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The good news, though, is that unpublished authors have far more recourse these days than Christie, Le Carre, King or even Rowling had when they were trying to break into the industry.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

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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 

writing-a-book

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

amazon-logo

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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Calling All Social Entrepreneurs: Be SA’S Next Changemaker With The Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge

In partnership with LaunchLab and the Mergon Group.

Mergon Group

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Nation Builder, together with the Stellenbosch University LaunchLab and the Mergon Group, is inviting business pitches for their inaugural Social Innovation Challenge. The competition aims to identify and support South Africa’s social entrepreneurs, with an opportunity to win a share of R150 000 seed capital.

Entrepreneurs with a self-sustainable business idea – no matter how simple or small – that addresses particular social issues, positively impacts communities, empowers the disadvantaged, or has the potential to solve local problems in innovative ways, are invited to enter the Social Innovation Challenge.

Ten finalists will receive exposure to a broader network of business investors at the final pitching event, which will be hosted by LaunchLab in Stellenbosch on 13 June 2018. Three final winners will receive their portion of R150 000 funding capital, as well as business support from LaunchLab.

Related: How To Be A Social Entrepreneur

In addition to social innovation specialists, media and social development experts, the judging panel will consist of astute business leaders who have successfully walked the entrepreneurship journey.

“Social entrepreneurs are those who see social challenges as opportunities, devise sustainable business solutions to meet those needs, and positively impact many South Africans in the process,” says Keri-Leigh Mac Donald, Executive Director of Nation Builder, an organisation that supports businesses in leading social change in South Africa.

“Social entrepreneurs are the next wave of change makers and social reformers. Nation Builder wants to support and showcase some of these great and emerging home-grown social businesses as a means to challenge us all to think differently when addressing our local social challenges,” she adds.

According to Brandon Paschal, Head of Incubation at LaunchLab, most of the start-ups that the LaunchLab currently work with already have a strong social conscience. “We have worked with many great small businesses in sectors such as mental health, financial inclusion, job creation, empowerment, and sustainability.  We’re excited for them to have this platform with Nation Builder and the broader network of great socially-responsible companies. It is a wonderful way for them to gain more exposure, but also to work with like-minded partners that can help take their businesses forward, without compromising on their social conscience and the greater purpose of their business.”

The winning entrepreneur and their business idea will also be showcased at Nation Builder’s In Good Company conference in Gauteng in August 2018. In addition, they will receive exposure through the various Nation Builder, Mergon and LaunchLab media channels.

“The societal benefits from these enterprises can bring about increased economic activity and opportunities for many more South Africans, while playing a pivotal role in breaking the cycles of social ills that many people are facing daily. The Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge is a first step in fuelling and highlighting local social innovation solutions,” says Pieter Faure, CEO of Mergon.

Related: 3 Ways For Social Entrepreneurs To Access Fundraising

Submission requirements: Submit a 3-minute video (cell phone footage can be submitted too) of yourself explaining your business idea with your entry form which can be found on the LaunchLab website: http://www.launchlab.co.za/nationbuilder2018

Pitches (video entries) need to focus on providing the following information:

  1. Provide a brief summary of the business/social innovation idea and its history.
  2. What is the particular social issue that the business idea aims to address?
  3. How does the business idea solve or address the social issue?
  4. Explain how the business intends to make money and be sustainable, while clearly describing the target market or customer profile.
  5. What key milestones have been achieved within the venture already?
  6. What is the strategy to grow the business and scale the social impact?
  7. Anything else that the panel needs to know?

Submissions opened on 14 March, and the deadline for online submission entries is 11 May 2018. The top ten finalists will be notified by the end of May. Finalists’ transport to and accommodation in Stellenbosch for two nights will be provided.

LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available to download here:  https://launchlab.co.za/innovationchallenges/competition-terms-conditions/

The three winning pitches will be announced at the pitching event on Wednesday 13 June 2018. The panellists’ decision is final.

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Types of Businesses to Start

How To Be A Social Entrepreneur

If you’re ready to launch a business, but want to make a real social impact too, the social entrepreneurship model might be right for you. Here’s how to get started.

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A social enterprise is an organisation that serves a social and/or environmental purpose, generates income from business activities and reinvests its profits back into driving its mission.

