21 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing 2.0

Image of James Altucher eBook Cover

I wanted to write a book because I thought it would make me attractive to women. I thought it would make me attractive to future employers.

I also thought — maybe — I would make a lot of money. I would stand in the shower and count how much money I was going to make from every book.

I would be a WRITER!

I’ve published ten books. I wrote five with traditional publishers (Wiley, Penguin, HarperCollins). I self-published five. I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of copies of my books. I’ve had ten million visits on my blog since I started it in 2010.

None of those things happened.

I think I am now probably less attractive to women. And I’ve probably removed any chance I’ve ever had of being hired by a future employer, based on the content of my books (where I advocate quitting your job, exploiting your employer, and I tell the sordid stories of how much money I’ve lost and the ways I got out of the messes I ended up in).

Today my eleventh book, Choose Yourself! is coming out. I self-published it.

In this article, I’d like to let you in on some of the most important aspects of publishing that I’ve found, particularly if you’re getting ready to self-publish your own book …

21 things you need to know about self-publishing 2.0

I wanted to start at “zero” with this list to give you a guideline on what it’s all about.

This is not a bullshit list. I’m not going to tell you, “don’t do it for the money.” Or “stay positive.” It’s also not a brutal technical how-to on uploading your Kindle file to Amazon and then wait for the millions to come in. Although I will get to that.

This list is about writing, building your audience, publishing vs. self-publishing, self-publishing, and what I call “team-publishing” which is the direction you need to go if you want to professionally self-publish.

All of these things are important to build your skills, your audience, and ultimately readers of your books.

I love Copyblogger because the writers and readers here really care about writing quality material. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this. Now, follow these 21 steps I’ve laid out for you below, and you will create quality books.

1. Reality check

At the time of this writing, the amount of money households spend overall on reading materials is going down.

In 1994 (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics) the average household spent $165 on reading materials. In 2011, adjusted for inflation, the average US household spent $115. How come? Because there are many high-quality, free things we can read. So we spend our entertainment dollars elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the number of books being published each year rises at a steady 6% per year.

So we have less demand and more supply. Which means prices and incomes go down. You can use this to your advantage.

How? Publishers aren’t reducing the prices of their books. Actually, they tend to raise them with inflation to keep fueling their bloated machines.

So you can instantly gain an advantage by reducing prices, given the facts I’ve laid out above.

2. Audience first

If you have no readers, nobody will buy your book. Fortunately, that’s not a Catch-22. You build your audience by giving, giving, giving, giving, before you finally ask them to pay $4.99 for your book.

You write blog posts. You write tweets. You build a Facebook fan page. And on and on. The next several points are about building your platform. If you are not willing to do this, then your spouse will read your book and maybe your parents. Maybe. Your kids will not read your book.

First, two points about writing. This is not a writing guide. Copyblogger has many great posts about how to effectively write something people will want to read.

Read Austin Kleon’s interview here a few days back. I highly recommend it. Then go buy his book.

I will just give two suggestions that I know helped my blog build to 10 million visitors since I started it in late 2010.

3. If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead

Most people are bad writers. If a bookstore has 10,000 books in it, probably 9,990 are poorly written and boring. How can you stand out?


What does that mean? I have no idea what it means for you. Your blood has different diseases in it than mine. But infect your readers with whatever disease you have. If it doesn’t give you pain to hit Publish, don’t write it.

It used to be writers would leave books with cliffhangers. Then they would put cliffhangers into chapters. Now every paragraph should be a cliffhanger. This doesn’t apply just to books but blog posts or even tweets (don’t forget Twitter used to be called a “microblogging service”).

A friend of mine once told me he was afraid to put out his book because of what his colleagues would think. That is exactly the book or post you have to publish. He ended up publishing it and it was a bestseller.

4. Educate

Never write something if it doesn’t add value to another person’s life.

But you have to do it through story as described above (“Bleed”). Bleed and educate in every post. Else, why are you doing this?

5. Make it evergreen

Don’t write “10 things that happened to me on June 3, 2013″.

Write posts that will be read one, two, five years from now. The grass is always green. People can’t tell what date you wrote it. This is the key to having high-quality traffic driven by search engines for years even after you stop writing your blog.

One of the most popular writers out there told me that 99% of his blog traffic is going to posts he wrote over two years ago. He only posts if the posts are evergreen and deliver high value.

6. How to build your blog audience, part I

Assuming you are writing gut-wrenching, painfully honest, self-deprecating, but educational posts that add a lot of value to people, then there’s only one way to drive traffic to your blog:

Write everywhere but your blog.

If you write about cars, write for the top-trafficked car sites. if you write about finance, there are plenty of high-traffic finance sites that would love to have you. If you write about all the ways you’ve caught your boyfriend cheating on you, write for a high-traffic site like Thought Catalog. If you write about steampunk and science fiction, try to write for Boing Boing. If you’re funny, write for Cracked.

Finally, guest post on every blog you can. By doing this — even more valuable than the reciprocal traffic I’ve gotten — I’ve also met many good friends. I love blogging and writing and it’s fun to meet other people with the same interests.

Two reasons:

  1. You get your name out there. Before I started my blog I built up an audience writing for thestreet.com, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and others in the finance space. Then, I branched out into the tech world with TechCrunch, the yoga world with Elephant Journal, and other sites like Thought Catalog, Medium, and others.
  2. Link back to your blog on your posts to other sites. Your blog is going to slowly but surely have a mountain of evergreen content (see point 5). You will have tons of valuable posts that you will be able to link to to add value to the posts you are writing on other sites.

The other sites won’t mind because you are also adding value to their site (because of course, you’ll never link to anything other than your best work). This is the give, give, give strategy in action.

Always be giving. Make your blog a three dimensional art piece. Every post can link forward and backwards in time to other posts. Always go back and add more value to posts from the past. This creates the 3D effect.

People will love the maze you create for them.

The maze is the inside of your brain. Make it as interesting and fun as possible.

7. How to build your blog audience, part II

Respond as much as possible to comments. Create a real community on your blog.

I have a hard time doing this. Often I tell myself, “I will respond to comments once I finish a new post” and then I spend all day on the post. But when I do respond to comments I get such pleasure out of the community that I can see coming out of it.

Don’t forget that the core of why most people do this is because they want to have fun, they want to enjoy the interactions, they want to love and be loved.

8. How to build your blog audience, part III


Don’t have an opinion for the sake of having an opinion, but if you feel strongly about something and want to express that opinion because you think it will help people and you have the facts, and the story, to back it up, then do it.

My most popular post ever is “Why I am never going to own a home again.”

I’ve bought and lost two houses. So finally, I went through all the math and posted about it. The home ownership math never adds up. I wasn’t trying to get people angry or be polarizing. I was just stating facts. But I got my first (of many) death threats from that one post.

My second most popular post? Google the phrase  “I Want to Die” and you will get there pretty fast.

9. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest — SHEBANG!

Interact on all of the other major social networks.

I often post my blog posts on Facebook first. This helps me see which ones will get the most engagement (if my friends don’t engage on them then probably other people won’t). But my blog also has a fan page with 268,000 fans. I also have other fan pages that are not directly related to me but altogether have another 200,000 fans. Those pages I use for distribution.

How do you get a lot of fans?

Organically is the best way. But I also advertise some of my best posts. If people like them and that draws them to one of my fan pages, then all the better.

Never buy Likes. But when you can get Likes organically by using your content, then that is value you grow forever.

With Twitter, it’s hard to non-stop engage in conversations. You would never have time for writing. What I do is what I call “appointment tweeting.” (Give!) I set aside an hour or two a week, usually Thursday from 3:30 – 4:30 PM EST to do a Q&A.

People can ask me questions about anything. From dating to finance to kids to startups to death to whatever. I usually answer questions non-stop for an hour or two. Then I might expand the answers into a later blog post. And I might expand further into a book. The first book I did on this (self-published), was called “FAQ ME.”  This strategy of one hour a week has helped me build my Twitter audience from 2,000 followers to 83,000 followers since I started doing the Q&As. In many of my blog posts I also ask people to follow me on Twitter.

I don’t use Pinterest much. But here’s what Gary Vaynerchuk, author of “The Thank You Economy” suggested to me about Pinterest. Take quotes from your best posts and make images out of them and pin them. Then start commenting on other boards and pins that you like. Build community. Eventually people will link back to your pins, which will ultimately link to the blog posts where the quotes come from.

This entire strategy: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, guest blogging, is about building your name to an audience that might be unfamiliar to you, as well as driving distribution to your posts while at the same time delivering real value to your readers. You have to do all of that: distribution, name-building, value, at the same time, to make these platforms work for you.

10. Marketing 101

I call this “101” because I will get into a “201” later.

Note: publishers do zero marketing for you. This is not a knock on publishers. The great thing about publishers: they will write you a check and get you into bookstores. These are two really good things. But they will not do marketing.

If you don’t do your own marketing and promote yourself, then nobody else will. This should be your mantra. The one area where I will fault publishers is that they will claim to do marketing for you.

They won’t, but I give them credit for trying.

One time one of my publishers described to a friend of mine the marketing they did for me. The head of marketing told my friend, “We got him a review in the Financial Times, we got him a segment on CNBC, and we got an excerpt published in thestreet.com”.

He forgot to mention I reviewed my own book in my column on The Financial Times. I had my own weekly segment on CNBC so I covered my book. And I had sold a company to thestreet.com, so I put my excerpt on their site. That was “the publisher’s” marketing.

11. Reality check on publishing

A lot of people now (including me) tend to knock traditional publishing. This is understandable because publishers are a bit behind the times.

But let’s again give them credit for two things:

  1. They give you an advance. Average advances are going down, but it’s still real money. Advances have been going down since 2008, probably for the reasons described in point #1 above. But who knows if  this remains a permanent situation. Maybe so many people will self-publish that traditional publishers will try to win back the authors by giving higher advances. Who knows? I’m totally BS-ing here. Other than the fact that average advances are going down.
  2. They get you in bookstores. But I’m not sure how important this is anymore. More books are now sold online (when you combine ebooks with printed books that are sold online) than are sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Take from this what you will.

The other good thing about traditional publishing is it removes the stigma of “Oh, you were self published?” But that stigma is going away. Nobody has ever asked me who my publisher was. Nobody cares anymore.

Oh, one more thing: if you are not in bookstores (if you self-publish, for instance), then you won’t get on the New York Times Bestseller list.

If this is important to you, you can still self-publish, but as Tucker Max describes in his post on how he published Hilarity Ensues, he basically just did a deal with the distribution arm of a major publisher. However, if you are not a brand-name author this might be difficult for you to do.

12. Self-publishing 101

Let’s get the technical part over with. If you want more detail on this subject, read Paul Jun’s great Kindle publishing article on Copyblogger.

You can craft a Microsoft Word file of your book, upload it to Createspace, and they will format it for you, publish it to Kindle (for $69), and you are now a published author on Amazon. You will get 30-70% royalties depending on how you price (above $2.99 you get a 70% royalty) and you can do paperback and Kindle version.

This is not a bad choice. I did this with four of my self-published books. I’ve sold more copies of those books than my five books published with traditional publishers combined. Createspace even helps you design a cover, and you can pay for copyediting.

This entire point #12 is what most people refer to when they say “self-publishing.”

It’s how EL James initially published “50 Shades of Grey.” It’s how my favorite science fiction writer, Hugh Howey, initially published the soon-to-be-classic “Wool.” Both of those authors eventually worked out deals with major publishers for bookstore distribution and both have gone on to sell millions of copies and are in the hall of fame (if there is one) of people who started out self-publishing.

If you want to get on other platforms other than Amazon, you can use Smashwords and Lightning Source to do all of the above.

Step 12 is merely executing on the basics of self-publishing. It’s the very last step before a book is published. Everything I’ve said before this point is about building an audience.

I have a few more points I think you should do before step 12. And I have a few ideas about what you should do after step 12.

13. Team publishing

Ultimately, to do self-publishing right, you need to do it professionally.

The stigma of self-publishing is going away precisely because people are no longer just uploading files to Amazon and hoping for the best. If you’re a good writer, you might not be good at editing. Or, you might not be good at marketing. Or, you might need help with cover design.

It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you aren’t.

You don’t want to spend a lot of money. Nor do you want to cheapen yourself with a shoddy project because you couldn’t give it your best. People can spot a self-published book a mile away. And I am guilty of “just” doing a basic self-published book with several of my books.

The key to doing it professionally is to use experts who are good at the things you’re not good at. I used professionals to help me coordinate all of the different tasks involved in self-publishing. Let’s go over some of those very tasks …

14. Editing

My first self-published book was horrible.

Too many grammatical errors. Who cares, I thought, but people do care. It really distracts the reader and it instantly shouts out “amateur hour.”

I now give that book away for free, and two others, when people sign up for my email list. The email list is another good way to build distribution and readership, and giving away free material to people who sign up is a good idea.

For my book that’s being released today, I used four editors. Two for copy editing to fix any basic grammatical errors, and two editors who have both edited many bestsellers. They worked with me on the structure of the book, the layout, and probably spent almost as much time editing the book as I spent writing it.

Traditional publishers also have editors that will work on your book, but the whole idea of professional self-publishing is to do a better job than the traditional publishers.

I wanted to work with the best editor I could find, not just whatever editor was available at a publisher, who might also be busy with 50 other books. This costs money, but it’s not that expensive and a well-done book will more than make back the expense.

15. Design

Go to the bookstore. Pick out the books that have designs that you love. There’s no reason your book cannot have the same quality design, or better.

