Self-Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

by Joel Friedlander on November 13, 2013 · 47 comments

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by Jon Cantin

As readers know, I like to feature stories of self-publishers on the blog, and especially those whose books are a little different in some way from the ordinary trade book. That’s why I was very interested in Jon Cantin’s story. It shows how someone with an entrepreneurial inclination can use publishing to further his goals. And books like Jon’s break a lot of rules, too. He has a fascinating story to tell about how to leverage the connection between an area of expertise and the power of self-publishing. Jon’s expertise is in Computer Numerical Control, or CNC, in which the manufacturing process is controlled by computers and special programs written for them. I think as you read Jon’s story you can see that it could apply just as easily to your own area of expertise, too.



I’m the founder of CNCKing.com and I’ve been self-publishing for several years and just recently launched my newest book, CNCKing.com: Rise of the CNC both online at my site and on Amazon. I’m also working on making it available through Lightning Source.

self-publishing

My first book was 100 pages and took what seems like forever to go from virtual to printed page. Each book since (this is my seventh) has gotten easier and more professional, thanks to customer feedback and the natural evolution of the author. Yes, that “I’m a published author” feeling never really goes away!

Self-publishing myself into an industry

I grew-up in a house that was under constant renovation. My father would remodel one room to look great and then the following month, remodel another. Paint, drywall, wooden ornaments—you name it, he did it. I always wanted to get into woodworking and manufacturing in general but due to my circumstances at the time (no knowledge of machining, traveling across foreign countries, no formal design training), I kept putting it off until one day I decided on a plan that forever changed my life.

My plan was simple yet incredibly effective: spend one year developing 50 CNC laser cut projects (mind you, I never used a CNC machine before, much less a laser) and, after that year was up, publish all of these designs in a book. Rinse and repeat the following year.

Generally speaking, I’ve kept-up this schedule since 2008 and then some! I had no audience for my designs, I had no customers and obviously, no sales either, but after a year, all three started to grow.

Now, with more than 250 designs for CNC laser cutters, 3D printers and table routers, my designs sell around the world. I made myself into an authority in an industry I knew nothing about at the beginning over the course of five years.

If you are not familiar with CNC machines, watch this video—written by, edited and filmed by me—to get you up to speed.

What is your positioning?

Publishing isn’t about THE BOOK, it’s about creating a new frame of self-reference in your mind and sharing it with others hoping they won’t just accept it but pay for your continued personal growth.

People do not buy books, they buy people—more importantly, they want a piece of the knowledge you’ve discovered or a feeling that they wish to feel once more. Do not publish a book, publish a piece of you.

Once you know what part of yourself you wish to share, create a narrative that’s easy for others to tack onto and relate. Here’s mine:

Imagine spending five years of your life designing for machines you never used. Imagine doing this without any design training, living in foreign countries where you don’t speak the local language. Now, just for the fun of it, 250 designs later, that person self-publishes his seventh book teaching other people all the lessons he learned during this journey: from nobody to an authority in the CNC industry!

That’s me. Learn from my mistakes so you can profit from your CNC machine!

Hey, I’m an author, I can use some creative license. All of this is true (an important part of a narrative is to keep it truthful) but at the same time, it creates a story that makes people, hopefully, want to learn more about you and as a result, buy your book(s).

Publishing is easier than designing!

These machines are powerful and great fun to work with and design for but there is one problem—people don’t know how to design for them! You may hear a lot of hype around 3D printers, and those are even harder to design for! I had no idea back when I was traveling that there was a market much less a steep learning curve for learning how to design for them, I just kept on designing thinking it was easy. It wasn’t, but my frame of mind was “easy” so I made it so.

What does all this have to do with self-publishing?

Well, thanks to my books, I’ve been able to build myself up as an authority in the CNC industry. Others have designs for these wonderful machines, and many people are far more talented than me, but because they either waited for a publishing house to say, “Yes, here’s a check,” (which may never happen), or they thought it was too hard to begin with, they weren’t on the receiving end of the opportunities I have been given.

Looking back, my first book really did suck! I’ve even considered removing it from the market because it just looks so awful compared to my latest book. But as a published author, I think it’s important to show customers the evolution of your skills, written and otherwise.

