The short answer is yes. Hell yes! My book, The Freedom Master Plan, was released just over seven weeks ago. It’s self-published, and it became a bestseller in the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia. So the short answer is yes. Self-published books can become bestsellers.
But I’m sure you need a little bit more information than just, ‘Yes, it works.’ With a lot of questions that I’m asked as a book coach, as a book publisher, and now as an internationally bestselling author, the question that I’m asked is not usually the real question. There’s an underlying question or an assumption behind it. The assumption underneath this question is that somehow being self-published is a disadvantage. That if you’re traditionally published, there’s more chance of you becoming a bestseller.
Let me debunk this for you. Let’s go back more than 15 years ago, before Amazon. Try to imagine you’re a bookstore owner. You own maybe a Barnes and Noble if you’re in the US. In the UK, it would be Waterstones, which was the big chain back then. Or perhaps you want to imagine owning a small, local independent bookstore.
Regardless of its size, you have a finite amount of space to hold books. Even if you own a huge Barnes and Noble, you’re still only looking at maybe 10 – 15K titles that you can physically hold in your store. 15,000 titles may sound like a lot. But think of all the books that are out there on this planet. There’s far more than 15,000. There are millions upon millions. As a bookstore owner, you have to choose which titles you will carry.
Let me give you an example of two authors that approach you. And they want their book to be in your bookstore. So you have Author A. They’re self-published, and they say, “Hey, I’ve got this amazing book, I’m proud of it. I would like for you to hold it in your bookstore so your customers can buy it.” Then you have Author B, and they say, “Hey, I’m published by Simon and Schuster (or Penguin, or other publishing company). And I would like for you to hold my book in your store.” Who would you choose? Remember, you have a finite amount of space in your store.
Chances are you’re going to go for Author B. Because you’re going to worry if Author A will be able to fulfill their promises to you. How many books can they send? If you run out of books, would they be able to send new books? What are their printing facilities like? It was very difficult to say yes to a self-published author. Whereas the person who has the backing of a publishing company? That’s an easy yes. Because they have the logistics in place to give you the books that they need for you to hold in your store.
That was how things were over 15 years ago. Then Amazon came. Amazon is like having an infinite bookstore. They have all the space in the world. So it doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a major publishing company. Or you’re a single mother in some tiny little apartment who has decided to write a book. Amazon doesn’t care. They have the space to host your book. And this is what’s changed everything.
The publishing companies don’t have the power that they used to have. They can’t sway Amazon the way they used to sway bookstore owners. They don’t have the marketing clout they used to. Let me give you a way for you to verify if this is the truth. Go and find a publishing company website, and find out the steps they need you to go through to consider your manuscript. What you’ll find is that most of these companies will now ask how big your following is. How big is your fan base? How many Instagram followers do you have? Do you have a Facebook group? Do you have a ton of fans? Do you have a sizable email list?
Why are they asking you these questions? They need to know that you’re a sure bet. They need to know that if they spend money on publishing your book, they will make more than this money back from selling your book. And they have more chance of that becoming a reality if you have a huge number of fans or a following.
The reason why it appears that being traditionally published will give you a bigger chance of being on the bestsellers list is because the traditional publishing companies choose people who already have fans. So the statistics are skewed. Whereas a self-published author may or may not have fans to sell books to.
You have as much chance of becoming a bestseller if you are self-published as you do if you’re traditionally published. It’s likely you will only be accepted by a traditional publisher if you already have a fan base. And if you’ve already spent time creating a fan base, why would you bother going to a traditional publisher, when you can self-publish and keep all the profits? You’ve already created your fan base. Your fans are not going to care whether you’re self-published, or whether you’ve been published by a publishing house. They’re interested in you. They love you and they want to read your book. It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re self-published or whether you go through a publishing company.
If you’re someone like me who didn’t have a fan base, you need to build one. I didn’t have a fan base when I started. I was a ghostwriter. I’ve written seven books previously for other people. But I’d never written a book for myself. So I had zero following. Zero fans.
I didn’t bother sending my manuscript for The Freedom Master Plan, to any publisher. Because I already knew I was going to get rejected. Not because the book was bad. The book became a bestseller in four different countries. So it definitely wasn’t bad. But I knew I would just get a ‘no’ from all of these publishers. And that’s because I didn’t have a fan base.
This is why all these reality stars seem to have several books to their name. But when you see them on TV, some of them can barely string a sentence together! You wonder how are these people can publish all of these books when there are amazing authors out there who can’t get published?
The reason why is because these people already had a following, because of their status as a reality star, or whatever it is they do. They already have 1000s upon 1000s of followers on Instagram, they have fans on Facebook, they have huge email lists, and they have people who love them already. So it’s a very easy yes for the publishing company because they know they have this existing fan base they can sell the book to.
That’s why it appears that, if you’re traditionally published, you can more easily become a bestseller than if you self-publish. The reality is it doesn’t matter. If you already have a fan base, you’re going to sell tons of your books regardless. And you’re going to become a bestseller regardless of whether you self-publish, or whether you go down the traditional publishing route.
If you’re someone like me who didn’t have a fan base, you have to do the work. It’s as simple as that. So the weeks and months leading up to my book being launched, I spent hours networking, talking to people from all over the world, getting them interested in my book, my journey, my message, etc. I did all that legwork because I needed to build a fan base. And because I did that, the fact that I was self-published was irrelevant. It didn’t matter. I became a bestseller in the UK, in the USA, in Canada, and Australia,
If you’re interested in writing a business book that will generate leads and sales for your business, get a copy of The Freedom Master Plan that will explain everything you need to know about writing and marketing business books.
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