How to Self-Publish a Best Seller

I self-published three best-selling books last year, and today I’d love to show you how it’s done. The titles Marketing Playbook, Your Best Year 2018 Business and Life Editions each hit #1 in their selected category on Amazon and Etsy.

First, I’d like to share some details about the process with you, starting with why I chose to self-publish.

Years ago, I met with Reid Tracy, President and CEO of Hay House Publishing House. He said that when he reviews a book proposal for publication, the first thing he does is Google the author’s name. He’s unlikely to consider the proposal at all if that person hasn’t already established their own platform.

That’s the naked truth about publishing houses these days. They only want to work with you if you’re established enough to sell most of the books on your own.  Essentially, you give them a hefty cut of profits for the added credibility, support staff, and (hopefully) quality marketing and PR.

By the time I had enough of a readership to publish a book, I became a bestselling author on my own. I use Amazon’s independent publishing company, CreateSpace to publish all of my books. I average about $7 in royalties per book sold.

self publish an amazon best seller

Should You Write a Book?

Before we talk sales strategy, let’s look at a few good reasons to write a book.

#1 You want to organize your material and build a framework. This is an unconventional reason, but it’s my favorite. A book forces you to organize your thoughts into a structured, easy-to-read manual.

The text of a book must tell a complete story from start to finish, and there can be no holes (in the form of unanswered questions or missing information) for the reader to fall through. The material must be in perfect order and build on itself in value and experience. A nonfiction must be informative in a comprehensive, yet not overly simplistic way, so that everyone—from novice to expert—finds value in the content.

It takes talent and practice to write a book that people want to devour, and once it’s done, the text can be repurposed in so many ways. It can become the material for public readings, book club sessions, workshops, and courses. You can dole out samples in blog posts. You can start conversations on social media around the subject matter. You can offer a free chapter as an email opt-in. And as you’ll see below, there’s a lot of movement and social proof in a book launch.

Writing a book is a great way to enhance the flow and digest-ability of the material or stories you’re already sharing.

#2 It helps more people find your work. There’s no money in books, especially not at first. If you’re writing a book in hopes of earning a substantial profit or passive income, hope for that profit from the seventh book you release, not the first (unless you already have an eager 10K+ readers ready and willing to buy a copy).

Amazon is one of the most searched websites on the internet (sources fluctuate, listing it in various spots from the 3rd to the 5th most popular in the world). It’s up there with Google, Facebook, and YouTube. That’s a very obvious reason to have your name and a title with your area of expertise listed there!

#3 It leads to more income, but not from book sales (unless you sell tens of thousands of copies). My books are designed to serve as an introduction to me and my work. It’s a low-cost way for potential clients to know and benefit from my material. If it resonates and they create generous results with it, they eventually explore a more meaningful relationship with me.

Many members of my high-end training program, The Luminaries Club, will tell you that they first discovered me through Your Best Year.

Self publish an Amazon best seller

7 Steps to Marketing a Self-Published Best Seller

I do a number of things to ensure my new release does well from the start. I’ve increased this list over the years as the popularity of my books has grown. If you’re new to publishing, start with review copies and pre-order offers (below).

#1 Review copies. I send anywhere from 50-100 review copies (free paperbacks) to Luminaries each year (since the release of Your Best Year 2016). The first time I did it, I opened the review offer to all club members and addressed every envelope by hand. It was so fun and felt like Christmas, but it was also very time-consuming and expensive. That was the year I realized it cost more than $20 USD (!) to ship a book internationally.

I’ve since had to limit review copies to US club members, but I offer discounted books and reduced shipping to international Luminaries should they choose to partake. I now list the offer on Etsy (for .$30—the lowest I’m able to list), and then email that listing to all members. In exchange for their review copy, I ask them to leave their honest feedback on Etsy and Amazon.

#2 Launch party. The next thing I did for the 2018 release was host a book launch party in my hometown of Ashburn, VA. I sold tickets on EventBrite, and we gathered in the private room of a local restaurant and workshopped new concepts of the book.

YBY2018 launch party

To have treasured friends and clients come in from all corners of the country to celebrate with me was surreal—a dream come true! I signed one of my books for the very first time this day (thank you, Eva!). Without even trying to contain my excitement, I asked her, “What should it say?!” But by the time I was finished signing copies that afternoon, I had the hang of it. 😉

#3 Pre-order discount to my list. I then host a 5-day pre-order sale for my entire email list. This happens privately the week before the book is publicly launched (on my blog and social media accounts). I offer 40% off on both digital and paperback versions in my Etsy store.

I earned nearly $11,000 in sales (at 40% off retail, so that adds up to thousands of readers in its first week). I emailed the sale 5 times during the promotion. Every single email generated over $2,000, and people still missed the sale even though it was announced in every single subject line I wrote.

Important to note: When I first listed this book (which is highly anticipated by a loyal reader-base and actively watched for this time of year) on Etsy, it received zero views. Before the pre-order was announced, it was on Etsy for two days without so much as a listing heart. Until I promoted it, nobody saw it.

#4 Public launch. This is to keep up appearances and deadlines only. By the time my blog post announces the book is published, it’s already in the hands of thousands of its beloved readers. A few sales will trickle in from social media, but not many.

I announce the book publicly with my annual Your Best Year is here! blog post and video announcement.

#5 Complimentary copies to a subscription box. My dear friend, Kara Benz of Boho Berry, launched (and sold out of!) her brand new subscription box last year. She invited me to participate, and I was more than thrilled to send her 1,000 complimentary copies of the book. She leads an engaged and thriving community of planners, and the launch of her subscription box coincided beautifully with the launch of the first YBY2018 Life Edition.

Her customers received their books in December, and I was delighted to get Your Best Year into so many new hands!

#6 Affiliate launch. You’re reading this right! My marketing campaign is stiillllllllllll going.

I offer affiliate contests and commissions to Luminaries only, and this army of warriors went to battle for Your Best Year 2018! I built them a customized sales page, complete with Proof notifications and sales updates, and they drove traffic like my site’s never seen before. So much so, their sales matched my pre-order launch (to a dedicated list of true YBY2018 fans)!

#7 Donations. In addition, I donated over 1,000 copies to local women’s centers. Your Best Year 2018 is filled with an empowering message of growth and change, and I want so many more women to know so much more of that!

You Get a FREE Copy, Too!

You read that right! This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. Because Your Best Year has a season (it includes a dated calendar and worksheets), things get quiet toward the end of February each year. In March, I gradually phase out the book, deepening the clearance discount through August.

Your Best Year 2018 is too good to mark down! So instead, I’m gifting it to you. It contains a powerful message, and I want everyone to receive it. If you’ve already purchased a copy, you’re invited to share this gift with all your friend. Pay the gift forward to as many people as you like.

Click the image below to claim your copies!

Your Best Year 2018 business and life editions by Lisa Jacobs (1)

Enjoy, my friend!

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3 comments

  • Thank you, Lisa. Such a great post. It came in the right time.
    And thank you so much for the free bundle. I appreciate this valuable gift from you.
    Can´t wait to start reading.

  • OMG. Lisa, You are the Best.I bought the life edition before.Cant wait to start working on the business one today. Really admire everything you do.

  • Thanks for sharing your amazing books! 🙂
    I started reading the life edition, this sentence is amazing:
    “If this moment were a dollar, am I investing it or burning it?”

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