When I was in my early 20s, I was fascinated by club promoters. How did they know so many people? How did they reliably fill up the clubs? I tried to be a promoter myself with a friend but we never brought more than 50 people each to the four parties we threw. It was fun, but we weren’t exactly successful.
What I didn’t understand was that those promoters brought value to other people, not just once, but continually and consistently. Even before they started throwing parties, they’d be the go-to source for asking advice on where to party. They’d always be at the clubs making sure people were having a good time. They’d buy rounds of drinks and make the night a little more enjoyable.
They already had a huge following by the time they decided to throw their first party. This is how bookselling works today. The book is the party, an afterthought to the value you’ve been bringing before it hit the Kindle store. Readers give you money not just for the book, but for all the free value you gave them before it was released.
I get a lot of emails from guys asking how to make money from selling books. This list is for them…
1. Ask not how to make money—ask how to bring value. How are you going to help or entertain people? No one cares about your goal to make $3,000 a month in book sales. They want to know how your writing will positively affect their lives. If you don’t know the benefits that people will receive from your writing, you will not be successful.
2. The blog is more important than the book. I don’t know of a single non-fiction self-published writer who is successful without having a blog. We’re not in the old times where you can drop a book out of thin air and have it be a best seller. Before you start writing the book, you should have a plan to blog for one year to build an audience. After one year of selfless writing where you ask for nothing in return, you may then start writing a book that you will sell to your readers. If you don’t have enough material to maintain an active blog and a book, you won’t make it.
3. The snobby author is dead. Readers want to correspond with the people they follow. You can’t pull a J.D. Salinger and be “mysterious” by disappearing from the face of the Earth. I remember once I asked an author if his book was available in ebook. He didn’t bother responding and I didn’t buy it. While I can’t reply to every tweet or comment left on my blog, I do respond to over 90% of my emails, even though it takes a considerable amount of time. Today’s writer should be more like a friend than an aloof celebrity.
4. The cover is more important than you realize. I know you’re thinking, “But Roosh, your covers suck!” This is true, but in my genre guys want nondescript covers that don’t get noticed in public. This is becoming irrelevant as we move to e-reading so don’t be surprised if my future covers become more descriptive and pretty. The most important thing is to have a cover that looks great as a thumbnail. Take note of Amazon’s “Customers also bought” section. If your thumbnail looks like crap there, it will get less clicks. I know you’ll be broke when doing your first book, but plunk down the $299 and get the cover done via 99 Designs.
5. You don’t need an editor, but you need a copyeditor. Readers hate typos. For them it feels wrong for a book to have them. They’ll put up with meandering prose and even grammar mistakes but typos get to them. Go to Elance and find a copyeditor to proofread your book before publication. It’s okay to send rough drafts to your friends for free to receive general comments, but you really need a pro to catch all the typos.
6. Don’t be stingy with review copies. You have to think long-term with your book, not just the first month of sales. Even if your audience is small, I wouldn’t give out less than 10 review copies. For Day Bang I gave out over 30.
7. Price the book at what your readers want, not what you want. This is how most authors price their book: “I want to make $2,000 a month, so if I price it at $20, I only have to sell 200 copies!” Newsflash: your readers don’t care how much you want to make per month. They want cheap books filled with content that makes them feel like they are getting a good deal. Therefore your book should be priced low, with absolutely no consideration to how much you want to make. Even I’m surprised how price sensitive customers are.
If someone buys my book for $9.99 and sees yours for $20, they’ll ask, “Well, it better be twice as good as Roosh’s.” If not then they will feel ripped off. You must price your book based on the market, and right now the market is driving prices down. Price it too high and you might as well just announce that you don’t want to sell any books at all.
