How To Use The Ghost Blogging Platform To Build Your Self-Publishing Empire!

Turn ideas into reality
Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

Want to self-publish your serialized genre fiction on your own blog, be financially supported directly by your loyal fans, and as a bonus... flip off the parasitic middlemen that you never really needed?

Sound good?

Allow me to walk you through my experience, how I came around to this way of thinking, and how you can build a self-publishing business using the Ghost blogging platform.

In The Beginning Was The Word...

It's been a long journey. With lots of twists and turns, dead ends, pot holes, false starts, and broken bridges along the way. I learned a lot. But I also lost money and wasted precious time following bad advice instead of following my gut instinct.

NEVER ignore your gut!

I went from wanting to start a blog, to being convinced by Site Build It to build a large keyword-focused content website, to trying affiliate marketing with Wealthy Affiliate.

So many learning curves and the online environment was constantly changing. My attempts to keep up and adapt always fell short. I felt like I was trying to satisfy someone else's way of doing things instead of just being myself, of being authentic, and connecting with others with similar interests.

Over many years, the trials and tribulations of trying unsuccessfully to start an online business led to a place where I was ready to move on and look for other ways to earn a living.

But writing was still important to me so...

All Roads Lead To The Ghost Blogging Platform

That's when I decided to get back to my roots and try something a bit more creative. For me that meant writing stories. I knew about self-publishing and it was really beginning to take off with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

I also knew that serialized genre fiction was exploding and I started to listen to several good teachers on how to get started. I became aware of the growing demand for niche content from millions of insatiable readers and that young adult romance was the most popular genre!

I'm more of a sci-fi and fantasy guy myself, but the point I'm making is that here lay quantifiable demand data around a creative endeavor. Simply paying attention to this data allowed writers to write to market and tweak their offering to successfully develop a book writing business.

What I didn't like was the Amazon model of self-publishing. I know it works like a charm for many a writer, but I am strongly opposed to middlemen and felt that a better approach was to upload all my material to my own platform, thereby controlling all the aspects involved.

What I needed was a blogging platform that I could trust, had good pedigree, was in for the long haul, and would act as a partner in business instead of a middleman.

The advantages of going through Amazon were wearing thin anyway. For a newcomer, the competition is overwhelming, getting found a steep climb, pretty thumbnails a pain, and Amazon can change the rules any time they wish. Advertising your wares through social media was also a big turn off for me since I already wasn't on any!

Back On Track With The Ghost Blogging Platform

So after ditching Site Build It – the clunky site builder with a whole bunch of other issues – and trying WordPress for a while until they decided to mess with their editor, I started my search for an alternative blogging platform and came across Ghost. I immediately liked what I saw and wasn't put off by the developer friendly bias as they also offered fully-managed hosting for a fee similar to what I was paying Site Build It back in the day.

What stood out was how slick and professional the Ghost blogging platform was – everything from the presentation of possibilities and the comprehensive help pages to its user interface, built-in functionality, adaptability and customization, gave the impression of a robust platform that could handle anything a blogger could want.

And once I had jumped in and signed up for the fully-managed hosting with Ghost Pro it became evident that these guys were serious about their promise to continuously add more layers of built-in functionality to the core product.

All of this meant less and less reliance on the need for third party applications. Just the thought of paying for all the required tools separately can make even the most hardened blogger wince.

Finally, I feel like I'm on the right path. My confidence has been restored and the excitement I feel for my writing projects – 9 genre fiction book series – is higher than it's ever been.

That's all thanks to the Ghost blogging platform and the way their team continues to improve on their already fantastic system. I'll be upgrading to the latest version – Ghost 4.0 – as soon as I'm ready. It already looks amazing!

Self-Publishing With Ghost – How To Get Paid

Instead of self-publishing through the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing system, you can use the Ghost blogging platform to publish all your work, whether that be serialized genre fiction, blogging about knitting, or mailing a profitable newsletter to your customers.

