Electronic publishing is giving writers more options when it comes to publishing their work. Some writers make quite a bit of money selling eBooks. However, e-publishing is not for the faint of heart or the dilettante. If you want to publish a family history for a few people to read, you likely won’t make much, if any, money. (Although, if your goal is just to make it available for family and friends, e-publishing can be a cost-effective way to do that.) If you want to write eBooks for a living, it requires commitment and ability to market your work effectively, and you must be able to write well and often. If you want to try to turn writing eBooks into a money-making career, here are thirteen tips to get you started. (Note that this article is geared mostly toward writing non-fiction eBooks. Fiction is a different beast and while some of these tips will help you, many will not.)
- Write a great book. Whether you choose e-publishing or traditional publishing, you must write a great book. The marketplace is cluttered with crap that isn’t ready for publication or which is a rehash of everything else already on the market. Your book must be great if it is to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Without that great book, you’ll never make money. You cannot skip this step!
- Promote your book. There are hundreds of ways to promote your book. Successful marketing requires you to identify which methods will best reach your intended audience and then tirelessly pursue those methods to get the word out. Marketing is often more difficult and time consuming than writing the book ever was.
- Find an uncovered niche. Not only must your book be great, it should also address an under-served audience or need. The most successful eBooks have found a new niche, or a new way to present a topic that hasn’t been done before. If you’re book is “more of the same,” readers won’t check it out. They’ll stick with established titles and authors in the field or genre.
- Design a professional website. You’ll need a professional-looking website that offers readers information about your books and yourself, where/how to buy your books, your press kit, contact information, and information about any appearances or speaking engagements that you’re planning.
- Price your work fairly. You may think your work is worth $30, but if similar titles are selling for $9.99 or even $3.99, you’re not going to get many sales. Know what competing titles are selling for and price accordingly.
- Figure out how to use Amazon. Amazon will likely be where you’ll generate a lot of your sales, so figure out how to use it to full advantage. And don’t wait until after you’ve published your book. After that, you’re just playing catch up. You want to have everything ready and set up (your author page, etc.) so that when you publish your book, it’s all there together.
- Pay attention to formatting and cover options. Yes, people do judge books by their covers. You’ve probably seen some examples of cheesy book covers that use stock art and crummy fonts. Make sure you design (or pay to have designed) a professional, unique cover. Also make certain that your book is properly formatted for all of the options you offer. Kindle, PDF, and EPUB all require different formatting. A book that’s hard to read because of poor formatting won’t get good reviews and your sales will suffer.
- Pay for professional editing and indexing (if necessary). Don’t think you can do it all alone. A good, independent editor is worth the money. They will see problems that you are too close to see and that your Aunt Sally didn’t have the heart to point out. If you’re writing non-fiction, a professional indexer is a must, as well.
- Don’t rush the process. E-publishing is easy. Sometimes it’s too easy. Some writers slap a book together and throw it up on Amazon hoping for instant riches. Won’t happen. Success takes time. You have to take the time to edit and polish the book, research your audience and marketing options, and format the book for publication. Rushing to publication will simply mean you’ve got an amateurish piece of work out there that will damage your name for future efforts.
- Leverage the book into other opportunities. The writers who make the most money from eBooks use the books as a starting point. They use their books to turn them into sought-after experts in their field. Then they go on to make money from speaking engagements, seminars, and the like. Figure out what else you can do with your subject matter and use your books as a springboard to other opportunities.
- Don’t trust any “Get Rich Quick” service. As with anything, there are plenty of scams out there promising you riches and success if you use their services. If anyone is offering to get you e-published and promising you untold riches if you just give them $100 (or whatever amount they’re asking for), run the other way. Yes, you will want to hire an editor and maybe a cover designer, but look for professional, independent editors and designers, not scammy services.
- Identify why you’re choosing e-publishing. Figuring out why you want to self-publish eBooks instead of going the traditional publishing route will give you a more realistic sense of how much money you stand to make. Are you doing it because all of the traditional publishers have turned you down? If so, you might want to give some thought as to why you were turned down. Maybe your book isn’t ready or it doesn’t have a big enough audience, in which case e-publishing won’t gain you anything. Are you doing it because you want (and welcome) total control over the publication and marketing processes? If so, and you’re adept at these things and you have a great book, you might have a good chance at making some money.
- Be prepared to write multiple books. Most writers who make any kind of money with eBooks have multiple titles for sale. Having multiple books means that each one can build on the success of the last. You gradually build a brand name that readers look for and happily refer to their friends. Multiple books also means multiple income streams. Maybe your diet book’s sales are drying up but your great new book about vegetarianism is taking off. The more books you have for sale, the greater your potential revenue.
- Consider Starting Small. Many writers begin their eBook careers by penning short works of no more than 40 – 50 pages and pricing them dirt cheap. If you can write an effective “quick start” guide, a general overview of a topic, or a small bit of specialized information, you can build a name for yourself over several books. If those small books are all on the same topic, you can consider them as chapters of a longer work and eventually repackage the smaller books into a single large book, assuming that the small ones sell well. At that point, you can either stop selling the small works and just sell the book, or you can keep the small pieces on the market and allow people to just buy the pieces that they need.
eBooks can be a great way for a writer to make a living, but success does not happen overnight. Nor does it happen easily. Making money with eBooks requires hard work. Writing the book is just the beginning. If you can’t or won’t embrace the editing, promotion, accounting, and other aspects of e-publishing, you’re probably better off aiming for traditional publishing, or finding another career altogether.
(Photo courtesy of BruceEmmerling)