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5 Questions Around Self-Publishing Your Non-fiction Book

Here are five provoking questions to help you begin the process of self-publishing your book!
Written Apr 05, 2010, read 5022 times since then.
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These days everyone wants to write their book!  Why not. It is easy to imagine the great feeling of seeing your book in print. It is such a tangible symbol and manifestation of success in the eyes of most people. It seems like anyone who touts themselves as an expert at anything, also has their book to validate it.

That first book has become a benchmark for many, many entrepreneurs.

However, the jump from deciding to write a book, and actually having that book completed and in print is huge. For some people it feels like an insurmountable task and it is so easy to get lost along the way, blocked by obstacles or just lose the inertia.

Here are five important questions to address, that will make the process much easier and more fruitful as well.

1. What is your purpose in writing your book?
Your business plan needs to reflect where your book will fit in to the overall picture. Why would this be important for your business?  After people read your book, what do you want them to do? How will your book help your business grow?

2. Who are you writing it to?
Just like any product you are marketing, you need to know your target customer. You need to know who they are, what they need or want and the benefits they will receive.  Once you can answer these questions it is easier to know what to write and how to write it.

3.What’s the style? 
A non-fiction book often teaches something, as in, “How to” books.  They can be motivational and inspirational as well.  They can be essays on a subject. The style of your book needs to make sense to the person you want to communicate to and what you want to accomplish.

4. How to publish it?
If you want to become a household name than you might feel you need to get a conventional publisher.  Many people think that getting a publisher will be cheaper. Not true if you look at the whole picture.

Unless you are already a famous person, you need to have an agent first. You have to write a book proposal, which can be more laborious than writing the book.  I did this 15 years ago and it  took me three months to do my proposal. I sent it to many agents and luckily someone took it.  If she had managed to find a publisher, she would have taken her percentage of each book sold. The publisher will pay you possibly 6-8% of retail price. 

At the end of the day you might end up with a couple dollars per book!  It is also a mistake to assume they will market it for you. If you are unknown, they expect you to do your own marketing. However they will get your book in all the large bookstores via their distribution channels as long as the bookstores order it.

Self-publishing is the other option. Ten years ago I self-published two books.  I had to print at least 1500 to make it worth it.  It was a large outlay of money. These days print on demand gives you the ability to digitally print a small amount at a low price and have total control, sell them on your website, with no one taking their percentage out. You still have the option to put them on other websites, in bookstores or anywhere and create your own wholesale price.

If you are going to do all the marketing yourself, why not earn more money?  Now, 10 years later, I have published my recent book this way. I  used LightningSource.com and they have excellent customer service and good quality.

5. Who is on your team?
It requires a skilled team to help you get your book out. Actually writing was the fun and creative part for me, but I needed help with editing, layout, cover creation, mentoring, book naming and more.  It is important to find the right people who can support you, understand the project and want to be a part of your process. Without a good team you will never make it to the finish line.  

Follow these five steps, answer all the questions I have posed, and you will be much more equipped to move forward and begin your project. Just imagine your book in print and the smile on your face at the end!

Learn more about the author, Kaya Singer.

Comment on this article

  • Digital Growth Strategist 
Lynnwood, Washington 
Maximus Kang
    Posted by Maximus Kang, Lynnwood, Washington | Apr 06, 2010

    Cheers Kaya, it's always great to read your articles on writing! Thanks!

  • Trainer: Voice and Presentation Skills, Media Trainer; Speaker 
Portland, Oregon 
Lauren Bishop
    Posted by Lauren Bishop, Portland, Oregon | Apr 06, 2010

    I thought some of your readers might also want to mark their calendars for August 6th through the 8th. It's the 2010 Willamette Writers Conference at the Airport Sheraton Hotel. The conference is very affordable, local and filled to the brim with the latest and greatest info on writing. There are classes on fiction, non-fiction and screen writing, copyright laws, online publishing, and so much more.

    And perhaps most important of all, you'll obtain a plethora of ideas on marketing your book(s). There are many agents, publishers and authors to answer questions and you can also pitch your book idea. It was an incredible experience for me last year.

    It's important to remember that agents and publishers are now expecting us to be writers/marketers as a whole package deal.

    So all aspiring authors should start/continue writing on Biznik, Facebook, Twitter, their own blogs, guest blogs, start their own newsletter, and be a guest writer on other people's newsletters. Just get out there, anywhere, and write...and have fun!