I used Herb Thornby, who designed books by some of my favorite authors. He gave me several cover choices to choose from.

I’m not a designer so I could not pick.

So here’s what I did. I made a Facebook ad aimed at my target audience and used a different cover image for each ad. Then I watched in real time what people were clicking on and I chose the most popular cover. The result is the cover image you see at the top of this post.

16. Interior design

I’m not good with fonts, stylizing breakout sections, designing the spine and back cover and inside flaps, etc. I hired for this.

Yes, it costs some money. Yes, a publisher would’ve taken care of all this for me. But I wanted to have a book that would look great, feel great, even smell great.

Uhh, I don’t know if I achieved that last part.

17. Title

My initial title for the book was The Choose Yourself Era. But here’s the problem I was having …

When I tried to physically tell people the title of my book, it was actually hard to say out loud. It sounded like Choose Yourself Error. I was having lunch with an editor from Harper Collins who wondered if I was writing a book about archaeology. It just wasn’t working.

So I came up with 10 titles. Matched them with the book cover. I then made ten Facebook ads (Pick Yourself, Choose  Yourself Era, Choose Yourself, Be the Happiest Person Alive, etc.) and watched what people would click on.

Choose  Yourself won by a factor of 3:1. Next in line was Pick Yourself and then The Choose Yourself Era. My choice was a distant third.

This is the power of testing everything.

18. Sub-title

I did the same trick here as I did above, but, I used it to pick out a subtitle among ten possibilities.

Incidentally, I decided to play around with this live testing technique for other things. So, because of Facebook ads, …

  • I leased a Honda Accord instead of buying a Honda Fit
  • I decided not to kill myself
  • I now believe in God

19. Audiobook

I was at a dinner that Amazon had for self-published authors last October.

One guy who was making a solid living self-publishing science fiction novels told me that he always made an audiobook. I thought this was a horrible idea, and told him so.

But two things about audiobooks:

  1. He said, “When people see you have an audiobook, they see your book as even more credible. It stands out from the average self-published book when you have an ebook, a print version, and an audiobook. Plus, the audio book is more expensive, so even though there are fewer sales, it’s decent money.” By the way, if you self-publish, always do a print book at the very least. Even if 99% of your sales are going to be ebook.
  2. I asked the head of an ad agency what marketing tips he had for me for my upcoming book. He said, first thing, “Make an audiobook. For your kind of book, people will love listening to it while they drive into work.”

So Claudia, my wife who has been supportive of every aspect of this effort, set up her office in our house to be a mini-recording studio. I wrote to Tucker Max that I was going to make an audiobook. He wrote back:

James, where are you doing the audio, and who’s editing it? Please tell me you aren’t just doing it yourself with your Mac and a mic you bought online.

We looked at our Mac and a mic that we bought online and decided to go to a professional studio. Tucker suggested John Marshall Studio. They had done audiobooks ranging from President Clinton’s autobiography to the Harry Potter books to Freakonomics.

I felt uncomfortable just sitting there for eight hours reading words I had written. For one thing, it hurt. Reading for eight straight hours was killing my throat.

Ramit Sethi, who wrote, I Will Teach You To be Rich, told me that he had to put warm towels around his throat while he was reading and still couldn’t speak for a week afterwards. If you do the audiobook, which I highly recommend, make sure you drink a lot of water and have cough drops.

Second, I didn’t want to just read stories I had already written. So I did it totally unabridged and improvised quite a bit, making it somewhat original compared to the book.

But the best reason for doing the audiobook is it forces you to really look at your writing and hear what works and what doesn’t. I rewrote about 20% of the book after reading things that I felt didn’t quite sound right in the book.

So, it was another round of edits to improve the book, a process I never would’ve gone through if I hadn’t done the audio version.

20. Video trailer

I used a company called Simplifilm to make a video trailer of the book. They had previously done video trailers for Robert Greene and Seth Godin, who I felt would be hitting a similar demographic to my book. They also created the MyCopyblogger video for this site.

Why do a video trailer? I personally don’t buy books from watching video trailers. But some people do. I wanted every possible angle to communicate my message to potential buyers. Also, if someone asks me via email, for instance, what my book is about, I can send them a link to the trailer.

Again, a self-published book doesn’t need a video trailer. But I didn’t want my book to have any of the stigma at all of being self-published. I wanted to do a better job than the traditional publishers would would have done, in every way.

And that includes sales …

21. Marketing 201

I almost hate the word “marketing.”

It feels to me like, “what gimmicks can I do that will get people to talk about my book and then buy it.”

I wanted to make sure any marketing I did was integrated with the actual message of the book, which is that in order for people to succeed, they need to “choose themselves.”

This is not only a choice they need to make economically, but a choice they make internally, with their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

And the actual message of the book has some marketing possibilities …

The middle class is dead, every major corporation is systematically firing all of their employees, and we all are going to have the choice of whether or not we want to be artist/entrepreneurs or temp staffers.

So on some of the blogs and sites I guest post on, I will be writing up that story.

I’m a big believer in the message. I  give techniques for how I think people can be happier given that the economic landscape has turned upside down. We are all struggling with money, with happiness, with loneliness. Choose Yourself! tells my story of how I failed, got up again, failed, got up again, and then stayed up.

And I wanted to spread that message to others.

I found a post by Kevin Kelly that suggested a marketing idea of paying people back who read your book. Kevin got a bit technical in terms of figuring out if the person actually read the book or not. He wanted an ereader that could figure that out.

I decided to trust the actual reader. So, I put together an offer that would pay people back, those who could prove to me that they read the book. How they proved it to me was up to them, rather than resorting to technical means on my part.

Why not just give the book away for free? And why not just rebate if they bought the book?

  • People — in general — do not value things they get for free. I wanted people to put the money out, read the book, and only then would I pay them back.
  • Most people buy books, but do not read them. This was an incentive to actually read the book.

I don’t care if I make any money on the book.

The message is very important to me. That’s why I’m willing to pay people back … if they can prove to me they read the book.

So this was marketing that wasn’t just a gimmick but woven into the fabric of what the book meant to me. But I still needed a way to get the message out if I was going to do this marketing.

I called Ryan Holiday, who’d marketed the books of Tim Ferriss, Robert Greene (48 Laws of Power), Tucker Max, John Romaniello, all of whom had hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. He literally had 100 ideas for marketing the book. First we came up with several ideas like the one I just laid out above.

One idea that popped up was that I would become the first author ever to  pre-release a book for bitcoin buyers only. We did this, and it was covered by SF Gate, Media Bistro, CNBC, Business Insider, and other places.

Why bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a “choose yourself” currency. It’s not dependent on a government, a person, a country, etc. and its use is getting more and more widespread. The week I released the book on bitcoin, my pre-orders on Amazon spiked so much I became the #1 kindle book for Entrepeneurship, a full month before release.

