Tag Archives: Self Publishing

Let’s say this again. You don’t need to pay anyone to publish!

Again.  In 2016, you don’t pay people to publish you.


You publish you.

I have had several conversation recently about this.

These are my steps:

  1. Write book.
  2. Hire cover designer.
  3. Hire editor.
  4. Publish on Amazon and iTunes.

No where in there do I need to pay someone thousands of dollars to get my work out.

If you see AuthorSolutions, iUniverse, Tate Publishing, just ignore them.  Please, I’m begging you.

Don’t believe me.  See these great posts from David Gaughran:

Author’s Guild ends relationship with Author Solutions.

The connections of Author Solutions with Barnes and Noble

Penguin helps exploit writers

In 2016 put your time and money into making a great book.  Your money goes to cover design, editing, and formatting.  NOT PUBLISHING.

Remember, YOU publish YOU.


So what happens when everyone can publish a book?

Today at school I had students ask me about Dolbin School for the Extraordinary.

publish a book


He asked “Who published you?”

I replied, “I did it.”

“You can’t do that.  Who did it regular?”

“I did it.”

“But you can’t do that.  If that is true than anyone can publish a book!”

“True.  But they don’t.”

I thought later, why in 5th grade, are students are already  in the “This is way it must be done!”

No children.  There are no more gatekeepers.  That is the lesson.

Are Music Labels and other publishers and middle men needed anymore?

Are music labels needed anymore?  I don’t need one. I’m not a musician   I did play trumpet in middle and school, but I hid in the second and third trumpet section for seven years.  I know, you’re impressed.  I also sing in my churches’ choir, but you may not want me to sing in yours.

But Alex Day is a good singer.  In fact he’s so good he recently beat Justin Timberlake in UK when he released his new album.  Now Timberlake is in movies, on the Jimmie Fallon show regularly, and he sells out concerts.  Yet Alex Day beat him.

Youtube beats bring sexy back...

Youtube beats bring sexy back…

Thanks to James Altucher for pointing this out.

I’m 39, so I had to ask “Who is Alex Day?”

Apparently he has big following on Youtube.  He makes regular videos interacting with fans, and he makes music.

But he is not on any major label.  If he can beat Justin Timberlake with no music label behind him then that begs the questions.  What is the purpose of a music label anymore?

Listen to Alex himself ponder the same question.

This is now being played out in the publishing world. Some will disagree, but things are changing quickly. Joe Konrath is now fully self published through Amazon and makes tons more money than when we was a traditionally published writer.

Hugh Howey is currently criss-crossing the country promoting his book Wool. Yes, that book is being done through a traditional publisher Simon and Schuster, but Howey kept the digital rights to his books (smart) and only gave the print rights to the publisher, and the rights were bought by 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott to turn it into a movie. All of this occurred only after he choose himself and self-published.

Now is the time to stop waiting on New York to ordain you a writer.  Or waiting on LA to give you a music contract or a movie contract.  Get up everyday and choose yourself.

Currently Createspace is the place to go and publish your book on Amazon and other places.  But you can also publish your music or movie into the Amazon world.  Think about that for just a minute.  With a group of friends, a video camera, and some basic software you can go out, make a movie and then have shown on Amazon Instant Video in MILLIONS of homes and get paid every time someone watches it.  The world isn’t going to change for artists.  IT HAS ALREADY CHANGED.

As I was writing this I listened to a few of Alex’s songs on Youtube.  I am now a fan.  That’s how that works.  Tower records didn’t tell me to listen to Alex, nor was he played on the car radio.  He was recommended by blogger, I listened, and am now a fan.  That is the 21st century.

Stop waiting for someone to Choose You.  Now you get up everyday and Choose Yourself.

Do that long enough and then everyone else will Choose You.

Here is an Alex Day song that already had over a million views but was new to me.

Hire what you are not

The hiring process part of the next Kevin book is over.  Now the real work begins.

I’ve written before about the importance of hiring someone to help you in some way, be it in editing, illustration, making the book cover, book design, ebook formatting, or all of the above, odds are you are going to need some help with something.  It is okay to not be able to do everything.

Everyone needs help, even The Beatles.

