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5 Essential Elements of a Successful Self-published Book

This guest post is by Srinivas Rao of BlogcastFM.

Self-publishing is a hot trend.  People’s eyes are lit up by the possibility of actually making money from their content. But there’s more to it than throwing together a PDF, uploading it to Amazon, and waiting for a check to arrive in the mail. The most successful self published authors treat their books as if they’re working with a publisher.

While it’s easier than ever to publish something to Amazon, the low barrier to entry has flooded the Kindle store with less than stellar content. Much like the blogosphere, only the best rise to the top, while the rest get lost in a sea of noise.

After many conversations with several successful self-published authors, we’ve narrowed their advice down to 5 essential elements.

1. Content

It might seem obvious, but good content is the foundation for a good book, much like it is for a successful blog. You could execute the mechanics of self-publishing to perfection, but if the content falls short it doesn’t matter.

2. Editing

The fact that you’ve self-published is already a strike against you in the eyes of the average reader.  Many of the self-published books on Amazon are poorly edited—if they’re edited at all. If you’re serious about the success of your self-published book, you can’t put a price on a good editor. Good editing can make the difference between an average book and a great one.

3. Platform

You could write the greatest book in the world. But if there’s no audience for it, you’re not going to sell many copies.  Building a platform enables you to build an audience prior to the launch of the book. A platform could be any of these:

  • a blog
  • a Twitter presence
  • a Facebook Fan page
  • an email List

4. Promotion

Simply putting your book on Amazon is not enough to make it a big success, especially if you’re not a well-known author. A solid platform is an essential tool for effectively promoting your book. But the platform alone is not going to be enough to promote your book. You’ll need to come up with a killer marketing plan for the launch of your book. For more advice on effective promotion, the following interviews provide invaluable insights.

5. Design

People make snap decisions on the web all day long. In this case, the old mantra “don’t judge a book by its cover” is nonsense. Books are definitely judged by their cover on Amazon. Below I’ve included two examples of self published books (one with a bad cover and one that was professionally designed). As you can see, design makes a big difference.

Goins Writer book cover

Facebook Likes cover

The best advice

The best advice I’ve ever received on how to successfully self-publish a book is to treat it just as if you’re working with a publisher. Sit down and outline every step that would be involved if you were working with a publisher. That means design, editing, and anything else a publisher would help you with are your responsibility. The only difference is that nobody is holding you accountable, so you you’ll have to be highly motivated to create the best possible book yourself.

Have you ever self-published a book? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.

Srinivas Rao is the host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, where he has interviewed close to 300 of the world’s most successful bloggers.  He is also the author of Blog to Book Deal: How They Did It.

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Comments

  1. Dhruv Bhagat says:

    I have written a book named as “Popular Blogging Secrets”. I completed that book in just 20 days. And after editing and designing procedure, I listed on Kindle Amazon. What I left with is to create some sales. And I failed.. It’s been 10 days and I am unable to sell a single copy. It’s only 3 USD. I am now going to promote more in a different manner. I am going to follow Mike Michalowiz path.. Hope, I will be selling my first copy soon..

  2. I don’t like either of those book covers. Which is meant to be the effective one? What principles make it more effective than the other?

  3. Gilbert says:

    Great post Rao, Well summarized points. Content is the foundation in everything and i also agree that most authors fail when it comes to editing. That is a crucial part that everyone writing needs to be keen on.
    Cheers.

  4. Justin Mazza says:

    So true Srini. I would have to totally agree with the editing part of the book. Hire out a professional to make the book look extra polished. Too many skimp on this part much to their detriment.

  5. Hassaan Khan says:

    Srinivas,

    Its nice. I enjoyed reading your article because I am in a process to publish my own book in upcoming months. I agree with your all given five points, especially the fifth one, The Design (Cover). Totally agree.

  6. Ryan Casey says:

    I agree with all your points, Srinivas. Content is of course the most crucial part of the process, however without a platform, 90% times a book will flop.

    I’d highly recommend every author start a blog. If it means posting just once per week on there, do it. Gradually, a fanbase will form, and you can begin branching out to social media and the like when it suits.

    Also agreed on the editor – recently working with an amazing editor who has helped me craft my novel into a whole new beast.

    Ryan

  7. I am currently putting the final touches on my first attempt at self-publishing. I believe I have followed these recommendations fairly closely. However, I crowd sourced my book cover by holding a contest for unknown artists and fan vote. It was highly successful, created great art and fantastic engagement with the public. I cannot wait until this book launches soon. Look for The Purpose of Chosen to hit Amazon by the first of November.