Back then, I thought it was mind-blowingly amazing, which just shows you how much you can learn over the course of a few years!

However difficult you may think self-publishing is, trust me, it’s easier than teaching yourself how to design for industrial machines you’ve never used.

The many hats of a self-publisher

When you are your own publishing house, it means that most likely you will have to do everything yourself. You are the writer, copyrighter, layout editor, photographer, cover designer, marketer, PR agency and yes, most likely on a pro-bono basis.

To add to your tasks, you have to make all these hats work together in your mind in a seamless manner. You have to make the entire book presentable from start to end and with a consistent narrative across both the visual and written form.

Here’s the kicker: you also have to look at your hundreds or thousands of hours of investment in time and treasure with a critical eye as well. It’s like looking at your child and realizing that he or she is actually rather ugly while friends and family are telling you otherwise. It’s tough!

The more you do yourself, the more money you will save and the more you will learn, but be sure to spend money where it’s needed. No, not the cover, the contents! The cover will get you a customer but the contents will help you create an audience.

I bought industrial computers to render my projects, a professional camera to take photos and video, and the list goes on. Just because you are self-publishing doesn’t give you creative license to do things on the cheap. You are competing against other self-publishers as well as major publishing houses for the same audience!

Although this is the route I’ve taken as a personal challenge, people like Joel are good alternatives if you don’t have the time or expertise to pull off all these tasks on your own. The amount of work is incredibly daunting especially if you’ve never self-published or run a business before.

Your book will never be perfect

Self-publishing is a marathon, and you have to find people who can help you develop the best product you possibly can and be willing to bend your deadlines. I do everything myself except for one critical area, proofing.

If you are an author, you have to realize that EVERY BOOK WILL HAVE MISTAKES. There is no way to publish a book without them, even “professional books” have mistakes. The reason why self-publishers have gotten a bad rap is because they often just press the “proof approved” button without realizing that just because they don’t see mistakes that they aren’t there!

My current book took two years to put together and, of that, it spent close to 5 months being proofed and heavily edited across the board by me, my editor, and friends and family.

Even to this day, I’ll still find mistakes! How can that be? I’d spend hours daily just randomly picking a page and deciding to rewrite it to make it punchier, more accurate and easier to follow. My newest book has over 450 pages by the way.

What I’ve discovered is that your mind will play tricks on you when you read your own book. You think you are reading it? No. Your mind is remembering the contents that you wrote to the letter, which means you will not find mistakes other than the most obvious ones.

Your editor(s) will also suffer the same fate after going through the book more than once. This blinding effect only gets worse the more time you spend on your book as your mind is seeing what it wants to see, not what’s actually there.

While you are working on your book, create videos and use them to soft-sell it while building yourself up as an authority. Here’s an example:

Publishing is easy, marketing is hard!

Hopefuly by now, you have a narative and your book done. Looks great having a shiny new book on your desk right? Well, what’s better than being a published author?

SELLING BOOKS!

This is where most authors fail miserably. Why? Well, just because you made a mountain doesn’t mean that others will see it, much less recognize the effort it took you to build it regardless of how much time, effort and money you’ve put into it.

You have to realize that at the end of the day, you are a nobody—and your job, as an author, is to turn you into a somebody worth buying a product from.

Be smart, not loud!

The publishing world has changed a lot with the advent of the internet—not only has most of the content that you once paid for in books available for FREE but the competition has gotten insanely fierce. These are the two main hurdles you will have once you launch your book.

To summarize, now that you are a “published author” you are trying to sell a glass of water to a person swimming in a pool distracted by all the colorful little fish around them.

The solution most authors come up with is to give up and walk away. They thought a book would be a quick and easy elevator to fame and fortune only to have their hopes dashed by the journey ahead of them. I hope you are not one of them!

Here’s the situation you are facing. You and 99 other marketers are all trying to sell a $10 glass of water to the swimmer. Luckily for you, 50 of those other marketers just walk away. However, you still have 49 other people selling the same glass of water!

Your first approach will most likely be to shout, splash the water and generally be a nuisance. What is the result of 50 people doing this all at the same time? You are only pissing the swimmer off and making sure they don’t pay attention to any of you.