Everyone needs help, even The Beatles.

I am currently in final editing process for the next Kevin book.  The manuscript should be in it’s final edited phase by next Thursday.  I need help with proofing and editing, as does every writer.  But I’m really terrible at proofing, not my strength.  I’ve also read that writers are too close to their own writing anyway to edit it. That is very true for me.

Hire for what you are not 

I’m also not an illustrator.  I am a photographer, but not an illustrator.  Consequently I needed to hire an illustrator.  And my illustrator will also do the book cover as well.  I can get two birds with one stone there.

Do what you are

I won’t use anyone to help me design the book or the Kindle version.  Looking at the first Kevin book, the only thing that I might change would be the font.  But that is a personal taste I guess.  And formatting a Kindle book isn’t much different from formatting a website, which I’ve done plenty of over the last 15 years.

Where do you hire?

I’ve used Elance over the last several years for various projects.  But there are other places to use as well.  I’m just comfortable with Elance.

Of course if you know someone that can do what you need, such as illustration or editing that may work as well.  I have not had that happen yet, I really like hiring people I don’t know personally, it allows more of an ability to say “no” when needed.

Hiring someone can raise the level of your book, and keep it from that “self-published” look.

I put the last period on the next Kevin book in February   In the traditional publishing world, as I understand it, I would pretty much be done.  The publisher would take the manuscript edit it, get an illustrator and book cover artist.

In this new world, I am in charge of those added elements.  Which is why independent publishing gives you higher royalties than traditional contracts.  Makes sense, I do more, I need to get paid more.  I like that.


Click here to join my mailing list to know when the next book is ready.

Great Resources for Indie Publishing

I’ve talked to a few people in the last 48 hours who have mentioned they are reading this blog for ideas on how to publish their book.  I figured a better way maybe instead of me doing all the writing, but instead share what I have read and am currently reading.


APE, Author-Publisher-Entrepreneur came out after I was well on my way finishing the first Kevin book.  It covers the whole process from the writing, to the publishing, to the marketing part.  It is written by Guy Kawasaki, who a major tech player, having once been a Chief Apple Evangelist and himself has over 1 million twitter followers.

One thing I disagree with him on is a social media presence.  He suggests getting that started before anything.  I wouldn’t agree with that.  Write your book, but also work on developing your audience, which could include a large social media following.

But still the best book on the whole process from beginning to end.

This is another entry in how to publish.  David Gaughran is an Irish writer who has a great blog on the subject.  His book doesn’t have as much on the promotion end as the Kawasaki book does, but still tells you step by step what to do.

Be the Monkey, doesn’t really tell you how to publish, but it does the best job explaining about what is going on in the publishing world.  Both writers are best-selling authors with traditional contracts who have gone the indie route.  That alone speaks volumes of the publishing industry.

Websites and Blogs

Here is a list of some great blogs by writers who are doing the indie publishing thing.

James Altucher’s writing is what got me to thinking about self-publishing.  He has books published both traditionally and self-published.  This post from 2011 is probably what got the ball rolling for me.  His blog is wonderful for things beyond writing.  It was his blog where I discovered the phrase “choose yourself.”  But that’s for another post.

Let’s Go Digital is David Gaughran’s blog who wrote the above Let’s Get Digital.  Great info about the industry and how to get your name out.

Failure Ahoy is the blog of Edward Robertson who has several self published scifi books out.  He does an unbelievable job digging into the nitty-gritty of the Amazon store’s algorithm.

Dean Wesley Smith is a former traditionally published author who now indie publishes.  (Noticing a pattern?)  He does online workshops for people, which I have not done, but his experience that he passes on is great.

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing is written by Joe Konrath who helped write the above Be the Monkey.  See this post on his blog about a writer who used to publish thrillers through Harlequin but now does them on her own.  See where I am going with this?

Barry Eisler apparently used to be an actual James Bond, expect that he is an American.  And has been writing spy novels for years, now he has taken back the rights to his books and published them on his own.  Great resources here.

Hugh Howley is the writer of the Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga)
.  His self published series has been bought by 20th century fox to make into a movie with Ridley Scott directing.  So there you go.

