Self-Publishing for Authors [Ep. 3]

What is self-publishing? And why should an author consider it?

I’m going to change my format just a little from here on in. The last couple of weeks I have been writing a blog post on one topic, then doing a podcast episode on another. By the time the show notes and transcript is finished, it’s time to start all over again. As of today, you can read the blog post, listen to the podcast…or both.

Disclaimer: Links within this post are either to my own products, or products I endorse. I may receive a small commission should you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. My blog is supported through commissions and sales of my products. Plus, if you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.  Thank you for your continued support.

Episode 3: Self-Publishing for Authors

Since I still write out my script, no additional transcript will be included. As I get more comfortable with talking into the mic without the entire episode written out, transcripts will be included.

Without further ado, here is Episode 3: Self-Publishing for Authors

Self-Publishing for Authors

Self-publishing. What is that exactly you may be wondering.

In a nutshell, it is getting a book or other work published without going through a publishing house or label.

There are pros and cons to self-publishing just as there are with practically any other business venture, but in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons.

This episode is going to focus on independent authors self-publishing their books, with comparisons and references made to other types of publishing. 

As I mentioned in my first episode, I chose to self-publish. It is becoming a lot more common, and acceptable to do so nowadays.

When some people hear the words self-published they automatically presume the book wasn’t good enough to get accepted by a traditional publisher. In all honesty, that’s what I thought in the beginning too. As I did my research though, I realized there’s a lot of pressure put on independent authors. 

If you want to be taken seriously as an author and are doing it all on your own, you have to make sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Doing a half-assed job will not earn you any good reviews.

It doesn’t matter how good your story or subject matter is. If you have a book filled with typos, spelling errors, and poor formatting, your readers will soon tell others how bad your book is. A publisher wouldn’t accept poor quality, so you shouldn’t independently publish poor quality.

When you decide on your genre, content, and book length it’s time to start writing. And also time to start telling the world about it. I made the mistake of finishing my books before saying anything to anyone about them. By doing so I didn’t build an audience waiting for my book’s release. Sometimes I’m a little too introverted for my own good.

One of the first things a traditional publisher wants to know is what you’ve done to market your book. If you haven’t done anything then it’s going to be that much harder to convince them you’re serious about making sales. Gone are the days of a publisher doing all the work.

Something else that may tip the scales in favour of being self-published is the dollar factor. Very few authors are writing just to help or entertain others. 

Publishing your own books does give you more control over title, content, and pricing. Plus with platforms such as Kindle, Kobo, and Lulu, you have options in terms of ebook, print, audio or a combination of the three. I have only named the three because they’re the ones I’m most familiar with.

In the first episode I briefly touched on the low percentage an author actually earns when traditionally published. Let me explain.

A traditional publisher pays, on average, an 8% royalty rate to the author. An ebook might get you 25%. If you publish on your own via Kindle, Kobo, or other platforms, your royalties for a print book can be up to 60%, and as high as 90% for an ebook.

If you were to publish one book traditionally at $25 retail and you got an advance of $25,000, it would take 12,500 copies sold for the advance to be paid off. And yes, you do not earn anything extra until that advance is paid in full. (Side note here: the royalty you earn will only be $2 per copy, which is why it’ll take so many books to be sold.)

If you self-published that same book and sold it for the same price, it would only take 1667 copies sold to make that amount of money. And you’d even be $5 ahead. I think it would be much easier to sell 1667 copies as opposed to 12,500, don’t you? Granted you don’t get an advance when self publishing, but with the print on demand services available you don’t have the upfront costs either.

I personally prefer the ebook route, but do have my romance novellas available in print on Amazon as well. My Pipestone Creek Series is also available as a bundle download in my NotJustAlpacaDesigns Etsy Shop. I will be moving it to my website in the not-too-distant future, which will then allow me to earn a little more. Etsy is really not the best place for ebooks; at least not for me.

In the first episode I also mentioned what is called a vanity publisher. What they do is print and market your books, to a point. They’ll also try to upsell you editing packages, whereas a traditional publisher does all of the editing for you.

Vanity publishers prey on authors who want their books done quickly, but said authors also pay the price. I almost fell for their scheme, and I think if I would’ve had the thousands of dollars they wanted to publish my book, I probably would have gone that route. Thankfully my bank account was almost empty, and upon further research I realized I had almost been taken advantage of.

