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How to Turn One Book Into a Full-Time Living – Guest Article by Peter Bowerman


Part 2: Reflections on Bogus Blurbs, Unreal Reviews, and Manufactured Bestsellers | Part 3: 8 Mistakes Self-Publishers Make And How to Avoid Them!

I’m absolutely delighted to present the first of the three part series on self-publishing by mentor, friend and expert, Peter Bowerman. Here Peter takes on the major false belief about self-publishing:

The only reason to self-publish is because you can’t land a publisher

Call me crazy, but for me, self-publishing was the first choice. I wanted to keep control of the project and timetable, keep the rights, and, most importantly, keep most of the profits. How did it turn out?

A Full-Time Self-Publishing Income

For over seven years my first two books have supported me full time, and continue to do so.  Not “picking-out-chateaux-in-the-South-of-France” kind of money, but it paid all my bills (including two printings each year), allowed me to take some nice vacations, save a chunk of money and incur no new debt. When your net per book profit is 4-5 times what you’d make with a publisher, you can be nicely profitable with much lower numbers.

A few caveats. My genre – non-fiction “how-to” – is, arguably, the easiest to self-publish (with straight non-fiction second). Why? Not only is there an insatiable appetite for information, but with non-fiction “how-to,” it’s easy to identify and pursue specific target audiences. Fiction is harder to self-publish but for first-time novelists, it’s also far harder to attract a conventional publisher.

Second & Third Caveats

All this advice applies if your goal is commercial success with your book and if you have the time to market your masterpiece. If neither is the case, you’d be better off with a publisher or in a POD scenario, where your upfront investment is low or nonexistent (as will be, in all likelihood, your backend profits…). As for the time thing, though, if you’re fantasizing that you’ll find a publisher who will allow you to simply drop off your manuscript while they handle that whole “icky marketing thingy,” think again.

Author Jessica Hatchigan (How to be Your Own Publicist) observed, “Authors who receive modest advances for their books – and that’s most authors – can expect scandalously little in marketing support from most publishers.” Most publishers these days want to work with authors who come to them with, not only their book, but also a plan for promoting and marketing that book. So, if I still have to do most of the work for anemic royalty rates, self-publishing is worth a look.

Conventional vs. Unconventional

Most publishers take the “shotgun” approach to promotion and publicity. Mass emailed press releases to mainstream media outlets. Mass-mailed and unsolicited review copies (with little or no follow up). EVERY single one of the roughly 500+ review copies I’ve sent out over the years went to someone with whom I’d communicated in advance. Yes, it takes more time, but yields far more “bang for the book.”

As a self-publisher, you can focus on your title and find the most effective ways to promote it, as opposed to the above-described pub company model. By contrast, as a self-publisher, I go where the traffic is lighter, the reception is warmer and the people speak my language.

The Goal: To Be Seen “Everywhere!”

A year or so back, after asking a buyer where she found the book, she replied: “Everywhere!” Music to an author’s ears. Another wrote, after hearing about the book on three different sites, “I figured I needed to see what the fuss was all about.” People need to receive multiple impressions before they take action. So, how did I do it? The Internet, of course – the Great Equalizer for the little guy.

Let’s take my book: The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency As a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less – a step-by-step “how-to” for establishing a lucrative business writing freelance for companies, and for hourly rates of $50-125+.

My audiences? All “wannabe” writers looking to make a handsome living, seasoned freelancers looking to diversify into higher-paying work, and at-home moms and home-based business seekers wanting a flexible, well-paying career from home. For starters.

Where Does Your Market Hang Out?

To land reviews (and interviews, blurbs, mentions, green lights to write articles, etc.), scour the Internet for web sites, associations, newsletters, and newsgroups that cater to your audiences. Visit them and make your pitch by email. Make up one standard pitch letter, vary it slightly for your different audiences, and “cut ‘n paste.” And repeat, hundreds of times.

Mainstream Media?

Certainly pursue mainstream media (MSM) in addition to Internet contacts, but know that MSM is exponentially more fickle than if you can zero in on your target audience via the above-described process – where you’ll get a FAR better response.

The Reality: the chance that an unknown author will attract the attention of a reasonably major-market newspaper is slim. If you’re going to pursue MSM, forget the book editors, and figure out which “channel” editor – Food, Jobs, Career, Business, Features, Computers, Lifestyle – a would fit your topic. Pitch them, not with the book, but an angle represented by the book. They simply don’t care you’ve written a book; they want to know why the book is relevant to their readers.

Your Web Site

A web site is mandatory. Period. It’s the linchpin of any Internet marketing push. Mine (www.wellfedwriter.com) has sample chapter, table of contents, reviews, cover art, Q&A, sample radio/TV footage and much more. Check out the “Attn: Media” link on my site, which makes their job much easier (and hence, more likely to happen). Always add your URL to your e-mail signature going out on every email you send.

Landing a publisher has never been harder, but thanks to the Internet, self-publishing is easier, more accessible, and more lucrative than ever. Maybe for you?


Want to get published, and make a living from it? Check out a free report “How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living” at www.wellfedsp.com, home of author Peter Bowerman’s 2007 award-winner, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher (and powerful companion marketing kit, The Well-Fed SP Biz-in-a-Box). Bowerman is the self-published author of the award-winning Well-Fed Writer titles (www.wellfedwriter.com). Over 52,000 copies of his first two books have earned him a full-time living for over seven years.

Photo used with permission

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Great article and great advice! I especially like the “everywhere” comment, as well. So true. Marketing is about saturation and penetration into your target readership.

    It amazes me the number of writers who simply aren’t comfortable with marketing. To market is to survive. To market effectively is to thrive. Guess which one I’m picking?

    Thanks, Peter, for the article, and thanks, Anne, for bringing it to us.

    Lori’s last blog post..The Second Annual Writers Worth Day

    • Anne

      Peter knows his stuff. The more of it I apply to me and my work, the more money I make.

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