How to Get Your Book Published: Top Secrets for New Authors

How to Get Your Book Published: Top Secrets for New Authors

Reader Comments (91)

  1. Unlike a series of blog posts, a book is organized and works as a cohesive unit.

    Really? I figured out how to make several series of blog posts into cohesive units, and they rank at the top of Google for the intended keywords, unlike books. 😉

  2. Great thoughts by Susan! One of the biggest things that stops people is that they don’t think they can do it. Forever, publishers have been the gatekeepers who have kept the shroud of secrecy over our eyes. They told us we couldn’t do it ourselves. That it was too technical, and too hard and that only they could decide what was publishable.

    Sound familiar to blogging and content production in general? The revolution is happening right now as we speak. Anyone can have a book, big or small, on any topic, up on Amazon in 24 hours or less. You just have to believe and understand it’s very easy and very doable.

    I’m writing a new blog now on the changing face of the self-publishing world over at I would encourage anyone interested in writing a book in the future to stop by and learn about how the industry is changing and how you can take action on it.

    • Wow, you are so preaching to the choir, Jim! That’s why we came up with the Self-Publishers Online Conference 3 years ago. The publishing world is changing in a very large way. I love your site too! We oughta talk 😉

  3. Yes, but do people sit down and read them all in sequence? A book engages you more than a blog post. For example, I recently read the book Made to Stick by the Heath brothers (which is fantastic, by the way).

    I sat in my sunroom, read the whole thing, and then just thought about it for a while. I wasn’t at my computer and I was relaxed, so I could just think. It was an immersive experience.

    That never happens with a blog post or series of blog posts. Well, not to me anyway 😉

      • Well, um another thing is that Copyblogger is WAY better organized than most blogs. How many blogs just have just a chronological list? How many bloggers even know what cornerstone content is, much less include it?

        Just sayin’ 😉

          • Brian will, I’m sure, have his own answer — we’ve certainly talked about it, but so far it’s been more profitable to put our time & energy into other forms. But you never know what the future will hold.

        • If they’re reading Copyblogger, they better create those content landing pages before they start writing a book. 😉

          I’ll end up writing a book, but it’s not critical unless you want speaking gigs or do consulting. When you sell software to online marketers and publishers, you put your writing online first. Simple as that.

          Besides, as you rightfully point out … you’ve got to market your own book. So you need an audience first.

    • I think different formats work for different people. Some people are book people (including the growing group of Kindle people), some are web page people, some are agnostic (or perhaps polytheistic).

        • I’ll second that. I’m also ‘just a reader’ and it doesn’t really matter what the medium is. But there is no substitute for a good book. I love the feel of holding a ‘dead tree book’ and although the content is VERY important to me a beautifully laid out book with a great textured cover.

          I will write a book but it probably won’t be the Great American novel – obviously since I’m not American 🙂

          Thanks for this post Susan it really got me thinking.

          • You’re welcome Sharon! Thanks for commenting. As you probably figured out, although I do read a lot, I have a special affection for books too, partly because I have spent so much time laying them out. I’m a font junkie and really love a beautifully designed book 😉

  4. I love reading books, and have been reading them since I was a kid. One of my dreams back when I was in elementary school was to write my own book about knights and dragons. But I was still a little kid, so I wrote those stories, handwritten on notebooks. Finished seven of them, actually. None published. Those notebooks have probably been turned into recycled paper by now.

    In high school I still wrote about knights and dragons, but the themes were getting a little more mature, more gore and death. Still none published, obviously.

    And all that time I was reading other books spanning from several different genres. Yeah, I’m a nerd and a kid at heart.

    Very nice post here. Thanks for the good read.

    • Josh…my husband had the same dream. He’s working on a “swords and sorcery” type fantasy book now that will be released in 2012. And yeah, he’s a nerd too (programmer).

