How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0

Choose Yourself

My most recent book, “Choose Yourself!” sold 53,000 copies since it’s release on June 3 [update May 2015 – just hit over 350,000 copies], hit the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list, was No. 1 on Amazon for all non-fiction books for a few days and is still flirting with No. 1 in its various categories. This post is about what I did differently, why I did it differently, and how I think anyone can do this to self-publish a bestseller. I describe all the numbers, who I hired and why, and how I made the various choices I did.

I strongly believe everyone reading this blog has the content inside of them to write a book. If you want to stand out in a world of content, you need to underline your expertise. Publishing a book is not just putting your thoughts on a blog post. It’s an event. It shows your best curated thoughts and it shows customers, clients, investors, friends and lovers what the most important things on your mind are right now.

Unfortunately, most people suck at it. I’ve largely sucked at it. I’ve published 11 books — five with traditional publishers and six that are self-published.

I’ve written before about publishing and self-publishing. But mostly it’s been how I lost money on every book I’ve written. This is the first time I can say I’ve published a good selling book and here is what I did.

I Finally Made Money By Self Publishing

Now Here’s How YOU Can Learn the New Rules of Publishing That Make It Easier Than Ever to Write a Book, Get It Published, and Get Paid….(like my friend who is making $40,000 a month on Amazon!)
Start With My “Ultimate Checklist Before Self Publishing”

The distinction now is no longer between “traditional publishing” versus “self-publishing.” The distinction now is between professional versus unprofessional publishing. My first 10 books were done unprofessionally. Even the ones with the big publishing houses. They will probably hate me now. I hope not. I really like the people I worked with at these publishers.

I hope that everyone self-publishes. The benefits are enormous:

More money. Unless you are a John Grisham or E L James you will make much more money by professionally self-publishing. It’s not just money on sales but also foreign rights and special packages that you can offer if you control all the rights to your work. Packages that the traditional publishers almost never go for.

Incidentally, both of those authors self-published their first books. EL James, in fact, sold 250,000 copies of “50 Shades” via Createspace/Amazon before publishers even noticed her.

[See, “Why 50 Shades of Grey is Great Literature”]

Control over design. Traditional publishers usually keep that control.

Speed. You will probably speed up your publication date by over a year or more if you self-publish.

Content control. My bet is close to 100 percent of the people reading this post have content in them strong enough for a book. But 22-year-old interns at publishing companies won’t recognize that content. Even the editors, the publishers, the marketing guys — most of them — will not recognize the message you have to offer. Which leads me to…

Avoiding bad things in life. I hate getting that feeling of, “I hope he or she chooses me for X.” Where “X” could be love, or an investment, an acquisition, publishing a book, buying my product, whatever. I try to limit this feeling in my life whenever possible. I HATE when I have to depend on other people choosing me.

When you have to deal with more and more layers of people who have to choose you, you don’t get the opportunity to choose yourself (!), which is infinitely more valuable.

how to self publish a bestsellerEnter Publishing 3.0: How To Professionally Self-Publish Your Next Book

Here’s what I did step-by-step with my latest book for the first month since publication.

1) Build your platform

A traditional publisher is not even going to look at you unless you have your own platform, which means a Twitter following, Facebook following and/or a significant blog following. But if you already can hand-deliver the customers, what do you need the traditional publisher for?

Wasn’t that supposed to be what the publishers would get for you? Don’t they get you in bookstores? The answer is “no.”

Bookstores take very few of the books published by publishers. And whenever you see a book facing forward, or on the front table, or a “staff pick” that means the publisher usually paid to have that special placement. Most books don’t get this. And if you don’t get that, chances are your books won’t sell.

2) How do you build your platform?

Have an honest voice. Don’t be afraid to say things about either yourself or your industry. Provide unique perspective. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead. Make sure every post or video you do bleeds from the heart, entertains, and educates. In that order.

How do you get traffic? Blog on bigger sites that aggregate bloggers or podcasts or whatever. It takes time to build up. But sincere voices will always rise to the top.

3) Write

This is not a post about writing or how to write a good book. The assumption is that you will write a good book. BUT, two tips: write 500-2000 words every day to keep exercising the writing muscle. And read good writers every day. Then you will write an even better book.

A typical book is anywhere from 40,000-80,000 words. So if you can average 1,000 words a day, seven days a week, you can write four to eight books a year. Or one very very good, edited, revised, professional one. Or 10! Knock yourself out!

I also wanted a high-quality foreword for the book. I was really grateful that Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, agreed to do mine. I realize why he used to be an improv comedian when I read what he wrote.

4) Know What You Want

If you are self-publishing then you can publish your book right now without any other effort. Go to CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), check the box that you want to be both paperback and Kindle, pick a cover, upload your manuscript, and in a few days you will be published on Amazon and people can start buying your book.

If your goal is to have a published book and use it to get customers, consulting gigs, speaking gigs, etc., or a beginning set of readers for your next book, then by all means publish this way. It’s the fastest way to do it. I highly recommend it.

But if your goal is to put out the best possible product, maximize the money you make, and get the most readers, then follow the next steps, what I call “Publishing 3.0.”

  • 1.0 was publishing with a traditional publisher.
  • 2.0 was when the stigma of self-publishing went away and an entire new artistic outlet was open to millions of people (15 million books published last year versus 300,000 10 years ago). It’s cheap, quick, and easy to get your book published.
  • 3.0 is starting right now — where you can self-publish better, more successfully, better edited, better designed, better marketed, and make more money than if you go any other route. The reason this is possible only now is because for the first time, the best editors, designers, marketers are no longer working at the big publishing houses. Instead, they are striking out on their own and independently charging for their services. The demand is there. This route is more expensive than “publishing 2.0″ but is much more lucrative.
5) Editing

Previously my editing was just a spell check. And that was more than some of my mainstream publishers did. My wife asked me if I was kidding on this. But I told her to read my second book and she stopped questioning it. In other words, it was awful.

With my latest book, I went all out. I hired two copy editors to go through the basics on spelling and grammar. Then I hired Command Z Editing, run by Nils Parker, to help me structurally edit, i.e. do the job that editors used to do (example: Maxwell Perkins in the 1930s) but have been sorely lacking in the past 20 years from traditional publishers. Nils has previously edited bestsellers from Tucker Max, Kamal Ravikant, Ryan Holiday, and a dozen writers, as well as written screenplays, books, etc.

I am not saying “hire Nils” by the way. I’m just saying this is who I used (and paid). Make sure who you use is among the best in the world, or else you aren’t taking advantage of what the Publishing 3.0 world has to offer. Nils and I went back and forth on more than 15 different rewrites for my book. The difference between the original version and the final version is like the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.

And yes, publishers have editors. Some very good ones. But I specifically wanted to choose my own editor and use an editor that has worked on books that have sold millions of copies. The entire idea of “Publishing 3.0″ is that I am not limited to who is on the publisher’s staff but I can pick the absolute best people in the industry. With millions of books out there, the competition is incredible.

Hiring the best editor, design firm, marketing firm, and audio firms were all part of that. Not just the best around but who I felt were the best in the world.

6) Design

I never liked any of the designs on my traditionally published books, but I had no control over them. I don’t mean this to sound so anti-publisher. But they were busier with bigger authors, and I don’t think they were always able to devote resources to me.

I made sure I put out a product I could be proud of. I used Erin Tyler Design who helped me find the right cover designer, and she also managed the interior design process, which was a lot trickier than I thought.

She designed the spine, picked the fonts, the inside flaps, the back cover, and all the quirks — tables, pictures, asides, etc. — inside the book and then helped format for when I uploaded to Kindle Direct on Amazon.

7) Audiobook

I was at a dinner that Amazon had for self-published authors last October.

One guy who was making a solid living self-publishing science fiction novels told me that he always made an audiobook. I thought that was a horrible idea, and told him so.

But two things about audiobooks:

  1. He said, “When people see you have an audiobook, they see your book as even more credible. It stands out from the average self-published book when you have an e-book, a print version, and an audiobook. Plus, the audio book is more expensive, so even though there are fewer sales, it’s decent money.” By the way, if you self-publish, always do a print book at the very least. Even if 99 percent of your sales are going to be e-book.
  2. I asked the head of an ad agency what marketing tips he had for my upcoming book. He said, first thing, “Make an audiobook. For your kind of book, people will love listening to it while they drive into work.”

So Claudia, my wife who has been supportive of every aspect of this effort, set up her office in our house to be a mini-recording studio. I wrote to Tucker Max that I was going to make an audiobook. He wrote back:

“James, where are you doing the audio, and who’s editing it? Please tell me you aren’t just doing it yourself with your Mac and a mic you bought online.”

We looked at our Mac and a mic that we had just bought online and decided to go to a professional studio. Tucker suggested John Marshall Media. They had done audiobooks ranging from President Clinton’s autobiography to the Harry Potter books to Freakonomics.