Anyway that is what I currently reading about this new world.  The online community is very helpful.  I am also a part of the A.P.E. community on Google+.  Great community.

I am making this whole thing up as I go, and the more we share together the better.  We are all in this together.

P.S. yes the above Amazon links are affiliates, I make a little money if you buy through those links.  That doesn’t make a bad person, other things do.

Yet Another Selfish Reason to Write and Publish

There are many reasons to write and publish.  Many writers will suggest magnanimous reasons, high and mighty reasons.  There are plenty of selfish reasons to do so as well, nothing wrong with that.

I will suggest one selfish reason here.

Have a kid tell you they checked out your book from the library.

That’s an incredible reason to write and publish.

Write a book just to see it here.  Trust me.  (P.S. image not from  my school library)

Write a book just to see it here. Trust me. (P.S. image not from my school library)

For those that don’t know, I teach.  I teach first grade.  Yes, men, from time to time teach the younger grades, but that’s another post.

My school announced yesterday that my book was now available to be checked out from the library.  I had students ask if they could check it out.  I reminded them they already had a class copy and that others should be able to read it if they wanted to.

When going to lunch, a student from another class told me they had checked out my book.  That is a cool feeling, no way to describe it.

If you are teacher write your book, and then see what I am talking about.

Go do it now.

Step 3 Tell People You’ve Written a Book.

The next step I took was telling people I wrote book.  I didn’t tell anyone at first because I had never done this before.  I mean who am I to think I can write a book?  No one from New York or London had ordained me a writer.  Who am I?

The simple math is that you will sell zero copies if you never tell people.

There is more than gaining sales when you tell people, you also earn respect.

Here’s the honest truth I didn’t even tell my wife at first.  I mean she had read an early draft of the book when I first wrote it several years ago.  But didn’t even tell my wife that I had hired an illustrator and was finishing a book.  Yeah, that’s the kind of husband I am.
But after I got around to telling her, I used Facebook to publish a few illustrations from the book to tell everyone.  Carla’s illustrations made it look like a legitimate book.
By publishing the pictures people actually began to be interested in the book.  It took me by surprise.

As if by some divine intervention Disney bought Star Wars, and the news covered my Facebook feed for the evening.  So I decided to jump on the wave and post the pictures the same evening.

My first press release.  A full 10-12 weeks before it was ready.

My first press release. A full 10-12 weeks before it was ready.

In some ways it would seem that telling people that you’ve written a book would be obvious. But telling people about a new project, especially something you’ve never done before, is a learning experience.
Telling people that you’ve made a book changes your life. And it changes it in ways you didn’t expect.
I received various questions from “where did you get the idea”, “who published you?”, “how did you do it?”
I was unprepared for the questions, in many ways I still am. But I realized if you not only write a book, but also format it, get a cover, and put it out there then you’ve done more than most people, and that separates you from the rest of the crowd.  They will want to know how you got there.

Okay, you’ve finished a book, and put it out there.  You have done what thousands of people have wanted to do, but never got around to doing it.

So go ahead and tell people, you’ve earned it.

Step 2 Hiring Someone to help you

You’re not just an author, you’re a publisher

There is more to making a book than just writing it. You will need an editor, a cover designer, and possibly an illustrator.

In this new world you are not just the author, you are also the publisher. So all of these decisions fall on your shoulders. Don’t worry that is a good thing.

With the first Kevin book I didn’t hire an editor.  That was a mistake.

Consequently there are a handful of copies of my book in existence that have two typos in them. My fantasy is that those copies will be worth millions some day. Until then they are just books with mistakes. But the wonderful thing about the 21st century is that when they were discovered it was fixed very quickly. As in, less than 24 hours kind of quick.

I did hire an illustrator to illustrate the book and design the cover. I did that right.

You will need an editor and a cover designer to make your book look professional.  In other words, that it doesn’t look “self-published” or pathetic. If you publish, remember you are competing against millions of other books. Do everything you can to make yourself standout.

You're competing against millions of books.

You’re competing against millions of books.

Even with just an ebook you will need an exceptional cover. Yes, your mom always taught you to never judge a book by its cover. Ironically that saying doesn’t work in a bookstore. Your cover is exactly how potential customers may decide to give your book a try. In the Kindle store or iBookstore your cover is competing against tons of other book covers. Make it look professional.

