Yes, You Can Publish a Book (Here’s How)

Most people dream of publishing a book without realizing the work that goes into such a project. I still remember the thrill of finishing my first book and the surreal sense of accomplishment.

Yes, You Can Publish a Book (Here's How)

Honestly, I never thought I’d ever publish a book. But thanks to a few simple choices, I was able to do it much sooner than I ever dreamed. Here’s how you can do the same.

Let’s start with sharing what it took to publish that first book. The lessons I learned along the way can help you realize your own dream of writing and publishing a book sooner than you think.

So, how does this work?

Well, there were three steps that made it possible to get a book contract in less than eight months — all without having to write a single book proposal or query letter. If you want to write books for a living, this is where you start.

Below are three simple steps you need to publish a book.

Step 1: Build a platform

Publishers and literary agents all have one important question when you submit a book idea or proposal to them:

Do you have a platform?

What they mean by this is, “Do you have influence?”

Can you speak, and people will listen? Do you have authority on a particular subject and a way to communicate it? Have people given you permission to share information with them?

Types of platforms

There are various types of platforms:

  • Radio show
  • Podcast
  • Television program
  • YouTube channel
  • Newspaper or magazine column
  • Blog

The trick is to pick one that matches your voice and start building it. It will take time, patience, and permission. A great primer on this subject would be Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing.

One crucial tool for building your platform is respect. You will need to respect people. Never spam them, always add value. And you will win.

Respect is a crucial tool for building your platform.

Jeff Goins

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Right now, a popular platform type for emerging authors is a blog. It’s what I used, and it worked.

You can do the same.

Step 2: Create a personal brand

Authors have brands. This goes beyond your personality and likes/dislikes. It has to do with your writing voice and what’s relevant to an audience.

Not every aspect of your personality will be represented in your brand.

And that’s okay.

You need to pick the right tone for the group you’re trying to reach and focus on sharing what matters most to others.

What a brand is not

A brand is NOT the subject of your blog. It’s how you color your subject; it’s a particular flair that makes you, the writer, unique. You can write about cooking or entrepreneurship and still have the same voice.

A brand is NOT the subject of your blog. It’s how you color your subject.

Jeff Goins

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The good news is that with a blog, you can try out different ways to represent yourself until you find what works for you and your readers.

Everything you do needs to connect with this representation of yourself. Your headshots, blog header, etc. all need to support this brand, as well.

Step 3: Find your tribe

Publishing isn’t just about writing. It’s about relationships, too. You have to know the right people to get noticed. And the best way to do that is to find your tribe of followers and fans who will support you.

A tribe is different from a platform. Whereas a platform is the asset you use to reach an audience, your tribe consists of the people that help you build it.

Who makes up your tribe

There are three types of people who make up a tribe:

  1. Fans
  2. Friends
  3. Advocates

Fans buy your work. The best way to earn them is to be generous. (Try giving away a free eBook — here’s mine.)

Friends help you grow in your craft. The best way to connect with other writers who can help you is to network (often by doing favors).

Advocates help you build your reach. The way to get on their radar is to do quality work and look for opportunities to serve.

You need all three in order to make the right connections to see your platform grow and eventually land yourself a book contract.

Why traditional publishing?

I am a fan of the recent trend of self-publishing and authors making it happen without the permission of gatekeepers. I love that attitude; it’s what got me started blogging in the first place and, ironically, led to my book contract.

However, I think there is a good deal traditional publishers still have to offer first-time authors. In particular, I have enjoyed the process of learning how a book comes to be. Any money I make is an added bonus (not a financial necessity).

Plus, there is still a lot of authority that comes with being a “published author.” Since not anyone can do it (like with self-publishing), having a book deal with a traditional publisher can be a good way to build your clout. Of course, it’s not for everyone, and I completely respect that.

That said, I think traditional publishing will either evolve or go away completely. There are already plenty of authors who are successfully selling books without ever going through a publisher.

Whatever you do, the thing that you cannot do is wait to be picked. Either build your platform and get a book contract, or build your platform and self publish. But don’t just sit there and dream. We don’t have time for that.