It was a thoroughly annoying experience but it was worth it.

I felt uncomfortable just sitting there for eight hours reading words I had written. For one thing, it hurt. Reading for eight straight hours was killing my throat.

Second, I didn’t want to just read stories I had already written. So I did it totally unabridged and improvised quite a bit, making it somewhat original compared to the book.

But the best reason for doing the audiobook is it forces you to really look at your writing and hear what works and what doesn’t. I rewrote about 20 percent of the book after reading things that didn’t quite sound right out loud.

It meant another round of edits (with the help of Nils) to improve the book, a process I never would have gone through if I hadn’t done the audio version.

8) Title

This deserves its own category. I had total control over the title. My first choice for the book was “The Choose Yourself Era.” But whenever anyone asked me to say the title I had trouble saying it. “Era” sounds like “Error.” One person asked me if it was going to a book about archaeology. So somehow it wasn’t working.

So I picked 10 titles that I liked, combined them with the cover and created Facebook ads that I sent out to all my friends and friends of friends in the U.S. Then I sat back and watched the click-throughs. After a few days and thousands of click-throughs I had my title.

“The Choose Yourself Era” came in a distant third place. “Pick Yourself!” was right above it in second place. And “Choose Yourself!” came in first by far.

I then took the same Facebook approach to pick the subtitle and the final version of the cover design.

Results of the Facebook Title test:

picking a book title

 

9) Marketing

I used Ryan Holiday’s company Brasscheck. Ryan is the head of marketing for American Apparel, and has marketed many bestsellers, including books by Tim Ferriss (“The Four Hour Chef”), Robert Greene (“Mastery”), Tucker Max (“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”), and others.

I had never before used an outside agency, always trusting either my own basic platform or a publisher. What Ryan provided was unbelievable. Between his Rolodex and mine we scheduled about 60 podcasts, radio interviews, speaking engagements and guest posts on popular blogs and websites.

There were also some other things that I would not have been able to coordinate: A Reddit AMA that got over 3,000 comments and probably close to a million views over the past month. His company created a SlideShare presentation that became the most viewed SlideShare on the site the week of the launch with over 300,000 views. My schedule the month after launch was non-stop marketing. I was burnt out by the end of the month.

I had also become a fan of Bitcoin. So I set up bitcoin.chooseyourself.us a month before I released the book and became the first book ever pre-released solely on bitcoin. Ryan then got several key media sources to cover this. Then, early buyers of the book were able to publish a reviews as soon as the book came out on Amazon.

Bitcoin Choose Yourself

I also wanted to market an offer in the beginning of the book. My goal was not to necessarily make the most money but to make sure the message reached as many people as possible. So on the very first page, before the editorial information and dedication, there is “the offer.”

I offer to pay people back for the book if they could prove to me that they bought it and read it. Then I would pay them back completely for the book (losing money on each transaction because of the cut Amazon takes plus shipping). The idea was I would be happy to give the book for free, but I know people don’t value things they get for free. And I also know most people don’t read the books they buy. Hence the offer.

Ryan was successful at making sure that the offer itself was covered in various media outlets.

Brasscheck also scripted the video trailer that was produced and animated by Simplifilm. I describe the results of the marketing below.

10) Foreign Rights

I found with my prior books that the traditional publishers would more or less wait for foreign publishers to call and then they would sell the rights and my split would be minimal. Typically the split was 50-50, but out of my 50 would come my agent’s split. I was competing with too many of the other authors in the publisher’s stable to get any attention from foreign publishers.

Now I own all the rights to my book. Most people who self-publish aren’t thinking foreign rights. You still have to have someone who is going to be your advocate with the foreign publishers. So I got a foreign rights agency, 2 Seas Agency, to handle all of the foreign rights on a commission basis. They go to book conferences all over the world and have connections in each country.

In June, the first month the book was out, Marleen Seegers from 2 Seas sold rights to: Brazil (USD 2500), China (USD 4300), Korea (USD 5000). She is currently in negotiations with publishers from 10 other countries. The three mentioned above are where  the contracts were finished blindingly fast.

11) Other Merchandise

Since I own the rights I can do whatever I want. Below in the “Numbers” section I describe a bundle I put together combining a hardcover version of the book with three earlier books plus some original writing that was sent out by an e-newsletter company that did all of the fulfillment and split the proceeds with me.

With the help of The Social Pages and Litographs I also made a poster that is designed like the cover of the book when you look from afar but when you get close to it you see clearly all 67,000 words of the book.  I’m also making that into a shirt. What will I do with it? I have no idea. But it’s fun and I wanted to do it.

In the below photos you can see the far away version and the words when you are standing about an inch from the poster.

Choose Yourself poster

12) The Numbers

First off, what were my prior numbers? Here are my advances on my first mainstream-published, five books in order: $5,000, $7,500, $30,000, $100,000 and $30,000. Advances are coming down quickly!

My first book made back my advance and with about a 10 percent royalty I probably made another few thousand dollars on it. None of my other books came close to making back their advances.

I don’t have all the numbers on my first five self-published books, but I gave an enormous number of books away for free in order to build up my readership. Almost all of those books I produced for free but my revenues were minimal even though I had many readers for them.

In the first week “Choose Yourself!” was out I made the WSJ Bestsellers List with about 10,000 copies sold. To hit the New York Times bestseller list I can tell you anecdotally (and it depends on the week) that you need about 2,500-3,000 copies sold in your first week. I couldn’t get on the NYT Bestsellers List because they do not look at books that do not appear in bookstores. I’m not in any bookstores at the moment, although I’m working on ways that can change. Suffice to say I would have hit that list as well as the WSJ list.

In the first month I sold 44,294 copies between my paperback, audio, e-book, and even hardcover versions. In the second month so far, almost another 10,000 books.

The hardcover version was sold via an email newsletter, run by Porter Stansberry, that bundled the hardcover with three free versions of my past books plus an original report written by me. He split the proceeds 50-50 with me after the cost of the hardcover was recovered. I sold about 20,000 through this method in the first month. Email marketing is almost never attempted by mainstream publishers.

Of the remaining 24,000, close to 50 percent was Kindle, 45 percent was CreateSpace and 5 percent was Audible. On all the Amazon Kindle sales, the royalty is 70 percent of the $4.99 cost. On the Audible version the royalty is approximately 52 percent, give or take a few percentage points. On CreateSpace the royalty given my pricing was about 26 percent.

In terms of costs, pick and choose what you think you need. If you need an editor, but no marketing, no audio, and no video trailer, then your costs will be cheaper. Without the video trailer and audio, my costs would’ve been about $20,000. Without an editor and marketing, my costs would’ve been closer to $5000. If I used Createspace to make my cover and if I had done the design on my own, my costs would’ve been $0.

I am happy to answer questions about the process in the comments below.

The Ultimate Guide To Self Publishing Your Best Seller

Click Here – I’ll tell you all about it.

Was this article helpful?  If so then you’ll love this…

I wrote an entire book where you’ll learn how to come up with a great book idea, how to get it written quickly, and how to get it published…there are so many more options than there were just a few years ago.

And perhaps most importantly I’ll show you how to sell thousands of copies!  

Enjoyed This Post? Get Free Updates

  • http://www.twitter.com/bennesvig Ben Nesvig

    I’m curious what your own editing process is like. How many drafts do you put your writing through before the editor?

    Did you do any research on the pricing for the Kindle version or what made you choose $4.99?

    Ryan Holiday was a great choice and even fits with the theme of the book, since he dropped out of college and became successful.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Hey Ben,

      Before I handed it off to an editor I probably went through 5-10 rewrites on every chapter.

      I did do some research on the pricing for Kindle. It turns out that optimal pricing is 3.99. I say “optimal” for several reasons:
      a) 2.99 and above you get a 70% royalty
      b) it turns out that between 2.99 and 3.99 there isn’t a big dropoff in sales. However, between 3.99 and 4.99 there is.
      c) I made the assumption that given the marketing I was doing I could handle the 4.99 price without the big dropoff. I don’t know if I am write or wrong on that. But, as Ryan told me, “4.99 is also a way of expressing that this is a professionally done book.”

  • Joe Choi

    I always recall you and Porter arguing on TV. So I was surprised when I got his promo for your book!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Sometimes the best arguments turn into good conversations turn into friends.

      • Atit Shah

        I really impressed with your blog writing and the way of your life.I did not read anything except little reading on CHOOSE YOUR SELF but i can say”You have a lot to give to the world; god bless”.
        Will see you often Mr.James.

  • http://jestKultura.pl/ Andrzej Tucholski

    Great post. I’m finishing my novel right now and all this you’re covering here will be my main topic in less than 2-3 months :) I have one question though – do you need a business license to publish on Amazon or can you do it as a private person?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You can do it as a private person. You may want to consider a business license only because it’s a bit easier to write off your expenses but you can also do that as a private person anyway.

