How I Self-Published an Amazon #1 New Release for $180

Not in a million years did I think I would self-publish a book. Yet, here I am as a proud independent author.

If you’re a freelancer considering writing a non-fiction book as a passive income stream or to establish credibility, I hope you find some value and encouragement in what I’m about to share.

 

THE STEPS I TOOK TO BECOME A SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR

 

Start With Content You Already Have

When mapping out the process to build on online business – as an extension of what I do offline – a source of passive income was #1 on the list of things to create.

It made sense to start with something I already had.

Is It Worth Reading? was initially written as a free pdf download for my email subscribers. I put quite a bit of effort into making sure it was practical, and that when applied, the reader could get results.

A print book has to have 24 pages to meet Amazon’s publishing requirements. That was my goal. To add 9 more pages and if I ended up with a few more – awesome. I did not set out to write a 100+ page book the first time around.

It was written with the intentions of becoming a perennial seller that would have at least one revised copy produced in the future.

Before you write your book, know what you’re going to do with it immediately and later on down the road.

 

Spend Money To Make It Look Good

You don’t need thousands of dollars to self-publish a high-quality book. You do need to outsource to people who can make a book look like a million bucks.

Your finished product will sit right beside those that were traditionally published. Don’t make it obvious that it didn’t hit the market with a literary agent or nationwide publicity tour.

I hired four professionals:

  • editor
  • book formatter
  • book cover designer
  • book cover designer #2

 

Editing

Plan to spend the most money on an editor. Had it not been for my dear friend, Monica Dennis, this would have been my biggest expense. She said the cost to edit my short read ranged from $500-$800. I’m forever grateful that she started her editing business at the exact moment I desperately needed her services!

I didn’t choose Monica because we’ve been exchanging tweets for over a decade. I wanted to work with her because she has earned a living as an editor for over 25 years and I trust her professional abilities.

 

Formatting

There are a ton of online resources if you want to DIY your formatting. I had zero interest in doing so.

I familiarized myself with enough of the technical aspects to make sure I could ask informed questions about the process and not get ripped off. I can’t say the same for the cover design, but we’ll talk about that next.

Deciding who would format my book boiled down to straightforward pricing and the company being able to clearly explain the process. The fact that Polgarus Studio was extremely patient with me as a first-time author is how they earned my business.

The total cost for formatting the Kindle and print versions of my book was $55.

If your book is long, and includes graphics and artwork, formatting will be more expensive. Keep in mind that you’re charged separately for an ereader format and a paperback format – this counts as two.

 

The Cover

Book cover brainstorming began as soon as I settled on a title, months before the book went to editing.

Working with a limited budget, I risked it all and went to Fiverr in search of a designer to bring my concept to life.

I didn’t know what I wanted, other than for the cover to be minimalistic with orange font. Adding my social media handle in the background was a last minute decision. There’s no photo of me on the cover for two reasons:

  1. Getting updated professional headshots would delay the release.
  2. I’m not famous – a picture on the front would overshadow the title.

The package I purchased from the Fiverr designer included a print-ready copy. Remember, my book hadn’t gone to editing or formatting yet so I didn’t know how many pages it would be. The designer agreed to modify the print version, at no additional cost, once I had an exact page count and trim size. When all of these things were finalized, he went back on his word and asked for more money.

Another long-time twitter friend, Karen Southall Watts, had published a book and was kind enough to share resources with me (book designer #2). Having someone by my side who had gone through the process was a tremendous help. I contacted her cover designer, CoversByKaren.com, and she meticulously recreated my print-ready cover and a 3D graphic to use for marketing.

The total cost for the Kindle and paperback covers, plus the 3D graphic was $125.

After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I uploaded the book to Amazon myself. Because it was so easy and wouldn’t have saved me a huge chunk of money, I got to experience the satisfaction of seeing my book go live. A feeling of accomplishment I’ll never forget.

Within a week of its release date, my book became Amazon’s #1 new release in Business & Money Short Reads.

Is it realistic to assume you’ll be able to self-publish your book for less than $200? Probably not.  

Things you have to consider include your book’s word count and what versions you want to publish. I suggest starting with Kindle. Investing in a professional editor is non-negotiable (Amazon puts warnings on ebooks that have quality issues), but you’ll save money by only needing a digital cover and one type of formatting.

Your readers will respect and appreciate you for publishing a high quality book with substance.