    Here's the link to www.willamettewriters.com and they have monthly meetings. I think membership is a whopping $35 a year, or you can attend the meetings as a non-member for a bit more each month.

    They also love volunteers for the conference and they trade volunteer hours for conference hours. Very nice for those on a budget!

    Keep on writing great articles Kaya!

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 06, 2010

    Maximus - Thanks for your positive comments.

    Lauren- Thanks so much for letting everyone know about the conference. I plan to be there for at least part of it!

    My new book is just now out!! I am very excited.

  • Hotel Operator, business developer, designer, environmental consultant 
Spring Green, Wisconsin 
Carolina Dursina
    Posted by Carolina Dursina, Spring Green, Wisconsin | Apr 07, 2010

    Really great article Kaya and to the point, having your audience in mind is very helpful!

  • Parent Coach & Family Therapist 
Hillsboro, Oregon 
Karen DeBolt
    Posted by Karen DeBolt, Hillsboro, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Thank you so much Kaya! This was very timely for me as I have just started to consider finishing up my book and doing the print on demand thing. These were very helpful points.

    Your book sounds very interesting as well. I'll take a look.

    All the best!

  • Creative Clarity Coach 
Bainbridge Island, Washington 
Jennifer Manlowe
    Posted by Jennifer Manlowe, Bainbridge Island, Washington | Apr 08, 2010

    Great Tip Sheet Kaya. I would have loved to have you share these tips at my last (last Friday of the Month) workshop on self-publishing Tip Sheets. I'm so glad to learn that LighteningSource.com has been a winning investment for you. You're the second person who's mentioned this to me recently. One thing I can attest, Lulu.com is the very worst self-publishing site -- it's one big machine with no human contact or help or accountability when mistakes are made in the printing process. One of my books is still "out there" with all the goofy mistakes they wouldn't address upon my (10) urgent requests in print, online, trying to reach anyone by phone, etc. Oye!

    Best to you and your new book. Very exciting!

    Jennifer

  • Illustrator / Graphic Designer 
Washington, D.C. 
Michael Auger
    Posted by Michael Auger, Washington, D.C. | Apr 08, 2010

    Great article and lots of good advice! I just wanted to add that if anyone is looking for an artist to design their book cover, drop me a line. You can see examples of my fun, eye-catching artwork on my website.

  • Brand Strategist & Graphic Designer 
Bothell, Washington 
Diane Bridgwater
    Posted by Diane Bridgwater, Bothell, Washington | Apr 08, 2010

    This is a great article & very helpful to business owners looking to write their book. These questions are so important for an author to answer before they begin. Thanks for writing it!

    Another great resource, also local in the Seattle area, is www.speakerpublisher.com. We take care of our customers from start to finish & you actually have a live person to help through the process. Our professional designed layouts, our resources for editing, proofing & printing can ease the process.

    Your comment about having a team behind you is so key to the success of the book, thank you making that comment. Good luck with your new book!

  • Life and business coach/Health and wellness consultant  
Portland, Oregon 
Jenny Gallagher
    Posted by Jenny Gallagher, Portland, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    I have also self published a book and enjoyed most of the process. I used my book mainly for my workshops and people liked it.

    Right now I am still looking for a publisher for my next two books but have no problem going the self publishing route again if I need to.

    While in the process of publishing you need to spend time coming up with a good marketing plan. That way when the book is ready you can go on your promo-tour.

  • Creative Director/Writer 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ed Sweet
    Posted by Ed Sweet, Phoenix, Arizona | Apr 08, 2010

    Thanks for your article, Kaya. Self-publishing has really opened up some great marketing opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals who make their books polished and professional. My first Biznik post was about the benefits of what I call the "one-pound business card."

    I recently started a blog for ghostwriters with two other established ghosts, based in Phoenix, AZ. Our hope is to develop a collaborative web community of ghosts and authors.

    You can check it out at: www.ghostwritepro.com

    I'd love to get your feedback!

  • Owner Parsons Marketing 
Ventura, California 
Danielle Parsons
    Posted by Danielle Parsons, Ventura, California | Apr 08, 2010

    Thanks for the steps and tips. I have been writing eBooks for my business. It helps grow my business and laying out a simple path for others to follow makes sense.

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. It was actually hard to keep this article short as I have so much to share on this topic. Maybe I need to offer a seminar :)

    Jennifer - I agree about Lulu. It is a shame because they used to be so good. Their customer service is horrible. In fact, you are not able to talk to a real person during the whole process. It is all online. That was enough right there to deter me. I was so happy to find LighteningSource. They have been phenomenal! I have my own person who is very supportive and she either answers the phone or gets back to me the same day!

