Self-Publishing Guide for Physical Therapists

Do you have an idea for a non-fiction book in the health and fitness realm? Now is the perfect time to explore self-publishing. Getting your ideas out there in book format is an excellent way to establish your authority on a subject. Plus, if you do it right, it’s an excellent way to earn some side income.

I started self-publishing back in 2006, on a platform called Despite that first book never becoming a commercial success, I didn’t give up. I’ve since transitioned to the Amazon platform, and now release a new self-published book once every few years.

My first successful fitness book was the Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia. The first edition came out in 2013. Given its popularity, a second edition was released in 2017. Besides selling in the English-speaking market, it was recently translated into Chinese by a foreign publisher.

Having your ideas translated into a foreign language is an amazing feeling!

An even better feeling, however, has been from the continued monthly passive income.

Since the release of Mad Skills, the net royalties from my self-published books have exceeded six figures. That additional income has let my wife and I pay off our student loans. It also helped us take a six-month sabbatical in the south of Spain.

The crazy thing, is that the income continues to roll in. Each month Amazon deposits the royalties that have been generated from my book sales across the globe.

Yet, I’m not the only physical therapist with a successful track record with self-publishing.

Steven Low is a physio who self-published a massive gymnastics strength training guide, titled Overcoming Gravity. His book has been translated into multiple languages, and is regarded as one of the top books on bodyweight strength training. 

The Squat Bible is another book that was self-published by a physical therapist. Dr. Aaron Horschig, aka the founder of, released it in 2017 as a how-to for improving one’s squat mechanics. The book still ranks within Amazon’s top 100K books, which is a great mark of popularity and sales velocity.

The trick to achieving similar results in self-publishing is to be utterly strategic in your development process.

In this article you will learn four-steps to help create a wildly-successful, self-published health and fitness book.

First, let’s dispel the myth that you must be a gifted writer to be successful in publishing. Writing was my worst class in college. To be honest, it was the worst grade I received in my five years of undergrad.

What you do need is passion for your subject and a desire to delight your readers. With those two elements, plus a good editor (we’ll cover that later), you can dispel the idea that you aren’t good enough to succeed. 

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the first step: Choosing what to write. Before sitting down to crank out your book, the most important step is to figure out what you want to publish. Do this wrong, and your book will collect dust on warehouse shelves.


Deciding what to write is the most critical step in your path to self-publishing. I failed to do this well with my first book, and the lack of sales were there as proof. That first book in 2006 recorded my thoughts on the role of personal responsibility in world health. I considered it as a manifesto on maintaining one’s health and fitness for the good of the planet.

The problem was, no one cared to to read it. It didn’t solve a problem that anyone was sought to overcome.

Please, take this as the first lesson.

Focus on writing something that will have an immediate impact on a reader’s life.

Here’s a little exercise to jump start your writing process. Prior to opening your text editor, find some quiet space, and ask yourself: What unique background or knowledge do you have that would be valuable to share?

Have you worked with a specific sports population? Are you a high-level athlete yourself? Do you work in a unique clinical setting?

Then, take a look at your audience. Is there a gap in education or training that you could help fill?

The intersection of your uniqueness as a physio, plus a hole in the marketplace, is where the magic happens.

But before diving into the project, put the brakes on and ask the following series of questions:

  1. Can your book be the first in its category?

  2. Can your book be the best in its category?

  3. Can your book be the largest in its category?

Those three questions come from the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, and they are essential to your success. If your book cannot affirmatively answer at least ONE of those three questions, then you are going to have a heck of a time succeeding.

Asking myself these three questions has been essential for helping me decide where to focus my writing.

With the Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia, I had my sights set on creating the largest book in its category. The result became the largest illustrated exercise encyclopedia to hit the market. That is a powerful differentiator from the other fitness books out there.

With Parkour Strength Training, my coauthor and I chose to focus on creating the first book on the subject of strength and conditioning for parkour athletes. There were already a few books on how to train specific parkour skills, like vaults and jumps. However, none of them addressed our topic in any detail.

When you are the first to write about a subject, you distinguish yourself from all of the other authors, and gain a natural competitive advantage. 

If you are serious about writing something that will have lasting success, be extremely intentional in choosing what to write about. Make sure that it is something that will help your readers. Likewise, make sure that it can either be the first, the best, or the largest in its category.


Once you’ve settled on a topic that will fill an important need, your next task is to write the darn thing! However, before scribbling away for days on end, take some time to plan it out.