      Maybe it was all the D&D he played in high school, but he just never could get those stories out of his head. Now he’s having SO much fun writing. It’s really great to see 😉

    • I think I can relate to what you are saying Josh. I began reading quite early and always dreamt of writing. And yeah, I wrote stories in notebooks (the paper kind) but of course they never got published. My mum even tried to save them but… Right now I just write adventure stories for my 1 year old with wizards and journeys and beautiful princesses all named Thea (because that’s her name 🙂 )

      There is nothing as wonderful as an adult who remembers what it was like to be a kid. Really precious people and if you even do publish those Dragon and Knight stories, I bet my son would love them.

  5. After co-authoring a book, I can certainly agree. 🙂 (WordPress All-In-One for Dummies)

    It’s a lot harder than people think, really. One of the hardest things I have ever done, and the section I wrote I’m considered an expert at. Should have been a walk in the park, right? 😉 Well there’s was lots I had to learn, and part of it was not the subject matter but to fine tune how to explain things to people. Most of the resistance I felt was internal.

    Not sure if I’d do it again – it takes a long time to get a book to print. Now I do ebooks on similar topics (advanced WordPress usage) and I can get them out quickly and update them often.

    Assuming I get over the blank-page part. 😀

    • Heh, yeah the blank page. I hear ya on that 😉

      Before I started self-publishing, I wrote computer books (on MS Office for Macmillian) and I can report that NO book is ever as hard as the first one. All the experience you’re getting with the ebooks you’re writing would help too, if you ever opt to head for print again.

  6. As a reader, I’m much more impressed with excellent new media content than excellent traditional media content (with the exception of Seth’s books … those are simply on another level). I know new media makes use of a lot of what tra media has invented or discovered — not trying to discount tra, — but the fact that a single individual can create something far more compelling and helpful than an entire group from a publishing house makes me excited for the future of new media.

    I agree with Sonia — it comes down to the reader’s preference.

    Nice post, Susan!

  7. Just some useful info here for some of your readers, I hope. Having had 9 books traditionally published by Big Six pubs in the UK and 10 other territories- but never the US- my first little self published e-book just clocked up some sales there! Most excited by the possibilities.. Keep the encouragement coming, please, it’s appreciated…

    • Woo hoo! That’s great. Yeah, self-publishing is kind of addicting. Once you start seeing those sales of a book you published, it gets exciting. Congrats 😉

  8. Really helpful, positive messages here. Thank you for this. I’ve written one book (traditional, big publisher) and will do more for sure. This was a good jump start.

  9. Excellent post, like always!

    One thing about self publishing, though. While you might not make as much with the big guys, you’ll have their approval as a “foot in the door” for future publishing if you choose to publish elsewhere. This is one big perk to publishing with the big publishers.

    Also, if marketing and promoting products is not your thing, it could be pretty tough to get press for your book, while if you publish with big publishers, most of that takes care of itself.

    Just sayin’.

    Other than that, quality stuff! =)

    • Thanks for reading Joe! I’m going to disagree with you on the “getting press” part. Unless you scream to the rafters, “I self-published” a lot of media doesn’t care.

      My books are published by Logical Expressions, Inc. which could be a micro-publisher. But as it turns out, Logical Expressions, Inc. only publishes two authors, who also happen to own the company.

      If the book looks as good as a book coming from a Big Publisher, and contains quality information, probably 90% of media don’t care what company published it. The flip side of that is that if you are published with a big publisher, that doesn’t guarantee any media attention at all. They won’t promote it to the media. The author has to do that, or it doesn’t happen.

  10. I published a historical novel after years of pitching it as I was passionate about it. I market it with all the tools I’ve learned here. I’m changing the world in a small way as I tell a story set in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the Pacific NW. So few know that out- of -work boys in the Great Depression did much to create, improve or expand our state and national parks, make roads, plant trees and fight fires. And having it in book form on a library or book store shelf is a wonderful thing.

    • I agree. One thing that grates against me is when people say that the topic of your book “doesn’t matter.”

      I think having the courage to share your story in a book (whether it’s fiction or non-fiction) takes passion and commitment as you point out. So it should be something you’re interested in or it will never happen 😉

      • Thanks so much for your reply, Susan. Encourages me more.

