Self-publishing journals, activity books, and other low-content products is a great way for anyone with a design flair to break into the world of book publishing.
If you’re looking to break into this side hustle, you might find it overwhelming to figure out all the info and files you need.
At the end of the day, you just want to have a cool book in your hands that you made yourself. That feeling is pretty amazing, trust me!
I’ve published dozens of books over the years and worked as a book designer for clients. Today, I’ll share with you all of the things you’ll need to prepare to self-publish your journal or similar book.
Start by doing your research.
To get started, you’re going to need a book idea, and a plan about where you’re going to publish it.
For most people doing low-content publishing, the easiest option is to publish using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.
KDP needs a lot of information (also called metadata) from you about your book, as well as the design files.
That’s just the technical part. The creative part is figuring out what kind of journal or book you’re going to create.
On the one hand, you can just use your imagination and create something that seems really cool or useful to you. There’s nothing wrong with just creating something you like for your own benefit.
However, most people doing this want to earn some money. And if you want to make money, you need to figure out what people want to buy.
This is where keyword research comes in.
Keyword research tells you what people are searching to buy.
There are lots of tools out there to help you figure out what sorts of words people are typing into search engines.
You can start by brainstorming a short list of journal topic ideas (like a birdwatching journal, a gratitude journal, a recipe book, etc.) and then investigating what kinds of keywords apply to these niches.
You can get different data from the various keyword tools that will tell you how many people are searching for certain keywords each month.
This allows you to do something really important: validate your idea to prove that people are looking for it.
And if people are looking for a certain kind of book, odds are that they want to buy it.
Once you have your publishing angle and niche figured out, you need to start designing your product.
There are 2 files you need to create when self-publishing journals…
You need to create a cover file and an interior file.
For KDP, these should both be PDF files. Amazon provides templates you can use for designing your journal covers. You can use any design tool to add your own graphics and text to the cover.
The interior file for your journal will have the same number of pages as the inside of your book. Make sure that the text and graphics inside your book aren’t too close to the edge of the page. Keep page margins in mind when designing!
Most journals have black-and-white interiors. This is because the cost is significantly higher to print in color. Keep this in mind when selecting designs and images for the interior of your book.
Designing the files for your journals can take some trial and error.
The more complicated your concept, the longer it will take to design.
You’ll want to consider if you will create one page design that gets repeated…
Or multiple designs, making a more unique book (but one that takes longer to create).
I find that 2 different templates are good to start with. That way, each page spread (two pages facing each other) is interesting to the user.
Once the design files are done, the hardest part (for a lot of folks!) is over.
Next, create your metadata for your book listing.
Metadata is just a fancy word that means all the text that goes on your product listing.
On Amazon, that means you’re going to need:
- Your book title (and subtitle)
- Your author/publishing name
- A description of the product
- Keywords for your product
- Categories to put your product in
- An ISBN
- A price for your book
Don’t worry, you can change a lot of these pieces of data once the book is published if you’re not happy with your first attempt!
Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the perfect book description.
Sometimes your keywords don’t find just the right customers the first time.
The only pieces of metadata that you can’t change after the journal is published is the title, author name, and ISBN.
For everything else, you can get creative, and use those keywords that you sourced during your research step!
After your book is published, you can either wait and see if anyone buys it…
Or you can market it yourself.
Marketing low-content books is something that isn’t talked about a lot in the side-hustle world, because too many people try to rely only on organic traffic on Amazon.
And organic traffic is great – but there are hundreds of thousands of journals on Amazon these days.
More are being published every day!
Standing out and getting sales isn’t as easy as it used to be.
So unless you’ve found a super secret untapped niche…
You might want to think about a marketing strategy.
There are lots of easy ways to do this. You can create a Facebook page for your journal brand, you can run ads, you can use Pinterest…
Most digital marketing strategies can be applied to journals, especially ones that are being used by the traditional book market.
So in summary…
Here’s what you need to self-publish your own journal:
- A platform to publish on (usually KDP)
- A researched niche for your journal
- An interior and cover file
- Metadata for your listing
- A marketing strategy
With all of those in place, you’ll have your first published book in your hands in no time!
The skills that you use to self-publish a journal or low-content book can be easily adapted to publishing a novel, non-fiction book, or any other useful kind of text. Journals are a really great entry point for this industry, and it doesn’t take long at all to get one started.
Want to learn even more? Take my Skillshare course for free!
Click the image below to check out my Skillshare course, Journal Publishing: Design and Sell Your Own Low-Content Books. With this link, you can get 1 month free on Skillshare, which is plenty of time to take this course (and check out my others on passive income strategies)!