Prereleasing on bitcoin also means that I now have several hundred people who have (hopefully) read the book, and many of them have already told me they will be reviewing the book on Amazon. Having many reviews on Amazon straight out of the gate helps Amazon know that your book is one they should feature.

In two days I’m going to announce another adventure that is tightly integrated with the message of the book that I think will also generate interest.

Ryan also suggested various joint content plays (a podcast, for instance) I should do with various bloggers who had large email lists.

This is all still in process (the book is coming out today) but compared with my last book, this book will probably be seen by an extra million (or more) people over the next week.

The first step in marketing is what I described above: build your audience. The second step is a cliché but you have to do it: write a good book.

But for a specific book, come up with ten firsts based on the content of your book that nobody has ever done before. And then make sure the media becomes aware of it.

Hiring a marketing expert allowed me to continue focusing on what was important to me — the writing and the message — while he coordinated more than 100 media sources for the various messages I was putting out about the book.

Why are you self-publishing a book?

Because you are an addict. Like me. But there are some other reasons.

Take pride in yourself and in your work. You are all talented and smart people, else you wouldn’t be reading Copyblogger and working on your own art and creativity.

Some of the things I describe above cost money, some don’t, and some can be done super cheap.

Take your work very seriously.

This is your child you’re letting go out into the world. You want to do it right. Enlist the help of a team. Make it team-publishing instead of self-publishing.

Your book will, of course, stand on its own merit. The only way to have a truly successful book is to have a well-written, unique message that stands out among the cacophony of noise.

But everything I describe above will lend credibility, authenticity, and ultimately audience to the effort:

  • Building the platform and trust with your audience way in advance.
  • Writing a strong story while at the same time delivering value.
  • Connecting  all the dots on editing, design, title, print version, audio version.
  • Having many strong  marketing messages and a way of delivering those messages. Making sure the messages aren’t gimmicks, but real ways that show you are living the message you write about.
  • Infusing professionalism into every aspect of the process. The goal here is not to publish as easily as possible. The goal is to publish professionally in a way that leaves the traditional publishers in the dust.

You are your own publisher.

You are the one who believes in the message and your art and now want to share it with others and ultimately it is you who is choosing yourself to deliver that message. A message that, when properly packaged, will be a delight to the reader to receive.

Now, let’s talk about it in the comments …

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Reader Comments (101)

    • says

      James, I cldn’t be bothered to get past the first 140 characters…

      Nah, just kidding. Forget cliffhanger endings to paragraphs: I wanted to have a cliffhanger ending to my first sentence!

      Really good stuff and and I’ve already tweeted it. I’m that kind of guy.

      Love it.

    • says

      Hi James,

      Great post on publishing 2.0. Do you think that the distribution in publishing 2.0 is nearly as bloated as 1.0? Is the shift big enough? What is 3.0?

      I ask because I am very interested and heavily invested.

      I started a self-publishing platform called accel.io where experts can self-publish “interactive content” – think tumblr + gumroad. Its the easiest way for authors to publish any kind of content (mixed text, videos, etc..) with interactive widgets.

      But its also free for anyone to setup a white-labeled marketplace and sell guides from their website.

      So you ge the benefits of easily selling your content, engaging your audience (and actually getting their contact information), and distributing across a lot of other sites.

      Our pilot site is startupplays.com where we’ve sold over 14,000 guides in less than 9 months.

      I’d really love your feedback on the concept vs the 2.0 platforms (kindle).

    • says

      Wow, that post was a book in itself. It was one of the best posts I’ve read on Copyblogger. Well done, good and faithful servant to the writing gods…

      • says

        Could not say it better. That is one of the most practical, value-added posts I’ve read in a long time on the self-pub venture. Thank you for your hard work.

      • says

        I think this is one of the best posts I’ve ever read. Ever. I bought the book and plan on using this post as a blueprint for my own books. Thank you James for turning yourself inside out and spilling your guts all over. It’s working.

    • denice says

      Hello James. For a guy who never gets to responding to comments, I’d say you’ve been quite generous here.

      I’m not a self publisher, at least not till I just read your post. :-) I’m just an ‘older’ dog on the cusp of learning social media. It’s fascinating and I’m in awe of all you guys (& gals if I must be politically correct) who know and do so much with it.

      I’m just reading whatever I can find, and to your point, I find myself being led all over the place. It’s good I suppose but I keep thinking I might be missing something important in the last place I was reading.

      Well, I’m determined to get some skills going here.

      All that aside, what I actually wanted to tell you is how much I enjoyed your article, a subject I’m not even interested in yet couldn’t stop reading. And I just realized that I don’t even need to tell you why. You already know and have it well crafted. Honestly, these skills you have in this space are impressive. Hope I get there some day.

      Thanks for helping all of us and allowing us to help you.

      All the Best,

    • says

      Hi James – fantastic post. I was really interested in the audio bit. I’ve become slightly obsessed lately with audio on my blog. I always used reading aloud as a way to make my posts flow better and then thought, “Hey, why don’t I just switch the mic on?”
      I’m still at the Mac and mic stage, but the feedback (from readers, not the mic) so far has been very positive.
      Next step is to deliver my posts as conceptual dance pieces.
      Thanks for all this great content – it has inspired me to think bigger and put a book together.

  1. says

    Thank you for this priceless post, is full of useful information ready to follow and apply. Keep up the good work James.

  2. says

    This is a fascinating post on a topic that I’ve been obsessed with as of late (publishing, self publishing, how, when, why). I have two questions and I would be delighted to get your input :)

    1) Why be in a bookstore? You mention getting listed in the NYT bestseller list which would be amazing but is highly unlikely for, well, pretty much any of us. Are there other reasons why being in a bookstore is key? Other downsides to NOT being there?

    2) Is there a minimum length to be considered an actual book? I say this not because I’m incapable of stringing together enough words but because my audience are exhausted parents of new babies who have no time to shower much less read 350 pages (average length of most books) on baby sleep. My thought was to write a series of shorter, highly targeted “fix X problem” books that might only be 50-75 pages each. The idea being that they really only want to focus on their particular issue and don’t care about reading the about the entirety of childhood sleep challenges.

    I would love your thoughts on this strategy. Is there something that makes this a particularly good/bad idea?

    Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hi Alexis, thanks for writing in.

      A) I don’t think it’s necessary to be in a bookstore. Btw, even if your publisher says, “we will get you in bookstores”, they usually don’t. For every placement in a bookstore (sideways, front table, front cover facing outwards) the publisher pays the store. Usually they just don’t bother any more.

      Furthermore, bookstores are disappearing. In NYC they keep closing down. IN SF there are no more B&Ns (which is good for my favorite: City Lights, but now it’s too crowded in there). So what bookstores?

      B) Length doesn’t matter anymore. It mattered in the days when people thought “a book” was 200 pages, give or take. But when my friend Kamal (see one of the above links) Ravikant wrote his book, it was about 40 pages and became a bestseller.