Others will be more innovative, they’ll jump into the pool or try to take water out of it. That will get some attention but it’s the wrong kind. The swimmer is happy swimming with the fish and this approach takes them away from their fun!

That’s not good marketing, but it’s the approach taken by most marketers, which is why their results are so poor. You don’t want my product? Fine, I’ll take the water out, kill the fish and put that glass of water in your face! Then you’ll have no choice buy to buy my $10 glass of water.

Let’s analyze the problem a little more closely.

The problem here isn’t the swimmer, it’s the people selling the water, they are selling the wrong things to the wrong person. The swimmer has plenty of water, they don’t need it.

How will you get the swimmer’s attention? Dump the water in the pool, the other marketers will freak out, and you’ll get the positive attention of the swimmer. Then you’ll be able to sell $50 goggles instead. You have an instant customer for life because you are presenting value and improving their lives.

Don’t try to sell FREE content and expect a sale. Instead, use free content to get attention leading to a higher priced sale you can live off. This will require that you create auxiliary methods of generating revenue and attention AROUND your book. The sales will follow.

Killing your value for sales

I think most authors make a big mistake self-publishing. They focus on sales instead of profits or return on their investment (ROI).

Let me explain. It’s no secret that a great way to game Amazon’s system is to sell your book for close to nothing. Amazon sorts by sales, not by profit margins. You’ve spent years working on your book, and the first thing you do is shoot yourself in the foot by selling it for 99 cents, or giving it away for FREE on Kindle.

What kind of an author are you? A poor one if you don’t value your time or money. Underpricing yourself like all the other authors is a great way to be just one more marketer selling a glass of water. You don’t stand out and, as a result, won’t generate sale.

Sure, there are some authors that do make a living following this approach—just like some people invest in the lottery for their retirement but most likely, the results won’t be in your favor.

If you want to be a serious author, you need to make money. How do you make money? By making sales. How do you make sales? By marketing and becoming an authority in your industry! Share your passion and creativity!

Self-publishing your way to success

Hopefully, well before you even think of writing a book, you create an audience. It doesn’t need to be big, I’d prefer to have 100 raving fans rather than 1 million distracted swimmers.

Create a name for yourself, send those leads to your website, blog about your book, your life, your journey towards becoming an author. Create a following one person at a time, these are the people who will later buy your book and (hopefully) tell others about it.

Capture their e-mail addresses and build and email list. I know this isn’t sexy, I know this sounds like hard work, but it’s the truth and I have yet to figure out a legal way around this.

Once you have a book in the works, announce that it will be coming out soon to generate some desire and then convert them into a sale using value.

Value can take several different forms but whatever you do, do not discount your book! You worked sooooo hard for your book—sell it full price and create some “carrots” to help generate more sales during your book launch. Discounting your book only makes it look cheap and, at the same time, you are training your readers to wait for bargains before making a purchase.

Believe it nor not, I generate more sales of my book from my website than from Amazon. Although I’d love to be in the top 10 on Amazon, it comes at the cost of profit margins that fund my growth, and I never know who bought the book. Do not base your “success” solely on Amazon!

Build up your testimonial list over the course of several weeks and, during this time, develop a program of bonuses and incentives you could offer with your book that compliment your offering while disarming any objections people have to buying your product.

Don’t sell your product in a package deal by the way with your bonuses and incentives, sell the book at full price, then add the bonuses and incentives for “free.”

I hate to say this but your much-loved book is now a product at best and a commodity at worse. Your goal here is to increase the perceived value of your product to a wider audience that may not have heard about you before now.

This should be the end goal of your book. Once you have everything in place, then the real selling begins. Push hard with any and every media outlet you can find—online and off!

The Bottom Line

If you can’t make money selling your book, then you won’t be motivated to write or share others. Your goal as an author should be to be able to live off your creativity, not be a slave to it.

self-publishingJon Cantin is the author of seven self-published books over the past five years. He wrote four about designing for CNC machines (laser cutters, 3D printers, table routers), one science fiction, one teaching Mandarin Chinese with his wife and another self-help. All the layout, copy, photography, rendering and drawings were done by him and professionally proofed. He has traveled extensively around the world sharing his passion for learning, teaching and experiencing life. A Canadian by birth, he’s currently residing in Australia with his wife while pursuing his design ambitions with his company, CNCKing.com which he founded five years ago and sells digital plans and physical model kits globally.

Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

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    { 42 comments… read them below or add one }

    Jon November 28, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Hi Lani, nothing really else to add that hasn’t been said already – get a free blog from wordpress to get yourself going then register a domain, install it there and you are in business.

    Jon

    Reply

    lani kauten November 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Since you have self-published several times, I wanted to learn about your experiences. I have just written my first short with my (Writers-Group) that will be a part of an anthology. They have not at this time decided to publish it . . . however, they do want share it as gifts this holiday season with family and friends, which brings up another issue of mine about reproduction or distribution without expressed consent that the group isn’t to worried about. I would like to publish my short outside the group. I’m leery, any thoughts. Thank you Lani Kauten

    Reply

    Jon November 20, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Hi Lani, this is why I photograph and render all my own images for my books, write all my own words (other than interviews) and don’t get involved with group writing. The only exception to this rule was my last book and I asked for specific rights from the companies and individuals involved and made sure they owned the rights as well!

    When nobody is making any money then all’s good but if you happen to strike gold, the lawsuits fly! Just don’t do it, write and publish YOUR OWN CONTENT and you’ll be fine.

    The less people you have involved in the initial creative process the easier it is to own the rights to everything and have no copyright issues.

    Jon

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Great advice here Jon, for those authors who can follow through on all aspects of creation and production, as you have. For others who want to combine their content with others, or use writing, photos, or other material not produced by them, make very sure you understand the ramifications, and make sure you have a contract or agreement of some kind before you proceed.

    Reply

    lani kauten November 25, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Thank you Jon, I hadn’t thought of that. Oh, and thank you for the publishing information.

    Reply

    Jon November 26, 2013 at 1:42 am

    If you have any further questions feel free to ask Lani.

    Jon

    Reply

    lani kauten November 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I just finished re-reading your self-publishing tips. Wow! I’m going to self-publish my short out side the writers group. I had planned on using maybe one of the independents, like Author house to help with the mechanics of it. Then I can do the rest like you suggested. Like creating a blog building a network. And so on. I love your tip of never under selling yourself. I’ve never created a blog. Or found a editor, though I’ve had several friends read my work as well as the group, and my daughter who graduated with a degree in screen writing to help me with edits, and give me their opinions. Though I’ve been very careful to make sure the rewrites were always my own words. Any thoughts

    Peter J Story November 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Thank you very much for this feedback.

    Reply

    Jon November 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    If you have any other questions feel free Peter.

    Jon

    Reply

    Peter J Story November 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Great read, Jon. And nice site, Joel. I’m finding it hard to gather any tips on marketing one’s fiction-based blog for the ultimate purpose of self-publishing. Anything to share along those lines?

    Reply

    Jon November 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    That’s a tough one Peter, I wrote my science fiction book (2847 A.D. Solar Horizons) many years ago and it was my worse performing book ever – I really loved the book and wrote it to adapt into a 3D animated movie that I can work on in a few years from now once computers are fast enough to handle the amount of to detail I envision. I plan on doing everything from music to rendering this full length myself over the course of a few years and that’s why I wrote it. It will be my road map.

    What I would suggest is joining science fiction guilds and attending trade shows where other fiction writers meet and trade ideas/books. There are also lots of facebook/yahoo groups around that might be of interest. If you are an artist, then every day or two post a picture on your blog making reference to your book – after a hundred or so entry, you will most likely have a following.

    I think fiction needs to be used as a stepping stone to something else to get wide audiences as most people simply don’t have an imagination which is why movies do so well in this area. It can be a profitable niche but requires a lot of work (like any book) to be seen by the right people in order to develop a fan base.

    I hope this helps, if you have any other questions, let me know Peter.

    Jon

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    That’s a tough one, Peter. Blogging may work, but many fiction writers use other methods too. You might check out Joanna Penn’s blog at http://www.thecreativepenn.com and also see these:

    http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/08/social-media/
    http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/06/give-it-away/

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg November 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Lots of good tips here. I tell buyers that everything in my eBook marketing book and eBook cover design book can be found for free on the internet. But I explain that it could take them hours or days to search it all out. Many buy it for just this reason.