      • http://jestKultura.pl/ Andrzej Tucholski

        Cool! Thanks for the reply.

  • http://www.FelonyReform.com/ Paul Idtse

    Beautiful! This is why I wanted to arm-wrestle! Thank you for this information, James. I hope you and Claudia are well.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Hey Paul, thanks! Next time.

  • http://nototherwise.com/ Jessica Brookman @ N*O

    *takes self out to pasture*

  • Ree

    You had a sizable internet following prior to publishing your latest book, which I’m sure made it easier to market your book. How would you alter your approach if you were a first-time author whose following consists of friends, family, and co-workers?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Well, an interent following is one thing. but a PAYING internet following is completely different. I do this blog and most of my writing for free. So what I did in the six months preceding the publication of this book was expand out to many different audiences by posting on sites where the readers had never heard of me before.

  • Evan Salveson

    First off, I read Choose Yourself, and it was fantastic. Best book I’ve read in 2013. When you set out to write Choose Yourself, did you have an outline, and/or did you have a “bullets” list that you knew you wanted to cover? Lastly, who took the picture of you sitting “criss-cross apple sauce,” with your hands on your face? That was a really cool pic and want to say great job to whomever took it.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      The photo was done for a spread that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz did on me.

      The photographer was Natan Dvir. He was very good and probably took over 600 photos to find one good one. Here is his website: http://www.natandvir.com

      The photo itself cost me about $1000.

      It’s funny because I was going to use the photo you see to the left of this comment as my author photo. So Tucker Max wrote an email to Claudia and cc-ed me:

      “You gotta change it. But I’m not even going to try to convince you because I have a feeling it wouldn’t work, this email is for your wonderful wife Claudia.”

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, I had a rough outline but it got sharper and sharper and then kicked in even more when I worked with Nils on structuring one of my final drafts.

  • Jill Colella Bloomfield

    I have a lot of trouble hiring professionals when tasks seem figureoutable…as you suggest here, hiring pros can bring more success faster. Could you please advise what a litmus test for self-publishers might be–what questions to ask, what costs and benefits to compare, etc.–as they weigh hiring professionals. I am mostly a bootstrapper, so this is a really challenging obstacle for me. Thanks.

    • troublesometots

      Ditto. Can’t wait to hear advice on this topic. There are so many people offering manuscript editing, copy editing, etc. that it’s very hard to distinguish the good from the great.

      • kamalravikant

        Exactly as James’ said. The books you love, who edited them, made the covers, etc? Get those people. Since you mentioned editing, Nils Parker is amazing.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I always assume I am too stupid to know if someone is good at anything or not. This applies to my investments as well. So when I invest in something I look at who the other investors are. If they are smarter than me (e.g. if they have consistently made better investments than me over a long period of time) then I am happier co-investing with them.

      Same thing for other professionals. For instance, Nils Parker who did the editing. He has edited major bestsellers. Ryan Holiday has done the marketing for at least 5 huge bestsellers. I know the publishing industry very well over the years but their backgrounds gave me comfort that they knew what they were doing better than I would know.

    • Scott

      You can also think about this the other way around: what parts of the publishing process would you most like to keep in (your) house? What skills would you most like to develop? What’s worth the time and effort to do yourself? If you’re a really good graphic designer as well as a good writer, it may be a good idea to design your own cover. If you want to get really, really good at PR, compile your own contact list and pitches (or work with a pro who has transparent processes.) Learning by doing is best, but learning by watching is faster.

  • SJ

    Hi James, I have always wanted to write something yet I am afraid that
    my friends will be judgemental on my writings. Do you think writing
    anonymously or with a screen name a good idea for me?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      It’s good that your friends will be judgmental. That means you are saying something interesting. I am worried about that also. Hence, I publish under my own name.

      • SJ

        Thank you so much James!

        from Shunjie.

  • Tom Doody

    your post is generous — grazie, I underlined your text and commented here: http://901pacific.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/a-generous-author

  • JennieB121

    Great information, James. I loved Choose Yourself and it has helped inspired me for my next project.Bookmarking this post for future reference.

  • Saurabh

    Can you please tell me about the legal rights for different countries? Is this needed when you self publish or sell hard copies of your book?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You never have to worry about that. Amazon takes care of it in the English-speaking countries and use a foreign rights agent to take care of it everywhere else.

  • MikeRhys

    James; One of your most informative posts!

    All the “believe in yourself and you’ll be a success” stuff was getting overly gooey and paternalistic, but this post delivers on outlining the nuts-and-bolts, this post gets down to the brass tacks.

    Good job. (Though you could have mentioned that in building a platform it helps if you can get on CNBC … as that’s the only reason I ever knew you existed.)

    Again, good job, and thanks.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Believe it or not, TV appearances normally do not work for book sales. I have done TV for every one of my books. It has never sold anything. And I track how my different followings change (twitter, etc) after a TV appearance. Not even a blip. I am glad you saw me through CNBC but I think most people who have seen me on CNBC initially saw me through some Internet outlet.

      • MikeRhys

        I’m glad you capitalized Internet there. ;->

        (You can add to your data that there is one blog follower who found you after seeing you on CNBC.)

        Take care

      • Scott

        What about radio? I hear (from Tim Ferriss) that NPR is good for book PR.

        Also, who does one talk to to get invited on TV/Radio/etc? How do you figure this out?

  • troublesometots

    I am rabidly reading your updates on self-publishing (here and at copyblogger). I was recently approached by a fantastic and credible agent about representing me to take my baby sleep book through the traditional publishing track. After much hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to Choose Myself and self publish. I have no idea if this is a good move or not but I think the learning and growth that will come with it will be invaluable, even if the financial rewards are not ;)

    I have a question about reviews. I’m not worried about Amazon reviews – I’m pretty confident that with friends, family, and fans I can get 50-100 right out the gate. But what about reviews and blurbs from credible sources (newspapers, magazines, famous people, etc.)? You obviously have an impressive network and thus can get a forward by the CIO of Twitter. Sadly I don’t have those sorts of connections.

    How does the little guy get reviews and book blurbs from credible sources? Is there a process to this? Is buying blurbs OK to do? Are the paid reviews (such as Kirklus) worth it? I see these all as credibility builders that work towards making a book look less “homemade” but am a bit flummoxed about how to go about getting them.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      A couple of responses:
      – quantity is better than quality. If you have 50 reviews thats actually a very high number. If they are mostly good reviews (don’t expect all good reviews) then don;t worry.

      – quality goes up if the reviewer is a “verified purchase” on Amazon
      – don’t worry about blurbs or anything like that.
      – many top Amazon reviewers have their own websites where you can contact them. Contact the ones in your area. Most won’t respond but some will and will ask for your book and write a review.

      btw, Raymond Bean has done very well self-publishing several children’s books.

      • troublesometots

        “don’t worry about blurbs or anything like that.”

        Seriously? I’m trying not too. I’m also reading APE and Choose Yourself – both of which are covered with blurbs from really impressive and credible people.

        I don’t want to put out my book with a blurb on the back from “my dad”

        ;)

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Haha. Actually, for a book about sleeping babies a blurb from your dad might be perfect. Almost all of my blurbs came from blurbs I had for prior books or articles written about me. Think more about the book itself. Then have fun with the blurbs. Make stuff up. Have blurbs from “North West” and “George Alexander Louis”.

          • kevin

            Brilliant idea with North and George, James.

        • kamalravikant

          Great thing about self-publishing ,once your book gets known, you can reach out to “credible” people and update the cover and Amazon description yourself. That’s actually one of the best parts about self-publishing, you can update the book, the cover, the description, etc. anytime you want.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            Very good point, Kamal.

    • Simon

      Don’t bother is my advice, for what it’s worth; be the best goddam writer there is and the blurbs will arrive sooner or later. Relying on famous people to big you up is a rather dubious conceit.

  • http://www.startupbros.com/ Kyle Eschenroeder

    What was Lioncrest’s part in all of this madness?
    (If you still published through Createspace, what did they do?)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      they introduced me to a lot of the different companies (brasscheck, commandz, etc) that i ended up using for marketing and editing and other things.

      • http://www.startupbros.com/ Kyle Eschenroeder

        Ay! Thank you!

  • Peter Knight

    How much did editing cost on your latest book?

    It sounds to me that the two essential $ investments are for editing and cover design. What’s your advice to people who have no budget to work with? Wait with publishing until you do, or push it out to the best of one’s ability? I’m fighting the feeling of never-ending perfectionism & fear of rejection vs exercising patience to give the book the best chance of success.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      My advice is to push out to the best of one’s ability. At teh very least, find friends who you trust as constructive critics (VERY rare) and ask them to read and help you with editing your book. And find at least two separate eyes other than your own to read the book for grammary, and basic copy edting.

      For cover design, try sites like fiverr. But also, Createspace will give you choices of almost two million covers. It’s not a bad choice.

