Welcome to the Resources section of the Self-Publishing Questions show. This page is intended to be your one-stop shop for everything you’ll need to build and grow your book business.
My goal is to only include items I know will help the average self-published author (so there are no recommendations for scammy “Kindle Gold Rush” products).
I’m constantly adding to this section as I learn of new products, so I recommend bookmarking it for future use!
Full disclosure: Please note that many of the following links are affiliate links. This means if you purchase a product through one of these links, I will receive financial compensation. That said, buying from one of my links won’t cost you anything extra. Just know that I have personally used each product, and I only recommend the ones that are an important part of my self-publishing business.
Author Platform Building Tools
Much of my success as a self-publisher is due to building up an author platform, which is a way to connect and stay in contact with your readers (and potential customers).
You can build a platform in a variety of ways: blogging, podcasting, publishing YouTube videos, posting on social media and marketing via email. My suggestion is to start with one (or two) of these strategies, then go from there. Specifically, my advice is to start with a blog, an email list and a social media account. Here are the tools to help you do that:
BlueHost: Self-Publishing Questions is powered by BlueHost. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of hosting providers. Most are pretty good, but I recently switched over to BlueHost because it offers a few extras you don’t get with other hosting companies.
For $3.95 a month, you’ll get hosting for an unlimited number of domains, unlimited hosting space, a free domain name and a simple-to-use WordPress installation tool.
Theme Forest: I chose a minimalist design for my site (created by my friend Tom Ewer), but I also like the themes from Theme Forest because they have one a large selection of themes–all at an affordable price.
What’s a theme? Simply put, it’s a set of files that give your WordPress-powered website its appearance and layout. Add a theme and customize it a bit, and you’ll have an instant website. This is easy to do with the cleanly designed themes from Theme Forest.
Aweber: Imagine tapping into a pool of fans who eagerly anticipate your next book. That’s what you get when you have an engaged email list. There are hundreds of options when it comes to list building, but my advice is to go with Aweber.
I’ve been an Aweber customer since 2006, and they’ve always provided top-notch service. With Aweber, you can build a database of readers, follow up with them via strategic emails, find out if your emails are actually being delivered and create segmented lists from specific reader profiles. To get started, check out Aweber’s $1 trial for the first month.
HootSuite: While I’m not a “power” social media user, some authors use sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn to connect with readers, potential customers and fellow authors. The benefit of social media is you can interact with readers in a normal, non-sleazy manner.
A great tool for managing social media is HootSuite. Simply sync up your social media accounts and use this tool to monitor ALL your correspondence. That way, you can stay connected with readers without wasting your precious writing time.
PickFu: This is an online polling service. If you are trying to figure out which title or book cover works best, you can use PickFu to get instant feedback from members. It costs anywhere from $20 to more than $299 per month, so it can get expensive. You can get quick feedback for about $20.
3 Ways to Grow Your Self-Publishing Business
Early on, a big mistake I made was focusing too much on Kindle books. Instead, I should have looked for additional ways to grow my revenue. It wasn’t until I talked to Matt & Rob of Archangel Ink that my whole perspective changed. Now I use three income models to increase my self-publishing revenue:
#1. Audible: More than 10% of my revenue comes from audio versions of my books. The best part? I outsource most of the process. When I complete a book, I’ll send it off to Matt/Rob and their team of narrators. A few weeks later, I get back an audio file that my virtual assistant submits directly to ACX.com. A week after that, I have an audiobook live on Audible.
You have a few options with an audiobook: You can narrate it yourself; you can use ACX.com to do a royalty split with a narrator; or you can pay up front for the narration and keep all the royalties. Honestly, I think you should pick the last option. A great way to get started is with the audiobook services of Archangel Ink.
#2. CreateSpace: The print versions of my books don’t generate a lot of income. In fact, they usually account for no more than 5% each month. However, my friend Tom ‘Big Al’ Schreiter has had a lot of success selling his print books. He generates up to 60 percent of his revenue with the CreateSpace platform.
Regardless of the market, I think it’s important to offer your audience a print version of your books. This is yet another service offered by Archangel Ink.
