Matt Forney
Spread the Word!

How to Publish a Book (for Real)

publish-a-book

If you’ve never heard of Stefan Pylarinos, he’s yet another snake oil salesman in the grand tradition of Frank Kern, Tim Ferriss and other shysters who make a living selling bogus advice on how to make a living. Pylarinos is selling a $17 online course that purports to tell you how to write an e-book in 24 hours. The operative word is “write,” not “publish”: you’ll have to shell out another $17 to learn how to actually get your book onto Amazon.

Pylarinos claims that’s he’s published “hundreds” of books with his methods, but what he’s not telling you is that he likely outsourced most of the actual writing to half-literate Indian freelancers on oDesk. He’s also not telling you that on average, his “books” are maybe 3,000-4,000 words long, consist of information he plagiarized from Google searches (thank The 4-Hour Workweek for popularizing that kind of chicanery) and are priced at $0.99 or close to it. Given that Kindle books priced below $2.99 only earn a 35 percent royalty, that means he has to sell thousands of these shovelware titles a month to make any decent money. Also, given the disposable nature of each e-book and the fact that he publishes them under pen names (denying himself the opportunity to build a brand), Pylarinos has to keep cranking these books out to keep his cashflow high.

I’m not hating: Pylarinos has a nice scam going. But I hope none of my readers are dumb enough to give him their money.

You don’t need to spend $34 on a couple of crappy online courses to learn how to publish your own books. I taught myself how to self-publish without spending a dime, and I’m going to give you my “secrets” in this post for absolutely free. If you really want to learn more about making money online, you can check out my book Confessions of an Online Hustler, which at $9.99 for the e-book edition is cheaper than a single one of Pylarinos’ slapped-together-in-an-afternoon webinars. But hey, I’ve only managed to make a living writing books that are actually good, so what the fuck do know?

1. Buy the latest copy of Microsoft Word.

I used to use Word 2000 and OpenOffice to write my books. Not anymore. You get what you pay for, and Word 2000 is clunky and outdated while OpenOffice is a worthless piece of shit. I dreaded having to publish books when I was using them because every time I uploaded my books to Amazon and other e-book publishing platforms, they would be full of bizarre formatting errors that didn’t show up in the original file. Buying the 2013 edition of Office cost me about $150 but saved me hours worth of headaches. When you create a file with Word 2013, what you see is what you get: they upload to KDP and other platforms looking exactly how you designed them. If you’re not comfortable spending that much money on software, remember that you can claim it as a deduction on your taxes since you’re buying it for work purposes.

Click here to buy Microsoft Office 2013.

2. Always publish a paperback version.

Even in the age of Kindle, the term “e-book” has a certain stigma. When people hear “e-book,” they automatically think of ten-page PDF “masterpieces” sold by fly-by-night operators (aka Stefan Pylarinos’ business model). But when you publish your books in physical format, people are more likely to take you seriously as an author. Kindle and e-book customers are more likely to buy said e-books if you publish a paperback version, notwithstanding the sales you’ll gain from readers who still prefer dead tree titles. The only time you shouldn’t publish a paperback edition is if your book is the kind of thing that people might be embarrassed to have in their bookshelf (e.g. Red Pill Orgasm).

The unstated implication of this advice is that your book should be long enough to justify a paperback edition. In general, I don’t publish any books that aren’t at least 7,500 words long (about 50 pages in paperback format), and I generally prefer books to be at least 20,000 words long (about 90-100 pages). Anything less is a waste of your time and your readers’ money.

3. Create separate files for each publishing platform.

Don’t do what I did and try to use the same Word file for CreateSpace, KDP, Smashwords and every other platform. After you’ve finished writing and editing your book, create a separate file for each site you plan on publishing on. This will allow you to tweak the file to accommodate the requirements of each specific platform.

4. Format the paperback and e-book editions properly.

Again, don’t do what I did when I started out and just try to pass off a bland Word file as a legitimate paperback. The next time you read a book, examine how it’s laid out. Notice how the page numbers don’t start until the first chapter, and how they begin with “1” instead of the actual page count? How the headers are formatted? How the spacing between titles and paragraphs is consistent from chapter to chapter? How there are blank filler pages inserted at strategic points? If you want your paperback to look like a professional product, you need to do all of this yourself. Fortunately, Word 2013 makes doing it a cinch.

As for e-books, pretty much everything you need to know about creating a Kindle book can be found in the KDP manual, and other platforms such as Smashwords provide their own instructions. That said, all e-books require the basic feature of “front matter”: a title page and interactive table of contents. To create a table of contents, you create bookmarks in Word at the beginnings of chapters (or other points you want to link in the table), then add those bookmarks as hyperlinks in the table itself. For example, to link to Chapter 1, you create a bookmark at the beginning of Chapter 1, then link that very same bookmark as “Chapter 1” in the table of contents, same as how you insert links in a blog post.

Additionally, when it comes to separating pages, use the “Next Page” or “Page Break” feature so you get nice, clean, separate chapters. If you don’t, your chapters will all bleed together in the final e-book. Finally, to create paragraph indents, instead of using the Tab key, create a first-line indent using the Paragraph settings menu (tabbed indents will not appear in a Kindle book).

