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May312014

Learning about self-publishing non-fiction, instructional books  

Since publishing my book, Reading Poker Tells, in April of 2012, I’ve learned a lot about self-publishing. When I first started out researching this stuff, in 2011, I had no idea about publishing; I didn’t know how books got made, I didn’t know how the relatively new process of print-on-demand worked, I didn’t know what a reseller discount was. I learned as I went. All I knew was that I wanted to self-publish my book and I figured I’d eventually learn everything I needed to know.

My main motivation for self-publishing was that I wanted to make the most money possible. I have no doubt that I could have found a publisher if I’d tried, but I thought the type of book I was writing—a non-fiction, how-to book with a built-in niche audience that could easily find the book online—was the perfect book to self-publish. (This is compared to fiction, which obviously is a bigger challenge to find an audience for.) I had faith in my book and thought, through word of mouth and online search results, it would sell well with little marketing expenditures on my part. Instead of a publisher keeping the large majority of the profit, I’d keep it. Typical publishing deals give anywhere from 10% to 20% of gross book sales to an author; by self-publishing, focused on online sales, I keep around 60%.

My secondary motivation was that I’ve always been interested in learning about book production, and I thought learning how the industry worked would be a nice back-up skill to acquire. And what better way to learn the ins and outs of the field than to just dive in and do it? I thought it was possible I’d publish one or two more books if the first book worked out, so there was potentially future value in me learning the industry. I also thought it was possible that, if I gained enough experience and contacts in the industry, I might act as a publisher for other people’s books. For all of these reasons, I thought there was future value in me learning how to publish.

So far, my foray into self-publishing has been a success. My book Reading Poker Tells has sold about 10,000 copies (in all formats, both paperback and ebook) in the two years since it’s been published. (I credit this mainly to good Amazon reviews, good word-of-mouth, and strong, natural search results.) Just a few days ago, my new book Verbal Poker Tells was released; it’s already gotten some good reviews.

Over the next few months, I hope to write some blog posts about the things I’ve learned about self-publishing. My learning process has been a series of trials and errors, and I still often make mistakes that cost me money and time. (Just the other day, I realized I had set up something with my book in a way that was probably a big money-waster.) While I have periodically researched things about self-publishing, it is hard to find a lot of good info on the process; this is mainly because companies in the industry (like the print-on-demand company LightningSource, which is what I use for printing) change their policies often. Also, every book project is unique; this makes it hard to find information that applies well to your own project. For example, although I’ve read a good amount about self-publishing from various blogs and articles, a lot of it didn’t apply to my situation.

So maybe my series of blog posts will come in handy for people who are thinking about writing a book like mine: a non-fiction, how-to, instructional-type book. 

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