    Diane - Thanks for sharing about speakerpublisher. It looks like an excellent resource for people who want and need more support through the process. I did hire a layout person and he was wonderful to work with - Josef Garibaldi. I can't say enough wonderful things about my own team. They are all listed in the appendix of my book.

    Jenny- I totally agree about the marketing plan. I have spent the last three years building the foundation for that and still there are holes! I learned the hard way the first time. I had no plan and assumed it would just sell itself. haha.

    Ed- I looked at your blog and it seems there are tons of resources there. Thanks so much for sharing. I need to go back and spend more time and then I will get back to you.

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Danielle- my new book began from all of my ebooks. It is much easier to do ebooks of course as there is no printing and no expense. Plus you can go and make instant changes and then just re-save.

    However- I don't enjoy reading ebooks! I also like the sensory feeling of holding paper, writing notes in the margins etc. I guess I like real books. But my ebooks helped me to get the material together for my print book. Maybe that will happen for you too.

  • book designer 
Portland, Oregon 
Jennifer Omner
    Posted by Jennifer Omner, Portland, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Excellent article, Kaya! I would also like to add that self-publishers can set up accounts with Amazon and sell their books from that site. Or if they go with Lightning Source (LSI) and pay a nominal amount, LSI will handle set up and fulfillment for them through Amazon and others.

    Best regards, Jennifer Omner, www.ALLPublications.com

  • Creative Director/Writer 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ed Sweet
    Posted by Ed Sweet, Phoenix, Arizona | Apr 08, 2010

    Thanks for the comments about LightningSource.

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Jennifer Thanks for adding the bit about Amazon. I always encourage people to get very clear how their book fits into their business plan. That will help you to determine whether the Amazon route is the best choice. It did Amazon for my first two books.

    I am not going that way for my book now. Amazon takes a large percentage and they sell books that are very low price. In other words - I would earn very little per book. At the end of the day- no one will find your book on Amazon unless you market it well. I am looking at Affiliate sites instead ( for now). I want to know who is buying my book and I see it as a part of my business rather than stand alone.

    Amazon can be used just for marketing but you need to have your whole plan clear about how this book fits into your whole business picture. Hope this all makes sense:)

  • copywriter, marketing communications consultant 
Kent, Washington 
Sharon Long
    Posted by Sharon Long, Kent, Washington | Apr 08, 2010

    Too funny, I am writing a markting book, and was just struggling with item #1 yesterday afternoon. The way you've phrased the questions is giving me clarity! Thank you!

  • Disconnecting Oughta-Pilots; Creating Lives 
Beaverton, Oregon 
DeBorah Beatty
    Posted by DeBorah Beatty, Beaverton, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Actually, I found CreateSpace to be far more budget friendly and effective than Lightning Source. Since they're owned by Amazon, it's a lot cheaper and easier to get your books listed there, too!

    I have my first one coming out this summer and am using CreateSpace to do it. I'll let you know whether they live up to their proposed effectiveness. I hope so.

  • Graphic Designer / Illustrator 
Seattle, Washington 
Ray Braun
    Posted by Ray Braun, Seattle, Washington | Apr 08, 2010

    The website you recommended in your article was spelled lighteningsource.com and contains a page of search links to various publishing services. Are you sure you didn't mean lightningsource.com which is a publishing house?

  • Herbalist Astrologer Tarot Reiki Master Flower Essences 
San Diego, California 
Lisa Allen, MH
    Posted by Lisa Allen, MH, San Diego, California | Apr 08, 2010

    Thank you for the article Kaya! And thank you Deborah for your comment, since I had been considering http://createspace.com if I decide to go the self-publishing route! Yes, Ray, I think you are right about the link for http://www.lightningsource.com - and the only thing else I would suggest for self-publishers is to find a good editor and/or proofreader. Luckily, I was a legal secretary so my proofreading is pretty good, but a good editor will help get the book in the right order and eliminate anything that detracts from the purpose of the book!

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 08, 2010

    Ray Thanks for your good eye about my poor link. Shows the importance of editing :)

    DeBorah - I did look at CreateSpace but it actually was a higher price than Lightning source. Maybe it depends on the kind of book. I am sure there is more than one good option for each person so thanks for your feedback. Possibly if having my book sold on Amazon was important to me, than I would have looked at that as an important part of the decision. Again - it is all about your business plan.