Examples include African Schools of Excellence (provide world-class schools to poor communities at a low cost); Hands of Honour (upcycles waste and provide employment for former drug addicts and ex-convicts); and my own social enterprise, Nkazimulo Applied Sciences (helps young people become scientists regardless of their background).

Some people say most of the profits should be reinvested into the mission, but others say a worker is worth their wages. 

Doing business differently

Social entrepreneurship is a different way of doing business. Previously, few people cared about whether a company did good or not. Today, food outlets that serve healthy eating options are growing their market share because consumers now care about their health.

Related: Eva Longoria And Social Entrepreneurship

Farming responsibly opens the growing market that cares about the environment. More people care about the quality of education South African children have access to and support the efforts in this area. This is where social entrepreneurs can make a real, sustainable difference.

The entity can take any legal form, from a non-profit organisation, to a private company, a trust, or adopt a hybrid structure. Each has its pros and cons. Social enterprises take attributes from commercial entities.

They generate income from business activities. They also take attributes from non-profit organisations and government departments by tackling challenges previously addressed by these organisations, such as poverty, inequality, poor education and unemployment.

They run more efficiently, and are more accountable and transparent than public sector organisations. They are less dependent on external funding than non-profit organisations and charities. Worldwide, there is not enough grant funding for all the non-profit organisations looking for it.

Sustainable social models

An important element of successful social entrepreneurship is social impact monitoring and evaluation. The enterprise must constantly improve on delivering its mission and communicating the results of the impact to all its stakeholders.

Measuring impact may seem difficult. How can you tell a child became a doctor because they had access to lab facilities they previously had no access to? Maybe they were influenced by another factor. There are several tools to help a social enterprise focus its activities on outputs that will lead to the intended outcome which can then be measured.

These outputs become inputs that form a series of outcomes that, together, achieve the intended overall impact and become indicators the enterprise measures. Instead of measuring the number of learners who become doctors, the measure is the number of learners with access to lab facilities where none existed before. This is better than looking at the number of lab facilities provided, which is an input.

See the bigger picture, collaborate and achieve collective impact

These tools are called Logic Models. Demonstration of impact communicates why an enterprise should be supported by stakeholders. The use of Logic Models envisions the bigger picture and identifies other players to collaborate with to achieve collective impact.

Thompson Reuters Foundation reported that South Africa comes third in Africa after Egypt and Nigeria as the best place to be a social entrepreneur. This is very encouraging and is much needed in not only boosting the economy but addressing social and environmental issues.

Related: Busi Skenjana’s Two Core Rules Of Entrepreneurship

IN ACTION: Using a logic model to prove your impact

logic-model

A logic model is a visual representation of how day to day activities of an organisation relate to their overall mission or long-term goal. The model is key in deciding what to measure for impact evaluation.

It has six components:

  1. The current situation: The problem being solved.
  2. Inputs: Resources used to address the problem.
  3. Outputs: Activities and services delivered by the enterprise.
  4. What outcomes will come about because of the inputs?
  5. External factors, or circumstances in the environment that influence the problem but which the enterprise has no control over.
  6. Assumptions that are conditions needed for the success of the programme.

logic-model

Getting started

Involve all stakeholders in drawing up a logic model. The different perspectives help draw a complete picture. Impact measurement indicators are then based on these inputs and outcomes.

Adding value

Logic models link inputs, outputs and outcomes and ensure that the correct indicators are monitored and measured as an enterprise achieves its mission.

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Types of Businesses to Start

3 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start In 2018

Online experiences connect people worldwide to your brand and the solutions you offer – without requiring a big budget to launch your digital storefront.

Manish Dudharejia

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No doubt many people resolved to boost their income during the new year. (Of course, it’s never too late to start a business).

The internet provides endless ways to make money. The best part? Most internet-based businesses can be launched immediately, without a giant budget. Here are three awesome gigs you can start in the comfort of your own home.

1. Become a seller on Amazon

amazonAmazon is a monster. According to eMarketer, Amazon accounted for more than 43 percent of e-commerce sales in the United States during 2017 – and about half of those transactions came from third-party sellers. There are many advantages to joining Amazon’s ranks:

  • Given the site’s popularity, you can tap into a gigantic amount of traffic. Many consumers are ready to buy when they visit Amazon.
  • You operate under the umbrella of the biggest and most trusted name in online retail. If you opted to launch your own e-commerce website from scratch, you’d learn that establishing trust is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming part of the job. Selling through Amazon omits this entirely.
  • You easily can manage your entire online business through Amazon’s Seller Central dashboard.

