Elements of creating a successful book business

Once you publish, you’ve essentially created a business. This business can be built up – it likely will expand to publishing additional titles, it probably will extend to including guest speaking and presentations, and it could even stretch to include merchandise, such as selling T-shirts and coffee mugs related to your books.

To ensure maximum success, when you set out on this new business, there first are several general questions to quickly ask yourself and to be clear in your mind about.

Begin by asking what is the purpose of your business. You want to be focused on this or you run the risk of quickly getting off track. The purpose of your business should be the solution of a problem that your customers need solved. For a writer, that could be “to deliver entertaining novels to readers of romance” (You’re solving the problem of readers looking for entertaining romance novels to read.) or “to help readers learn ways they can become wealthy” (You’re solving the problem of readers looking for ways to improve their finances.). Making money isn’t the purpose of your business. If your novels are entertaining or if your nonfiction does help readers get rich, then you will make money from book sales. Money is the reward for achieving your business purpose.

Next, ask yourself what products and services you will sell. Be very specific about this. Saying “I will sell books” isn’t sufficient. Answer with what kind of books you will sell. It could “science fiction books with a focus on space opera” or “bicycle trail guidebooks.” A service might be “consulting science fiction authors about their books in progress” or “offering programs on bicycle repair.” Being specific helps you focus your energies. Part of this process includes production; you should actually have the means to create such a product or to write a book. For example, if you lack a computer or a word processing software, you’ll need that; in addition, if you lack self-publishing skills (such as formatting or uploading), you’ll need to learn how to do it.

All products must have a means of distribution. For authors, this is as simple as using a print on demand service or ordering books that you sell at events in which you are the guest speaker. While authors typically are spared having to deal with this aspect of their business, they still should be familiar with how it works.

Another question to ask yourself is how you will market and promote your books and any other products and services you offer. The amount of marketing necessary to achieve book sales – even of an excellent book – often astonishes authors. You might promote your book by harnessing traditional media through press releases and interviews. You might utilize social media such as a blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. You might make public appearances such as book readings and presentations at conferences related to your book’s topic.

Next, ask yourself about the nuts and bolts of your business. What paperwork do you need to file with your city, county or state to establish your business? Will you incorporate? What method of financial accounting will you use? Do you need insurance? These essentially are questions related to the establishment and functioning of your business. The questions to answer are many, and most authors have little inkling of what they even are.

Finally, you’ll have to ask yourself about strategy and planning. Once you’ve answered the questions above, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to achieve the purpose of your business. What is your timeline? How frequently will you publish new books? How much time will you put daily into marketing. How will you measure achievement of your business’ purpose?

Thinking about all of these questions and having clear answers in your mind will allow you to stay focused and actually create a successful business. Good luck!


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.