    Sharon- so glad I could help you with your marketing book. I have a whole section in my book on marketing that goes more into that. You might find it helpful.

    Lisa- editing is sooo important. I hired an editor and he was excellent in helping me organize the flow as I had a lot of stuff written but needed help with the "story line." I had a few people proof read ( thanks DeBorah) and then after the lay out was done I still found errors. Many eyes are good!

    Thank you all for great comments and conversation. I am loving this about Biznik!

  • Parent Educator 
Kenmore, Washington 
Kathy Slattengren
    Posted by Kathy Slattengren, Kenmore, Washington | Apr 08, 2010

    Thanks for the article Kaya. I published my first parenting book using http://createspace.com. I was very pleased with their service. I did all the editing myself so I just used their service to publish the book. I liked that it was automatically added to Amazon with the "Look Inside" feature. I also appreciate being able to order copies of the book at $2.15/book.



    Kathy Slattengren
    Priceless Parenting
    (/)

  • Keynote Speaker, Publishing Coach 
Bainbridge Island, Washington 
Patrick Snow
    Posted by Patrick Snow, Bainbridge Island, Washington | Apr 08, 2010

    Great article and yes Lightning Source is a great organization. I am thrilled to find another advocate for self publishing out there.

    I have both self published and also published traditionally through John Wiley & Sons, and what most people don't realize is that self publishing is the only way to guarantee that you will ever get published.

    If you or any of the others reading this article are interested in becoming a best-selling author, I am hosting Best Seller Publishing Institute June 15-17th, 2010 on Bainbridge Island, WA.

    Thanks!

    Patrick Snow www.BestSellerPublishingCoaching.com

  • writer, editor, project developer 
Raleigh, North Carolina 
Bea Vanni
    Posted by Bea Vanni, Raleigh, North Carolina | Apr 09, 2010

    Nice article, Kaya! Thank you for sharing.

    I have two books which I have never published but used for workshops and speaking engagements and other activities. Does it have anything to do with my business? No, not really, but does directly relate to my experience and background.

    Many people have asked me to publish them, and I would like to but they really have nothing to do with my self-publishing and online visibility business. I thought about just offering them in e-book format and not really doing much marketing on them.

  • photographer 
Bellingham, Washington 
Mark Turner
    Posted by Mark Turner, Bellingham, Washington | Apr 09, 2010

    Self-publishing has its challenges and its rewards. My wife self-published way back in 1986 with a 5000 print run. It broke even, but didn't make money nor sell out. I have two books in print with traditional publishers and strongly prefer that route because I don't have to worry about distribution.

    Almost no one buys from my website (www.turnerphotographics.com) but they do purchase from me when I have a speaking engagement. The wildflowers book has sold over 17,500 copies in four years, which is pretty decent for a regional niche title. The Bellingham book hasn't sold as many, but it's even more local. My royalty on a $27.95 book is less than a dollar a copy; my co-author gets the same.

    I have at least three more books in process, one of which may end up being self-published because my co-author and I haven't convinced a publisher to take it on yet.

    As others have mentioned, an editor and a designer are important to a book.

    Even with a publisher behind you you'll end up doing a lot of promotion and marketing to make your book a success.

  • Undress the Stress Coach 
Surrey, British Columbia Canada 
Marianna  Paulson
    Posted by Marianna Paulson, Surrey, British Columbia Canada | Apr 09, 2010

    Kaya, thanks for getting this conversational publishing ball rolling and to everyone else for relating their experiences.

    Lots of great and thought-provoking discussion and opinions.

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 09, 2010

    Bea- Self publishing via print on demand is perfect for you because you can order a small number of books and only pay for what you order. If each book costs $3, you can buy one and pay $3 plus shipping. It could be that you want to see your books in print just for personal achievement. The real expense is editing and layout services.

    Mark- thanks for chiming in with your experience. I agree that it is hard to sell books off your own website unless you have a business that the book is connected closely to and it is marketed that way. Mine works that way and that influenced my decision to do the self publishing route.

    As you said- it is way easier to sell people books as part of your speaking presentation because they connect with you and then want to take you home with them:)

    I appreciate you offering a different point of view. As I said- there is no right way for everyone. It i so important to analyze your own situation and make a decision based on your goals.

