You’ve heard about passive income, and you might be thinking, “what could be better than that?” Put in some work now and continue to reap the financial benefits for weeks, months, and even years to come. While it’s not always as simple as that, writing ebooks is one side hustle you won’t want to disregard: It is relatively simple (though not necessarily easy!), and although print books are still more popular than their electronic counterparts, it’s more feasible to break into publishing by going the Kindle (or Nook or iBook) route.
If you’re wondering how to make money with ebooks, this is the step-by-step guide you’ve been searching for.
Now, keep in mind that succeeding with ebooks is at least somewhat a matter of being in the right place at the right time. As Amanda Hocking, one of many self-published authors who has made millions, has said, “As far as I can tell, it was a perfect storm of having the right books in the right genre at the right price at the right time.”
You can improve your odds of making money with ebooks by having a system of niche and content development, choosing the right platform, making the most of your marketing effort, and, perhaps most important of all, riding the momentum and not sitting back to relax once your first book is published.
Develop a Niche
When you think about Stephen King, you automatically know which niche he has filled. If you’re looking for a horror novel, you might be inclined to specifically seek out one of King’s books. On the other hand, if you wanted to read a historical romance, you would probably do a double-take if you saw his name alongside a depiction of a Fabio-esque gentleman and a swooning maiden wearing hoop skirts. The King of Horror has developed a place for himself in the publishing world, and you should do the same thing.
Why a Niche Is Important
One of the main reasons a niche is important is that it makes it easier to establish yourself as an authority on your subject. You probably know a lot about a few topics and a little about hundreds of topics. Let’s say you’re a nurse who works in a general pediatric office. Some of the topics you likely know a lot about might include what it takes to become a nurse, children’s vaccinations, and common childhood illnesses. You also probably know a little about things like specific heart ailments, bone problems in children, and head trauma. (Of course, you will also know about plenty of topics from your personal life, too, but we’re just focusing on work for now.)
Could you write an ebook about children’s vaccines? What would make it different from what’s already out there? Plenty of doctors and worried parents have written books on the topic.
Maybe since you're a parent in addition to being a nurse, you could write about how you, as a parent, had to weigh the risks and benefits of vaccinations and how you overcame any fears that you had about vaccines. You can present yourself as an authority on both the nursing angle and the parental angle.
After you write this ebook, you could then go on to write additional books on topics where intuition as a parent might or might not align with the usual medical recommendations. Alas, your niche has been born!
Don’t Lock Yourself Into a Box
One caveat: Before you think that you need to develop the tightest niche possible, consider the case of Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. Now he’s famous enough that he could write about anything he wanted to, but he started out with the “4-hour” theme. The 4-Hour Workweek. The 4-Hour Chef. The 4-Hour Body.
All of these books are full of self-help ideas and hacks to make your life easier and to spend as little time as possible doing what you need to do to succeed. Tim has written about outsourcing, working out, and cooking… but all of it centers around self-help. Not only that, but all of his books assume that the reader is able to think outside the box and is willing to try new things.
When choosing your niche, narrow is good, but not too narrow. You want to see both the forest and the trees. So decide upon your angle, but don’t be afraid to shift it a bit within the same paradigm, particularly once you have a couple of ebooks under your belt. Remember, the more you write within a particular niche, the more people will perceive you as an expert.
Questions to Ask Yourself as You Develop Your Niche
Developing your niche can look like an enormous undertaking, so you’ll want to ask yourself some questions to help narrow it down. Here are a few to think about:
- What are your passions? You might know a lot about engineering or law, but if you aren’t passionate about it, you will probably tire of writing about it. If you could spend a year pursuing any topic you wanted to, what would it be?
- Within your passions, what do you already know about, either from studying or from first-hand experience? It’s always easier (and often more enjoyable) to write about what you know.
- What group of people do you want to reach? Are you trying to encourage teenagers? Is your dream to become a role model for stay-at-home moms? Do you want to inspire 40-year-olds who are going back to school? Maybe you want to teach senior citizens how to make the latest technology work for them. Are pet-owners your target audience?
