How To Self-Publish Your First Book (Part 1): Planning, Platform…and a Promise Fulfilled

by Brian Cormack Carr on June 16, 2013 · 5 comments

in Author Platform, Career, Coaching, Indie Publishing, Publishing, Vital Vocation

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Why I Self-Published My First Book

A week ago, I self-published my first book – How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love – through Amazon and Smashwords.  It marked the fulfilment of a promise I had made to myself in August of last year.  I wrote about that promise in a blog post at the time called Two Books in Ten Months: My 40th Birthday Writing Challenge.

Well, I did it – I self-published my first book just before my 40th birthday (and I’ve drafted out the second one).

Not bad, eh?

In fact, when I look back at the amount of work and volume of learning I’ve undertaken during the past ten months, I’m still half amazed that I ever managed to do it.  If anyone ever tells you that self-publishing is the “easy option”, you have my permission to slap them sideways.

I had intended to blog the process of writing the book, step-by-step as I did it – but to be frank, it took all my time to manage a couple of sporadic blog posts in addition to keeping up my writing schedule.  That’s partly explained by the fact that it also took all my focus to hold down my very very full-time job as a charity chief executive in addition to spending evenings and weekends as the madman in the attic, beavering away at my book.

Has it been worth it?

You bet it has.  Not only do I feel an immense sense of achievement in having finally produced the book that’s been rumbling around in my head for years, I’m also delighted at how well received the book has been so far – and that’s before my serious marketing and promotional work have really kicked in.

I even managed – for a few precious hours – to outsell Donald Trump on the Amazon Kindle careers bestseller list.  Yes, I know he was probably at number one at some point, but still make no apologies for enjoying my moment of glory!


In the weeks to come, I’m undertaking a blog tour to promote the book. I’ve made a few stops already – on A Girl And Her Kindle, Careershifters, Blog Tech Guy and Grace Owen Solutions – and several more are in the pipeline.  I’m hoping that the book’s progress up the charts will start in earnest as these blog tour stops kick in.

Would I do it again?

Oh, definitely.  In fact, I already have my second book planned out, and several other ideas are stacking up in my brain.  I’m in this for the long haul (one of the best marketing techniques of all, I think).

How did I do it?  That’s what this post – the first in a series of three – is about.  This is my step-by-step guide to the process of writing, self-publishing and beginning to market your first (or fiftieth) book.

In this first post, I look at the process of planning the book, the importance of building an author platform, and the basics of choosing something to write about.  In parts 2 and 3, I’ll be looking at what comes next, including getting help from professionals, formatting, pricing, and how to ensure the world knows about your book once you’ve written it.

Here’s to your success!

How To Self-Publish Your First Book


Step 1: Have – or start building – a platform.

Yes, this does come before writing (if you haven’t started writing yet).  If you have started writing, that’s fine.  Just start building your platform as soon as you can.  An author platform is basically the online (and offline) ‘base’ from which you can market your work.  It’s an essential part of an author’s toolkit.

I’m not going to go into all the details of why and how here – I covered that in my previous post on How To Build Your Author Platform – but suffice to say, once your book is out there and you’re looking for people to buy it, you’ll be glad you didn’t skip this step.

Step 2: Plan your work.

Like I said, writing my first book pretty much derailed most of my other writing commitments (like blogging) because I have very limited time in which to write.  That’s like most of us, right?

So plan your work.  I wrote about my approach to planning in How To Plan Your First Book.  Did I stick to the plan? Sometimes, sometimes not.  But that’s not the point – the fact is, having a plan got me started, and a couple of times when I’d stopped – after I checked in with where I was against my deadlines – it gave me enough of a fright to get me started again.

Plans are often more fiction than reality, but they’re undeniably useful.  Make one, and start moving.

Step 3: Pick a topic and write about it – well.

The internet is awash with advice on the best topics to pick for your book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.  If you’re trying to cement your expertise in a particular niche, you’d be well advised to search for relevant keywords and to build your book’s contents  and title around those.  If fiction is your thing, you’ll want to check out what’s selling and aim your imagination in that direction (which is why there are so many vampire and erotica books available these days).

Nothing wrong with that advice, of course – and if your main aim is to be marketable, then it really mustn’t be ignored – but I’d also suggest you don’t lose sight of what it is you want to say.  Why do you want to write?  What do you find yourself wanting to write about?

Found it?  Got it?  Good – now write about it.  And do it really, really well.  Not every success has to duplicate what has come before, so you don’t have to follow someone else’s template.  If you’ve got an original idea, run with it – and then publish and market it like a pro.

Step 4: Pick a title that captures the imagination of your reader.

Sometimes the title will come first.  The title of my book – How To Find Your Vital Vocation (etc.) – emerged from the title of my career coaching blog – Vital Vocation.  Sometimes it will come second, as it emerges from the content of your book.

Fiction authors perhaps have a bit more flexibility here.  Fiction titles can wonderfully abstract – just check out books like Consider Phlebas, The Private Memoirs and Confessions Of A Justified Sinner, and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time.

Of course, some nonfiction book titles can be pretty weird too, if this Abebooks post is anything to go by.  Fancy a copy of Squids Will Be Squids, The Practical Pyromaniac or Oral Sadism And The Vegetarian Personality, anyone? No?  The point is, you’ll want to title your book in a way that will attract your chosen readership, and here’s where Google’s keyword tool comes in handy again.

Wonder why How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love has such a long title?  Keywords!  The following are just some of the keywords and phrases embedded in that title: “find your vocation”; “find your career”; “find your purpose”; “find a job”; “find a job you love”; “a career you love”; “getting a job”; “how to find a job”….and so the list goes on.

Make your title (and subtitle) keyword rich, and you’ll be that much easier to find when readers are online and searching for your kind of books.  We’ll be looking at more marketing techniques in the next posts.

To be continued…

Part 2: Formatting, Cover Design & Getting Professional Help

Part 3: Pricing, Promotion & Lessons Learned So Far

Do you have experience of writing, self-publishing and marketing a book? I’d love to hear how you’ve been getting on. Please feel free to share your tips and tools in the comments below. Questions are welcome too, and if I can’t answer them directly perhaps others will be able to help!

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Thanks for visiting! You can find more of my writing in my Amazon bestselling self-help guides How To Find Your Vital Vocation and Real Food Revival Plan both of which are available worldwide in e-book and paperback formats. Find out more here.

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