  • writer, editor, project developer 
Raleigh, North Carolina 
Bea Vanni
    Posted by Bea Vanni, Raleigh, North Carolina | Apr 10, 2010

    I appreciate your comments and again I've had an aha moment. You're right, I may just want to get it out of computer and in print just for that satisfaction. I know how to do it all because that's what I do, but sometimes I get so consumed in other people's work that I forget about my own. Thanks loads for this big moment!! and giving me permission to follow my universal direction. You're a delight for me.

  • Managing Director 
London United Kingdom 
Steven Emecz
    Posted by Steven Emecz, London United Kingdom | Apr 10, 2010

    Great article Kaya. Following the demise of my traditional publisher (2 years and 40+ proposals to find them for my first novel) I ended up setting up a hybrid publishing company in 2001 somewhere in-between self and traditional publishing. It's sometimes called partnership publishing and we were the first in the UK to do it.

    We digitally print around the world but also enable the author to make their own sales so a bit of both world's. The most expensive part of publishing is editing so we don't do it - we require our authors to come with pretty much a finished product.

    We find this model performs better than self-publishing for most non-fiction writers as we have access to all the main distribution markets and pay 10% royalty on those channels (like the bookstores and the main online sellers like Amazon), whereas the author sells via their own business and their own channels - print volumes from 1 and up so long gone are the days of having to print a lot of copies.

    Not for everyone, but worth a look for those that have a marketable book and their own channels to market too. We have authors in the USA, UK, Canada and Trinidad so far as distance isn't an issue and we have about 35 authors and 60+ titles now, mainly in NLP, therapy and history.

    I'd also encourage your readers to develop their online personality. We find it much easier to promote an author that has a blog we can refer and link to, and ideally a healthy Twitter following too - both free and relatively easy to do as its simpley about sharing their expertise.

    Check out one of our Sherlock Holmes authors Alistair Duncan (his best seller is 'Close To Holmes' ) who has both in place and getting some great reviews.

  • Business Coach For Therapists 
Amstelveen, Noord Holland Netherlands 
Monika Denes
    Posted by Monika Denes, Amstelveen, Noord Holland Netherlands | Apr 11, 2010

    Thank you for all the great tips, Kaya. It seems so daunting, writing a whole book. Every marketing guru tells me I ought to write one... You have helped me re-tinking this.

  • Stress Awareness and Inner Communication Coach 
Bellevue, Washington 
Patricia  Klingler
    Posted by Patricia Klingler, Bellevue, Washington | Apr 20, 2010

    Kaya,

    Congratulations on your recently published book.

    Your article is timely and encouraging, as my first draft continues to linger on my desk. Recently, I had someone else read an excerpt (a published author, but not an editor) and got some great ideas to move me forward.

    Thank you.

    ~ Patricia

  • Artist 
Mountain View, California 
Michelle Moller
    Posted by Michelle Moller, Mountain View, California | Apr 26, 2010

    Kaya,

    This article was very inspiring to me and my husband, Jordan. Working in the Security industry and being a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, Jordan was very grateful for your advice and my support with transcribing from hard copy into MS Word for publishing. With the final copy of "So you want to be a crime fighter?" handbook to help people improve their community. And the second best lesson learned, was not to use Lu Lu. Jordan was a little too busy to read the entire article and decided to use Lu Lu, which was a BIG mistake! Lightening Space and Create Space are being considered for round two of his self-publishing effort.

    Special Thanks to You and All the Members who posted comments with more great resource advice!!!

    ~ The Newby (AKA M3)

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Apr 26, 2010

    Bea- Wow- I am so glad I could help move you forward. It is so easy to help other people and not do it yourself. Such a balance that needs to happen.Me too!

    Steven- thanks for sharing about your company. It sounds like you are offering a really good option to people who have a different need than self-publishing but still want the control.

    Monika- It is actually is a bit daunting to write a book, but it's like anything you do- once you make the decision and begin the process it takes on a life of it's own. I encourage you to find a good mentor to help you along the way. My mentor helped me overcome every obstacle throughout the journey. They were mainly internal obstacles; fears, stress etc. I couldn't have done it without him. Good luck.

    Patricia- I know all about that first draft issue. I had the same thing. Hiring an editor helped me to move forward. Good luck to you too.

    Michelle I looked at Lulu first as well but was immediately discouraged by their lack of customer service. I needed to have someone to talk to. I hope Jordon has a better experience when he switches.

    Thanks to all of you for your continued comments.This is so valuable to everyone.

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Feb 02, 2011

    just what the doctor ordered

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