Benefits Of Self-Publishing A Book
John started an online ministry that turned into a speaking career. He loved traveling the world and encouraging thousands of people each year.
As time went on, he felt called to turn his keynote speech into a book. At first, he ignored the prompting, telling himself that he was too busy to write, and besides, he didn’t know the first thing about self-publishing a book.
But when he was on a spiritual retreat with some of the men from his church, John felt clearly impressed that now was the time to begin working on his book.
Self-publishing a book can have so many benefits for your ministry or business. Maybe you want to reach a larger audience for the Kingdom. Perhaps you want to use the book as a launchpad for a new career or reach those who may never have the chance to hear you speak in person.
The Secret to Success: Research before You Write
Whatever your reason for self-publishing a book, you shouldn’t blindly jump into this new project. Instead, you’ll want to take your time and do your research. You’ll be more likely to reach your goals with the proper homework.
This idea might bother you if you believe God has already given you a vision for your book. But doing research in advance to see what books are already connecting with readers is important. It keeps you from wasting the time and energy God has given you to complete this task.
When it comes to research, here’s what you need to do…
Go to Amazon’s Best Seller List
Amazon keeps a list of best-selling books for almost every genre, making it the perfect place to start your investigation. Click the link above, and you’ll see the top 100 best-sellers on Amazon right now.
On the left side of the screen, you’ll see a list of genres and book categories. You need to click on the category your book will be featured in. For example, if you’re writing a devotional book, you’d click the topic for Religion & Spirituality.
Once you have the top 100 books in your category, you should see another list on the left side of the screen. This list allows you to further drill down to your book’s topic.
Using the example above, you’re writing a book that contains devotionals. You clicked on Religion & Spirituality. Now, look at the left and decide which category your book would be under. In this case, your book would probably be found under “Worship & Devotion.” You could also go one step further and click the subcategory for “Devotionals.”
Focus on the Relevant Books
Now that you know where your book would be located look over Amazon’s top 100 books in that category. These books will be your competition, so you need to study them.
The first thing you may notice is that some books clearly don’t belong in the category. For example, there’s a best-selling book on childbirth that obviously wasn’t written from a Christian viewpoint.
You can ignore books that don’t fit your genre as they can sometimes be mistakenly placed there. If you’re in the business section, you might notice a book in the best-seller list about video game hacks, ignore it and focus on the relevant books in the category.
Look at the top ten books in your chosen category. You’ll want to write down how many pages long each book is and the price. Pricing and length both have a direct impact on your sales number. After all, many readers don’t want to pay $9.99 for a 15-page book.
The only exception to this rule is if you’re self-publishing a book within a very narrow niche with little competition. In that case, you may be able to write a short book and still charge more for that content.
Next, take some time to read the reviews of the top books in your category. Begin with the 5-star and 4-star reviews. This can give you insights into what readers expect and what they enjoy.
Don’t skip the negative reviews when reading. Often, the negative reviews can show you what writing mistakes to avoid and how to reach your audience more effectively than other authors do.
Study the Covers
Look at the covers of the best-selling books in your category. Observe the colors that are used most frequently.
What images are on the covers? What style fonts are most common? Do you see serious fonts that make the book seem authoritative? Do you see playful fonts that encourage creativity? Answering these questions will help you later when you’re ready to design your cover.
Remember, researching before you write your book is essential. You can write a book that reaches even more people for the Kingdom when you know what your audience wants to see.
Don’t Waste Time: Outline Your Book before You Write
Tamara felt like God was calling her to write her life story about overcoming addiction and finding freedom. She’d prayed over self-publishing a book and had her supportive friends pray too. But every time she sat down to write, she felt stuck. She could spend hours sitting at her desk and only have a paragraph or two when she finished.
A sweet writing mentor took Tamara under her wing and gently explained that she needed an outline.
“When God told the people of Israel to build the temple, He gave them blueprints and a vision of it. An outline is like the blueprints for the book God has given you a vision for.”
Don’t Let Outlines Scare You
Sometimes when the topic of an outline comes up, some people shut down. Maybe you think you aren’t a real writer, so you don’t need one. Perhaps you have flashbacks to lengthy outlines your high school teacher made you do. Whatever the case, try to stay open to learning a new way to outline.
Set Aside Time to Brainstorm
Before you can begin an outline, you need to have plenty of ideas to work with. This means you’ll want to plan a brainstorming session. Most writers only need an hour or two for their brainstorming.
However, you must schedule this time in your planner. That’s because you need to minimize distractions while coming up with ideas. So pick a time of day or night when you’re less likely to be disturbed by outside interruptions.
You may also want to mute your phone if possible. Next, plan to close your inbox and social media networks. It’s challenging to get into a creative space if you keep stopping to check notifications or reply to text messages.
Choose Your Brainstorming Style
Some people find it’s easier to brainstorm by doing a simple mind map. If your book is about art, you might want to write that word down on a sheet of paper and begin writing other words that come to mind when you think of art. For example, you might add words like “draw,” “paint,” or “pottery.”
