How To Self-Publish A Book In A Competitive Digital World (2023)

For writers and artists of all kinds, making a living isn’t always straightforward. Regardless of the medium or genre, competition abounds, and even with some online success, it can be challenging to break through to a broader market.

The internet has made it both easier and more challenging to get your work out there. On the one hand, social media platforms allow writers and artists to connect with their audience, but this also means more people are trying to do the same thing as you.

As you look for ways to use new avenues of technology, finding ways to let technology and the internet help you as an artist or writer is essential.

How Tech-Fueled Self-Publishing Can Help Varying Artists

One area that many creators are utilizing is self-publishing. In the music industry, this usually means creating a SoundCloud or posting your new songs on TikTok. For visual artists, this can include creating dedicated social media profiles for their art. But for writers, things can be more complex. Those who wish to publish their own books might be unsure of how to utilize technology or the internet to get to that point, but the truth is that self-publishing is a sensible route for many aspiring authors. Self-publishing is similar in many ways to start a business.

With more and more channels available for writers across all genres and topics, many people are pursuing self-publishing instead of going with publishing companies. There are pros and cons to both routes, but self-publishing allows anyone with a dream to make their book vision come true.

You may wonder about the steps you need to take to self-publish. Here’s an essential guide to getting started.

Why Self-Publishing is a Good Idea For Some Authors, Especially New Ones

The traditional publishing industry has the resources and reputation that many writers look for when trying to publish their books. If you can get a publishing house to accept your book, you’ll get paid and get the resources to market and sell your book.

However, it’s rarely that straightforward. Even a well-written book that’s original and creative might not be what traditional publishers look for in their acquisitions. Larger publishing houses may have preconceived notions of what will and won’t sell, and they also receive countless submissions. In some cases, an indie publisher might be a good alternative, but these also have downsides.

(Video) Do THIS Instead of KDP Low Content Books!

So, for new writers, self-publishing is a way to get your name out there and build an audience. The truth is that pitching your book to an agent is time-consuming. You may end up querying dozens upon dozens of literary agents with hardly a word back. This is especially true if you still need to build a reputation for yourself as an author. Instead, self-publishing allows you to harness any online traction you already have and then further your audience base. Once you publish something, you can point interested people to where your book is sold, which is an excellent way to build up social media buzz and spread the word.

Six Essential Steps For Self-Publishing Your Book (Regardless of Genre)

Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but it is a viable option for many. Depending on your situation, self-publishing may be the only realistic route to getting a book in physical copy. But if you want to pursue self-publishing, you’ll likely have many questions about the process. Whether you want to publish a poetry book, sci-fi novel, or short story anthology, the approach to self-publish is much the same. Of course, as with most aspects of writing, the steps are often more complicated than can be put on paper.

To get you started, here are some steps to take when self-publishing:

Step 1: Ensure Your Book Has a Market

While you can self-publish nearly anything you want to write, you do have to look at the cost of production versus how much you’re likely to make. Of course, if you have the money to self-publish and aren’t worried about profit, you should go for it. However, for most writers, profit is at least a factor. To ensure you can make a profit now, or later as you build an audience, research the market for your genre. You can confirm you have a unique idea or at least a premise that is appealing to your potential readers.

Step 2: Focus Heavily On Editing

One potential downside to self-publishing is you won’t have access to qualified, professional editors. However, editing is still vital. If you want to succeed as an author, you need to publish a book that is free from grammar and spelling errors, and it’s also wise to do broader edits to things like plot and continuity. You’ll need to find editors to help you. If you’re lucky, you’ll already know someone in your network who can assist you. But keep in mind you will need to pay editors for their time and expertise.

Step 3: Figure Out the Cover

The design of your book cover also matters. The cover is the first thing readers see, and it’s a significant part of drawing an audience. Many people specialize in designing book covers, and this is a part of self-publishing where you’ll want to devote some extra time and money. If you need help with graphic design services, you can reach out to freelancers for help.

Step 4: Consider Where and How You Want to Sell the Book

Overall, it’s much easier to self-publish today because there are more platforms. Amazon has a program for self-published authors. With them, you can have your book be printed-on-demand, which means books are only created once they are ordered. But, if you self-publish through Amazon, you won’t be able to sell your book in other places. As an alternative, you could also choose to publish on your own website. But, in this case, you’ll need to find a printing company to create the book for you.

