I thought about the title, How to Get Rich & Famous Selling Ebooks, but decided against it. If you read my blog, you’ve probably seen me talk about how this takes actual work to succeed and that you ought to plan to be the rule rather than the exception.
If you’ve looked over the math on things such as targeted Facebook ads, you might be wondering how in the world you can make any money selling books? (If you can manage to get a 2% CTR on a $2.99 ebook, you can’t pay more than 4 cents per impression or you have lost money on the ad [CPC formula: book cost X Click Through Rate X royalty percentage = break-even Cost Per Click]). You’ll go broke selling books at even well-performing figures.
The trick is not to sell just a book. Serious book pros like Mark Dawson will run ads that lose quite a bit of money because they have calculated the cost versus the total income from a sale—that figure includes more than book royalties. Below are eight additional ways that your book could generate additional money.
Here are the primary sources of revenue from books that do not account for the immediate book sale:
- Affiliate Account money
For most people, this will be a program such as Amazon Associates which gives a percentage of sales back to advertisers based on how much they purchase. The biggest things you ought to know about are that there are some rules you have to follow and that you don’t only make money on what you advertise. When I first signed up, someone clicked one of my links and did their Christmas shopping—because of the amazon tracking cookie, even though they didn’t buy my book, I made a significant amount of money from the rest of their purchases because I was the door they went to Amazon through. Affiliate programs aren’t limited to Amazon; there are many other companies that have similar programs.
- Bounty links
Some companies provide a sign-up bonus if someone uses your link and registers for services. One that I often use is the “Head hunting” links provided by ACX (Audible services). If anyone clicks through my audible link from my website and registers for their subscription services I get a nice bonus in addition to any sales royalty that the visit generates.
- Read Through Rates
Your book sale, especially if you have a good backlist, might not be your last. If you have written a series and have many additional books, you will be able to monitor sales records to determine your read-through-rate. People will continue your stories and purchase future books on your own (the rate will likely reduce with each iteration, but it is something that you ought to account for.)
A tripwire is a technique where you use your reader magnet, email newsletter, or some other method to give a special incentive to make a purchase right now because the deal looks so good. For instance, my email list onboarding sequence gives away a couple books from different series; during the onboarding, I mention that the first book they received is part of a larger series and that there is a special price for the boxset which they can get now, rather than buying books to read sequentially. (I also use my affiliate link on the series.) Because they are getting all of the books at once I can reduce the price to prompt a sale and still get a higher royalty than the read-through number since customers are buying now rather than cooling down between purchases.
- Subscription Services
The biggest ones are Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, Kobo Plus, Bookmate, and the list goes on. Audible is also a form of subscription service, though their royalty scheme is different than KU. Wattpad paid accounts and other knock-off services are also in this group. Readers subscribe to the service and you provide content. If they read yours, you get a commission.
- Clients and Fees
Perhaps your expertise allows you to gain speaking engagements or consulting work. I have had both opportunities and get invited to speak, teach workshops, and also do paid consulting work for other people. It’s not super regular, but it could be if I made it my primary business model. This is especially relevant if your book is nonfiction. Many professionals are encouraged to write books as a supplement to their business model—the books typically function as ads or promotions for their main business by either generating leads or acting as credibility builders.
Do you sell additional items related to your books? If Joss Whedon had an etsy store and sold hand-knitted Jayne Cobb hats from his Firefly stories this could be an example. It is especially relevant for teaching courses and nonfiction where you may choose to sell additional items as supplements. For instance, my Indie Author’s Bible book has a supplemental workbook that can be purchased and is especially important for folks using my book as a guide or who are enrolled in one of my workshops.
Patreon comes first to mind: users pay an access fee for the creative content you are providing. Also in this category would be things like monetized blog accounts and Youtube ad revenue generating accounts.
Let’s look at our hypothetical book again and add in these numbers.
We will nerf them and aim low, assuming that you get an affiliate click [with some additional revenue from additional purchases], no bounty link money since it can be unpredictable/inconsistent, a read-through that sees a third buying into book 2, and a quarter buying the third. Tripwires are great, but not taken into account since it’s more relevant to a mailing list ad than a sales ad. Subscription services will assume the book is in KU and that you will get about .005 per KENP. This book in mind is part of a fiction trilogy and we’ve priced them each at 3.99 (so that our Tripwire looks like a deal at 9.99,) it also means clients/fees, extras, and sponsorships won’t come into play. I’ll use stats for KU vs. sales based on ads I recently ran: received about .50 in KU money for each book sold as KU subscribers also clicked through and added the book for free rather than purchasing it (roughly 100 pages worth of reads per ebook purchase). I also made about .39 per item sold in affiliate tracking and I made about 1.25 times as many sales as I did books sold, which will add into the final calculation.
$6.10 estimated income for an advertised $3.99 ebook series starter w/affiliate link in KU
There can be lots of discussion on whether this is high or low, or what aspects to tweak. The conversation could circle for eternity, but suffice to say, there are ways to make your book generate more money than just the standard royalty—but you’ve got to go out and work the system.