- If you were going to spend a day teaching someone (for no pay) how to do something, what would you be teaching? Who would your student be? This can give you an idea of who your target market is and what your niche might be.
Package Your Content Well
It’s 2018, and if you want to know about something, it’s never been easier to use the device in your pocket to Google it. Let’s say you’re going to be writing a book about birds in your state. Why would someone pay to read your ebook rather than simply check out a few ornithological websites? Are you wondering how to make money with ebooks when most of that information is already available for the taking?
The truth is, just about anything you write about, outside of fiction, a memoir, or an autobiography, can generally be researched online for free. What is it about the book you’re selling that is going to make people want to purchase it? It’s going to be about the packaging: How can you package the information so it provides value to your readers? Knowing how to make your fiction or non-fiction book more valuable is what’s going to help you earn money.
Solve a Problem for Your Readers
Let’s say you want to know how to take care of your new puppy. You can Google things like, “how to potty train a puppy,” “how to socialize a puppy,” and “how to get my puppy to stop chewing on my shoes.”
As time goes by, you’ll need to know how to know that you’re feeding your four-legged friend enough, what should prompt a call to the veterinarian, what to do if he won’t walk nicely on a leash, and how to get him crate-trained. While you can certainly spend hours researching all of this information on your own, wouldn’t it be easier to download an ebook that told you what to do, step by step?
This is what you need to keep in mind so you can make money with ebooks. Consider a problem that your reader might be having and create an ebook by putting all of the information together in a way that’s easy to read and simple to follow. Voila! Even though they can probably get the same information for free online, they can’t do it without a time investment. By putting it all together, you’ve solved their problem without taking up hours of their time.
Invest in Your Art
You need to spend money to make money, and this is as true with ebook publishing as it is with anything else. One important part of how to make money with ebooks includes investing in your work. Here are some of the services you might want to hire out so you can make your book as professional and purchase-worthy as possible:
- Cover art. Forget about trying to doodle or freehand your own cover, and don’t even think about just sticking a solid cover with a Times New Roman title on your book. If you’re not an artist or a photographer, find someone who is to create a great cover for your ebook. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and that cover is going to be what your potential readers see first most of the time.
- Professional proofreading and editing. Not all great writers are also great editors, and your electronic grammar checker of choice isn’t going to be enough to catch every possible error. Even if you are usually a flawless writer, it’s almost guaranteed that someone else will be able to find awkward wording or places where you’ve used an incorrect phrase.
- Formatting help. Depending on which platform you’re using, there will be some differences in the formatting that you use. If you are computer-savvy and you don’t mind following a step-by-step instruction manual when it comes to formatting, then you could save money and do it yourself. If you’re not savvy with Microsoft Word and you really just don’t want to bother, though, it’s better to hire someone to help you out than it is to try to submit in the wrong format and deal with that fiasco.
Know Your Platforms
When it comes to actually publishing your ebook, you have quite a few choices as to which platform (or platforms) to use. Here is the lowdown on some of the most popular.
Kindle Direct Publishing is kind of the holy grail of ebook publishing: It’s not only the most well-known, but an amazing two-thirds of the ebook-purchasing market is held by Amazon. There are quite a few advantages.
First, anyone can get the Kindle store app for their computer, tablet, or device; this means that most people will be able to access your Kindle book, even if they don’t have a Kindle.
Second, there are promotions included with KDP, one of which is the giveaway program, which allows you to give your book away for free. (No, this is not a counterproductive tip on how to make money with e-books; you’ll actually create interest that can pay off big later).
Finally, the publishing process is relatively simple. Royalties for books priced from $2.99 to $9.99 are 70 percent, and outside of that range, they’re 35 percent. If you want to know how to make money with books on Kindle, check out my post on making $100 a day with Amazon.
