Thursday, May 14, 2015

Finding Your Bliss - Self-Publishing Case Study 01

A Case Study in Self-Publishing - Step 0: Finding Your Bliss

A Case Study in Self-Publishing - Progress doesn't come easy...

We'll start with the Step 0 of self-publishing: ensure you are working on your bliss - something you are fascinated with and could talk to an avid listener forever.

For me, this has several possibilities. What I chose to show you was fleshing out a long-held fascination of mine. We'll see also that the other distractive fascination points can keep you from fulfilling any targeted bliss - unless you stay almost manically focused (Hill's "Burning Desire.")

What I've always been good at has been artwork. In a round-about way, I've been working closer and closer to doing only this for a living. At some points, I've been close - but it's usually been the necessity of a job which has kept me distracted, even when I worked to join the two as a job (but the short story is - artists seem to make lousy workers. Just too inspired all the time...)

I publish books for a living these days, and have become financially independent with my book sales alone. So I'm getting closer to simply doing artwork for a living. The books I publish are public domain, as well as some private-licensed-rights (PLR) books, mostly as tests.

Publishing other's books was an acid test

This model of public domain publishing has allowed me to quickly test the various "conventional wisdom" being repeated ad nauseaum. You've heard a lot of these - that an author should spend about 50% of his time marketing, and most of this on social media (for instance.) Since my books bring me income enough to pay all my bills and then some, all with no marketing and no social media particularly - this was one test which disproved that datum.

A datum that it did prove, is that you have to have a deep backbench of books, preferably in a series and a niche. I've wound up publishing more than 200 books by now. A very small percentage of these were books I personally authored. So I know a bit about how to get stuff published.

That I fired my last boss around a year ago or so, means I know how to make a full-time living from writing, editing, and publishing.

The move toward my own bliss

The current plan is to move toward writing and illustrating children's stories. The niche is a perennial buyer's market. Very profitable for anyone prolific at it.

The trick is not just getting these published, it's also learning how to write and illustrate for that genre.

That's what this case study is all about.

I'd collected some books on illustration and artwork years ago and stashed them on a hard drive. Recently, I came across some PLR about this and dug everything out, since I could make a series of books which would deal with just the tools and skills you would need to polish up in order to make picture books for kids.

Finding what was already downloaded, then studying to find more PD books which filled the gaps (and wouldn't take extensive editing to produce) - I was set with a nice set of books.

At that point, I found myself still lacking something.

Next was to set up a site with landing pages for each book. But it showed that I hadn't done the necessary market research to know what keywords to use. Any site needs to be set up well, around a keyword phrase which will act as a base. The search engines need to anchor your authority on something.

Market Research can be fun, like a detective story.

While this seems to be going backwards, it really isn't. I'd already found on several lines what a profitable genre would be. I then found that there were fairly well-known PD books I could simply edit into shape. And I had some PLR which would make some great giveaways to get list opt-in's to build this audience.

The next step really was to fine-tune it all before I started putting a website together - or as part of building it. (You see, I already had a site which had been aging gracefully, it only needed to be tweaked a bit, since it was already about painting - houses, not canvases.)

Enter my old standby tool: Market Samurai.I've been using (and neglecting) this tool for years. It's a one-time purchase and probably the only simple tool left around without having to buy into a subscription service. They keep it updated and it will run on any platform as it's based on Adobe Air (although Linux seems a pain.)

While there is a bit of training to learn how to effectively use it, they have a training center called a "Dojo" where you can study up on what you need to know.

For this case study, Market Samurai told me that a good, profitable keyword phrase would be "picture book" (I know, right?) Too obvious. This was a phrase which fit in with what I was doing, but also could be expanded into many other long-tail phrases (how to write..., how to draw...., how to self-publish...) "Chidren's books" was saturated with way too much competition, for example.

Anyway, you can get a free 30-day evaluation version and try it out. (Yes, those are aff-links.)

Building the website and landing pages

You don't have to do a lot to begin with. You want a nice theme (use existing and tweak, it's faster and cheaper than buying one.) Put in a sidebar which has room for your opt-in and social proof widgets.

A note about Blogger: why do I use it? Because it keeps things simple, because it's part of Google. I've used Wordpress and like it. But the best way to run it is with someone else keeping track of the plug-ins. Nothing worse than being kicked off your hosting because WP tied up their server.

Blogger doesn't have plug-ins. It does have some widgets. And you can add scripts via the widgets. What you see is all you can get. But it's kept updated pretty well. And there's a decent community around it. The point is that you can get going right away with no investment besides a domain name that you control.

It does (mostly) everything I wanted to do with Wordpress. (As a note, I will be eventually moving over to the Rainmaker (WP) platform at a considerable monthly cost/investment.  Because I'm expanding beyond what is simply attainable with multiple blogger blogs. Stay tuned, and I'll clue you in why - although it will be a later article in this series.)

The way I use blogger is to redirect (via CNAME) to one of my own domains as a subdomain ( This way, I can use keyword phrases in the address and get more search engine link love.

Google does the hosting for free and all I have to do is to maintain my domain name with almost zero traffic on that server.

Back to our landing pages...

As I said above, you need landing pages for every book. These are simple - cover image, description (from the book) and links to all the distributors. If you want to take it from there (and we all do) embed the book trailer in the top (above the fold) and also embed a preview as a PDF they can download (essentially the landing page converted to a PDF and hosted on or similar.

Having your book trailer (YouTube) and that PDF (Slideshare) will give you link love from these two great sites. When they open up your landing page for that book, it will then give some link love back to those sites, which makes your book easier to be discovered there as well as your own landing page.

OK, you only have to have that image (people love pictures), text about your book (use the book description you already laid out) and links to all your distributors (which also sends them link love so they offer your book in their "related" recommendations.)

Long ago, I assembled all the links to the major distributors (excepting Amazon Kindle, which is non-standard) based on ISBN - these are held in a spreadsheet so I can generate the links and then copy/paste into the landing page. You'll also need the icons, which can be gotten from each individual distributor. Once you've created this for a single book, you'll see that you don't really need a spreadsheet, just copy/paste the whole section into the next landing page and then edit the ISBN's to include your new book's. (But a spreadsheet keeps this all in one place, so you can generate a particular link at will without having to look it up - helps when you have dozens of books...)

Where we are at now

  1. We have a blog (essentially for free)
  2. We've done our basic market research for keywords to use.
  3. We have landing pages for the books - even though the books haven't been published to distributors yet.
  4. We're doing what we love most - or one of them, anyway.
This is just a basic start. You have a place to link into your book, to send new fans and buyers. We'll see that you need to get this link into your ebook as well as the print edition.

You'll be using that market research from here on out, which is a good reason to have a copy of Market Samurai so you can update and extend your market research as needed.

Where we are going next

Lots more work to do, believe me:
  • Verify every book is ready for porting to the various distributors, update as needed.
  • Publishing these in an efficient workflow, to get all possible versions for sale.
  • Keeping distractions at bay, staying focused on expanding your income base.
Our next major step is to simply get everything published. This is by no means hard, and also not the end of the story by any means, just the beginning of the journey (should you decide to accept this, Mr. Phelps.)

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