        I knew I was onto something when I gave history talks about the CCCs. Such passion about fathers, grandfathers and the work they did. Creating a fictional account was one way to get the story out futher. It’s now a finalist in historical fiction for the 2012 EPIC.

        • Awesome. That’s so cool. As an aside, I find that period of history really interesting. And I love historical fiction in general. I’m so glad to hear about your success with it!

  11. One thing I think can really help people when it comes to releasing a book is being focused on the purpose you want the book to serve.

    I learned a shit-ton about this from Dan Kennedy. He believes some of the most enduring books like Think and Grow Rich, Psycho-Cybernetics, and How to Win Friends and Influence People are built on the back of inspiring stories and not a whole lot of meat. His argument is that it’s really tough to create the same transformation that can happen in a 3 day interactive immersion workshop or a monthly coaching program with a an awesome active forum and awesome incremental action steps, in only 200 pages.

    He’s written quite a few books and here’s his opinion on a couple different types of books that us professionals can write and what his experience has been with both . . .

    When Do You Write A Story SalesBook And When Do Write A Text Book?

    “The Ulimate Salesletter is actually a reference book, not an advocacy book.

    Now one might think that this would get in the way of people buying my high end copywriting courses or paying me huge fees to write copy for them. It doesn’t.

    It doesn’t get in the way because it only gives people pieces. You can come away from that book and you could write some decent headlines. And you got the structure of how a letter should look. And for the true small business buyer who would never be a client of mine anyway, they could only be a customer, where they’re the only one in their market delivering any kind of half decent marketing to their prospect, they can work out of that book by itself and actually get some value.

    But the type of person who would hire me, all this book is going to do is bring them the next step closer to me because what they can do with this book isn’t good enough, but it demonstrates competence on my part.

    It shows them a model that’s different than what they’ve seen. But it is a reference book more than it is an advocacy book.

    Knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have written it although it’s earned it’s keep. It has stayed on the shelf and people use it like they would a Words That Sell. They keep it to look at the templates and the structures.

    It’s like Vic Schwab’s book, “How To Write A Good Advertisement” which I keep around solely for the purpose of swiping the 100 greatest headlines in there but other than that, there’s not a whole lot more you can do as a result of having that book.

    It gives you a general idea that these ads are bad, and these ads are good, but exactly how to weave the magic, you don’t have it.

    The nice thing about reference books is that if they get some traction, they stay around forever, but they don’t create any kind of emotional bonding, emotional movement.

    Those books over the years have brought speaking engagements and consulting assignments where people tell me to come teach this stuff to their team but not a lot of customers. NO B.S. books (filled with Think and Grow Rich type of stories) do the opposite. I hardly ever get a speaking inquiry because of them, but we get customers.


    I hope at least one person gets some use of what I believe to be some genuine wisdom on the part of Dan here. If you want to hear him go even deeper on this topic, you’ll definitely want to go get your hands on his Influential Writing seminar.

    The entire focus of the seminar revolves around figuring out the most compelling purpose your content can serve for your business. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Thank you Susan for putting this list together and giving me a reminder of what’s important to focus on when setting out to write a book! I’m a Forgetful Jones kinda guy so I need all the help I can get. 🙂

    • Lewis…I agree that deciding WHAT to write is a huge deal. Before putting words to paper, I advise people to think about the goals they have for their book. As Dan points out, his goals for the Ultimate Sales Letter were different than his No BS books, and that changed what he wrote. Thanks for sharing that perspective. I own the Ultimate Sales letter and I when I found it, I was surprised at the level of “how to” information, which was different than other stuff I’d seen from him. Now I know why 😉

      • One of my favorite advocacy books of his is, “My Unfinished Business” which is a series of autobiographical essays that he wrote that deliver business and life lessons that’ve shaped who he’s become.

        This is hands down my favorite book and I believe anyone who has reached the level of being a guru to an audience would be served well to study how Dan opens himself up to his crowd in this book, going so far to talk about the time he was on the edge of committing suicide.

        Dan won a customer for life with that book, those disclosures, and I think most small business owners selling information or products can do the same when they artfully let people into their world. But most won’t because they don’t realize that more unique you think something is (feelings especially), the more universal it is.

