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Sell Your Words: Write, Self-Publish, and Market Nonfiction Books

Sell Your Words: Write, Self-Publish, and Market Nonfiction Books

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Sell Your Words: Write, Self-Publish, and Market Nonfiction Books

188 pages
2 hours
Aug 20, 2019


Become an indie author and discover unexpected adventures. As an important alternative to traditional trade publishing, self-publishing allows writers to make all the decisions regarding their book. You will control every step from content to cover, from promotion to pricing, from publicity to marketing. This easy-to-read beginner's guide without fluff has vital topics and imperative details full of no-nonsense, practical wisdom from more than three decades of the author's personal experience.

Approximate length: 170 pages

About the author:

Leila Peltosaari immigrated to Canada from Finland in 1973. She started self-publishing sewing books when her children were little, and then moved onto other non-fiction and how-to books. She has published 15 books over the years, won two awards, and has been featured in hundreds of publications. She currently lives in Montreal, near her children and grandchildren, and continues writing.

Aug 20, 2019

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Sell Your Words - Leila Peltosaari


Write, self-publish, and

market nonfiction books

Leila Peltosaari

Tikka Books, Montreal, Canada




Write, self-publish, and market nonfiction books

Leila Peltosaari


Montreal, Canada

© Copyright 2019, Leila Peltosaari

ISBN 978-1-896106-06-9 Sell Your Words (e-book, August 2019)

Layout by Albert Albala

Cover by Rina Albala

All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the author or the publisher. This book provides information and inspiration for writing, self-publishing, and marketing nonfiction books. It aims to supplement other books for you to become knowledgeable in self-publishing but without rendering legal or professional services. This book should not be used as the ultimate and complete source for information available on self-publishing, a field which is constantly evolving and needing updates. Although every effort was made to make this book as accurate as possible, the author and publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity for errors or omissions regarding any loss or damage caused, or allegedly to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the use of the information contained in this book.

Printed copies are offered at quantity discounts for educational purposes, as premiums, and promotions for schools, businesses, and social organizations.

Please contact Leila Peltosaari, leila@tikkabooks.com.


This book is based on more than three decades of my personal experience as a bestselling, award-winning author and self-publisher. I hope to inspire you by sharing my story and time-tested tips and skills. I will guide you through the self-publishing process, step-by-step, from finding a good topic for your book to selling your first copies.

I published my first book over thirty years ago. I hoped to make a bit of pocket money and prove I was right but I made more than a million dollars by self-publishing title after title. It became a good life, different and interesting. I write my books in English even though it’s not my mother tongue. That first book turned into fifteen books, some in three languages, and a lifelong career.

Trade publishers reject all but one percent of manuscripts, so their authors become celebrities regardless of what they write or how little money they make. Times have changed in this multi-billion-dollar business. Anyone can now publish a book, not just write one, and control every step from contents to cover, distribution to marketing. Write a good book once and sell it for years to come. Self-publishing is fast becoming a preferred alternative for many indie writers. When I started writing, I had never heard of self-publishing and thought it was my invention!

This easy beginner’s guide for entrepreneurial minds is a compilation of no-nonsense wisdom and practical information to write, self-publish, and market nonfiction and how-to books. I include valuable insight about how to organize your ideas, edit your contents, format your manuscript as an e-book and print book, as well as plan your publication date and launch. You will learn about CIP data, printing, ARC, how to apply for an ISBN number, get your own barcode, and submit the mandatory legal deposit. I explore different printing options, including print-on-demand, how to deal with editors and reviewers, how to navigate distribution and retailing, and how to recognize and avoid scammers and predators.

Start your marketing with the patience and enthusiasm that only indie authors can have for their books. Write with fire in your fingertips and edit later. If you constantly interrupt yourself, you’ll never get the work done. When you do something with passion, it gives meaning to your life. If writing is your calling, self-publishing a book can be a natural and exciting way to achieve your dreams. There is no guarantee of becoming rich and famous, but self-publishing could be challenging and satisfying in many ways, and maybe you’ll also make a meaningful living. Who knows what it could do for you?

You write because you love writing—you wouldn’t if you didn’t. This is the beginning of an indie author journey of your own.

Words are free, the supply is unlimited, sell yours.

Leila Peltosaari


A good book takes time to write and edit meticulously. I was not alone. Margaret Heisserer, my editor par excellence, has earned my honest appreciation for the final polishing of this book. My gratitude is incomparable to my family, especially to Rina and Albert, my two creative children and their partners, for their constant support throughout this book, and for taking the time to get thoroughly informed and discuss every detail. Many distributors and retailers gave me experienced help in this field, and I am particularly grateful to Tara Robinett (Draft2Digital). My warm thanks go to Lydie Servanin, James Awad, Maddy Cranley, and Kay Turner for many reasons. Thank you to everyone who has had the patience to listen to my preoccupation and enthusiastic monologues about this book.

Thank you to my hundreds of thousands of customers along my self-publishing journey who have guided and motivated me in writing and self-publishing. Thank you to the many authors whose self-publishing books live in my bookshelf and provide solid information and inspiration. Thank you to some five hundred editors, reporters, and journalists, who have given me publicity and brought customers my way from near and far, from hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Finally, and why not, humble and endless gratitude to myself for inner strength because I found the courage, the self-discipline, and the perseverance to write this book against all odds and serious health problems. I am grateful for all the lucky breaks and hard lessons I have experienced throughout my career. It’s time to give back and help inspire other self-publishers who are just starting out with unknown success and adventures in their future.

