The 4 books you need to read to become a self publishing success 5


So you want to pursue self publishing?

Maybe you’ve written a book and you’re just setting out on the author/publisher path. Maybe you’ve been querying agents with no forward momentum. Or maybe you’re just starting to write your soon to be indie novel bestseller.

It really doesn’t matter what stage of the process you are currently in. The world of self publishing is a deceptively complicated one.

Sure there are short cuts. There are services that remove the headaches of the process. But when it comes to these services, you are putting your publishing success in the hands of someone else.

Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being an indie to begin with?

Why I became an Author/Publisher

There are a number of reasons I chose to pursue self publishing rather than the trad route. But the main reason: I want to be in charge of my own destiny.

When you become an author/publisher, you are in control. It is up to you to figure out cover design, editing, printing, marketing, funding, and all those other happy little tasks.

To be successful, you’ll need to educate yourself on each one of these topics. Even if you plan on hiring outside help, which you will need to do to get a proper cover or editing especially, you will still want to learn the ins and outs of the process.

Blogs vs. Books

The first thing I did when studying self publishing was perform a series of google searches on the topic. What I found was a random smattering of information, often conflicting. It was never in order of the process, and usually hyper focused on just one topic.

Because of this, I recommend you buy the following four books. Read in the order I recommend below, they will walk you through the entire process.

These books were slected and set in this order with one goal in mind: be successful.

What is success?

For you success may mean something different than for me. So I’m going to outline my idea of success when it comes to self publishing. If your goals are in line with mine, then this reading list is for you. If not, I still recommend these books just so you can learn the process.

Success is quality. The finished product, be it an ebook, paperback or hardcover must be equal to or greater than the quality of a traditionally published book. This means good design, fully edited, great writing, etc.

Success is control. I don’t want to fumble around in the dark and hope I’m doing things right. I want to know my options and make informed decisions. For example, should I print my paperback using Createspace or Lightning Source (or Lulu, or one of the many other POD options). Speaking of POD, is that the best method, or should I pursue small batch printing?

Success is readers. Here’s a quote from a little known indie movie called The United States of Leland. “You’re not a writer unless someone else is reading your shit.” I don’t agree wholeheartedly with that statement, but readers make up a large part of success in my mind.

Success is income. Yes, money. That may taste bad to you, but I want to be able to earn a living doing what I love, writing full time. Success isn’t fame or wealth, but it is income.

The 4 books you need to read to become a self published success

Before you write, read:

Get Known Before The Book Deal

1. Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform
by Christina Katz

The most difficult part of self publishing is by far marketing which is why 3 of these books are all about spreading the word (everything else is more or less step by step). Get Known… is the first recommendation because it focuses on marketing before you have anything to market except for yourself.

Marketing is an ugly word for most writers, but it doesn’t need to be. I’m not talking about ads or pushing your book in front of uninterested people. I’m talking about making yourself known through organic means while building your platform.

This book focuses on networking, building your blog, and getting the process started while establishing a platform you can use to kickstart your first book. If you are just starting out, or if you are planning on publishing a book in the near future, read this one first.

When I asked Christina to share something about her book, she had this to say:

“Platform is EVERYTHING in your writing career. Your platform determines your success as an author, whether self-published or traditionally published. It also determines how large of a readership you will command in and outside of your published works. And, most importantly, platform determines how much you can earn as a writer in a rapidly changing publishing eco-system.

“No platform, no success. That’s just the way it goes today. And don’t let anyone tell you that this is bad news. Platform ownership is the best thing to happen to writers, possibly, in history.”

Before you publish, read:

APE Author Publisher Entrepreneur

2.APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
by Guy Kawasaki

APE is the most comprehensive book on the actual process of self publishing. Covering the nitty gritty details like beta reading, editing, design, printing, ect. you’ll learn everything you need to in order to create a quality book.

APE is frequently updated to keep up with the changing publishing landscape, so no matter when you buy it you’re sure to get all the latest information. For this reason, I recommend buying the ebook.

The one thing APE doesn’t really touch on is marketing, but that’s ok because it focuses on the things you need to bring your book from manuscript to a quality product.

Before release day, read:

Your First 1000 Copies

3. Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book
by Tim Grahl

So your book is headed down the pipeline and is scheduled for publication a few months down the road. Now you need readers. You’ve already started the process with Get Known… so you should have a foundation in place to begin implementing the strategy outlined in Your First 1000…

Your First 1000… focuses on a particular kind of marketing call permission marketing. This is where you make yourself available to readers and they choose to follow you. Once they make that choice, it’s your job to not let them forget about you by plugging the holes in your platform, giving your readers useful or entertaining content, and finally selling you book.

Most of this will be done using your blog and your email newsletter, two of the most powerful marketing tools in a writer’s toolbox today. Follow this process and you’re destined to build a passionate readership.

When I asked Tim to share something about his book, he had this to say:

“Marketing is no longer a dirty word.  In today’s publishing world, the act of marketing is just two things: 1) creating long-term connections with people and 2) being relentlessly helpful.  With that in mind, you focus on getting permission to stay in contact with fans, connect with them through sharing content widely and freely and then use outreach to move people from not knowing you exist to knowing you exist.  This “Connection System” is something every author can use to be successful.”

