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Making Money [Passively] Writing eBooks: A Simple 5-Step Guide

Are you an aspiring writer who dreams of publishing their own book someday (and making some serious cash in the process)?

You are in the right place.

In this article, I am going to cover the 5 essential steps you need to take to launch your eBook business.

We will discuss in detail (i) how to find the right niche to write about; (ii) how to write the content for your eBook, (iii) how to create a killer cover for your eBook, (iv) how to leverage the best publishing platforms to sell your eBooks; and (v) how to market your eBook for maximum sales.

I will also talk about how this business can become a passive income generating machine.

For those of you who are short on funds (or are just frugal like me), I have devoted a section at the end that lays out step-by step how you can do this completely free. Definitely worth checking out.

Before we start, let’s tackle some introductory questions around eBooks, including what they are, how much you can make doing this (with real world data), how much it costs to get started, and generally, how this whole thing works.

If you would like to see a condensed version of this article in video format, check out my YouTube video on the topic below.

Watch this video on YouTube.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and complete a transaction, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

What is an eBook?

Let’s not overcomplicate things. An eBook is simply a digital version of a regular book. So, instead of reading a physical book, you can read an eBook on a digital device, such as your phone, iPad, Amazon Kindle, computer, etc.

How Much Can I Make Publishing and Selling eBooks?

According to Amazon KDP (which stands for Kindle Direct Publishing), there are two types of royalty plans you can choose. There is the 70% plan and the 35% plan.

Under the 70% plan, you will make 70% of sales as royalties, less certain costs, such as VAT (which is a value added tax that is usually levied by European countries). Of course, certain conditions apply. For example, the 70% plan only applies to eBook sales in countries that are part of the approved list (the US is included).

The 35% plan does not have any country restrictions, but you only get to keep a 35% royalty. That being said, there are no deductions for VAT under this plan. To learn more about Amazon royalty plans, check out their official page here.

Of course, the info above doesn’t really answer how much you will actually make doing this because that will depend on how many sales you can drum up. Your sales will depend on many factors, including your price point, how engaging your book is, how well you market it, the types of reviews it gets, and a host of other factors.

That being said, there is some pretty compelling evidence that this type of business (and yes, it is a business) can generate a lot of money for its owner. Not only that, it can do so in a relatively short period of time.

Want proof? Check out empireflippers.com. They are a platform that allows folks to buy and sell online businesses.

When you browse through their offerings you will see Amazon KDP businesses that started just a few years ago making tens of thousands of dollars per month. Seriously, just browse around and see for yourself.

Note: Empire Flippers is pretty rigorous about the businesses they list on their site and perform significant due diligence on the numbers. They require clear proof of earnings before you can even list on their website.

Here’s a representative sampling of Amazon KDP businesses that I found on their site on the day I wrote this article. All are 5 around years old (or less) and make about $10,000 (or more) per month:

  • Amazon KDP business started in March 2018 making average net monthly profit of over $33,000.
  • Amazon KDP business started in September 2016 making average net monthly profit of over $11,000.
  • Amazon KDP business started in October 2016 making average net monthly profit of over $9,800.

That’s pretty awesome, especially that first business that makes nearly $400,000 per year!

Of course, these specific Amazon KDP businesses may no longer be available by the time you are reading this. But these types of Amazon KDP businesses (with high earnings and fairly recent start dates) are there all the time.

I have no doubt that there will always be relatively new businesses that are making tens of thousands of dollars per month on that site at any given time.

Now, to be fair, not every Amazon KDP business is going to generate this type of money (or do it so quickly).

Many will fail to generate any meaningful money at all. But what do you really have to lose? As we’ll discuss later on, you can get started for very little money and there are no operating costs to maintain your business (unless you choose to use paid ads to promote your books).

If you are willing to invest the time and effort, why not take a shot?

How Much Does it Cost to Start an eBook Business?

One of the best features of selling eBooks is that it costs almost no money to start. As long as you are willing to write the content yourself, you can create your book and publish it to the world without spending any money.

