Gone are the days of waiting on big traditional publishers to sign your book. With self-publishing, you can become a published author in no time, on your terms. But to generate book sales, you must treat this work like it's an actual business. Below is your rundown on how to run a self-publishing business as an authorepreneur destined for success.
1. Understand What You’re Getting Yourself Into
(If you’ve already decided self-publishing is for you, skip to the next section.)
I won’t sugarcoat things: self-publishing requires a ton of work. However, you end up taking matters into your own hands, not waiting for anyone’s approval but your own. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect with self-publishing versus going to a traditional publishing house:
You have to take care of the editing, design, and marketing. (You can save on printing with print-on-demand for books.)
The publisher pays for everything, including printing and distribution.
Earn 60-70% per book, depending on the store you sell in.
Earn around 10% per book, depending on the publisher and country.
You keep all the rights. Also, you’re responsible for purchasing the rights of any artwork you use.
The publisher has the rights to your book. The exact conditions depend on the publisher and contract.
You make all the decisions in your self-publishing business, such as choosing your cover design.
Your publisher calls the shots.
You decide when you’d like to publish; your book can be on the shelves within months.
Publishing a book can take up to two years.
Anyone can publish. Your success depends on how well you can reach potential readers in your market.
Competition is tough. With limited funds, publishers choose only a select few for publishing.
You choose how much you want to invest in your publishing and marketing.
The publisher takes care of the publishing and the early stages of marketing.
You’ll have to know how to manage the entire publishing process and/or outsource for help.
Publishing pros handle the editing, publishing, marketing, etc.
If you want to make sure your book gets published in your lifetime, self-publish it yourself. You decide how you want to go about it as you own the entire process, from writing to launching and beyond.
Note on authorepreneur meaning: Self-publishing books doesn’t automatically make you an authorpreneur, by the way. If your goal is to simply write a book and publish (and you don’t care about making any sales), all it takes is converting your manuscript into a book format, throwing on a cover design, and uploading your files to one of the several top book distribution companies out there.
Would you rather go beyond just publishing and maximize your earning potential as an authorpreneur?
- Authorpreneurs are authors who implement a business mindset to their writing career, focused on building their brand, publishing strategically, and planning for long-term success.
- Becoming an authorpreneur is for authors who want to create a sustainable living off of their writing: from part-time to full-time writer.
- Becoming an authorpreneur is also for business owners who want to share knowledge, boost credibility, and expand reach in their industry.
So, if you’re up for this journey, let’s go through all the steps you’d need to take to run a self-publishing business as a successful authorpreneur.
Also, know that you don’t have to follow these steps in how they’re ordered. You’ll most likely perform these steps at various points in your publishing journey. And many of these steps are ongoing . . .
2. Research Your Market, Identify Your Target Audience
Market research is a fantastic place to start for any business. Going through books in your market helps you understand the different trends and strategies being used. You can’t expect to find success in your market without intimately knowing what’s going on.
How to approach market research:
- If you’ve already written your book, conduct market research to determine how to reach the people most likely interested in reading your book.
- If you’ve yet to write your book, conduct market research to help narrow down your ideas and write with your target audience in mind.
How to research your market
First, look at what others are doing in your market. Head to Amazon and browse through the bestselling authors in your specific book genre:
- Cover: What messages or feelings do these book covers convey? What kind of style do they use? Note your observations.
- Title: What’s the usual length? Are there common keywords – words or phrases – being used?
- Subtitle: Are subtitles being used? Are they simple or complex descriptions?
- Blurb: How are they structured? What’s the tone of voice?
- Author biography: What kind of info do they share?
- Pricing: What pricing strategy do they use: $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, $4.99 or above? (The last one is rare for self-published books.) Are there titles offered for free?
Identify your categories and keywords as well. This is vital when running a self-publishing business because categories and keywords are a part of metadata (more on metadata later.)
Here are a few pointers to know (definitely take the time to learn more about book category and keyword research):
- Head to Amazon Books and do several searches with all the words and phrases that describe your book. Go through each book and see which categories and keywords they use.
- With a list of potential categories, check the bestsellers for each one to see what your competition looks like. Some publishing authors try to rank higher in more niche categories.
- Try out tools like the Moz Keyword Explorer. PublishDrive’s book category tool uses AI to scan your book and recommend categories.