5. Double- and triple-check your work.

When you’re done editing and formatting your book, look it over to make sure it’s perfect. Then look at it again. And again. Keep doing it until you’re confident that everything is the way you want it. Because of the way Amazon’s approval process works, if you submit a flawed proof, you may have to wait a full day before you can upload a new version, so save yourself the pain by double-checking your work beforehand.

6. Pay money for professional cover art and editing.

Nobody will buy a book with a shitty CreateSpace or KDP cover, as I found out the hard way. Spend the extra $100 or so and hire a graphic designer to create a custom cover for your book. Even e-books need good cover art, as the cover is the first thing Amazon shoppers will see. As for editing, your eye can only catch so many mistakes, and having your friends proofread your work is no substitute. Again, hire a professional, native English-speaking editor to give your work the once-over.

7. Don’t rush.

Look at how successful self-published authors operate. Do you see Roosh laboring like a slave to release a new book every month? Is Victor Pride churning out Body of a Spartan sequels by the dozen? These men can afford to go years without releasing new books because they’ve cultivated an audience based on the quality of their writing. In my case, I haven’t published a new book in over six months, and I’m not going to release my next book until I’m 100 percent sure it’s worthy of seeing the light of day. I don’t need to rush because I have a loyal readership that will keep buying my books regardless, because they like my writing and trust me to put out good products. That’s how you should do things: take your time and make sure your books are the best they can be.

If you need money so badly that you have no choice but to release a half-assed product, you’re better off just getting a job instead.

You may think this all sounds like a lot of work, and you’d be right. I’d estimate that it takes a minimum of one month to bring a book into publication, excluding the amount of time it takes to write it. I learned this lesson in an unpleasant way last year, when I attempted to rush three books (Confessions of an Online Hustler, The Hitchhiking Crash Course and Trolling for a Living) into print in the span of about a month. I had to re-release each one individually earlier this year with better editing and snazzier cover art.

Learn from my mistakes and you can become financially independent earlier than I did.

Con men like Stefan Pylarinos are the equivalent of bodybuilding gurus who conveniently forget to mention the helping hand that steroids gave them in developing their “natural” physiques. In Pylarinos’ case, he sells a fantasy where you can make thousands a month by churning out 2,500 word “books,” neglecting to mention the third world slaves he uses to do the grunt work. The only way to make money in this market is to work hard and focus on quality, same as any other career field. Good luck.

Read Next: I Wrote a Book and So Can You

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If you liked this post then you’ll like Confessions of an Online Hustler, my 140-page book that teaches you how to create a blog that will make you money. It contains writing and web design tips, strategies for getting readers, and debunks myths perpetuated by online scammers. Click here to learn more.

  • Posts like this are gold. I realize I did a lot wrong with my first little ebook, and I’m glad you put out stuff like this so I can use my experience and yours to put out a better product next time.

  • Gustavo

    I haven’t found detailed and useful information about self-publishing from anywhere else. I recommend Confessions of an Online Hustler to anyone wanting to publish their own work.

  • There are ways to get Word for less than $150 that are ethical. You may be eligible for Microsoft’s Home Use Program. Your company may have the information. Otherwise, go to the Home Use Program page and enter your work email. It’s possible it will let you continue.

    Otherwise, you can use Office 365 for $10 a month. You get a free month to try it. You can cancel at any time. You could theoretically reactivate it when you want to write a book and cancel when you’re done, then reactivate later when you want to write another book. Office 365 allows you to install Office on up to 5 computers and 5 tablets. I’d been using the Home Use Program for years, and finally decided to go with Office 365.

  • Yep. I held onto Office 2000 for so long because I got it for free via one of my previous employers. I went and paid $150 for the 2013 suite because I didn’t want to worry about offline usage issues.

  • They man, thanks for the recommendation on Word 2013 – I bought it after reading this post.

    Vast improvement over OpenOffice garbage…

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  • Michael Jones

    WRITING THIS POST FOR THE FELLA WHOS BLOG PAGE/SITE THIS IS … Are you serious about this dude STEFAN PYLARINOS ?? WITH WHAT YOU WERE SAYING ??
    I JUST PAID $102 au DOLLARS TO PURCHASE HIS K-MONEY MASTERY 2.0 PACKAGE CREATING AND PUBLISHING KINDLE E-BOOKS SO THAT I CAN LEARN HOW TO START MAKING MONEY ONLINE! AND IS THAT ALL I WOULD MAKE TO ABOUT 35 CENTS PER BOOK IF I DO IT AND USE HIS WAYS ??
    CAN YOU SEND ME A EMAIL AND LET ME NO A BIT MORE PLEASE AS IM UNEMPLOYED FINANCIALLY BATTLING IN DEBT UP TO MY EARS AND JUST HANDED OVER $100 ALREADY TO HIM FOR THIS PROGRAM ???

  • Hey Mike, if you really did purchase his course then you would know by watching all the videos that the goal is to make more then 35 cents off each book. I purchased the course in Aug 2016 and am now brining in just over $1000/month from 5 books.