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$3000+ a month by publishing books on the internet?
Unless you’re one of the few who make it (really) big, writing books isn’t exactly at the top of the list when it comes to wealth creation.
And self publishing online, with nobody backing you, how will you even reach your potential buyers in the first place?
Well, I’m here to tell you that, yes, you can make money publishing books online.
I, myself, am still making $3000 or more every month from doing so (read about how I got started here).
That being said, it does require a certain strategy and mindset to pull off successfully – which most people simply don’t have.
A Beginner’s Guide To Self Publishing On Amazon
In this article, I’ll show you how to do self publishing on Amazon.
As I’ve mentioned before, this is the business model that initially allowed me to escape the 9-5, with the guidance of this video course.
While almost 2 years have passed since then, I’ve released some new titles here and there, and one thing is clear:
It still works.
If you’re interested in generating passive income through the largest ecommerce site on the web, read on — the 7 steps are as follows:
Create Your KDP Account
First off, you’ll need to set up your very own Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account.
This will enable you to publish ebooks to the Amazon stores.
The process is pretty straightforward:
1. Go to https://kdp.amazon.com.
2. Click “Sign up”.
3. Click “Create your KDP account”.
4. Enter your name email address and password.
5. Once the account has been created, make sure to enter your author/publisher, payment and tax information (they’ll guide you through this).
Voilà — you’re now (theoretically speaking, at least) ready to publish ebooks on Amazon.
It’s only the second step, but it’s also the most important one, by far.
What you do with this will determine whether you earn $5 or $5000.
No, that’s not an exaggeration…
If you don’t take your keyword research seriously, your publishing business will never take off, end of story.
However, do it right on a consistent basis, and you’ll have no problem scaling things up.
Niche and keyword research is fully covered in the Self Publishing Revolution course.
While I won’t expose all the details here, out of respect for Luca, I’ll show you the basics you need to get started.
To do effective keyword research for Kindle, you’ll need a tool called Kindle Spy (also known as KDSPY).
This is a useful browser add-on that lets you:
• Get an overview of a category or keyword within seconds — three “traffic lights” show you the popularity, earning potential and competition.
• See the estimated sales and revenue of all the books.
• Generate a word cloud of the most commonly-used words that the best-selling books use in their titles.
• Analyze author pages to see how well their books are doing.
• Track your competitors’ books performance over 30 days.
All of the features are useful, but the key thing you’ll want to focus on is the data found main window.
How To Use KDSPY
When looking at the data, scan for these essential criteria, which are the signs of a profitable ebook keyword:
• The top 5-6 books listed for the keyword should have an Amazon sales rank below 100.000 (the lower the number, the more copies are being sold).
• These 5-6 books should have the keyword itself somewhere in the title.
• Competing books should not have more than 50 reviews on average. If they do, they will be very hard to beat.
Ok, seems simple enough, right?
Now, let’s go through an example of how to do keyword research with KDSPY:
1. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the plugin, click on the KDSPY icon found on your browser’s toolbar — this will take you to the Amazon Kindle store.
2. Think of a keyword you want to research.
Let’s try “keto cookbook”.
Whatever you feel about the ketogenic diet, it’s no secret that it’s quite trendy, which probably means that this keyword is profitable.
Type it into the Amazon search bar and search away.
3. Once the page has loaded, click the KDSPY icon once again, and you’ll be presented with the data.
Wow — look at those numbers!
All but one of the books listed on the first page are selling like hotcakes — sales ranks well below 100k.
If you managed to rank a book here, you would surely make some great money.
Avoiding The Red Zone
Don’t get too excited, though…
Look at the image again and observe the number of reviews the books have (in the column to the left of the sales ranks).
109, 307… 1475!?
To say that this keyword is competitive would be an understatement.
Unless you plan on running a long-term, probably expensive, marketing campaign, you’ll have little-to-no chance of getting your book on the first page.
Still, do you see how smooth the research process is with KindleSpy?