Stop stalling and just start.

Don’t just sit there and dream. We don’t have time for that.

Jeff Goins

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If you need more help with getting published, check out these books and articles:

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links.

What kind of book are you writing? Are you going to self-publish or traditionally publish? Share in the comments.

105 thoughts on “Yes, You Can Publish a Book (Here’s How)

  1. The best way to earn fans is to be generous. This insight is gold. Thanks for being generous with your advice, eBooks, and time. 
    A Fan. 

  2. Great info as always! Thanks so much for breaking this down for me. I’m working in that direction and it seems like you’re always filling in the missing pieces. I’m starting to believe that you’ve become one of the messengers in my life 🙂

  3. Love your blog Jeff, and can’t wait to buy your book. I’m not certain I have a book in me 🙂 , but I have to write , have to create and find the story and tell it somehow. The whole branding and voice part of my blog seems to be evolving into something I’m close to putting my finger on , which will inspire me to be more proactive in terms of platform, social media etc. 
    Best wishes in all that you are doing and much gratitude for this space . 

    1. Thanks, Deb. Love what you said: “I have to write, have to create and find the story and tell it somehow.” I can relate. It’s a beautiful obsession.

  4. Great article, Jeff.  I always appreciate your content.  
    You are genuine (and vulnerable) in your posts and that comes across as being madly refreshing.  I’m looking forward to your book…but your blogging “story” thus far is what has wrested my attention.  And I think many others would agree with me.  Kudos!

  5. I’d also mention brand is more a function of what you do and how you do it than anything you might like to say it is. I mean, your brand is what everyone else thinks of you. Ergo, walk the talk.

    Make promises. Keep them. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. 
    The best is yet to come.

  6. “A brand is not the subject of your blog.  It’s how you color your subject.”  I have a feeling these two sentences will have an enormous impact on my blog.

    In other news, is this the new theme you are working on?  It appears to be different from your old one.  Looks pretty slick…

    1. Indeed it is, Kevin. Still making some tweaks. It’s a subtle change (decided to stick with a minimalist approach), but a lot of cool stuff in the background. Will share more about it next week (and share how you get it, too, if you want).

  7. I enjoyed this post. Some good advice in short sections that made it easy to read. Good  luck with your book contract. I hope you learn some great things from it.

  8. Nice post, this will help me a lot when I write my ebooks, luckily for me I have a friend who does branding he can help me with that 😀

    1. very cool. remember: your brand is who you are, not something that you outsource. of course, our creative friends can help us with the expression of it.

  9. Congratulations, Jeff! And thanks for telling your story. 

    I found the comment you made, and the comments in the, uh, comments section about brand and subject helpful. I’m blogging, and I have a book idea related to it, but I’m just figuring out all the platform-brand-networking-voice thing.  

  10. Thanks for sharing your journey! It’s always a blessing to learn from those who have gone before. What’s great about you is that you are not stingy about what you know…you pass along your knowledge and have the spirit of a mentor. What a gift!

  11. I had this feeling at the end of December 2011 that the year 2012 is going to be epic. And not only because there’s a zombie apocalypse coming. And this posts reassures me that I was right. 2012 is going to be EPIC. I made a decision to stop waiting and DO and I love reading about other people who are doing things themselves. So thank you for this post. It got me excited about all the stuff I have to do this weekend to push my dream even further.

  12. I think you are right about going with a publisher when first starting out. There is a lot to learn about publishing a book. And why not learn from people who do it all day long for years? I worked with my partner on 6 books with different publishers. The last book we self published, but could only do as a paperback with the company we went with. My advice is to be involved as much as possible in all aspects of the publishing so that you understand how it is done. Plus, you get to leave your mark on all aspects…cover, etc. Good luck on your book!

  13. Thanks for such a timely and helpful post Jeff. Many terms are loosely thrown around. I appreciate the definitions to chew on. I know I need to write an ebook or longer, pertinent article to do a free download to gain readers and subscribers. This confirms it more, that I need to get my rear in gear and get it done. Thanks again. 

    1. hey sally. thanks for the comment. i would really recommend it. i hesitated on it for the longest time, because i didn’t think it was that big of a deal. i was wrong.

  14. Congratulations Jeff on finishing up your final manuscript!

    Question:   can you see/read my posts?

    Question:  what did you chose as the cover–turtle/tortoise or the wrecking ball?

    Thanks, Barbara

    1. Thanks, Barbara.

      Answer: I’m not sure what you mean. Your comments? Yes. Your blog posts? No. Send me a link.

      Answer: Haven’t decided yet. Thanks.

  15. love this. I agree… having a traditional publisher behind you carries a lot of weight…and expands your platform tremendously. 
    But since the new iBooks Author came out, man, has the game ever been changed! For me, i’m going the self-publishing route, as is the next natural step for me. Though I’ve been engaged by a few companies/publishers (hasn’t gone THAT far yet), I want this first “true” eBook to be my own and very own. i know the process will teach me a lot.  And it will continue to build and solidify my platform and increase the tribe (hopefully). At the very least, strengthen the tribe… and I would rather grow deep with a few than an inch with the masses. But that’s just me.i think self-publishing (and having success with it) will be way more attractive to a traditional publisher. Like with CDs… you used to have a record label to back you up to record an album. Now, countless indie artists can do it themselves. Big labels still don’t go away, and they definitely have to rethink a lot of things… but chances of you getting signed are greater with a few indie records under your belt.

    1.  You’re right, Stephen. Traditional publishing is probably going the way of the recording industry (albeit, a few years behind). I’m excited about your book.

  16. Great information! I think a lot of aspiring writers (myself included until recently) undervalue the importance of self-promotion and think they can’t successfully develop a following until after they’ve been published.

  17. Great advice. However, I’ve tried starting a blog multiple times, but what I lack is picking a subject and sticking with it. I think my ideas are to large and maybe need to be scaled down a tad. So, how do you pick a subject that will stand out among others, but will keep you, the writer, interested as well? 

  18. I think there is something for everyone who wants a successful online presence to take away from this post. Even if your just a simple twitter user, you’ll need all three aspects that are covered here. Thanks for this Jeff.

  19. I’m self-publishing my book now and although it wasn’t my original plan I’m actually loving being able to do everything myself. Building a following has been a slow process, but it definitely takes a lot of time and work.

  20. Love, love, love this! I’m currently building my platform and your tips are giving me lots to chew on…thanks!

  21. Jeff, I just had to write a comment after seeing the image on the cover of your book. (turtle on its back) I found your site looking for tips for writing & publishing my first book, an idea I have had and mentioned to anyone who’d listen for over a year. Time to start writing and today I did ! This is also the first time I have researched writing the book.
    Back to the turtle. When my marriage fell apart 20 years ago, in total desperation and confusion, raw with exposure and betrayal, I adopted the turtle as my mascot. I wore turtle pins so that I could look down at any moment to see a creature who carried his home upon his back and who could withdraw into said haven where and when-ever. So your turtle struck a familiar note with me.
    Thanks for your writing tips. I find them helpful. <3

  22. Hey Jeff! I just read two of your blog postings and feel like I can trust you, just by the flow of your words and your honest spirit. I want to get started blogging, but I am really confused about where to start and how to do it. I also am looking to publish some of my books and poetry I’ve written. How do I get started?

    1. Sally I am glad that you want to start your career as a writer, jeff can truly inspire people to do amazing things. For a first timer, there are plenty of places you can start with, you can sign up with one of the platforms for writers and bloggers and build your community. Once you build your readership you can always mold your future posts accordingly.

      I started off with this amazing platform for bloggers where you have the liberty to write about your interests. And am making a decent living from blogging now. hope that helps

  23. That’s great! Good example of evergreen content and writing from your own perspective as a way to help others. That’s what I’m trying to learn so that’s what feels useful to me right now. Hope to follow in your footsteps. For now, just at the building a platform part, seeking my voice, and practicing. Thanks for the encouragement that it’s a useful path.

