Too many aspiring independent/self-published authors have bought into the hype that theirs is a completely DIY activity. If help is needed, somehow it can take away from the sense that they have made a successful author of themselves.

Worse yet, it encourages many self-aware writers to not even try it. They know they do not have the budget, the knowledge, and frankly, the idea of starting at all seems overwhelming to them. The truth might be a shock to many and should get a head nod from all successful authors. 

The business of book publishing is centuries old. It evolves over time and with each iteration provides easier access for authors. The concept of independent/self-publishing has recently enjoyed a boom in popularity, unfortunately with it came an influx of questionable book quality and predatory vanity publishers.


Being a successful independent author requires FIVE key elements:


1. Knowledge

The old adage goes “knowledge is power”, and this is especially true when it comes to publishing. When you make the decision to become a successful author, one of the first things you need to do is to get prepared. Study the industry and understand the various roles that go into the process.

“The Seven Step Guide to Authorpreneurship” is a great book to get you started, since it also includes details around what you can do and the different industry segments you need to engage to become successful.

Specifically, every author must have an editor, graphic designer(s) with book cover design and interior layout ability, a printer, and some method of distribution and marketing.

For the more history minded, researching the evolution of publishing may also be worth understanding to understand why the big publishers and bookstores operate the away they do today.


2. Self-Assessment

After you have done your research and understand the major players needed for your team, look at yourself and determine how many – if any – of these roles you can fill. The truth is most authors do not have professional level skills in any way, and this is where you may lose hope.

Stop expecting to become a jack – or jane – of all trades. It’s not realistic!

Doing a self-assessment is a work of empowerment. The most effective kind for these purposes is a SWOT Analysis When you know what your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are, you will be able to formulate a plan of attack to accomplish your goals. This leads directly to your budget.


3. Budget

Completing a SWOT analysis should leave you with an idea of the roles you can fulfill on your own and for which you will need to hire out. Even if you have copious amounts of time, your goals/intent as an author will lead you to determine what you really want to spend your time on and where you will need professional help.

 At the bare minimum, after considering the bigger picture, every author needs an:

  • Editor

  • Cover designer

  • Interior designer

  • Printer

  • Distributor

Be realistic about your current funds – you do not want to end up on the streets, so unless you have savings always be honest with yourself about what you can set aside either on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.

Be creative with your ideas for fundraising – just because you do not have the money right now, doesn’t mean the buck stops there. Get creative, barter with others if you can, and at least try a crowd-funding campaign.

Involved your target audience – do not just assume there is an audience for your book, go find them and engage with them. This will help you accomplish the goal of raising funds while helping you build your author platform. It’s a win-win!


 4. Strategy

Have you have estimated your planned costs and started creating your fundraising strategy, you also want to really think about your publishing strategy. Based on your planned budget, will you be self-publishing or querying for a traditional publisher?

After you have determined your preferred method of publishing, you must take action and start making the connections you need to implement your strategy. Do your research and create a plan!

Publishing is not a linear process, many elements – such as marketing- overlap early in the process. Do not wait until one item is done to start on the next: have a plan to address your editing, design, printing, distribution and marketing needs along with a timeline to see what it all looks like together.



5. Execution

All of the learning, assessing, budgeting, and strategy in the world does not make up for EXECUTION. The most important step in all of this is to follow through and get to work.



Still wondering how to get started?

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