They call themselves independent publishers, but if they’re asking for money upfront they’re really a vanity publisher. There are small publishing companies that do pay authors an advance, so do your homework to make sure you’re not being taken for a ride.

Here’s how you know if you’re dealing with a legitimate publishing company or a vanity publisher. A legitimate publisher will never ask the author to pay anything up front. The vanity publisher will. If you’re being asked to pay, turn around and walk away.

Whether you’re self publishing or going through a publisher, there’s a lot of work to be done on your part. The planning, outlining, writing, first edit, second edit, marketing, pricing, cover design, blurbs, and so on. Books of more than a few thousand words are rarely written in a weekend, and even then it takes time to make sure it flows smoothly.

Self-publishing may not work for everyone, and that’s okay. And there’s nothing wrong with being traditionally published. In fact, I think having my name on a book published by HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster would be my greatest achievement as an author. 

I am more of a “let’s get it out there” type of person, rather than waiting for an acceptance or rejection letter. I write what makes me happy, and to entertain and educate others. And the money plays a part too. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.

I suck at the marketing end of it, which is why my sales aren’t as good as they could be. I’d much rather be writing than marketing, but truth be told, that attitude hasn’t helped my cause any.

As a self-publisher you need to do all of the things, and if you don’t want to do certain tasks, then you’re going to have to hire some help. A virtual assistant could take care of the marketing so you can concentrate on the writing. It all depends on how much you want to earn as an author, and how quickly you want to be in the top 100.

An editor may be necessary if spelling and sentence structure isn’t your strong suit. Just because you weren’t a Straight A student in English doesn’t mean you can’t write and publish a book. That’s why speech to text was invented I’m sure.

I find when it comes to editing my own work I have to step away from it for a while. Reading out loud also helps me catch mistakes, as does using the text to speech feature on my computer. When we edit our own work we automatically put the words in as we’re reading, even if they aren’t there. I’ve done it more than once, and was thankful I caught it before it was published.

That brings me to another point. When self-publishing it’s a lot easier to fix errors and resubmit a manuscript. And with the print on demand services, you’ll never be stuck with 5000 copies of a book with a major error in it.

Pricing your book is one of the most difficult tasks as far as I’m concerned. I firmly believe an ebook should not be as much, or more than a print book; yet the experts advise differently. In my opinion once the file is submitted there’s no additional cost directly related to that file. However, if you look on Amazon and other ebook retailers, you’ll see prices for ebooks sometimes higher than their print counterparts. 

Audiobooks on the other hand, I can see why they’re on the higher end of the price point. It takes a lot of prep time and work to get them just right. I have listened to several audiobooks through the years and can’t imagine how long it must take to get each chapter just right.

Audiobooks are, however, another avenue you can take with your self-published books. I plan on narrating my own as I become more comfortable with the microphone and hearing myself talk. Have I said I don’t like the sound of my voice?

The topic of self-publishing is one that has its pros and cons. I like the versatility I have when publishing, and have been able to take what I have learned and help others avoid some of the mistakes I made. As I continue my self-publishing journey I’ll be able to relay more information. 

I have to be honest: my book writing has been at a standstill since Ross passed away. He was my biggest supporter, and teased me about being a kept man whenever I made a sale. As I’ve been writing the script for this episode I realize how much I have missed working on my books. And perhaps getting back to my unfinished manuscript will help with the healing and moving forward as well.

Authors write for different reasons, and publish in whatever format works for them. If you choose to self-publish, keep these key points in mind.

  1. Do your very best work so you get the very best reviews.
  2. Decide which format will work best for your audience. Not everyone likes an ebook.
  3. Price competitively. You’re undervaluing your work if you price too low. (Oh dear…I just had an “aha” moment. I guess I need to practice what I preach here.)
  4. Write to educate or entertain.
  5. When you self-publish you don’t have to have a 100,000 word manuscript. Short ebooks can be in the 5000 word range and be packed with valuable information.
  6. Be yourself in your writing. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. (This point was brought up in Episode 2 but also applies to you as an author.)
  7. Hire help for the tasks you don’t have time for or don’t like to do. Your teenager could be a wonderful asset if they’re given social media tasks.