You can also use index cards or sticky notes. On each note or card, write just one phrase or word. Keep in mind that these ideas don’t have to be logical. Your goal is to continue generating ideas. You can evaluate them later.
If you’d like to create a digital mind-map, you can use a service like Bubbl.us or Mind Mup. Both have free and premium editions you can experiment with. If you’re looking for a program that you can download to your computer, try Free Mind. It’s open-source and 100% free to use. You can download it here.
Another possibility is brainstorming with other people. Try to choose someone who understands the topic of your book and is supportive of you. When several people generate ideas, it can inspire you in new ways.
Take a Break
When you’re done with your brainstorming, put your ideas away. Spend a few hours doing other tasks. While you’re busy, you may get more ideas bubbling up to the surface. Write these down and add them to your notes but don’t go back into brainstorming mode.
Evaluate Your Ideas
Once you’ve had some time away, return to your brainstorming notes. You’re now ready to sift through them and create your outline. Start by organizing your thoughts. You can think of this as creating links in a chain. Which idea should come first? What should come after that? Where do you need to mention that point?
As you work on sorting ideas, you may notice holes in your outline. You can fill them in now or wait until the solutions come to you later. You don’t need a perfect outline before you can start work on your book.
Outlining your book can be a fun and exciting process. Remember that there are no rules when it comes to your outline. You can make it as detailed or as simple as you want.
4 Tips for Writing Your Book Quickly
Dean had an outline for the book he wanted to write. But after a month, all he had to show for it was a few hundred words. So he reached out to a writing mentor and asked, “I feel like God is calling me to write a book. How can I get this done?”
Luke, Dean’s business coach, had written several books and agreed to share a few of his writing tips. Here’s the advice he gives to those struggling to get their book completed…
Break It Down
Start by choosing the date you want to have the book completed. Then count the remaining days and divide that number by how many pages you want to write.
If you want the first draft completed in two months and plan for your book to be 150 pages, that’s 75 pages a month. That might sound difficult, but it’s only 2-3 pages of content a day.
If you’ve already outlined your upcoming book, then don’t feel like you have to start your writing session with chapter one. Begin writing the chapter that catches your eye, even if it’s in the middle of your book.
This tip helped Dean start work on chapter 7 of his book. He was already familiar with a topic, and he knew his main points. He was surprised when he quickly finished chapter 7 and was looking forward to writing more.
Get an Accountability Partner
Luke encouraged Dean to text him each night with the number of words he had written. “This will create accountability and make you more likely to stick to your goal,” Luke said.
Of course, you don’t have to text a writing coach. It could be another ministry leader, a good friend, or even a family member. Just make sure the person you choose to text is supportive of your efforts.
Create Writing Appointments
You keep putting “write my book” on your to-do list, but it never gets done. You’re constantly shuffling that task from one list to the next. If this is a problem for you, create a writing appointment on your calendar.
Treat this writing session like you would a doctor’s appointment. You wouldn’t show up late or decide to skip it at the last minute. This approach can also be helpful because it creates constraints that you have to write within. For example, if you have a whole day to write, you might not get anything done. But knowing you only have 1 hour of writing time before you have to take your kids to their baseball practice can be highly motivating. The press of the quick deadline might inspire you to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Choosing the Right Cover for Your Book
Annie wrote a devotional book for women. She had a friend design the cover and put it up for sale. But despite Annie’s best promotional efforts, the book wouldn’t sell. Finally, Annie hired a book coach to help her.
The coach gently explained that Annie’s formatting for the book was good, and her sales copy was spot-on. But the cover didn’t fit in with what was popular with female buyers, making it difficult to get sales.
Like it or not, potential readers will judge your book by its cover. They’ll glance at it long enough to read the title and register the image. But if your cover doesn’t look like the other ones in your category, readers may not note that this is the type of book they would enjoy reading.
Imagine writing a book of devotionals for men on the topic of spiritual warfare. Now, what would happen if you chose a book cover that was bright pink with glitter text and featured a princess crown?
Most Christian men would take one look at the cover and assume they weren’t the audience. They would rightly assume it’s a book aimed at pre-teen girls.
Imagine the same book with a dark-colored background and a sword gleaming in the light. Most men would be more likely to pick up the book. That’s because your book cover communicates to your readers. The right cover says, “This book was written just for you!”
This is why taking your time and getting this step right is so important. Here’s how to find a professionally designed cover that helps your book sell…
There are hundreds of freelance designers that specialize in book covers. If you belong to an author group on Facebook or LinkedIn, share about the book you’re writing right now. Ask the other members to recommend a good designer they enjoyed working with.
Keep in mind that you want your cover designed by someone who works with books in your genre or category. For example, you wouldn’t want a science fiction cover designer to create a cover for your book on ministry leadership.