That being said, if you want to spend money to improve your book, you can.

For example, you can hire a ghostwriter who is an expert in the field to create the content and hire a top flight editor to clean it up and make the prose sing. You can then hire a graphic designer to design a cover that will catch a customer’s attention and make them want to buy.

Once the book is complete, you can spend money promoting your book on Amazon using paid advertising. This can significantly expand the exposure of your book, which can in turn generate more sales. If you want to learn more about this program, check out Amazon’s official page on the topic here.

If you want to rapidly expand your eBook publishing business, you will likely need a decent amount of money, so you can hire writers to create content. If you look at the really successful Amazon KDP businesses on empireflippers, they have published dozens of books.

How to Make Money Writing eBooks

1. Figure Out Your Niche

One of the most important decisions you will make when starting your eBook business is determining your niche. Now a niche is just the area or topic that you are writing about.

It can be personal finance, science fiction, romance, business – whatever interests you. But you want to make sure that it is not too narrow a niche – writing books about topics that are too esoteric and specialized will not have enough appeal to sell well.

On the flip side, having too broad a niche may backfire because you will be competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of other authors.

2. Write Content That Will Delight Readers

Once you have figured out your niche, it’s time to write your first book in that area. I won’t go over the standard advice, like create an outline, dedicate some time each day to writing, etc. You probably know that stuff already.

If you are writing fiction, it is all about keeping the reader engaged and entertained. Different fiction writers have different strengths – some have tightly organized and amazing plots, some create immersive worlds and settings, some are awesome at character development, and some are experts at creating an earth-shattering climax to their stories.

Whatever your unique storytelling talent is, make sure you showcase it!

If you are writing non-fiction, then it’s all about conveying information in a way that is easy to understand and fun to read. If you are writing a “how-to” guide, then accuracy, organization and clarity are key. If you are writing an historical account, then fully researching the event or person and telling the story in an engaging way is going to be paramount.

Regardless of your area, write with your reader in mind and create something that will delight them.

Using Ghostwriters to Write Your eBook

Of course, if you choose to outsource the writing, you will need to be very clear about what you want (and make sure their writing style lines up with what you want).

Audition several writers by asking them to write a small article (500 words) on a related topic. You can check out places like Fiverr and Upwork to find writers at a reasonable price.

Note: I want to underscore the importance of editing.

You don’t want to publish something that is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. If you have the money, hire a professional editor to look over your book. If you don’t, you should read it over carefully (and in manageable pieces) when your eyes are fresh.

You should also use websites like grammarly.com or hemingwayapp.com (both have free versions) as a further check on spelling and grammatical errors.

You can also have a trusted friend read your book and provide their thoughts. This is less about finding grammatical errors and more about getting an honest reaction in terms of general readability, etc.

One interesting idea if you want to make money right away with your writing talents is to become a ghostwriter yourself. In this way, you can make quick money, hone your writing skills so that you can create better ebooks, which will in turn create more money for you over the long term.

If you want to learn more about how to become a successful ghostwriter for ebooks, check out my article on the topic here.

3. Create an Amazing Book Cover

The old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover is, unfortunately, not followed by most consumers. They will judge your book by your cover, so it’s important to create an amazing one.

Your first stop should be canva.com.

You can easily create a cover for your book by using their free platform. Just go to the website, type into the search bar at the top “book covers” and you will be presented with tons of templates (as well as a blank template) that you can use to design your book cover.

You can import your own images and use them or you can search images on canva and incorporate them into your design. You have tons of fonts, colors, and other design elements at your fingertips, so you can customize your book cover to look exactly the way you want it to look.

If have zero artistic talent, you can just outsource this task.

You can go one Fiverr and get people to create logos for you. Many offer to do this for $5. For that price, you can just hire a few of the most promising people and select the best one.

4. Publish Your eBook on a Free Online Publishing Platform

Once you have written the content and designed your cover, the next step is to publish your eBook.

Numerous online platforms offer independently published ebooks for sale. The biggest of these is Amazon, which holds the largest market share by a huge margin. Their online publishing platform, KDP, is free and user-friendly for authors.

It also offers perks (including financial incentives) if you publish exclusively with them through their KDP Select program.

Other eBook publishing platforms include Lulu, Barnes & Noble Press, Kobo Writing Life, and Apple Books for Authors.

You can also look at platforms like Draft2Digital and Smashwords, which take your eBook and publish it widely among large and small eBook stores, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and more. They also distribute to libraries.

Compare your options and the features they offer to decide which ones work best for you.

5. Market Your eBook to Maximize Sales

The easiest way to get your book in front of potential buyers is to tag your book with the right keywords. When you set up your eBook on Amazon KDP, you will have the chance to identify a list of keywords that apply to your book.

This will help Amazon identify what your book is about and present it higher on search results for that keyword. It’s great free marketing and one of the easiest steps you can take to broaden the exposure that your book will receive.

The next strategy is paid advertising. If you are on Amazon KDP, it’s easy to set this up and it can be one of the most effective ways to market your eBook, period.

There are, of course, other ways to promote your eBook. If you have a Facebook account or other social media accounts, you can promote it there. If you own a blog or run a YouTube channel, you can market your book to your reader or viewers.

If your organic reach on social media is limited, you can also use paid advertising on Facebook or social media platforms (even on Google search) to get your book noticed.

None of this is going to be cheap and with any form of paid advertising, you will need to constantly analyze whether it is working and worth it.

How to Make Your eBook Business Generate Passive Income

Ok, the great thing about eBooks is that they can give you 100% passive income once they are written.

I just love the concept of royalties. Creating something once and getting paid for years and years without doing anything else is amazing. It is literally making money in your sleep.

Of course, no business is completely passive.

You will need to write the content, create the cover, write the listing and market the book. But many of these things can be outsourced. As we talked about, you can hire people to do most of these things. That’s the strategy that is used by most of the successful eBook entrepreneurs.

They find a stable of great writers, give them a topic to write about, and churn out books that will create multiple streams of passive income.

Yes, it costs money to do this, but if you don’t have money now, you can start by writing the first few books yourself, learning the process, and figuring out what works (and doesn’t work).

You can then use the money generated from your initial books to hire writers for subsequent books and scale your business that way. Voila, you have created a passive income machine!

How to Make Money With eBooks For Free

As promised, here is a short and simple guide to making money with eBooks for free. Some of this may be review, but I thought it helpful to have all of the information in one place.

Step 1: Write the eBook Yourself.

Obviously, when you are on a budget, hiring a ghostwriter is not an option. You should also conduct some preliminary research and write about a low competition topic. We’ll explain why in Step 4.

Step 2: Create the Book Cover for Free by Using Canva.com.

You can use their book cover templates for free (many of them, anyway) and create a stunning cover for your eBook at no cost.

Step 3: Sign up for Amazon KDP and Publish Your eBook for Free.

Amazon KDP is a no cost option to publish your eBook. There are other platforms you can use as well, but KDP is the one that will have the biggest reach.

Step 4: Target the Right Keywords, So Your eBook Can Sell Without Paid Ads.

Although many eBook authors use promotional ads to elevate the visibility of their eBooks (and thus generate sales), if you are on a shoestring budget, that’s not an option.

So try to write an eBook that caters to a low competition niche. Something that a lot of other people have not written about. That way, when people search for that term, your book will be at the top (or near the top) of the results.

You can also consider starting a blog that writes about topics in your niche and promote your book there. Starting a blog can be done for virtually no money and can be a source of revenue in its own right.

In fact, you may already have dozens of articles that you can put on your blog, simply by repurposing sections of your book.

To learn more about how to start a blog, check out my article on How to Start a Blog From Scratch.

I cover all of they key areas you need to know, including how to set up your website and most importantlymy best tips for writing great articles, getting traffic to your blog, and monetizing that traffic.

Conclusion

So there you have it – 5 simple steps to make money with eBooks. If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more ways to make passive income, check out my ultimate guide to passive income, where you can explore 20+ passive income ideas.