You need to self-publish on Gumroad
In my house, I have a rule:
- If you want to be on social media, you have to have something to sell.
And to be clear, by that I mean something that you made yourself that you can turn into a digital product. We’re talking personal digital creativity here… not Only Fans or other rubbish like that.
The easiest way I’ve found to help friends and family succeed with their creative projects is as follows:
Self-publish your own original content on Gumroad and link it to your social media
There’s a reason for this and it’s pretty simple. If you don’t have something to sell, then you’re the product. YOU are being sold.
There’s six of us under my roof and – out of six – five are old enough to have social media accounts and now all five have some kind of electronic products including short stories, “how-to” guides, posters and a couple of novels that they can – if they want to – market and sell online.
All of them, kids from age 15 through to 20 and my wife as well, have been able to create, self-publish on Gumroad and sell their own original content online through Twitter and other platforms.
My focus here and with friends and family has been on teaching people how to write original content and learn how to self-publish electronically.
We’ve also done this with blogging and Amazon Kindle in a couple of instances, but for our projects and a small audience, Gumroad has been the thing that has worked.
I haven’t looked at YouTube or video-based projects seriously yet, but I may do at some stage in the future.
It’s not a big deal
It’s not a big deal… but there is a point to it… a couple of points, in fact. I want my family to understand the business model behind these massive social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
And I want them to realise have the experience of creating something, selling it, and making money online.
I’ve coached all of them plus a couple of other friends through the process of getting an eBook online through Gumroad.com.
If you can write or create your own content you can self-publish on Gumroad too. It’s kinda fun and makes you take a different approach to social media.
Note: You are unlikely to immediately make a lot of money if you self-publish
None of us are making a million dollars out of our self-publishing ventures. You probably won’t either, but whatever… here are four quick reasons why you should still self-publish:
1. Real artists ‘ship’
Everyone at my house are creative types and Gumroad allows us a way to “ship” our products, especially things like short stories, novels and “how to” books.
This idea of “shipping” a finished product has been super important for all of us. You learn lots of great lessons when you ship something, especially if it’s not quite perfect.
2. It’s a great side-hustle or hobby
Also, most of us work and have other ways of paying our bills. So when we self-publish it’s just for fun and sometimes we get paid for it. The stakes are low and we keep it light hearted.
At my place, content creation and self-publishing a hobby, a side-hustle and a way of showcasing things that we’ve done, that we’re interested in or that we’re all good at.
3. It’s a great way to breath new life into old material
I have a lot of content that I’ve written in more than 15 years working in education. Sometimes, my motivation is repurpose some of this material so that it lives on beyond its initial purpose and finds new audiences.
So if I self-publish and sell a few copies of something then it means that material isn’t dead in the water. Someone new gets to benefit from what I wrote for someone else in another situation.
4. If you self-publish you can build a reputation or a brand
Like I said before, it’s not a fast-track to making a million dollars or anything like that. But it can be a fast-track to building a brand or a reputation.
If you know something, or know how to do something, or can share your skills with others then you can self-publish.
And you can build a reputation online for being an expert in your field. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a weird niche or not. There’s plenty of other weirdos out there on the interwebs.
Nine steps to self-publish on Gumroad
Here are the nine things you need to do to self-publish on Gumroad. This, of course, assumes that you have some original content to use.
If you don’t have any original content, then you’d be better getting off social media and putting your head down for a while.
Here you go:
1. Write the text
It doesn’t have to be text. It could be video, or audio or some marvellous multi-media. But, for the sake of the argument, let’s say it is text.
You need to do the content creation. Write that short story. Create that “How to” guide. Repurpose that old content you wrote years ago.
- Tools: I use Google Docs to create my content. It’s free and easy to use. But you could use MS Word or other content creation tools.
2. Export the text as a PDF
Complete your content, make sure it looks good and is nicely edited then export it as a PDF. If you are crap at editing then get a friend to look over it. This isn’t amateur hour. People will judge you on your typos and shitty grammar.
- Tools: Again, I use Google Docs: FILE >> DOWNLOAD >> PDF
2. Create a cover
If it’s an eBook, you need to create a cover.
- Tools: I use Adobe Spark to make covers and graphics. But you could use Canva.com or Adobe Illustrator or any number of graphic design applications. Adobe Spark is free and makes it easy to export as multiple file formats.
You can also resize your designs at the click of a button with Adobe Spark. Hat tip to Jose Rosado for putting me on to Adobe Spark, among other things.
Use this function to resize your cover as a square and post to your Instagram account. And then resize it for Twitter or whatever other social media you use.
This is important because different platforms are optimised for different sized graphics. If you use the wrong size it looks funny. Or you cut off parts of your image. So, get it right. That means a new image for each platform.
3. Export the cover
I create my cover and then I export this from Adobe Spark as as both PDF and PNG files. I need the PDF file for the cover of the book and the PNG file for the graphic on Gumroad.
I’m very pedantic about creating folders and numbering my files when I do this kind of work. For example, within a subfolder for an eBook my file structure might look like this:
- 01 eBook TEXT
- 02 eBook COVER
- 03 eBook SQUARE COVER
- 04 eBook RECTANGULAR COVER
- 05 eBook FINAL – COVER PLUS TEXT
Tools: Adobe Spark again or whatever graphic design programme tickles your fancy.
4. Merge the two PDFs
Once you have finalised everything you need to merge the two PDFs – the cover and the text. This means that you are creating one final PDF document that has the cover on the front and the text following after.
- Tools: I use Adobe Acrobat for this but there are other ways if you don’t have an Adobe CS account.
If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat there are some other ideas and detailed instructions here that you can refer to.
5. Set up Gumroad account
Set up an account on Gumroad.com. I’m not going to go into details here as you can just follow the prompts, but for goodness sakes make sure you complete the basic stuff like setting up your profile.
If you get stuck as to what to write, then have a look at what others do.
6. Upload the Cover graphic
Click NEW PRODUCT and follow the prompts to upload the cover to as an image (PNG file).
Just a note, if you’re going to do a presale then you need to set that up from the very beginning by clicking the right option for this.
7. Upload the eBook PDF
Upload the final PDF which includes Cover and Text to your new product in your Gumroad account
8. Write the sales page
Write a sales page. This sounds easy but if you’ve never written a sales page you might find it’s hard than it looks.
One of the best things you can do is take a look at some really well written sales pages on Gumroad.
I tend to write mine and then paste them into WordPress where I have a search engine optimisation plugin running. I then edit the copy for search based on one or two key words.
When I’m finished I paste this back into Gumroad or edit the Gumroad sales page accordingly.
9. Put a price on it
You need to determine a price. This can be free or “pay what you like”. Generally, I’m terrible at pricing stuff but here are some thoughts on pricing:
- You need to have a look at what others are selling in your niche and see what their prices are like. This may surprise you in some cases, as some authors can charge a lot more on Gumroad than they can on another platform like Kindle.
- You don’t want to undersell yourself, but if it’s too expensive no one will buy.
- How much you can charge is probably going to depend a lot on what kind of presence you have on social media. The bigger your online brand the more likely you are to be able to charge more for it. Many of the folks doing well on Gumroad have a strong presence on platforms like YouTube and Twitter.
- If you can bundle some other high-value products together with your book or main offering, you may be able to charge more for it. Or, you can just over deliver and really give the impression that people are getting excellent value. Other things that you can bundle with your main product might include video content (coaching), other PDFs (other ebooks or other short-form content), images or electronic material that people can download.
- If it’s your first eBook, don’t pitch it too high. Just make it cheap and get it out there. What you want is to make a few dollars, but you also want to get some market validation. In other words, you want to know that people really want to read whatever it is that you’re writing.
- Consider launching your product with a presale price that is at a discount. Give yourself enough of a lead time that you can promote it to your audience and get some orders happening before you launch.
- Further down the track… if you can stand it… make a video tutorial – or a whole course. Then bundle this with the book and double the price.
Will I sell any?
Here’s a false assumption that you need to dispel right now:
- If I write it they will come and buy it
Just because you wrote some cool (to you) content and did the self-publish thing doesn’t mean that anyone will look at it of course. That’s a marketing and promotion problem.
Also, no one is going to promote you except you. Well, almost no one. If you can get a few hardcore fans they just might promote the snot out of your content.
If you don’t promote your work you have no one else to blame if it doesn’t sell.
There’s also the possibility that what you wrote is boring shite and no one wants to look at it. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but if you get zero sales it just might be true.
But this post is not about promotion and marketing. Just remember this:
- YOU need to promote yourself SHAMELESSLY because no one else will.
All that said, let’s focus on the positive… there are almost zero barriers to getting your content online.
For me, uptake on any of my books is usually slow. Perhaps, a couple of copies per week on some books or a couple of copies per month on others.
