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How To Make Millions Self-Publishing Your Own Books

Gone are the days when writers were subject to the whims and spurious instincts of publishers and literary agents. Today, you can publish yourself and turn your book into a business.

GG van Rooyen

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It’s all too tempting to get a bit sniffy when it comes to a self-published book. Why, you’re tempted to ask, is it necessary to self-publish? Surely, if your book was worth publishing, an actual publisher would be keen to do it. Well, no, not necessarily. J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, John le Carre, Stephen King — all were rejected by publishers in their early days.

Publishers do not have a crystal ball that allows them to tell whether a book will be a hit or not. For the most part, they are forced to judge a book based on their own tastes.

A publisher could be forgiven for not seeing the attraction of 50 Shades of Grey, but he or she would have missed out on one of the most lucrative series in recent history.

To complicate matters even further, the publishing industry is being disrupted by the explosion of digital media, which has forced publishers to act more conservatively than ever. Betting on a first-time writer is increasingly looking like a long shot that can only deliver a small return at best.

Related: 4 Types Of Business Models

The good news, though, is that unpublished authors have far more recourse these days than Christie, Le Carre, King or even Rowling had when they were trying to break into the industry.

Self-publishing used to be limited in scope. Sure, an author could use a ‘vanity press’ and push out a few self-published copies of a book, but production and distribution on a meaningful scale wasn’t feasible.

No longer is this the case. Self-publishing is now a truly viable option. Thanks to ebooks, the opportunity exists to turn your book into a business — to manage the publishing, distribution and marketing yourself… and pocket the lion’s share of the profits too.

1Become an overnight success: How normal Joes are making it big

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Let us start with a few examples that show just how lucrative self-publishing can be. These are, of course, the headline-grabbers — the authors who have managed to leap into the mainstream by having their books eventually published by publishing houses and even turned into films.

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, started off by publishing chapters of his book on his personal blog in 2011. It was a sci-fi tale about an astronaut marooned on Mars. It was chock-full of chemistry, science and botany — nerdy stuff, in other words, that could reasonably be expected to appeal only to a niche audience. But there was something about the tale that appealed to a (much) wider audience.

When Weir decided to publish his book on Amazon’s Kindle store for $0,99, it quickly became the most popular science fiction novel on the website. Soon after, Crown publishing approached him about re-publishing The Martian in hardcover, and the novel became a New York Times bestseller. Then Hollywood came calling.

In 2015, a film based on the book was released that was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Matt Damon. Weir had gone from an outsider, who hadn’t even managed to secure an agent, to an industry insider in record time.

Related: 11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

50-shades-of-grey-book-cover

Another great success story is that of E.L. James. Her first novel, 50 Shades of Grey, had arguably the most ignominious origin imaginable for an eventual bestseller. Her novel started out as self-published Twilight fan fiction that didn’t star Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, but the Twilight series’ Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.

It first appeared in episodic form on Twilight fan sites (called Master of the Universe and written under the pseudonym Snowqueen’s Icedragon), but when people started complaining about the bawdy nature of the story, she renamed it 50 Shades of Grey and published it on her own website. Soon she self-published a novel that racked up 30 000 copies, and before long, established publishers came calling. The rest — the trilogy, the record sales, the think pieces, the films — is history.

2Self-publishing done right: How to monetise your content

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As inspiring as Weir and James are, it has to be acknowledged that these two are outliers. Few (like very, very, very few) self-published authors will ever make the jump to the mainstream.

But that doesn’t matter, because you can make a lot of money by sticking to the ‘cheap and cheerful’ self-publishing model — building a large following that is willing to pay a nominal fee for your book.

Mark Dawson has managed to do exactly that. Once upon a time, Dawson did manage to get a book published by a publisher, but it was a total bomb. Reviews were good, but the novel just didn’t sell. The whole experience left him demoralised, and he didn’t write anything for years.

But then someone told him about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing offering, which allows you to self-publish a book in ebook format. He decided to give writing another try, and this time sales were not a problem. Dawson now makes about $450 000 a year from his thriller series that stars an assassin called John Milton.

lethal-people

Related: 7 Steps To A Perfectly Written Business Plan

Another successful self-publisher is John Locke. He only started writing books in his late fifties, after he had made a fortune in insurance and real estate. When Locke decided to become a novelist, he aimed to be “the world’s greatest 99-cent author.”