- After finalizing your keywords, you want to sprinkle them throughout your metadata and other spaces, such as your author website (more on metadata strategies down below.)
How to know your target audience
Your target audience is the group of people most likely to buy your book, aka your core customers. To be a successful authorpreneur, you gotta define your target audience to optimize your time, energy, and resources. Instead of working to grab anyone and everyone’s attention, focus on people who’d actually consider reading your content.
Here are a few activities to help you define your target audience:
- Ask yourself a series of questions: What kind of people would most likely be interested in my book? What needs does my book fulfill for the reader? Why should people read my book?
- Identify these target audience traits: age, gender, location, education, socioeconomic status, favorite book genres, favorite authors, favorite hangout spots, favorite social media platforms, etc. (Your target audience should share similar traits.)
- Identify bestsellers in your specific genre and go to their social media pages to see what kind of followers they attract. (If you have the funds for it, you can also opt for business plans consulting for valuable insights.)
You should be able to describe your target audience in a few sentences.
Here’s an example: The target audience for my YA science fiction novel about aliens are males aged 13 to 27 who are still in school and live in North America. They love to hang out on TikTok and Twitch. They also enjoy sci-fi anime and manga series.
With the example above, I’d prioritize promoting on TikTok and use Gen Z tone of voice throughout my marketing collaterals. See how important this work is?
You can define multiple target audiences. But, I suggest no more than two in the beginning. Remember, you can always tweak and optimize your author business strategy whenever you’d like (which I recommend.)
Be sure to compile all your researched insights into a single document so that you can refer to them whenever you need, such as when you’re drafting up your marketing plan.
3. Write Your Book and Be Smart About It
If you’ve yet to finish your book, ask yourself if you can use some support. Support can range from joining writer forums for encouragement, adding more self-care to your daily routine, or checking out various tools to help with productivity or the writing process (Grammarly is a must.) Check out AI writing software and ebook software for writers.
The best way to make more royalties as an author is to publish more books. So, if you’re committed to growing your self-publishing business, get comfortable improving your efficiency.
4. Edit Your Book, Get a 2nd Pair of Eyes
When you get to the end of your manuscript, give yourself all the praise and love! Then, review your work as many times as you can. Most importantly, get a 2nd pair of eyes to read your work. Your manuscript should be spotless.
- Hire a professional editor on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Or ask other authors for their recommendations. (The cool part about self-publishing is that you can publish without spending a penny. BUT, I strongly recommend investing in at least the editing.)
- Find beta readers who can be your first “real” readers. Ask your friends, family, and network. Or get on online forums like Reddit’s Writer’s Group to swap reviews with other writers. There are platforms like Scribophile that can connect you to beta readers.
5. Package Your Book for Market, Set Up Metadata
By packaging your book for market, I mean getting it into the right reading format for the various stores out there: ebook, audiobook, or print book. (Choosing which formats you want to publish in should be a part of your distribution strategy, which I talk more about later.)
When uploading your book files to a self-publishing platform, you’ll need to have these items ready:
- Your book in ebook, audiobook, or print book format
- Your book cover design
- Your metadata information
How to format your book
Formatting your book involves turning your manuscript into a reading file that’s acceptable for bookstores and readers. You can hire a professional to get this done for you. You can also do it yourself. Here’s a simple breakdown:
- For ebook, you’d need an epub or mobi file. See this guide on how to format an ebook – you’ll need to comb through your file and edit several formatting items. After that, you can generate the file you need with a free ebook converter.
- For audiobook, you’d need to find a narrator to record your book in mp3 files. See this guide on how to publish an audiobook.
- For print, you’d need a pdf file formatted with the right dimensions. See this guide on how to make a print-ready pdf for your book.
How to design your book cover
If you can, invest in a professional designer to create the perfect cover design for your book. This is one of the most important elements of marketing your book – the book cover is the first thing readers will notice. Be sure to do your market research by seeing how other book covers in your genre look. If you’re under a budget, there are many DIY options, like using the tool Canva. Here’s a helpful guide on how to design a book cover that stands out.
How to set your metadata
Book metadata are the fields you fill out when uploading your book to stores like Amazon. It stores info like author name, title, subtitle, description, categories, and keywords. Accurate and optimized metadata helps search engines rank your book in the right places.
For example, if your book is about how to heal ankle pain, your metadata category should accurately reflect this by being listed under “physical health and fitness.” By making sure your metadata is correct, you can also avoid mis-categorizing or misrepresenting your book to potential readers.
