How To Self Publish Your Own Book [On The Cheap]

 Want to know how to self publish your own book? I never thought I’d self-publish a book, but I did. It sold over 500 copies in 18 months. Here’s how I did it and how you can too.

It was July 2015 and I was walking through Indigo (a large bookstore chain here in Canada) with my husband at the time, Jeff.

I saw an entire rack of adult colouring books front and centre right near the front entrance. This intrigued me. I had sort of heard about this trend here and there in the weeks prior but I hadn’t really thought much about it.

When I saw this large rack of books and the various designs they offered, I immediately thought to myself, this is a big trend and I could so create a book like this. I quietly said to Jeff “I could make one of these.”

I never really had a big desire to write a book. Never thought I’d have much to say but when I saw these colouring books, I just knew it was something I wanted to try.

With no idea how to do it, I’d have to figure it out. And I did.

For the last 2 months of 2015 & all of 2016, I made over $5,000 on an adult colouring book that I made from scratch. And this is how I did it.

I first published my first book in November 2014. Since then I’ve published 2 more and a 4th is on the way. It’s created a passive income for me that I didn’t expect and so it’s kept me making more.

If you’ve ever wanted to self publish your own book (whether it’s fiction or non-fiction) I’ll break it down for you here.

9 Steps To Self Publish Your Own Book

Step #1: Make Sure There’s A Market For The Subject Matter Of Your Book

how to self publish your own bookThere’s no point in writing or creating a book if no one is buying it in that particular niche. This doesn’t mean that if you have a unique, never done idea for a book that you shouldn’t try it, but going into a project knowing that there’s a demand is always a safer bet.

Competition means there’s a big market. 

Walk through your local bookstore. Are there already books on this topic? If there’s a decent amount of shelf space dedicated to the subject then you know it’s something people buy, so there is a demand.

When I was walking through the bookstore that day, I saw that there was a huge demand. The closer it is to the front and the more shelf space it has, the better.

Buy some Bestsellers

Research your niche. Buy other books in that niche, preferably bestsellers, and see what’s inside.

I purchased about 3-4 other adult colouring books so I could really get to know the niche better. Also, try to look on Amazon for some books in the niche that have really low sales.

Read Amazon Reviews For Research

No reviews or bad reviews can help you determine low sales for a book. Try to figure out what is it about these books vs. the best sellers that made them sell or not sell. Learn from the people who went before you.

Another thing you’ll want to do is spend some time reading reviews on Amazon on other books in the niche. Look for comments that say what people liked and disliked about a particular book. This will give you great insight for decisions you make about your book.

Step #2: Organize The Content Or Outline Of Your Book

Start organizing your book. I’ve also written a number of e-books (although I don’t have them listed with any on-demand publishers, it’s the same initial task. Start with the outline or the organization of the book.

My book was an adult coloring book so I picked up a few of the best sellers and I also did a “Flip Through this Book” on Amazon for some of the not so great books. I definitely saw the differences and why some books sold and others didn’t. It had to do with the title, the cover and the quality of the content.

If you’re writing a fiction book and aren’t sure about how to structure the story here’s a great resource for you:

outlien your books for self published books

Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books For Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

If you’re writing non-fiction, here’s a method Ryan Holiday uses that I found interesting.

The Notecard System: The Key For Remembering, Organizing And Using Everything You Read

In my case, I was creating a colouring book so it was a little different but I still created an outline.

I brainstormed a bunch of my own ideas for a theme for the book and also used comments from Amazon for popular themes.

Next was to decide big I wanted it to be and I based that decision on some of the more popular books that were already out there selling.

I decided the book would be 40 pages. I had read a lot of comments that people like holiday/celebration themed pages so I decided to go through an entire year of holidays and seasons and create 40 black and white, lined images relating to that.

After identifing 40 different holidays or seasonal ideas I had my outline!

Step #3: Start Writing or Creating Your Book

Here’s where you start writing (or in my case drawing). At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to make these drawings and get them into digital format. Should I start with pencil and paper? Should I start with a computer?

Thank goodness for Google. It was my primary research tool. I watched videos of Joanna Basford (the most popular adult colouring artist) and tried to replicate what she did going from pencil and paper to ink and tracing paper, scanning then tweaking in Photoshop and finally bringing it to Illustrator and as the last step into InDesign.

I needed a lot of software for my books because of the nature of the book I was creating. In your case, if you’re writing a fiction or non-fiction you’ll probably only need a computer and a word processor like Word, Pages or OpenOffice. If you don’t have any of those, try Google Docs. I use Google Docs for almost all my word processing needs and the few e-books I’ve created …Yup, I did them in Google Docs. Works great!

You have your outline ready so just start filling in the sections. Depending on the type of book you’re publishing, you may have to do some research, or interviews or other background work. Evernote (as I mentioned above) is a great tool to use for this.

Some Book Publishing Tools You Might Want to Check Out

Grammarly makes sure everything you type is clear, effective and mistake-free.

Scrivener is a project management tool and word processor rolled into one, which makes it especially suitable for long writing projects. Features include research file organization, a corkboard, outlining and script writing tools, snapshots of earlier versions, and compiling for export or printing.

Everynote is a note taking tool that you can take notes, write notes, take pictures, index everything. A great tool that I use for more than just publishing books.