At a bare minimum, you need to outline what you want to write about. Open a document and start to flesh out the structure of your book. How will you start it? How will it end? What is going to fill the hefty middle part?

Do you need to do any research? Do you need to interview anyone?

Start planning your content so that once you begin writing, you’ll have plenty of material to pull into the book.

If you sense a gap in your information, now is a good time to consider bringing a coauthor on board. I did this with Parkour Strength Training, and it was extremely beneficial. I reached out to one of the world’s top parkour coaches, and he agreed to a collaboration. By adding a second author with a complementary knowledge-base, you end up with a more robust product. Plus, you’ll share the writing process, and have a second person to help promote it. 

As soon as you’ve itemized the content and determined a structure for the book, go ahead and start writing. You need to set a daily or weekly writing goal, and start building some momentum.

When I was working full-time, running a mobile PT practice, I didn’t have much time to write during the week. Sometimes I could squeeze in an hour here or there, but it wasn’t enough to get the ball rolling. So, I committed to writing eight to twelve hours every weekend. I would leave the house by nine or ten every Saturday and Sunday morning, plop down at a coffee shop, and bang out a few pages.

But, what if you feel stuck with just getting started? Let me share a little secret: You don’t have to write the book in the order of the finished product. It’s okay to work on the middle part of the book, and come back to write the introduction later. That first part is often the most intimidating, so don’t be ashamed to build some steam by starting on other chapters.

Some additional writing advice is to first write for yourself. Then write for your audience. And, finally, write for your ‘haters’. I didn’t come up with this quote, and I’m not exactly sure where it came from, but I find it to be helpful as a way to get started. The idea is to first get your ideas out in the way that you want to hear them. Then, do a second pass and tailor the ideas into language that will resonate with your target audience. Lastly, polish it up by combing through your words as if you were your own best detractor. Reread what you’ve written, looking for faulty logic, incorrect information, or poor grammar.

Writing is a skill and the more you practice it, the better you become. Repetition helps you become faster at the process too. Thus, you have to put in the work. Anticipate at least a few months of consistent writing, until you have something worthy of publishing. My first book took me nearly two years to labor through, but the second and third were completed much quicker.

The bottom line is that you must stick to a consistent writing schedule. If you want to have a book under your belt, no one is going to do it for you. You need to commit and keep going, even though the payoff is in the distance. 

Incidentally, if you need a little refresher on the art of writing, check out these two books: Elements of Style (by William Strunk Jr and E.B. White), and On Writing Well (by William Zinser). Both books are quick reads, yet they are packed with practical advice. My confidence and writing ability improved big-time after reading them.


After you have been writing for a few months, you are bound to reach a point where you have nothing left to say on your subject. Hopefully you were able to tie your thoughts together into a logical beginning, middle, and end. But, before you start soliciting feedback, do your best to self-edit each chapter.

Read each sentence aloud assessing it for clarity. Listen for words you may have repeated. Is there a point where you could chop a sentence or a paragraph into two parts? Long sentences and huge walls of text are a bore for you readers. No matter how important you think your ideas are, strive to keep your writing as concise as possible.

Once you’ve created your best draft, the next step isn’t to immediately upload it to Amazon. I strongly encourage you to have a professional editor have a look at your manuscript. Sure, you friends and family can take a look too, but their feedback isn’t going to be as powerful as a third party. You want someone without a vested interest to give their honest opinions on how to make improvements. This doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor. If you ask your network, there is likely an editor out there who could look at your project for a few hundred dollars at most.

The next phase after working with the editor is to get together with a graphic designer to layout your content. Since you’ve been writing on the topic of health and fitness, the chances are good that you’ve got a few photos or illustrations that you’d like to embed. Yes, you could try to do this alone in a Word document and then convert it to a PDF, but the outcome won’t be great.

Here’s a piece of advice: Think of your book like a work of art.

If someone picked your book off of a coffee table, would they be excited to flip through the pages? Or, would they find a drab, text-heavy manuscript?

You want to inspire people, so go the extra mile. Make your book shine with the help of a professional designer to style each chapter.

The same thing goes for your book cover. You might feel the need to skimp on costs, because, at this point, you have not made any money on your book. But, please don’t do that.

