They didn’t think it was possible to make money writing ebooks.
It turns out people are actually willing to pay money for something they’d written.
Cori Carl and his wife Casey are a couple of Americans who were looking to move to Canada.
In the process, they were struggling to figure out what the immigration process would look like.
The first thing they searched for was a book to walk them through everything. Seems pretty reasonable there would be some manual out there covering the topic.
After some Amazon and library searches, they came up empty-handed. There was nothing out there.
There are 549 books on Amazon dealing with maple syrup, but nothing about immigrating to Canada.
Their next option was to search the internet.
They found what they were looking for, but it was scattered all over the place. Plus, it needed translation.
Not from Canadian to English (joke) but from legalese to English. It was a bunch of formal jargon which is tough for the average person to understand.
After hours and hours of research, they were finally able to complete the immigration process and set up their new home in Canada.
But they couldn’t be the only ones with this problem, they thought. Other people are immigrating from the United States to Canada too, right?
They had hours and hours of all this hard work in the form of research sitting there. None of it is useful to anyone.
They decided to turn it into an ebook.
Fast forward a few months and they’re making $500 per month from this one ebook about immigrating to Canada. Amazing!
All they needed was the desire to turn their research into an ebook. The possibility of extra money didn’t hurt either.
It turns out you can make money writing ebooks pretty easily.
Table of Contents:
- How Much Can You Really Make?
- Where to Sell Your eBook
- Step 1: Finding Content
- Step 2: Creating a Catchy Title
- Step 3: Create Your eBook Outline
- Step 4: Create a Writing Schedule
- Step 5: Editing Your eBook Like a Pro
- Step 6: Designing the Cover
- Step 7: Formatting, Pricing, and an Enticing Description
- Step 8: Get Reviews and Become a Bestseller
- Step 9: Marketing and Promoting Your eBook
- More Marketing or More eBooks?
The most popular marketplace for selling your ebook is Amazon.
Amazon currently has over 300 million people using their site. That’s a MASSIVE marketplace to sell to.
Sorry though, not every one of those is going to buy your ebook.
But even if you only get a tiny tiny tiny fraction who buy your book on a monthly basis, that’s a lot of residual income.
With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) you earn a royalty of 70% for every book you sell.
If you price your book at $1, you’d get $0.70 for every sale.
We’ll talk about pricing later, but the best price point for a small ebook is right at $2.99.
Using a sale price of $2.99 means a royalty of $2.09.
Each person who downloads your masterpiece puts just over $2 in your pocket.
Sell 100 ebooks, earn $209. Sell 1000 ebooks, earn $2,090.
Now let’s say you were able to sell 240 ebooks every month like our “Canadians” from earlier.
You’d be taking home about $500 every month. Over $6,000 per year.
Not bad for something you possibly wrote in a few weeks.
Because the goal is to start an income snowball, you invest the $500 per month.
In 10 years you’ll have earned over $80,000 from one ebook!
Amazon is the whale. If you’re looking to get the most eyeballs and the most sales, selling on Amazon is the way to go.
Another option is selling the ebook on your own website. This means you keep all the sale price, not just 70%.
Weebly offers a quick and simple way to set up a website and start selling digital products straight from your site.
This route means you have to do a bit more work attracting people to your website.
A third option is Nook Press. This is the Barnes & Noble equal of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
While Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the volume of shoppers as Amazon does, it still has customers looking to buy ebooks.
For a sale price of $2.99, Nook Press is slightly lower than Amazon with a 65% royalty per sale.
Smashwords is a lesser known entity but still worth publishing on. Smashmouth calls itself the world’s largest seller of indie ebooks.
By publishing on Smashwords, you’re actually distributing your ebook to some of the world’s largest ebook retailers.
Those are the four main platforms to sell your ebook on and Smashwords will actually make sure you’re on all the smaller, lesser known marketplaces.
Now you know where to sell and how much you can earn, let’s talk about actually writing an ebook.
So you’re amped. Ready to sit down and start pounding out an ebook. The only problem is, you don’t know what to write about.
That’s the beauty of an ebook. You can write about anything.
There are no publishers or editors determining what you can and can’t publish.
Whatever you know is your content.
If you’ve got experience and knowledge immigrating to the United States, write about it.
If you’ve got a secret method to learn Spanish, write about it.
You could even write about healthy, organic dog recipes.
Any knowledge you’ve got floating around in that brain of yours can turn into an ebook.
