If You Seriously Want to Make Money Self-Publishing, Attack It

James Scott Bell

I have this quaint notion that writers should be able to make money at their trade.
You may have seen the recent report that half of the self-published books that came out in 2011 made under $500. Though this report is not without its critics, it’s pretty clear a majority of self-published writers are not getting the financial returns they’d hoped for.
For some, those hopes are based on unrealistic expectations. Many writers still think of self-publishing as a gold rush. They believe they can come out with one or two books and win the lottery. But 99% of them won’t. Not even if they try to write another Fifty Shades of Grey (please don’t try to write another Fifty Shades of Grey).
If you really want to succeed at self-publishing––and by that I mean make a profit and grow revenue over time––you’re going to need a plan. Like a good golf swing, this plan should be workable, repeatable, simple to understand and have a track record of results.
I have such a plan.
My new book, Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books, is now available on Kindleand Nook.
I’ve spent the last year and a half studying, experimenting, watching, publishing and taking notes on what it takes to make a go of self-publish. My goal was to see what any writer could do, not just one with a massive backlist (where there really isgold). I have not put out my backlist immediately. Rather, I wrote new material––short stories and novellas and non-fiction––and kept track of the results. 
For me, the key data point is how you trend. You want your trend line in sales looks like this:

This is what long term self-publishing success looks like. Steady growth via the introduction of new product.
Just like in traditional publishing. Just like in any business.
With the upside that no one can cancel your contract. You have a lifetime deal––with yourself.
That also means you have a fiduciary duty to do the best you can. You are under an implied warranty of good faith and fair dealing, so you’d better perform or you’ll have to take yourself to court.
The strategies and tactics in Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books have been tested by experience and confirmed by what other successful self-published authors are doing. 
These laws are immutable––that means they will never change. They will stand the test of time and the challenges of an ever evolving marketplace.
As someone who has run successful small businesses, I know how one has to think and plan in order to create the best possible foundation for making a profit. I’d like to see more self-published writers getting it right.
Because I have this quaint notion that writers should be able to make money at their trade.


15 thoughts on “If You Seriously Want to Make Money Self-Publishing, Attack It

  1. You certainly have been prolific. My Kindle’s been getting a workout this year. 😎 I look forward to reading the additional tips this new release includes.

    Sometimes I despair of making progress at all. Had to take the month of June off from writing because I am overwhelmed by too many other things. Hope July is a lot nicer.

    But reading posts like this and others at TKZ gives me incentive to keep pushing forward. If I want it to happen, I’ve gotta make it happen.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Bell for all your helpful writing books. Come hang out attsWasti 415
    our Montana writer’s retreat any time you want. We got cheap, direct flights now between LAX and MSO on Alligent Air.

  3. YAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!! And the peasants rejoice! It’s already downloaded!

    I’m really glad you tackled self publishing. I am also glad you tackled the thorny issue that not every one who is self publishing has a giant backlist or tons of fans.

    Do you have a post here about your specific writing schedule? I was wondering how you manage to write so much. This new era of “write two books a year!” has me sweating bullets.

  4. Downloaded! So how well does this work Jim for writers who are not well known and don’t have the track record that you and other established authors do have? I’m assuming time and perseverance are a must but with so many getting less than $500 for their efforts I’m beginning to wonder if it’s more about how well you are already known.

  5. I like Basil’s theme song playing in the background!

    I’m off to download my copy, and tweet up this post.

    Can’t wait to read this one.


  6. Already downloaded! Charging my Kindle now so I can start reading. But I’d like to hear your answer to Jillian’s comment. Those of us without a “name” want to know! 🙂

  7. Thanks for the kinds words, all.

    To address a couple of questions…I specifically wanted this to be helpful to new writers. I want to give them a long term pathway to success. It will take time, yes, but that’s true for traditional publishing.

    And I’ve always had more stories to tell than could be supported by print alone. I am lucky enough to have both now. And every writer will find his or her zone of productivity. The trick is to keep that up, day after week after month after year. That’s one of the “laws” in my book.

  8. Basil, you just HAD to plant that song in my head. It’s been playing/repeating up there all day. 😎

  9. We can suspect that your main rule for marketing is to disguise blog content as a self-serving ad.

    Seriously, dude?? This site deserves better than you are giving. MY #1 rule is that IF you’re gonna pimp your work, THEN give visitors something worthwhile in the process; Because, you know, I have this quaint idea that sites should be more than spam.

  10. Downloaded Self Publishing Attack yesterday, and am already half-way through it. Nicely done.

    As for that $500.00 figure.
    For me, that is a number the naysayers are latching onto to discredit the self-publishing author or by the indie-authors who were/are looking for that get rich scheme by slapping up a novel or two (usually some unsellable trunk story) then complain they’re not make Amanda Hocking or John Locke numbers.

    $500.00 in what time frame — a month, a year, a week?

    Put up quality work, repeatedly, with a professional approach and look, and over time, you will be found and you will make money.

    With only one novel, one novella and about a dozen short stories I’m making regular monthly income, not a living wage yet, but regular–money I can count on each month. That’s not something traditional publishing has been able to do for me. YMMV

  11. Gotta love the requisite anonymous drive-by trolling. Guess Anon has never heard of announcing a new release.

    Anyway, I’m going to roll over and grab a copy of this. I’m seldom disappointed by Mr. Bell’s advice.

  12. David, right on. You are doing exactly the right thing, and is in line with the premise of my book.

    Rob, thanks for the kind word. I don’t mind disagreements, but we have to be disagreeable. I bust my hump in this Sunday column to help writers. I happen to really believe this book will help, ergo an announcement. But I also included relevant information, e.g., the study and the contra link.

    All the Zoners work hard to put up quality, and our regular readers all WANT us to announce our books when they come out. It’s a fair give and take around here.

  13. I couldn’t agree more. And I think that the current race to self-pub, without even trying to establish a name for yourself via more traditional means, is a huge mistake. The authors I know who are truly succeeding at self-pubbing by and large already had a platform to build on, a base of readers who knew and loved their work. It’s far more difficult to win over new readers, and the writers who have done that successfully are the exception, not the rule (see: Amanda Hawking, Fifty Shades).


Comments are closed.