Some don’t sell at all and sometimes I give them away. After all, I have an INFINITE number of copies to sell.
Here’s an example of how to create an eBook of photo essays on Gumroad
We haven’t done this one below yet, but here’s a run down of a conversation that I had with a friend who was thinking about publishing a book of her original black and white photo art.
- Take 30 of your best black and white photographs and drop them into a Google Doc
- Write 30 short vignettes of perhaps 200 words each to accompany each photo.
- Write the introduction.
- Write the end matter.
- Use the built in styles guide in Google Docs for all of your headings and subheadings.
- Use the Table of contents feature to auto generate a table of contents at the front of your document.
- Take your best image and make a cover using Canva or Adobe Spark.
- Download your cover as both a .PNG and .PDF file.
- Send a draft to your biggest fan or Twitter follower with the largest account and ask them to write a short prologue.
- Download your google doc as a PDF.
- Merge the two PDFs together so you add the cover to the content.
- Set up a Gumroad account.
- Upload the cover .PNG file.
- Upload the complete PDF of the book.
- Write your sales page.
- Set a price.
Tag all of your friends and tell them to buy. Then start to promote it, but I’m not going to get into that.
What I will get into are some case studies that you can look at for real-world examples. These are people just like you who had an idea and worked through this process to self-publish on Gumroad.
Case Study 1: Damon – Weight lifting
Damon is a friend of mine. He’s been lifting heavy since he was 16 years old. But I didn’t really find out the depth of knowledge and experience he has until recently when we started talking about what gear I needed to start lifting at home.
At the end of the first COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand I was determined to make sure that I set up a home gym in the event that it happened again (which it did).
I ended up talking to Damon and he coached me through what I needed to buy to set up a minimalistic home gym that didn’t break the bank. And then he set up me up with exactly the right lifts and exercises I needed to get started.
And when I told him that he should write it down in a book he said he already had a name for it – How to throw a man through a car.
Then he wrote it down and we carried out every step I’ve outlined above to self-publish and launch his first Book.
Case Study 2: Grace – Short Story
Grace needed to write a short story for a competition. It was part of her school work. As it turned out she had a great idea and knocked to story out in no time flat.
Grace and I spent some time editing it together and then followed all of the steps above to self-publish it on Gumroad.
If we hadn’t published it then she would have submitted it for the writing competition and that would have been the end of it.
This way, though, she has a permanent record of the story that she wrote and her friends AND YOU get to read it here on Gumroad – Check it out before she turns it into an anthology of stories and quadruples the price.
Case Study 3: Daniel – Cocktail Recipes
Daniel found himself locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic with nothing but a cupboard full of booze and a lot of time on his hands. So he decided to compile his notes from his time working as a bartender and self-publish.
He selected a bunch of great cocktails and took some photos. And then, once again, he followed the exact same steps above to self-publish a book of cocktail recipes.
Now his twenty best, easy-to-make recipes with photos of the finished drinks are available for YOU, dear reader. And they come bundled with the following FREE posters.
- Top Tips for the top shelf
- Bartenders equipment alternatives
- The Easiest “how to” on making a cocktail
Case Study 4: Trinity – Business Advice
Trinity found herself working a full-time job in addition to several online side hustles where she was doing project management and virtual assistant work.
This meant that she was thinking (and working) hard at trying to juggle all of her work and other commitments. And that meant that she started reflecting on what she needed to do to stay calm under pressure and retain her focus on essential tasks.
The cool thing was that she wrote all this down and put it in a short eBook that you can benefit from too. It’s all about beating procrastination and the social media spinning wheels of death while maintaining your motivation to write, win and generally succeed at life.
She followed all of the steps above to self-publish launch How to Win: Some Good Advice – and a bunch of other eBooks – on Gumroad.
Case Study 5: Susan – Novel
About two years ago Susan found herself with a bit of time on her hands, in between homeschooling kids and generally taking care of family. She had an idea for a story. It wasn’t her first idea for a story, but this time round it had some real depth. So she started writing.
A few months later she’d written more than 40,000 words, which was her previous record. Then she hit 100,000 words… and now she’s written more than 300,000 words and has enough material for several books.
What she did earlier this year was to take the first 40,000 words or so and self publish it on Gumroad as Part 1 of her Te Kererū series. And then she did it again recently with another 40,000 words which she published as part 2 in her series.
Again, we followed the exact same sequence of steps above to self-publish on Gumroad… and you can too.
What are you waiting for?
You can self-publish on Gumroad too…!
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