How to make money from eBooks
Looking to self-publish an eBook and make money? We don't blame you – it can earn you some serious cash and it means you can officially call yourself a published author. The dream.
Most people think that, unless you get lucky and end up becoming the next J. K. Rowling, writing books is not an easy way to make money.
But remember that blockbuster film The Martian (starring Matt Damon)? It actually started life as a humble self-published eBook. The book's author, Andy Weir, sold the novel as an Amazon Kindle book for 99 cents a copy. Before long, it was topping best-selling charts and Hollywood took notice.
Give or take a bit of Hollywood glam, that's all publishing an eBook is: taking a text document, converting it into an eBook and selling it – and we'll talk you through how to make as much profit from it as you can.
What's in this guide?
How much money can you make from eBooks?
Producing an eBook can be ridiculously cheap and, often, completely free, and selling your own ebook can net you anything from several pounds a day to almost nothing.
The good news is that you get lots of say in your potential earnings, so it's worth taking a look at the sums:
- eBooks sell for anywhere between 99p to £8.99 and up, but the store (and your publishing platform) will take a chunk of each sale
- You can sell your book for whatever price you like – and you can alter the price to test different tactics – but the ideal price depends on your book's length, reviews and competition
- If you've got cash to invest (or can crowdfund to pay for it), you could spend money on extra marketing for your book to increase its chances of success, but there are lots of ways to market it for free, like on social media.
Tips for making money from your eBook
Follow these steps to earn as much money as you can selling eBooks:
Choose a popular topic for your eBook
We'd recommend writing about something you're genuinely interested in, rather than just choosing a topic that you think is going to make you money. If you have a book idea and feel like it would be something you'd buy yourself if you saw it in a shop, you're onto a winner.
Your readers will be able to tell if you're passionate about the subject, and getting the words down on paper will be a lot easier for you as well.
Pick a subject you're genuinely interested in but, that said, it's also worth looking at what sells. Visit your local book shop or check out the best-selling lists on Amazon, Waterstones, and international sites like Barnes and Noble.
Fiction (particularly erotic fiction) is by far the biggest seller in the eBook market, but that doesn't mean other areas aren't profitable as well – it's all about finding your niche.
For example, eBooks on religion and spirituality, and business and money, also tend to do well.
Best ideas to write as an eBook
- Your original novel, poems or short stories
- Your old essays (check with your uni first!) or a study guide for your subject
- A practical guide about something you know really well: living on a budget, bike maintenance, making the perfect dating app profile – anything!
- A children's book (even better if you can illustrate it too), or graphic comics
- City guides or a collection of your favourite walking routes
- Out-of-copyright books, repackaged with notes, an intro, or a translation and sold under your own imprint
- If you're fluent in another language, team up with another writer and publish a translated version of their work.
Write your eBook to a high standard
The more time and effort you put into your eBook, the better it will be – and therefore the more you can charge for it.
To create a high-quality eBook, you will need to be willing to spend months (or even years!) writing it, and then proofreading and editing multiple drafts until it's up to scratch.
Using free software to edit your eBook can hugely help to improve its quality.
We suggest downloading Grammarly to make sure you're writing is free from spelling and grammar errors. And, try to get feedback on your writing from as many other people as you can along the way.
The writing process might take a while, but it will be worth it to produce a high-quality text. Not only will this mean you can add a higher selling price to your eBook, but your readers will also be more likely to recommend it to people they know, meaning (hopefully) more sales.
We've written a full guide to writing and publishing your eBook to help you get started.
Choose the best-value publishing platform for you
Once your eBook's ready for publication (yay!), the hard work is nearly over. The next step to take when considering how best to monetise your eBook is to research which publishing platform you could make the most money on.
For an in-depth rundown of the leading sites, have a look through our guide to the best eBook publishing platforms.
Develop a marketing strategy for your eBook
Just as it pays off to spend time writing your eBook to as high a standard as you can, it's also worth putting a fair amount of your energy into marketing your eBook.
To make money from your work, it's super important to get the word out there, and your eBook marketing needn't cost you a penny.
Social media is a hugely powerful marketing tool, so it's worth setting up professional accounts across major platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that will be focused on promoting your published eBook.
For inspiration, have a look at how your favourite authors present themselves online. Often, with successful writing accounts, you will see a good balance between posts about day-to-day life as a writer, with promotional posts about their books interspersed throughout.
On top of this, it's also worth making a website with your writing portfolio that links out to where to buy your eBook.
Plus, you could contact book clubs directly to see if they would be interested in reading your text at a discounted price.
Enter your eBook into writing competitions
After spending so long perfecting your eBook, you deserve a little credit for your masterpiece. Writing competitions are not only amazing for kudos, but they often come with rather nice cash rewards...
Writing competitions aren't the easiest way to make money from your eBook as they're generally very competitive, but they are definitely worth a go. We'd recommend any writer to enter them.
A quick Google search will help you find loads of writing competitions throughout the year. Bear in mind that some will only accept unpublished entries, but sometimes you'll find competitions that are open to entries from published writers as well so keep a lookout.
Bonus: if you win any competitions, you could list them on your social media bios and website to build your reputation as a writer and attract more potential readers.
Publish a series of eBooks
If you publish a successful eBook and find yourself with a growing audience, you could consider writing a whole series of texts built around the same characters or themes.
The best ways to approach writing an eBook series would depend on the nature of your work (i.e. fiction or non-fiction), but stick to your instincts about what feels right. Think about whether it would be a natural progression for your eBook to become part of a series of works.
For example, if your first eBook was a novel about someone's first year of uni, readers would likely be keen to read follow-up stories about the student's adventures in their second and third years too.
Make sure that, if you do write a follow-up text, it's written to an equally high-quality as the first. And, above all, make sure any future eBooks within a series all have their own artistic value, and aren't purely written for the money.
You could make a fair amount more money by writing follow-on eBooks, but only if your readers consider them to be worth their time and cash. Otherwise, you could be looking at complaints, refunds and poor reviews, and no author wants that.
Extra benefits of self-publishing an eBook
Of course, money isn't the only perk that comes with writing a book. Here are some other key benefits of self-publishing an eBook:
- Quick publication – Rather than waiting to find, pitch to and get accepted by a publishing company, by self-publishing your work as an eBook, you can massively speed up the process of selling it and have full say over how and when it's published.
- Career boost – Getting a book to market is great work experience. It's a brilliant way to boost your CV for lots of careers including publishing, retail, sales, management and marketing.
- Passive income – Even if you don't become a millionaire, publishing a book can set you up with passive income for years to come.
- Anyone can do it – Don't be put off if you're not creative or super knowledgable in niche areas. All you need is an idea, a bit of lateral thinking, plenty of motivation and time. And this guide, of course.
Paying tax on money you make from eBooks
The money you make from each sale of your eBook is known as royalties. As with any source of income, once you start earning money above a certain amount, you'll need to contact HMRC. No need to panic: our guide will show you how to submit a self-assessment tax return if you need help.
Most publishing platforms operate internationally, which means you've got potential customers around the world! Unfortunately, if you earn money in other countries, their governments will want a slice of your hard-earned sales too.
But doesn't that mean you'll be paying twice as much tax? Quite possibly, but the good news is that the UK has a number of tax treaties in place with various countries to stop you paying again.
Whether you can claim the tax treaties depends on your nationality, where you live, and lots of other details which means we can't go into all the fine print here. But don't worry – each publishing platform will explain exactly what forms you need to fill in to deal with this.
Hoping to sell some old books online? Our guide will help you make a nice amount of money from them.