  8. Those are great element Srivanis. I liked it that you dropped out to help, I’m actually encouraged and inspired most especially with editing and designing tips, very very important in blogging. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Shelby Roth says:

    Awesome post Rao. This sounds greatly helpful, useful, inspiring and most crucially educative! These are very crucial and an eye-opener part of writing that needs a lot of practice and seriousness. I think I have got a break-through now and I can’t wait to thank you once more fro saving me improve my writing through such useful elements. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  10. shubham says:

    According to me content is the most important, we should keep in mind what readers want and if we do it successfully then our book will be going to popular very soon.

  11. Hi Rao,

    This is a great post. I must say I wasn’t aware of the fact that good editing can make a difference between an average book and a great one. I guess I really am learning. I love the info, thanks!

  12. I have not yet self published a book, but I am thinking about it; actually reading your blog post was such a good idea. I learnt! Thanks a lot.

  13. Right now I am working on a book and a website at the same time. How do you people proceed in such a case?
    Do you first work on the website and make it popular until you finally release the book?
    Or do you release the book first and then work on the website?

    Cheers,
    KoB

  14. Samuel says:

    I haven’t written a book yet.

    Thanks for the advise.

    Promotion/marketing could be the hardest part in the book process.

  15. Mahaveer says:

    The cover is a very important part of a book. An attractive cover itself brings many readers for it. And according to me, the content must be unique and also easy to understand and in a friendly language style.

  16. Survey Crest says:

    Really nice tips to create a succesfull self published book. Interesting.Content is the backbone of a book, the strong the backbone is the better the book would be.

  17. I have just published a book with a co-author. It is called Navigational Tips For Living In An Imperfect World http://amzn.to/Vz0I84
    Content: we first talked more than 12 years ago about a book that would draw on my co-author’s coaching work. Working with him had been a help to me at the time and I thought others would find much to offer in book form. The book is about acceptance of the self and others, and recognising past patterns and their impact on us.

    We redrafted and edited the book several times. My co-author is a perfectionist and i worked on some world leading newspapers so also had three levels.

    Platform is something I am working on developing. Everything is closed to being replaced, or at the very least, improved.

    I have a blog, a Twitter presence, a Facebook Fan page, and an email but am underway with streamlining that.

    Design : professional design is essential for the cover and we worked through several concepts.
    Later on my designer also went on to design a smaller edition of the book, which has just been launched on Amazon.
    The book is short and succinct. A lot of hard work went into it. It is possible with hard work.

  18. Ben Troy says:

    I think of one important element creating a unique title. Your book should be easy to find in a search on Amazon and Google. It should come up in the first couple of search results. Unfortunately, many authors make the mistake of using a title that has too many other products associated it with it

  19. Anna says:

    Thanks so much for all the info. I have been thinking of self-publishing and this is exactly the advice I was looking for!

  20. “The best advice I’ve ever received on how to successfully self-publish a book is to treat it just as if you’re working with a publisher.” <<<<< Love that!!

    Another thing I'd like to add to the list of Platforms is perhaps the author page of the various publishing platforms. Not only is this also a place that you can use to lead readers to your other content, but you can also have them become familiar with your other publications which helps in building that trust and credibility every author could want.

    Good post with good and solid points!

  21. Ryan says:

    This came in handy since I’m about to release a self published book myself.

  22. J S says:

    After publishing six books you learn that having great content that is well edited and put together is only the start. You also need:
    1-a great cover that is indicative of the niche your book is in. A self-help cover is much different than a romance novel, learn how to identify the features of books in your niche from art to fonts. Be mindful of how you ‘brand’ your author text ‘logo’. the whole cover has to be ‘readable’ at thumbnail size (look at a strip of covers on amazon and you’ll see how the pros miss this).
    2-enticing jacket copy that convinces the reader to look at the first page. Words as tight as poetry, don’t ramble with passive prose, grab.
    3-a great first page that convinces the buyer to click on the purchase button.
    4-price it right .. and ‘right’ might not be ‘cheap’.
    5-forget twitter and facebook, your friends don’t like spam any more than you do. Funny cat pics, those put up.
    6-make your website.
    7-Seek reviews.
    8-write the next great book (in the series).
    Some authors do exciting month-long ‘blog tours’ but no data for/against that anyone can show yet. It’s exciting though. exciting enough to avoid writing the second book. Some writers are writing a whole book in that month, so be cautious.