Here are some metadata tips:
- Write a winning book description that hooks people in from the very first two sentences. Include your credentials as an author, any awards, and other things to show off. Check these book description examples.
- Write an author bio that shares your credentials, speaks to your target audience, and showcases your personality as a brand.
- Take the time to research your pricing options. The most common options are temporarily free, permafree, or prices that are a bit cheaper or more expensive than others (to set yourself apart from the competition.) Typical price points you can use for self-published ebooks are: $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, and $4.99. You can always choose to experiment with different price points throughout your career.
6. Create Marketing Plan, Prep for Launch
To be a successful authorepreneur, you will need a solid promotion plan that includes making a big splash around your book launch. Hire marketing support if you can, and do your part by getting familiar with what it takes to implement a marketing strategy that actually works.
Go through this ultimate book marketing plan guide to develope your plan step-by-step. The guide goes over how to draft a plan while considering your audience, goals, and budget. It also provides a list of marketing tactics to consider. Here’s a rough example of what your marketing timeline should look like:
Whatever you decide on, try to prioritize these actions:
- Set up a pre-order period. Stores will count your sales on the first day of release, meaning there’s a chance you can land in bestseller lists by collecting orders beforehand.
- Collect book reviews. In this day and age of e-commerce, people will not click buy when there are zero reviews. Focus on asking for book reviews from your network, beta readers, and beyond. Land at least a handful of positive reviews before spending any serious money on your promotions.
- Promote online. Whether it’s through your author website, email list, or social media, you’ll need to get online to market your book.
When it’s time, don’t be afraid to spend money to make more money. Being an authorpreneur will take some risks. Do your research and experiment with paid advertisements. When done right, ads can generate powerful results. The most popular advertisement channels for authors are Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and Bookbub ads.
7. Choose Your Distribution Strategy, Publish Wide
Distribution strategy? In other words, how and where are you going to sell your book? Which markets are you going to reach? Maybe you want to focus on major retailers like Amazon only. Or you’re considering tapping into more niche spaces like the Dreame reading app (popular for fiction genre.)
Furthermore, are you going to manage your book with each store directly or use an all-in-one aggregation platform? With so many options out there, which to pick? Here are the best self-publishing sites to know about:
If there’s one store to reach, it has to be Amazon, the #1 bookstore that captures half of the book market. There are two ways to go about selling on Amazon: read how to self-publish on Amazon. In short, you can sign up directly and sell “exclusively” to Amazon. Or, you can use a 3rd party aggregation platform to sell to Amazon AND other stores (like the top platforms mentioned above.)
Going beyond Amazon and reaching everywhere else is a self-publishing strategy called publishing wide. It’s a best practice for a reason – on PublishDrive, users could increase their sales by 200% via publishing wide.
Publishing wide doesn’t only mean selling in multiple markets. It also means providing your book in multiple formats so that you can reach every kind of book audience out there: ebook readers, audiobook listeners, and print lovers. If you’re a newbie, publishing an ebook is a great place to begin. Once you get things rolling, adding other formats to your business can be a game-changer.
PublishDrive is an all-in-one platform that helps you publish wide like the boss that you are:
✅ Publish and manage all three book formats: ebook, audiobook, and print.
✅ Distribute to Amazon and hundreds of other bookstores and libraries.
✅ Reach niche spaces like Dreame and booming countries like China.
8. Get Offline: Meet Readers in Real Life
I’ve emphasized the importance of being online (since selling books mostly happens online). However, there are benefits to going offline and engaging in your community in person. This is all about personal touch and building relationships face-to-face.
There are a ton of book-related events to meet not only readers but potential partners. Use these events to build your author brand and understand your market better. See this list of publishing conferences.
9. Don’t Stop Learning, Don’t Give Up
I’d like to end with one of the most important components of building a successful self-publishing business as a successful authorpreneur . . . Don’t stop learning, and don’t give up!
This journey is an ongoing process with endless shifts in industry trends and updates. Keep up to date with podcasts from self-publishing experts like Mark Dawson and Joanna Penn. Stay connected with other indies, whether on forums or Facebook groups (like PublishDrive’s group for indies.)
Wishing you all the best. Cheers!
Now You Know How to Run a Self-Publishing Business as an Authorpreneur . . .
What’s next? Watch PublishDrive in action: