Today, it’s easier than ever to become a published writer. The days of posting a hard copy manuscript off to a publisher, then waiting for the inevitable flood of rejection slips are long gone.
Now you can write a book, format it to look professional, and list it for sale on the world’s biggest marketplace in less than a week. You also get to keep more money from the sale of the book.
On average, authors published by the traditional route get paid around 10% of the sale price of a book. But if you self-publish on the Amazon Kindle store, then you get to keep as much as 70% of the total sale price.
But you might be thinking ‘I could never write a book’!
It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t need the talent of Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, because I’m not talking about creating 250-page novels, but hot-selling ‘how-to’ non-fiction books instead.
The popularity of these little 30-80 page books that help a reader solve a problem has rocketed in recent times.
Know a lot about filo pastry baking? There are thousands of people out there who are willing to pay for that knowledge and have it immediately delivered to their Kindle reader.
You can take almost any subject that you have some knowledge on, create a short 40-page book, and then earn passive income from it for years to come. And if you don’t feel qualified enough to write a book, it’s easy to hire a writer to do it for you.
This guide will show you all the essential steps you need to master to enter this lucrative market.
I’ve previously written about developing content ideas over here in Your Content Plan. You can use some of the tips there to help think of ideas for books you might want to write. But before you begin writing a book, you need to check that there is a market for your idea.
Don’t try and create a niche of your own. You might know all there is to know about making whiskey tumblers out of stone, but if there is not a market for your knowledge, then all your efforts could be for nothing.
The best place to find out if your idea has a market is on Amazon itself. Here’s how.
1. Open up a new incognito tab in your web browser (this is so that you get ‘raw’ data from Amazon that isn’t skewed by existing shopping cookies on your computer). Select the Kindle Store and then click the magnifying glass without entering a search term.
2. Next, select ‘Best Sellers & more’.
3. Scroll to the foot of the page and select ‘Kindle Best Sellers Updated Hourly’.
4. The screen now displays the top-selling Kindle ebooks, updated on an hourly basis. Make sure to select the ‘Top 100 Paid’ books, rather than the free ones. Use the categories on the left to drill down into the areas of interest that you might like to create content for.
5. I’m going to research the Gardening niche. When I drill down to that category, I find a self-published book about Raised Bed Gardening. As you can see, it is currently at number 17 in the Gardening section. And the author has another book on gardening at number 18 too – there is clearly money to be made in this niche.
6. I then click on to the product page and scroll down to the section that shows the Product Details. This bit is essential; you need to understand how Amazon ranks products.
Amazon uses a ranking system they call BSR – it stands for BestSeller Rank. It’s like the Top 40 singles charts, where the lower the number, the better the ranking. But Amazon has millions of ebooks for sale.
A book with a BSR in the top ten will be selling thousands of copies per day, and one with a BSR of 1 million will be lucky to sell a copy every three months.
Let’s look a bit deeper into this one.
You can see it has a BSR of 8385 (also note that the book is only 92 pages long, and it probably includes lots of diagrams too.)
7. To find out an approximation of how many sales a book with a BSR of 8385 makes per day, go to this handy calculator. In the result below, as you can see, it’s estimated that this book is selling 31 copies per day. This means the author is making around £64.88 per day for this one book alone.
8. Here are the criteria I use for researching niches to create self-published ebooks for.
Finding this number of books selling with this BSR and price point means that there is a substantial market for the niche, and it’s one you can consider competing in.
If you want to go a little deeper and get more information on choosing a niche, there is an excellent guide here on hotghostwriter.com.
Now that I have picked a topic in the Gardening niche – Raised Bed Gardening – it’s time to craft a winning title. Getting the title right for a book is very important, and you should spend some time thinking about it.
When creating a title for a book, blog post or even a podcast, I try to get in my audience’s head and consider it from their perspective.
The first step is to think about the keywords a potential customer might use. Then I need to think about the kind of audience I want to attract.
Clearly, I need to include the phrase ‘Raised Bed Gardening’. So I plug that starting phrase into answerthepublic.com, which finds related terms people are using on the topic.
Here are some of the questions and phrases I picked out.
From this, I can craft together a title and subtitle for my book that should cover a lot of the phrases potential customers will be using to look for the information. I’ll make sure to include a benefit and target an audience too.
I’m going to go with the title:
How to Build Sturdy Raised Garden Beds for Beginners.
This title offers a benefit (sturdy), is targeted to an audience (beginners), and uses the central keywords.
Scribewriting.com has a great post on How To Write The Perfect Book Title if you want to go a little deeper.
OK, so now I have a niche and title, it’s time to get writing.
Writing a book can appear intimidating at first. But this is a self-limiting view. Probably made worse by an internal image of a seasoned author sat at a dusty old typewriter with half-moon glasses perched on her nose.
It’s not like that. If you have a laptop and somewhere to rest it on, you can be a writer too!
And don’t forget that the kind of books I am talking about are frequently only 30-40 pages long, sometimes even shorter. People are looking for solutions to a problem that they have.
If you can provide that solution in a short book packed with valuable information, then you will get sales and good reviews.
Break up the project into smaller chunks. A 40-page book, which includes some pictures or diagrams is about 15,000 words. So, if I were to write 500 words per day, I could complete the job in just 30 days.
If I devote a bit more time each day, I can easily write 1000 words – I can write my first draft in about two weeks.
Also, don’t think that you need to have a natural talent to be a writer. It’s a skill that will improve with practice. It’s best to write a little bit every single day, if you stick at it and write regularly, I bet you will surprise yourself just how much you can improve.
A useful resource is a book called On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, you can pick it up on amazon here.
It demystifies the writing process and gives lots of handy tips on how to improve your writing. I found it very useful when I started to write my own content, and unsurprisingly it’s really well written.
So, I’ll create a plan for my book, list the main points I want to cover in each chapter, and then spend a little time each day writing up the first draft. Next, it’s time to edit and proofread the draft.
Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is garbage“. The secret to good writing is editing and proofreading. I wish that this was taught more in school because writing is a valuable life skill.
Unless you did a specialist writing course at school or University, you probably don’t know that the best writing comes from editing and rewriting what is already drafted.
This is a critical step to take when you are self-publishing ebooks. Selling a lot of books on Amazon requires readers to leave positive reviews about your book.
If a book contains spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, then Amazon reviewers will enjoy pointing this out to you.
So, once I have written a draft of something, I like to use a couple of tools to polish and edit the text so that it reads well.
One tool that helps me to write concisely is a free online tool named after Ernest Hemingway called hemingwayapp.com. Paste some written text into the free online editor, and it gives suggestions on how to make the writing clearer. There is also a paid version too you can install on your laptop.
Another tool which is valuable to writers and helps to iron out the misplaced commas or incorrect spelling is grammarly.com.
Grammarly is the tool to have to tidy up a finished book. It is a paid service but does have a free Chrome browser plugin for basic assistance. To get the most out of it you really do need to take out a subscription, but it’s invaluable for producing good writing.
Now I have my gardening book written, edited, and proofread. I need to package it up into an attractive and presentable format.
It’s actually easier than you might think to do this now. When Amazon KDP launched back in 2009, producing a good-looking manuscript required design skills.
Today, there are fortunately plenty of services that can take a document, pdf, or series of blog posts and format them into an attractive ebook.
One solution I use frequently is designerr.io.
There are various monthly subscription levels, but the standard level of $29 will be sufficient to create an ebook for uploading to Amazon KDP.
Here is a short video about how the software works.
Once your ebook is nicely presented and in a format suitable for publishing on Amazon, then it is time to upload it and become a published author!
Register for the Amazon KDP program.
To become a part of the Amazon KDP program, you have to create an Amazon Account then complete the registration process at kdp.amazon.com.
Once inside the following screen will show:
You need to complete personal information and enter your bank details before you can publish your ebook.
Next, there are three steps where I need to:
The first screen requires information about my book, the category I want to sell under, and the keywords I want to use.
Once I have this completed, save and continue to the next step, there I upload my manuscript and cover image for the ebook.
