The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living
Fanove Publishing

On September 1st 2004, I released my second book, The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds. For the first month, it was only available on my web site. It wasn’t yet available in the bookstores or on Amazon (Writer’s Digest Book Club had copies, but that just helped the overall promotional efforts).

I had been promoting the book’s upcoming release to my monthly ezine subscribers for a good six to eight months, building the buzz and anticipation. Given that direct purchases from me netted far and away the most profit, I wanted to grab as many of those sales as possible. Well, things went pretty well…

That first day, I sold $2,000 worth of books, and ended up with over $11,000 in sales for the first two months, of which roughly 80% was clear profit. These results were the culmination of a marketing strategy launched over four years earlier. Not always precise, well orchestrated, or even planned much in advance in many cases, but substantial enough for long enough to make good results downright inevitable.

A Full-Time Income…

This is the potential of self-publishing. And that was just one book through one outlet. Bookstore and Amazon sales, once they kick in, drive healthy sales numbers by themselves, and on a steadier, more ongoing basis. All told, my first book essentially provided me with a full-time living for over five years.

That’s what we’re talking about here. Not struggling as a self-publisher, or even just making some nice “mad money” on the side. I’m talking about the potential of a full-time living. Which is why I’ve extended the “Well-Fed” brand to this book: self-publishing has absolutely been a “well-fed” venture for me.

Yes, I still took on some commercial writing jobs (the field that was the subject of my first two books) to stay in the flow, but I didn’t need the work to make ends meet. Now we’re not talking “picking-out-chateaux-in-the-South-of-France” kind of money, but the book paid all my bills (including a couple of print runs each year), allowed me to stay the course in funding my retirement account, stay completely out of debt, and take a few nice vacations each year. Would that work for you?

…With Part-Time Effort

I did all that with an effort, which, while formidable, was most definitely front-loaded. Once the machine is up and running, it definitely doesn’t require a full-time effort, though if you did work it to that extent, who knows where it could take you? This sort of financial return is possible because you don’t have to sell zillions of copies of your book to make a living from it. When your profit per book (after all expenses) is three, four, five, or more times what you could make with a conventional publisher, you can generate a nice income stream with much lower sales numbers.

And we’re talking about the best kind of income stream – a passive one. You get nice checks every month, even though you’re not working nearly as hard as you did at the outset. Increased income gives us options, and passive income truly offers up the potential of a quality of life you likely can’t imagine right now. But trust me, it’s nice.

Fact or Fiction?

“The only reason to self-publish is because you can’t land a publisher.”

Every time I hear that, I’ve gotta smile. The unspoken implication being: the preferred route is to land a publisher. Well, call me crazy, but I disagree. For me, self-publishing is the first choice. I actually did not explore the conventional publishing route with anything more than half-hearted zeal. Yet, given the subsequent success of my books, especially the first, I have zero doubt that I could have attracted any number of conventional publishers had I decided to go that route. But I knew pretty early on in the process that I wanted to keep control over the project and process, keep the rights to my work, and most importantly, keep most of the profits.

Self-Publishing: The Perception

Self-publishing. One simple, hyphenated word with a boatload of baggage. What comes to mind when you hear it? Last resort? Desperation? Shoddy production quality? Ugly book covers? Pipe dreams? Poverty? Vanity? The realm of the amateur? Well, it’s certainly meant all that for many people, but I’m living proof that there’s a new definition out there, one with rising profits as well as rising industry respect. And as it gets progressively harder to land a deal with a conventional publisher, more and more of those writers and aspiring writers with a book inside them are starting to (cautiously) glance in this direction.

All of which raises a key point: this book pre-supposes that your goal is commercial success. Not just, “I’d like it to be a commercial success.” Everyone wants that. If you’re just interested in writing a book as the proverbial labor of love, with no concern whatsoever about whether a dime ever flows your way, great. And, this book won’t be for you. If that is your situation, you’d be better off publishing conventionally or via print-on-demand (POD), – see Chapter Twelve – where your upfront financial obligations are lower or maybe non-existent. As will be, in all likelihood, your profits.

My Goal: Your Success

Simply put…

I’ll show you how to create a book indistinguishable in quality from one produced by a reputable publishing company; how to do a far better job of marketing and promoting that book than a publisher ever could; and how to make far more money than you ever would with that publisher. And by doing it all yourself, you control the timetable (potentially shaving 12 to 18 months off production). Plus, you retain all the rights, allowing you to leverage the brand you’ve created into a host of profitable “spinoff” businesses – each with its own income stream.

