How to Make Extra Cash Writing eBooks: Smart Read
Are you ready to start writing eBooks and earning money online? It’s faster, easier, and potentially more lucrative than you may realize right now.
As of May 18, 2020, there were more than 80,000 eBooks in the Kindle bookstore. There are even more eBooks in existence if you count those sold through private websites and other online marketplaces. Those eBooks are becoming more and more popular with fiction and nonfiction readers because they have so many advantages over printed books:
- Instant download for immediate consumption
- Lower prices
- Lots of freebies
- Interactive features
- Easy access to new voices and writing styles
You don’t even need to buy a Kindle or other e-reader to read an eBook. You can download the Kindle app to any smartphone for free, and there are other e-reader apps available. Now that more than 80% of Americans own smartphones, the number of eBook readers is skyrocketing. You can even connect with readers in other countries if you start writing eBooks with universal appeal.
YOU Can Write eBooks & Profit
As a seasoned fiction and nonfiction writer, I’ve witnessed tremendous changes in the publishing industry over the years. I’m excited to tell you that pouring your thoughts, experiences, and creative ideas onto the page and putting your words in front of eager readers is easier now than ever before. Writing eBooks is something anyone with a creative mind can do.
Even more important:
- You don’t need a college degree or even a high school diploma to make money writing eBooks.
- Nor do you need a publisher to get your eBooks out into the world. Indeed, you can self-publish on your own with just a bit of knowledge easily found online.
- You already know something or have experienced something that other people would pay to read about. What you need is to identify what those topics are and get your words on the virtual page.
- You don’t need a substantial income or lots of upfront cash to write eBooks and self-publish.
When I was in college as an English major with a Creative Writing minor, I attended endless writing workshops and seminars. In those days, writers slaved over book manuscripts for months, often years, only to spend years more of their time sending query letters, samples, and manuscripts out to countless publishing houses.
While I wasn’t writing book-length stories at that time, I did spend a significant amount of time searching out print publications for my short stories and creative nonfiction essays. I had to format my stories as dictated by each publisher, print copies on thick paper that was anything but cheap, and then mail it off with envelopes marked with pre-paid postage to later receive my rejections and the occasional contract.
In those days, only a fraction of amazing book and story manuscripts were published. Who you knew and when you submitted were often bigger factors in getting a publishing contract than the quality of your work. Something as simple as the font you printed your work in or the number of pages in your manuscript could earn you a swift rejection without an editor or even an unpaid intern reading the first word.
The internet has changed things significantly. You don’t have to jump through those hoops to write eBooks and learn how to make money from home. You don’t have to spend months or even weeks writing your manuscripts, and you certainly don’t need the approval of a publishing house to put your work in front of hungry readers who want to hear what you have to say.
If you can publish eBooks regularly, you will likely make more money than you would filling out surveys from home. The key is to find what you want to write about and then put out new titles consistently. The rest of this guide will give you some valuable information that will make it easier to get started writing eBooks and earning money from home. Of course, there are tons of ways to make money from home.
But if you like writing, then writing eBooks might be the right way for you!
Writing eBooks & Making Money – The Process
You’ve read through my motivational spiel about how accessible eBook writing is today. Now, how do you go about really writing eBooks that will sell through Amazon or other online marketplaces? The 80,000+ eBooks already published on Amazon may have sounded motivational when I mentioned them before, but now they’re a bit more intimidating when you view them as your competition.
The good news: There’s always room for new eBooks in any category. The prior success of other authors is only proof that you can write eBooks and make good money if you’re wiling to put in the hard work to make it happen.
Let me say that part again: IF you’re willing to put in the hard work.
