The beautiful thing about the internet is that it allows anyone to pursue their dreams and make money on their own terms.
A few decades ago, becoming an author meant sending out your novels far and wide and hoping that a publisher was willing to give you a shot. In other words, you were completely reliant on a publisher thinking that you were good enough.
These days, that’s no longer true. The internet has digitized and democratized the publishing process so that now, anyone can be an author and self-publish their book online. All it takes is a little bit of hard work.
If you do it right, it can be a great way to earn money too. That’s why today, I’m going to be showing you exactly how to make money by self-publishing on Amazon.
Before we get into the ‘how’, though, let’s start with the ‘why’ – as in why you should be excited about this. Let’s start with a little bit of motivation by looking at your earning potential.
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How Much Money Can You Make Self-Publishing on Amazon?
Ok, let’s jump straight into the figures. Here are two key statistics from a recent survey to give you an idea of how much money you can make through self-publishing.
- In the year prior to the survey, just under 2% of self-published authors made more than $100,000 from sales of their books.
- The average income of self-published authors is less than $5,000 per year.
As you can see, there’s a stark contrast here. At the top end of the pay range, self-published authors are earning incredible amounts of money. At the bottom end, the average income is significantly less than the minimum salary you’d expect from a full-time job.
On the surface, this might seem disheartening. However, in my opinion, these statistics should leave you feeling quite the opposite of disheartened. On the contrary, they should be encouraging.
Why? Because even $5,000 a year is a lot of money when you consider the fact that that’s completely passive income. By passive income, I mean that you don’t need to do a thing to earn that money after you’ve published your book. You just get on with your life and the money comes in on its own.
Not only that but if you do manage to have as much success as the top 2% of self-published authors, you’ll be earning a lot of money – and that’s more doable than you might think.
The majority of self-publishers don’t really know what they’re doing. To be in that top 2%, you just need to learn how to do it right. And of course, that’s exactly why you’re reading this guide, so let’s get on with it!
Step 1: Choose Your Niche Carefully
There are five basic steps you’ll need to follow to make money by self-publishing on Amazon. The first is to choose your niche. By ‘niche’, I kind of mean ‘genre’. In other words, what broad category/topic will you write about?
I would say that this is the most important step, but I could really say that about every single step in the process. The truth is, if you want to be in that 2% of big-earners, you need to nail every one of them.
When you’re deciding what niche to write about, you should ask yourself these 3 crucial questions:
- What do I like to write about?
- What do I know a lot about?
- What is there a market for?
The niche you choose should be a valid answer to all of these questions.
For example, I like to write about making and saving money. I also know a lot about these topics, having been a personal finance writer for a long time. There also happens to be a market for self-help books on personal finance topics. Therefore, if I wanted to self-publish an Amazon book, this would probably be a good niche to write about.
If you plan on writing a non-fiction book, you should really know a lot about the topic. If you’re writing a fiction book, this is less important.
Brainstorming Ideas for Book Topics
If you need to generate some ideas, a good way to do so is to browse the bestseller lists on Amazon and think about what topics are trending. Are there certain types of books that seem to come up again and again? For example, a few years ago, sci-fi/romance thrillers like Twilight were all the rage. Romance novels, in general, tend to have a large market. You can find a list of other best-selling niches here.
After you’ve decided what niche you want to write about, brainstorm a few ideas for different sub-topics/storylines.
Validating Your Book Ideas
Next, you need to validate your ideas before you move on to the next step to make sure there’s definitely a market for it.
A good way to do this is to write down several topics and ask people for feedback on which they’d be most likely to read. You could get this feedback through creating polls on Facebook groups, asking friends and family, or through your email list (if you have one).
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Step 2: Write Your Book
Ok, this is probably the hardest part. You need to write a book to self-publish.
The first thing to say here is that your book needs to be awesome. I mean really awesome. Even if you had the best marketing team in the world behind you, if your book isn’t good, nobody will buy it. On the other hand, if your book is great, you should still make money even if your marketing sucks.
So how do you go about writing it? Well, there’s really no definitive answer to this. There are lots of ways to go about writing a book. It really depends on how your brain works.
Some people are planners, others are doers. Some people like to spend the biggest chunk of their time doing a detailed plan and outlining different chapters. Others just jump straight into the writing part and see where their pen takes them. Others still write a rough draft immediately and then do countless revisions until the final product is almost unrecognizable from the first draft.
Ultimately, there are lots of different creative processes and each author has his or her own favorite. Personally, I’m a big fan of the snowflake method when it comes to novel writing.
If you’re writing a non-fiction guide or other informative book, you want it to be as easy to read as possible. Even if you’re not a planner, you need to start with an outline at the very least. I’d recommend making a list of chapters that cover all the main topics that are relevant to your overall topic, then ordering these in a way that makes the most sense.
Editing Your Book
No author is perfect, so once you’ve written it, it needs to go through an editing process (at least if you want to make sure it’s actually good).
Therefore, you’ll want to have it edited or, at the very least, proofread. This will ideally be done by a professional editor or proofreader. You can find freelancers who do this for a living on websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, and they’re often more affordable to hire than you might think.
At this point, you should have an awesome, error-free book with zero grammar mistakes or typos. Now, you need a cover.
Creating Your Book Cover
The cover is instrumental in making sales. It’s the first thing people see when they’re browsing Amazon; it’s the thing that grabs their attention and hooks them in, and ultimately what leads to them making a purchase. This makes it probably the most important part of your whole book. After all, the goal is to make money.
As such, you don’t want to mess this part up by doing it yourself and getting an amateur result. Instead, you should pay for a professional graphic designer to create it. The brief should be to make something that evokes the right mood for your niche, and that stands out from your competition.