    Reply

    Jon November 15, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    This is very true Greg, it’s actually quite rare to see a 100% original book anymore especially in the area of business that hasn’t borrowed heavily from elsewhere.

    I checked-out your website and I was blown away at your cover design… lots of good literature, makes me think of those VOLUMES of books in Chinese book stores (only see them in mainland China) where an author would write a whole shelf worth – same with DVD series. It’s hard to describe how many books there are in these little shops until you go there yourself!

    Thanks for the comment,
    Jon

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg November 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks! I remember seeing lots of those bookstores while living in Shenzhen. Often covers would all look about the same, maybe with some differently colored swirls, but you could certainly tell a series at a glance – they really know author branding over there!

    Reply

    Jon November 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    I lived in China for over two years, first in Guiyang (near Chongqing where that “famous” mayor was charged with corruption) then in Tangshan (near Beijing). I was teaching ESL there because I only needed to work 15-18 hours a week which gave me time to develop my business! Was a good time though I won’t miss the pollution there.

    It’s very tough making it as an author in China – after talking to a publisher there to try to sell imprint rights, he told me that foreigners rarely make it there because publishing companies must stand behind each book they sell (meaning if it rubs the authorities the wrong way, they are as much if not more to blame than the author). There is also rampant piracy going on there… a few do manage to succeed just from the shier volume of material being produced. Even if 1% manage, there are so many authors that even that is a huge amount!

    It was quite a contrast from South Korea where I did the same for over two years, book stores were filled with mostly Western translated works while in China this was extremely rare. When I stayed in Japan shelves were overflowing with books but they were generally very small in size compared to the massive series you find in China!

    Jon

    Reply

    Book Store November 15, 2013 at 4:57 am

    Self publishing books is not a bad idea but it is better to take ideas from the professionals. It is a nice content for the self publishing authors to have a view about their work.

    Reply

    Jon November 15, 2013 at 5:18 am

    There are may roads to becoming professional – if I was just starting out and knew NOTHING about publishing and didn’t have the time to plow through 5 years of my life to learn what I know now… services such as Joel’s can literally shave years of frustration and hard work. They are invaluable – it’s funny but it never even occurred to me to even look for professionals like Joel when I first started – I thought you were either with a big publisher or you were on your own.

    Thanks for your comment… you need to get Joel’s books in your “Book Store” so others can learn form his vast experience in the book publishing field!

    Jon

    Reply

    Tiffany November 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Great insights into marketing in general… “How will you get the swimmer’s attention? Dump the water in the pool, the other marketers will freak out, and you’ll get the positive attention of the swimmer. Then you’ll be able to sell $50 goggles instead.”

    I absolutely love that analogy. I encounter so many business owners, particularly those in the over 60 crowd, who get caught up on the value of their intellectual property rather than giving some of it away for free while they innovate that intellectual property into something new to serve their potential customer.

    So who did you ask to edit your first book? Did you pay an editor or ask a friend or family member? Also, how did you learn the stylistic intricacies of writing a book. I have a heavy journalism background. I find myself often being creatively stunted by the “rules” of journalism in my other writing. It’s hard to break free of a style I’ve been writing for so long.

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    If you notice Tiffany, the water was worth 10$ but nobody thought of giving it away to generate a 5x return in investment (50$ googles) and unlike water, googles eventually wear-out and need to be purchased again and again!

    Your book should be seen as a way “into” something, there are awesome exceptions like Ernie in the above comments but I use them as a vehicle to get my business from A to B, even if I sold NO BOOKS, the book I wrote has been a major success as it’s a wonderful excuse to generate more partnerships, strengthen existing contacts, build my influence in my chosen industry and sell more project files which generate far more ROI than the book itself.

    It took me many years to figure-out how to build this engine, there is a whole graveyard behind me of missed opportunities (in hindsight), broken business models and failures but I’m like the Energizer bunny… I keep on going till I figure it out!

    Thanks for your comment,
    Jon

    Reply

    Ernie Zelinski November 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Great article:

    I started self-publishing in 1989. My motto has always been, “Do it badly – but at least do it.” This motto has served me well. The following quotation applies:

    “It’s better to do a sub-par job working on the right project than a great job working on the wrong project.”
    — Robert J. Ringer

    Another principle that has helped me sell over 800,000 copies of my books worldwide is to challenge the “book experts” every chance I get.

