Last month I made a pleasant discovery. My monthly Kindle earnings were a lot higher than I had thought. Amazon was paying me between $1.33 and $2.44 for every book that someone borrowed. While my actual sales were abysmal, usually less than $10 a month, I was making $20 to $40 a month off borrows.
This month I’ve made considerable more. I’m not raking it in, but I have done alright. My sales have increased tenfold and my borrows have gone up a lot too. When all is said and done I’ll have earned about $100. This isn’t bad especially considering the fact that I only spent a few hours on my project. Over the last 30 days I might have put 10 hours of effort into my books.
Set a realistic goal
If you try to earn $60,000 a month off eBooks you will be disappointed. Since 2013 I’ve published almost 20 titles. And many of them never sold a single copy. This was really disappointing and temporarily killed my interest in writing eBooks.
When I got back into authoring books, I toned my goals down considerably. Instead of aiming for thousands of dollars a month, I decided to try to make $100. This might not sound like much, but it was an easy milestone to reach and something that I can easily replicate.
Aspiring authors should start small. Try to make $100 in a month. Then try to make $200. Keep working towards bigger earnings.
Look for an easy niche
Picking up girls, lifting weights, and making money online might sound like lucrative niches, but they’re actually really hard t make money off of. In 2014 writing “go to a bar and say ‘hi’ to 100 girls” isn’t exactly revolutionary.
Historically speaking, my most consistent seller is a book about an obscure chemical that’s used in certain brands of toothpaste. I wrote it to promote a failed website, but decided to republish it on Amazon. It’s consistently sold a couple of copies every month.
Get into a storytelling mindset
Every day I try to come up with five story ideas. This might sound difficult, but it’s actually quite easy. When I wake up I like to read something out of my Weird Tales omnibus. Then I flip through some of my old pulp novels, men’s magazines, and mass market paperbacks.
If you’re reading Night of the Crabs or The Executioner, you’re going to get some story ideas.
Additionally, coming up with the plot is the most fun aspect of writing a book. If you’re producing short fiction, coming up with a story can actually be pretty entertaining.
When you watch television, or go to a movie, try coming up with a unique twist on the story. Even something as simple as “evil wizard enters talent show” can be used for a pretty decent setup. Use your imagination and read some works of fiction. You’ll get into the habit of thinking creatively and will end up with more stories than you could possibly imagine.
Use an actual word processor
Formatting books can be a major pain. In fact, this used to be the biggest time sink whenever I’d try to publish something. A document that looks good on your desktop can turn into complete garbage once you upload it to Amazon. This is especially true if you’re using a free word processing service like Google Docs.
Now I use Microsoft Word and it automatically formats my books for me. It’s way easier to work with and I don’t have to constantly fight with minor formatting glitches. If you plan on writing a book or twelve, invest in Word.
A lot people gush about genres that sell themselves. But you won’t be moving any copies unless you know something about keywords.
Let’s pretend that you decide to write a gritty exploration style story where the residents of Fraggle Rock immigrate to Sesame Street and cause all kinds of trouble. It’s like Death Wish, with Muppets. The keyword “action” is a little too vague. You’ll have to compete against thousands of other titles. Meanwhile, the keyword “Big Bird avenges Grover’s brutal rape” is a bit too specific.
Amazon has a whole list of keywords that you can look through. Additionally, there’s no rule against making your keyword into an entire phrase. You can write “alternate history stories” instead of just tagging something as “history.” This is nice because it lets you dial in on your target audience.
Lastly, not all keywords are created equal. If you’re thinking about a certain phrase, look it up on Amazon and see what the top-selling book is rated. The closer the book is to #1, the more money you’ll make. If the first title is rated #7,689,735 it isn’t selling well. In fact, it probably hasn’t sold a single copy in months. In contrast, something with a ranking of #107,300 is selling about a copy every other day. And a #30,000 would be moving multiple units every 24 hours.
Personally, I’ve never had a book rank about 100,000. But that’s okay because my works have started to sell consistently and I don’t bother with any black hat selling techniques. Once one of my titles goes up, I forget about it. Having a few books that sell copies every other day is fine by me. I’d rather have four titles that each move 15 units a month, for 12 months, than a book that I manipulated to the top before it faded out after two weeks.