How to win the self-publishing gauntlet (a massive cheatsheet and guided walkthrough)

How to win the self-publishing gauntlet (a massive cheatsheet and guided walkthrough)



Update: this content is a little dated, so I made some new videos on how to publish and market a book

This blog was supposed to be about creativity, but somehow became about self-publishing. But every day I still get emails from people telling me they’ve just signed with Xlibris, or paid for a vanity publishing package, or published and are getting zero sales.

I’ve become kind of an expert in book production, design and marketing, but since I’ve been blogging for years, I don’t have an all-in-one, complete guide to publishing, and most of my posts are advanced level stuff.

So I’m making a big reference guide here, where I’ll link to all the articles I’ve written, in a variety of subjects, in a step-by-step self-publishing master post. I hope you will find it useful.

You should also check out this: 134 publishing questions answered (the ultimate self-publishing resource guide. That’s a massive ebook I wrote; I decided to put it up as a blog post so you can navigate easier.

What follows is a set of major topics, in more or less the order they arrive in, which you are inevitably going to face in your publishing journey. It will be a crisis on your quest; so this could be called “The Self-Publishing Gauntlet.”

And that’s exactly what it’ll be… I’ll rebrand this page once I get all the content up.


Exclusive Bonus: Want to make a living with your writing? Download my FREE book launch checklist and discover the step-by-step publishing roadmap I use to launch bestsellers.




The publishing industry is changing! The following is a new series of videos I made to help indie authors publish books in 2016. It’s a crash course that covers book design and formatting, getting more reviews, book marketing, building an author platform and website, and beginning to think about high level stuff like growing your email list quickly with optin offers and giveaways. I’m not working with clients anymore but I wanted to make this available so authors can get some free education and make smart publishing decisions that will save them time and money. This video is just a short introduction, so I don’t really give any valuable information: I recommend watching each video in the series, because sometimes I stray off topic and accidentally drop an insanely valuable marketing hack, but you can also skip down to the ones you feel you need most.


How to write books that satisfy readers

Most people talk about writing as an art: go into your cave and produce a book that’s uninfluenced by the market. That’s a recipe for publishing failure 98% of the time. It’s fine if you want to do it anyway; but most authors actually want to write books that make money and satisfy readers – they’re just doing it wrong. Books aren’t made bestsellers through marketing and a smart book launch: they are made bestsellers during the writing process. They are made to satisfy readers of a particular genre.

This is true for the vast majority of books, and is only not true (in some, rare cases) for literary non-fiction or bizarre breakout books that happen to do well. If you want to publish fiction or non-fiction books as a career, you need to treat your book like a product and make sure it meets and overdelivers on readers expectation. You do that by conforming to and then redefining genre conventions (tell the right kind of story, just do it better).

How to write a bestselling book (without getting stuck)

In this video I talk about the writing process, how to get unstuck and deal with writer’s block, what’s usually holding you back from finishing, and how to write a book that actually sells (by focusing on plotting and story architecture).

Writing is a skill that takes practice and effort, and it’s got to be a major priority, a choice, or it won’t get done. But the reason people procrastinate is usually because writing feels hard, like work, especially if you’re writing fiction and you don’t know what happens next, or if you’re upset about the crappiness of your first draft. You’ve got to allow yourself to write badly in the beginning to get the story down.

How to get an agent or publisher (traditional publishing)

When most writers talk about publishing a book, they are usually thinking about traditional publishing – getting an agent, and then having your book sold to a publisher for an advance. But there days there are a whole bunch of small presses or hybrid publishers that you may feel more comfortable with, but are actually vanity presses that overcharge authors and deliver sub-standard services. In many cases, self-publishing gives you more control, and lets you get higher quality book design for less money. In this video I talk about what to watch out for, different publishing choices, and what you need to do to make your book successful.

How to self-publish a book (and why it’s better)

In this video I talk about how much it costs to self publish, the types of files you need (print and ebook cover and formatting), what to watch out for when you’re looking to hire book designers, and some common mistakes to avoid. I also talk about the business of self-publishing, how it compares to traditional publishing, potential earnings and pitfalls, and why I believe self-publishing is usually the better way to publish, because it has a higher profit margin, but only if you do it right.

How to find the best editor to edit your book

Do you really need to get your book edited? How much does an editor cost? How do you find a good one? Can you self-edit your book or just send it to beta readers? In this video I answer these questions and more.

I wrote an article last year that’s actually gotten some heated debate.
You should read it and read all the comments too.

I also made a free video-series about self-editing.

