How to Make Money by Self-Publishing E-Books
With e-books now outpacing hardcover books in sales, it’s easier than ever to make a living by selling your own words. Forget about sending query letters to publishers or paying a self-publishing company to print thousands of copies of a paperback that no one may ever buy. These days, you can turn any manuscript into an e-book at no cost and keep most of the profits for yourself (after marketing expenses, of course). Here are four tips for ensuring successful e-book sales.
- Focus on a niche market. To get readers’ attention (and dollars) in the rapidly expanding e-book market, it’s important to specialize and define your audience. Advice-focused books — about weight loss, gardening, or pretty much any topic you can think of — tend to sell well as e-books. If you’re an industry insider, focus on writing for and marketing to the people who want to know your secrets to success. To market your e-book, it helps if you already have a blog related to the subject in question; if not, start one.
- Hire an editor. Straying from the traditional publishing model doesn’t mean you should skimp on quality. Once you’ve finished your manuscript, find a freelance editor through a professional directory such as MediaBistro's Freelance Marketplace or the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Ask your editor to double-check facts, make suggestions for improving copy flow, and proofread the final draft. Publishing an e-book without taking measures to ensure its quality and accuracy could damage your professional credibility, so investing in a professional editor is well worth the cost.
- Price it right. When pricing your books for online marketplaces like Amazon, don’t get greedy. Think about a price point that will encourage potential buyers to buy. If your book shares highly specialized secrets for a trade audience, $10 may seem like a good deal; if you’ve written a romance novel, 99 cents may be the magic number. Your per-book royalties may not be as high as you’d like, but you’re likely to inspire many more sales by keeping costs down. For example, 26-year-old horror novelist Amanda Hocking has sold more than 1 million e-books priced between 99 cents and $2.99.
- Sell wherever you can. It would be great to keep 100 percent of profits for yourself, but unless you’re Seth Godin, you probably don’t have enough website visitors to build an audience for your book without any outside help. In addition to plugging your e-book on your own site, promote it on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, where you’ll maintain a 70 percent share of royalties, as well as on sites including Apple’s iBookstore, Lulu.com, and eBay. It can also be helpful to start an affiliate program to encourage other bloggers and site owners to promote your book; sign up for an account with e-Junkie or Commission Junction to start a formal affiliate program, and begin spreading the word to bloggers in your industry niche.
Kathryn Hawkins is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.