    This I can tell you: I have had a lot more success than a lot of the “book experts” out there who are selling programs on writing, publishing, and marketing to unsuspecting wannabe best-selling authors. And a lot of these “book experts” claiming to be best-selling authors have had books that have sold fewer than 500 copies through normal channels. (I have access to the industry reporting system that shows how many copies of an author’s book has sold through normal channels.)

    Regarding the pricing of books, I totally agree with you. I refuse to price ebooks at 99 cents or give away ebooks for free. In fact, I refuse to price my ebooks for less than $5.97 unless it is a book of quotations. I would cheapen my books and myself if I sold my ebooks for less.

    I avoid Social Media for promoting books simply because there are many much more effective ways to promote a book. I have developed several ways that the “book experts” won’t tell you simply because they are not creative enough to think of them.

    Regarding “publishing is easy; marketing is hard”, to me marketing is easier than the publishing part. In fact, marketing can be fun. It’s where I can put my creativity to use and come up with truly unique and innovative marketing techniques that the “book experts” are not creative enough to think of.

    These quotations are particularly true when it comes to being successful at self-publishing.

    “Book writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Anyone who decides to write a book must expect to invest a lot of time and effort without any guarantee of success. Books do not write themselves and they do not sell themselves. Authors write and promote their books.”
    — Dan Poynter

    “The vast majority of self-published books sell less than ten copies a year online and through traditional retail channels, and that probably disappoints a lot of self-publishers. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s hard enough for traditionally published books to register meaningful sales, and they have huge built-in advantages.”
    — Jeff Herman, Literary Agent

    “Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.”
    — Mark Twain

    “Even the most careful and expensive marketing plans cannot sell people a book they don’t want to read.”
    — Michael Korda

    “The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be.”
    — John Stuart Mill

    “Very few people do anything creative after the age of thirty-five. The reason is that very few people do anything creative before the age of thirty-five.”
    — Joel Hildebrand

    “The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.”
    — Mark Twain

    “No amount of money or marketing can overcome a book that doesn’t deliver. So your first challenge is to write a book that your networks assure you is as good as you want it to be. The content of your books will determine how you sell them to publishers and promote them to book buyers. Content precedes commerce.”
    — Rick Frishman

    “People think that just because they’ve written something, there’s a market for it. It’s not true.”
    — Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver

    In short, to be a success at self-publishing, one must write a great book and know how to creatively market it to the right readers so that it creates word-of-mouth advertising for many years to come.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Colin Dunbar November 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Hello Ernie
    “one must write a great book and know how to creatively market it to the right readers” I believe that’s the alpha and omega of the whole publishing thing, especially the first part… “write a great book”. Very inspiring post, thanks Ernie.

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Agree Colin, before even starting on my books I envision the person who will buy and ultimately read it. This puts you in the right frame of mind as you are writing FOR somebody, not TO them. When it comes down to marketing, that’s also far easier as your book is already focused on that specific market segment you are gunning for.

    Jon

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I agree Ernie, lots of people are selling programs and books that do nothing more than repackage old idea in new boxes. You’ve had tremendous success – far more than I have. I’d love to know more! (send me an e-mail)

    I believe that “Social Media” is this decade’s fad, the more commercial these sites become, the less people will tune-in and thus the louder marketers yell which in turn, turns people off. I don’t rely on social media for anything, I’m barely on there myself… anything posted there is 95% automated, I write a blog post on my site to promote my site and it gets posted all over the place. Use them like I use Amazon, to drive people to YOUR WEBSITE.

    There are way better ways of generating sales such as partnerships, making some crazy things that grab attention (easy in my case) and trying to sell in bulk – something I’m starting to do with schools and universities. All this takes a lot of work and dedication… even more than what went into writing and publishing. If Amazon is your marketing plan, you will have a 99.999% chance of failure.

    Congrats again on your amazing book sales – I’m totally inspired and working everyday to try to generate more sales across the board. Thanks for your insight! That should be a blog post of its own!

    Jon

    Reply

    Ernie Zelinski November 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Jon:

    Can you give me your email address? My email address is on my website. I can give you a copy of my book “Career Book Without a Real Job (The Career Book for People Too Smart to Work in Corporations.” You have to let me know whether you would like the Kindle edition or the print edition (I will need your physical address).

    Incidentally, giving away print copies of my books has been part of my marketing plan. I now have actually given away over 13,000 copies of my books at a cost of over $40,000 to me (when I add in mailing costs). But generally speaking, I don’t give copies of my books to people who ask for them. I do give copies to people who will appreciate the books and who may tell others about the book.

    Regarding bulk sales, I have had quite of bit of success at this. Bulk sales of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” are now well over 10,000 copies.

    Here is one way that I get more bulk sales. Although I don’t agressively market my presentations, I do get calls from organizations asking me to speak to their employees or clients. Recently, I got a request from a financial firm to talk for an hour to about 50 of their clients. I told them that if they purchased 100 copies of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” at $12.97 each and paid for the shipping, then I would do the speech for free provided that they also paid for first-class expenses for me to travel to their city. Since copies of the book cost me $1.40 to print (because my prints runs are always over 10,000 copies), my profit was $12.97 – $1.40 x 100 = $1157.00. I also got a free flight, one night in a first-class hotel, and great dining in a city which I wanted to visit to meet up with an old friend from school.

    Note that I asked the company to purchase 100 copies of the book even though there would be only 50 people attending the seminar. The company will eventually give away the other 50 copies, which will even create more word-of-mouth advertising for the book.

    Here is one last important piece of advice that I recently read on someone’s blog. “Amateurs write what they themselves want to read. Professionals write what others want to read.”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Fantastic comment, Ernie, and a great way to “monetize” speaking engagements. I think I’ll use that one myself.

    Reply

    Jon November 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve sent you an e-mail Ernie, your idea of books over a public speaking fee is fantastic! I had an inquiry to go speak in Russia for a huge conference there and this would have been a great way to kick-off negotiations! I especially like the idea of everybody getting a book which means they might share it with others which gives you even more exposure.

    Jon

    Reply

    Gina Fava November 13, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Great insights! Thank you, Jon.

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    My pleasure Gina, let me know if you have any questions… I’m entirely self-taught and learned how to market business and my books by trial and error – and I’m STILL learning!

    Publishing is a very fun business to be in – each new book is a new opportunity for growth personally and professionally which is why it’s so addicting! I’m sure Joel will second that!

    Jon

    Reply

    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt November 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for sharing your publication AND marketing stories. I read through with my focus on stealing as many of your techniques as possible for self-publishing fiction. There is quite a bit of overlap, and putting free content out there for your readers should be something possible with fiction, too.

    In the tradition of Deleted Scenes on movie DVDs, I have already planned to put similar things in my novels: if you notice the little icon, and click on it, you will end up at something interesting on my website – a short story about the character’s backstory, or even a first draft (horrible) of some scene.

    If the reader doesn’t want to see sausage made – that reader can skip these views-behind-the-scenes.

    It was interesting to hear that you sell more on your website than on Amazon – congratulations.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 13, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Love that idea, Alicia, thanks for the comment.

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks for your comment Alicia – although I see the value of Amazon for sales, it shouldn’t be your be-all-end-all marketing plan that I see far too many authors pin their hopes on.

    Although there are great benefits to being on Amazon.com beyond what people typically think about such as:

    -SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization/Marketing), my website domain is the main title of the book on purpose
    -wider audience reach internationally (amazon.ca, .co.jp etc.)
    -brand recognition that people are comfortable ordering from especially if they are a PRIME member

    It does have major drawbacks as well

    -you give them essentially 2/3 royalty on each sale (we can debate whether that’s earned or not in a later post)
    -you are a grain of sand on a massive beach (people will NOT find you)
    -you don’t know who bought your book so you can’t market to them after the sale

    This is why I’ve focused my efforts on generating the sale on my site, Amazon is bonus and a very small part of my overall marketing – I use them to benefit me by promoting my site.

    Some authors spend money marketing their books on their site only to send them off to Amazon for the final purchase. I think this is a mistake… who cares about your rank in Amazon, what matters is how much of the sale you get to keep and are able to generate from that customer over your lifetime.

