I published a #1 Amazon bestseller at 23 without a literary agent. Here's what I'm doing for my second book.

·7 min read
Phil Rosen Life Between Moments: New York Stories
My new book is called "Life Between Moments: New York Stories."Phil Rosen/Insider
  • I write Insider's 10 Things Before the Opening Bell newsletter & I just published a fiction book.

  • I had new strategies for "Life Between Moments," even though my first book was a #1 Amazon bestseller.

  • Before publishing, I wrote SEO-friendly blogs, made graphics on Canva, and built an email list.

My second book, "Life Between Moments," took 11 months to write while working full-time as a reporter at Insider.

Life Between Moments: New York Stories, Phil Rosen
"Life Between Moments: New York Stories" by Phil Rosen.Phil Rosen/Insider

Last August when I turned 25, I began writing about two fiction stories per month for nearly a year. I did this in parallel with my job as a senior markets reporter at Insider.

I was far more disciplined with my writing schedule compared to my first book, which was a #1 bestseller on Amazon but took me nearly two years to write.

After work each day, I'd write fiction for 30 minutes. Doing that for 44 consecutive weeks helped me accumulate 19 short stories, or about 50,000 words.

"Life Between Moments" includes 12 of these tales. It's a collection of stories about everyday people navigating work and relationships in New York, framed as slice-of-life vignettes.

To me, the key to writing a book is showing up every day without a miss. The words accumulate faster than you think — so long as you don't skip days.

After I finished writing and editing my book, I made marketing my priority.

Phil Rosen Life Between Moments Book marketing canva
I used Canva to make graphics and marketing material for my book.Phil Rosen/Insider

I kept my previous book a surprise until publication day.

Thankfully, it still topped Amazon's charts and found an audience, but I knew I couldn't bank on the same tactics twice.

This time, I wanted to make sure there was plenty of other online material to boost search engine optimization, which is what helps something appear in search results on Google.

Similar to my first book, I was my own publisher, editor, marketing director, design team, and business advisor. But I had a few additional things I wanted to do differently.

I aimed to create an online conversation about my book before launch day.

life between moments new york stories phil rosen
The Goodreads page for "Life Between Moments: New York Stories."Phil Rosen/Insider

About a month before publication, I uploaded my book on Goodreads, which is like social media for book lovers. There, readers review books and add them to reading lists.

This platform has millions of users that are passionate about books. Plus, I knew adding the book here would help get it in front of more readers as well as in Google search results.

I wrote a series of blog posts talking about my book before publishing.

Life Between Moments: New York Stories, Phil Rosen
This is what some of my blog posts looked like ahead of launch day.Phil Rosen/Insider

I started my own website in 2018 and I write about culture, books, and personal development. And before my book came out, I began writing lots of articles about it and my writing process.

By publishing posts that mention my book tangentially while focusing on writing habits, time management, and goal-setting for authors, I aimed to share my own experience while creating momentum for my book.

This generated better Google-search rankings for my book and doubled as marketing. Readers who stumbled onto my blog also found my book.

I shared more of the early publishing steps this time.

Phil Rosen Life Between Moments: New York Stories
A proud author moment when I received my first rough drafts.Phil Rosen/Insider

I unveiled cover art on Instagram stories and posts, gave sneak peeks of the publishing process, and reiterated when the book would be available and where to buy it.

I've written my blog's monthly newsletter since 2019, but this past year I shared work through it on a weekly basis. I aimed to improve as a writer, develop my voice, and build a closer relationship with readers.

For years, I've used Wordpress for my blog platform and my newsletter is built on the email application, MailChimp.

I also made graphics a priority six months ahead of my book launch.

Canva life between moments new york stories phil rosen
I made dozens of designs before deciding on my final cover.Phil Rosen/Insider

I've never had formal training as a graphic designer and I don't have anyone helping me with marketing — so my tool of choice has long been Canva.

I use this design tool along with Adobe Photoshop, but I prefer Canva because it's far more user-friendly. I used it to design my book covers as well as dozens of other graphics.

I especially love the Smartmockup feature on Canva, which allows you to make digital renditions of your book, placed in real-life settings.

I also made my own social-media banners and graphics for LinkedIn and Twitter.

I also made lots of physical marketing items.

Life Between Moments New York Stories by Phil Rosen
I gave people custom bookmarks and keychains.Phil Rosen/Insider

I used my Canva designs to print out my own bookmarks and keychains for in-person marketing.

I treat these items like more interesting, memorable business cards because they're so easy to share. I've passed these out at coffee shops and among my professional and personal circles.

I didn't do any of this for my first book.

The self-publishing route has twice worked well for my writing.

Life Between Moments: New York Stories by Phil Rosen
The author with an early book draft of "Life Between Moments."Phil Rosen/Insider

I chose to self-publish my books with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing because of the speed and accessibility. There aren't really barriers to entry, other than doing the work.

While in some ways self-publishing lacks the prestige of a traditional publishing house, it affords a greater royalty payout at about 60% to 70%, versus 5% to 15% with a traditional publisher.

Additionally, self-publishing allows you to work on your own timeline.

I've heard of publishers sitting on books for more than one, two, or three years before going to print.

Self-publishing requires a lot of extra work beyond writing — but I had more experience this time.

Phil Rosen Life Between Moments: New York Stories
A digital mockup of "Life Between Moments," and a physical draft.Phil Rosen/Insider

Doing design, editorial duties, and marketing on my own taught me a lot.

For example, I didn't focus on typesetting — the fonts, spacing, and page margins — for my last book, but now it's a skill I have for life.

I also found it beneficial to print out full drafts of the book every step of the way so I could see the book grow, the designs improve, and the work get closer to completion.

Seeing a final product I created entirely on my own is a feeling like nothing else.

phil rosen life between moments new york stories
A happy author with many, many book drafts.Phil Rosen/Insider

Thanks to my efforts before publishing, "Life Between Moments" was listed as a #1 New Release on launch day, and notched multiple #1 bestseller rankings across different categories on Amazon.

After two books in two years, I'm extremely confident in my own graphic design and marketing abilities, as well as my knowledge about publishing.

At 25, I've taught myself skills from every step of book publishing — which makes me feel more confident as a writer than ever before.

Life Between Moments: New York Stories, by Phil Rosen
"Life Between Moments: New York Stories" is my second book — but won't be my last.Phil Rosen/Insider

The skills I've accrued from producing my books translate to my work as a journalist and give me a unique insight into the contemporary writing landscape.

Should I eventually turn to traditional publishing, I know I would miss some of the creative freedom I have when I pursue my own productions.

"Life Between Moments: New York Stories" is available now.

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