How I Self-Published My First Book in 1 month

by Dr. Alison Chen ND | Follow on Twitter

Writing is the difficult part, self-publishing is easy but marketing is the most important.

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I wrote long, research-based and thorough articles on basically every topic that I thought was fundamental for health, specifically preventative health.

I created a course called Daily Dose and from that I was able to focus my topics and write 2-3 articles a week, consistently.

My goal was to be able to have flexibility for this year to:

  • link back to my articles if a patient or fan had a question about a health topic
  • use parts of my articles to re-purpose for larger health sites, like Huffington, Greatist, The Good Men Project, Entrepreneur,,, Mind Body Green, LiveStrong
  • use the articles to create other products to sell
  • use the articles to create a book

Now, I was thinking that this book would be a serious book, filled with science facts and case studies that represented me as a respectable and well-educated doctor.

My ego wanted a book that would change people’s lives. I still might write that book one day, but what I really got (and was a lot more fun to make) was a fully illustrated, child-friendly rhyming book about POO.

A book that all people can share, laugh about and learn from. From making this book, I learned that health doesn’t have to be hard, overwhelming and serious… It can be FUN (and have an even bigger impact)!

And it all came from writing an article based off the Bristol Stool chart about how anyone can be their own health detective just by looking at their poo.

Poo Cover

My process to go from article to book was a faster than most because of 2 key components:

  1. I self-published a 32-page illustrated rhyming book so there was little fact-checking, editing, and formatting with the text. The only waiting time was for the illustrations to draw and design the book.
  2. The illustrator that I used was familiar with self-published book designs and was able to format and allow for the proper formatting, design bleed and uploading of the book in the first try.

I’ve written other “how to” articles so if you are interested in self-publishing but are no where near ready to get your important work out to your audience, book mark this page and come back to it after you have the skeleton of your book laid out.

In the mean time, you might be interested in:

9 Steps to Self-Publishing

1. Write your book.

This will take the bulk of effort but not necessarily the bulk of time (we’ll take a look at #9 later on).

Make sure you take your time to focus on a niche market (ie. topic, writing style, layout, design) and get a thorough edit of your book from a professional in your field as well as your target audience.

After the book is written, it could take a year or more before it’s ready to sell, so buckle down. In my case, it took me only 1 day to write out the short poems, for an article on poo, a year before and had only to hire an illustrator to do the drawings. It took the illustrator 1 month to complete the drawings and then the book was ready to be up Amazon.

2. Pick a self-publishing platform.

There are several companies that do print-on-demand self-publishing. This means that you cut out the publisher and do all of the marketing yourself.

The pros of having a publisher is that they have a vetted name that can potentially get your book in the hands of a huge audience (and hopefully on a best-seller list and in major media exposures).

But the cons often outweigh the pros if you aren’t an already recognized and sought out author. It’s also really difficult to hire a well-known publisher. I have no personal experiences, but these are some cons that I’ve been told about when it comes to hiring publishers:

  • They often change your words so that it sometimes isn’t the message you want to spread in the first place
  • Don’t expect your book to be out in less than a year’s time after all the writing is complete.
  • They take a massive chunk of change so your only monetary advantage is to get a big advance
  • They own your information and you can never sell the book through a different channel
  • They can decide to drop your book without notice or reason

I used CreateSpace but there are several others Lulu, Book Baby, Blurb, Lightning Source, etc.

Choose carefully for your specific requirements because some will force you to do a minimum order quantity, or only do soft cover, while others charge a huge fee each time you want to upload a new version of your book. And if this is your first book, I guarantee you will find lots of little errors (ie. spelling, grammar, formatting, design layout, book sizing, etc).

I liked CreateSpace because Jon was familiar with it and could take me through putting up my book really quickly, plus their manual is really easy to read and follow. But also, it’s owned by Amazon and that was the main platform that I wanted to distribute my book from.

3. Choose your book size — Standard vs Custom.

CreateSpace (and probably other print-on-demand companies) can make any book size that is at minimum 5×6 inches. But if it’s not a standard size, they won’t be able to carry it in bookstores (if the time came that your book was doing exceptionally well).

My book is 6×6” and as a kid-friendly book it is a perfect custom-size, but you won’t see it on the shelves of Indigo/ Chapters.

