I recently wrote a full-length, 48,000 word book. And I penned the whole thing in under a week.
This post, however, is not about me. It’s about you and how you can make money writing eBooks too.
Over the course of this article you’ll learn how most author’s actually make their money (it isn’t from selling books), the easiest way to tackle a big writing project, and how you can be a full-time writer in your free time.
Let’s get started by looking at a serious dilemma most people face.
Is Writing A Book Worth The Time Investment?
Realistically, most books do not sell well. Even many “successful” authors don’t make much. Books are a tough racket (the majority of people don’t read), and the profit margins are low.
A $9.99 self-published book on Amazon pays the author about $7 in royalties. At that rate, selling 10,000 books in a year (about 28 books every single day) would only net you $70,000. And that’s before you pay any taxes.
In other words, you’d have to bust your hump and market yourself hard (contrary to what Tim Feriss types say, books don’t just sell themselves) in order to make the same as some anonymous pencil pusher with a make-work office job.
Books pay so little, in fact, that many professional authors use them as a “loss leader.”
Allow me to explain.
How Authors Actually Make Money
In 2014 I was hired to ghostwrite a psychologist’s book. It was a generic “don’t let your kids get bullied online” title and my client wasn’t expecting to make any money off of it. They merely wanted to have a published book to their name.
Because the real money (for them at least) was in all the opportunities that being a published author brings. Specifically, speaking engagements. Their end goal wasn’t selling $10 books, it was getting $10,000 speaking gigs. And being a “published author” was just a vehicle to help get them there.
The same is true for most non-fiction writers. Guys like Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins make their money off of seminars, corporate speaking gigs, and private consulting.
While having an eBook can bring in extra money, the real power lies in using it to sell additional services like:
- High-ticket newsletters ($99/month with 100 subscribers = $120,000 a year)
- Paid webinars / seminars
- DVDs / MP4s
Having a whole backlog of high-ticket items is what separates writers making $100,000 a year from ones making $1,000,000 or more.
Now that we’ve covered what eBooks are good for, and how you can position them to maximize your profits, let’s take a look at how you can actually write a full-length book.
Break The Process Down Into Bite-Sized Chunks
(Ogilvy On Advertising is considered a timeless classic. It uses a “listicle” format)
If you can write an article you can write a book.
I’ll prove it to you.
Pick up any non-fiction “how to” book and skim through the table of contents. You’ll find chapter headings like:
- 15 Ways To Maximize Your Home Garden
- 12 Common Grammar Mistakes And How To Avoid Them
- 7 Muscle Building Workouts
- 39 Essential Rules For Starting Your Own Business
What do those chapters sound like? That’s right, articles. You’d see similar content in almost any magazine or major website.
Heck, go on Amazon and type “101 ways” into the search bar. You’ll get book results like this:
- 101 Ways to Build a Stronger, More Exciting Marriage
- 101 Ways to Work Out with Weights
- 101 Ways to Open a Speech
Where else would you see titles like that? If you answered “blog posts,” you’re right again.
While this style of “listicle” writing may seem corny or stupid, many great authors have used it to convey their ideas quickly and effectively.
One of my favorite books, Ogilvy On Advertising, is broken down into chapters that are very list based (“18 Miracles Of Research,” “6 Most Influential Ad Men,” etc…).
Even fiction writers sometimes use a list style of writing to tell their stories. Stephen King’s Cycle Of The Werewolf (for example), is a book that’s made up of 12 short stories all connected by a single theme. While technically not a “proper” listicle, it’s in the same vein.
Lastly, some of the most influential works in human history have been list based. Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses is made up of 95 numbered complaints (many only a single sentence long) against the Catholic Church.
At first glance the document looks more like something you’d see on BuzzFeed, than a text that brought about serious discussions about religious reformation.
In other words…
The Fastest Way To Make Your Point (And Get It Read) Is To Use A List Based Format
You don’t have to write one sentence paragraphs or skimp out on content. But you should break the chapters of your book down into bite sized segments.
Organizing content in a logical and list based manner makes it easier for you to write clearly and allows you to say everything you want to say.
Want proof? Here’s a quick exercise:
Below are two sample chapters for the same book. Which seems less intimidating, and easier, to write?