Consider Pre-Made Covers
Some cover designers create pre-made covers. You buy the cover design, and the designer adds your name and the book title to the image.
The advantage of this is that pre-made covers are much cheaper than hiring a designer. They’re also faster since the designer has already done the work. You could have a cover designed and uploaded for sale within a few business days using this method.
But the trade-off is that your book may look similar to other books. This can make it harder to stand out in a crowded marketplace. If you’re considering a pre-made cover, ask the designer if he’s sold similar images before and which books they appear on.
You can go to your favorite search engine to find pre-made covers and type in phrases like “Christian pre-made book covers” or “business pre-made book covers.” Look until you find a designer whose style you like, then sign up for their newsletter or follow them on social media so you’ll see more of their work.
Hire a Cover Designer
If you don’t have any recommendations from friends or other self-published authors, there are many ways to find a cover designer. One of the coolest websites for doing this is 99 Designs.
The site works like this: you describe what you’d like your cover to look like. Graphic designers from around the world create covers and send them to you. Then you can pick a cover you like and use it on your book.
The site can be pricey, but this could be a good place to start if you’ve had difficulty explaining your ideal cover. Depending on how much you pay, you can see 30, 60, or 90 designs per project.
When it comes to your cover, don’t settle. Keep looking until you find one that captures the message God has given you to share in your book.
Launch Day & Beyond: How to Promote Your New Book
Betty did all the hard work of writing, editing, and formatting her book. She had a beautiful cover that made her book look professional and spoke to her audience of Christian women. She was excited and ready to launch right away.
Some authors think if they write a fantastic book and click the publish button, adoring fans will show up to buy it. But that’s rarely the case.
Readers are overwhelmed with advertisements and promotions. They see dozens of books mentioned a day. Your book release will be ignored unless you cut through the clutter and noise. So, plan your launch strategically by following these tips like Betty is doing…
Plan a Week of Promotions
If your book does well, it may climb into the best-seller charts, and retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will take notice. They’ll promote it to their customers on their website, and sometimes, they even send out an email to readers of your genre letting them know about this hot-selling book.
To get noticed by retailers, you may cram as many activities into launch day as possible to make a huge splash. But most retailers don’t look at your rankings for 24 hours.
They pay attention to your ranking for the past seven days. If you want retailers to notice your book, focus on heavily promoting your book for the first week.
Get Early Reviews
In the publishing industry, there’s something called an ARC. This stands for “Advance Reading Copy.” It’s an early copy of the book sent to a reader in exchange for an honest review. Publishers give ARCs away because it’s a way to generate early buzz and excitement about the book.
You can use this industry practice to your advantage, too. Try to give out 30-50 copies of your book for free. That sounds like a lot of free copies but keep in mind that some reviewers will not be able to review. This could be due to personal reasons like running out of time, or it might be that retailers like Amazon are blocking their reviews.
Try to get reviewers who already read in your genre or category. For example, if you’re self-publishing a book on parenting toddlers, then you’d want reviews from people who are parents of toddlers. This lends credibility to their reviews.
Ideally, these reviewers should not be family and friends. Many retailers have algorithms that can detect when a family member or friend has left a review, and the review will be subsequently deleted.
To make it easy, you may want to use a service to help you manage your reviews. A popular one is Book Sprout. You upload your book to the site, and reviewers can request access to it. The site automatically sends reviewers a reminder to post their reviews.
Let Your Community Know
Tell your audience about your book release if you already have a mailing list or ministry. Remember that you’re sharing the message that God has given you. The community around you is usually filled with your biggest fans, and they can help boost your book’s visibility.
Not only should you share about the book release, but you should also ask your friends, colleagues, and others to post about it on social media. Have some social updates already prepared that they can copy and paste. This makes it easy for your community to share the news of your release.
Use Facebook Groups
Facebook has plenty of book groups that you can join. Some of these groups allow and even encourage you to post news about your own book. Try to post an eye-catching graphic and a short teaser (2-3 lines) from your book. Then include the link to your book on Amazon.
When it comes to promoting inside a Facebook group, bigger isn’t always better. You may find a book community with over a million members who read all genres. You may get some interest from the group, but you probably won’t get a lot.
A smaller Facebook group that focuses on your genre or category with only a few thousand members may result in more traffic. You’re not competing with as many authors for attention, and the group is filled with people who already care about your genre.
Keep in mind that launching your book is only one step in your publishing journey. You’ll need to continue to promote your book for weeks and months to come.
Self-publishing a book is an exciting journey. Chances are, you’ve learned a lot about writing, launching, and promoting a book along the way.
But it’s important to stay focused on your original mission: sharing the message that God has given you. That’s because there are good and bad weeks in publishing.
Some weeks, you might sell hundreds of copies, and the next, you may not be able to give the book away. These fluctuations are normal and part of the publishing industry. So you mustn’t focus on the numbers. Instead, remember your true mission of glorifying God with every word you publish!
Grace and peace,