So, I wrote pretty generally about writing and selling Kindle ebooks through Amazon’s self publishing platform, as a way to make money online while travelling in this post. Today, I want to get more specific into being a Kindle author, and how to go about getting started. Also, I want to talk about whether self-publishing is worth it and how much cash you could potentially bring in from writing ebooks. I love creating new sources of income, especially passive ones; even though, it only becomes a passive revenue source once you’ve published the thing. Anyway, since I’ve got some experience with the Amazon platform, I’ll share all the information I have as a sort of guide to Kindle creation and marketing.
My Own Kindle Journey
As of right now, I only have one published Kindle book. I’m very close to completing the second. As in, I just need to do some basic formatting and editing corrections, and it’ll be ready to go on sale (perhaps, I should be doing that, instead of writing this). Also, I have written 25 or so pages of my third self-published ebook.
It’s actually kind of funny, that while I’ve always wanted to write books, nobody knows that I’m already technically an author…which is strange to say. My first book is in the non-fiction realm and I always thought that I’d write a novel first before anything else. Hell, I don’t even think I ever had any plans to write a non-fiction book, until I began thinking about Kindle publishing as a source of passive income.
I had already gathered a lot of experience with creating blogs and marketing for retail products, so the whole making money online thing wasn’t exactly new to me when I first had the notion to write a book. Secondly, I owned a Kindle and used the app to read on my laptop all of the time, and so the setup was already familiar to me also.
Once these two familiar areas of my daily life merged, I got it in my head that I should start writing Kindle books in order to supplement my income. Plus, I felt that I could write some useful content, and potentially serve untapped or underutilized segments. I just needed to figure out what to write about.
Selecting a Topic
It is important to note that, researching a topic to write about and seeing if it would be economically viable to do so, is a step that shouldn’t be skipped. Obscure subjects that are only interesting to you, isn’t going to be something that will sell copies, and you’ve just had to spend the time creating a book for no real reason.
I’d like to point out here that you don’t necessarily have to write your own books. You can also just choose a topic and hire someone to write a book for you. Remember, Kindle books don’t need to be the same length or as in depth as what is produced by professional publishing houses. I’m not saying to churn out crap, but be aware you can sell shorter books for as low as $0.99-3.99.
So, the thing to do is to brainstorm potential topics for your first Kindle book. It’s probably best to start with things that you have a good degree of knowledge on, as it’ll just make things easier. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can go onto Amazon and check to see what are some of the other books in that category, and how you can differentiate yourself. Oh and also see if these books are actually selling. High sales books will have more reviews and a higher sales rank.
When I was researching what to write about for my first book, I figured out that it would be a good idea, if I could pick something that could be expanded upon in future books. Meaning, I wanted to choose a topic that was broad enough to have books in related or at least tangentially related categories I could write in the future, and be a more specific aspect of a niche.
I ended up choosing a topic within the personal development space, whose readers would have a very good chance of wanting to read about other related topics, that I could write books about. Plus, there were already plenty of books within that space, that were already making sales and I knew how to separate myself from them.
It actually didn’t take that long to write my first draft and I think that I ended up with somewhere around 65 typed Microsoft Word pages. I probably took a solid month to write and then go back and correct or expand upon what I had written. It’s not that I was being stingy or cutting corners with my writing either, I just wanted to cover the topic succinctly, and without fluff. Many books have no business being 250+ pages and are drawn out just to make them appear more substantial.
My goal was to write a comprehensive primer on the topic. It was designed mostly for beginners in that space, to give them a nice foundation to start with, and to give them actionable ways to move forward. Not a bad deal for only $2.99 or even when I raised the price by a dollar.
Kindle Book Pricing
I suppose I need to write a bit about how the Kindle pricing structure works and some considerations as to what price to set an ebook at.
For me, I set my first book initially at $2.99. I chose this price for a few reasons. First, I was an unknown author, and wanted to se t a low barrier to entry to get people to actually read it. At that price, people are willing to spend a few bucks, on something of an unknown quantity/quality. If it had been $9.99, fewer would be willing to take that leap.
It’s sort of weird because people will drop $7 for a crummy fast food meal, but might not do so on a book that may have a profound impact on some aspect of their lives. As a side note, it’s even funnier, how many people buy your books but never actually read it!
Secondly, the $2.99 price was the minimum that I had to set it at in order to get 70% of the revenue. At any price you set below $2.99, Amazon takes 70%, and you only get 30% of the sale. I’m not doing all of the work for 30% of the profit. So, while I don’t like even only getting 70% of my sales revenue, I understand that the Amazon platform has built in advantages and could accept it.
A lot of authors will offer their books at an introductory rate of $0.99, in order to get a bunch of sales and reviews. What I did was to make it free for 2-3 day periods and then market the book on related forums and websites. This got me hundreds of downloads and some initial positive reviews.
Once I got a handful of positive reviews, I raised the price to $3.99, and kept it there. According to the calculator, I should be making $2.79 per sale, but in actuality…it’s $2.76. I don’t know why, but whatever.
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to keep this first book at this current price point. My second and third books, I’m going to offer at $4.99 or $5.99 each. At the $5.99 pricing point, I will collect an extra $14 in revenue per 10 copies sold, versus what I make on the first one. Also, I can bundle all three books together for $9.99, and get some larger royalty amounts in my account. You need to sell a whole lot of copies to make a living, if you’re only making $2.76 per book. Either that or have a large amount of books written and offered for sale.
When determining price consider:
- How in depth the book is. If you published a 20 page book, a lot of people will balk at paying $10, unless it is damn useful information.
- What similar books are selling for.