      Another example is Hugh Howey’s “Wool”. Now it looks like an extensive book. But initially he did 4 Wool book in about 60-80 page installments and then did the “Wool Omnibus”. All 5 books were on the bestseller list and now Wool is out in paperback.

  3. says

    Thank you so much, James! This was just what I needed to hear. Here’s one question: How can you do a print book if you self publish? Here’s another: If you’re on a tight budget for marketing your book, which of these are the most important to focus on/get right?

    • says

      Jessica, thanks so much. Here’s my answers:

      Print book: no problem. Createspace.com allows you to do a print-on-demand print book. Not only that, if you hit a button that says, “Call Me”, their customer service calls in 60 seconds. It’s great. My book just out (all of my books actually) have print versions, whether I self-published or not.

      On marketing: the best thing you can do cheaply is to actively participate in the ongoing social media conversations about your topics. Even being in this blog is a way to participate in community. You build a trusted voice in that community, which translates into readers. Kevin Kelly discusses this at kk.org in a class post called “1000 True Fans”

  4. says


    Thanks for this post… super useful considering what I’ve got myself into at the moment. I’m going to bat this back across the pond to a friend of mine and see if we can’t come up with a few Qs for you to A. I’m actually not really one for birthdays and all that tosh, but coincidentally you post has been a great 50th for me… not kidding!

    Kind regards,

  5. says

    First, this is an excellent starting point for people who are deciding if/when/why to publish a book.

    Second, I thought I would suggest a different way of looking and marketing (thanks to author/coach Michael Port) and that is, it simply builds awareness. It is unfortunate that sales/marketing has been made to feel icky or just a bunch of gimmicks by some industries. But that’s not the way it needs to be at all. It’s simply letting people know, particularly those who have a problem/issue you can solve that you can do so. When it starts feeling obnoxious, you probably are doing it wrong.

    Third, I’d like to reply to Alexis and the question of length. There are people teaching that it’s okay to write 1500 to 2000 words and call it a book, or to post a handful of pics with a bit of text and call it a book. As a writing/publishing coach, I whole heartedly disagree. At some point, people may accept 5 pages to be an ebook, but we’re no where near that point yet I don’t think when, as James mentioned, you want to produce the best, most quality product you can.

    However, the idea of shorter vs. 300 pages is perfectly fine and rational for the exact reasons given. Some audiences will work their way through a couple hundred pages if the content is good enough. But some won’t. In my opinion, you start getting to book length for nonfiction for adults in that 60+ range or so. Too much below that an in the print world, you are in what most people call a booklet or maybe a report or white paper. Giving people just enough as well as meeting their expectations for what a book is supposed to be can be a balancing act. Knowing your audience well, testing a bit, will help you figure it out. One suggestion would be to do a handful of topics in shorter books and when those are done, sell them all as a set for those who would like it all.

  6. says

    Nice post. I’m about to delve into the world of self-publishing myself, in an interview I’m doing with one such author whose book is about to be released. I’ve been back and forth on it, but I LOVE posts like this that really break it down. I think my main sticking point has always been the lack of quality control, but people seem to be realising that more and more, which can only be a good thing for us all.

    Funnily enough the above interview will be for a Sci-Fi / Fantasy blog I started writing for last year. I offered my services as a staff writer for the exact same reasons you refer to above – building a name for myself, making contacts and friends. Now people are starting to seek me out for reviews and previews, and in return I get the satisfaction in helping out some tremendously talented writers, who in turn help promote some of my other work.

    Sure, I’m a bit short of 10 million visits to my site right now (or even 10!), but I’m having a ball… and moving in the right direction at least.

    • says

      You bring up a good point about quality control. But like in everything: music, TV, movies, books (no matter how they were published), art, businesses, etc, 95% is no good, 5% is good. Or somethiing like that. I think we all start off in the 95% and then with work and persistence sometimes (with a little luck) find ourselves in the 5%.

  7. says

    I really want to thank you for this article , Man I spent more than 45 minutes reading and you would have spent more than a day writing it,I come to your Book later , First you are a great writer, How you kept me engaged and not let it go, that was incredible. The First Time I read a above 2000 word post.

    From Your Post I have one Questions I want you to answer in that one day after post for comments
    I write about Success Blog so for whom I should write for?

    Now coming to your Books , Looking forward to it, Even if it is not related to me , Even it doesn’t benefit me, Reading a writer like you is worth the money

    Now Come to My Publication I never wrote a book yet except for my diary that I am doing for some months Now , and It is just for one person to read, whenever that person comes , even after years.

    So That’s My Self Publish for One Reader.

  8. says

    Thanks for a value-packed post full of wisdom – it’s great to have this kind of advice from the voice of experience. I think titles and book covers are really important – first impressions and all that. Apart from titles needing to sound right and trip off the tongue, doesn’t it make sense to try to include relevant keywords, to increase the chance people searching online will find it?

  9. says

    Absolutely excellent post. I wish I had this when I published my first book. I especially like your advice for writing in your own voice and going out on a limb – both in the book and blogging. Too many people are trying to be like someone else. I find people respond when we are authentic, even if it is controversial.

    What’s your opinion on Amazon Select where you list your book exclusively with Amazon in exchange for the opportunity to lend it?


  10. says

    Very useful post. I recently had to decide between self publishing and going with a publisher for my first book. I’ve opted for a publisher for now as I thought it would be easiest for the first book but when it comes to the next one there’s a high chance I will go down the self published route. Hopefully with one published book behind me self-promoting a second book would be a lot easier.

    Do you think having had a few books published the traditional way first helped when it came to self publishing?

    PS. Love you tip about sharing quotes on Pinterest

  11. Kristin Bruchmann says

    Thanks for this excellent post. Great information! You’ve helped crystallize several vague ideas with which I’ve been toying over the past few months.

    One thing in particular that caught my eye was the vocal fatigue you and your friend experienced in the process of recording your audiobooks. You see, I’m a voice teacher. Recently, my business has expanded from traditional work with singers to include coaching professional speakers. Issues like the vocal fatigue you describe are common complaints–and easily preventable.

    I would love to dialogue with you about how to convert my vocal technique/voice care seminars into books. (See? A vague idea, crystallized!) No rush…there is a lot to do before I reach that point. (A website, for example.)

    Thanks again for an intriguing, informative post, James. You’ve given me the beginnings of an entirely new direction for my business.

    • says

      Kristin, thats very interesting and I’m sure there’s a market. It really surprised me how much my voice hurt by the end of day one. And I still had day two to go! Ugh!

      You should do a blog. Maybe go over common mistakes people make with their voices. Then guest post on a place like this (copyblogger). Then I bet you will have all the material you will need for a book. One that i would DEFINITELY buy.

