FREELANCING / MAR. 17, 2014
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Is Self-Publishing the Key to Your Success?

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If you’ve never heard of Amanda Hocking, you’ve probably heard of "Fifty Shades of Grey" and the self-publishing boom that has shaken the world. Can selling books work for you, too?

According to the numbers, we may yet see a day when ebooks become the norm for reading material, and paper books are found only among the minority of shoppers. Self-published books and authors keep emerging on the bestseller lists and breaking out on the book market, with no help from anybody. So what’s the secret to making that happen for you?

Big eBusiness

EL James famously broke out with “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a book based on “Twilight” characters. What began as fan fiction became an indie book. It was sold as an ebook and a print-on-demand paperback thanks to The Writer’s Coffee Shop, an online site. James went on to publish two more books to form a trilogy, and the “Fifty Shades” legacy was born.

If one indie book can become a household name, why not another? The ebook industry is starting to become big, big business. Since 2006, the number of self-published books has grown 287 percent by 2011. The production of ebooks has risen a whopping 129 percent between 2006 and 2011.

A Big Career?

The ebook industry is big, but that doesn’t mean self-published authors are making big money. Forbes reports that the median income for self-published authors is under $5000. Almost 20 percent of self-published authors have said they earn no money from their efforts.

When there are so many self-published ebooks out there, making yours stand out is an uphill battle. In order to be successful at self-publishing, you also have to be successful at marketing. Otherwise, that potential bestseller won’t even get noticed. There are a rare few who earn big bucks with their books, but in the main self-publishing doesn’t earn the majority writers a lot of money as a stand-alone career.

Sidelined

Self-publishing does still have its uses for career-minded professionals. Having a few books under your belt can showcase your expertise in a given field, and if you get even one good review for that book you’re sitting pretty. Establishing yourself as an expert on any topic is easier when you have a glossy book jacket to show off to others. 

Book titles look smart on a resume, and show that you have an entrepreneurial spirit. When using it as a lure for potential employers, make it clear that your literary endeavors are more of a hobby and a supplement to your true career. Otherwise, they may suspect that you’re moonlighting and hoping to make it big in the publishing industry. It’s okay to have this hope, but don’t hold out hope. Most books never become bestsellers, much less international hits.

Success in Self-Publishing

Because ebooks are so popular, it’s easier than ever to self-publish. Amazon’s KDP program allows you to upload the book in a .Mobi file. Add an image for the cover and a blurb, set your own price and you’re ready to sell books. Sites like Smashwords allow you to not just self-publish but distribute your books as well. Smashwords makes it very easy to publish an online book, because all you’ll need for them is a standard Word file to get the process started. With CreateSpace, you can create print copies of your books as well. Set the price, and books will be produced as they are ordered. 

As a side gig, self-publishing can earn you a few extra bucks and put a nice feather in your cap. As a career, it’s a tough battle that the odds say you are likely to lose. Being a successful in self-publishing isn’t necessarily measured by the amount of money you earn, but by the connections you forge and the opportunities you reach because of it.

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