- Benefits Of Eating A High Protein Diet
- 7 Benefits Of Eating A High Protein Diet
The first feels overwhelming and like you’d be trapped to meander around aimlessly, trying to cover any benefits that might pop into your head.
In the second example everything’s a lot clearer. You have seven main points to make, giving you a definite objective. The task isn’t as vast and scary since you have a clear path with all your major ideas already mapped out for you.
Manage Your Time
(I wrote over 48,000 words using Scrivener)
The easiest way to write your book is to simply sit down and do the work. There’s no “hack” or “one weird trick.”
Block out all distractions, set a timer, and start writing.
Do this for two to three hours every day. Wake up early, skip watching TV, or stay up later than you normally would. There are a lot of ways to “find the time” and you can easily squeeze 120 minutes worth of writing into your daily routine.
As I already mentioned, cutting out distractions is the key to getting a lot done. You can’t write a book if you’re goofing off online or texting your friends.
To deal with this, you should always turn off your phone and put it in another room.
You should also consider one of three options to keep yourself from getting distracted by the Internet:
- Buy a King Jim “Pomera” – This is a Japanese word processor that’s completely distraction free. Writing is the only thing you can do with it, so there’s zero chance of you getting side-tracked with Twitter or YouTube. ( Side note: There’s also a cheaper alternative called the Neo2 Alphasmart).
- Shut off your computer’s WiFi – Probably the most obvious solution, but most people lack the willpower to see this option through.
- Sit outside – Leave your phone at home and go to the local park. Sit on a bench, or in the grass, and type away. This is a very easy way to avoid any electronic distractions and it also allows you to enjoy the great outdoors.
(I do much of my writing while sitting in the park)
If you free up two hours a day for writing, you’ll easily be able to finish a rough draft for your book within a month.
Special Bonus: Are $99 eBooks A Scam?
Before finishing this post, I wanted to discuss something that you’ve probably seen before. Super expensive eBooks that are sold through ClickBank or E-Junkie for $47, $99, or even $197.
Why are these books so expensive, and are they scam products? It’s a good question and I’m glad you asked. The answer has to do with three factors:
- Scope of audience
- Advertising fees
- Profit margins
Let me explain.
Certain books do not have widespread audiences. A book about “starting your own business” has the potential to interest millions of readers. On the other hand, a special report for “FCC regulations for advertising consumable supplements” may only appeal to a very niche market.
The more narrow (and in-depth) your subject is, the higher you can charge for a book.
On the Internet, traditional publishing houses get a lot of hate. Everyone assumes that places like Simon & Schuster or Penguin exist solely to “steal money from hardworking authors.”
In reality, publishing houses do a lot to promote their authors’ books. They handle aspects like distribution, booking interviews with TV and radio hosts, and even sending out sales reps to different libraries and bookstores.
When you self-publish you don’t get this type of support.
Because of this, many self-published books are have high price tags and generous affiliate offers. Blogs and websites are more likely to review, and promote, a $49 eBook with a 75% commission rate than they are a $4.99 Amazon title with a 7% commission.
A higher price tag means higher commissions, which leads to more websites being eager to help sell your book.
What’s the difference between selling a book for $10 vs $100? About $90.
For some people it’s simply more lucrative to sell high-ticket eBooks to a small customer base. While they’ll never sell as many copies as a mass market paperback would, they can often make just as much (if not more).
Usually, these types of books are backed with a huge ad budget ($10,000 to $25,000 a month) while still making enough to cover all the input costs.
By making a book super expensive, the author has a larger marketing budget. $90 worth of ads selling one copy of a $100 eBook is still turning a $10 profit. Meanwhile, $11 spent on ads to sell a $10 book will eventually cause the author to go broke.
As a result, many direct market books have to be higher priced in order for them to make any money.
(It’s easier to write ten 3,000 word chapters than it is to write 30,000 words all at once)
By knowing how to break your writing down into easily manageable bits, work without distraction, and build additional streams of revenue off of your book line, you can create an incredibly lucrative business for yourself.
P.S. If you’re looking for a good book on non-fiction writing, check out my review of How To Write And Sell Simple Information For Fun And Profit.