Even stuff you don’t know but have a keen interest learning could be an ebook.
Read a dozen books on a topic you’re interested in. Take all the important or recurring themes from every book and package it into an ebook.
Hacking Your Content Strategy
One simple way to hack your content strategy is by reading reviews of competition:
Head over to Amazon:
- Search for ebooks covering a similar topic to what you want to write about.
- Target the titles with an average review of 4 stars or higher.
- Read the “most helpful” critical reviews from those titles.
- Find the things “missing” from the best books. People may enjoy a book but wish there was still more to it. If one of the top Sushi Cookbooks doesn’t teach you how to make a California Roll, make sure to include it in your sushi cookbook.
If you want to spend a little money, another hack is to download up to 20 of the top ebooks in your space.
Then read through the “Popular Highlights” in each and sort them by “most popular.” This allows you to read each of the books in a quarter of the time.
You’ll also know what topics are a must to include in your own ebook. The more highlights, the more important it is to include.
Titles are a tough one.
Besides the cover, a title is the most visible thing about your ebook.
The combination of a great title and well-designed cover are going to draw possible buyers in more than anything else.
There are a couple different strategies you can follow when coming up with a title.
First, you can look to bloggers.
Bloggers have been perfecting the art of titles for a long time. Like with ebooks, your blog post has to have a catchy title to attract readers.
One method bloggers use to create catchy titles is a formula in four parts:
Part 1: The Format
What type of ebook is this going to be? Is it going to be a list? A series of facts? Strategies?
How many items in the list will there be? How many facts or strategies?
Having a number in the title juices its catchiness.
This really only works if you’re going to write a non-fiction book transferring knowledge or helping someone accomplish a task.
Part 2: Emotional Hook
Use a power word like “Amazing” or “Powerful.” Something to draw the casual browsers attention.
Our brains are drawn to these types of words.
When you read them, your brain can’t help but be triggered. It’s an automatic response found in the amygdala which handles emotions, survival, and memory.
Part 3: Content Type
Here you state whether the ebook is a series of facts, strategies, myths, etc…
This is the meat of the ebook. The details of how you’re going to help the reader achieve or understand the subject.
Part 4: Your Subject
Is the book about losing weight? Saving money? Investing? Eating healthy?
Here you state the topic. What the whole ebook is about.
Putting these four parts together would get you titles like:
10 Insane Facts to Help You Lose Weight
8 Crazy In-Depth Profiles of Dividend Aristocrats
13 Powerful Strategies to Increase Your Willpower
Poll The Audience
If you’d prefer not to copy blog titles, you can analyze the titles of best sellers in your niche.
Create two lists:
- Every title of the best sellers in your niche
- Word association. Write down every word or random thought that might have something to do with your topic.
Try to combine these two lists into a series of title options.
After you’ve got a handful of titles, ask your friends and family to look over the list and pick out their two favorites.
Based on their feedback, test the final two with a cheap Google AdWords campaign. This is what Tim Ferriss did to come up with the title of his best-selling book “The 4 Hour Workweek.”
Once you’ve picked your ebook topic and come up with a working title, it’s time to start writing.
You want to map everything out.
Every talking point, important fact, introduction, conclusion...all of it.
Look at the table of contents of bestselling ebooks in your niche for inspiration.
The more thorough your outline is, the easier it will be to write the ebook.
A simple way to create a thorough outline is to take all the highlights from your content research and put them on individual notecards.
Also, take all the missing bits you collected from reviews and add those to notecards.
Scrivener is a great writing tool for this kind of work. You can create digital notecards of all this stuff.
Once you’ve got every highlight on a notecard, start arranging them in the order you want.
Try to combine highlights into larger groups. Choose 3-5 sections.
If the ebook is going to have more of a list feel, choose 10-15 sections.
Now each highlight is an area to expand on during your writing sessions.
You’ve got to develop a writing schedule and stick to it.
If you’re worried about getting burnt out, take an hour each day and expand on one highlight.
Or, set a date you want the book finished by. Divide the number of highlights in your book by the number of days until your target date. 100 highlights / 50 days = 2 highlights per day.
Put aside time each day to write about two highlights.
Use the Jerry Seinfeld method to track your productivity.
The easiest time to write is between 10 pm and 8 am.
Almost everyone else is asleep and you’ve got no distractions. There is no one to bother you.
Start going to bed late or waking up early to do your writing.