8a. Fighting piracy hurts your readers more than the pirates. If I were to put a password on PDF files, or enable DRM on the Kindle edition, I would just be annoying readers. Pirates can’t be stopped, and caring about them shows that you’re more concerned about how much you earn than the reading experience of people who buy your book. Make it easier for customers by putting your book on all available outlets, such as Createspace (for paperback), Amazon (Kindle), and Smashwords (everything else). Again, pretend you’re a buyer. Wouldn’t you want the book easy to buy without DRM? You fail as a bookseller when you encourage a customer to go to Google and search for a pirated copy.
8b. Give so much value that your reader would feel bad about pirating your work. 80% of the information I give is free on my blog or newsletter. About 20% of my writing is packaged into books. So when a customer is faced with a choice to pirate the book or give me money, he chooses the latter. I lost count how many times guys told me, “Your book is the only one I didn’t pirate.” They know I’m not some soulless corporation, but one guy trying to put out good work.
9. Promote your book, but not too much. Imagine if I plugged my books on every post or tweet. You’d get annoyed because book promos are not value. Don’t think that having a large blog readership or Twitter following means people want to receive ads. Outside of book release days, the frequency at which you can promote your book should be “once in a while”. Leave a link to the book somewhere on your navigation bar and then shut up about it. People know about your book and reminding them every day is going to turn them off.
10. The blog is more important than the book. Yes I know this is at number two but I must stress how important it is. Even after your book drops, a project that took you god knows how many hours of blood and sweat to make, you have to keep blogging. You’re only just beginning! Your blog must be permanent and eternal, while the book is a secondary part of that. If you aren’t ready to accept this, your book will not make it in today’s publishing climate. Even when I go on a blog break of a couple weeks, I notice a dip in sales. Your blog is the heart that pumps oxygen to your book. Without the blog, your book dies.
11. Pray for luck on Amazon. If your book is in a hot niche and you have decent sales, it will be listed in the “Customers also bought” section of more popular books. My book Bang lists well under The Game and Mystery Method so it has enjoyed nice sales from people who don’t even know about my blog.
12. After releasing your first book, get to work on the second. To make a living from writing, one book is not enough. You need to keep going and put book after book after book, all while blogging. A lot of people see my ability to live abroad and don’t realize that my income came after blogging forever and putting out, as of this writing, thirteen books. Even though you think you only have one book on you, trust me when I say you’ll get the idea for a second after you complete the first. A good goal is to complete one book a year.
13. Use the end of one book to promote another. When you get to the end of Bang, there is a promotion for Day Bang. When you get to the end of Day Bang, there is a promotion for Bang. If someone finished my book, they probably liked it and will be willing to read another one of my books. Sales beget more sales.
14. Stay on top of self-publishing trends. For hundreds of years, bookselling was the same. You put the book on paper and it landed in a bookstore. Things are changing so fast that how I sell books now is completely different than just three years ago. PDF used to be the gold standard, but now I include EPUB and MOBI formats in all my direct sales. Paperback used to account for 100% of my sales, but now it’s less than 33%. Thankfully today there are sites like 99 Designs and Elance to hire contractors to help us, along with informative blogs like Joe Konrath and Self Publishing Review.
15. People buy you just as much as the book. Most of the sales from one of my recent books, Bang Poland, went to guys who will probably never step foot in Poland. So why are they buying it? Because they like my work and want to support it. I can open Microsoft Word, take a dump on my keyboard, and call it Bang Your Mom and it will have sales because people trust what I’m doing. This increases your responsibility as a writer because the last thing you want to do is make people feel like they are paying more for less.
16. Information products are still king. Even though I love my memoir A Dead Bat In Paraguay, it gets demolished in sales by Bang and Day Bang. The reason is that people want something that directly benefits them. Plus it’s easier to sell an info product—just list how it will help a person’s life. It’s much tougher to sell fiction and memoirs.
17. Say thank you. Times are tough and that ten bucks that someone just gave you could have gone somewhere else. Don’t take your readers’ support for granted, and even if it sounds trite, say thanks. You can even use smiley faces.