If you are set on a specific design, you can find a graphic designer to turn your idea into a finished product on a site like or

I think a more interesting opportunity however, is to solicit a range of feedback by posting your cover design as a competition on a site like For a few hundred dollars you can launch a competition to have multiple graphic designers create alternative covers. You get to provide feedback to steer the creative process, and then you select one designer to finish the final product.

I did this for the second edition of the Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia, and was thrilled with the result. By having multiple people work on an inventive solution, you are bound to come up with something fantastic.

Again, think of your product from an artistic standpoint. You want your baby to be relevant and enjoyed for a long time. Put in the effort now, so that people will buy it years from now.

Notice that creating the cover for the book is the last piece of the puzzle. That’s because the file you need to upload must have dimensions that account for the width of your book. You need to upload a single, print-quality image, that contains the front cover, spine, and back cover. You can learn more about cover size requirements here: Amazon cover requirements. Likewise, a general sizing guide for the content of the book can be found here: Amazon trim requirements


Congratulations! At this point, you likely have a few proof copies in hand, and are ready to press submit on the final upload. Yet, releasing your book for publication is not the last step of this process.

For your book to have success, your next step needs to be actively promoting the heck out of it. Failure to spread word about your new manuscript, means that all of your hard work will have been in vain.

While it’s true that book royalties are a form of passive income, you still need to give it a shove with marketing. In no particular order, here are seven strategies to get more eyes on your product.

  1. Work with a PR team. Using a PR agent can be expensive, but unless you have connections, this may be your only way to get your book on mainstream media channels. I did this with the first edition of Mad Skills, and the results included an article in the State newspaper, an appearance on a local TV show, and an online radio interview.
  2. Reach out to journalists. Did you know that journalists and writers are always on the lookout for a good story? So why not pitch them about the book you are launching? Chances are good that if you reach out to your network you will have someone who knows a journalist. Ask for an introduction, and then pass along a copy of your book. This strategy has helped me get my books placed in prestigious websites, like
  3. Throw a contest. Everyone loves the chance of winning something. Why not create a contest to give away something that is related to your book? If your book is fitness-related, start a contest to give away workout equipment. If it’s about wellness, maybe giving away some yoga props would be a good fit. is a website that helps you reach possible customers through viral giveaways. Besides getting exposure for your book, it can be a great way to build your email list.
  4. Social media promotion. Regardless of how you feel about it, social media is here to stay. For your book to be a success, that means that you need to generate online buzz. Post a fun message on each of your social media channels. Ask your friends to post a link too. Get strategic and coordinate a mass announcement to flood the feeds. If you’ve got the cash, running a small ad campaign is a smart idea as well.  Remember, it’s all about building awareness that your new book baby is alive in the world.
  5. Start an email marketing campaign. Have you been collecting email addresses for people interested in your work? If not, start ASAP. There are numerous free and paid tools that you can use to build your email marketing list. A few of the ones that I’ve used include Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, and Leadpages. By building an email list, you create your own private revenue machine that you can use for years to come.
  6. Go on a podcast tour. Podcast hosts love talking with interesting guests. Since you’re a hot new author, they will definitely love to hear from you! Climb out of your comfort zone and start sending queries to your favorite shows, as well as those that target your book’s audience. Make a goal of getting on at least one podcast the week your book launches, and watch the momentum grow.
  7. Ask for reviews. Like journalists, YouTubers and bloggers are always on the hunt for new content. Reach out to some of these people, and offer to send them a copy of your book, in exchange for an honest review. You should also strive to get as many verified Amazon reviews of your book as you can, as this will help establish its authority. If you are close with some of the people who have bought your book online, ask them to post a review. Be sure to strike while the iron is hot to build momentum!

These are just a few of the strategies that I’ve used over the past decade of self-publishing. I’ve also thrown large launch parties, sent advance copies to influencers, and written guest blog posts. The opportunities are limitless when you start to think creatively.


Self-publishing is an amazing tool for physical therapists to get your ideas out there, build a following, and generate a side income. Yet, it still takes work, and thoughtful planning to make your book become a hit. Besides all of the considerations mentioned above, you also need to think about what pricing and format you plan to use.

Many people have walked this path before, so don’t be discouraged. You can do it.

If you are looking for additional guidance, Jeremy Sutton is one physio who has created an online community to help people on their self-publishing journey. You can connect with his group through Facebook here: Book Boss Tribe

Likewise, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I’m happy to offer some advice. Send me a message over any of the social media channels via @benmusholt. Good luck!