  24. Hey Jeff,
    Thank you for all you do. Four years ago you convinced me I could write a book. I’ve now self-published five, with a sixth soon to be released. Today I woke up to find one of my books in the #1 Christian, marriage & relationship category on Amazon. I know theses are not the most difficult areas to rank in, but for me this feels like a big deal. Thank you for all of the encouragement and wisdom along way, and for convincing me that I could do this–you rock!

  25. That’s all great. But that ‘one must become an oarsman before handling the rudder’ is the key to any success in any trade including book-publishing..

  26. I’m working on my second book: Rooftop Reflections – Missional Thoughts of an Ordinary Guy from an Extraordinary Place. I’m currently planning to self-publish the book.

  27. I have half a ream of short stories that I’ve written over a couple years and want to self-publish them. I’m not looking for a profit, although, it’d be cool. I like writing and even though the stories haven’t placed in contests, I believe they’re worth sharing with family, friends, and whoever else may be attracted to them.

  28. Hi Jeff: I just finished writing and illustrating my first book, for children. I’m planning to self-publish. I have neither a platform nor a tribe. I’ve just realized that writing children’s books was possible for me to accomplish. What is my next step?

  29. I am working on a book that is not the normal print book, but the focus is on ancient/modern wisdom combined with sort of a peek into my personal art journals, (painting/writing/photos/mixed media) along with a bit of interactive creative space for readers to write and draw in. However the bulk of it will be the ancient modern wisdom and what it means to be wildhearted. As it’s a little unusual, probably self publishing will be the way I need to go. Not sure….much to learn.

  30. I self-published a book on amazon almost a year ago, called Reluctant Hearts, about a young duke who lost his wife and is trying to raise his son, and a nanny who can’t remember nearly twenty years of her life. But right now, I’m trying a new challenge: Writing a Blog. And seriously, I’m kind of freaking out about it 🙂 I’ve never really been into social media or anything, so… I feel like I am WAY underprepared for this. Reading your emails on blogging has really helped, as has your tips on writing, so hopefully I won’t mess up too badly 🙂
    Also, I was wondering if I could mention you on my blog? (it’s based around writing and graphic design)
    Thank you!

  31. I lost you then I found you again! For that I am truly thankful!!! I was on your blog site years ago (Not long after you published your first book) and your mailing list. Then it crashed and life happened but somehow I have found you again…and at such a timely moment. My book is nearly finished (heehee funny girl) The writing is finished! Now editing, finding an agent, deciding on self-publishing to traditional etc etc..and wham..I open up my computer to this page!!! Sooo good…Love the comment on dreaming…So challenged! Funny that..It’s in my book! Dream Plan Action..Love to chat more..seriously..going to go back over many of your notes but would love to chat!

  32. Loved this advice.
    I’m juggling between writing a book styled magazine, a TV series screenplay and storyboards for my video production projects at the moment, so finding this website has came at the perfect time to give me that boost I’m needing BADLY!

    All in good time.
    I know this.
    However I just cannot wait to sit back and have them all complete.

    Think I will actually faint with excitement.

    Keep on writing everyone.
    It’s the best experience anyone can go through and luckily for us we get to share that feeling each and every day.

    (Surely that’s some sort of unofficial fact in the writers handbook or something.)

  33. I’m writing a book and this is my first book. No experience but a lot of patience and motivation to get my book out. People help me get Jeff to see this because I want him to read it and tell me what he thinks. I would love his feedback

  34. Hey Guys!
    This guy jeff is way beyond wonderful and I keep thinking what if really my writing can br my salvation? Im currently working on my first book ever, titled ‘Rumours Of Love’ its about how I got robbed the only thing that I was suppose to be gifted, Love!

  35. Do you still need to build a platform (blog etc) if you’re primarily interested in writing fiction?

  36. Thanks for post. When it comes to writing you’re the most inspiring blogger I have ever met on the Internet.

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