18. Have sex with groupies. :hump:
Learn More About My Books: Bang Guides
32 thoughts on “18 Self-Publishing Tips That Have Helped Me Sell Over 25,000 Books”
Thanks for a magnanimous, informative post, Roosh. This is excellent stuff.
Thanks for the info! Very interesting!
I think the reason you do well is that you are easily to relate to and you talk about your short comings. This sounds bad, but it’s not like you are some top model dude out there pulling ass because of your sterling looks. Your best selling point is that you are pretty normal and average and people can relate to that. Your best stuff is when you talk about your early struggles and how most of your success has come from straight forward hard work. I think your speech about not going home before you do 10 approaches really has stuck in my mind for years and years. There is no short cut around plain old hard work.
You make an excellent point. Roosh is essentially self-deprecating.
Not only does it make the advice more relatable, but it makes the writing more honest and interesting. However much people want to read good advice, they want to read good writing, and feel like they’re relating to another human being, much more.
Self-deprecation is a terrible tactic to use with women, but an extremely effective tactic to use with men.
Good stuff, I imagine that if you have 20-25 books that sell pretty decently you can almost retire off your “catalog” of work. I am waiting for the proof on my first book now from CreateSpace, and I am DEFINATLY going to write a 2nd book.
I think video has a lot of potential too….Although it takes a lot of work to sell 1,000 copies of your next book, you can easily get 10 or 20k hits on your youtube videos and make a decent return….
BRILLIANT. AND YES YOUR BOOKS ARE THE ONLY ONES I DID NOT PIRATE. SORRY BOUT CAPS, KEYBOARD BROKEN
Very true about yours being the only books i havent torrented. it takes such a long time to publish though doesnt it? i mean if you are building your base in blogs first. When you first came out with DC batchelor did you tell anyone about it? or let it develop a readership, essentially by luck?
Because most of my friends family colleagues would not really appreciate the kind of red pill content i would be publishing, i was seeking to start off carte blanche? would that work? or i just end up like a a whole other set of blogs left half finished or dustbinned in 8 months time.
I disagree though about the whole giving more value than you’re worth type deal though. (even though i would probably follow it). IM products and a whole slew of shitty Squeeze page pua type ebooks have shown there is a ready and active market for magic pill bullshit. yes its morally reprehensible, but there are many more people making thousands of dollars peddling bullshit to flies, instead of your excellent honey coated book nuggets (that actually work). what are your thoughts on that?
Does integrity matter? is speaking the voice more important than the hustle?
these are the questions i routinely ask myself, and as the economy stagnates a little more, jobs are ever more harder to find, i find myself close to changing my answers to those questions
You linked to 99designts.net, pretty sure you meant to link to 99designs.com, might want to go back and fix that.
How would you go about marketing an erotic novel? Same approach, create a blog and give tid bits and build an audience and market the book?
Honestly I have really no idea how to market fiction.
For fiction your best guide is Dean Wesley Smith, see: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=3736
As for point number 8, I’d like to point out that trademarks and copyrights always cause more harm than good. I apologize if I should not be endorsing other books here but Jeffery Tucker’s Bourbon for Breakfast, which everyone should read, has a few chapters which make the case against intellectual property. Buy it or read it for free:
His books, and yours, I had zero desire to pirate because your number 8b.
Roosh, I disagree about your suggestion to forego an editor for a copyeditor. That’s like planning to build a home from scratch and just hiring a carpenter in lieu of an architect. A good editor brings a fresh pair of incisive eyes to the structure and content of one’s work. A quality editor is invaluable.
Hire a carpenter with drafting skills. An architect is a waste of money. They’re no engineers.
What you say about providing value before you publish is absolutely true. I buy and will continue to buy all of your bang guides, even ones on countries that I have no intention of ever visiting, because it’s a way for me to pay you back for all of the free advice I get every day from the blog, newsletter and forum.