He started churning out stories at an astonishing rate, focusing on thrillers, westerns and detective novels. In 2012, Locke became the first self-published author ever to sell more than one million ebooks on Amazon. More than two million copies of his first book, Lethal People, have now been sold.

So how have Dawson and Locke managed this? They treat their writing as a business, and by circumventing the traditional publishing industry, they are able to take a very entrepreneurial approach to their work. Every aspect of the process is in their hands.

They’re not terrible at what they do

Dawson and Locke are both decent writers. Sure, they’re not going to win a Pulitzer, but they can construct a coherent sentence. This is important. Writing a book — even a middling one — is hard.

If your writing is awful, you won’t even be able to give it away for free. Be prepared to work hard and practice. Locke tossed his first 120 000-word novel because he felt it was just too terrible to try and sell.

They churn out ‘product’

Both Dawson and Locke write quickly. Unlike ‘serious’ authors who often spend months on a page or two, they literally write thousands of words every day. Their books are their products, and the more stock they have, the more money they can make.

If you’re selling a book for a dollar, or so, and Amazon is taking a pretty big cut, you’re not going to get rich by selling one book. The money only starts pouring in once you have a dozen decent sellers bringing in money.

They know their value

Considering the fact that the cost of producing and distributing an ebook is a mere fraction of that of a traditional book, most digital books are astonishingly expensive. A new novel from an established author can easily cost $18 or $20. Now, it goes without saying that there are a lot of people who need to get a slice of the pie.

There is the author, of course, and then there is the literary agent, the publisher, etc. And these days an ebook store such as Amazon or Kobo is also taking a decent piece of the profits. But it’s still hard not to feel a tad cheated when you’re paying $20 for a digital book that you’ll fly through in an afternoon.

Locke and Dawson aren’t trying to get people to pay $20. They ask a fraction of that, which means readers don’t feel cheated, and are even willing to overlook the odd error or inconsistency.

Related: Free Business Plan Template Download

They know their customers

If you’re writing genre fiction at a furious rate, there will be people who look down on the quality. Some people will hate it. Locke has a lot of haters who think his writing is terrible (just have a look at his books’ reviews on Amazon), but there are also plenty of people who love his work. He knows and understands his core readership.

He understands their expectations. They want a ripping thriller or detective novel that they can read while on the beach or on a plane, not a thoughtful and sombre rumination on the meaning of existence. They have Ian McEwan and J.M. Coetzee for that. Locke sticks to his niche and gives his readers what they want — every single time.

They market furiously

When it comes to a bookstore like Amazon, it goes without saying that competition will be fierce. There are a lot of books out there, so its very easy for your novel to get lost. The Kindle Store alone boasts more than four million titles. So, to attract readers, you need to market.

Dawson responds to all messages from fans and collects email addresses along the way. He has a mailing list of more than 15 000 addresses. His most successful strategy, though, is Facebook advertising. He spends about $370 on Facebook advertising every day, and says that it brings in at least double that in sales.

They love what they do

As with any business, it really helps if you enjoy what you do. As mentioned, Dawson and Locke spend a lot of time writing, and this is impossible to do if you hate every minute of it. A bit of passion will keep you plugging away, even if sales trickle in slowly.

Related: Target Market Worksheet

3The question of why: Who’s going to buy from you and how do you reach them 

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Some people want to be authors. They have an urge to write and will keep writing even if no one is interested in publishing (or even reading) what they write. E.L. James didn’t write Master of the Universe (the original title of 50 Shades of Grey) because she was trying to pander to a massive subset of Twilight fans clamouring for a spicy injection of S&M into the franchise. She wrote it because she wanted to.

When it comes to writing, ‘faking it’ is hard. Writing a book in a specific genre simply because you think it will sell is not a likely pathway to success. Readers catch on to that kind of opportunism pretty quickly.

So, if you are a closet author, now is the time to turn those story ideas into a burgeoning business. But what if you don’t want to be a novelist? Well, then it’s worth looking at other ways in which digital self-publishing can be used to generate income.

Scott earns in the high six figures every year through his books and is a great example of someone who has managed to turn self-publishing into a successful business.

Steve Scott is not a frustrated novelist. Instead, he is an entrepreneur who has managed to turn digital self-publishing into a business. He has published more than 60 non-fiction books on Kindle, focusing on the topics of habits, productivity and entrepreneurship. He now also hosts a podcast on self-publishing (with the pithy slogan: Publish Books. Build a Business), and even teaches other authors how to self-publish through a course he’s launched called Authority Pub Academy. His website (authority.pub) is definitely worth visiting.