Step 5: Consider Your Budget

Self-publishing saves a lot of time and stress, but it isn’t free. The cost of hiring editors, graphic designers, and more adds up. And, if you’re choosing to pay to have the books printed yourself, the budget can get out of hand. So, before you get too far into the process, be sure you’ve planned your budget. You only want to spend what you have.

(Video) Selling Books In a Digital World

And, as you do all the hard work to write and then bring your book to the world, remember to take time to unwind and relax. Here are some tips on how to unplug.

Step 6: Launch Your Book Like You Would Any Business Product

After you have your book formatted and ready, you need to work on the marketing. This step is vital to your success as a self-published author. While there’s no one right way to market, you’re likely to succeed more if you consider your book launch as a professional would. Figure out how much money you have in your budget to do things like making social media ads. It’s also helpful to use analytics tools.

Also, be sure you have your social media pages all setup. You’ll want to post on them regularly and engage with your audience.

Final Notes on Self-Publishing

As you start this process, look online for communities of writers in the same situation. This is a great way to learn tips and tricks for people who have self-published already. Remember that self-publishing isn’t a one-size-fits-all model.

If you don’t sell as many books as you’d hoped, don’t give up. Many authors don’t see success until they’ve published more than one book, and this is true regardless of how their book got published.

Featured Image: Suzy Hazelwood; Thank you!


  • #author
  • #innovation
  • #publishing
  • #self-publish
  • #writing
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How To Self-Publish A Book In A Competitive Digital World (1)

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

  • How To Self-Publish A Book In A Competitive Digital World (2)
  • How To Self-Publish A Book In A Competitive Digital World (3)

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What kind of book makes the most sense to self-publish? ›

Science fiction and fantasy are often the go-to genre for writers wanting to make a name for themselves as published authors, so it's no surprise that almost half of the books in these genres are self-published.

Can you live off self-publishing? ›

There are self-published authors who can make a living writing with a sustainable income of $5,000 per month to $8,000 per month, even some self-published authors who make an excess of $10,000 per month.

How much does the average self-published book make? ›

How much can authors expect to earn from their books? A first-time author with a traditional publishing deal might expect an advance of $1,000-$10,000 and 5-18% royalties once they “earn out” their advance. Self-published authors do not receive advances, but their royalties can reach up to 70% for ebook editions.

Do I need an LLC to self-publish? ›

To use a business name to publish under you must file a Doing Business As (DBA)* or form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). While there are other types of business structures, those are the two most common types for authors. Each of these means filling out forms and paying fees to your local government.

Is Amazon KDP worth it? ›

So, Is Amazon KDP Worth It in 2022? Yes, Amazon KDP is still a very reliable source of online income with self-publishers making thousands of dollars every month. But to find success on the Kindle Store, it is essential to pick a profitable, low competition niche.

Is it worth it to self-publish? ›

So, is self-publishing worth it? Absolutely, and Gatekeeper Press can show you the ropes. Gatekeeper Press is a full-service self-publishing house that provides authors with an opportunity to see their books in print, something they may never get to experience through the traditional publishing route.

What book genre is easiest to sell? ›

Romance books are easily the most profitable genre, with no sign of slowing down. The most recent data confirms that this genre pulled in $1.44 billion in sales in 2021. This genre is easy to write because romance books usually follow a pretty simple formula.

How do self-published authors get noticed? ›

Promote yourself on social media

Popular influencers know the importance of posting regularly, plus how and where to showcase their personal brand. I say where because you don't have to be present everywhere. The most important part is to figure out on which platform your audience is and start being present there.

Which genre of books sell the most 2022? ›

When looking at the various genres and sales volumes, fiction, romance, fantasy, and sci-fi topped the list, across the globe. Romance continues to dominate and is still the most profitable fiction genre worldwide.

How many books do you need to sell to be successful? ›

In the book's lifetime

By comparison, the average traditionally published book sells 3,000 copies, but as I mentioned above, only about 250-300 of those sales happen in the first year. For a traditional publisher to think of a nonfiction book as a success, it has to sell more like 10,000 copies over its lifetime.

How many followers do you need to publish a book? ›

According to Forbes, a poet with 2,000 Instagram followers can get a book deal because of the quality of the work. Another source claims an author needs 1,000 email followers. A third source claims you need 25,000+ people to land a traditional book deal.