Just type a keyword into the Amazon search bar, click the KDSPY icon and analyze the findings.
Coming Up With A Title
Once you’ve found a keyword that meets the criteria listed earlier, you should think of a title.
The keyword needs to be in it — the earlier it appears, the better.
The subtitle is not that important, but it can certainly score you a few extra points over your competitors.
Here’s an example of a book title based on the “keto cookbook” keyword:
“Keto Cookbook: 105 Healthy & Delicious Recipes For A Ketogenic Diet”
I know what you might be thinking…
That keyword was way too competitive, so why am I not using another one as an example?
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I won’t be showing you a low-competition, profitable keyword in this article.
Well, even if I did sacrifice one of my good ones, you’d be competing with all the rest of the people who read this (which includes other established publishers, no doubt).
The Value Of Good Keywords
If you’re in the self publishing business, feel free to help people out, but never ever give away your keywords.
Finding profitable ones can take hours upon hours of searching and analyzing.
And, when you finally do find one, there’s usually a fair bit of money involved.
So, keep them close to your chest, or you’ll soon see a flood of new competitors attempting to outrank you.
Creating A Cover
You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.
It might have its place when we’re talking about people.
However, when it comes to selling actual books, throw this saying in the trash.
I’ve been involved with online publishing for over 2 years now, and I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt:
People do judge books by their covers, and it shows in your sales.
If you want your title at the top of the rankings, you’ll need a relevant and eye-catching cover.
Where To Get Your Covers Made
Ok, so how do we go about this?
To keep the profit margin high, we’ll avoid hiring from expensive graphic design companies.
Instead, we go to Fiverr and search for “ebook covers”.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of talented, independent graphic designers there — you just have to sort through the less-than-great ones to find them.
I’ve actually had every single one of my covers created through Fiverr.
It may take some time to find a highly-rated freelancer with the style you like.
However, once you do, doing repeat business with them is quick and easy.
After you’ve found a freelancer to work with, it’s time to order your cover.
How To Make Sure The Cover Is High-Quality
To avoid getting a mediocre cover for your book, you’ll have to put in a bit more work than just giving the freelancer a title and topic.
Personally, to assure I receive an eye-catching cover from my designer, I do two important things before placing my order:
1. I come up with a general idea for the design myself.
Sometimes, I get specific, and may even give the freelancer a rough sketch of what I’m after (easily made in Photoshop or even MS Paint).
2. I handpick the images I want to be used.
Cover designers on Fiverr usually list what image sites they use in their gig description. The most common one is Shutterstock.
With a design in mind, I search through the image site(s) myself and pick the most relevant and eye-catching ones I can find.
By supplying the freelancer with images and an idea for the design, I’m rarely, if ever, surprised by the end result.
If I need any modifications, it’s usually something minor, like the font of the text.
Yes, doing these two extra things may add some hours to the process.
However, I highly recommend that you take your time with your book cover — it’s a worthwhile investment.
Getting Your Book Written
Ok, now it’s time to get to the meat of the matter — the book itself.
Just so we’re absolutely clear on this:
You should not be writing the books yourself.
Sure, if you’ve nailed the previous steps, there’s no harm in writing a book yourself, if you’re skilled.
Still, as I explained in my own story about self publishing, you’ll soon realize that you’re fighting a desperate battle against time.
The Mindset Needed For Self Publishing Success
If you’re intent on actually earning a decent income from selling books online, remember this line:
Be a publisher, not a writer.
You’re essentially buying the rights to books and then selling them on the marketplace for royalties.
With this strategy, you can have multiple books in the pipeline at any one time.
This will allow you to scale up your business much, much quicker.
That’s how you make real money with self publishing on Amazon, so don’t forget it:
Be a publisher, not a writer.
Where To Find Ghostwriters
Ok, so where do we find ghostwriters to create our books for us?
Well, opinions are a bit varied on this…
I have indeed tried these services before, and have received some decent-quality work from them.
However, I strongly prefer to handpick my own writers, to make sure their writing style, tone and knowledge of the topic fit my project.
I do this by crafting detailed job posts on Upwork, and then I carefully examine each candidate with my requirements in mind.
Go The Extra Mile
Yes, this takes some more time, for sure, but for me it’s paid off in the long-term.
This is what I recommend you do as well, unless you’re really short on time, or you’re struggling to find suitable freelancers.
If that’s the case, go with a ghostwriting company.
If you’re willing to put in the effort, though, I’ll quickly tell you how I find freelance writers on Upwork.
How To Get Good Writing From Upwork
Here are the steps I go through to get high-quality books written through Upwork:
1. Research & Create A Table Of Contents For The Book
Before I post a new job offer on Upwork, I make sure the book’s table of contents is ready to go.
I do this by researching the fundamentals of the topic online — blogs, guides, magazines, you name it.
Sometimes, I even spy on some of my competitor’s books (on Amazon, click on an ebook’s cover to see inside it, including its table of contents).
Then, I make sure to one-up their ToC by adding additional chapters to mine.
When the table of contents is ready, I simply attach it as a Word file along with the job post.
This makes the researching process much easier for the freelancer, since it allows them to focus more on the writing itself. It also gives applicants a better idea of what to expect.
Also, similar to the cover creation process, doing this removes a lot of uncertainty from the equation.
Instead of just giving the writer a title and a short description, like most publishers do, I supply them with specific topics for each chapter.
If needed, I also add a few lines of notes beneath the ToC itself.
Now, as the writer progresses, I have something tangible I can use to check their work against.
2. Write A Detailed Job Description
In order to attract the right candidates for writing your books, you need to supply them with enough details.
To avoid any confusion, and make sure we’re on the same page, I always write a thorough, precise job description.
From years of hiring writers from Upwork, I’ve come up with a job posting template that works very well for this.
Feel free to copy it:
“Project Type: (Ebook, article etc.)
Topic: Non-fiction: (Niche): (Subniche — if applicable)
Payment: $(Number) per 100 words.
Project Length: Between (Number ) and (Number) words.
Deadline: (Number) days from start.
– The freelancer must be able to write fluent English.
– The freelancer must be sufficiently knowledgeable about the topic, and/or be able to perform adequate research.
– The finished work must be free of plagiarism.
– I am looking for a skillful ghostwriter who can flesh out the attached table of contents and create a helpful, informative and easy-to-read guide to (Topic).
– I am primarily looking for someone who’s interested and/or involved with (Topic).
– The maximum word count for the whole assignment is (Number). The minimum amount needed is (Number).
– You will be paid $(Number) per 100 words. This means that you will be paid a maximum of $(Payment rate per 100 words x maximum word count / 100), and a minimum of $(Payment rate per 100 words x minimum word count / 100).
– When you reach about (50% of maximum word count), you must send me a draft so I can review your progress. This is an important step to ensure that we are on the same page regarding the direction of the project.
Please attach one or more samples of your writing. It does not have to be part of a published work, but must be original and non-fictional in nature.
Any feedback regarding the table of contents is both encouraged and highly appreciated. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you.”
Some notes about the job post, to clarify some points:
• Payment rate per 100 words: I usually set this to anywhere between $1.5 and $2.5, depending on my budget. Any lower than $1.5 per 100 words, and you’ll mostly get low-quality writing.
• Project length: I set this to anywhere between 15000 to 25000, depending on the niche and the length of my competitor’s books. With the right formatting, a 15000-page manuscript will give you a printed book of about 120 pages (more on that later).
• Deadline: I normally go for 21 days (3 weeks) for 15000 words — add more if you’re shooting for a higher word count.
• Interested/involved with topic: This part is optional and highly dependent on the topic of your book. You may want to word it differently, but it’s a nice inclusion to have (most of my best-selling books have been written by people who had an interest in the topic beforehand.)
