Can Amazon Self-Publishing Make You Money?
The Internet has revolutionized so many industries and businesses.
In the publishing world, in particular, it has leveled the playing field, allowing authors to take control and publish their work without having to go through the “gatekeepers,” i.e. traditional publishers like Random House. (And, by the way, 99 percent of books put out on shelves by traditional publishers do not turn a profit — which means the author doesn’t earn anything.)
There are several ways to publish your work online… and make money, too! But one service, in particular, has become the go-to resource for authors because of the profit potential and ease of use: Amazon self-publishing.
You don’t have to be a professional writer… or have been previously published… or have any Internet business experience at all to start Amazon self-publishing. Anybody can use this platform to get their work out into the world and into the hands of waiting audiences. According to Author Earnings, there were 485,538,000 ebooks sold on Amazon by 20,000 unique publishers.
You could write about something you’re passionate about. Fiction. Nonfiction. Biographies. History. Children's books. Popular categories on Amazon include self-help, health and fitness, cooking, hobbies, romance, travel, young adult… the list goes on. You can bet there is an audience for just about any topic out there.
You might already have a topic or topics in mind. If you don’t, that’s fine too. In both cases, you should check out Amazon and scan all the different categories and bestseller lists. This will give you an idea of what themes or subjects sell and have profit potential. If you see your idea often when doing this search — run with it. If not, you might want to try a more popular topic with a built-in audience.
You can also spot the “gaps” when doing your Amazon search. This means looking for popular and trending topics out in the world that are not covered well already by Amazon books. You can bet there are plenty of people who would love the buy the book you produce.
Of course, to have Amazon self-publishing create a steady income for you, you do need to take some steps. Your books aren’t going to sell themselves. Because you are the publisher, you’re also the marketer. You have to get the word out about your book. And you won’t be an overnight success. But you can make money… and the opportunity is growing. In fact, ebook sales on Amazon increased by 4 percent in 2016.
One of the authors driving that increase is Adam Croft, who writes and then puts out his mystery novels through Amazon self-publishing. He started in 2011 and after publishing nine books over the years, made $1.4 million in 2016.
Types of Self-Publishing Options on Amazon
The most cost-effective and efficient way to do Amazon self-publishing is through ebooks, which allows people to download your work directly to their devices, like the Kindle ebook reader. And Amazon has facilitated this process with Kindle Direct Publishing program, which has no fees to use — it’s self-publishing with no upfront costs. (You do need an Amazon account.)
This program has several advantages:
- You can upload your book on the platform in just a few minutes. And your book will be on sale in a couple of days at most.
- You retain the rights to your books and can set your own prices.
- For every book sold, you get to keep 70 percent of the sale price. Amazon keeps the rest.
- You can make changes to your book and upload changes at any time.
If you’d like to have a print book out there too, you can use a feature called print on-demand. This option, with paperbacks, is also available in the Kindle Direct Publishing program.
There are some differences. For example, with paperback Amazon self-publishing you get 60 percent royalties, instead of 70 percent. Also, because this is print on-demand, Amazon subtracts publishing costs from each sale too.
Once you have a good handle on the Kindle Direct Publishing program, you could take it to the next level with the KDP Select program, which allows you to reach more readers and make more money, although there are important guidelines to follow. Start with the standard program first, experience some success, then check out the Select version.
Marketing Your Amazon Self-Publishing Products
One key thing to sell your book is to create an attention-grabbing page for your Amazon self-publishing listing. A detailed description will “convert” more casual book browsers into buyers. And, when you use keywords related to your topic, people searching Amazon or Google will see your book high in the search results. Keywords also come into play when you pick your book title.
Reviews are also vital in selling your book. People want to see what previous readers thought before committing to buying. So, as a new author, where do you get reviews? Send the book to people in the industry or experts in the topic covered in the book, co-workers, friends, and family… then ask them to submit an honest review.
You should also put out in the word out on your social media like Facebook and Twitter. Put up a website. Create an email list. Join forums related to the topic of your book and join the conversation… and casually mention your book. Comment on blogs in the niche, with links back to your book website or Amazon page.
How You Make Money With Amazon Self-Publishing
The first step here: get your books online on the Kindle platform! And get the word out through intensive marketing. Don't be shy about telling the world about your book.
It’s also important you know that putting out just one book through Amazon self-publishing probably won’t bring in a lot of income. Those self-publishers who do make four figures per month — or more — have multiple books for sale. This gives you two important advantages.
First, this gives you more of a chance to write in a popular category and catch the audience’s eye.
Second, you’re more likely to have one of your books “cross advertised” with another — you know, when the Amazon site lists other products similar to the one you just bought or have been browsing? Many people click on those links to find out more about those related products, in this case books, and buy them too.
How to Create Your Book
The first step here, of course, is to actually write the text of your book. A few tips here:
Once you have a topic create an outline, do your research… then start writing. Don’t put it off!
It can be tough to think about writing a whole book. But it’s not so bad once you break it into steps. Write a bit each day and before you know it your book will be done.
If you’ve already written a book — you could use that. Although you should read it over before proceeding. And if you write a blog or a journal, you could collect those writings into a book, if appropriate.
Next step — show it to a trusted friend or family member (or even better somebody you know who has experience or an interest in the topic you’ve written about) to get their feedback on the content. Based on what they say you might edit or tweak your book.
Once you have the content of your book sorted out, there are a few more steps before you can submit it for Amazon self-publishing.
You want your book to be presentable and look good. So first, you should hire a proofreader to make sure there are no typos or grammar mistakes. Mistakes are a big turn-off to readers. You can find affordable proofreaders on sites like Upwork.com. If you know someone who’s a stickler for grammar, hire him or her.
Next, you should hire a graphic designer to create a cover (based on your specifications) and lay out the text into book format. For Amazon self-publishing, you need to follow certain specifications that they’ll give you once you join the KDP program.
Great design and error free copy — plus, compelling content that readers find valuable — is key to getting positive reviews. And those are worth their weight in gold when it comes to increasing your sales.
Next Steps for Amazon Self-Publishing Success
Find a winning theme. Write the text. Get it designed. Join the Kindle Direct Publishing program. Upload your book… and start selling.
It’s a simple process. But that’s what Amazon self-publishing is all about.
As you go through these steps, you should take care not to spend too much time. You won’t be able to make any money unless your book is online and for sale. So get it as close to perfect as you can, then get it out there.