        I’m so happy to see that you know see why the books were different and hope it serves to bring you jillions of dollars in the future. 🙂

        • Interesting! I haven’t run across that one. I’ll add it to my reading list. Thanks for the recommendation. Here’s to those future jillions too 😉

    • Ultimate Sales Letter is one of DK’s most useful books to me the reader, and I recommend it (with Ultimate Marketing Plan) all the time. But it’s clear the No B.S. books are much better marketing for his organization.
      I also found My Unfinished Business really fascinating.

      • Sonia,

        You’ve already got a shit-ton of rabid fans just by focusing on delivering rock solid content. If you unleashed more “Unfinished Business” elements on them, I imagine you’d hit the level of worship exhibited at 36 seconds of this video here . . . It seems to me that you and Brian are low key leaders so hat tip to you guys for balancing everything just right in order to keep people in love with you, but not TOO in love with you. 🙂

  12. Susan,
    Not only did you manage to single-handedly rescue the paper book business 😉 but your post is a really great example of “reason why” marketing. Well done, I really enjoyed it!

  13. I am so glad I looked at the attachment to this tweet! I write a regular magazine column, facebook page with 7000 fans in 5 months and a blog but the thought of a book is so massive to me, know now that I am not alone !
    Perhaps I will put pen to paper sooner than I thought.
    Thank you Susan

  14. I read this post with much interest. I write non-fiction about insurance. After 24 years, it is what I know. I have already published a couple of e-books on insurance matters for Baby Boomers. I am currently working on a third one. I hope to get a couple more topics done next year so that I can combine all of them into one big reference manual. When I do, I will consider publishing them as a “dead tree” book but when I look at the expense associated with it, I am more inclined to stick to electronic publishing methods for now. I did, however, want to let you know that I am one of the nerds who do check out who the publisher is for a book. Some publishing houses cater more to my tastes than others.

    • If you are contemplating going the traditional route than you should pay attention to who is publishing what. For some markets it makes a difference. For example, I was talking to a lawyer the other day. For him, having his book published by the Bar Association was a huge deal. It matters for that crowd. For many, many markets it doesn’t however.

      The expense can be mitigated to some degree by being smart about hiring freelancers and publishing the book through your own company (vs. “package deals” from subsidy presses, which is almost never a good idea, as I mentioned elsewhere).

  15. Thanks susan. Awesome insights here.

    I have written a book already (three actualy 🙂 ) and they’ve been lying around my house for a while. Am in that phase of getting enough money together. It is true that self-publishing (my chosen route) will cost money! I have some quotations from publishing houses and it ain’t cheap 🙂 🙂

    Thanks for the info and reminders

    • I have written four books – romance (genre) and when Create Space and Kindle – did all the things that a ‘self-publishing’ company did for me – I took Adobe Photoshop courses – designed my own covers, learned to format it right (Create Space lets you know if you have or haven’t and offers services if you can’t) and I got help from a company called BookNookBiz for formatting into Kindle. Now for under $1,000 my books are available on Amazon – (Print on demand) or Kindle) and for a one-time fee of $39.00 they are listed in other e-stores as well. The cost is minimal and unlike Self Publishing Companies the percentages they take are much more reasonable A few years ago I published one through Authorhouse – and don’t nothing on the marketing end – they leave me a whopping under a $1.00 per book for a $18.00 book (such a high price for genre). All they want me to do is ‘buy’ the books – and then sell them myselves. I paid them thousands of dollars and have gained nothing in return. Now I can self-publish without paying so much and don’t need a pile of ‘paid for’ books to sell.
      Now I just need to learn ‘marketing’ – and I am getting lots of free help to learn this.
      Good luck.

    • Three books! That’s great. You could try Kindle publishing first. See if you can get some traction there, since it’s basically free. Then if your audience wants it, move into print once you have the funds for it.

      Also I advocate *true* self-publishing where you hire freelancers and purchase your own ISBNs (as opposed to subsidy/vanity publishing with self-publishing “packages” from companies like iUniverse or AuthorHouse). Subsidy publishing is rarely a good idea if you want to make any money or gain credibility from your book.

