How to Make Money by Writing and Selling Books and Ebooks on Amazon

See our Free Money page for the best ways to get free money now (sign up bonuses, missing money, and more).

If you’re looking for a way to make money and you enjoy writing, one legit option is to write and sell books or ebooks on Amazon. The world of self-publishing has changed very rapidly over the past 5 years, and Amazon’s platform has been a major contributor to those changes.

Amazon makes it possible for the average person to become a published author and make money by selling books of all types. Regardless of whether you already have an existing audience or are starting from scratch, it’s very possible to make money with this approach, and people all over the world are proving it.

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has lowered the barriers and made it fast and easy for anyone to start making money as an author.

While I have experience selling private label products on Amazon, I’ve never sold books or ebooks on their platform. I wanted to get some insight from an experienced Amazon author so I reached out to Avery Breyer.

Avery launched her first book in 2015 and she currently has six different books for sale on topics related to personal finance and making money (check out her books here). Avery graciously agreed to answer some questions related to selling books/ebooks on Amazon and you’ll find that interview below.

Avery Breyer is a multiple best-selling author, freelance writer, and real estate investor. She is passionate about helping people take control of their money and create the life they want.

She’s been seen in Woman’s World and Essence magazines, on live radio, and other media outlets.

She helps her readers get the motivation and action plans they need for financial success, with simple techniques anyone can implement, starting now.

Her popular Smart Money Blueprint series of books includes, How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck, How to Raise Your Credit Score, and How to Be Debt Free. You can also learn how she started a particularly lucrative side hustle from home in her bestselling book, Turn Your Computer Into a Money Machine.

Avery Breyer

Avery Breyer

If you’re interested in learning how to become a self-published author, you may be interested in the course From First Draft to Bestseller: Self-Publish and Market a Book That Readers Will Love  by bestselling author and teacher Jonathan LaPoma. This in-depth course is available on Skillshare and you can get free access for two months through this link.

How to Sell Books and Ebooks on Amazon

In this interview, I think you’ll find some great introductory information that can help you to decide if becoming a self-published author would be a good fit for you.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I never know where to begin with this question, but I’ll try to be brief… 🙂

In a nutshell, I’ve always had this crazy dream to travel full-time for as long as possible – I wanted to be a digital nomad. And in mid-2014 my husband and I had what I like to call our “epic mid-life crisis” (we quit our perfectly good jobs, decided to homeschool our kids, and travel the world for as long as we could… a lot of people thought we were crazy to do this!).

Anyways, we needed income to support this if we wanted our travel lifestyle to last more than 6-12 months.

So, since I’d always had a knack for writing, I started with freelance SEO writing on UpWork, which was very successful.

But due to these crazy eye problems I have, depending on freelance work as my main source of income was risky… I needed something that could generate income even if my eyes failed me and I needed to take time off work. And with freelancing, you only get paid when you are actively working. So, this brings me to your next question….

How and when did you get started with selling books/ebooks on Amazon?

It seemed like it might solve my problem of how to generate income that would continue to come in even if I had to stop working for a while due to my eye problems flaring up (i.e. preventing me from actively working).

So, in late 2014 – after reading everything I could get my hands on about self-publishing – I started writing my first book, How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck. I finally published it in March of 2015.

Take Our Free Quiz to Find Your Ideal Side Hustle
Just answer a few simple questions and you'll immediately be presented with some suggested side hustles that may be a perfect fit for you. It's free and there is no email optin required - just take the quiz and see the results.

Did you have any previous experience selling books or ebooks?

No, I had zero experience with this. I had to learn it all from scratch.

However, the cool thing is that there are some great blogs and Facebook groups where one can learn from. For example, there’s the 20BooksTo50k Facebook group – this one is my current favorite because it’s still a super active group and the people running it genuinely seem to care about keeping the group drama-free and focused on helping everyone learn to be better at self-publishing.

→ Related reading: How to Write, Create, and Sell an Ebook

What are the benefits for authors who sell on Amazon?

You call the shots – you get 100% control over your covers, your content, and your marketing. The only people you answer to are yourself and your readers… and Amazon, of course.

Amazon has really lowered the barriers to entry in the book publishing world, which is pretty awesome.

How do you promote your books and ebooks?

What works changes from year to year. Amazon’s algorithm gets tweaked, effective book promotion sites come and go, etc.

In my first year, my book marketing efforts were primarily via paying to be featured in 99-cent and free-book newsletters such as Buck Books. I mention Buck Books because I still use them today. Their newsletter can be a bit cheeky at times, but the guy who owns it is a good guy, they charge a reasonable price, and I always get good results with their newsletter promos.

However, I also use Amazon ads extensively. When I started, I spent literally months of full-time effort doing nothing but studying what works for my books and what doesn’t. Some people do it in less time, mind you. But I wanted to make sure I’d maximize the odds of learning what works for me, so I feel it was a good investment of my time.

Do you think it’s possible for new authors to have success without an existing audience outside of Amazon?

Absolutely. The 20BooksTo50k Facebook group is full of people doing just that, even today.

And when I started I had an audience of zero.

Don’t get me wrong – it’ll take hard work. But is it still doable? Definitely.