How many books do you need to publish to make money? ›

Published by Ol James on 29/05/2022

Of course, there's still a chance to earn money, although it may not be enough to quit your day job. Even still, many aspiring writers want to know how many books they need to publish to start earning an income. You need to publish one book to make money.

Can you get picked up by a publisher after self-publishing? ›

Yes, you can pursue the traditional publishing route even after self-publishing. And it's not all that rare of a process, either. There are several great reasons to consider self-publishing a book. One big reason for a lot of writers is simply that it's their only option.

How many self-published authors are successful? ›

Among indie authors, to date, only about forty people have earned six figures or more selling on Amazon.

Can a self-published book be a bestseller? ›

Can a self published book become a bestseller? Bestseller lists have historically favored traditionally published titles. However, self-published books can get on bestseller lists.

How much does a beginner author make per book? ›

Publishers typically pay a $5,000 to $10,000 advance to good first-time authors. This means they would need to sell around 1,000 copies of a book that costs $20 per copy to break even after printing and distribution costs. Following that, the author will receive royalties, typically about 10%.

What kind of books sell the most on Amazon? ›

The top five selling categories for ebooks on Amazon are:
  • Religion and Spirituality.
  • Biographies and Memoirs.
  • Business and Money.
  • Self Help.
  • Cookbooks, food, and vine.
Nov 17, 2022

Do self-published authors pay taxes? ›

But when you're self-employed, you must pay all of these taxes yourself. This is called the self-employment tax. The amount you owe—15.3% as of the 2022 tax year—is based on the net amount of income you arrived at when you completed your Schedule C. The IRS gives a little back, however.

What do writers call their LLC? ›

My advice is to name your company with your own name, as the two authors above have done, or name your publishing company something totally different. Don't split the difference. If your book is titled Love Better, don't name your company Love Better Books, LLC.

Is it better to self-publish or go through a publishing company? ›

Thankfully, self-published books have a much, much higher royalty rate than traditional publishers because you get to keep anywhere from 50-70% of your book's profits. With a traditional publisher, they take much more and you only end up with 10% maybe 12% after years of proving yourself as an author.

How long does it take to make money with Amazon KDP? ›

Royalties are paid every month, approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which the sale was reported (90 days for Expanded Distribution) as long as you meet the minimum threshold for payment. Direct deposit payments can take 1–5 business days to show on your bank account from the payment date.

How do I succeed at KDP? ›

But you can maximize reader excitement by making sure your book stands out.
  1. Create a compelling cover. ...
  2. Edit and proofread your book well. ...
  3. Write a compelling description of your book. ...
  4. Introduce yourself to your readers. ...
  5. Promote your book online. ...
  6. Publish paperbacks through KDP. ...
  7. Upload videos and book trailers.

How fast can you make money with KDP? ›

With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can self-publish your book on Amazon and start making money in as little as 24 hours. Sounds a whole lot better than waiting months or even years to find an agent, get a book deal, and go through all the rigmarole of traditional publishing for a printed book, right?

Is it smarter to self-publish? ›

Conclusion: Self-Publishing is probably the right answer (97+% of the time) Like almost all things in life, when you take out the weird fringe exceptions, it becomes pretty clear and easy to understand. 97% of authors should clearly self-publish. 1% of authors should traditionally publish.

Did JK Rowling self-publish? ›

When J.K. Rowling first started writing the Harry Potter novels, self-publishing was not an option. The first book was rejected by numerous agents and a dozen publishers. Throughout that period, she continued to work on the book and improve it. After Bloomsbury bought the novel for £1500, it underwent further editing.

What to know before you self-publish? ›

Here are the basic steps for how to self-publish a book:
  • Write a book.
  • Choose a title for your book.
  • Hire a book editor.
  • Finalize your manuscript.
  • Hire a book cover designer.
  • Decide where to self-publish your book.
  • Format & publish your book on the platform.
  • Plan and launch your book marketing campaign.
Mar 11, 2022

What type of authors make the most money? ›

Report: How Much Authors Make
James PattersonThriller novelist$86 million (2018)
JK RowlingYoung Adult author$54 million
Stephen KingHorror author$27 million
John GrishamLegal Drama author$21 million (2018)
25 more rows
Feb 4, 2020

What is the least liked book genre? ›

10 Not So Popular Genres of Fiction | Lesser Known Fiction Genres...
  • Cli-fi.
  • Nordic Noir.
  • Bildungsroman.
  • Dystopia.
  • Dalit.
  • Bangsian.
  • Hard-boiled Crime.
  • Epistolary Fiction.
May 4, 2022

What makes a book a #1 best seller? ›

So if you want your book to be a best-seller, you should try to sell at least 5,000 copies in a week — from Monday to Sunday if you want to be a Publishers Weekly best-seller, and from Sunday to Saturday if you want to be a New York Times best-seller.

