Make Money Selling eBooks: Is it Possible to Earn Enough?

Many writers out there are looking at multiple options and wondering whether it’s possible to make money selling ebooks. Self-publishing has changed the rules of the game. Today, even newbies can bypass agents and publishers, launching their own product on Amazon.

A few years ago, I was one of these newbies. One day, I told myself that the option was worth a try. There are dozens of advantages – you do the work one time and you collect passive income from that point on. You can write about any topic of interest. A professional writer can accomplish the task pretty fast. This is what I told myself in the very beginning.

The truth is a bit different. To make money selling ebooks, you will have to put a lot of effort in making it happen.

While doing my experiment, I learned a couple of important lessons about income generation via publishing ebooks. Here’s what I’d like to share with you.

The Positives First: The Options Are Limitless

The best aspect of self-publishing an ebook is that the options are limitless and you have a lot of freedom when it comes to the specifics of the project.

The number of self-published titles with a registered ISBN reached 786,935, an increase of 8.2 percent on an annual basis.

Self-published print books were also on the rise, with the increase being 11.3 percent on an annual basis. Amazon’s CreateSpace was the leader in the field.

Another very important benchmark to take a look at is the sales of self-published vs. traditionally published books. While the biggest publishers out there sold about 175 million books during the year, self-published authors sold 150 million copies. This is a massive accomplishment for the self-published community, showing newbies in the field that writing a book is really worth a try.

Why am I starting my article with all of these statistics? I’d like to inspire you and tell you that making money by publishing an ebook or a print publication is possible. In the period until 2020, the global publishing market is expected to reach a volume of 357 billion dollars. If you’d like to get a share of this lucrative market, you need to dig in right now.

Now that we’ve gotten the motivational talk out of the way, let’s take a look at the actual facts.

Writing an ebook that will sell is not an easy thing. Few people get to be the next Stephenie Meyer or E. L. James.

Making it big requires a lot of hard work and there will still be no guarantee that you’ll get to earn a viable income via selling ebooks. You can do certain things to maximize your chances of success. In my experience, these are a few of the most important techniques.

Forget about the “Quick and Easy” Guides

If you’ve done some research about how to make money selling ebooks, you’ve certainly come across blog post titles like “How I Made $100,000 Selling eBooks” or “How I Wrote an eBook that Sold One Million Copies.” The first and the most important thing I have to share with you is forget about these guides.

Often, they will be filled with fluff, vague promotional content. The aim of the blog post would be to A. get you to buy an ebook or B. get you to buy a tutorial/video series. The worst part of these paid study materials is that they’ll give you some generic approach that in no way will help you become a millionaire.

Every single guide out there that I’ve come across is generic. It focuses on common sense tips like making sure the quality of the ebook is high enough and finding a niche. Really? Who would have thought of that!

One thing I’d like to tell you is that unless you have spectacular luck or a title that goes viral right from the start, you’re not going to make money selling ebooks right from the start. True, you may earn a bit of income through these efforts but it’s not going to be enough.

Turning ebook writing in a profitable business requires a strategy and preliminary planning.

Find a Niche

The first thing you need to do is find a niche. I’ve written more about it in this article.

A good niche has a number of characteristics:

  • It’s popular among readers, giving you the chance to sell a big number of copies
  • It’s specific enough to help you find a target audience
  • It’s something you enjoy writing about
  • It’s an evergreen niche (the books you write today will still sell 10 years from now)
  • It’s not overpopulated with titles – competing against well-established authors is going to be way too challenging in the beginning of your career

As you see, research is the heart and soul of selling ebooks. Think about all of these questions because they’ll be determining for your brand. Once you begin establishing yourself in a certain niche, making the transfer to another area will be too difficult and time-consuming.

Do Aggressive Marketing

Even if you write the best ebook on the face of the planet, you will not sell without extensive marketing efforts.

There are thousands of self-published authors out there that you will be competing against. In the very beginning, your ebook will have no ratings, no reviews and no Amazon ranking. Investing some money in marketing makes sense if you want to increase the long-term monetization potential of the project.

The good news is that marketing doesn’t have to cost you a fortune in order to bring in a relatively high return on investment.

I’ve had a lot of success with Facebook marketing because of the targeting options available.

Other possibilities you may want to try include Google Adwords (choose the right keywords because some of them could be too expensive because of competiveness), the Google Display Network, email marketing (the good, old newsletter can still sell) and even pay per click (PPC) campaigns.

As an author, you also need to start your own blog.

Blogging is something to begin working on before the launch of your first title. If you have a niche blog, you’ll start developing a target audience of prospects before the ebook is released. Once you have that ebook published, you can begin advertising to the established audience.

You probably gather already that ebook writing isn’t a one-time endeavor. The writing of the book itself is only a small portion of the work you have to do in order to lure potential buyers and to establish an audience that will come back to you time and time again. This is a project you should get started with only if you have the time and the desire to make it happen.

The Best Way to Make Money Selling eBooks: Write a Series

Through my experience, I’ve found out that writing a series of ebooks is the best way to do promotion.

A single book out there is a good start but do your best to add a few new titles to the series in the future.

The books themselves can be used to promote your other titles. A few links in the publication itself and a set of pages in the end to present your other works can really get readers interested in everything else you have to offer.

Having a portfolio of ebooks also makes you feel more established. You give your audience a range of choices. There’s no need to make the books connected (which means that the readers will have to tackle them in a certain order). Still, a series elaborates on a topic and it takes a deeper look at niche themes. If you already have an established audience and you know what these people are looking for, a series of ebooks will be great for capturing that audience and making the most of it.

Bonus Tip: Realistic Pricing

One final thing I’d like to tell you is that your ability to make money selling ebooks depends on your pricing decision.

You need to be a realist. Even if you think that you’ve created a true masterpiece, you’ll still need to know what people are currently willing to pay for it.

If you are not selling at the time being, you may want to reduce the price. Self-publishing has reduced the price of ebooks already and you’re not going to sell by valuing your work too high. This aspect of self-publishing sucks but once you establish your brand and you have a loyal audience, you’ll get to hike the price.

Be prepared for a sporadic sale here and there in the very beginning. Don’t count on this channels as far as income earning is concerned.

Work on getting reader reviews. You may want to offer the book for free via Amazon or work on boosting your popularity via Goodreads. Once you start getting positive reviews from actual readers, you’ll find it much easier to boost the sales.

Finally, don’t give up. Even if your first title isn’t the most successful one, chances are that you’ll turn things around with your second ebook. As a writer, you’re building a portfolio. Thus, ebook writing can be very beneficial even when it comes to finding clients. If it eventually starts making you a decent amount of money, that would be even better.

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn more about starting a successful online business or earning an income by writing ebooks? My book How to Make Money Online: The Secrets of Starting Your Own Web-Based Business contains additional useful information. You can find out more about it here.

  • Share on Tumblr
Share: