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8 Self-Publishing Tips from Joanna Penn's Book Successful Self-Publishing

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Joanna Penn’s book Successful Self-Publishing is a good resource for writers who are about to begin the self-publishing process and need to know the basics. She is knowledgeable about the topic because she has self-published 27 books in the last 10 years. Joanna Penn is also a NYT and USA Today bestselling author, so she is the epitome of a successful self-published author.

1. Identify your self-publishing goals and what success means to you.

Everyone’s vision of success is different. Some indie authors simply want their book published and don’t care as much about earning a lot of money. Other indie authors want to be able to quit their current job and earn enough money as an author to support themselves. My main goal is to have my book on the shelves of bookstores. In the first year after my book is published, I hope to earn enough money to offset the costs of self-publishing. My long-term goal is to earn a living as a full-time indie author.

2. Research bestselling novels in the genre you’re writing and compare the cover art.

This is helpful when you’re looking for/hiring a cover designer. It’s important to know which types of covers sell and if there are any trends for covers in your genre that readers expect to see. After you have researched popular books in your genre, you can send your favorite covers to your cover designer for inspiration.

3. Carefully select the genres and keywords for your novel.

The genre and keywords are important because this is how readers will find your book. You can use Joanna Penn’s website to research genres by going to It’s important to categorize your novel into the correct genre. On the other hand, keywords are important for SEO purposes. For example, when readers search for “murder mystery books,” if your book is a murder mystery, this might be a good keyword. However, you will also want to double check that the keywords are words you can rank for. You can use tools such as for keyword research.

4. Publish your novel as an eBook.

Most indie authors earn the majority of their income from eBooks. You can still publish your novel as a paperback and/or hardcover, but publishing an eBook is essential. eBooks are more affordable than paperback and hardcover books, therefore readers are more likely to take a chance on reading a book by an indie author, even if they have never heard of them. In addition, if you publish an eBook on Amazon KDP, you can get up to 70% of royalties if your eBook is priced between $2.99-$9.99.

5. Publish your novel as a paperback and/or hardcover through IngramSpark.

IngramSpark has the widest printing and distribution options of any POD (print-on-demand) company. IngramSpark also allows for returns and discounts for retailers, which means your novel can be sold in bookstores. Your novel can also be sold worldwide through IngramSpark.

6. Create an author website.

Your website is the main “hub” where you want your readers to find you. On your author website, you should have an “About Me” page, a page for your books, and you could have a blog. Once your books are published, you could also add ecommerce capability so your books can be purchased directly from you. A huge perk of having an author website is that it’s a great form of free advertising if you utilize SEO best practices and don’t pay for ads.

7. ISBNs are necessary to sell your book in bookstores.

ISBNs are a unique 13-digit code, which identifies your book. ISBNs can be purchased from An ISBN is required for each format of your novel. Therefore, if you’re publishing your book as an eBook, paperback, and hardcover, then you will need 3 ISBNs.

8. Provide free ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to book reviewers.

Sending ARCs to book reviewers is a great way to generate hype for your book before it’s published. You can compile a list of book reviewers, bloggers, and interested readers. Contact them and ask if they are willing to read and review your book if you send them a free ARC. If you receive reviews before your book is published, potential readers will be more inclined to purchase your book.

These are just a few of the helpful tips from Successful Self-Publishing. If you’re just starting your self-publishing journey or considering self-publishing, I highly recommend reading Joanna Penn’s book. I hope this blog post serves as a resource to writers trying to learn more about self-publishing!

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