In the next episode I’ll be talking about turning your hobby into a side hustle. Have a great week and I’ll see you then.

And in case you missed them, I have included the first two episodes below.

Episode 1: Take On Life After 50
Episode 2: Information Products and How to Create Them

If you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.


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3 Ways to Make Money with Homemade Bodycare Products

Dry skin. Chapped lips. Brittle hair. Read on to see how you can alleviate these problems for yourself and others.

Winter is setting in whether we’re ready for it or not. I think the hardest part for me is the minus 40 temperatures that are inevitable. It’s a good time of year to not have to drive to a job in town.

Disclaimer: Links within this post are either to my own products, or products I endorse. I may receive a small commission should you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. My blog is supported through commissions and sales of my products. Plus, if you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.  Thank you for your continued support.

I have been working on my Etsy Shops, recorded and published the second episode of my podcast, and spent some time making homemade lip balm.

A couple weeks ago I ordered some shea butter, cocoa butter, almond oil, beeswax pellets, lip balm tubes, and two ounce screw-top tins. I have a case full of essential oils so am working on trying out a few recipes to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’m making the balms and salves for my own use, plus to give to family and friends. I had considered making it to sell but in all honesty, it doesn’t go with either of my Etsy shops. I do however, plan on adding some printable labels to TOLA50Printables for those who do make and sell bodycare products.

Now that brings me to how money can be made with bodycare products.

1. Make products to sell.

The most common way to earn money with bodycare products is to make and sell them. With so many products on the market made in who-knows-where, it’s nice to know exactly what’s going into the lip balms and lotions.

Many people are wanting to take a step away from the commercially produced, chemical-filled soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. By making some high end products with simple ingredients you could potentially have an in within the health and wellness industry.

The nice thing is it really doesn’t take a lot to get started. I spent less than $100.00 on the supplies listed above, and most likely could have started with less. I’m sure I didn’t need 50 lip balm tubes or 48 screw-top tins, but when I ordered them I was still undecided as to what I was going to do.

There are a LOT of recipes available online and in books, but don’t be afraid to test and tweak. I have made a “medicated” pain relief salve using infused shea butter, but found it to be too hard. I remelted the salve and added in a little almond oil, so will be trying it to see if it’s easier to apply. Well, the applying wasn’t the hard part; getting it out of the jar was.

The lip balm I made was a 1:1:1 ratio, plus a drop of food grade essential oil for flavour. I do think another drop or two of oil would have been okay, as there is a hint of cinnamon but it’s definitely far from overpowering.

One thing I did learn while making the lip balm: have everything ready and work fast when filling the tubes. I was surprised at how quickly the mix cooled as soon as I started to pour it. The jar I mixed the ingredients in was almost too hot to hold with my bare hands, but it did not take long for the mix to cool.

I am a Young Living Distributor and have access to the best essential oils available. I use them regularly in my diffuser, in my cooking (food grade ones), and even for cleaning. There are some recipes in the catalog I want to try, especially the pain relief topicals.

Last winter when I was achy I would run a hot bath and add lavender and spearmint to Epson Salts, then soak for 15 – 20 minutes. It helped with the achiness plus my bathroom and bedroom smelled really good afterwards too.

Some things you can make are:

  • lip balm
  • pain relief cream
  • bath bombs
  • shampoo
  • hair conditioner
  • hand lotion
  • body lotion
  • soap
  • sugar scrub
  • body wash
  • shaving cream
  • body butter
  • shower bombs
  • deodorant
  • toothpaste
  • bath salts
  • …and more.

There’s really no limit to what can be made with a few simple ingredients, some essential oils, and some creativity. And for those of you who like to dabble in cannabis, it can be added to topical bodycare products too.

Medicated Salve and Cinnamon Lip Balm
2. Recipe Book

This is more the avenue I’m interested in taking. As I try different recipes and tweak them, I’ll be compiling an ebook. I personally do not want to have a lot of product on hand, so will just make enough for family and friends…plus possibly a local shop that is stocked with locally produced products.

I do not want to be worried about shipping products, or carrying an inventory. Plus I don’t want to have to worry about having product that will expire. Keep in mind that when chemicals aren’t used the product will go bad faster.

I do know some can be kept cold or frozen to extend its shelf life, but when one lives in a rural area a steady stream of local customers is a little harder to come by than in an urban area.

