Key steps to reap a steady, reliable income from your book


This will be short, and I hope helpful so you can reliably extract plenty of profit from a book that you are publishing, or plan to. What prompts my writing it is a rash of new publishers I’ve met (or heard about) who are hugely disappointed at the size of their new book’s hard-earned take-home gold.

First, I don’t dabble in fiction. Two, what do I think is a good, long-term profit (for non-fiction books with shelf life of three to ten-plus years)? For a general self-published book, a net of 20-25%. For a niche book pretested (see lots of blogs about that here at, 30-50%, plus income from related means like spin-off books and speaking/consulting.

The moneymakers all start knowing in advance who (the kind of buyers) will eagerly stand in line to buy a books like theirs. They had created a USP (unique selling promise or proposal), asked lots of potential buyers precisely what more they wanted to know about their topic, defined all of the buy-now benefits, and built their magic vessel from that starter knowledge. (Nichers also knew through their pre-tests if the title and contents worked and if the price tested was no barrier to selling.)

They’d also created a widespread strategic plan that identified every kind of direct and indirect buyer worth approaching, then listed in detail how those buyers might best be approached: mostly by what media and how they will see it. Add to that the usual bookstore, Internet venue, library purchase, book club, or other more public displays. Then they knew what kind of back-cover copy, fliers, promo tie-ins, and pre-printing specials they could use to enhance sales.

The alternative is to write and print a book, then try to find buyers. Going that way, you do at least have the book (and my congratulations). But that’s such a long-shot to publishing success, I can only admire such heroism, like putting big bills on the least known horse, with the longest odds, to win!

The message is that without knowing who wants to read (and buy) what your book says before you shape and sell that craft, the chances are too great that you have the wrong sails for the wrong sea. All I suggest is patience, prudence, and a fair bit of boring prep so your idea, dream, purpose, words, and pages are in alignment before you set it to sea.

Or if my suggestions are fuddy-duddy, please at least stay in sight of land until you’ve proven me daft!

Three tested prep books to help here are the most recent editions of Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual, John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, and my Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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