  12. says

    Wow, in depth post here – I loved it and you even made me laugh a few times. I’ve edited a couple of self published books but, until I read this post – hadn’t thought of putting out my own. Maybe that’s something that will be in the works at some point for me.

    On another note, many of the tips you shared are applicable even for those of us who aren’t sure if we’re ready to self publish just yet as means of simply growing an audience.

    Thank you for this awesome share.

  13. says

    My deepest gratitude to you for this post. I commenced this journey yesterday! I wrote the first paragraph to my book yesterday after putting it off for over a decade! I’ve bookmarked this post for reference throughout my process.

    The question I have at this point is in regards to copyrighting my book. What resource can you point me to? What does the process involve?

    Thank you so much again!

  14. Adam Pawelski says

    Hey James,
    I’m a 20 year old English Major who wants to write a book. This article was so promising to read. It definitely seems doable.

    Now, I was wondering if I should worry about getting a lot of professional work done? Or just do the Kindle publishing? I don’t have a lot of money after all.

  15. says

    I knew that my strategic planning (read: procrastination … ) would pay off! Now that I’ve found the exact right time to publish ALL of my books, I now have the key, the road map, even the permission to finally do it!

    So now I just need to read this post again when I’m really ready … oh, that’s today. Nathan Barry recently wrote about how the difference between Marco Polo and other explorers was that Mr. Polo documented his journeys. He put it out to the world. Back in the day, he had to practically hand deliver it to each reader. The power of the publishing world today is that you Hit Publish and, potentially, the world is at our fingertips.

    Thanks for this in-depth look into the current world of publishing. I’m glad you’re not attractive to employers, otherwise we might not have ever seen this post … because it probably would have been edited 17 times, chopped up, spit out, and … never published. Thanks.

  16. richard l. taylor says

    I have completed a 53,000-word memoir of my 47 years as an aviator, military and civilian. About 220 6X9″ pages, many small full-color illustrations. I realize my potential audience may be relatively small…have you any suggestions re: marketing this book?

    BTW I am not a newbie in this business, having written 20 hard-cover books dealing with piloting subjects since 1971.

    Your comments/suggestions will be appreciated.

  17. says

    As a freelance editor, I loved #14. Though writers want to, no they cannot skip this step. I would say a small percent of the tiniest percent of writers can do without any line editing, copyediting, or even proofreading and produce a high-quality, polished book.

    Editors really are helpful. My advice to anyone seeking editorial help out is to ask for a free sample so they can see for themselves. (I certainly offer samples!) I also recommend you aren’t shy to ask whatever comes to mind in order to feel comfortable having someone else work on your book.

    Awesome post. Lots of varied information jam packed in it.

    -Lauren I. Ruiz

  18. says

    “The middle class is dead, every major corporation is systematically firing all of their employees, and we all are going to have the choice of whether or not we want to be artist/entrepreneurs or temp staffers.”

    Well, nothing like some bleak prospects to either have you out on the ledge or committed to a plan for your own future. Thanks James for sharing real, usable information and sparing us the rainbows and unicorns tripe that is inundating us.

    • says

      It’s doom and gloom…until it isn’t. My book is very much about how Choosing Yourself is the only alternative away from the doom and gloom.

  19. Rachel says

    I am a newbie self-publisher but I have had some moderate success with two cookbooks that I self-published on Amazon Kindle, and I actually went a different route than you advise here. I thought I would share my experience because it works better for me on my part-time schedule (I’m a mom of three kids under four).

    Instead of first building a blog and audience, since that for me would have been much more time consuming, I wrote my first book (Cooking Without Measuring) about my unique home cooking methods, and marketed it solely using KDP promotion days, which basically means I put no time into marketing. On this book I made about 300 sales in a year (actual sales, not free downloads). I then wrote and published another book about baking (Baking Without Bothering – Muffins and More) which was the same length and the same amount of work as my first one, but on this book I had triple the amount of sales after my first KDP promotion and people began writing comments and reviews on Amazon. Not all were complimentary – a few complained that the book didn’t have enough recipes. Valuable feedback! I re-published the book with more recipes and am now working on my next Baking Without Bothering book. I’ve had several people contact me about different opportunities thanks to this book as well. So while some people start with a blog and move to a book, I found it worked much better for me to write a book, see if there was interest in the topic (not so much with my first but definitely interest with my second) and now I plan to leverage that into more books and probably a blog and other platforms. So essentially I took the opposite direction than many would advise. But it worked for me! Just wanted to remind people that there are no hard and fast rules.

  20. says

    Self-publishing is awesome for the writer that doesn’t want to go the traditional publisher route. I totally get that. But how much money do you think a person needs to put together to properly self-publish? I know just getting some form of a book out there is relatively inexpensive but once you start talking about all of the options like audiobooks, editors, video… it looks like it gets expensive.

    • says

      Guy Kawasaki says $2k. I think that’s for the basics. But the basics can be fine while you get your feet wet. That’s what I did at first. Only with this latest one I spent a bit more on editing (NIls Parker, who is a great editor of many bestsellers) and cover design and inside design and audio, etc.

  21. says

    Thanks for the great post. I have found the answers to the comments just as valuable. If you already published through Kindle, do you think it would be worthwhile to submit the Word Document to Create Space and create a paperback version and then republish to Kindle. I believe that I am guilty of the “obvious self-published” book. Thanks for the information.

    • says

      Yes, I did that with two of my books: “FAQ ME” and “40 Alternatives to College”. No need to republish to Kindle either. The pages will link automatically.

  22. says

    This is a very insightful post, thanks James. I found your first couple of lines incredibly amusing and as writers, unless we go in to romance novels, I’m not sure we’re attractive based on our profession.

    Your comments on Pinterest are very interesting; I personally get around 50 unique visitors per day from pins on one of my blogs. I find it works well but in terms of community, there really isn’t much of one yet or less so than other social networks at least.

  23. says

    Thanks so much for an insightful and helpful post. I’ve read a lot on self-publishing and still got a lot of good take-aways from this. I appreciate the care you put into the post. Two questions:

    1) Any good references on Facebooks ads for testing? I’ve run a few ads for my page in the past, but wasn’t very adept at targeting. I know it’s possible, but it isn’t intuitive (at least for me). Also, what kind of budget did you decide was enough of a test for your cover and title ideas?

    2) Can I hire Ryan Holiday to help me market my book too, or did he take you as a client due to a prior relationship? Sounds awesome!

    Thanks again. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to reading your book. It’s a message I whole-heartedly subscribe to.

    • says

      The great thing about Ryan is he’s very approachable, he will hear what your book is about and try to figure out what marketing angles you might have. If you have a novel, though, he might not do it.

  24. says


    I agree with guest posting, but I cringe when I read an email and it’s all about the person writing to me. I’ve learned from Jon Morrow and Derek Halpern the right way to reach out to bloggers. I don’t speak about incorporating links, and I don’t ask for one or two ‘follow links’ within the guest post. Guest posting is not about you. It’s about what YOU can do for a blog owner and their audience.