This book is for those who want to turn their passionate creative efforts into real “pay-the-mortgage” money. I can’t absolutely guarantee it will happen with your book, because I don’t know anything about you: how driven you are, the genre of your book, your relative level of marketing savvy, business experience, etc. But what I can do is show you what’s worked for me.

I’m Just Like You

Let me leave you with this. I’ve had some pretty atypical success as a self-publisher, hence this book. Yes, I had some experience and talent in the areas of marketing and writing that contributed to my success.

That said, I assert that success as a self-publisher is far more a function of a process than an aptitude. It’s far less about some way you have to be than it is about a bunch of things you have to do. And when we’re talking about actions, we’re talking about something you have total control over.

About the Author:

Peter Bowerman, a veteran commercial freelancer and business coach, is the author of the 2000 award-winning Book-of-the-Month Club selection, The Well-Fed Writer, and its 2005 companion volume, TWFW: Back For Seconds (both self-published; www.wellfedwriter.com). His books have become how-to “standards” on starting a lucrative commercial freelancing business – writing for businesses, large and small, and for rates of $50-125+ an hour. He chronicled his self-publishing success (52,000 copies of his first two books in print and a full-time living for over five years) in his third book, the award-winning 2007 release, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living. www.wellfedsp.com.

ATTENTION: This book spotlight is being brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion. As a special promotion for Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour or $25 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky person who comments on our authors’ blog stops. Leave a comment below to have a chance to win one of these prizes! For more stops on Peter’s blog trail, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com.

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  1. Hello everybody,

    Delighted to be here on Book Excerpts. Hope to generate a lively discussion on the subject of self-publishing. The subject is a hot one these days as more and more authors are starting to realize, 1) how hard it is to land a publisher, 2) how much easier the Internet has made the process of self-publishing, 3) how lame the conventional publishing model actually is in most cases: anemic royalties, 18-24 months to publication, loss of creative control, and loss of book rights.

    And even after giving up all that, authors who HAVE been given the keys to “The Publishing Kingdom” then discover, to their dismay, how much of their own book marketing they have to do themselves – and usually for a buck a book or less!

    With that paradigm, many are understandably saying, hey, if I’m going to have to do most of the work myself anyway, I might as well be making most of the money!

    I wish you all the best on your own self-publishing journeys. Know that there are plenty of tools out there (including a few of my own at http://www.wellfedsp.com).


  2. Hi Peter; I’ve read your other books (The Well-Fed Writer and Back for Seconds) and am currently reading this book.

    Anyway in the future you could bring your lessons learned to more talk about fiction self-publishing?

    I know it is much more speculative and harder to break through, but some of us don’t have the same passion for “How-To” type books.

    I’m thinking you probably have at least a few ideas and nuggets of knowledge that can be expanded upon to help others with this type of market.

  3. It’s always impressive when an author knows his stuff and shares with other new writers learning the trade. Thank you for the insight and your book will soon be included among my writing reference books. Thanks again.

  4. Hi Peter,

    I’m reading your book right now and it’s very interesting. It’s given me a new perspective on self-publishing. I always considered going with a traditional publishing house when I’m ready, but now I’m weighing both options carefully.

    It seems, however, that self-publishing can be costly. How can writers save money when they self-publish?



  5. An old adage in publishing is that in non-fiction, people buy subject matter regardless of whether they’ve heard of the writer or not, but that in fiction, they buy authors.

    Had you written a novel, do you think you could have ended up with the level of success you did? If so, when will we see authors starting out with tours and trailers and blogs getting their names just as well known as mainstream authors and selling as many books?


  6. Hi there!

    I was wondering what you personally think is the best part about self publishing? Also, would you recommend self publishing even to first time published authors?


  7. Hi JM,

    Thanks for the note and question. I suppose I most love the fact that you’re in control of your own business and you get to determine the publication timetable, keep your own rights (and make the most of them through spinoff products: like ebooks, CDs, etc.), and keep most of the money. 20 years ago, self-publishing would have been infinitely harder than it is today, but the Internet has truly become the Great Equalizer – allowing even a one-book publisher to compete with the big boys.

    And yes, absolutely I think a first-time publisher should consider it as a viable option. I was a first-time publisher and it’s obviously worked out well. The key is having a solid game plan to follow. And that said, I invite you (he said, self-servingly…) to check out the tools I offer (books, CDs, coaching, etc) at http://www.wellfedsp.com. And check out the Mentoring testimonials at the Mentoring link at the above site, NOT to sell you on my coaching, but to hear some stories from folks who are self-publishing, and often as first-time authors.

    Hope this helps! All the best.


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