      And don’t discount marketing but there are ways you can do it cheap. Find ways to get on reddit, slideshare, and other big sites, for instance.

      • Peter Knight

        Thank you

  • Jerry

    My wife and friend went through the self-pub experience and your expressions on this blog are so familiar as I listened to them discuss their process. It all turned our quite well with a great cover, content and reviews: http://www.amazon.com/Titanic-Legacy-of-Betrayal-ebook/dp/B007TR1UYM/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

  • Mark

    So, James, What’s your net-net take home so far after all expenses?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      well, its only been six weeks or so. But its been about 900% times my investment.

      • Mark

        If only all our stock investments produced similar returns!

  • Philip Davis

    Thanks for sharing James – very informative, and inspiring!

  • Guest

    You hired world-class editors and I could still find errors in the text? Makes me think I may actually have found a possible second income stream for myself… :)

  • Richard Greenberg

    This is fucking awesome. Thanks for sharing this information. I have a novel inside of me, and you may have just helped me finally get it out.
    I’ve been reading your blog for months now. I think you’re a little bit crazy, but so what aren’t we all? I admire your honesty.

  • Hooty

    I can really see how gathering input/hiring other people especially those who specialize in the publishing field would help both you content and sales! While it is easy to have a message or tell multiple stories about you lifes journey or any other sublect. Its important that the reader doesn’t feel the contnet is all about you, is time dated/stamped (where it can become irrelavent), or doesn’t allow for them to interact with the content! (choose whether or not they agree or disagree). Those perspectives can probably only come from other peoples views of your message. Before and even after its published!) I know self-publishing has revolutionized the industry – I’ve actually seen the demise of some small publishers/resellers – even ones who tried to adapt!

  • Mark

    Did having Barry Ritholz mention you on The Big Picture help sales much?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Barry and I go back ten years so I assume our audiences overlap quite a bit. I’m sure it helped me and I’m always grateful to Barry. On that particular day I had almost 20 different marketing events happening including speaking at a conference on social media, going on HayHouse radio to a huge audience, going on thoughtcatalog to a completely different audience, doing podcasts, guest posting on Doug Casey’s newsletter, have the most viewed slideshow on slideshare, going on lifehacker, etc. So it’s hard to say.

      If anything, it would be a good company that can help figure out analytics on campaigns like this.

      • Mark

        It sounds exhausting just reading about it, James. What do you do to recover from all that energy expenditure?

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          That was a tough two weeks. I’m not used to it. Because I still had all my usual business activities and I continued to write, etc. It was brutal.

  • abir

    Hey James,
    Thank you so much. This post has so much specific, useful information.

    What do you think the key metrics( Editing expenses, marketing dollars, # of copies sold) etc., vary if it was a mass-market fiction novel vs. a business-spirituality self-help book.

    Congratulations. Your actions and results have really inspired me.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Editing expenses would remain the same. But marketing dollars would change. I would focus more on:

      – finding top 1000 Amazon reviewers who review in your category
      – finding their websites and offering them a copy of the book. Most will say no but some will say yes.
      – find sites to advertise on that focus on your category (kindle nation daily is a good starting point)
      – participate in message boards about self-publishing. don’t just tout your book but really participate.

  • Mike Jarvis

    hehe “I do what I want” would have been a sweet book title. but really, the title just makes this book
    PS I want the shirt not the book, and i think you should double the ‘offer’ if the book is read on cotton. and i’m thinking there may be a Guinness world record somewhere in there

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ha, Good idea! I just got the shirt. It was actually really comfortable. Will upload in a bit.

  • http://www.brettjarman.com/ Brett Jarman

    Thank you James. For the book itself, which has inspired me to get my own under way, and for this article which helps map out some options for the path ahead. I have two questions please:

    1 – How long did the process take from once you decided to write the book to the release date?

    2 – How did that time frame compare to when you self published using 2.0?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      1) It took about 8 months. Within 2 months I was ready for a first draft but then the next 6 months was rewriting, cover design, planning marketing in advance, etc.

      2) “1.0” takes about 18 months. 4 months to get a signed contract. Another 6 months to write, and then another 8 months to fit in with their schedule.

      “2.0” takes about 2 months. Write then upload. Could be faster if you write faster. Also, with “2.0” you can make a 20 page book if you want to make it even faster.

      • sofie

        thanks James , I was looking for that answer …

  • John Cole

    James. Loved “Choose Yourself”. Absolutely one of the best non-fiction reads I have read in the last 5 years. This post is awesome! My only question is what would you have done differently if you were self-publishing a fiction novel? I am working on a fantasy novel right now and am planning on self publishing but am looking for advice on how to take it to the next level so to speak. Any advice again would be appreciated!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Hi John, thanks a lot. I will do a separate post on marketing fiction. Will do some research beforehand, perhaps firsthand, before posting.

      • John Cole

        Thanks James! That would be awesome. I am actually in the beginnings of putting together a blog that focuses solely on self publishing and how to take your work from start to finish with all of the options available…so this is great stuff!

  • http://inpursuitofhappiness.net/blog Britt Reints

    I’m not clear on how Slideshare is used. Was that a target to potential readers? Did you share the link to your slideshare somewhere, or are people just perusing the site for interesting presentations?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Slideshare sends out a list of it’s most viewed presentations every week. Brasscheck made that presentation and they helped market the presentation so it would get on that list. Then the list itself generated the next several hundred thousand views. The presentation is a marketing presentation to buy my book so it helped book sales.

  • Lisa Adams

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. You’re a generous guy.

  • http://strategyfocussuccess.com/ William Peregoy

    Thanks for the breakdown, James. Inspiring stuff.

  • http://www.twitter.com/bennesvig Ben Nesvig

    Do know if it’s possible for self-published authors to get their book trailers on the book page instead of just the author page?

    • kamalravikant

      Ben, not that I know of. Currently author page only.

  • John McKay

    Read the book (and the other freebies, too!) and enjoyed it a lot. Some really great stuff!

    I think one thing you mentioned in your post that a lot of other may have glossed over was the split-testing process you did with Facebook. This can give some real power to a product, as you can learn what will resonate with a potential customer. Those of us considering writing a book can use this before even getting started, really. Make a short list of your best book ideas, come up with 5 titles for each, and run some ads to see which one hits. You’d need a landing page of some sort, saying ‘coming soon’ or ‘sign up to be notified when the books is released.’ Once you see which has potential, you can run another round of ads, with variations on your title, etc.

    No matter how you do it, the ability to split-test a bunch of ideas is powerful, and shouldn’t be overlooked, no matter how confident you are in your idea, title, etc.

    Great blog, James!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Very smart. That’s a good idea for just starting a quick authoring business to build a passive income stream on Amazon

    • dis_quieted

      What a great idea. This can be applied to so many avenues. There are such huge possibilities opened up by social media and the world of ‘choose yourself.’ This

  • katy

    yeah I was wondering if this is more for the non-fic writers, but my aunt is in the process of getting her children’s books copyedited and she wants to get an agent. I told her it would be better to self-publish. Problem is she doesn’t have the money for marketing or even deep structural (content, plot, whatever) editing. So she’s going to have to just throw it out there and cross her fingers, which is no better than trying to get an agent it seems. This is a gigantic investment up front for something that doesn’t have good odds. You should only invest all this money if it’s something you care so much about that you won’t feel like you lost something if it only sells 10 copies. And you can’t ask your friends to judge your writing (especially if it’s ficition) because your friends will never tell you it’s crap (if they value your friendship).

  • Tranquil Polmelo(幽柚)

    Hello James!

    I wonder if you have any thoughts about self academic writing or non-fiction? I’m interested in publishing Chinese literature into English, but I’m not sure if self-publishing non-fiction could become plagiarism? I don’t want to steal other people’s work, but at the same time I want to interpret and transmit their work. I feel motivated to do this because many thought-provoking humanities work is locked up in academic journals or is inaccessible to the general public.

    Keep up the good work!

  • vinnie

    Great article. It will be a great help for the publication of my book http://www.mymilliondollarstory.com

  • Guest

    Do you have an agent or publicist?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I have a foreign rights agent (I don’t want to be calling foreign publishers and they hvae all the contacts)

      And I describe my marketing agency above.

      You don’t need a literary agent at all.

  • Charles Wilson

    JA-
    I’m thiiiiiis close to finishing a book and have been advised to both copyright and ISBN the thing.
    Y/N/M?
    CW

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Don’t worry too much about that. When you upload it through Createspace or equivalent they will take care of it all for you.

      • Charles Wilson

        Thank you!
        I had told my family that my tombstone should carry the inscription, “He changed the world and nobody cared”. That’s changed now. How does this sound?:
        “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.

        CW

  • Scott

    I’m not aware of a book in me but the content of what you can do on your own in a different direction is inspiring.