How can I improve my chances of getting published? ›

In this blog post, we take you through 10 tips to maximize your chances of getting your paper published.
  1. Make sure your research is sound. ...
  2. Pay attention to the narrative. ...
  3. Polish your title and abstract. ...
  4. Proofread, proofread, proofread. ...
  5. Choose the right venue for publication. ...
  6. Make sure you follow the rules.
Oct 11, 2022

What are the odds of getting published? ›

If agents are looking to auction a manuscript, they'll typically send it out to 8-12 publishers – that is, to all the bigger publishers in town. So while an individual publisher might take just 1% of work submitted, that means an overall success rate of more like 10%.

Why is getting published so hard? ›

When seeking a publisher, you are facing an uphill battle. Thousands of hopefuls send their novels to publishers per week, and the majority get rejected. Most publishers don't allow unsolicited manuscripts, so it doesn't matter how good or talented you are. These publishers won't even see your work.

What is the #1 book ever sold? ›

According to Guinness World Records as of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed. Sales estimates for other printed religious texts include at least 800 million copies for the Qur'an and 190 million copies for the Book of Mormon.

What kind of book sells the most? ›

Romance: Romance novels are perhaps the most popular genre in terms of book sales. Romance novels are sold in grocery store checkout lines, in monthly shipments from publishers to readers, and online, as well as via self-publishing services.

What books are in high demand right now? ›

High Demand Books
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Paperback) ...
  • Twisted Series 4 Books Collection Set (Twisted Love, Twisted Games, Twisted Hate & Twisted Lies) ...
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hardcover) ...
  • The Secret History (Paperback) ...
  • The Book Thief (Hardcover) ...
  • King of Wrath (Kings of Sin, #1)

Is it worth it to self-publish a book? ›

Thankfully, self-published books have a much, much higher royalty rate than traditional publishers because you get to keep anywhere from 50-70% of your book's profits. With a traditional publisher, they take much more and you only end up with 10% maybe 12% after years of proving yourself as an author.

Do I need an LLC to self-publish a book? ›

To use a business name to publish under you must file a Doing Business As (DBA)* or form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). While there are other types of business structures, those are the two most common types for authors. Each of these means filling out forms and paying fees to your local government.

Is it a good idea to self-publish a book? ›

If you already have a huge audience to sell to, you definitely don't need a publisher to reach readers. That said, it's worth at least talking with an agent because a big enough platform could get you an equally big advance and level of marketing support. Plus, they might introduce you to a broader audience.

Can you make good money self-publishing a book? ›

It might come as a surprise, but you can actually make a ton of money self-publishing your work. You just need to know how to go about it the right way.

How many self-published books are successful? ›

How many books does the average self-published author sell on Amazon in a year? Again, it's important to be realistic about how many books the average indie author can expect to sell. Some research shows that 250 to 300 books per year is pretty average.

Do publishers look at self-published books? ›

It's pretty simple: if you can demonstrate that your book can sell, even at the modest self-publishing level, then publishers will be interested. If your self-published book doesn't sell, then, unfortunately, it seems like you'll have to retool your book or try another idea to get published.


1. Girls in ICT 2022 Summit | How to publish a book on Amazon [FULL WEBINAR REPLAY] W/ Seth Amazon
(Seth Amazon)
2. Stay Competitive: Move from Print-First to Digital-First Publishing
(Nearview Media)
3. Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order by Ray Dalio
(Principles by Ray Dalio)
4. Rick Rubin: How to Access Your Creativity | Huberman Lab Podcast
(Andrew Huberman)
5. How artists can (finally) get paid in the digital age | Jack Conte
6. Publishing in the Digital Age: 2015 National Book Festival
(Library of Congress)
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