The easiest and cheapest option is to edit the book yourself.
While Scrivener, Google Docs, and Word all have decent spell checkers, you’re going to want to run it through something more robust.
Use a tool like Grammarly. It’s a free program that not only checks spelling, it makes sure the word choice is correct based on context.
“Their” won’t show up as a misspelled word in Google Docs, but Grammarly will say it’s wrong if your sentence is “the book is over their.”
Other features in the free version include grammar checking and vocabulary enhancement.
The premium version also checks punctuation, sentence structure, and even style.
You can also give a copy of your ebook to friends and family for suggestions. Have them point out any glaring mistakes they catch.
The final, more expensive option, is to hire an editor from Freelancer. It’ll cost you some money but it’ll also guarantee a professional will be making sure everything looks good.
Unless you’re a VERY creative person, I’d look to outsource this part.
You know the old adage, “never judge a book by its cover.” Well, that’s not the case on Amazon.
EVERY book is judged by its cover.
You want to make sure yours looks professional and stands out from the crowd.
A quality cover makes your ebook look professional. It shows you mean business and the content inside is of a high quality.
For great design covers, there are a few places you can look to:
99designs: This is the high priced option. A book cover will typically run you between $50 and $500. I know, it’s a big spread.
With 99designs you’ll run a contest. You’ll write up a description of what you’re looking for and then people will submit their designs.
You put a price up front on how much you’re willing to pay for the design. The higher the price, the more design submissions you’re going to get.
Freelancer: A book cover here will probably be less than $50. With Freelancer, you hire a freelancer to do the design work.
Unlike 99designs, you pick one designer and pay them to do the work. So before you pick one, make sure to look at some of their samples to make sure it’s on par with what you’re looking for.
Usually, you contract someone out at an hourly rate, but you can also set a price for the full project.
Fiverr: The cheapest option. Get an ebook cover designed for $5. Everything on Fiverr is only $5. While you may be thinking it’s impossible to get a good design for that much, but you’d be wrong.
Some of the people on Fiverr are trained individuals getting started. They’re making very little money to build a portfolio and get their name out there.
Once the ebook is written, you’re going to need to convert it to the Kindle format before publishing.
If the ebook was written in Word, you can use Amazon’s Kindle Create.
It’ll help you:
- Preview and edit the ebooks as it will appear in Kindle format.
- Create and edit your table of contents while styling your ebook
- Add professionally-designed themes to make your ebook better-looking and easier to read.
If you don’t want to take the conversion process on yourself, there are plenty of professional services out there willing to handle it for you.
Amazon even has a list of companies specializing in ebook conversion.
Most people read ebooks over physical books because of the price. This is where ebooks have a distinct advantage.
Because there aren’t any physical materials to buy, the cost of those materials doesn’t have to be taken into consideration.
The price can be whatever you want it to be.
On Amazon, the sweet spot is between $0.99 and $2.99. Everyone used to price their eBook at $0.99 but it’s going away.
People give higher value to higher-priced items. When all other things appear equal, we automatically assign a higher quality to premium priced items.
$2.99 gives the appearance of higher quality compared to $0.99. But $2.99 is still at a price people are willing to spend without thinking too much about it. That's our sweet spot.
After the cover and title, the ebook description is the next thing your potential buyer is going to see/read.
You need a good description to entice them to buy the ebook.
Take your time! This is an important one to get right.
Use books in the Amazon Top 100 for inspiration. Figure out how they grab someone’s attention and try to mimic it.
A good description will go a long ways.
Anyone who has shopped on Amazon knows the importance of having a few reviews.
Preferably good reviews.
When someone compares two items, one with 30 four star reviews and one with 3 four star reviews, guess which one they’re buying?
Good reviews mean other people have bought your ebook and found it useful. That tells the potential buyer they should too.
It’s social proof your book is good!
Use social media, friends, and family to get some positive reviews. Have them go to Amazon, buy the book, and leave a review. If they complain about the $2.99, pay them back.
It’ll be worth it in the long run.
A word of warning. There are services out there where you can pay for reviews. DON’T DO THIS.
Amazon is getting better and better at determining which are paid reviews and which aren’t. I can see a day where you’ll get penalized for having these fake reviews on your product.
Building a Review Bank
Once you’ve got a list of people willing to write a review, give them a PDF copy of your ebook.
Have them write a review and tell them to hold onto it.