  • http://bigleapcreative.com/ Lisa Gerber

    This just made a huge impact on me. Thank you. I’ve been working on my book idea for a few months now and it seems with each step of the way, I make progress even though it’s not part of a bigger plan. The process feels like it should be tidy and it isn’t. It never is. We shouldn’t get hung up on that.

    After I read this post this morning, I sat down and wrote 1926 words. I looked at my total word count and I calculated based on your numbers here (40,000 to 80,000 words in a book) that I will have my first draft done by October 15th. It’s now marked in my calendar with all caps, as well as my two days a week I promise to dedicate to writing 2000 words.

    Today is a big day. Thanks again, James.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Let us know when you publish your book, Lisa.

  • http://instituteofeconomicunderstanding.org/ Economics Institute

    good guide, thanks. i wonder i could do it for $1000

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Definitely you can. See my earlier posts on the topic. With Createspace you can almost do it for free where you have nice cover, POD for paperback, and an ebook. HOWEVER, you will miss out on the editing and marketing and audio.

      • Suzanne

        Does Creatspace not do good editing? They have editing services. Was wondering if they were good or not?

  • Nana

    James, great article as usual, especially when coupled with the one about 50 shades of grey.
    I am a translator and would love to take a test with your Brazilian editor for translating your book into Brazilian Portuguese. Would it be unethical to ask who they are?

  • dis_quieted

    I bought the paperbook on Amazon, and it’s great, and I think the title you chose is the best one. But on the cover design, the font your designer chose for the reverse type on the red banner has lines and serifs that are too thin. It works for your name (black on green), but the red ink spreads into the white areas on the banner, blurring the text.
    Nothing’s perfect.

  • Steven

    How much would Command Z charge for a 58,000 word novel in terms of just a basic proofreading? I’ve written a young-adult novel and really want to self-publish. My goal is to generate a buzz for it and then make the real money by selling movie rights. I know, will never happen, but I at least want to try.
    My big problem is I need this proofread. It is difficult for me to read my own stuff and catch all the grammar errors, etc. But the CreateSpace service is pretty expensive. I’m hoping this service is a little cheaper.
    I also have another question. My novel is set in a city in which I utilize the names of the local businesses that are privately owned. Can I do that without being sued? Thank you for reading and answering my comment.

  • LuckyPhil

    I have authored 3 books will OK results but I would love to know how and who I can send my files to so I can upload them onto Amazon

  • http://www.brighthillgroup.com Tom Cooper

    James,

    As an aspiring dead-tree author I’m fascinated by your post, and inspired to press on in my first publishing project.

    I totally understand the value proposition for the designer and the editor. What I’m not sure I understand is the value of doing the audiobook in a professional studio rather than in an in-home studio – what was it that made it worth the investment of time and attention? Did you have a producer helping you? Was it better quality recording? Was it better mixing? Was it better focus while in the studio? Less noise? Something else?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      A professional studio was able to make me sound good, cut out all extraneous noises and then they did heavy editing (getting rid of the “uhhs” and any other slowdown, which happens 100s of times even if you are not aware of it).

      • Chris

        The audio book is excellent. The sound is very good and your voice was very authentic, it really got through to me, thanks! I decided to start a company that same day. :)

  • LuckyPhil

    Hi James, I have written 3 books with OK results but would love to hear the process of how i can get them on Amazon regards Phil

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Go to createspace.com or kdp.amazon.com

  • LuckyPhil

    Where has my question gone ?? twice ??

  • Josh Ingram

    James, couple ideas to increase your readership. Approach public library, I guess in your case NY public library pay them a small pittance to display your book. If you’re in libraries you will reach an entire different audience, perhaps bring people online for the first time. Statistics from Pew Internet state that 85% of Americans are online, while this is a huge market, 15% is 47 million people.

    Your book looks really good, I’m going to contact my library and request they get it. So not only will I get the pleasure of reading it, hopefully other people will discover it as well

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks Josh. And that’s a good idea about libraries.

    • TheWorldHasChanged

      Libraries? It really depends on what neighborhood you live in…the Library in my neighbor was more of a campsite for hobos and weirdos. Just walking pass the City Funded ‘Library’ you’d have the need to bath in Penicillin. The aisle smell like urine and the pages in the books, well, forget about it, you couldn’t even turn the pages–they were STUCK—like glue, it was as if someone blew their nose in between the lines….maybe in the 1950’s Libraries were cool, but today the only thing you’ll be checking out and carrying home with you is a bad Staph infection or HEP A.

  • Neeraj Bhatia

    Many thanks James for sharing this info treasure.

    One question – I am working on my book. Its a technical book covering specific area in Information Technology. My primary objective is to build a platform which will help me in my current job, put weight on my candidature for next change, get customers so that in parallel I can start consulting work. I already started speaking at technical seminars and running (not much active though) my blog for quite some time now. After achieving all this If I can make some money that would be welcome.

    Do you think I should go for professional publishing as you explained as it would cost me big amount of money, which I hesitate to do at this time. My feeling is I should go for self-publishing.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think you should go the cheaper route of self-publishing. Your goals are different from the author who wants to make a bestseller list or sell a gazillion copies.

      That said, definitely do heavy copyediting and get a good cover design.

  • Heather McCurdy

    Hi James, Thank you Thank you Thank you!! I have finally finished my book about walking the Camino de Santiago and working on the editing step (I’ve sent an email to Nils too, we’ll see what happens!). I wasn’t sure to self publish or sell it via a publishing house, but from what I’ve heard is that if the ph doesn’t give you a marketing budget, that you are better off doing it yourself. The advice above is so timely for me as well as informative and absolutely key in helping me make some decisions, so again thank you!
    My question for you is that I am now a SAHM running a Mom’s blog (for fun & writing practice) and my novel is in a different arena (travel/adventure). What is your advice to reconcile the two areas?
    I’d also like to suggest to those of you who are cost aware, that http://www.Fiverr.com is a great place to find inexpensive editors, book designers, audio books, etc.
    Heather M, http://www.RockStew.com

  • Natasha Hussein

    Hi James,

    Great article. I was wondering what suggestions you have for people who don’t have a massive following/ tribe? Those who wrote a book before engaging in blogging…

    With gratitude,

    Natasha

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I would do two things:
      A) start building the platform. You don’t need a big one. Kevin Kelly at kk.org has an excellent post that basically says all you need is “1000 true fans”.

      B) contact reviewers among Amazon’s “top 1000 reviewers” in your category. Many of them have websites and contact info. Contact all of them. 95% won’t respond but the 5% who do have big influence. Offer to send them your book, no strings attached.

  • Gary

    One of the important points missed is the role that online community building plays in modern book publishing and marketing. I’d go as far to say that the online community *is* the modern platform. There is nothing more powerful than someone you know putting a book in your hand and saying “read this.” There are lots of innovative services out there like PressPad and LitHive that really make these kinds of capabilities accessible to those without deep pockets or technical know-how.

  • http://www.penigma.com/ Penigma.com

    I always wanted to write a book, didn’t know it was so simple. Thanks for giving so much insight on self publishing.

  • Sunil Godse

    James, some excellent advice! I am in the process of completing a book entitled “Fail Fast. Succeed Faster” (www.failfastsucceedfaster.com), which is a collection of stories from business people on their business challenges and failures that they’ve experienced. Most are small to medium-size businesses, but there are few Canadian business icons who have given me their time and their story for the book. Reading your advice, I have taken some of the steps that you have written about. I do have a professional book editor in addition to a resource who does both book cover design and interior book layout. I find it hard to tweet but am trying to do it once every couple of days. I looked into a PR company, but this is a very expensive proposition. To garner some initial marketing, I held a conference locally which brought together 234 attendees in addition to making the local media. That will be the springboard for my initial book launch. I am then thinking of traversing the country to meet with my MBA alumni groups and any speaking opportunities I can get. Given your suggestion, I think an audiobook would be an excellent idea as well. Do you have any advice for me in terms of how I should move forward?

    • BestOfLuckToYou

      Great title! That’s a book I would buy on amazon.com

      • Sunil Godse

        James, the book was launched on November 14, 2013 and I have sold over 1,400 hard copies and over 100 e-books! I have begun speaking at various venues and held a conference with over 230 attendees. Another conference is planned in May. Thanks for your kind words!

  • goodelicious

    Hey James, I recently purchased a Kindle and for some reason the title of your book really pulled me in. It could be the state of mind I am reading all these personal development books and the transitions I am going through in my life, but I just wanted to say I love how you keep it so real in your book. Its really simple, and it seems like we tend to over think things. I just started to read your blogs and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate everything that you have to offer in this life. Thank You man.

    Joe

  • Misti Barnes

    James,

    Does this advice apply to someone creating a daily meditation book? Don’t people want actual printed books, when it comes to meditation books?

  • Syntax and Style

    Excellent and timely.

  • ajax jones

    This should be re-published as an e-book !

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for your posting, this is a really great article.