Save and continue again to reach the final step, where I set the price of my book, and choose a royalty plan.
As you can see, once I have completed the process, it can take up to 72 hours before it’s available for purchase on Amazon. But, that’s OK as I need to organise some promotion for the book. So let’s look at this next.
Book promotion is a bit like building a snowman. Starting with a tiny snowball, you roll it around, and soon enough it grows until every roll adds more to the mass.
I need to get my little snowball rolling in order to obtain the initial reviews that spur on more sales.
Amazon has a page dedicated to promoting your ebook, and I’ll highlight a couple of the methods you can use for publicity.
I can make my book available to Kindle readers for free for 5 days out of every 90 days. And who’s going to turn down a free book? Especially if it promises to solve the problem they are experiencing.
The idea, of course, is that they will leave a positive review which will give me some traction on sales once it transitions back to a paid book.
Don’t fall into the trap of paying for reviews. Unscrupulous authors (and other sellers) on Amazon sometimes use third-party services to pay for reviews to try and ‘game’ the system.
This is short-sighted. If Amazon catches a seller paying for reviews, then they will quickly zap the account, and make it hard for them to sell on the platform again. Make the quality of your book the reason why you get rave reviews.
Amazon has an internal paid advertisement feature. You have probably already noticed them when shopping on Amazon; they show up as ‘sponsored’ content when you do a search.
It’s quite a simple process to set up. There are two options for ebooks. I can choose to have my book feature at the top of the listings as a ‘sponsored’ product when a visitor performs a search.
Alternatively, I can have an ad for my ebook displayed on the home screen of a user’s Kindle Reader as a pay per click advertisement.
A word of warning, though, paid advertising can soon rack up big bills. You must watch any campaigns that you set up carefully, or you might need to shift copies like J. K. Rowling to pay the cost!
A wonder of today’s connected world is that it’s possible to quickly become a published author without actually doing any niche research, writing, or formatting yourself.
Use freelance websites like Fiverr.com or Upwork.com to outsource the tasks. Each site operates a little differently. On Fiverr, freelancers post specific ‘gigs’ – work – that they will perform and the price they charge for that work.
For Upwork, you post a job that you want completing, and freelancers apply for the job, quoting a rate and sharing portfolio items.
Here are some results on Fiverr for ‘kindle niche research.’
So, it’s possible to think of a few general topic areas and get a freelancer to find the hot-selling niches for you.
Then, once you have a hot niche, you can get a freelancer to write the ebook for you. Hiring a writer can be problematic, though.
Anybody with an internet connection and a keyboard can call themselves a writer, and the quality and price to hire them vary enormously.
Hiring a writer tips.
Make sure to hire a native speaker. Placing a job posting for a writer on Upwork will attract applications from dozens of self-proclaimed writers, and some will live in countries where English is not the first language spoken. Make sure that they are an English native speaker, or your draft manuscript could come filled with mistakes and clumsy grammar.
Pay the right price. You get what you pay for. Believe it or not, it is possible to get a freelancer to write a 5,000-word manuscript for about $30. It’s also quite possible that the product they deliver to you will be filled with plagiarised content, copied wholesale off the internet.
Budget at least $0.05 per word, more if possible. The difference in quality will show. Once you have the final manuscript, use a service like copyscape.com to check for plagiarism. If the final product is to be sold on Amazon under your name, then you will be held responsible for any Copyright infringement.
Audition writers. It’s quite acceptable to request a sample of writing from freelancers before hiring them. If the price for the project is good enough, then asking a writer to produce 200 words on a topic you choose, can help you weed out the wannabes.
When the final manuscript is ready, it’s possible to outsource the last step of formatting for uploading to Amazon KDP. One point to note is that the old adage of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is absolutely false in regard to selling ebooks on Amazon.
Here is a feature that the telegraph.co.uk did on the topic:
Well, that about wraps it up for writing and selling ebooks via the Amazon KDP program. Entrepreneurs that dedicate themselves to this one method, and do it well, regularly earn a six-figure income.
Head over to the Amazon Kindle best-seller section now, and get started with your own niche research.