    • says

      Yes, exactly. A good example of this is this post I did here. Most of the links are back to copyblogger and in 6000 words I think I did only one link back to my post and one link to my book. I have to go back and count though. But I specifically did not do a lot back to me.

  25. says

    Thanks so much for this post James, you’ve shown us that there’s MUCH more to publishing a book, than just the writing of the book itself. I know someone who’s always telling me he’s going to write a book, he’s a great writer, but he doesn’t like doing hardly any of the other things you’ve spoken about here.

  26. Ritika Rakshit (@ritikaaaaar) says

    I’ve been wanting to write a book ever since I started reading novels.

    A little over a decade later, I’m not even close to such a feat.
    It’s become a broken record type of promise to myself.

    But now, in a more realistic perspective, I think I’d settle for all the perks of publishing a book by maintaining a blog.

    I’ve gotten lots of ideas from this post.

    Additionally, I’ve read nearly every post you’ve ever contributed to Thought Catalogue. Although I’m not fully able to many of your experience, I’ve learnt from them and have a lot of respect for you.

    I was wondering how you are so comfortable writing about such personal issues, and being completely honest and blunt about them. My own writing is a lot less “scandalous”, let’s say – and yet, I only share with those I trust.

    Anyway, sorry for the LONG comment.
    Keep writing, please!
    Take care.

  27. says

    Thank you.

    I want to write something more meaty so I can express how much I appreciate all the great information you shared, but really “Thank you” says it all.

    I’m starting a new blog this fall, starting it from scratch. I think it could lead to a book so I’m soaking in all the self-publishing information I can find. I’m keep your article at the top of my list.

  28. Pat Campbell says

    Yep, I read every word.

    What I want to know is what is going to happen in two days after launch!?

    And I am glad that one of the three things you figured out with live ads was that God is.

    This is a keeper. I have lots of clean up to do in my writing…and your points are well taken.

    • says

      Good question on after launch:
      A) first off, using the techniques described above, my book that came out yesterday morning is at #1 for all non-fiction at kindle.

      But the key is consistency. Yesterday was my initial marketing but now I have to do two things. One is out of my control at the moment.

      A) word of mouth – the book has to be good. Then it will find it’s right place in the ranking system.

      B) I continue to do marketing. For instance, on Amazon I can see the top quotes people highlight. I am making a Pinterest board for that and will link that to FB, etc.

      C) I continue to do my twitter Q&As where I will point people to sections of my book if they provide relevant answers.

      D) I’ve spaced out some podcasts/interviews over the next several weeks to keep the book in play.

      But ultimately, it’s got to be a good book. That’s why we write.

  29. says

    Hi James, thanks for connecting the dots, am three years invested into writing my first book on Personal Policy and was already dizzy deciphering what my platform would look like, now i know it’s a simple 21 steps LOL.

    Yes i write for the love of it but do want to put out a high quality product of value. I’m having trouble finding a content editor to help tighten and tidy things up, any suggestions on how to get this done affordably?

    Choose Yourself looks great, I’m guessing we think about a lot of the same things, will review after reading. As part of my project I’m building an open-source wisdom database and whole-heartedly invite you to add a policy of your choosing!

    My Best Regards, Jeffrey Hotchkiss

  30. says

    Thanks for this post which I will print out for detailed study. One of the very valuable things I grasped from the notorious Seth Godin was to look at books differently thsan I was used to. If I could add something to the 21 points I would add: “make it a tempting souvenir”. That certainly does not fit to all type of books, but to many that I can think of, even ones that are on a serious or demanding topic.

  31. says

    Thanks for such a great, informative post. There is a lot to digest, but it is all so useful.

    As a copy-editor, my favorite (of course) is #14! I have become quite jaded towards self-published books because I am so tired of reading unnecessary mistakes. I’m not talking structural problems with the text (which is a whole other issue that editors deal with), but simple grammatical and punctuation problems that just should not be missed.

    As a writer, I loved this whole post. It’s given me a lot of things to think about.

    I would like to comment on the issue of length. Many of us have journal-type essays or articles that we don’t know what to do with. I have begun looking into the idea of E-Shorts like Kindle Singles. This is a great way to get people looking at your work, without the time commitment of a book. It can also help you to build your platform so that your name is more easily recognized when you do publish a book.

    Thanks for the tips. Now I’m off to look at your books.

  32. says

    Nice work. I’ve been contemplating writing my first book for some time now. Half the difficulty is just not knowing what to expect along the way, and if i’m prepared enough yet. These tips really helped clear some questions up and I feel much closer now. Thanks James.

  33. says

    This is a great, straightforward and very well written post! (I might have to buy some of your books now :) You had me laughing but most importantly, walking away with some very valuable information.

    Thank you, thank you!

  34. says

    Wow, that was a lot of useful information. Thanks for the great post-I know that took awhile to write, but I enjoyed all of it. Will have to check out the book.

  35. says


    Thanks for a brilliant post. Certainly has encouraged me to be proactive and not procrastinate for another year….. I have a note in my study which says: “Books do not write themselves” but actually you have nailed it with this post. It’s what happens after the words are on the screen. Do they stay on the hard drive or reach an audience? Just like my note which gathers dust every year… I shall make a coffee and print out your post. As I am ‘the other side of the pond” $2k converted to sterling does not look a bad investment. Many thanks again, Wordsmith :)

  36. says

    I took four pages of notes . Thank you . I now have another 100 ideas on how to get my messages out to support parents . Thank you so much for sharing your valuable information and interesting experiences .

  37. says

    James, Thanks! Now, that’s what I call thorough! I’ve picked up on most of these over the years I’ve been learning the hard way. One thing that makes a huge difference, in my own experience is learning when to let go of your book (as creative expression/art/literary validation,/etc.) and re-imagine it solely as a product. A consumer product. If a writer can switch hats easily, it will mean better marketing and more books.

  38. says

    Thank you for this very interesting info. I have written a book and have had it edited. I’m now talking to Outskirts Press about publishing my book – at my expense of course. They talk a good story. Do you have an opinion about them or another do-it-all or do-as-much-as-you-want publishers?

    My book is about my many years in aviation and it starts like this:

    “What if he won’t let go?” I worried again and again. This fear not only preoccupied my thoughts during daylight hours but even invaded my sometimes not so restful nights.

    As an average size woman, 5’5″ and 125 pounds, I would be unlikely to be able to overpower even a below average size man. Of course this is true of most women but I had a special reason for my obsession: in just a few days I would be starting my new job as a flight instructor.

  39. says

    What a great post, especially the first 12 or so. After awhile I couldn’t read all of them– and got a little lengthy. But super — Wow! good job. I appreciate the tips — about gut wrenching and all that stuff — and where to go and who and how to interact.

    It all works. I’m so happy I discovered social. And thanks again!