- What percentage of royalties or how much income you’re looking to make.
- The initial sales price versus what it’ll be later.
- How established you are as an author. Once you have an audience, people will pay more for your content, because you’ve built that trust.
- What the market will bear. For instance, there are certain academic texts which are still over $100 on Kindle. No one buys them, like ever. They probably aren’t even on any college class reading list but the price is still sky high. I like to read philosophy but the cost can be so prohibitive or certain texts that I don’t even bother with something, I would otherwise love to learn about. The same thing can be true, for self-published books that charge prices in the $10 range…the content ain’t worth the price.
Authorship: Can You Publish Anonymously on Kindle?
Some folks don’t mind using their own name to publish their Kindle books under, while others want to be authors yet retain their privacy. Is it possible to remain anonymous while publishing your eBook in the Kindle store? Yes! Your actual name doesn’t have to appear anywhere in the book or on the cover.
I personally chose a pen name to write under. Why? Well, privacy. Also, I wanted to keep my books under separate brands, so to speak. I wanted all these non-fiction book ideas to only have the same listed author as books related to those topics.
If I ever get around to writing a novel, I’ll probably use my real name, but not for these non-fiction works I’m doing for the Kindle. So, choose a pen name. Amazon will have to pay you in your own name (unless you have some sort of business entity situation set up), but that’s not public information and is used strictly for payments.
Writing Your Book
As I mentioned above, it took me around a month to write my first draft of the Kindle book I published. I probably could’ve gotten it done quicker, but I also could’ve taken more time, even if I feel it’s complete as it is currently uploaded. Writing comes pretty easy to me, after years of building websites, and reading untold numbers of books.
Do you actually need to write your books though? The answer is no. You obviously can, but you could also outsource the work, and have someone else do the research and writing for you. This will cost some money upfront, but not as much as you might think, since overseas authors don’t necessarily charge a great deal.
At least you could pay for a skeleton structure of what the final product will look like and then expand upon what was already written for you. Another option is to come up with the topics, research whether those topics will be profitable, and then have someone write the whole thing up on your behalf. With this method, you can pay to create a whole lineup of books, with very little work on your end.
Whether you want to write each book or not, always keep in mind the quality of the final product above all else. If the book isn’t up to par or is mostly fluff, the reviews will eventually turn negative and torpedo future sales. Ideally, we want a book that can sell for years and years to come, based on the positive reviews that it’s garnered.
Designing a Cover
I outsourced this aspect of the process to fiverr and found a graphic designer who quickly came up with a nice cover. I simply described what I wanted and paid them $10 to do it and get it done in an expedited manner.
If you’re paying someone $5-10 to design a cover, have something in mind, so that it’s painless and you don’t get charged for shoddy work. I told the designer exactly what I wanted on the cover, made it simplistic, but kept the details of the rest open to their interpretation. She actually created two different book cover designs for me and got what I wanted on the first try.
The cover and the title of the book are super important for catching people’s attention and/or getting a better result in the search rankings based on Amazon’s algorithm. Think this through on your own, then hire someone if need be to illuminate your vision.
The main factors for getting sales in the Kindle store are: how well your book shows up in search when people type in related keywords, how many reviews you have, and having your book show up in the “customers who bought this also bought…” section on other Kindle books’ sales page.
Amazon is going to give preference to those books that sell well and have a high click through rate. So, getting those initial sales and reviews is pretty crucial. Hopefully, the keyword search was planned for ahead of time before publishing, and is reflected in the title that you chose and the book description that you wrote. This aspect helps to get those random sales from people searching on Amazon related to your topic, but are unaware of your book.
To get more reviews, you’re going to have to sell a bunch of copies, as most people don’t ever leave reviews on Amazon. This means that you will mostly likely have to do some marketing on your own or by purchasing ads on Amazon.
I can tell you from my own experience, that advertising on Amazon, will cost more money than it brings in when you’re selling an inexpensive book. At $3.99, I’d say per $100 in ad spend, I’d bring in $35-50 in revenue. This is a good way to get sales and get revues, but it will cost money. Depending on your own Kindle book’s price point, you might be able to break even or turn a profit, but don’t expect to.
The other method to use, is to find out free ways to market it. If you have an established blog or website about the topic, that’s an obvious one. I make sales all the time now, because one website I own has tangential relations to my ebook’s topic. This is a steady trickle which helps my sales rank and gets me further sales in the future from Amazon.
Also, I found forums related to my topic and used those as promotional sources. What I did was find Reddit subreddits that were related and then wrote up a post solving a common problem within that niche. Then, I’d offer the book for free to download. This got me hundreds of downloads, some of whom reviewed my book. Sometimes, I’d just create a thread saying that the Kindle book was free to download for the next two days, and people really responded. You need to offer some kind of value, even if it means letting some folks have free copies, in order to establish a foothold for your book.
Sales on Amazon can work like compound interest. Once you get a little bit of leverage, it really starts to take off. So positive reviews leads to more sales, which leads to better search rank, which also increases sales. Those increased sales allows your book to be featured on other Kindle books’ sales pages, which leads to an even higher level of sales. Getting this feedback loop started and maintaining it, is the key to having a long-term seller, and not something that simply peters out.
Final Thoughts on Kindle Book Publishing
Once you’ve established the first book or even right after you’ve published it, get to work building another one, so that you can establish a brand. Keep the quality up and give your readers something different than what is being offered in the marketplace, and you’ll gain a following, and a plethora of positive reviews.
With time, the sales will be pretty much automatic, outside of any further marketing you wish to do. Once the ball stars rolling, it’s really close to being completely passive income, like collecting a dividend check.