#3. Buck Books Events: Book marketing will only get more competitive in the next few years, so one way to stand out is to build strategic alliances with other authors. I typically do this by participating in a Buck Books event (another service offered by the guys at Archangel Ink).
Buck Books follows a simple model—gather a group of authors in a similar niche, get them to price their books at $0.99 each and collectively pool their resources to market the event. As an example, I typically see my royalties increase by 200% to 400% when I participate in one of these events.
You can leverage Buck Books in two ways:
First, you can promote any of the events scheduled for 2015. Matt and Rob have plans to create specialized book events throughout the year. You’ll get $1 for each person who checks out an event and subscribes to Matt and Rob’s email list. Click here for the details of their affiliate program.
The other way to participate is to have your book promoted during an event. Matt and Rob are pretty selective about which authors they promote, but here’s the link if you want to submit your book for consideration.
Growing Your Book Business
Every week I get an email or two from people asking me to promote their “instant riches” Kindle program. Most of these programs are complete junk, and a few even recommend dodgy tactics that could get your account banned, so I’ve been very careful about recommending most marketing products in this space. That’s why this section is short and only focuses on items that will actually help grow your business.
Kindle Launch Plan: As you probably know, Amazon is the largest eBook platform. A great way to build an audience on Amazon is to leverage the KDP Select program with free promo days.
Unfortunately, I no longer use the free promo strategy (because I’ve had better success launching books at $0.99 and promoting them to my established platform). The good news is the free strategy still works—if you’re willing to hustle and work hard.
What Nick Loper covers in his Kindle Launch Plan course is the exact strategy he used to generate 20,000 free downloads on his latest book, which netted him $1,400 in royalties in the first month. His product provides the perfect blueprint for any author who doesn’t have an author platform. Finally, if you check out his product through my link, you’ll get 75% off the list price.
Virtual Staff Finder: It’s not easy to balance everything you need to do as an author—especially if you adhere to a consistent writing schedule. One thing that’s really helped me is employing a full-time virtual assistant (Glori). Every day, she handles the routine activities that drive my business forward, which frees up my time for important tasks like writing, strategizing and generating content ideas.
I found Glori through a service called Virtual Staff Finder. What they offer is a match-making service (in the Philippines) that identifies the perfect virtual assistant for your author business. You pay a service fee, describe the skills you’re looking for and the VSF team will vet a pool of applicants down to three potential VAs. Then all you have to do is interview each person to find your perfect VA. (The whole process took about five hours of my time.)
Books are a major part of my self-publishing education. I like learning from people who are actually building businesses instead of hawking the latest get-rich-quick Kindle gold rush products. Here are a few of my current favorites.
Business for Authors. How to be an Author Entrepreneur: In the last year, I’ve become a huge fan of Joanna Penn’s work. What I like about her content is she treats self-publishing like a business.
With her book, Business for Authors, not only will you learn the fundamentals of running a book-based business, you’ll also get advanced strategies for fully leveraging each title you create. Many of the ideas I’m implementing in 2015 have been inspired by suggestions made by Joanna.
Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing: Lately, I’ve signed a number of contracts to sell my books in various foreign languages. To be perfectly honest, the whole thing scares the heck out of me. Often, I wonder, “Is this a legit deal or some sort of Internet scam?”
That’s why I decided to check out the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook.
The author (Helen Sedwick) is both an attorney and a self-published author, so she has the required background to write a thorough breakdown of all the legal ramifications for running a book-based business.
My favorite section is where she goes line-by-line through a contract and explains the legalese that many publishers use to screw over authors. Scary stuff, but it’s still important information to learn.
The Indie Author Power Pack: Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant, How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn, Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran
This is a triple book bundle put together by indie authors I respect immensely. Each book covers a different aspect of self-publishing, and when you read them together, you’ll get an excellent crash course on laying the foundation for a successful author business.
Supercharge Your Kindle Sales Strategies: One weakness of my author business is I don’t spend enough time on keyword research. I recommend Nick Stephenson’s book because it teaches many strategies that I won’t cover in my podcast. This book provides a simple, but actionable, plan for identifying the right keywords for your book and using them to get more organic exposure on Amazon.