The Barnes and Noble reader is called the Nook, and this device is responsible for about a quarter of e-readership. One advantage of publishing with Nook is that the platform allows for simple collaboration, so if you are working on your book with someone else, this might be a consideration. Nook also offers live chat services if you need help. Royalties for books priced from $2.99 to $9.99 are 65 percent, and outside of that range, they’re 40 percent.
Publishing with iBooks means that your work will be available to anyone who has an iPhone, iPad or Mac through the Apple iBookstore. This system is more complicated than some of the other popular platforms, but if you have written a cookbook, a series of children’s books, a photo book, or some other type of ebook with a lot of multimedia, it’s a great option to look into. Royalties are 70 percent of list price and there are no listing fees.
Outside of the big three platforms that are dominating the market, there are many smaller companies and distributors that might be a great fit for your ebook. Smashwords, for example, distributes books to both iBooks and Nook. Kobo has a simple process for uploading books and they also have a partnership with the American Booksellers Association, which allows you to place your book in thousands of independent e-bookstores.
Scribd is another growing e-publishing platform; this one allows authors to upload in a variety of formats, so that might save you time and money. Do your research: How to make money with ebooks depends partially on choosing the right combination of publishing platforms.
Market Your Work
In order to boost sales and make money, you’re going to need to do some marketing. Ideally, this will start while your ebook is just a twinkle in your eye; maybe you have a blog on your chosen topic or you otherwise have authority, either online or off. If not, though, don’t worry: You can start your marketing at any point before or after you publish. Here are some places to promote your ebook for free. In addition, try the following:
Create a Blog
You might already know that you can make money blogging through affiliate programs, but don’t forget that it’s also a great way to drum up readers for your ebook. It’s best if your blog is up and running before you write an ebook because then you can use it to both gauge interest and create anticipation. Release small previews, hype up the publication date, give background information, and so on. Once your ebook is published, don’t drop the ball; encourage momentum to keep excitement high by focusing your blog posts on your ebook and on pertinent topics.
Create a Social Media Presence
Again, it’s better if you already have one, but even if you don’t, take full advantage of the platforms that are likely to attract your target readers. If you’ve written a dystopian YA novel, you’re going to want to focus on Reddit (and don’t miss this post on Reddit marketing!), Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. If it’s a book of recipes you’ve written, create an account on Pinterest. Most people use Facebook, so you won’t want to neglect that particular platform. One consideration when it comes to how to make money with ebooks is to become well-known, and social media is one way to do that.
Host a Giveaway
If you’re publishing on Kindle, take advantage of the program that allows you to give away your book for several days. Also, give away the first chapter of your book, and give away the book to people in exchange for an honest review. Hold a drawing on your blog; make one share on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram equal to one entry.
Giving away your ebook (or parts of your ebook) for free will create the buzz you need to inspire sales. Jim Belosic, co-founder of Shortstack, has some tips on how to create a successful giveaway. Be sure to pay close attention to the part at the end about creating a post-giveaway action plan. As you continue to write (more on that below!), you’ll want to market your new work to the people who entered your contest.
Keep on Writing
Finally, keep on writing. In a guide on how to make money with ebooks, it would be remiss not to mention the importance of continuing with your craft. If you write one ebook, that’s great… but if you write one each month or each quarter or each year, that’s even better. The best way to make money with ebooks is to keep adding new material to the market. Not only will it boost the sales of your new books but it will also inspire new readers to go back and buy your older books. Working in this way to continue to sell ebooks doesn’t have to become your full-time job, but it can!
What should you write about? Refer to your niche and see what makes sense. If you’re writing fiction, consider a spinoff or a continuation of your story. For nonfiction books, choose another topic within the same niche. You can always choose a different niche, but if it’s somewhat related to the current topic of choice, you’ll be able to market to the same people.
Remember, when it comes to making money online, passive income is not actually passive in most cases. While there’s a chance you will take off and your book will become a bestseller and a movie, it’s more likely that you will need to continue to put work into writing and marketing even after you publish and sell your ebook. Getting royalty checks that grow each month, however, will make all of the work more than worth it: You will have mastered how to make money with ebooks, and the rewards will be great.