Plus, writing is right up my alley. I love to do research, trial and error, then put it all together into an ebook to help others. And as with my crochet patterns, my customers can make and sell the items I design/create.

The benefit to this method is the ebook only has to be written once, and I can sell it over and over again. It’s more of a passive income route than the active income that making and selling the products requires.

3. Teach a Class

With all of the options available online, teaching has become easier and easier.

I enjoy teaching others, but more through the written word. I know not everyone is like me, and platforms such as Skillshare and Teachable can be lucrative if utilized.

Whether you decide to make lip balm, body scrub, lotion, or bath bombs, showing someone else how to do it step-by-step can benefit your bank balance. You can choose one product, or do a series of products.

When you’re teaching others how to make the products, you’re also teaching them how to support themselves. Your class will be a combination of video lessons and handouts, which will ultimately do one of two things: help others create and build a bodycare business, or it won’t.

In Conclusion

You cannot control what your students do with your information once they have it. Some will be excited about it and follow your recipes and advice; and they will be the ones who thrive. Others will perhaps take the class and not do anything with what they have learned. That is not a reflection on you as a teacher. Some people are just like that.

One thing I do have to emphasize: no matter what you do, don’t ever promise your students they will earn X amount of dollars by taking your class (or reading your book). The materials you provide are for informational purposes only, and earnings are never guaranteed. It is up to the individual to make that happen; not you.

Have you or do you make bodycare products?

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3 Steps to Creating an Information Product

Creating an information product is probably one of the easiest things to do, and can bring you the highest return.

Disclaimer: This post contains links for my products. I will receive full payment should you decide to make a purchase. The information does not guarantee financial gain simply by reading this post or my product. It takes time and effort to create an information product, but once done the possibilities of increasing your bank balance is real.

Before I get too far into the steps, you must first know what an information product is. In all honesty, this blog post is essentially an information product, because it will teach you how to do something.

An information product is designed to teach the reader/viewer/listener how to do something. It can be written, video, or audio. And the beauty of it is you create it once, and can sell it over and over again…even while you sleep.

I have been creating information products for at least three decades. When I started I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It wasn’t until up to about 10 years ago that I came across an article online (I don’t remember the title of it now) that talked about information products and marketing. It was then that the lightbulb went off, and I realized I could do that as a side hustle.

I started by writing articles online and when I realized people liked what I had to say, I took it a step further and began self-publishing my own ebooks, PDFs, print on demand books, and printable products in my Etsy shop.

My most popular articles have been on quilting, making and using weaving sticks, and how to earn money with side hustles. As much as I enjoy crafting, I enjoy helping others make the extra money they need/want for bills, vacations, or a new home.

This post will tell you what you need to do to create your own written information product.

Step 1: Come up with an idea.

This is where your brainstorming skills will come into play. Think of all of the things you like to do. Then think of all the things you are good at. Make a list of each, then pick your top 3.

Step 2: Outline your product.

Remember back in school when you had to write an essay? Your teacher probably told you to make an outline. It wasn’t because he/she wanted to give you more work (well, maybe that was part of it), but rather to help you stay on track as you wrote.

It’s quite easy to start writing about something, then stray off topic. The outline is there to keep you focused.

Step 3: Create your product.

This is the fun part. My guess is you already know a lot about your topic. If you don’t, it’s time to do some research.

You don’t have to write thousands of words, unless of course that’s what it’s going to take to get your point across. I do want to say the easier you make it for your reader the better. They’re going to want quick results, especially if they’re impatient like many people (me included).

Use words, short sentences, pictures, diagrams, and whatever else it takes to show your reader how to get from an idea to a finished product. For example, if you’re teaching someone how to make a macrame plant hanger you’ll include a materials list, cutting lengths, knot directions, and steps to make the hanger.

Since a lot of people need a visual to understand how the knots are made, take photos as you go along and insert them after the written part of each step. You could also include a video tutorial within the product, or link to it on your YouTube channel.

Conclusion:

Once your product is created, it’s time to market it. For a more in-depth look at the process of creating an information product, I have written a course which is available in my Etsy Shop (NotJustAlpacaDesigns) and priced at $19. Grab your copy today, and you can be on your way to earning passive income tomorrow.

Creating and Selling Nonfiction

If you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.


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