  • Zack Oates

    Awesome article! In regards to self-publishing children’s books–what would you recommend for illustrators? And would you send an e-copy or a print copy to the highest rated commenters on Amazon?

  • http://www.lappinproperties.com/ Sissy Lappin

    James-I am a huge fan. A publisher offered to buy my book but the “arrangement” was laughable. Your Advice is great and I just want to say thank you for sharing.
    FYI- My book was #1 download in business/finance for a few days on Amazon (Simple and Sold). It was featured in an article. Professional versus Nonprofessional BEST ADVICE!

  • http://brightideas.co/ Trent Dyrsmid

    James, I’ve just finished the manuscript on my first book and it’s in the editing process right now. As you might guess, I just learned a great deal about the book publishing process from your post, so thank you for sharing all the details! The only problem I see now is that I need to seriously up my game. Damn you :)

  • shamoon

    @jaltucher:disqus , how did you create the hardcover version?

  • Robert Farrell

    Thank you for this! It was a little overwhelming so I’m going to go back and read it again. It was definitely helpful. I published my first book on Smashwords.

    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/364972

    I didn’t get a lot of response even though I have a large FB and Twitter following. I also write about two blogs a day http://robertf71.blogspot.com and I do an Internet radio show. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/robert-farrell

    A lot of your ideas seem like they would take money, which I just don’t have now. Thoughts?

    Thank you again. All of this was really helpful.

  • http://mikeechlin.posterous.com/ mechlin

    Thank you James. On the notion of a platform… is it best to post about topics that will ulitmately be part of a book or could it be other topics?

  • Ryan Martin

    Hi James. Thanks for this, it really puts my mind at ease.

    Quick question: Once your book is no longer embarrassing, at what point are you getting friends, family, and peers to review it? This is before publishing, but probably after an pro editor helped clean it up.

    Any strategy here?

    I recall Tim Ferriss said he sends out sections of his books, not the whole thing. He’s quite secretive during this stage … which is kind’a tripping me up.

    These early reviewers, one would hope, will be your earliest fans and supporters.

    Any direction much appreciated.

  • Megan Bearce, LMFT

    Amazing article! I took the leap and became an independent publisher of my own book for all the reason you listed. Hired editor, inside designer, cover designer, and now a publicist. It’s been a huge learning process but really fun too. I wish I would have read this earlier for those days I questioned myself. Still working on continuing to build the platform. Am considering an audiobook after reading this. Wondering your thoughts on paying for reviews with Kirkus and Publishers Select (if picked). Both have different processes for self-published books. Congrats on your continued success! -Megan Bearce, LMFT author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart.

  • http://www.traveljo.com/ cindy

    James, i’m writing my first ebook. I can manage only 50 pages now. Should I charge for it?

    http://www.traveljo.com

  • Mike Searles

    Headline hooked me
    Had to look…
    ‘How-to publish
    My best-seller book’

    Read your post
    Twice the way through
    And the comments
    OK – I skipped a few

    Now I hate you
    James, you’re a (bleep)!
    My brain is now firing
    There’s no chance of sleep!

    Thanks mate. Terrific post.

  • Jane Peskara

    well very interesting, i am a writer well i love writing but never published or tried to publish anything even though i always wanted, my dream is having ppl holding my books in their hands and reading, and well wouldnt be that bad to live from it as i cant work due to mental health problems, anyway i am 23 live in austria and now thinking about selfpublishing so here a few questions: Where should i do it, there are so many pages. how can i do all this stuff you described with having no money at all? and well i am having many accounts on social networks but well sadly not many followers, friends etc. support me or go on my homepage and share etc. any advices? would be really nice if u answer, thx a lot :)

  • Bumi Kristen

    This has to be one of the most generous posts I’ve ever read. Thanks for freely sharing your resources for publicity, marketing, etc. I’ve read similar posts by other big name authors, and they seem to withhold just enough detail to leave you marveling at their genius and wondering how in the world you could ever do what they did.

    • Nora

      I So totally agree! James is incredibly GENEROUS with his info- He doesn’t realize the loyalty he elicits from his followers for this very thing alone.

  • http://www.garmaonhealth.com/ Joe

    Remember reading in Choose Yourself that you’re a Woody Allen fan, so thought of you when watching Woody interviewing Billy Graham back in the day.

    If you haven’t seen it, go give yourself a laugh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_poGsbBgpE

    -Joe

  • brumo

    Hi James, just found you via a blogpost.
    Wanted to go to bed 90 minutes ago; thanks for keeping me up!

    I have a variety of categories which include coaching, single parenting, child abduction, CBS News playing key role in kidnapping while lying to me, missing children’s organizations, FBI to name a few….I love to write…and have contacted the author of “The Mentor” because I believe he can help me put out a quality product on my first effort.

    Wondering about non-fiction genres; I am all about positive mindset, helping people put their challenges into the perspective that can best help them move forward with the right attitude. Is it naive to think that “telling my stories” might be able to be a commercial success?

    Any suggestions of things to think about are welcome.

    Really have enjoyed reading some of your blog posts….
    Bruce

  • http://un-francais-a-new-york.blogspot.com/ UFANY

    Hi James, awesome post, really cool. But wait. You sold about 44K copies in the first month, 20K of which came from Email Marketing? Completely independant of your own platform (at least in terms of distribution). It means that pretty much any good self-published book can reach these volumes through Email Marketing right? Even though margins are lower..

  • Ohana de Oliveira

    Great, when I read that you sold to Brazil I finally could fine your book in Portuguese here =] Had no idea we had a translation, I was planning to buy in English on Amazong but now I will buy it in the bookstore here, Saraiva is the name!

  • Huib Kraaijeveld

    Dear James,

    I’ve started a local crowdfund campaign to write a book about a non sexy topic for a target audience of potentially 5 billion people that mostly do not realize it might be relevant to them ….

    The topic is Lyme Disease. Could you take a look and give me feedback? Being author, entrepreneur, salesman 4.0, crowd funder and publisher is a bit new to me, yet I deeply feel it is important to do this.

    http://www.momo-development.com

    Thank you!

  • http://www.beingepic.com/ Alex Iglecia

    James, I’m a new reader. I found and chose CHOOSE YOURSELF at B&N. Gratitude and WOW.

  • Williesha Morris

    Dude. Dude. Dude! I’m going to use every one of these suggestions. If it sells you will be one of my “little people.” No seriously, I needed reccomendations, so thank you.

  • Bybreen Samuels

    Hi James, fantastic article and very timely. I’ve just finished writing a book for non profit organisations. It’s currently being edited and I’m definately going down the self publishing route. I’ve been approached by a contact who I met in China. He works in the corporate world and is keen to know whether my book will be available in China. We are due to have an initial conversation on Monday. Currently, I don’t have a foreign rights agent. Is it necessary for me to have one? And / or, is this an opportunity to initiate a commercial transaction based on a bulk sale of my book into the corporate sector. What do you think would be a good approach at this stage?

  • nuitgoddess

    Seems like your advice is generally applicable for non-fiction.

  • Terry The Canadian Curator

    I am new to this conversation. I have a novel ready for publication. Is there a step by step formatting manual somewhere I can follow so I can upload without glitches to Createspace? (Being a techno-tard I require simple – real simple). As far as marketing goes – I have $0 – but lots of time).
    Thank you James (as well as other self-published writers) – for any assistance you can give.
    Terry McDonald Writer from Port Credit, Ontario, Canada.
    P.S. My apologies for the digression and veering off-topic but Fukishima is extremely worrisome. Apart from the UN R2P argument – the International Community is falling down big-time in alerting the world public and sending experts and equipment to deal with TEPCO’s and the Japanese Governments’ inadequate response! The radiation levels being reported on land and immediate surrounding Ocean there, and now on North American coast and soil, is shocking. Anyone else feel this? (Incredible ramifications for all humanity if they do not up their game – our! game).

    • http://erikvanmechelen.com/ Erik van Mechelen

      Check out Scrivener.

  • Steve Bohne

    Did anyone get anything from the commandz site except a picture of a dog on his back? Tool.

  • Matt Dragon

    James,
    Choose Yourself helped me get off my ass and finally publish a book. I also found a fellow e-book author Von Money who’s work on publishing helped me tremendously. I think you’d like the book, if you want to check it out here it is: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HUTA9CI

    I’m not rich and I’m not previously published so this is sort of a case study.

    After writing that book I’ve brain stormed books that would appeal to people from a marketing sense (fill and need) and I’ve started writing two and am creating an outline for two more in my head.

    As always action is getting the creative juices flowing.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. Bleeding into your writing is something I do in my blog and I appreciate that you do the same!

  • Blake Jamieson

    Fantastic article! I am nearly complete with my second book, and am considering another value-add I didn’t see mentioned here.

    I want to supplement the book content with online content (which will likely be password protected but the password will be in the book itself). Any advantages or disadvantages you can think of doing it this way?