If you still want an editor, try

How to design your (e)book cover

If you’re designing your own ebook cover (or even if you’re hiring a professional designer) you’ll probably be inclined to design your cover a certain way. Authors tend to make the same mistakes, unless they’re educated about what a book cover design is actual for or what it has to do.

I talk about best layout and arrangement; best colors and contrast; and how to make a cover stand out and sell your book.

This video is about what I’ve learned after designing over 1000 covers (many of them for bestselling books).

Check out all the videos and stuff I’ve put on

Also, click here to read all the articles I’ve posted on this site (make sure to view the second page, there are some great ones there.)

How to design a print book cover for Createspace

This is a crash course on designing book covers for print, including spine width, publisher logo or button, what to put on the back cover, margins and trim, etc.

Book formatting and conversion

How to format your book for print

Check out all the videos and stuff I’ve put on


How to market a book online – (visibility, funnels, SEO)

In this video I talk about a few of the strategies I’m using to dominate my genre: when most people talk about book marketing, they’re actually talking about very basic, rudimentary author platform building stuff like making a website or setting up social media. Sometimes they talk about “SEO” but it’s usual trivial garbage that isn’t going to work for you. The nice thing about writing books is that very few authors – especially in fiction – are doing the amazing things like boosting your Amazon page in Google search results with backlinks, or creating genre specific hubs that rank well, or creating content for YouTube and Slideshare or other sites to constantly bring in new readers.

The thing about book marketing is, it should get easier and cost LESS over time if you’re building your author platform well. You’re making a funnel that attract readers naturally, and building an email list so you can email your target readers directly. If you aren’t doing that, you’ll always have to spend the same amount of time and money to reach new readers, which is exhausting and will make it difficult for you to see real earnings.

Why most book marketing is a waste of time

Most “book marketing” doesn’t sell books. It’s basic platform stuff that you kind of need, as a baseline, but isn’t actually attracting new readers. Lots of people will help you set up a platform or publish a book, but extremely few people know how to put your book in front of the right readers… unless you are paying for it, which isn’t a long term strategy for publishing success.

Putting up a nice website, building your optin offer, designing a great booking book… none of that is “book marketing”. Book marketing is getting your book in front of your target readers and convincing them to take action. Usually, when you pay for book marketing, you’re hiring a publicist to try and get your book on someone else’s platform, or you’re paying for access to a list, or to someone else’s traffic. That can work, sometimes, but costs a lot. What you should be doing, is creating amazing content than ranks well and shows up naturally when people search for keywords related to your book or genre.

How to set up an author website (that gets traffic, conversions and sales)

I put up some videos and a whole website to use as a sample site: Then I did a whole webinar on building author platforms and made some cool stuff for it, so you should watch that presentation.

Click here and you’ll see all the articles I’ve written about making an author website.

And grab this infographic of the Perfect Author Website.


How to set up an email list, autoresponder, optin-form, and get more subscribers

Mailchimp for Writers and Authors (free video series!)

20 Badass opt-in bribe ideas writers can use to get people to sign up to their email list

How to put your book up for sale on Amazon, iBooks, and other online book retailers

I don’t think I’ve made any super basic, “how to upload files” tutorials, but maybe I need to. Update: here’s a very simple guide to uploading your files to Kindle.

My articles are mostly about hacking Amazon, boosting your book’s SEO and visibility.

How to get more book reviews (and editorial reviews)

In this video I talk about advanced strategies for getting more book reviews, what kind of reviews you need, how book reviews help sell the book, and why waiting around for them to come naturally is not a solution. Book reviews are crucial and take effort, but if you’re serious about your book you need to make the effort. Some of the things I suggest are controversial; but even setting your book for free to get more downloads will be much more effective than marketing your book and trying to sell it at a higher price point. I also explain how different prices affect reader expectation and influence the type of reviews you’ll receive.



Go from zero platform to #1 bestseller in 90 days or less with my book, Guerrilla Publishing. Download now for free and get access to my new companion workbook and book launch roadmap (this is advanced stuff you won’t find anywhere else).



How to get your books into real bookstores, shops, and events

Coming soon!


SEO for Authors – keywords, categories and advanced strategies

Gaming your “Also Boughts” and “Also Viewed”


How (and why) to do a massive free campaign

How (and why) to do a 99cent promotion

Best price points for selling print and ebooks

Book Marketing 101: How to sell more books

I started working on stuff at but mostly publish here as well. I’m organizing everything into a big step-by-step, I’ll put links here when it’s done.

There’s also this “crash course to marketing” and a bunch of steps in this post, “how not to fail as an author.”

Click here for posts about hacking Amazon.

Click here for book marketing stuff.