made it through those three sentences without abandoning the idea of independent publishing, congratulations! You have at least one of the requirements needed—drive. Self-publishing isn't easy and I'm not going to tell you (as I've seen some companies do) that any English flunkie can still publish a successful book. But, there are self-published books that are profitable, professional and well worth the read.

Be a Communicator and Acquire Funding

Along with the ability to keep going despite obstacles, you'll need to have the ability to communicate clearly—the more writing experience you have, the better. Not everyone is a writer, and that's okay. Self-published writers will also need a little bit of funding, anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on what method of publishing you use and what marketing strategies you're ready to employ.

Have a Marketable Idea

Got a nothing-can-stop-me-attitude, a knack for the written word and a bit of funding? Good. There's just one more thing you need: a marketable story (fiction) or marketable knowledge (non-fiction), with the key word being marketable. To make a profit self-publishing, your idea, whether it's a novel or how-to, has to be something enticing enough to sell.

Identify Your Audience

Before you even say “I'm self-publishing” out loud, there's two things every potential writer needs to do. The first is to identify the audience. This is often done before anything is even written, during the brainstorming, and certainly before the second draft is crafted. Who is your reader? And who is your buyer? They're not always the same person (i.e., a mother buying books for her kids), but if you hope to make a profit you'll need to know who they each are.

Research the Market

The second thing a potential writer needs to do is to research the market. The first book I ever wrote in high school, I found out later, had a lot of similarities to a story by one of my favorite authors that I'd never read before. Look at what is already available and ask yourself, "How is what I have to say different?" This applies to fiction just as much as non-fiction. Try several different search terms in your favorite online bookstore or at Goodreads. If you find some that are similar, make sure yours will be different enough to grab a reader's (and a buyer's) attention.

Self-publishing certainly isn't easy, but with the right mindset and skills, it is possible to successfully publish a profitable book independently. Join WAHM for our series on Self-Publishing for Profit; next up are tips for writing that first draft.

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