  40. says

    What a damn long post! Jeez…

    And, I don’t usually waste paper on printing posts, but I did on yours. It’s a keeper!

    And, you had me reading all the way through… so don’t worry.

    I really appreciate the way you handled the material; the reality of writing and publishing all too often falls prey to gloom and doom. You managed to keep in real and keep all the marvelous possibilities alive. That’s a gift, my friend.

    I am also envious how you managed to fit so much valuable content so succinctly through out the entire post. Ever paragraph had a good one-two punch.

    I am in the process of building my platform and also in the middle of being a seminary student, getting my certification as coach and taking a class as an apprentice writer. I am really moving along carefully and building in layers as I am able. And, I had this idea. Can I ask your opinion?

    Simply, I am unable to produce robust books right now but I can produce shorter versions (how-to, educational, transformational life) without taking away from a more robust version later. I wanted to use this to test the market, a vehicle for marketing and giveaways as well as a way to get out there sooner rather than later. What do you think about this idea?

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for caring… not just about your craft but about ours.

    Mario Zeleny

  41. says

    Great post. One reason that more books are being sold online is that brick and mortar bookstores are going away. Borders is gone, Barnes is cutting stores. The whole publishing dynamic is changing, just as record stores and one-screen movie houses have disappeared.

  42. says

    Thanks for the many helpful comments. I write fiction, which is more difficult to market than nonfiction. My efforts to find a professional to help me market my books have been unsuccessful. Not even responses to calls and emails. Is fiction a marketing bugbear?

    • says

      I think fiction is much more difficult. With non-fiction you can build a story around the process of the book, as well as around the content of the book.

      With fiction, unless you are a celebrity, it is hard to market.

      One recommendation I have is to google “Maria Murnane” who writes “single women romantic fiction” and does very well marketing her books and writes about how she does it on a blog. one idea she has which I think is fun is she creates personal pages (not fan pages) for her characters. This way her “characters” can directly engage with their “friends” that are actually fans.

  43. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I had many of these same thoughts in mind, but it helps to know that they are working for others. I hope you knock it out of the park with your book launch!

  44. says

    This is really a great post and motivates me to self publish. Would you be able to share how many days/hours you actually took to write/edit the entire book?

  45. Sam Wilhoite says

    Love this article! So happy to see my favorites like Altucher and No Meat Athlete featured on Copyblogger over the past few months :)

    I haven’t been able to read ALL the comments, but I would like to give my two cents on #20 as I don’t think anyone has hit on this yet.

    I feel like video is an afterthought for most folks, when it should really be a crucial core focus for any content marketer:

    1. YouTube is a search engine, and the 2nd largest only to Google. According to Alexa rankings, YouTube is the 3rd highest traffic site in the world, after Facebook and Google. Not to mention the fact that Google owns YouTube, which means any content created there will feed heavily into your google ranking (similar to the Google+ relationship).

    2. YouTube is a social network. A huge one. Nuff sed.

    I own a brick-and-mortar landscaping business, and like every other content marketer I focused on what I thought was most important: the blog, facebook, linkedin, etc. All very important, obviously.

    But now I’m hitting YouTube hard because as you can see on Alexa it receives more traffic than Bing, Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon, Wikipedia, and basically every website on Earth except for two.

    Peace out, and I’d love to hear other opinions / fact checkers!

  46. says

    Wow! What an amazing article. You literally blew my mind! I’m not there yet but when I am I’ll be scouring this post. (which I’m bookmarking and saving in Evernote) Thanks so much for your wealth and depth of information!!

  47. Megan says

    I am only thirteen and I am dying to publish one of my books. Some adults may be thinking that I am just a kid and I can’t write, but my friends love my books. Even my teacher like some of other writings and storg stories I did for class. I don’t know if there is a legal age for publishing a book or not, so should I wait or not?

    • Sam Wilhoite says


      Yes, you can publish at any age you want, and you should start NOW! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… sure it’s going to take you a lot of time, probably more work than you think up front but it is soooo worth it, just DO IT!

      Here’s my best tips for you:

      1. Go read James Altucher, the guy who wrote this article. On his site JamesAltucher.com, he talks about all alternate options and things kids should be doing INSTEAD of going to college, and publishing is one of them. He also has lots more good advice about self-publishing.

      2. Google “Man Cans Success Story”. This kid is like 17, but he started this company when he was like 13. Both HuffingtonPost & Entrepreneur did stories covering this.

      The point being that you can do whatever you want even as a teenager, and if you just keep researching you will find dozens and hundreds of kids your age who have published or started successful companies.

      So obviously, the last tip is:

      3. Keep researching, and JUST DO IT. It will be a lot of work, but way more fun than any “regular job”, and better paying in the long run.

      And of course, there’s always the chance that you hit it big and become a millionaire before age 20… no guarantees… just sayin… 😉

  48. Jane says

    James, you say here, “I now give that book away for free, and two others, when people sign up for my email list. The email list is another good way to build distribution and readership, and giving away free material to people who sign up is a good idea.”

    But that doesn’t seem to be working.

    Am I missing something here? I signed up, but no download link, no link to a page offering the content.

    It seems to me that consistently following through on what we offer is key to building enough reader trust that they’ll feel confident to buy!

  49. says

    James – thank you so much for great content. It is probably the best post on self-publishing I have ever seen. Actually, it is so comprehensive that it looks more like an Ebook itself :)
    Great job James.. I am so impressed (and inspired).

  50. says

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m sharing it with my writers’ group. Some of us blog, some write poetry, and some are writing children’s books. I think there’s something here for all of us.

    I’m only on step 4 so far, but I’m inspired to keep working at writing, building community, and doing good work.

    Thank you.

  51. says

    James, I just came across this article now and I love the brute honesty put forth in your writing. I’ve just taken this path and many of the 21 points listed have hit home and will be thoroughly put to use as I continue my journey. One thing I’ve learned is the marketing aspect of your book is the hardest thing to do, a welcome challenge I am taking on. Thanks for posting and I’ve posted your article on my blog at GoodReads. Thanks for the words of wisdom!

  52. says

    I have lots of a book written out that I am going to be soon offering as a smaller ebook with a course I have, but I eventually want to take it to amazon (at least). I’d be adding more content and hopefully enlisting good help and investing into it so that it’s AWESOME.

    The thing I am wondering about, though, is that it is an instructional book but I don’t think the instruction is done or can be just after reading the book. It’s for charting your cycles for natural birth control, so as you can imagine it’s important to use it correctly so as not to sacrifice effectiveness.

    How do I go about presenting that on amazon? I don’t want people to buy it and have me saying throughout the book that they should consult with someone, as well and that come as a surprise to them and make them feel like they were tricked into buying something incomplete.

    I notice a lot of people with booming online businesses tend to publish books that are sort of valuable but don’t feel complete, and I don’t want to be “that” person.

    Any ideas?

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