Michael emailed me a few weeks ago and something in that email struck me, he wrote “self publishing saved my life.” Michael went from being long-term unemployed to making enough money from self publishing to live off in under a year. It was a period of long days and dedicated work, but in the end he came out on top. This episode not only tells his story but it also looks at how you can launch a book even if you have no budget at all.
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Great follow up article written by Elizabeth Barone – Fantastic write up of some of the key points covered in this article.
Spellchecker – set his book in Victorian England so switched his spellchecker to English (UK).
Reddit – a thread about self publishing that started it all
Mailchimp – the email service that Michael uses to build his subscriber base.
Rocking Book Covers – Adrijus’ book cover site. Great covers for self published authors.
Was looking for a job in a terrible economy and found it hard to find another professional job after leaving his last. Was looking for work and failing to find a permanent position and the job interviews started drying up. At that point he turned to writing out of a desperation to make some form of income, he wrote some pieces and sent them off to magazines. He was rejected for the magazine (but got a personal rejection letter!) and then heard about self publishing from a thread on Reddit.
A user on Reddit said that he was making $1000 a day from self publishing. He had several pen names and would write many books under each name, then he would cross promote the names with each other. He would be putting information in the different books about the other author pen names.
The books were very short and priced at 99 cents a piece.
This is how Michael started and he used the strategies that he had read about, unfortunately by this point these self publishing strategies were largely out of date and not working for him. In his first month he made $10 on the four self published short stories that he had written.
He reworked the strategies and updated them, put some more work out and in the second month made $250. He was putting out a huge amount of work and got a lot of books out under a lot of different names (60 short 5-10k word stories) and in six months he broke $1000 a month and got an apartment two months later when the Amazon check came through.
Today he regrets using so many pen names because it is hard to maintain so many different author brands. He intends to bring them all under one name in the future.
Michael wasn’t doing much marketing beyond building an email newsletter and putting links in the back of his books. He says that it is a better time investment to write another book. However he says that as someone who is self publishing you must develop your author brand and email list – Michael puts a link to his at the end of his books.
Michael started with zero money in the bank to spend. He had a design background and did the covers himself, and he admits it was done badly, but he has improved. He says that if you are going to spend money self publishing it should be your cover. The performance of his books where he has had a cover commissioned is significantly better, if you can afford it, do it.
If you can barter your services for someone else’s then you should. If you can write some copy for someone in exchange for a cover or some editing then do it. Plenty of barter trading goes on in the self publishing community, so be on the look out for an opportunity.
Michael had written a book and then used Kickstarter to find a cover and hire an editor for it. He primarily uses beta readers to catch the mistakes but also uses an editor. If you are strapped for cash, using several good beta readers can be a great way to get a book cleaned up on the cheap.
Michael slowed down a bit once he started to bring in better money. He realised he was becoming a workaholic and didn’t want to burn out in the future. He was working hard initially out of desperation to make some money, but when that money started coming in he could afford to slow down a little and start self publishing at a more manageable pace.
It is a Job
Importantly Michael treats self publishing as a full time job. He does 40 hours a week minimum on his writing – that is what he would work for someone else, and that is what he does for himself and his writing. At the start he worked much harder to get the early body of work out and see what was working.
“I have people on my list and I don’t know why they are on my list!”
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