You want a big launch event with purchases and reviews coming into Amazon right when the book is published.
This is how you get on the Amazon bestseller list.
When the book does finally get posted on Amazon, have everyone go and buy it.
You may be thinking “Why would you have them buy it after you’ve already given them a copy?”
Amazon needs to know the people writing reviews are certified buyers. It makes the reviews more powerful in the eyes of Amazon and the potential buyer.
After purchasing, tell them to go ahead and post their review.
You’ve put in the hours writing.
Emails have gone back and forth with your designer getting the perfect book cover.
Every person you know is ready to write a review on Amazon.
Now it’s time to really dig in and start marketing.
Marketing and promotion are what separates an ebook that makes money and one that doesn’t.
Where a publisher would handle this part with a regular book, this is something you’ve got to take care of.
You need to get the word out BEFORE the book is actually published on Amazon.
Why before publishing?
Because you want your book to hit the best-seller charts right when it’s published on Amazon.
To do it, you need to have people interested and ready to buy the moment the book is available.
You’ve got to build relationships.
Create an Author Profile
It’s a common theme. Famous authors try to write books under different names and fail.
Stephen King did it with his alter ego, Richard Bachman. In the mid-80s he tried writing a few books under the pseudonym and they flopped.
One book, Thinner, only sold 28,000 copies of the initial run. After word got out Richard Bachman was, in fact, Stephen King, the book sold ten times that.
J.K Rowling did the same thing. She wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith.
The hardback version sold 1,500 copies. Word got out Galbraith was Rowling and sales rose 4,000%.
People buy books from authors they know and recognize.
Let people get to know you.
Find a good picture and use it on all your author related websites.
Create a blog, social media accounts, and a profile on Amazon Author Central all using the same picture.
Consistency is comforting.
Start a Blog
In this day and age, you’ve got to have a blog.
If you do any sort of work you want to be recognized for by anyone outside your friends and colleagues, you have to have a website.
The easiest way to go is to start a WordPress.com site. It’s free and simple to set up.
If you can, I’d recommend spending $2.99 a month to get a custom domain.
This way you can have the site www.johnsnow.com instead of www.johnsnow.wordpress.com.
It looks more professional the first way don’t you think?
Start sharing advice and tips related to your niche.
If your niche is healthy, organic dog recipes, start sharing a few recipes that aren’t in your ebook.
Show pictures of cute dogs.
Talk about what foods are healthy for dogs and what foods aren’t.
The Power of Social Media
There are so many avenues to travel down when it comes to social media.
The two giants in the room are Facebook and Twitter.
- Create a Facebook page.
- Start a Twitter account.
Anything getting posted on your blog should also get posted on Facebook and Twitter.
From there, you can do a few things.
- Get involved on Reddit
- Answer questions on Quora
- Do guest posts on other niche blogs or on sites like Huffington Post and Inc
- Create an Author Profile on GoodReads and Amazon Author Central.
The more places you can get your name out there, the better shot you have of becoming a success.
Does this whole marketing thing seem a bit daunting?
It can be a bit overwhelming.
There are so many things to do it can seem like there is no point starting...and that might be the right way to go.
Making money writing ebooks is a numbers game.
You can write one ebook in a week, spend months or years marketing the hell out of it, and try to make $10,000 per month.
Or, you can do what Steve Scott does, and write 20 ebooks each making $500 per month.
He’s still got his blog, Facebook page, and Twitter profile, but, beyond that, there isn’t much marketing.
Write and edit the book. Design a cover. Get your friends, family, and whatever followers you have to write a review and then publish.
Wash, rinse, repeat!
Once you have your name out there for one good book, it becomes easier to sell another. And another. And another.
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- How to Write a Non-Fiction Book in 21 Days - That Readers Will LOVE by Steve Scott
- Step-by-Step Guide For Selling Your Book Through Amazon
- How to Increase Your Amazon Kindle Book Sales by 600% in a Week
- The Snowflake Method for Designing A Novel
- How to Get an eBook to #1 on Amazon
- 21 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your First eBook
Writing an ebook seems daunting, but all the barriers are gone.
No one is telling you how long it needs to be, what you need to write about, or even what the title should be.
All you need is the desire and discipline to do it.
Our American expats took the research they already did and turned it into a nice little monthly passive income.
There is something you have knowledge on which can turn into a few thousand words that someone is willing to pay for.
Have you made money writing ebooks? Any tips or recommendations?