That’s one of the most valuable money making tips you will ever here. Many people try to make money from eBooks but fail because they simply aren’t willing to dedicate the time and effort that it takes to create high-quality books that readers want to devour. If you’re willing to work hard to make it happen, this overview of the process is your square one:
1. Find your niche or category
Go to Amazon.com and pull up the Kindle bookstore. You can do this by clicking the three lines in the top left-hand corner of the homepage, then selecting Kindle, E-readers & Books, and then selecting Kindle Books. Scroll down the left-hand column until you see a list of categories starting with Arts & Photography. You’re now looking at a list of all the main categories of books offered on Amazon.
Within those categories, there are hundreds if not thousands of sub-categories. Some sub-categories have their own sub-categories. These categories represent the endless niches, categories, or subjects that you can select when writing eBooks.
You can find similar category lists at Barnes & Nobel and any other eBook seller that you want to publish with, but most self-published authors make the majority of their money through Amazon. It’s a great place to start even if you end up making money with eBooks elsewhere.
If all of those categories are intimidating, start by asking yourself some questions:
- What do you already know a lot about and could write about easily?
- When people you know personally ask you for information or advice, what are they often talking about? In other words, you’re the go-to knowledge base for what type of information in your social circles?
- What would you like to know more about?
- Is there any topic you could talk about for hours without getting bored?
- What skills do you have that are in-demand in today’s workforce? What industry knowledge do you have?
- Do you have a creative side that lends itself well to storytelling?
- If you like to daydream or make up stories and interesting scenarios, can you turn those stories and dreams into fictional works?
Go through those questions and write down as many answers as come to mind. You will end up with a brain dump of potential niches or categories for your future eBooks.
Highlight the top five that intrigue you the most. You’ll use that list of five in just a moment, so hang onto it.
While writing eBooks in multiple categories or niches is acceptable, it’s easier to gain a following of readers or fans if you stick to one category. Some writers use a different pen name for each niche or category, keeping their audiences separate. That prevents someone who loves reading your historical fiction novels from buying your saucy erotic novelette and feeling disappointed because it wasn’t what they expected.
2. Make sure there’s a hungry audience for your chosen niche or category
Taking your list of the top five potential niches for your eBooks, go to Amazon’s category list and determine where your eBooks might fall. Click on those categories to see how many books are currently listed. Look at the top five to 10 listings to see how many reviews those books have. You can get a good idea of the size of the readership for the category with that information.
Click through the sub-categories that may apply to your potential eBooks to gather the same information. If you see signs of a hungry market but the top books aren’t quite on topic or appear of low quality, perhaps you have a great niche that you should target by offering your own eBooks of higher quality.
After looking at the competition in each of those five categories, mark two categories of your list. Perhaps the market seems too competitive or maybe you simply aren’t as interested now that you see what’s already available.
You now have your top three contenders for your own future eBooks.
3. Brainstorm potential eBook topics
Come up with at least a few potential titles for eBooks in each of the three book categories remaining on your list. What do you know about those topics that someone else may pay to learn?
This step is a bit harder if you want to write eBooks in the fiction categories. Instead of titles, you may come up with general plot ideas or intriguing characters. It helps if you’re well read in the category of fiction in which you want to write, but some of the best fiction is created with no intended category in mind.
4. Develop your potential eBook titles into outlines
Select one or two of the most intriguing titles you came up with in the last step and create outlines that show what content those books might contain. You can present these ideas as simple bullet points or a list, but you need to distinguish each one as its own section of information within the book.
Make sure everything included in the outline is directly relevant to the title of the book. Ask yourself what someone reading that book would want to learn. What personal stories can you incorporate into the book to make it more relatable and valuable? The more precise you are with the title and intention of the book, the easier it will be to determine what content you should include.
You can’t easily come up with an outline for most fictional works, but you can work toward plotting your novel and developing your characters. Fiction writing is a very different process than nonfiction writing for profit.
I suggest reading Story Genius by Lisa Cron if your goal is to make money online with creative fiction. It’s a great resource for plotting novels without plot holes and other common mishaps. You can use it to see if your fiction ideas will work before you invest days, weeks, or months writing the first draft.