The Ghost blogging software has a built in membership system that allows your readers to subscribe either as free or paid members. Your content can be made visible to all readers or placed behind a paywall on a post by post basis. In this way, you can control how much of your content is available to read for free and how much requires a monthly paid subscription to access.

The amount you charge to access your core product is entirely up to you and is processed by Stripe, an online payment processor for businesses. You set the monthly fee in the currency of your choosing and offer a yearly payment with a discount (if you're being nice)!

On my own site, I won't be putting anything behind a paywall... for now. I will have a donation page with several payment options available including the monthly Stripe payments if anyone wants to support my work in that way.

I also have a store page where readers can buy merchandise. You can integrate a store app with Ghost using Zapier or simply link to or embed a third party service such as Teespring.

The important thing to take away here is how much flexibility you have when it comes to profiting from your hard work. Some advanced users make all their money from the paid membership system usually set at around $5 per month or more depending on the type of content and publishing frequency. Beyond that, the only other important factor is the number of paying subscribers you have. Ghost provide a nifty slider tool to give you an idea of how much your self-publishing business could earn based on these basic inputs. It's an eye opener, that's for sure!

Then all you have to do is create content that readers actually want to consume, but that's a topic for another article. It basically breaks down into competitive broad appeal vs easy-to-win narrow specialist niche, but both are perfectly valid, attainable approaches. The important thing is to listen to your customers and adjust accordingly.

As an example, I'm using what I call the open park model – at least for now. Imagine, if you will, your local park. People are free to come and go as they wish as long as they don't do anything nasty. Now imagine that an entrance fee is charged at every gate on the park perimeter. Immediately, you will have a massive reduction in park users regardless of how much you charge for the entrance fee although obviously that would also impact the numbers.

Anyway, the free entry model works by allowing the free flow of traffic through your business environment. It could be a recreational park, a shopping mall, or an online website. People can move freely through these environments and choose to interact with any of the products or services on offer – ice creams, stores, advertising – once inside. Customers feel comfortable, are not forced to spend if they don't wish to, and usually return regularly to this kind of open environment because they simply like hanging out there.

Now that's not to say that the more overt paywall model is not successful. It is. I'm simply making the point that the Ghost blogging platform allows you to set up your business according to whatever model works for you. And a paywall system would indeed work perfectly for a subscription-based online fiction business model. Just remember to generously give away teaser content for free – either full novels or first chapters or both – whatever works for you.

Newsletter Updates

The Ghost blogging platform has full newsletter functionality built into the core product. How you choose to implement this is again entirely up to you based on the needs of your business. You can simply use the newsletter to send blog updates to your subscribers, as I currently do, or you can build your entire business around paid newsletter content. It's a great system that is included in Ghost and would cost you a pretty penny per month if you had to set it up with a third party service.

Do You Need Comments, Feedback, And Forums On Your Ghost Blog?

This is a tricky one.

The Ghost blogging platform doesn't provide this functionality out of the box. This makes some people whine a bit since they were probably used to WordPress and other platforms that provided basic commenting at the flip of a switch.

Now that I've been using Ghost Pro for a while and have a third party commenting service plugged into my blog... I get it.

The Ghost team are absolutely justified in their approach to comments and other add-ons. They already provide an excellent way to bolt on whatever functionality you need through their Integrations system. Some non-techie types may need a bit of help, but it really isn't that complicated (copy-pasting some code into a theme) and the beauty of having a Ghost Pro account is that customer service are there to help you with any problems you may have.

In my case, and having done my due diligence, I chose Fastcomments as a commenting system for my blog, but other options were perfectly viable too. Disqus is the most used, but on a personal level and as part of the philosophy embedded in my site, I wanted to move away from these big players and there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Major Update! — Ghost now has an excellent native commenting system and built in search functionality as well as many other improvements behind the scenes.

The main drive behind choices I make is to keep things as simple as possible and in this way show others that you don't need anything fancy. I'm not interested in messing around with themes and other customization options. I use Ghost's default Casper theme straight out of the box and I think it looks great and works just fine.

Need A Form Or A Business Email Address?

