Indie publishers make up 36% of the e-book market *authorearnings.com October 2016
28% of Americans read an e-book in 2016 *Pew Research Center, September 2016
Publishing books have never been easier. People will tell you it’s because the gatekeepers are gone, but that’s not true. All the gatekeepers are still there. It’s just that now there are new gates. And they are unguarded.
I quit my job last year.
It was a comfortable job where I got to work full-time from home. I had flexible hours, great benefits, and a six-figure salary. People thought I was nuts. I gave up the dream job so I could work full-time from home with flexible hours, but for no benefits or salary. Why? My old job was boring. I was spending my time processing applications, writing legal documents, and negotiating with attorneys.
I wanted to quit my job years ago but didn’t because I didn’t know what I would do instead. I spent over three years researching different things I could do for money. Finally, I found the perfect occupation for me: writer. I had always wanted to write and publish books. It turns out that we now live in the best time in history to do that.
I drafted a three-year exit plan to leave my job and transition to my dream writing occupation. I could not afford to handle this recklessly. My wife and three young kids depend on me. We live a middle-class lifestyle in one of the most expensive places in the United States. Everyone’s situation is different. We had enough savings to pay the bills for two years before we would start struggling financially. So I had two years to make my new self-publishing career work.
It’s all work in progress. I left my job in April 2016. Six months later I published my first book, Blog Ideas. As of this writing (January 2017), it is the only book I’ve published. This story is not a feel-
good story of overnight success or getting rich quick. Blog Ideas makes about $40 a month. A year ago I was making over $10,000 a month. It is a story of grabbing your dreams by the horns and putting in the hard work. I don’t know the ending yet, but I understand how I want it to look.
I have 16 months left to make self-publishing work for me as a career. I promised my wife that if I didn’t make a living doing it within two years, I would go back to my old boring job. No offense to my previous employer, but for me, that would suck. It would be the ultimate defeat of my life. No thanks. Let’s find a way to make a living with writing.
I’ve been self-publishing for eight months. Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far.
Write every day, no matter what.
If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Words are money when you’re a writer. The only way to make more money writing is to write more words.
Build your list.
The number one regret I hear from authors is that they didn’t start building an email list soon enough. The government could ban e-books tomorrow. Amazon could go out of business. Someone could hijack your book royalties. If any of these nightmare scenarios happen, you get back on your feet again quickly if you have the list of all your fans’ email addresses. Email lists are the most effective way of communicating with your audience. You’re reading this right now because you joined my email list.
Listen to self-publishing podcasts.
I listen to podcasts whenever I’m driving, walking brain isn’t thinking intensively. Listening to writing podcasts is a good way to keep up to date with news and techniques that are relevant to writers. I listen to the Authority Self-Publishing Podcast, ProBlogger Podcast, The Creative Penn Podcast, The Author Hangout, Copyblogger FM, The Digital Entrepreneur, The Writer Files, The Publishing Profits Podcast Show, The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, The Self-Publishing Formula Podcast, The Sell More Books Show, So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, The Self Publishing Podcast, Helping Writers Become Authors podcast, and the I Should Be Writing podcast. Search for them on your smartphone’s podcast app or Google.
Read. A lot.
You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. What would you think about a chef who doesn’t eat at restaurants? Or a movie producer who doesn’t watch movies? Or a personal trainer who doesn’t work out? Don’t be a hypocritical writer, which leads me to the next point…
Only write what you would want to read yourself.
If you don’t read romance novels, don’t try to write romance novels. If you enjoy reading biographies of sports players, then write biographies of sports players. If you wish there were a book about how to travel Europe for a month for less than a thousand dollars, find out how to do it and write about it. There are over seven billion people on the planet, and you’re not as unique as you think you are. If you want to read a book about an obscure topic, there are probably at least a million other people out there who also want to read that book. And because you are interested in the topic, you would have a lot of fun writing the book.
Schedule time every day to do nothing but write.
Defend your scheduled writing time as if it were a mandatory work meeting (you might get fired if you miss it). During your scheduled time, don’t do “writing-related tasks.” Do actual writing.
Start with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
It is by far the most popular e-book publishing platform. Become successful there first. Once you become proficient at publishing on KDP, then you can explore other platforms like Kobo, Apple iBooks, or Google Play Books.
I could go on in detail about how to self-publish your first book, but you may or may not care. Maybe I’ll explain the entire process in a future issue if there is enough interest. Or maybe I should write a book about it. If you’re interested in self-publishing books, here are some places you can start.