5. Turn each point in your outline into a book chapter overview
Imagine each point of your eBook outline as a chapter in your future eBook. Write a brief paragraph or two describing what you would cover in each chapter. You may also make notes about information you need to research or learn yourself to make each chapter in-depth and valuable. You don’t need to do the research now, wait until you’re writing each chapter out in more detail.
6. Turn your chapter overviews into a working rough draft
Start turning those chapter overviews into actual chapters, one at a time. Don’t get so nervous about writing that you never move past step five. What you’re writing right now is just the rough draft. You can always edit, revise, and polish a rough draft.
You’re really writing eBooks now! Be proud of yourself, and keep taking baby steps forward. One chapter at a time.
If you never write the rough draft, you will never publish an ebook and make money from home.
The writing process can be as short or long as you need. Every writer is different, so just focus on getting words on the virtual page every day. Even if you only have time to write one sentence some days, make sure you write something. It’s all about developing a daily writing habit that will allow you to eventually write eBooks quickly for greater profits. The more frequently you publish, the more you’re likely to earn.
7. Reread and rework your book until it’s exactly what you want it to be
There’s more to the editing and proofreading process than I can possibly tell you in this space. I suggest installing Grammarly to help pinpoint your mistakes. The free version corrects 150 common writing errors, and the paid version corrects 250 common writing errors. Self-Editing Basics from The Write Life is another great resource, and it’s free.
Every writer develops their own process for fine-tuning their work, but I can share my tips:
- Let your rough draft sit for at least a week without looking at it. You need some distance from the work to catch a lot of the mistakes and holes in the storyline or flow of information. I like to write multiple eBooks back to back, basically creating a production phase where I do nothing but write rough drafts. I can then go back and re-read them to start the rewriting and editing process.
- If you created that outline before you started writing, you likely caught a lot of the plot holes or missing information before you started writing. That should save you some time reworking the book.
- I print out my rough drafts one chapter at a time, editing on paper. For some reason, I’m inspired by the paper version and come up with great ideas to improve the work.
- I have a close family member who I trust read everything I write. If you can find someone willing to do that, they can help you determine what’s good enough to publish and what needs more work.
8. Self-publish your books
You’re ready to create a professional cover, write your blurbs, and format your book for self-publishing. That requires far more information than I can possibly give you in this space, but I suggest using Canva to create mockups of what you would like your covers to look like. If you have an artistic eye, you may find that your Canva covers look just as professional as others on Amazon.
If you don’t have that artistic eye, you can find affordable book cover designers on Fiverr. Give them your mockup and allow them to create a polished version.
Start Writing eBooks and Make Money Doing What You Love
What you have now is a good overview of how you can write eBooks and make money online. This is only meant as a general overview of what it takes to earn money writing eBooks. The process can vary, depending on what you’re writing and what literary skills you already have versus those you need to learn.
There are a lot of quick ways to make money, but they aren’t all as potentially lucrative as writing and writing and selling eBooks. The catch is that you need to invest real time and energy into writing high-quality eBooks that will earn you a following with hungry readers. If you’re wiling to take on the journey, look below for resources that will give you a lot more information than I can share here.
Resources to Help You Learn More About Self-Publishing
It’s impossible for me to tell you everything that you need to know about making money from eBooks in this space. I personally recommend continuing your exploration by interacting with other self-published authors. You could find and contact some at KBoards.com and the 20 Books to 50K group on Facebook. I also highly recommend reading Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn and How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn.
For in-depth research on the most popular and profitable Amazon book niches, you can also invest in a subscription to K-Lytics. They also have niche-specific reports that you can buy or a one-time fee. For more information on what it takes to self-publish, check out Self-publishingschool.com and SelfPublishing.com.
Theresa Hammond is a single parent who learned the basics of personal finance the hard way. She now spends her days researching and writing about financial tips and tricks that are relevant to everyday people. She’s also raising two children who have more financial sense than she had before the age of 21. Her writing extends from personal finance to health, wellness, and even a bit of fiction.