    Jon

    Reply

    Yvonne Hertzberger November 13, 2013 at 6:24 am

    “Your book will never be perfect.” So true. In the last twenty years I have yet to read a book with no editing errors. When I see a small error my editor missed I no longer even mention it as she feels so badly. That’s why I think it’s a shame that self-published authors have received a bad rap for poor editing. many of us DO have our work professionally edited. yet, when reviewers see even a few errors they grouse about self-publishing – as if it doesn’t happen in Trad published books as well. I have seen so many self-published books with fewer errors that trad ones that I think it’s time to put that myth to bed.

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Hi Yvonne, it took me a few books to realize this on my own. My dad published over 50 books and gave me this advice when I first started and now I know how true those words really were.

    I really do hate actually reading my own books a few years down the line – you are so brave Yvonne – as I say to myself “how could I have missed that!”

    I actually did one worse though and I didn’t notice until a year after publishing that I put the SAME MODEL in two different volumes! My editor didn’t notice, my other proofers didn’t notice and when I did… shivers! To avid readers who never published their own book – they just don’t realize how much work is involved with putting the entire package together… even J. K. Rowling has an army of people who re-read and go through every single word and sentence to make sure everything is at it should be and I’m willing to bet that there are still some in there in the first editions.

    Thanks for your comment,
    Jon

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I totally agree, Yvonne. It used to be unusual to find errors in traditionally published books, until about 10 years ago. It doesn’t diminish the need for self-publishers to take editing seriously, but you don’t have to hold yourself to an impossible standard in order to get your book out.

    Reply

    Shah Wharton December 23, 2013 at 6:09 am

    I had several issues with my edited first novel after publishing, and going through the reformatting for Kindle and Smashwords after finding/corrected missed errors is a mare. I’m about to release a second edition because it’s changed so much since I first published. I trusted an inexperienced editor (our mutual naivete) and paid the price, although my reviews haven’t suffered, I know it’s taken year after publishing to get it right. And like you say, even then… there’s are bound to be things we’ve missed. You live and learn, I just hope to improve. :)

    Reply

    Jon December 23, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    The way I look at it, what’s the past is just that, the past. I’ve never gone back on my earlier work. I see the books as a picture of where I was at that time and to go back and change that seems like a waste of time as I can better spend it working on another book or improving other aspects of my business. My very first book looks awful compared to my latest but back then, I thought it was awesome… just goes to show how much a person can evolve in both complexity and standards over just a few years. I know so much more now than I ever did in 2009 and I’m all the better for it.

    Jon

    Reply

    Judy November 13, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Thank you. I am close to self-publishing a book of poetry and found particularly interesting your comments about pricing and giveaways. It will affect my pricing decision making.

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Thanks Judy for your comment. Be sure to get a bunch of extra copies printed and send them out to influencers in your area of expertise before official release so you can use them for marketing purposes. Try to get a few testimonials and a book foreword by somebody notable with instant brand recognition.

    In my case, this is the first book I even bothered trying to get others involved as I wanted to use their names for instant brand recognition. For instance, if you are in the CNC laser industry, you most likely heard of Trotec Laser, CNC router… ShopBot Tools, 3D printing… 3D Systems and so on. Interviews are a great way to generate unique content as well to fill any gaps in your book too.

    There are so many angles you can take with poetry but if you want to stand-out, you really have to do something smart and not loud like everybody else. Best of luck!

    Jon

    Reply

    Colin Dunbar November 13, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Hi Jon
    This is a very inspiring and detailed post, thanks for sharing. You also have a good-looking site.
    Good stuff.
    Colin

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 1:17 am

    Thank you very much Colin, I actually had to remove elements from my website a week ago as I kept killing the server… I forgot to mention that having all your videos hosted on YouTube.com is a great way to generate revenue while offloading expensive bandwidth and server resources. Video is a great way to get the word out (I got over 2M views so far!) and a fantastic marketing resource for your products and services even without any paid advertising.

    Jon

    Reply

    Jon November 13, 2013 at 12:50 am

    If you have any questions feel free to ask! Thanks for the opportunity Joel

    Jon

    Reply

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