We’ve been helping authors self-publish and promote their books for over a decade now. While not everyone we talk to ends up hiring us to help with their book, we’re always willing to talk to both first-time and established authors about the publishing process. 

Here are 5 of the most common self-publishing questions we hear from people:

Question: How should I spend my money? 

Answer:  No one has an infinite budget when it comes to publishing and promoting a book, and yet if you do a quick google search for self publishing services there are a myriad of ways you could spend your money. You could hire a full service company like ours, or use freelancers to parse out different portions of the process. But at the end of the day everyone is charging a different price and promising different things. It gets overwhelming fast, and a lot of authors come to us wanting advice on how and where to spend their money, and what to cut out. 

It’s not an easy answer because publishing a book isn’t one size fits all. While some publishing companies might try to sell authors on their publishing packages where they take care of everything, it’s worth it to ask yourself what pieces you can do yourself, and what things you should hire out. 

While self-publishing and hybrid companies offer a one stop shop for all publishing services, many authors choose to go a more DIY route and hire their own cover designers, copy editors, and interior formatters. That might save you money in the long run (and give you more of a cushion for your marketing budget) but it will require much more of your time as you manage all the moving pieces. 

Other authors want someone to handle all the publishing pieces for them, but they may have their own platform to handle marketing and selling the book. 

No matter how you choose to spend your money a few guidelines we give authors:

  • Don’t cut corners during production just to save a buck. You’re better off creating a high quality product than something sub par.
  • Make sure some of your budget is allocated to marketing and promotions. How much that needs to be depends on a lot of factors, but you do not want to sink everything into publishing and then have nothing left in the tank for marketing. Even if you think you aren’t going to need to spend any money on marketing, eventually you will. 

Question: Where should I publish my book?

Answer: A lot of authors come to us having done a decent amount of internet research on the best self publishing platforms. They’ve read about Book Baby, Draft 2 Digital, Amazon KDP and IngramSpark and aren’t sure which route to take. They’re looking for expert advice on the best place to publish their book. 

There is also an antiquated idea that you have to choose between Amazon KDP or IngramSpark, when in reality you can publish your book on both platforms  – and we highly recommend that you do. 

In our honest opinion, these two platforms have you covered and you don’t need to worry about the rest. In other words: don’t over complicate it and try to publish one very single print-on-demand platform with Amazon KDP and IngramSpark will help you reach the majority of book readers in the world.

Question: Will my book be in bookstores?

Answer: The short answer is no. The long answer is sometimes, but it’s up to you. 

Even though most people buy their books online, authors (especially first-time authors) have this idea that getting their book in bookstores makes them a “real author.” They know that it’s much harder if you self publish, or even publish with a small press, to land your book on bookstore shelves and want to know if it’s possible.

It’s possible, but it’s not easy. One thing we always remind people is that the majority of your sales are going to come from online, so making sure your book has a wide online distribution – using Amazon KDP and IngramSpark – is going to be key. Bookstore sales will be a much smaller percentage of your sales if even any at all. 

A lot of authors might get that, but they still want that personal satisfaction of getting their book into a bookstore and seeing it on the shelves. The reality is that bookstore marketing is its own beast that requires lots of hustle, an exceptional book that has been professionally edited and formatted, and a little bit of luck. 

Even though self-publishing has come a long way, bookstores and libraries tend to be very leary about self-published books unless it is a local author or a book about their region. Why? Because bookstores have high standards for the books they carry and unfortunately there is no standard for self-published books. A lot of self published authors tend to cut corners which can also undercut their book’s chances of getting in a bookstore, and doesn’t do any favors for the industry as a whole.  And finally, bookstores will almost never accept books published on CreateSpace or Amazon KDP out of principle. They also require a high discount and typically prefer to order books through the Ingram catalog. 

Now, if you follow our self publishing formula you can self publish on Amazon KDP and IngramSpark so that you have a copy of your book for sale on Amazon and another copy you can market to bookstores. 

But just because it is available on Ingram doesn’t mean they will carry it. In fact, if you want to land in a bookstore you are likely going to have to contact them directly about consignment or local author programs. 

Question: Will I make money on my first book? 

Answer: No, you absolutely will not make your money back on your first book. Your self published book is an investment and it will cost you thousands of dollars to do it properly. And that isn’t including marketing. 

To make enough in royalties to pay back your investment would require selling closes to 1000 copies (with an average of $5 in royalties per book). The problem is that in order for people to find your book you need to invest more money in advertising and marketing (though there are plenty of marketing things you can do for free) to keep your book in front of the right audience. 

This is why we’ve found self publishing works best for non fiction authors who have another form of income and are using the book to land more clients. That way the value of the book isn’t dependent on royalties and book sales, which will almost never pencil out. 

Question: I’ve heard I need a lot of pre orders to be a success?

Answer: No. Getting pre orders for a self published book is, frankly, a waste of time. The pre-order buzz is a holdover from traditionally publishing.

When you are self publishing, your only option to offer a pre-order is on your ebook, which isn’t as valuable as a print pre-order. We’ve found the only benefit to offering a pre-order is that it gets your book listed on Amazon faster, which can come in handy if you are trying to simultaneously release an audiobook. Because ACX (the audiobook arm of Amazon) won’t let you create an audiobook – or even look for narrators – unless there is a book on Amazon, offering a pre-order lets you jumpstart the audiobook process so you can release your audiobook around the same time as the other versions of your book. 

As a rule, most “Amazon hacks” like pre-orders or picking the exactly right keywords and categories, or becoming a category best seller, don’t hold as much weight as creating a quality product. There’s no way to game the system in a meaningful way, so don’t bother. 

If publishing still has you stumped, book a free consultation with Joel Pitney to go over your project and get some quality free advice. 


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