How have you managed to get so many reviews for your books?

It’s all because of my email list – I have close to 10,000 people on it right now… in the past, it’s been as high as 13k or 14k. I cull it regularly though, to remove anyone who isn’t engaged. There are 2 main reasons for this:

1) It’s important to me that my email content adds value for people, and if they’ve already gotten all that they need from me, then there’s no need to continue to email them… and…

2) The more people on your list, the more money it costs you each month to maintain that list. So from a financial standpoint, it makes no sense to have people on my list whose interests are no longer in alignment with what I have to offer them.

Also, in regards to asking one’s email list for reviews, an important caveat is that you can’t ask people for GOOD reviews (or for 5-star reviews) because understandably, Amazon frowns on that big time.

What you can do is ask for a review, without trying to influence whether the person will say good or bad things about you, and without trying to influence how many stars they’ll give you. As long as one doesn’t try to manipulate things, all should be fine.

What are some of the most important keys to success for new authors/sellers?

Write the best book you know how to write. And if you’re writing in the non-fiction genre, only write about things you know well and can actually help people with.

→ Related reading: Merch by Amazon Review

Do books provide ongoing revenue or do the sales typically drop off quickly?

Unfortunately, for most books, sales do indeed drop off quickly.

I’ve been fortunate that my books provide ongoing revenue… for example, How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck is still going strong almost 5 years after it was first published and even made it to the #119 best-selling book in the entire Amazon store in December 2020. The pre-Christmas season can be really good for book sales.

However, if you look at the new releases that come out every day on Amazon, unfortunately, sales for the vast majority drop off quickly within days or weeks. (You can tell by looking at the Amazon sales rank… the lower the sales rank, the higher the number of books sold.)

What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about this money-making opportunity?

Some people love the process of writing a book… but I’m not gonna lie… I find it mentally tiring to do – it’s a long process that requires a lot of prolonged focus (for me, anyways). And to be completely honest, at times it feels like writing a long research paper in university, except with my books I get to write more conversationally (i.e. it doesn’t have to be stuffy and formal) and I get to choose the topic. 🙂

But my favorite thing about self-publishing is that I love teaching – it is one of my absolute favorite things in the world to do.

And my books allow me to find people who need help with the kind of things I can teach them how to do.

And it’s also allowed me to do more teaching in the form of courses I’ve created to dive deeper into some of the topics covered in my books.

So it’s a win-win for all involved.

As I’m sure your readers can relate, we all have to earn a living, and the only way to get paid for anything is to do something of value to the person paying, right?

One way is to get a job and provide value to one’s employer.

In the case of book publishing, one does it by teaching people something they want to learn (or in the case of fiction, by entertaining people).

For me, although writing the books always feels like a long process for me, what comes after makes it all worth it.

Not only do I love the teaching I get to do because of my books, but I also enjoy the marketing side of things – it’s fun to figure out how to get my books in front of people who will benefit from reading them.

And I frigging LOVE interacting with my readers – they are amazing!

And while preparing the learning materials (i.e. the books and any follow-up courses) is hard work, the fact that they help people really feels good.

In any case, being able to earn a living doing so many things I love to do is a dream come true.

→ Related reading: 100 Amazing Resources for Amazon Sellers

Is there anything else that you want to share?

I like people to have realistic expectations. So a word of caution is that every single online calculator I’ve ever seen that estimates what a book is making drastically over-estimates the income generated by the book.

In almost 5 years of self-publishing, the only times these calculators have even been close to accurate for my own books is in the 1-2 weeks immediately after publication.

This drives me bananas because it sets people up to think they’ll make x amount of money month-after-month from their books if they attain an Amazon sales rank of whatever, when in reality they will earn much, much less. And if one’s goal is to earn a full-time living from one’s books, one has to plan on writing many more books than those online calculators would lead one to believe.

The reason these calculators will likely never be able to estimate book sales accurately is because Amazon doesn’t share their behind-the-scenes data on every book with random people who want to create calculators.

Aside from Amazon, only the authors themselves get this data.

Amazon’s book sales rank is calculated based on a combination of things that calculator creators don’t have access to, including:

  • the # of paid sales
  • the percent royalty the author is earning (might be 30%, might be 70%)
  • the Kindle Unlimited “free” downloads and the number of pages read (the author gets paid less than a penny per page read via this program)
  • if the book is in Amazon Prime, every free Prime download of a book helps improve the book’s sales rank – however, the amount the author is paid for this varies and is not public info

So my advice to anyone reading this is to use the online calculators as entertainment, but do not use them to get an accurate idea of how much a book is actually making.

Other than that, I’d say that if anyone wants to write a book, go for it! Whether you sell a lot with your first book, or you don’t make much at all, you’ll learn a lot from the process that you can apply to your next project.

 

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Avery, and if you’d like to learn more about her, please be sure to visit her site AveryBreyer.com.

If you’re interested in learning how to become a self-published author, you may be interested in the course From First Draft to Bestseller: Self-Publish and Market a Book That Readers Will Love  by bestselling author and teacher Jonathan LaPoma. This in-depth course is available on Skillshare and you can get free access for two months through this link.

Hobby to Pro: Turn Your Hobby Into a Profitable Online Business