      • Mary, you have explained exactly WHY I tell people to avoid “self-publishing companies.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but they’re a rip off and you won’t make any money. Congrats on taking control of your books! And good luck with the marketing too 😉

  16. My experience echoes a couple of your points. First, when I was trying to figure out whether to go with a publisher or the self-publishing route, several people who had books published told me to self-publish. One said his customers don’t care who or how his book was published. Another said the process just takes a ridiculously long time — a year and a half or more. I ended up going with a small, niche publisher and my one major argument in favor of that course is having a tough editor to work over your manuscript. Even if you feel you’re a very good writer. It helped improve my book immensely. So, as you said, even if you decide to self-publish, hire a good editor. Especially if you plan on charging people for the book. Finally, my experience has been the opposite of what others have found. Instead of turning blog posts into a book, I’m using material from the book to create blog posts, as well as bylined articles and presentations. It’s a great platform and business builder.

    • Hi Rob…you are absolutely right. Having an editor is vital, no matter how you opt to publish. Re: blog to book vs. book to blog, I’ve done both. Either way, I’m all about the recycling of content into different forms 😉

  17. Hey Susan

    Thank you for an inspirational piece. Lots of great ideas there, particularly regarding the thought leadership aspect of publishing. If you want to establish yourself as the ‘go to’ person in your field, you cannot beat the power and cachet of a book.

    Strange as it may seem, there are huge numbers of businesses who still don’t get the whole social media and blogging ‘thang’ and have never even heard of Copyblogger (it’s a crying shame, I know).

    At a recent networking gig, I had the pleasure of meeting one of those old-school dinosaurs who barked “Social Media? Load of ol’ rubbish!” But pinned back his ears earnestly as I rolled out the facts and figures.

    Despite nodding his head enthusiastically during the exchange, he was never going to run back home and do a search on the topic. For him, there were no authority figures online that would deliver his information in the way he wants it.

    As we all know, no authority means no trust. And no trust means no business.

    Thankfully, my publisher agreed to part with some dead tree cash to create a dead tree book that helps dead wood floaters dip their toe in the blogging waters.

    It goes without saying that Copyblogger and the team will get lauded to the heavens. This means that 1000s of offline readers will navigate directly to the site after they’ve been primed through a medium they understand.

    Consequently, you can argue that offline books are amplifiers for online authority.

    Cheers, Fin 🙂

    • Hi Fin…thanks for reading! All I can say is, “yup.” What you said. I totally agree 😉

      Here’s something a lot of people don’t think about related to what you said here “offline books are amplifiers for online authority.”

      Amazon is one of the highest authority sites online. I have incoming links from,, Powells and dozens of other large book sites. My offline books help my online findability in a huge way and have led to publicity and business opportunities that I never EVER got when I just sold ebooks way back when.

  18. Hey Susan,

    Nice Post about eBook publishing, it going to helps me lot in writing my upcoming eBook Weird Tweeps. i enjoyed reading each and every word of this post from deep of my heart. so thanks for writing such a nice article….

  19. Thanks for the great advice Susan. Even though I have written four fiction books – all unpublished by Publishing companies but in the process of self-publishing I found your advice helpful and encouraging.

  20. I have written a book titled “Mother’s Dream,” an 18-chapter memoir about my childhood in the Philippines, my work at the former U.S. Naval Base, Subic Bay, and my family’s experience as immigrants in San Diego, California, including an account of how we’re managing in this environment of economic uncertainty. I also wrote about my father, a Bataan Death March survivor, and my parents’ experience during the American liberation of the Philippines during World War II. Although I completed my manuscript in 2009, I’m still vacillating between traditional publishing and self-publishing. My manuscript was accepted a couple of years ago by a self-publishing company which sent me a letter stating my book deserved to be published or something to that effect. It offered royalties but no advance. I have yet to submit my manuscript to a traditional company, hoping to get a “better deal.” I have in mind two companies in Los Angeles. I think I’ve been procrastinating for fear of rejection. Please advise. Thank you in advance.