When you submit your job post, you can also add some questions that the applicants must answer in their cover letters.
I usually go with these two:
– Do you have an interest in, or experience with, (Topic)?
– Have you read the table of contents? If so, what are your thoughts?
The first question gives the freelancer a chance to share their knowledge about the topic.
The second question more or less forces them to look through your ToC before applying for the job.
There’s a few other options you get when posting a new job, but I won’t bother with them here — they are pretty much self explanatory.
Once you’ve included the abovementioned information, go ahead and post your job to Upwork.
3. Choose A Suitable Candidate
Ok, so your job post has been submitted, along with the table of contents you attached.
Now, it’s time to sort through the writers.
It usually takes between 2-4 days for a job post to gain a considerable amount of applications.
Once you have a decent number of people lined up, bust out your magnifying glass and get to work!
Here are some tips on how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to writers:
• Carefully check the body of their cover letter.
Look for obvious spelling errors and weird sentences.
If there are a lot of them, that’s a huge red flag for me.
Just think about it:
If they couldn’t even write a simple cover letter, how are they going to handle 15000 words or more?
• Read through their writing samples.
If you used my job post template, you would’ve requested that the freelancers attach one or more samples of their writing.
Make sure that you take the time to read through every single one of these attachments and/or links.
The more you read, the more info you’ll give to your brain’s pattern recognition system.
As more info is received, any writing flaws will become apparent — flaws which may go unnoticed if you’re just skimming through a single page.
• Read the freelancer’s reviews.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people just look at the ratings while not actually reading the content of the client reviews.
Of course, there’s plenty of skilled writers who haven’t got many reviews yet. Furthermore, a lot of clients simply don’t write anything — they just pay, rate and move on.
Still, if the freelancer has a bunch of written reviews by previous customers, look for these 4 qualities in particular:
– High-quality writing.
– Ability to take feedback and do revisions.
– Good at keeping deadlines.
Sealing The Deal
Once you’ve carefully examined all of the candidates, go ahead and hire your favorite one.
Be sure to remind them of sending you a draft halfway through the writing process.
Other than that, there’s not much more too it than to wait.
(Remember, if your budget allows for it, you should always have multiple books in the pipeline at any one time, to maximize the growth of your business.)
When you’ve received a completed text from one of your writers, you should make sure it’s sufficiently proofread and edited.
You can either do this yourself or hire someone on Fiverr or Upwork to do it for you (again, it depends on your budget).
Publish Your Ebook With Amazon KDP
Once you have the completed text and cover, it’s time to finally put them together as an ebook on the Amazon marketplace.
It’s a pretty straightforward process. Still, there’s a few things that are worth pointing out.
To begin, log in to your KDP account, go to your bookshelf and click on the “+ Kindle ebook” window.
• Use the main keyword — In the “title” field, make sure to type in the keyword-optimized title of your book (for example, “keto cookbook”).
Input the subtitle in the optional field below.
• Write an attractive product description — It’s recommended that you use the description field to its full potential.
On Amazon, you can use HTML to create headings, make text bold and italic, and insert bullet points.
If your writer has created an introduction for your book, you can use parts of it for the description.
I also like to include an H3 heading near the end that says, “During the course of this book you will learn about:”.
Then, I insert a bulleted list underneath it, which contains about 70-80% of the individual topics included in the book (chapters and subheadings).
Beneath the list, I write “and more!” (since I only reveal about 70-80% of the topics on the sales page).
To end the description, I give the potential customer a call to action — something along the lines of “Download now and start learning/get started with (topic) today!”.
If you don’t know how to use HTML, check out this neat little tool.
• Publishing rights — Make sure you select “I own the copyright and hold the necessary publishing rights”.
• Keywords — This is another important part of publishing a new ebook.
Find 7 keywords that are related to your main keyword/title.
Don’t do it lazily by just typing in guesses. Instead, as in step 2, do proper research with KDSPY.
• Categories — Choose the 2 that are the closest matches for your book.
If you target the right categories, people that browse them might get your book in Amazon’s recommended feed/messages.
These are the people who are most likely to buy, so make sure you maximize your chances by putting your book in the right sections.
• Kindle ebook content — Once you’re done with ebook details, click “save and continue” to proceed to the content page.
Here, you simply upload your finished Word file and cover image, and KDP will convert them for you.
Make sure to look through the online previewer to check if everything looks good.
If it does, click “save and continue” once more to move on to the pricing options.
• KDP Select Enrollment — On the pricing page, tick the first box to enroll your ebook in KDP select.
This is highly recommended, since it will enable you to market your ebook for free for 5 days, while getting a nice algorithm boost from Amazon.
It will also make marketing the book at release much easier (more on that soon).
• Territories — Select “All territories (worldwide rights)”. This will make your ebook available on all Amazon marketplaces (Amazon.com, .co.uk, co.jp etc.).
• Royalty and Pricing — Select the 70% royalty plan and set the price to $2.99.
For most (non-fiction) niches, this price point will typically result in the most revenue overall.
When you’re done with all of the abovementioned options, click “Publish your Kindle book” to, well, publish your Kindle book!
Promote Your Ebook To Get Reviews
Now it’s time to promote your newly-released ebook.
Note that this step is not about spending hours and hours funneling people outside of Amazon to your book.
Instead, this step is all about getting reviews, so it ranks higher in Amazon’s search results.
This will result in more organic on-site traffic to your book’s product page, and thus more sales. It will also maximize those sales by providing social proof.
In other words, don’t waste your time “building an audience” or doing fancy funneling tactics with Adwords or Facebook — it’s just not necessary.
Amazon’s search traffic is what we’re after.
Ok, so with that in mind, here are the methods you can use to promote your ebook:
Promo Method #1 – Virtual Assistants
Hire one or more virtual assistants on Upwork to do honest review exchanges in ebook Facebook groups.
Post a job description requesting, “Virtual assistants needed for Kindle, please message me for more details”, or something similar.
The experienced ones will contact you, and you can arrange price rates per review (usually between $1.5 to $2 for each verified one).
Theoretically, getting reviews like this should be fine as long as the reviewers are honest about your book.
However, this method is currently in a kind of grey area regarding what’s allowed.
This is because certain people have been abusing it, which caused Amazon to somewhat discourage this form of promotion.
That being said, this is by far the most surefire way to get those important early reviews for your books — lots of publishers are still doing it.
The finer details of this method can be found in the SPR course.
Promo Method #2 – Free Ebook Submission Sites
If you get a good number of downloads during the promo period (1000+ in total), this may net you a handful of reviews.
Promo Method #3 – Email List
Use an email list to promote your new releases and grow a dedicated base of reviewers.
Build a simple landing page and give away some free ebooks for people’s email addresses.
To grow your list quickly, promote the landing page on established social media channels (if you have any) and through paid ads on Facebook.
You can also put the link inside your ebooks.
Include a short call to action that tells those interested to sign up to get one or more free reads.
When you release a new book, inform your list of the KDP select free promo period, and ask them to leave honest reviews.
Once the promo period is over, send one or two follow-up emails to remind them.
Promo Method #4 – Established Audience
Reach out to an existing audience from one of your (or a friend’s) blogs or social media accounts and encourage them to read and rate your new ebook.
If you have an audience in a niche that’s relevant to your book, you can inform them of the free download that’s available for a limited time.
Once again, ask these people to leave honest reviews, and add that it would really help you out.
If you’ve given enough value and built relationships with them beforehand, many of them will do it just to help you out.
How Many Reviews Do Your Ebook Need To Sell?
As you can probably guess, the amount of social proof needed for a book to rank and sell on Amazon varies greatly.
It mainly depends on these 4 factors:
• The keyword competition— if everyone else on the frontpage has 100+ ratings, you won’t convince many people with a measly 12.