After your book’s released, read:

Sell Your Book Like Wildfire

4. Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing and Publicity
by Rob Eagar

So you have a platform, a completed and released book, and a thriving permission based marketing system. Now you need to work on outreach. While Your First 1000… is great at building the best kind of marketing system, is only touches on outreach where Sell Your Book… really takes off.

This is the most technical of the marketing books in this list and presents a wide array of outreach strategies. Some of the tactics here have been touched on in the books before it, but here we delve into an outreach strategy that will get you book in front of thousands of people at a time if done correctly.

When I asked Rob to share a something about his book, he had this to say:

“Anyone will tell you that it’s important to expand your author platform. Yet, few are actually successful enough to show you how.  As the old adage says, “Never take financial guidance from a broke person.” Likewise, don’t give credence to book marketing advice from someone who has never written a book or actually succeeded in selling their work on a large scale. There is too much blind leading the blind in the publishing industry. Instead, follow a leader who has already gone down the road, knows the difference between the land mines and shortcuts, and has the experience to help you navigate a steady course.”

The big picture

As you can see, there is more to self published and becoming an author/publisher than simply writing your book and throwing it through the meatgrinder hoping for sales. There are proven systems which work well for writers and readers alike because they excel at connecting the two in meaningful ways. Harness the power of these book and become a self publishing success.

As for me, I’m in the midst of this process. I’ve been following many of the techniques laid out in these books and my platform has been steadily growing. My upcoming novel is set for release in January, so if you want to have a guinea pig to see how all this works, feel free to follow me and sign up for my newsletter.


Sing up for my monthly newsletter and get a free ebook thriller.


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5 thoughts on “The 4 books you need to read to become a self publishing success

  • M.G. de Fierro

    Thanks for putting together this excellent post. I was led to it through your G+ post in the Writer’s Discussion Group. Rarely, no, never have I seen such a straight forward, honest, and helpful compilation of what reference tools one needs in order to take on self-publishing. Sometimes, wanting to self-publishing feels a bit like going on an expedition through the Amazon, without a compass, or a map, or a guide, or even mosquito repellent, dressed in Arctic gear. Of the four books you listed, Ape, was the only one I’d heard of, and I am immediately getting the others. The most unique and helpful part of your post is your recommendation on the reading order. It makes perfect sense. Your blog is exceptionally good and will be following it from now on. I am also putting your work on my reading list. Best of luck with your various projects.

    • S.C. Barrus Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m really glad you found this so helpful. When I was first starting on the road to self publication, I couldn’t find anything like this so it took a long while to find some useful books. There are lots out there, but these were by far the best.

      I hope to see you around more M.G.!

  • Faith

    Great post. Many thanks. While your subject matter is not my field, I’m a Catholic missionary, I appreciate your post in helping others to self-publish. I do hope to purchase the first book first!

    Best wishes in your writing and in your publishing.

  • Brida

    I followed you here because of your thoughtful comment on the Tim-Ferriss-audio “bookclub”-article.

    Reading your list, I was wondering if you know Kristen Lamb’s books on using social media for marketing and how you’d arrange them in the list. I read her first two books a while ago and, for the launch of HEDGE GAMES, bought her newest one, Rise of the Machines — in which she has some interesting ideas and theories on why traditional marketing doesn’t work so well for books. Also, it’s quite costly for an indie author just starting out.
    That’s what kept tumbling in my thoughts while reading your list of suggestions – hence the question.

    Great posts on self-publishing — I’ve now subscribed on FB (as Nina) not to miss the next ones. :)

    • S.C. Barrus Post author

      Hi Brida, Thanks for the comment and for following! I wrote quite the follow up, so I added a summery below if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

      TL:DR: Social is great, start asap. Trad marketing can be expensive and not exactly recommended without lots of research (never go in debt). There are lots of free marketing opportunities (see list below)

      I haven’t read any of Kristen Lamb’s books, but I just checked her out and she looks like she knows what she’s talking about. I think I’ll pick up on of her books to read next, thanks for the suggestion.

      As far as Traditional Marketing, I agree that a lot of traditional marketing isn’t cost effective for a writer on a budget. The only forms of trad marketing I like are magazine adds which can be expensive but are hyper targeted to people in a very specific niche who are already paying to learn about people just like you (h/t to Tim Ferris on that one, coincidentally enough. He talks about magazine adds a lot in 4 Hour Work Week). PPC ads can be effective too, but that’s not exactly traditional. Both of this shouldn’t be taken without thorough research and understanding, and if any marketing will put you in debt, take the free route!

      Lucky for us there a many free or inexpensive tools available (social networking, blogging, writers workshops, book readings, guest posting & interviews can all be free, and all can help build your platform).

      So you asked for my opinion on when you should begin using Kristen Lambs social strategies. Beginning to use social networking as a marketing platform should begin as soon as you know you’re going to publish (same with blogging because they go hand in hand). I consider it a major part of building your platform.

      The reason is, it can take a long time to build a social presence unless you’re already well known for something. It can also take a lot of work to get the social ball rolling (luckily social work can be fun work). My favorite is Google +, but each has it’s own benefits. I definitely still need to hone my own social networks, so I’ll be picking up her books soon.