4. Formatting.

Make sure that you triple check the formatting, especially if it is a text heavy book with images, graphs, or call out boxes. Making a slight change to one section could disrupt the rest of the layout later on.

Some print-on-demand companies are very particular with the formatting and will send it back to you if it doesn’t meet each requirement.

This is where paying for each new upload of your book can start to add up. You could make up to 20 small changes and if each time it costs you $40 it may not be worth saving $0.10 per book to print.

5. Create a cover and back page.

Make sure the front cover is well designed and not slapped together. This is not the time to go cheap.

Although we all know the saying, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, we all do it. ALL OF US. Just look at the popularity in Tinder!

If you don’t have your own illustrator or designer, try using 99 Design. Jon has used it for several of his books and has had great success. This site is especially good for people how have little vision or creative capacities. You get a handful of really talented artists who will interpret what your book is about and let you choose a design to make adjustments with until you are completely satisfied.

On the back page, decide if you want your author bio and headshot, a testimonial or summary of the book. But don’t forget to leave space for the ISBN number (aka. Barcode)

6. Get an ISBN number.

This is easy, as the print-on-demand company will likely automate this for you once you’ve entered all the proper information for selling the book.

7. Set a price point.

With CreateSpace, there is a ceiling to how much you can charge per book. Their algorithm takes into consideration the size and length of your book so that you can’t over-charge.

This step will also require you to put in your tax and business information for collecting royalties. If you are Canadian the Tax Identification Number (TIN) is the same as your Social Insurance Number (SIN) as Canada and the USA have an agreement that you cannot be taxed on the same earnings twice, nor have any with-holdings.

8. Order your proof copy.

You’re all set. Now all you need to do is order your print copy to review with a fine-tooth comb and check for any spelling, grammar, formatting and design errors. You will likely find something, which means going back to step #4 to be corrected.

If they are small errors you may not need to order another proof, but if it’s a major change then I suggest you print off another copy to make sure everything is to your liking.

If you tried to do the formatting yourself in step #4 and your book is a disaster, I highly recommend paying a professional. You are not a book editing and formatting expert. Your expertise lies in the words of your book, and not the design. If you have a messy, disorganized jumble of a book, no one will take the time to read your masterpiece.

9. Make a marketing plan.

As mentioned previously, the marketing SHOULD take as much time (and effort) as writing the book.

What’s the point of putting your heart and soul into your writing to have only a handful of people read it? Marketing is HUGE and you shouldn’t skip creating a proper marketing plan if you are serious about selling your book.

That being said, you might not care about making money off of your book (most people don’t actually make much), but you should want it to touch as many people as possible. I mean, that’s why you wrote it, right?

I am by no means a marketing expert, nor has my fun poo book made me a ton of money, but the process takes time. Even the famous “Chicken Soup For the Soul” series, which has sold over 500 million copies in 47 languages, was rejected by 144 publishers. The process takes time, patience and commitment.

So get yourself out there. Start blogging, getting on social media and making strong connections with influential people. Here are some strategies to a successful launch:

  • Ship copies of your book to influential people that you have a good relationship with. For an added bonus include a personalized letter that says how that person has influenced you to write this book and what specific chapter they will enjoy (this is Jon’s secret strategy)
  • Start a Facebook album of people reading your book
  • Do a contest. After my book came out I did a contest called, “The Great Poo Giveaway”. I partnered with Squatty Potty and used program called KingSumo to run the contest and choose the winners.
  • Collect emails and sending out a blast
  • Collaborate with colleagues
  • Attend a mastermind-type event to swim with the big fish
  • Join a meet up business group to keep you accountable and also creating new relationships
  • Write about the topic on major websites, magazines and local newspapers, but make sure they link to your book via your website or amazon link

But the best marketing of all… Is to write another book!

I’ll be coming out with a whole series of child-friendly, fun, illustrated rhyming books about various health topics, so stay tuned.

About the Author
Dr. Alison Chen ND

Dr. Alison Chen ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and was the recipient of the humanitarian award. Her background in competitive gymnastics, personal training, and volunteer work in Africa gives her a well-rounded view to living well.   Since graduating Alison has traveled the world exploring different ways to think and teach about healing. She believes that education should be consumable and fun, so she created theNDDC and wrote an illustrated rhyming book about poo. Seriously, check out the poo book on Amazon here.