Again, there is no shortage of providers within the Ghost Integrations ecosystem. When it comes to adding extra functionality to your blog you can add customizable forms, questionnaires, polls, reviews, feedback software, and all manner of gizmos to keep your readers happy.

My advice is to keep it simple.

On my Ghost Pro blog, I chose to use a service I was already familiar with. Zoho have continued to grow as a provider of online business services with their comprehensive suite of online productivity tools and SaaS applications.

To start with, you can set up a free pro email account with them that allows you to use your domain – for example: which looks better than Gmail or Yahoo etc.

Next, they allow you create any kind of form to embed on your website or blog for free! That's pretty impressive when you compare with competitors who charge monthly fees for forms, pro emails, and other basic functionality for your blog.

I created a contact form and a pro email with Zoho for free. You can see how they look on my contact page.

Of course, if you need more than the basics, Zoho provide everything you could need to run your business at very low cost – it appears to be their policy to keep cost low.

But Amazon Is Where Readers Go For Books. How Will My Ghost Blog Ever Get Found?

Good question.

I know of successful genre fiction writers that rely on Facebook advertising to get their Kindle products in front of the right people – new readers that become future loyal customers.

Before Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing took off, some writers used to sell their work directly from their website as a downloadable PDF.

How did they promote if they were relatively unknown?

Back in the day, these types of writers would advertise their wares by doing interviews on local radio shows, writing articles for magazines, newspapers etc.

These days, we have it much easier. A social media presence would be a good place to start. If you're good with video, then you're probably on YouTube or any of the many alternatives. Of course, you have a blog, not just an author blog which is really just a calling card of sorts, but a niche content blog on a topic that draws the kind of audience that would also be interested in your book products. You may also use blogging platforms such as Medium to draw a crowd and then direct them to your Ghost blog where they remain as loyal fans.

By the way, don't create a blog about knitting if you are trying to flog sci-fi and fantasy novels! Talk about future technology, AI, robotics and transhumanism. Or write reviews of pop culture products. Trust me... you'll sell some sci-fi.

Beyond that, it helps to know how search engine optimization (SEO) works, but the good news is that the Ghost blogging platform handles most of this in the editor options.

It's really quite simple once you get the hang of it. A main keyword topic for your post should be prominent in the URL, the main tag, the first paragraphs of your post and then sprinkled throughout the post along with other related keywords so that search engines understand whatever it is you're blabbering on about.

In reality, for this kind of approach, a reliance on word of mouth and general sharing options are going to be more useful than search engine listings, but if you post articles on a specific topic then yes, SEO will help your main body of work get found too.

The Ghost editor provides many other sections where you can add metadata and visible information options for the various search engines as well as options for how you want to send newsletter updates to your free subscribers or paid members.

I think it's important for people who want to self-publish books to know that there are alternatives to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, but that doesn't mean that you can't do both. It's just that walking away from big players like Amazon can be done, and it's really not that much more effort. In fact, it can be less effort in a lot of ways. And the joy of having your entire operation under one roof, where you control all aspects of it, is irreplaceable in my humble opinion.

The Ghost blogging platform allows you to achieve all of this and more. At the basic level, you can have a publication up and running in no time and be profitable through the paid membership system without any other inputs.

As I already mentioned, you may have to work out what works for you in terms of promotion – you need to get the punters walking through your park otherwise you won't sell any ice cream. For some, that means inviting your social media following to join you in your new venture. For those starting from scratch, it means hustling on the platforms where your kind of people hang out. Don't waste time casting a broad net. If your customers want to read serialized sci-fi novels online then go to the groups, websites, forums, and channels, where these potential customers like to chat.

Instead of trying to get a guest blogging gig on someone elses prominent blog, do your best blogging on your own site and then advertise it. Get in front of people that would like what you have to offer. Just remember to be authentic. Don't just drop links and run. Engage with potential customers as you would your friends on social media. You have a common interest and you happen to be a creative in that field. They would love to see what you have to offer.

If you want to find out more about the Ghost blogging platform it's all here...

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