I bought Bang Poland, I’m a somewhat regularly read your posts and watch your videos and I bought it because I actually just got back from Poland when you released it.
If I ever go back it’ll come in handy, but for me it was just another one of those things that makes a neat little reminder of my own memories, whether it be a book or some Polish festival happening somewhere nearby it just brings up pleasant thoughts.
Thanks for this thoughtful and practical list. I concur with all your tips (well, almost all.)
I especially agree with the importance of giving value, maintaining a blog, hiring a copyeditor and staying current with self-pub trends.
This is an awesome time in history when we can discover ourselves rather than waiting for someone to discover us.
Great advice. You gave me a path to walk brother.
Although I have no intention of becoming an author, this is solid advice.
Roosh, as you know I’m in the process of compiling my first book, but I have some procedural questions:
When you’re putting together a book do you format as you go? By that I mean, are you writing (or copying) into preset dimensions(MS Word?) that Amazon or Createspace prescribe for their page count estimates (like 5.5″x 8.5)? Or are you just hammering away in MS Word, saving as a PDF and let the format go?
What application do you use to write in?
I’m an art director and designer by trade so I plan to do the layout myself, but I was wondering if all there was to it is laying out a document to the parameters Amazon/Createspace have set and then just sending them the PDF to publish?
I hammer away, get the final draft complete, then format it. I don’t recommend doing it as you go.
Yeah just put it into the template, convert to pdf (I use zamzar.com), then order a review copy. Tweak if necessary.
I didn’t know you were writing a book. Keep me updated via email.
A+++ article. You answered everything I wanted to know about self publishing. Thanks Roosh!
Great post. I patronize Roosh’s books because of his adherence to most of the above points. I want to especially thank him, though, for #5. Most of the self-published game books (and blogs, for that matter) are riddled with errors. While I’m not a grammar Nazi, when the mistakes become so serious that I have to work to understand what is being said, I get annoyed and think “this was important enough for you to write, but not enough to proofread–what the hell?” Roosh’s books and blog are a rare exception to this. Thanks for taking the time, sir, to write in decent English.
Yes. Roosh has adapted to the times and has figured out the publishing “game.”
I published my first book back in 2005 as the new technologies and distribution channels were just getting established. I got trapped in the old-school publishing model and lost money. I knew better, but was working with a minor celebrity at the time to publish and thought going the traditional route would add credibility to my book. Big mistake!
#4 and #5 stand out to me.
#4 – Cover design is critical. Great tip about the cover looking good in a thumbnail. My feeble attempts at graphic design were rightly rejected by distributors and retailers. I spend much more than $299 to get a great looking cover design by people with industry experience — not just in cover design, but in what covers sell books.
#5 – Copyeditors are your savior. I agree with the fact that you don’t need a content editors. I hired two different copy editors to catch the spelling and typos. I asked them for feedback on content. The trouble is unless your editor really knows your subject matter, they’ll only be able to provide opinion rather than solid content editing. Big publishing houses have content editors that specialize in genres and can provide great editorial feedback. When contracting your own people to edit, you’re going to have difficulty finding good editors that know your subject well enough to provide any editorial value. How many guys can provide content editing services to books like Bang? You could find guys that know pickup, but maybe not international pickup. You could find guys that know travel, but not pickup. Etc.
We didn’t have the blogosphere we have now back when we started, but it’s true that you’ve got to keep feeding your baby birds. The point here is the game as changed nearly 100% from just a few years ago, and it’s going to continue to change.
Roosh, this post is gold.
I’ve bought yours and other bloggers’ books only after like a year of following. And it’s totally true, at some point I was like – “wow I got a year of good free content, I should probably throw him a couple of bucks”.
Keep it up. Btw, do you do have an affiliate program?
Me too. I was a big fan of Roosh’s blog for about a year before I thought exactly the same thing. Why was I being stingy? I recently bought his life’s work, a bargain for all of the entertainment his writing has provided me…