Scott earns in the high six figures every year through his books and is a great example of someone who has turned self-publishing into a successful business. Sure, you don’t pen 60 books without having a certain talent for writing, but there is no doubt that he has approached self-publishing in a more ‘tactical’ way than E.L.

James or Andy Weir ever did. It’s worth buying one of Scott’s books on Amazon and giving it a read. His books are nicely written, short and filled with common-sense advice that we all think we possess. I’m willing to bet you’ll walk away fairly confident that you can do it too.

Related: Amazon Opens A ‘Real’ Store

4How to publish on Amazon

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Publishing a book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is remarkably easy. It consists of four simple steps:

  • Enter Title Information
  • Upload and Preview Book Content
  • Confirm Publishing Rights
  • Enter Pricing and Royalty Information.

Your book can go on sale in the Kindle Store in 24 to 48 hours. For more information, visit kdp.amazon.com.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

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Types of Businesses to Start

A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business

With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.

Morné Stoltz

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Skilled tradesmen are always in demand. Whether you are a plumber, electrician, cabinetmaker, refrigeration expert, tiler or builder, there is a ton of work out there. For many, the best way to make the most of the opportunity is to open your own business.

Where do you start? The first step is to register your business with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Look for a catchy name that is easy to spell and memorable – you do not want customers to struggle. The CIPC will tell you which names are taken. It is also a good idea to do a trademark search before deciding on a name. Register with SARS and make sure that all your tax affairs are in order.

It is a very good idea to get a good accountant right at the early stages of the game. They can also help you set up the legislative requirements for running a business. The National Small Business Chamber is a non-profit organisation that offers a range of services to its members that aim to help them grow faster, save money and receive the support they need.

With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.

1. Finding customers

You want to find customers in order to grow your business beyond the ones you already have. These days, that means a website and some smart online marketing.

This can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page and any one of several other social media sites (like Instagram and LinkedIn). These services are at no-cost to you and allow you to quickly build up a following of loyal customers. You can share ‘jobs well done’, so prospective customers can see what you are capable of, while your contact details are easily accessible. In due course, consider some paid averts on relevant social media platforms and perhaps a website of your own. It is a good way to get potential customers on board.

At the same time, list your services in community newspapers, noticeboards and newsletters so everyone in the area can easily see that you are available and what it is you do. Also, keep your eye on social media community groups – and ask family, friends and existing clients to refer and/or recommend your services when an opportunity arises.

Finally, there are many government initiatives and non-profit organisations whose aim is to help small businesses succeed – with a particular emphasis on black-owned businesses. This help could range from facilitating access to finance, all the way to mentorship. Spend some time finding out what help is on offer. The SME Movement site also has this kind of information.

Related: How To Start Your Own Artisan Business

2. Stay focused

For those just starting out, there might be a temptation to take any job that crosses your path. Rather stick to your area of expertise to build a reputation based on proven skills. If you are an electrician with a little plumbing experience, for example, tackling a piping job could cause more trouble than it is worth. Every trade is different and you are an expert for a reason.

Leave the other work for experts in those fields – but build up relationships with them so that you can refer work to each other.

3. Ride on your qualifications and references

You have spent a lot of time getting certified. Let your customers know about your qualifications and experience by putting it on your Facebook page, your invoices, e-mails and other communications. The same goes for references; these are valuable and provide evidence of your ability to get the job done. Ask for a reference when the job is complete and then on to social media it goes. The good news with social media, by the way, is that these references do not ever go away.

4. Stay on top of the paperwork

The good old days of doing business on a handshake may be behind us. Providing quotes, contracts, invoices and records of payments electronically makes paperwork a whole lot easier by creating a digital archive where physical copies aren’t needed, but it serves the same purpose, when it is formally recorded, it is far easier to see what has been agreed to, done and paid for. Do not skimp here, even the best customer service provider relationships can go awry if verbal agreements are all you have to go on.

5. Register with your trade association (and invest in CPD)

Being a member of a trade association (like Master Builders, the Institute of Plumbing or other professional bodies) lends credibility to what you are doing. It also provides access to new customers should larger contractors need to sub-contract. Your trade association also formalises training and continuous professional development (CPD).

Related: 6 Tips For Launching Your Global Brand

6. Get business insurance

All too often, this crucial coverage is ignored by those starting out on their own. You want to protect tools and equipment on the one hand and you also want broadform public liability to safeguard yourself, your employees and your business against third party claims should something go wrong on the job. It provides cover in connection with your normal business activities and also your liability if any employees are injured in the course of work.

Putting the right insurance in place can mean the difference between staying in business for the long term or folding the minute the tools grow legs and disappear.

7. Deliver good service

Do not forget that every job is a potential reference and, at the very least, is your entry into that client’s network of friends or business associates. Concentrate on giving good service and actively request feedback so you can remedy any shortfalls. A take-it-or-leave it attitude may be relaxing, but it will prevent your business from growing to what it potentially can be.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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Types of Businesses to Start

The Ultimate 101 List Of Business Ideas To Start Your Own Business In South Africa

Want to boost your income on a part-time basis? Looking for a new business to start and grow into an empire? You’ve come to the right place. This list of business ideas will help children, adults, men, women and even people in rural areas think about ways to become an entrepreneur.

Diana Albertyn

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Are you looking for that one idea to spark a business that will make you money? We have one hundred and one just for you!

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad looking to pursue your passion part-time, a nine-to-five employee seeking a side gig, a creative who’s keen on innovative and flexible moneymaking methods or a student at any level in your education, looking to start your entrepreneurial journey early…we’ve got the best ideas for you to choose from to kick-start your very own business, today.

This comprehensive slide show below is just what you’ve been waiting for to take your first step into financial independence. Read on to find your perfect fit and discover more about how to get started.

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Types of Businesses to Start

What You Need To Know When Starting A Tech Business

For the tech entrepreneur, the majority of your intellectual capital will reside in your software, code, databases, websites or mobile applications.

Damian Michael

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Protecting and managing your intellectual capital starts with finding, identifying and classifying your most important human and intellectual assets. Once you know what you are looking for, you can then determine whether you have the rights you need over those assets. If you don’t, you can then go about securing those rights and then select the best methods of protecting them.

Terminology

Intellectual capital, intellectual assets and intellectual property 

In the industrial and manufacturing industries, the conventional forms of capital needed to start and grow a business were real estate, factories, plant and equipment. But in today’s knowledge economy, these physical assets have largely been replaced by ideas, knowledge and creativity as the new drivers of value.

Related: High-Tech Marketing Sample Business Plan

This new type of information and knowledge-based capital is known as intellectual capital. Your intellectual capital is basically all the knowledge, skills, capabilities and work product that you and your team have to offer, together with the relationships, reputation and brand equity that your business is able to attract and maintain in the marketplace.

Intellectual capital is made up of the following:

  • Your ideas, insights, knowledge and creativity (intellectual assets)
  • The talent, skills and capabilities of your team (human capital)
  • Your contractual relationships and connections with investors, customers and other stakeholders (relationship assets)
  • Your unique brand and the reputation and goodwill you have built around it (brand assets)

In the same way as we as individuals have a whole lot of information and knowledge, some useful, some useless and trivial; your business’s intellectual capital can also be categorised according to its uniqueness, usefulness or value.

Where your intellectual capital displays these additional qualities, it may qualify for statutory legal protection. These special assets, commonly referred to as intellectual property, are bestowed with rights and protections which give the owner a period of time (limited) to commercialise or exploit them without any undue or unfair interference from others. The trade-off is that after that period of time expires, the asset becomes part of the public domain for anyone and everyone to use.

Discovering what intellectual capital you have and need

For the tech entrepreneur, the majority of your intellectual capital will reside in your software, code, databases, websites or mobile applications. Copyright law without the need to register rights or comply with any further formalities automatically protects most of these assets. However, it is still necessary to identify and categorise those assets because the ownership rights and the ways to protect them may differ between the different types of asset.

At the same time, there may also be a wealth of other intellectual assets tucked away in your filing cabinets and hard drives, waiting to be discovered. These may include valuable trade secrets, know-how, methodologies, customer learning, and market research.

Related: Tech Implementations In Africa – Staying Ahead Of The Game

Once you have linked the value drivers and competitive advantages in your business with the assets that produce them, list those assets and classify them according to the structure that they take.  Are they people-based or embedded in technology or documentation. Do any of them qualify for statutory protection?

The outcome should be an inventory of all your intellectual capital, classified according to the different levels of protection available as well as their importance to your business.  You probably don’t have the time, energy or budget to protect everything, so taking the time to do this exercise will ensure that you separate the wheat from the chaff which will save you in the long run.

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