• The level of authority needed in the niche — people may buy a book about growing strawberries without hesitating, but they’ll need some reassurance before they’ll take your advice about trading the forex market.
• The price point of your book — in certain niches, especially technical ones, you can get away with pricing your ebook higher than $2.99. However, this will most likely require a higher amount of social proof as well.
• The amount of saturation in the category/niche — if you’ve targeted a market that has very few relevant books ranked, people don’t have a lot to choose from. In these cases, your book can sell well with just a handful of reviews.
With that being said, I know you probably want some numbers to shoot for.
Don’t worry, I got you:
For most niches with moderate-to-low competition, a good range to hit is 20-40 reviews.
Paperbacks & Audiobooks — Easily Multiplying Your Profits
Many publishers, especially those educated by older online courses, make the mistake of not converting their ebooks to paperback and audio.
And it’s a big one.
Over 60% of my royalties from self publishing come from CreateSpace sales.
Do you really want to leave that kind of money on the table?
Also, since you’ve already paid for the manuscript, there are very few added costs involved when creating the print and audible versions.
What You Need To Make A Paperback Book With CreateSpace
CreateSpace has a newbie-friendly guided publishing setup, so I won’t waste your time by outlining every single step here.
However, there are certain things you need to have sorted before starting the process:
1. Convert your ebook file to a CreateSpace-friendly format.
After you’ve chosen a page size in the guided setup (I recommend 5×8 for 15k-20k words), you need to convert your ebook Word file to match it.
You could do this yourself, but be warned that it’s quite a chore.
If you want to leave the formatting to someone else, you can easily outsource it on Fiverr or Upwork.
2. Convert your ebook cover to a CreateSpace cover.
You’ll need to resize the front cover, as well as adding a back and spine to your physical book.
If you’re Photoshop savvy and can spare the hours, you can do this yourself.
Should you want to save some time and effort, though, I recommend ordering from this guy. As you can see, it’s dirt cheap.
How To Turn Your Ebook Into An Audiobook
Creating an audiobook and getting it onto the Audible marketplace can be done quite easily.
To do this, use the Amazon-owned ACX platform, which connects publishers and voiceover artists.
After you’ve made an account, you can post a new audiobook project to the platform.
Once you’ve filled in all the details and uploaded a short audition script, artists can submit their recordings for your consideration.
How To Create An Audiobook Without Spending Money
If you want to create your audiobook for free, you can select the royalty share option.
Instead of paying the voice talent a flat fee for each hour of produced audio, this will split the royalties 50-50 between them and you.
Considering that the most royalty you can get from retail sales is 40% (with ACX-exclusive distribution), such a split can seem a bit rough.
Still, it’s completely free to set up, while still giving you passive income you otherwise wouldn’t have.
So, even if you don’t have the budget for paying voiceover talent upfront, there’s no reason not to create audio versions of your books.
Beginner’s Guide To Self Publishing — Complete!
Now you know the basics of how to get started with self publishing on Amazon.
This is the main framework that is needed to get your foot in the door.
There’s definitely more to it — vital tricks and tips that will speed up the process and make things more streamlined for you.
However, as mentioned, I won’t lay out the whole Self Publishing Revolution course here, for obvious reasons.
If you’re serious about making big money with self publishing, I highly suggest checking it out yourself.
True Passive Income
As long as you do proper keyword research and put in the work, you can eventually make thousands of dollars, passively, every month from this.
It’s actually the most passive source of income I have right now, besides a few of my smaller niche blogs.
In fact, most of my royalties come from books I published over a year ago, which I haven’t touched since.
I put in the initial effort to rank some high-quality books for keywords I found with KDSPY. Since then, Amazon’s search traffic has done all the work for me.
Pretty sweet, right?
So, the bottom line is this:
If you want to set up multiple streams of income online, self publishing is one you don’t want to miss out on.