So, how do you get started? First, you need to choose your Amazon category, or niche. These include labels such as clothing, healthcare, jewellery, electronics, beauty and more. Then, identify which products are in high demand.

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

The easiest route is to become a Fulfillment By Amazon seller. This means Amazon will take care of shipping, delivery, returns, exchanges and other logistics. You’ll need to stay in tune with supply chains and demand estimates. Tools such as forecastly make this task simpler. And Sourcify can help you find a manufacturing facility, if your idea includes creating a new product.

It’s easy to become an Amazon seller, but being a successful one requires a good deal of work on your end. In addition to choosing the right niche, you must demonstrate some savvy marketing skills. While Amazon functions as your sales outlet, you still need to market yourself as you would a typical business. This involves blogging, social media, email marketing, forums and other activities designed to direct traffic to your Amazon Seller page. Netrush is just one company that can help you establish your brand on the Amazon marketplace after you start making sales.

If you pay close attention to trends and market your products correctly, you can make serious money. Entrepreneur, investor and yogi Nate Ginsburg sold his his Fulfillment By Amazon business for $1 million after three years.

2. Become a Facebook advertising consultant

facebookFacebook has taken over the online advertising market. In 2016, Facebook accounted for 77 percent of the digital ad industry’s overall growth. It’s safe to say Facebook is giving Google a serious run for its money in the world of online marketing. Facebook has enabled all types of small businesses to advertise online with a smaller budget – something that wasn’t possible in the past.

To illustrate the effect, Google’s cost-per-click for digital ads is $10. Spend that same ten-spot on Facebook, and you get 10 clicks. It’s just one reason I predicted last year that Facebook will beat all other digital marketing channels.

Helping online businesses use paid campaigns to establish a Facebook presence is a fantastic way to make money online. However, even though the technical side of advertising on Facebook is made easy, it’s not exactly a cakewalk. You need skills to write copy that converts sales, conduct in-depth research on audience profiles, find the best times to promote, keep a close eye on result metrics and glean the proper insights. Of course, you also must have exceptional client communication.

Related: The 10 Best New-Age Business Ideas You Haven’t Heard About Yet

In reality, Facebook advertising puts money into a system over which you have a limited amount of control. Be sure you do your research on the profession beforehand. Others’ experience shows you can make a lot of money this way if you understand the market. In 2014, former pastor Nicholas Kusmich and his wife capitalised on the emerging market for Facebook advertising. The couple opened a boutique Facebook marketing agency that brought in around $2 million in 2017.

3. Become a part of cryptocurrency ecosystem

bitcoinIf you’ve tuned into the news over the past few months, you’ve certainly heard something about the drastic surge of bitcoin and rise of blockchain. Based on the huge spike in demand, bitcoin is shaping up to potentially become the universal digital currency. The result? Everyone worldwide could make international transactions without worrying about exchange rates or fees to third-party banks.

In terms of business opportunities, there are several possibilities to consider.

One of the most popular is becoming a cryptocurrency miner. If you want to get in on this gig, now is the time. Bitcoin mining is a nonstop online accounting process by which transactions are verified and compiled into the public ledger. While you can make good money doing this, it’s important you understand what you’re getting into. The idea may seem simple, but the actual practice of bitcoin mining takes a good deal of effort.

Start-up costs generally run pretty high, and you need to choose the right hardware, software and bitcoin wallet. You also must make regular upgrades to your equipment – all while keeping a close eye on the bitcoin market. As long as you stay on top of your research and updates, this can be an incredible way to boost your income.

Related: 11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

Another stellar opportunity within the cryptocurrency ecosystem involves solving niche or industry-specific problems using blockchain. Blockchain companies are on the rise, and industries around the globe are changing. The concept is very new, so becoming a consultant can be a great way to make money while you play a role in disrupting the status quo altogether.

For example, many freelancers use popular sites such as Freelance.com and Upwork to connect with companies. These platforms take a cut of the earnings from each project. A blockchain system essentially cuts out the middle person, connecting freelancers with companies directly and avoiding work-based fees.

Be advised there are still many challenges involved with the concepts of bitcoin and blockchain, so this gig requires a significant amount of research and vigilance.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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