You can also task your designer with laying out the text into book format. It has to meet certain specifications that Amazon will provide you with once you’ve joined the KDP program (more on that later). Again, you can find your graphic designer on freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr.
Step 3: Self-Publish Your Book
Now that you have a book, it’s time to get that baby published so it can start generating money for you.
The best, simplest, and more economical way to do this is through the Kindle Direct Publishing program, ‘KDP’ for short. Publishing through KDP makes your book available as an ebook for download to devices like the Amazon Kindle.
There are a lot of benefits to self-publishing through KDP, as well as a few drawbacks. I’ve listed a few of them below.
Advantages of KDP Self-Publishing
- It’s completely free with no upfront costs. That means you can start making money with little to no investment.
- It’s fast. You can upload your book in a few minutes and start making sales within a couple of days.
- You keep all rights to your book and you’re in charge of the price.
- You can edit/make changes to your book whenever you like and re-upload it
Disadvantages of KDP Self-Publishing
- Amazon takes a hefty commission. You only get to keep 70% of the sale price of your book, the rest goes to Amazon.
- You have to do all of your own marketing and won’t benefit from the market reach of traditional book publishers.
Create Your Amazon Book Page
When you publish your book through KDP, you’ll be prompted to put together your Amazon book page. This is the page where your book lives, and where your readership will download it from.
An important step in the self-publishing process is making this page as attractive to your readership as possible.
You should write a great, compelling, accurate description and include reviews from readers and authoritative sources in the relevant sections. You can get these reviews by sharing a free copy of your book with reviewers and asking for feedback from friends and family.
Make sure to use all 600 words and make the description as keyword-rich as possible (keywords should be the terms you think your target readers are searching for). You should also include a few subheadings and format them with H2 tags.
All of the above will help make your book page more indexable by search engines, which will mean more people will be able to find and buy it. This is known as SEO, ‘Search Engine Optimization’. If you want to get serious about SEO, check out this guide.
Make it Available in Other Formats
After you’ve self-published your book in ebook form, you can expand your potential reach by making it available in print too. You can do this through Amazon’s Print On-demand service through the KDP. It’s worth noting, though, that you’ll earn fewer royalties through sales of paperback copies – 60% rather than 70%.
You can also publish an audio version on Audible to diversify your income streams. I’d recommend this if you want to reach the largest market possible, as different people like to consume their books in different ways. Some people will only buy audio books that they can listen to in the car on the way to work, for example.
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Step 4: Marketing
Ok, so now we’ve successfully published a book, you need to promote it. Competition on Amazon is fierce. 485,538,000 ebooks have been sold on the platform by more than 20,000 unique publishers, and many more haven’t been sold.
It goes without saying, then, that you need to do all you can to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t, your book may end up sitting there forever, buried beneath a sea of competition, without a single sale. That’s why this step is so important to making money through self-publishing on Amazon.
Fortunately, marketing your book really isn’t that hard. The hard part is the first few weeks/months. That’s because Amazon won’t be marketing your book for you unless you gain some momentum first.
You want to get on the bestsellers list in your chosen book niche/category so that the platform does the work for you. Once you’re on this list, you’ll consistently reach potential readers and make sales without having to do a thing.
So how do you get on the bestsellers list? Well, you need to incentivize people to download your book early on. There are lots of ways to do this, but here’s what I’d recommend:
Start With a Sale
The Kindle Countdown promotions feature lets you run periodic book sales where you can reduce the price of your book.
Start with a 99 cents promotion and promote it far and wide. If you can generate enough sales thanks to the promotion, you’ll get on the bestsellers list which will help you to consistently reach a large number of people shopping for similar books. Then, when you hike the price afterward, you should get a continuous stream of sales.
Send a link to your book out on relevant social media pages. If you can combine this with the sale, you’re more likely to make sales.
It might be worth investing in paid Facebook ads to expand your reach further and generate more sales. If it lands you on the bestseller list, it will be a worthwhile investment.
Guest posting is writing something for free for someone else’s blog or magazine. It’s sometimes worth doing in order to promote your own book on your guest post, especially if the blog/magazine commands a large audience of your target market.
Step 5: Rinse and Repeat
If all went to plan, your ebook should have started making sales and making you money. The money you earn on that book will be passive, but it’s unlikely to be fortunes. If you’re making a few hundred dollars a month off it, you’re doing great.
Now it’s time to double up on your monthly income by writing another one!
The more books you have, the more money you’ll likely to earn. Authors that have more books tend make the biggest figures. Another advantage of having multiple books is that Amazon will start cross-recommending your books, providing additional free marketing for you.
Publish books as often as you can, and you’ll eventually build a name for yourself and garner loyal fans. At this point, you’ll hopefully have joined that elite 2% and be making a small fortune!
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Extra Tips for Self-Publishing on Amazon
That’s pretty much all there is to it, but I thought I’d finish with some bonus tips for self-publishing on Amazon successfully. Here they are:
- Start Small
While you get your feet wet, it’s best to start with small books. Don’t jump straight into a 100,000-word novel. There’s a big market for affordable, bite-sized books. In fact, Amazon has released statistics that show that books priced between $2.99 and $4.99 make the most sales.
- Write Fast
If you spend years writing a single book, the time investment will be so high that it’s unlikely to be worth it. You have to balance quality with quantity, so don’t dwell for too long on making it perfect. Write quickly and publish books as often as possible.
- Don’t Give Up
Making money from self-publishing is hard. Nobody said this was easy, but it is doable. If you’re not an overnight success, don’t worry! It might take a while, but with enough determination and perseverance, you’re sure to succeed. So don’t give up!