    • Most “self-publishing companies” don’t “accept” manuscripts. They take anything. That’s one difference between a self-publishing company (aka subsidy press) and traditional publishing. If they say you get “royalties” but you don’t get an advance, it’s a subsidy. Unless you only want to publish a few copies for friends and family, a subsidy is not a good idea. You won’t make any money and many people who go that route regret it.

      Traditional publishers pay an advance. If you opt for that, get a copy of Writer’s Digest Writers Market (which you can find at most libraries and also online at Find presses that are publishing memoir and learn what their submission guidelines are. Many traditional publishers will only accept submissions from agents. So you may need to research agents who specialize in memoir as well.

      With true self-publishing (i.e., not through a subsidy press), YOU set up your own publishing company, which means you purchase a block of ISBNs from Bowker and you are responsible for getting the manuscript edited and turned into a book. The goal is to make it look as good as books coming out of traditional publishing houses. I talk about all this in many articles on my Web site at (check the Publishing Options and Self-Publishing, categories).

      • An excellent answer Susan. I put out thousands of dollars on self-publishing companies with promises galore. They never did anything – and were charging $18.00 on Amazon for a genre book (romance) – and giving me under a dollar in so called royalties. Then they want to charge

        On the opposite side – I recommend Create Space which will give you the same options (available on Amazon – print on demand so it doesn’t cost the author so much – and they take much less in fees than a self-publishing company) at a very reasonable cost (if you can’t format a book yourself – they offer services for a few hundred dollars).

        Good Luck Daisy.

        • I’m sorry – I meant to say they want to charge you 1000’s of dollars more for marketing. I tried once – and again – they did nothing to help my book.

          • Yes, I recommend Lightning Source or Create Space for printing your book, if you opt to do Print on Demand. You can set a lower discount with LS, but CS has lower setup fees. We have an article that compares the two and “runs the numbers” on my Web site. Amazon is also not keeping all LS titles in stock the way they used to, which is a whole different problem…we have an article about that situation too 😉

  21. With reference to the self-publishing aspect of this article, this is a great indepth interview with a New York writer who has published three novels using Lulu and Amazon. He gives some good advice throughout about self-publishing as way to reach an audience and about the perceptions of others towards a publishing route that has its fair share of advocates and critics.


    • Thanks for the link Garry. I love this line: “For some reason, the literary world hasn’t quite yet caught up with the music and film worlds, who seem to see independent ventures as something noble. ” It’s so true! A lot of people seem to think they have to apologize for self-publishing. I think being an indie publisher is just freakin’ cool 😉

  22. Hi Susan. It is really very interesting to read this post. I hope these tips are more helpful for the writers very well. Good informative post.

  23. Susan – inspiring, informative post! My book (that I believe has the power to change lives) is in the final stages of readiness, as I prepare to take the big leap with Create Space. Your words reinforced my decision to publish “my way” and retain “my rights.” Thank you for that. And you are right on about the fact that good blogs have an important place, but, unlike well written books, they are not cohesive units.

    • Hi Lynn – Big congratulations on your new book! I’m glad to hear that you’re keeping control of your project. For me, that has been the right choice. And yes, I agree that if you’ve done it right, a book is a cohesive unit, as opposed to a series of blog posts (no matter what the first commenter says).

  24. Hi! I love books and I like the go go scheme of your blog. The author’s bio at the end got me into action. May I request additional info or past results (or any tips on self publishing) of the Self-Publishing Conference you are organizing. Thank you.

  25. Don’t forget that having a blog on the subject of your writing is a major step in actually writing your book. You have all the necessary tools to start writing chapters, judging reaction and what people are looking for, have your content already out there ‘working” for you, and when you are ready, you can compile all of that, edit it, tweak it, add to it, and self-publish it. Then, you have a ready market for your book right there on your blog.

    • Exactly. That was my point in #5. It’s also why all of my books started online. I got a lot of feedback and learned what my audience needed to know. And of course, my blog readers were buyers as well.

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