eBooks weren’t as widely received as smartphones, but as libraries began offering free books with more formats and electronics becoming available in the market, people started warming up. By the time dedicated eBook readers like Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle were released in 2006, eBook appreciation reached an all-time high. Of course, it helped too that these eBook reader manufacturers partnered with publishers to release digital versions of their books.

Today, eBooks have their own special place online. By 2018, e-book sales are forecast to account for about a quarter of global book sales. Bookworms either love it, or hate it. But one thing’s for sure – you can make money online by selling eBooks.

Make Money with eBooks in 2 Ways

You have two options when it comes to selling eBooks. You either:

Become a self-published author and sell your own book

Amanda Hocking has tried and failed to get traditional publishers to pick up her paranormal fiction books. In 2010, she decided to self-publish “My Blood Approves” via Amazon to raise extra cash. Within six months, she sold 150k copies of her first book and earned $20,000. Two years later, this book has sold 1.5 million copies and raked in $2.5 million. As of 2017, Hocking has published five different series, with a total of 22 titles.

Or become an affiliate

Marketing plays a huge part in determining the success of an eBook. One of the best ways to advertise your eBook is by creating your own affiliate program, which gives you a chance to earn more royalties from the eBook due to more publicity. Non-authors can also earn money by becoming an affiliate (More on this later).

This guide will show you how selling eBooks is feasible, and which method earns you the bigger cash.

Self-Publish Your Book

Let’s assume that you’ve already finished writing a fiction or non-fiction eBook, chose a head-turning title, designed a visually-appealing cover, and formatted the eBook via different digital formats. When you’re ready to share your work to the world, how do you proceed? You can either offer your work directly to eBook retailers or distributors, self-publish by hiring an assisted-publishing service, or working with a hybrid publisher.

Assisted-publishing service

This type of service bundles up every task needed for publishing properly, such as design, PR and marketing. You pay a fee upfront, but keep 100% of the profits from your eBook. The best thing about services like Matador and Book in a Box is that authors keep rights to their work. Be wary of companies known to take advantage of newbie self-publishing authors and always check their reputation at Mick Rooney’s Independent Publishing Magazine before signing the dotted line.

Hybrid publisher

This type of service combines aspects of a traditional publishing house, and an assisted-publishing service company. Deals differ significantly. Some charge authors to publish with an upfront fee, others may hold off with payment but take a bigger cut on royalties (higher than the industry-standard 50% commission) instead.

If you chose to self-publish without the help of a publishing service, one of the major decisions you’ll face is if you want to publish exclusively on Amazon KDP or go wide with all platforms. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the most popular platform for self-published eBooks and offers the best value to authors (in terms of free promotion) thanks to Amazon-exclusive programs like Kindle Book Lending and KDP Select. You can also check out other platforms, such as Kobo Writing Life, NookPress, and iTunes Producer for iBooks. Authors can also upload their eBooks once, and let modern distributors like Smashwords and Draft2Digital distribute the eBooks to all other platforms.

As an author, you have total control on pricing (preferably somewhere between $2.99 and $9.99). Most eBook stores give authors 35 to 70% royalty, which means you get around $2.09 royalty for every sale of a $2.99 eBook. Authors are also free to create discounted offers and other promotions. Note that most of these stores have country-specific pricing, so it’s best to decide on a fixed price for every major currency, instead of relying on the store’s auto-exchange rate.

Become an eBook Affiliate

Affiliate marketing is an old and simple type of marketing wherein you refer another person to any online product. When that person buys the product as a result of your recommendation, you earn a commission.

When it comes to eBook affiliate marketing, there are three important players – the vendor (the person selling the eBook), the retailer (a platform such as ClickBank, e-junkie, JVZoo, and Gumroad that carries the eBook within its catalog of digital products), and the affiliate (the person promoting the eBook).

The retailer creates a unique affiliate link for promoters in order to track referrals, even if eBook buyers came from Facebook, websites, and other means. Every month, the vendor receives a report of sales generated by affiliates. Either the vendor or the retailer then pays affiliates the commissions based on a particular month’s sales.

  • Create an affiliate program – If you’re an eBook author, creating an affiliate program doubles the marketing efforts without spending thousands of dollars. Affiliates do the extra legwork you wouldn’t have the time or money to do, so giving them a cut of your eBook sales is worth it.
  • Promote other authors’ eBooks – For those who don’t have eBooks, but want to cash in from the ever-growing eBook industry, you don’t have to write your own eBook to make money. Just sign up to Clickbank or other platforms, find eBooks you’ve want to promote, and share the eBook everywhere.

The Bottom Line

Selling eBooks can be a lucrative way to earn money online. Some people even turn them into full-time careers. And if you’re lucky, you can even be the next success-story after “Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L James. Mother-of-two and London-based James was 46 years old when she got obsessed with the “Twilight” novels, discovered fan fiction, wrote her very first novel, and released it as a Kindle book under the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon.” Her success in eBook led to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a publishing deal, movie deal and about $80 million net worth.

Despite reports that eBook sales continue to fall in 2017, eBooks continue to be a money-making machine no one can stop. Many self-published authors explain that the case study only reported books with ISBNs, and since majority of indie eBook publishers don’t use ISBNs, the data is highly inaccurate.

Still, eBooks have lower risks, smaller investment, and minimal requirements to start. You don’t even need a book deal to succeed in this industry. These reasons make eBook production, selling or marketing a doable option to make money online.

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Last Updated: September 8, 2017

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