Step #4: You’ll Need A Great Title & Cover For Your Book

Your title should be catchy and interesting. The subtitle is really where you tell the reader what the book is about. Notice the book I mentioned above was titled “Take Off Your Pants”. Wow! What a catchy title, but it’s the subtitle that tells you what the book is really about.

The cover of your book is one of the most important decisions. It’s the first thing people see. The first impression.

If you don’t have any graphic skills, I’d recommend finding a good designer on Fiverr.com or on Upwork.com. You can probably get a really great cover done for between $20-40.

Sites like www.Createspace.com also offer cover design services for an extra fee.

Step #5: Upload Your Book To Createspace Or Other On-Demand/Self Publishing Site

Once you have your content written (or created) and your cover, the next step is to find an online, on-demand publisher. I used Createspace because it was an Amazon company and I wanted my book to be exposed to the Amazon visitors. It was also free and remember I’m doing this on the cheap.

Createspace is a great option. It’s simple to use, free and includes free ISBN numbers. Publishing with them includes a number of tools like Cover Creator (although I don’t recommend this), Interior Reviews (I do recommend this) and Preview (which allows you to get feedback on your book).

There are other on-demand publishers as well but I have not used them so I cannot really comment on them. Some include lulu.com, blurb.com, and wordclay.com.

With Createspace you’ll create your ISBN number, upload your internal book file, upload your cover then they will send you a review of your book and you can see if anything needs fixing.

Once your book is approved it’s ready for sale. It can take a day or two before it shows up on Amazon. You can opt in for your book to be distributed to bookstores and libraries as well. This is called expanded distribution.

You can set the price and the site shows you how much of it will be profit in your pocket.

Step #6: Find a Hungry Audience For Your Book Topic

Facebook is a great place to find large groups of people interested in your topic or niche. When I first started creating my book I wanted to gather some demographic and preference information.

I looked on Facebook and found a group of (at the time) 30,000+ people in a very active adult colouring group and started participating with members. I posted and commented on lots of different things to gather information and to really get immersed in this new community.

Look for pockets of people with interests or complementary interests in your topic or niche. Join those groups and become part of the community. Even though I personally wasn’t a big fan of actual colouring, I immersed myself into the community of people who were.

Step #7: Create A Giveaway & A Mailing List Of People Interested In Your Book Topic

I created a survey (using SurveyMonkey.com) and then posted about my survey in the Facebook group. In order to get people to take my survey AND show interest in my book I offered them a discount off my physical book when it was launched as well as a digital copy for free.

Now you may be thinking…”Giving away your book for free?” Well…yes. Here’s my thinking. There are millions of people who buy adult colouring books…giving away my book in digital format (which didn’t cost me anything) to a few hundred was only going to be a good thing.

What happened with the survey is I got over 500 responses in less than 48 hours. Ninety-five percent of those people gave me their email addresses and said I could email them when the book was ready, plus I needed it to send them the discount and the digital copy.

Besides all the golden nuggets that came in from the survey results, it gave me a really good indication that I was on the right track. I felt (at the time) that I ‘d at least sell a few copies of my book since 500 people showed some level of interest.

Step #8: Find Some Reviewers For Your Self Published Book

Another marketing tactic I did when I did my first book was to find a few people who had either colouring blogs or people who did regular reviews of adult colouring books.

I reached out to these people, sent them a free copy in exchange for a review. I did get some great reviews even though it wasn’t what I was promised. Some people wanted to charge me for reviewing my book but I didn’t go that route. Again, I was looking to do this with little to no cost.

After I did my second and third book, I also called upon those same influencers to review my subsequent books. This was a great marketing strategy as it helped to sell quite a few of my books.

Step #9: Give Away Your Book To Sell More

One last thing I did and recommend to promote your book was to have regular contests. For my second book, I had a contest for the cover. I had people download 1 of 5 pages from the book, colour it in and send it to me. I picked 5 winners out of about 30 submissions. Those 5 made up the cover.

This was a great way to promote my book, get some of my content into the hands of some fans and give a little to the community I was now a part of the community and it gave me great artwork for the cover of my book. For the 5 winners, I ended up sending them a free hard copy of the book as well. The first place winner also got a $50 Amazon gift card so they could buy some colouring books or pencils.

I also did a Black Friday/Cyber Monday of a digital version of the book which went well.

At one point I also gave away a $50 Amazon gift card as a basic colouring contest.

All these tactics together are what sold 500+ copies of my book in 18 months. It may not sound like a whole lot but for a first-time author/illustrator I wasn’t disappointed.

So What Are You Waiting For? Self Publish Your Own Book Today!

If you’re still here reading this, you probably feel like you have a book in you somewhere and feel like you could self publish your own book. I want to let you know that it’s not that hard and if you follow my steps you should have similar (or hopefully even better results)!!

Start Today!

To self publish your own book is a cool thing. You get to claim you’re an author but you’ll also make a residual, passive income from it. If writing a book isn’t for you, here’s a few other posts I wrote you might be interested in checking out:

Rent A Room, Watch A Dog, Pay Your Mortgage
How to Start A Blog To Make Money

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Tracy Cummings

About the Author

Tracy Cummings

Tracy is a long time entrepreneur and digital marketer. She blogs about things she's learned in life...everything from making money, saving money, having fun, doing interesting things, how to's and a lot more. She lives in Mississauga with her daughter. She loves travelling, blogging, marketing, reading and occasionally gardening.

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