Sorry mom, people do judge a book by its cover.

You will need to hire someone to help you, yes it is an expense, get over it you’re a publisher.

So where do I hire someone?

I used Elance, and probably will for the foreseeable future.  I found Carla there, and she did an amazing job.

I am in Virginia, and she is in the UK.  That is a great example of how the 21st century is different, and how business is different.  Carla and I never had to meet face to face to work together and make wonderful illustrations.  I love that.

What I did was post a job posting on Elance.  I wrote that I was a teacher who attempted to write a children’s book and that I wanted an illustrator.  Because the book is only around 1000 words, I attached the text of the story to the job posting.  That was something I did right by accident.

By posting the text several illustrators differentiated themselves from the group by posting illustrations from the story as they saw.

On a side note trust me when I say that you see someone interpret your work, it will blow your mind like nothing else.

47 illustrators applied for the job.  Only a handful took the time to draw the character or a scene from the story.  Others would just say, I can do it for X amount of money.  No effort, no nothing.

What those that did it right is very closely related to Ramit Sethi’s Brief Case Technique.  There’s a lesson and another full post here in interviewing for any job.  Maybe I’ll write that at another time.

Hiring someone online is a 21st century skill that everyone will need to learn at some point. Plus being the person that is ultimately in charge is a nice change from always being an employee. But hiring someone to work with you is just the beginning of the process. I will write more about how Carla and I worked together in an upcoming post.

In this new world you are not just the author, you are also the publisher of your work.  That is a great thing.

Step 1. Just start writing.

As people began to ask me about writing Kevin and the Seven Lions, several people said “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that!” or “I want to do that but just can’t come up with an idea.”  The best advice I can think of for ideas, is just write.

 You want to write a book.  So write.

That’s how the book was born.  I just started writing.  This sentence came to mind “Kevin slept in class.”  That was the sentence that I first wrote down.  For the longest time the story didn’t have a name.  The story just sat in my hard drive as “Kevin slept in class,” because Word saves the first sentence of anything you write as the title until you change it.  “Kevin slept in class” as a sentence didn’t make it into the book, it was changed along time ago in some editing phase.  But the book was started by one simple sentence.  Don’t make it a big deal.

I know it sounds slight and condescending to say “just write.”  But it is what I learned in this process.  Don’t over think it, don’t think about what would the kids want to read or your audience.  Write what you would want to read.  Write for you.

Writing your own made up story should be fun.  If it isn’t, for crying out loud, stop.

Okay I’ve written something, but doesn’t someone have to publish it?

I originally shopped my story around to different agents and publishing houses.  More than anything I just wanted to learn how querying agents worked, maybe I could get some feedback.

I got nothing.  I lost count after contacting 20 or 30 something agents and houses.  It was a lot of work keeping track of who I sent the manuscript to and looking for people to send it to.  It was too much work, a spreadsheet was involved.

But now in the 21st century there are no more gate keepers.  

No one is going to come down from on high, lay hands on you and ordain you a writer.

And that’s a good thing.

If you are a teacher, like I am, you read a lot.  Reading a lot helps with writing.  Stephen King wrote in his book “On Writing” that writers need to read, a lot.  I read a lot of children’s books.  I mean a lot.  On an average, vanilla day, I read four different picture or story books.  That quickly adds up.

It is this math of books that lead me to writing a children’s book, as opposed to say a spy novel.  I do read lots of James Bond books, but I read more children’s books.  Lots more, it is a consequence of my job.

All that should help people that want to write a book, to well, write a book.

What if no one buys it?

So what if no one reads it.  Upload it to Createspace make a paperback and bring it with you to an interview, and automatically you stand out more than the other people competing for the same job.

Post it on Amazon, and then order a copy from Amazon.  Having the UPS man drop off one of those boxes with the smile on it, with YOUR book inside, is an awesome feeling.  I know, I took a picture of the box before I opened it.

Kevin and the Seven Lions in Amazon Box

Knowing that your book is inside of Amazon box is a pretty cool feeling. You should try it sometime.

But step 1 is, just start writing. The ideas will come.