My first book is a small, charming book, and sometimes I look at it affectionately in wonder. Unexpectedly, it started something unusual. This page is mine to express gratitude but words are inadequate. Funnily enough, I am grateful to the first editor because she said no and inadvertently gave me a powerful reason to prove I was right, but I am especially forever grateful to the second editor because she said yes. Amazing things can happen in the creative world of self-publishing.

This one is for Gerri Hirshey, of course, because she said yes.

Books by Leila Peltosaari (Leila Albala)

Easy Sewing for Infants

Easy Sewing for Children

Easy Sewing for Adults

Easy Halloween Costumes for Children

Costumes d’Halloween pour enfants

Catalogue of Canadian Catalogues

Helppoja Kaavoja Pienokaisille

Helppoja Kaavoja Lapsille

Helppoja Kaavoja Aikuisille

Hey Kids... Let’s Make Gifts

College Cuisine

Dancing with Fear

Illegally Easy Halloween Costumes for Kids

Kulunut Porraspuu

Sell Your Words

Chapter 1: Bonnet to Books

For me, self-publishing grew from a small book to a lifelong career and beyond a million dollars in revenue.

My story starts with a baby bonnet in Montreal when I was 34 years old. The year was 1981. I had just written my first book and thought I had invented self-publishing.

Recently immigrated to Canada from Finland, I was a young mom with creative energy and a sewing machine but not much money. When I couldn’t find a pattern for a baby bonnet, I made one with a matching sundress and bloomers. I got so many compliments from friends and strangers that I sent pictures to Canadian Living magazine and suggested a simple article about sewing for pennies. They occasionally featured elaborate sewing projects that used commercial patterns and expensive fabrics. I was sure my easy patterns would be something different and perfect to help new moms. When they rudely turned me down, I was so disappointed that I had to prove I was right.

I kept the news of the rejection to myself for two weeks. All of a sudden, an idea hit me while I was doing the dishes. I decided to put a few of my patterns into a small book to make a bit of pocket money. I chose a simple title, Easy Sewing for Infants, and started writing and creating simple patterns. After reading only one page, my husband was so impressed that he encouraged me to order 1,000 saddle-stitched copies of my book from a local printer. I sent a copy to the editor of the Woman’s World column of Family Circle, the biggest magazine I knew in the U.S., thinking...if they turn me down, I won’t tell anyone. Then the phone rang. The editor praised my book and gave me a full-page article, complete with an eye-catching cartoon and mail order details. That euphoric moment became a huge breakthrough, far-reaching and much bigger than we could have imagined.

In no time, hundreds of orders arrived daily from all over the continent, more than 21,000 in all, some for multiple copies. Filling the orders, I was wondering what else I could write. The answer was easy and obvious. I focused on the goal of making timeless, simple designs. I made a flyer for two new books, Easy Sewing for Children and Easy Sewing for Adults, showing tiny line drawings I drew myself. I sent the flyers out along with each order. Orders came in so fast that the printing for both new books was paid for before I even finished writing them. I had to write them fast. Soon books, flyers, envelopes, and stamps were everywhere in our house—in the kitchen and living room, even in the basement. I barely slept a few hours a night. I was so happy and excited that sleep didn’t seem to matter for a few years.

It was a famous time of getting money in your mailbox as the catchy slogan for mail-order business went. A few friends at a little party asked me what they could write to make some money, so I helpfully suggested the first thing I could think of, a Halloween costume book for children. They said that they would never be able to do that but would become my first customers. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I tested the market by sending out a flyer for Easy Halloween Costumes for Children with a pre-publication offer to my growing list of mail-order customers. Again, the printing was paid for while I was still writing. Along with the simple designs, my visual index with thumbnails had become a prime feature of my books and flyers, as well as an outline to organize my ideas.

One editor of Coup de Pouce (Canadian Living magazine’s French edition in Quebec Province) saw my naïve drawings in The Montreal Gazette. She was smitten and called me to feature a few of my Halloween costumes. Great, I said, we’ll translate the book into French right away! My husband doesn’t sew but speaks fluent French. I sat next to him for ten crazy days virtually non-stop, showing him how to sew and make the costumes and accessories step by step as he translated the book sentence by sentence. I knew enough French to understand if he explained it properly. My Halloween book in English became a huge bestseller, and the French version eventually sold over 19,000 copies in the Quebec market alone, another phenomenal bestseller. The timing was perfect.

The ideas kept coming. I read in an American magazine that it was difficult to find mail-order catalogs in Canada because, unlike in the U.S., no catalogue of Canadian catalogues (Canadian spelling) was available. What a great idea with even a perfect title ready, I thought, but none of my friends were interested. Work for monks, quipped one. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I compiled one. It was another success and became a biennial directory for twelve years. Then, when my son started college and needed fast and easy recipes, I wrote a cookbook for students. I turned my life into many books. It’s easy to write about something familiar that you are already doing.

Years went by and our children grew up. I kept on writing. Self-publishing became my long-term job and an enjoyable way of living. I have now written fifteen books, some of them in three languages, along with several booklets, and also created many income-generating spin-offs. I’ve had about 500 write-ups and feature articles, some of them several pages long, some experience in TV and radio shows, and I have been featured in eight books. All my books have been profitable and a joy to create.

Virtually risk-free, self-publishing became my delightful venture for pennies—started accidentally and based on my simple skills and willingness to work. Working was time-consuming, yet exciting and enjoyable. I usually stayed up well past midnight, as it is

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