Self-Publishing Your Book – 6 Tips for Print on Demand Publishing

Self-published author Gang Chen describes how he earns $30,000 a month with “print on demand” (POD) publishing, and why he’ll soon self-publish his third book with Outskirts Press. He’s a primo example of self-publishing success!

“The economy wasn’t so bad when I started thinking about self publishing my first book, Planting Design Illustrated,” says Chen. “I had some interest from traditional publishers, but they wanted to make quite a lot of changes and add a co-author. These were changes that would have made me dislike my own book!  So, I turned to self publishing.  At the time, making a lot of money was not at the top of my priorities. I simply wanted to publish my own book in my own way.”

To learn more about creating a “print on demand” book from start to finish, read The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit! Publish Your Non-Fiction Book with CreateSpace and Amazon (pictured) — it’ll guide you every step of the way. And, here are Gang Chen’s tips for self-publishing success… 

An Example of Print on Demand Publishing –  Guest Post by Gang Chen

I self-published my second book, LEED AP Exam Guide in September, 2008. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most important trend in development and is currently revolutionizing the construction industry. My book had the benefit of being published at the right time, at the right price.  Four months later, I earned royalties of $31,207.68 in one month. I earned even more the month later.

6 Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book

1. Write a valuable book. This step is easily overlooked, but it is Number One on this list for a reason. Your book must provide some sort of value or benefit for the reader.  In my case, my books are both non-fiction, and fairly niche. I earn the lion’s share of my royalties from my LEED AP Exam Guide, which provides a mock exam, study guides, and sample questions for the LEED AP Exam. 

2. Make sure your book can deliver. Self-publishing non-fiction is an easier proposition on the self-publishing front than fiction. But even fiction books are valuable, if they provide the type of “escape” your reader is seeking.  Whether you write non-fiction, fiction, poetry, or something else entirely, the book must deliver on its promise. You might do everything else on this list, and you might even find some short-lived success, but ultimately, the success of your book comes down to its strength and the book marketing efforts you put forth.

3. Identify your target audience. Who is your reader? If your answer is “everybody” you need to reevaluate your goals and recalibrate your expectations. No book is meant for everybody. In fact, perhaps counter-intuitively, the smaller your audience, the more success you will find. Look at my books: Planting Design Illustrated and LEED AP Exam.  That small, target audience is precisely the reason my books are well-known in the proper circles.  Do I care that someone who reads Harry Potter has never heard of me?  No.  Is it incredibly important to me that students and professionals in the field of green building design and construction have heard of me? Yes. 

4. Recognize the type of book you’re self-publishing. You should be realistic about the type of book you are writing, and the type of publishing you are doing.  If you are self-publishing your book (regardless of whether you are doing it yourself or through the publishing services of a print on demand company like I did), don’t try to force your book to be something that it’s not. Your book is not a mass market paperback like those you find in a grocery store. Nor is it the latest hardback, discounted 80%, like those you find at Costco.  As a self-published author, both of those scenarios are too risky, and to be frank, you probably don’t possess the means to take on that kind of risk. So why try?  Self-publishing authors publish trade paperback and hardback books that can be available regionally (perhaps), locally (probably), and online (definitely). 

5. Price your book appropriately. Do market research to determine the prices of similar books in your category.    Look on for similar books (you’ll need to be aware of these books anyway, when it comes to marketing yours). Examine their page count and price point.  Make an honest assessment of your book in relation to the other books in your category.  Does your content justify a higher price? Does your page count suggest a lower price?  Your method of publishing should be considered, but should not play a definitive role in the price of your book.

6. Publish your book wisely. My main consideration when choosing my publisher was not how much my royalties were going to be. That only became important to me after the book was published.  The publisher I chose, Outskirts Press, pays me 100% of the profits of the book and lets me set my own pricing. iUniverse pays 20% of the profit. Xlibris pays 10% of the retail price. But by paying 100% of the profit, Outskirts Press allowed me to set the retail price to whatever I wanted, and now I earn the entire benefit of increasing my price.

Self publishing is working for me. My royalties are increasing every month and I’m working on my third book, which I will also publish with Outskirts Press. 

Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published - Yes, you CAN get published! It's not impossible - but only if you're willing to do the work. Writer's Market 2020 offers thousands of opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards and literary agents — and even new playwriting and screenwriting sections.

If you have any thoughts or questions on print on demand or self-publishing, please comment below…

Gang Chen is a LEED AP and a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

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