    I plan to include online content because the subject matter (social media and content marketing) changes often. I want the book content, mostly theory, to have some staying power, but still offer relevant technical info online.

    Thanks again for all the great insight!

  • Guest

    Hi, James, I hope you still check the comments and you’ll answer my few questions bellow. I have a novel, fictional in my pocket and it’s form tahat 5 % which you mentioned). Yes, I have gone to the trauble creating something very good which needs to be exposed.
    1st : the platform. Whether if I go self- or traditional publishing this is the foremost step for visibility and building strong community. In your previous post, ” how to self-publish a bestseller 2.0″ you mentioned the leading blogs in tech, finances, yoga etc. I will start definately with the yoga world, but unfortunately elephant journal is paid. Hopefully medium and thoughtcatalog aren’t. Can you recommend me a few more specific to which my feature book audience will belong:
    -women
    -law
    -Broadway and musicals
    -the music industry and showbusiness
    -the LGBT community
    I know the leading websites for this topics, except law, but are there any good blogs or forums?
    2nd How much time does it take to build a strong social audience, facebook, twitter, blog followers, etc? How much time does it take to write on blogs, facebook, etc. How is that compatable with a daily job?
    Thanks and regards

  • Victoria Antara

    Hi, James, I hope you still check the comments and you’ll answer my few questions bellow. I have a novel, fictional in my pocket and it’s from that 5 % which you mentioned). Yes, I have gone to the trouble creating something very good which needs to be exposed.
    1st : the platform. Whether if I self- or traditionally publish it, I need a platform. In your previous post, ” how to self-publish a bestseller 2.0″ you mentioned the leading blogs in tech, finances, yoga etc. I will start definately with the yoga world, but unfortunately “elephant journal” is paid (to get full access of the artickles). Hopefully “medium” and “thoughtcatalog” aren’t. Can you recommend me a few more specific to which my feature book audience will belong:
    -women
    -law
    -Broadway and musicals
    -the music industry and showbusiness
    -the LGBT community
    I know the leading websites for this topics, except law, but are there any good blogs or forums?
    2nd How much time does it take to build a strong social audience, facebook, twitter, blog followers, etc? How much time does it take to write on blogs, facebook, etc. How is that compatable with a daily job routine?
    Thanks and regards

  • notpurfect

    You have convinced me. You have absolutely convinced me. Someday I am going to die, and at this rate I am going to die doing exactly what I have been doing for years, and nothing else – ever. I don’t know if it’s our very regimented school system, the forced internment and credentialism of our colleges, or the carrot of success always dangling just out of reach in the work world. Something makes it very easy to subside into a sort of a half aware state of alleged consciousness.
    So you sit there and wait for your boss to make you successful, or the government to solve your problems, just like you were trained to sit there in school and wait for your teacher to tell you what to learn, what to be curious about, and to sit still and keep quiet. This scholastic lobotomy forces upon us a sort of a motivational laziness. We remain capable of working very hard if properly driven; but hesitate to drive ourselves.
    It begins to occur to me (conspiracy theory coming here) that perhaps one of the reasons for the screwed up way things are being run is that in a screwed up world people are insecure, and insecure people obey, conform, and don’t try new things. They remain a consistent pool of humanity, no challenge to those who rule over them. The secret, I suppose, is keeping things screwed up enough to maintain that insecurity and tension, but not to let things fly apart.
    You see this in business now, where the people who hire you are human resource people and you are a human resource. Once upon a time, the guy that hired you was either the president of the company, the person who was going to be your direct boss, or a personnel manager. At least with a personnel manager, you were acknowledged to be a person – perhaps even with a personality. As a human resource, you are merely a commodity.
    A resource, human or otherwise, is ideally as invariable as possible so that it may be drawn upon in a consistent and efficient manner, until it is used up, or until a more efficient resource (read cheaper) is found. Yep that’s us. Yet there are rewards.
    In many ways I live better than a king or one of the super-rich from just a couple hundred years ago. I can get information from anywhere in the world – fast. I can listen to any piece of music I care to hear – immediately. I can light any room in my house by flicking a switch, and set a control to keep my house whatever temperature I like. I turn a handle to get water, and it can also be any temperature I wish. If something hurts, I can take a pill that will make it stop hurting. If something gets infected, I can take a pill that will make the infection go away.
    Yet I am not a king.
    I have written five books, countless little pieces and essays, numerous letters to various editors and blogs, and have put together a pretty large web page (www.notpurfect.com). Yet nothing has sold, except one small humor piece. So I guess I can call myself a professional writer – kind of. I still passively send my books out to agents and publishers. In doing so, I continue to conform to what our society has trained me to do – sit back and wait for someone else to provide me with success, and make my life better.
    I hope I don’t sound like I’m whining here. I am comfortable. I have a nice two bedroom place, with the second bedroom being used as a library. I have a pool table in the basement, and drive a nice little convertible. I eat well (too well), and pursue photography, and several other hobbies. The problem is that I am so comfortable that I am afraid to loosen my grip on what I have, in order to reach for something better.
    No longer. I am in the process of converting and self-publishing. My choices will involve other things as well. I no longer put work first. This is not to say I don’t do the best job that I can; but I now do it for myself, because my time is my time, even when in the pay of someone else, and I want to make it as valuable and full as possible. What it means is I no longer stress over my job (well, old habits die hard; but I’m working on it), and I push the envelope instead of merely trying to stay out of trouble.
    So what about all the others, those that continue to conform? Well, that’s up to them. I don’t look down on such things, since I have lived that way for decades. Some people like to live that way, perhaps most; but not all. So I don’t see it as my job to save them. My argument with the system is that we were never given a choice, or even made aware that a choice might exist.
    It’s like one of those experiments with rats, where you keep the rat in a little bitty cage for a couple years, and then set it outside and open the door. The rat will not leave. He has food, comfort, familiar surroundings, and no predator is trying to eat him. He doesn’t want freedom. How can he value such a thing when he doesn’t even know what freedom is.

    • BestOfLuckToYou

      omg, sorry tried to read this post but too wordy; rule number one: ranting isn’t writing…except if you’re AynRand.

  • Rosemary O’Brien

    Thank you for being so generous and providing us with in-depth information about publishing. It’s very helpful to hear how others have been successful in publishing.

  • Nikki L. Exelbert

    Hi, I just called Create Space to discuss publishing my book, well it’s an interactive Journal. I had it professionally edited by a family friend who edits for magazines, but need help with the layout and formatting the cover. So, I think your article says if I understood it correctly that Create Space is the way to go. Is that right? I just spoke with them yesterday and they said they get 40% off of the book Royalties. Anyway, I’m interested in learning more about the self-publishing process for the product I have to offer. My background is a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology, and I’m an Emotional intelligence Educator and work in schools and with adults teaching them mindfulness/meditation practices and helping them connect into the deeper parts of the self and making meaning of what arises inside our minds and in the environment around us. My vision is to build a community of people taking part in practicing these “Invitations”, where each page has an invitation to practice and contemplate this invitation. Their is a wisdom piece to this invitation that can come out of this practice which comes from my own personal experience with it. Anyway, I welcome your guidance.

  • Emofires

    So it doesn’t cost ANY money to use createspace.com? I’m writing a YA novel and I have no money, mostly because I’m in the same demographic as my potential readers, in other words I’m a minor, but my parents support the idea as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. I’m a graphic designer, or a wannabe at least, so I can make my own cover, but I don’t trust myself to just publish the first draft of the story without correcting any mistakes. I’m planning on getting my friends to read it, but I don’t know if that’s enough. I’ve recently been inspired by Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent Series, her website is on BlogSpot! Which means that she paid no money for it.
    What I’m trying to say is that I have NOTHING, except a laptop, email address, Facebook page, and passion for writing and design. This is all I have to get people to want to read my book when I publish it, and make it popular. Can you help me in ANY way? Oh, and the title kinda sounds like an encyclopedia on computers. It’s called The 8-Bit System, but it’s about the cliché dystopian society with a twist that targets YA gamers.
    So yeah, PLEASE HELP. Any advice is worth something to me, I was inspired by my teachers to write a book, and my friend who last year wrote Hunt, at the age of 13. I don’t care about money, my parents can have it all, I just want people to see that I exist and have a talent to share among the rest of the world. Thank you!!!

  • achu

    :-) Thank you James, this is very big hearted of you to share this way , love you :-)

  • Antoinette Braks

    Ok so I’ve just read Choose Yourself over the last 48 hours. I have a book that is totally cooked but not-published cos I just wouldn’t let it be! And I already have another book written in my head … So the next 6 months is about self-publishing .
    Reading your book upped the fearless factor in me. Thank you. I now don’t care anymore about what others think, but care all the more about me and what I think! And that that’s all it needs to be, right? I’ve just freed up more of myself, blessings to you xxx

  • katiebabs

    You made a big mistake in this article. Fifty Shades was never self published. It was published in May 2011 by The Writers’ Coffee Shop, and epublisher. You really should do your research. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

  • Francisco Lorca

    James, great insight. As usual, thank you for your generosity!
    Do you think the same applies to fiction work?

