Writing Ebooks for a Living: 3 Things It Takes to Become a Full-Time Self-Published Author

Writing ebooks for a living seems like an impossible dream for many. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not. In 2010, I earned over half my annual income from ebooks I wrote and self-published. Even though I’d been self-publishing ebooks for almost a decade by then, I didn’t realize that I’d hit this milestone.

FYI, I’ve been erroneously saying I started self-publishing in 2004 for years. The reason this is important is the longer you do something, hopefully you get better at predicting what makes you successful at it.

That’s worked for me because in 2015, I hit another self-publishing milestone — almost all of my income came from e-products (ecourses/ebooks) that I developed and published. And that’s been the case ever since.

It’s comforting to know that if I never picked up another freelance writing client, I can make a full-time living writing and self-publishing my own ebooks. So how do you do it? What’s the trick to making a full-time living as a self-published author?

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Writing Ebooks for a Living Full-Time:  3 Things It Takes (IMHO)

Following are three things – in my opinion – that you must do in order to be able to make a living writing and selling ebooks as a full-time, self-published author.How to Make a FT Living Writing and Selling Ebooks Online

1. A Cache of Products

As in, you’re going to have to write more than one ebook most likely. Yeah, there are those who strike it rich with one or two titles a la Fifty Shades of Grey, but this isn’t the norm.

I’ve read extensively on what separates those who manage to make a full-time living writing ebooks from those who struggle. And you know what many of the successful self-publishers say?

Don’t even think about sales numbers or anything like that until you’ve written at least three ebooks.

I started out writing in the non-fiction, how-to genre, and it wasn’t until I had around a dozen titles that I started earning some decent money.

2. Write Series

Fiction outsells non-fiction by a wide margin. Hence, the reason many fiction authors are able to carve out careers writing ebooks for a living full-time is that they write series. Take, for example, John Locke.

In case you don’t know who he is, he was the first self-published author to sell 1 million ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle. And, he did it in only five months – and wrote a best-seller about that!

His ebooks center around a main character, Donovan Creed, “a former CIA assassin with a weakness for very easy women.” One reader of Locke’s novels wrote:

I discovered the author John Locke a few months ago when I was learning a bit about the self-publishing world from Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler. I tried one of his 99 cent books and loved it. Now I’ve read four.

I’ve seen this play out with my self-publishing efforts as well, in my fiction and non-fiction sales.

Non-fiction: Most of my ebooks are on/about freelance writing and self-publishing. And, readers often double back and buy more. The rationale is that if they trust you once and like what they read, if you give them more on the same subject, it’s an easy sale.

Fiction: I write contemporary romance novellas. I’ve loved them since I was a teen and started writing them in 2013.

I’ve (giddily) discovered that if readers love Book 1, they’ll often beg you to write Book 2 and Book 3, etc. — even if you hadn’t planned to. One of my most successful series is “A Lover for Beth.”

I hadn’t planned on making that book a series. But when I wrote the first one, sales took off immediately. I was selling 60, 70 and 80 copies per day. Readers begged (yes, literally pleaded) for Book 2; then Book 3. So I wrote them.

Another delightful surprise I got was that when you publish a successive part, invariably sales of the first part(s) go up — sometimes by as much as 30 or 40 percent based on my sales. Some authors sell even more than that.

So yeah, series pay! It’s the same reason Hollywood will put out a Part II, III, IV and V. In short, they ride a series until it’s clear the audience no longer wants more. Why reinvent the wheel? Learn from the masters of selling creative works — and you can’t get bigger than Hollywood when it comes to this.

III. Ebook Marketing

Many self-publishers think that writing an ebook is the easy part. Au contraire my little author friend; that’s the easy part. Ebook marketing is where the real work of being a self-publisher rears its time-consuming head. And it’s because it’s an ongoing thing.

You must, must, must get the word out about your ebook. The thing is, it’s pretty easy to do though if you make it a consistent part of your schedule – just like writing.

My Ebook Marketing Strategy

I publish newsletters weekly; update my website weekly; and interact on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest); etc. — and write more books. That’s the best form of book marketing; your next title. FYI, here’s a list of 6 things I do when I release a new title.

I know, I know – marketing your ebook can seem like a full-time job. But again, if you make it a regular part of your routine – like writing an ebook – it will become more seamless over time.

And the payoff is the money from ebook sales that land in your account month after month; and year after year. The more ebooks you publish, the more you can ostensibly earn. And with a large library of titles, you’ll be able to lay off your ebook marketing . . . just a bit.

Writing Books for  a Living: Easy or Hard?

As stated above, one of the hardest parts is the marketing. And even that’s not hard — what’s hard about it is doing it, but staying motivated to do it.

Another difficult part is cultivating a writing routine and sticking to it. And I’ll let you in on a little secret here: starting is the hardest part. Once you start, you usually get lost in what you’re doing and exceed your time and/oor word count. So just sit butt in chair and start writing.

Tie your self-publishing dreams to a larger goal, eg, being able to see your kids off to school every morning; not having to depend on a job for your financial future; being able to work with your body clock as opposed to having to punch a clock on somebody’s else’s schedule.

This is what motivates me to write – -whether it’s developing a new ecourse, or writing a new romance novel. I know that if I don’t write, I will have to work for somebody else. And after years of writing ebooks for a living full-time, that’s not an option I really want to consider. So … I sit. butt. down. in. char. and write. It really is that simple.

Do I have to force myself some days? Yeah. Plenty. But like I said, I really have no choice – -and it’s amazing what you can/will do when you have to.

Note: This post was originally entitled, Self-Publishing Profits: 3 Insights on What It Takes to Make a Full-Time Living Selling Ebooks Online. It was published on e-Junkie.info (in April 2013), where I was a regular guest poster. The site has since gone offline. It was updated and republished here in September 2017.



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P.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our <freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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    1. Fidel Acree says:

      You should make an eBook with this post.


    1. […] P.S.: Did you catch yesterday’s post on what it takes to make a full-time living writing and selling ebooks online? […]