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The good news, though, is that unpublished authors have far more recourse these days than Christie, Le Carre, King or even Rowling had when they were trying to break into the industry.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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Business Opportunities In Printing And Signage
The event is taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.
In an entrepreneurial environment, people are seeking innovative ways to make extra money. The signage and printing industry offers opportunities for small start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses.
These opportunities will be showcased at the upcoming Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo, which is co-located with Africa Print for commercial print solutions and Africa LED for professional LED lighting. The event is taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.
T-Shirt and Bag Printing
Embellishments and glitter help transform a simple shirt into a unique garment, and depending on the specific shirt and techniques used, it could become a high priced item. Shirts and bags can be customised, a key aspect to targeting millennials, who require unique products, want to stand out and want items that are Instagram-worthy. You can target this market with personalised bags and unique T-shirts, which do not require large and expensive equipment to produce.
Mugs and Promotional Gifting
While others may see public holidays as opportunities to relax, entrepreneurs can see them as money-making opportunities. Capitalise on trendy markets and popular holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day by producing themed and personalised gifts. Other profitable options include: shopping bags, decor and invites, promotional, corporate and safety wear, wood, vinyl, paper, plastics, metals, flat substrates like clipboards, binders, notebooks, mouse pads, coasters, business cards, stickers and corrugated signs or posters, smart phones and tablet cases.
Business owners are constantly seeking ways to get their brands noticed. And with all the gigantic billboards, street pole advertisements and other media vying for consumers’ attention, it’s difficult to stand out. Enter vehicle wrapping, which is an effective promotional tool as it’s cost-effective, impactful and long-lasting. Besides cost-effective general wraps for corporate fleets, custom vehicle wrapping offers special effects that create Instagram-worthy wraps that get brands noticed.
Of course, these business opportunities require training and some research. Luckily, industry experts will be available at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo to answer visitors’ questions. There are also free educational features such as a T-Shirt and Bag printing workshop featuring demonstrations by local experts on T-shirts and bags with speciality printing techniques as well as the Textile Experience, which shows how to screen print onto T-shirts.
Opportunities for small start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses will be showcased in daily 30 minute Business Opportunity sessions. For more information about the event, and to register online, please visit: http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica.
10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time
Find your perfect match for a successful part-time start-up.
Launching a company – even if it’s operated part-time – is all about drawing on your skills, talents and interests to create a viable business.
What you know and what you’re good at form a good basis for a part-time business because these companies either become an extension of what you enjoy doing most or they are based on your strengths.
Working part-time while still maintaining a permanent job is time consuming and often exhausting, so choosing what you take pleasure in or are good at can keep you focused and motivated. The right fit is important when it comes to launching a part-time business. Selling a service rather than a product does not require large start-up costs, which means you can grow your business without financing until it becomes self-sustaining.
Corporate Communications & Promotions
Corporate communications covers a host of areas, mainly because this is the sector that takes care of how companies look to the outside world – something that is very definitely a service, but also that is not often taken care of in-house. If you can write, edit, have a knack for advertising, can take photographs or create promotional and corporate videos, you can offer your services part-time to companies both large and small that are in need of these services.
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.
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.
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).
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)
Women Entrepreneur Successes4 days ago
Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch
Snapshots4 days ago
25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa
Support for Women Entrepreneurs1 week ago
11 Quotes On Hard Work, Risk-Taking And Getting Started From Beauty Billionaire Estee Lauder
Entrepreneur Profiles1 week ago
The House That Moladi Built – How Challenging Traditional Building Empowers Local Entrepreneurs
Leading3 days ago
How To, In Practice, Distinguish Between Executive, Non-Executive And Independent Directors And Their Functions
Lessons Learnt1 day ago
How Lorenzo Escobal Bootstrapped His Way To Competing With Titans And Attracting Top-Tier Clients
Company Posts4 days ago
Smoothie Franchise Opportunity: Puré Frooty Is A One-Of-A-Kind Smoothie Franchise Business
Entrepreneur Profiles3 days ago
In Touch Media’s Margie Carr Shares How She Made An Out-Of-Home Media Agency A Solid Competitor