  • http://www.pcdettman.me P. C. Dettman

    I agree specifically with the audiobook section. I have some VO friends who are happy to record my new book, but I wanted to get going quickly so I did a few chapters myself. I found whole passages that did not work, sentences which were too long, and inconsistencies in plot, character and description that all my other checking tricks and editing failed to spot. Even if you don’t publish the version you do yourself, I strongly believe it will improve your writing.

  • http://www.5toolgroup.com/ Jay Oza

    Always good to read this again. Still the best tips around.

  • Stacy J. Childs

    James, I e-mailed Brasscheck about representing me for marketing my fiction work, but never got a reply. Do you have another suggestion.
    Stacy J. Childs, M.D.

  • JustAWriter

    Cannot begin to thank you enough for this article and the detail within it. I have had what I know is a fantastic story kicking around in my mind for over a decade. This article has answered questions I didn’t even know I had. Thank you! Peace.

  • Suzanne

    Does Creatspace not edit well? They have editing services. Was wondering if they were good or not?

  • http://julieangelos.com Julie

    You are very good writer for three reasons:

    The first reason is because you can make people laugh as you did here with this line which is great:

    “James, where are you doing the audio, and who’s editing it? Please tell me you aren’t just doing it yourself with your Mac and a mic you bought online. We looked at our Mac and a mic that we had just bought online and decided to go to a professional studio.”

    The second reason is because you write like you speak. And the third reason, just for fun, is I felt like you had a story to tell. Well done James.

    Julie of jbulie

  • Josh Mitchell

    My new novel “The Dude Who Did Dictionaries” is now available on Amazon via Kindle Direct – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M0DUI8Y

  • Barbara Terry

    Well that’s great content. Thanks for sharing the knowledgeable and helpful stuff on this blog.
    My Father the Godfather

    Regards
    Barbara Terry

  • http://www.apriloleary.com April O’Leary

    I recently watched a short youtube video by Jay Abraham where he was asked if he could only pick one idea out of all the business strategies he knows and he had to throw out all the rest, he would pick strategic alliances. I see you had quite a great partnership with Porter Stansberry, were there any others who helped you sell to the level you achieved? Or was it your own list? Just wondering….and I agree whole heartedly. I went to a Hay House Writers Workshop (I realize you’re published with them now..wondering how that’s going?) but Reid Tracy said basically for the entire 6 hours, “Platform. Platform. Platform.” Basically show me your platform and we’ll publish you. What I went away with was “Why would I do all the work to build my platform and then hand it over to you when I have the tools to publish on my own.” So that is what I did. Glad to see that someone else out there also feels the same way. I have bookmarked your recommendations for people to work with and on my next book will def follow the 3.0 format. :) Thanks for all your time in putting this valuable post together. April

  • http://thewigbooks.com/ Renata Suerth

    Helpful BUT overwhelming.

  • Suzsi Welch

    this was a great post.I need to re-read then act. thanks.

  • Tim VanDerKamp

    All of this is really great timing. I have written a book and am in the editing process and I had started going through the process of getting a proposal together and getting an agent and it was pretty frustrating. And what you are saying, has been confirmed by other authors I know…advances are coming down. And in truth, traditional publishing houses pretty much do NOTHING to market your book. So, even if you do get a big advance, which happens less and less it seems, you would need to spend it all on a publicist and traveling around on your own book tour. I found all of this very discouraging and then my significant other handed me a copy of your book, Choose Yourself. Perfect Timing. I just finished it.

    I am actually finishing up TWO books now. Going through the process of trying to write a proposal at least helped me tighten up the flow of the book and understand that I was repeating a lot of things and was kind of all over the place. But, now I am working on a few things that you suggested.
    #1: I am writing a little EVERY day. I’m a pretty prolific writer, but rather than focusing on making “progress” I am focusing on writing, and I am taking your direction and stopping when I am excited, and just like you suggested, then I am excited when I open my laptop again.
    #2: I am working on blogging more and getting that information out there. I don’t have a huge audience, but I am building a little at a time. I have also started my own youtube channel and have been publishing videos there.

    Thanks for all your direction. I feel some hope again, that I might get this book launched. And if nothing else, it will give me a great way to claim expertise when I am out trying to get speaking engagements and to sell educational seminars online, which is what I really want to do eventually.

    Thanks James. I needed some hope right when you were able to provide it through your writing.

    Thanks again.

    Tim

  • http://www.keilahwest.com Katina Chimney

    James you are my new bestfriend. Thanks for sharing your self-publishing experience. I have published a book and now my focus is on Marketing and getting people to buy the book on Amazon from me rather than my competitors. What do you suggest? Also I shared one of your Linkedin Pulse Rejection article on Twitter. I’ll tag you in it.

  • Tommy Moseley

    Boom… I’m in- I’m going to follow this for my 1st bookmtitled “the Good Life”- a book that teaches people to be happy right NOW-
    Wish me luck and thx for posting.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Cicerchi/e/B00MSUNX7M/ Nick Cicerchi

    James I’m reading your book now and have been laughing out loud by myself… can’t remember doing that before

  • Sherry Lynn Meeks

    Excellent post. I am an author of novel. Do you think this will work just as well with a book of fiction? Also, I might have overlooked it, but what were the costs of the video trailer and the audio book? Thanks. Sherry

  • http://my-love-reaches-the-moon.tumblr.com Amy-Jessa Anaru

    Hmm, very interesting

  • PlayboyMommy

    James, I’m so happily drinking your Kool-aid! Can you tell us what you spent on your marketing campaign with Brasscheck?

  • http://www.softpedaling.co/ sthig

    “Unfortunately, most people suck at it. I’ve largely sucked at it. I’ve published 11 books — five with traditional publishers and six that are self-published.b”

    Typo there with the “ed.b” at the end. Just heads up :)

  • http://www.softpedaling.co/ sthig

    I’ve worked for the WSJ, Penguin and Harlequin and I self published because I wanted control of everything I believed in my book which is a heartwarming story about getting over metaphorical (and real) mountains. On Amazon I have 39 reviews from verified people with only one bad review. So I’m happy about that.

    If this is spammy, please feel free to remove my post, but here’s some info about my book http://softpedaling.com/release/

    • Hank Putnam

      Great trailer!

  • BeverlyBrewer4

    Great information thanks for sharing….!

  • Timothy McIntyre

    The most important decision you can make is your book’s cover. I have a fantastic cover on my book “I’m a Type A — How the Heck Will I Ever Retire?” and I have had strong sales ever since it came out. Also, I have a great author’s website, mine is really unique and I get hundreds of hits on it every day! I used a great indie designer called DesignbyIndigo and she did all of my book design and website. It kicks ass!

  • Ave Guevara

    My second edition is just now on Amazon Createspace. First edition in 07 came through Authorhouse because I didn’t know any better. After reading this article, I think I need to start smoking cigarettes and will buy a pack of American Spirits. My first edition DID get included in Wikipedia Travelogue section on Che Guevara’s life. Also with THIS edition, as an inspired musician, I have 7 tracks of “Mantra Music” on ReverbNation that are topping the charts in the spiritual music genre locally, nationally and globally and am going to offer a free download of one of my songs with the purchase of the book. It’s on Kindle as well. I have no fears of public speaking. Although my book, THE CHE DIARIES is on an obscure, seemingly paranormal experience resulting in the spiritual expansion of ME, my platform is to inspire and uplift all us middle aged folks who’s kids are grown and they gave up on whatever their passions were, or forgot about them totally. I have the coolest website promoting and showcasing all the arts I am involved with. It’s not that I’m ADD/OCD and high spectrum autistic (no wait, I AM all these things!!!!) …. I can’t help it…..I breath, therefore I am inspired and create!!!! I am overwhelmed at all these expensive hoops I am yet to jump through……..S.O.S.H.E.L.P.

  • Ave Guevara

    I love all the people commenting here – they are appreciative, honest, creative, almost equally as overwhelmed as me but maybe over different issues, and I feel like I’ve found a home among both YOU, James, and your commenters/followers. Thank you, even though I’ve broken a sweat and my heart is beating faster over these next hoops I must jump through like a circus poodle!

  • Steve

    Stop doing this, James!! I’m getting over stimulated….!! What excuses can I now find to get off my fat mind and start doing…?! OK, none. Got to get on with it I suppose. Still, at least that makes my 500 for today..! Thanks. Steve

  • Reedsy

    I guess lot’s of your readers would be interested in Reedsy; a community of top publishing professionals (editors, illustrators and marketers) to work with authors: https://reedsy.com/

  • Timothy Woods

    Great piece! This advice is gold dust and it has illuminated the process for me completely. When I do eventually write my first book, I’ll be coming back to this piece