I Make Money Online: Selling eBooks

You may not know her name, but Amanda Hocking and others like her are riding the comet of digital publishing.

Fed up with attempts to find a traditional publisher for her young-adult paranormal novels, Hocking self-published last March and began selling her novels on online bookstores like Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

By May she was selling hundreds; by June, thousands. She sold 164,000 books in 2010. Most were low-priced (99 cents to $2.99) digital downloads.

More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were ebooks.

“I can’t really say that I would have been more successful if I’d gone with a traditional publisher,” says Hocking, 26, who lives in Austin, Minn. “But I know this is working really well for me.”

In fact, Hocking is selling so well that on Thursday, the three titles in her Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend, the latest) will make their debuts in the top 50 of USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.

A recent survey shows 20 million people read ebooks last year, and more self-published authors are taking advantage of the trend.

(Self-publishing is done without the involvement or vetting of an established publisher and uses a publishing system such as Lulu, Smashwords, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! Many traditional media outlets do not review self-published books.)

“It’s possible for any author to make their book available with little or no upfront cost and reach a global audience,” Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content for Amazon, says of Hocking’s success. Digital publishing, he says, “gives a chance to a great book that otherwise might have been overlooked.”

In the past, it has been rare for a self-published hardcover or paperback to enjoy such spectacular sales.

Hocking credits her success to aggressive self-promotion on her blog, Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth and writing in a popular genre โ€” her books star trolls, vampires and zombies.

And she’s making money.

“To me, that was a price point that made sense for what I would be willing to spend on an e-book,” says Hocking, who sets her own prices. “I use iTunes a lot, and it’s 99 cents and $1.29 a song.”

For every $2.99 book she sells, she keeps 70%, with the rest going to the online bookseller. For every 99-cent book she sells, she keeps 30%.

H.P. Mallory, another self-published paranormal e-novelist, has sold 70,000 copies of her ebooks since July. Her success caught the attention of traditional publisher Random House, with whom she just signed a three-book contract. “Selling ebooks on Kindle and Barnesandnoble.com basically changed my life,” Mallory says. “I never would have gotten where I am today if I hadn’t.”

Others are profiting, too:

  • The No. 4-selling Kindle book (it has been as high as No. 1) is The Hangman’s Daughter by German novelist Oliver Potzsch. It’s part of AmazonCrossing, a program offering translations of foreign-language titles. More than 100,000 copies have been sold.
  • Novelist J.A. Konrath, who has sold more than 100,000 self-published ebooks, gets more than 1 million hits a year on his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (jakonrath.blogspot.com). His novel, Shaken, hit No. 9 on the Kindle list last year.

Lorraine Shanley of Market Partners International, a publishing consulting firm, recently enjoyed Deed to Death by D.B. Henson, a self-published e-book she downloaded to her iPad.

The 99-cent price made her try it.

“Often books published by traditional publishers are excellent, but I don’t think it prohibits self-publishers from doing a good job,” she says.

This story was originally published by Carol Memmott in the USA Today.ย  Selling eBooks is a viable way to earn extra money.ย  You can find this and other methods of earning money in Mark Riddix’s eBook, “How To Make $2,000 A Month Online”.

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18 thoughts on “I Make Money Online: Selling eBooks

  • Self Publishing is becoming more and more viable in both books and music. With the digital tools available to day all you need is a little talent and a fair amount of effort to be a success. Publishing is the easy part though. Marketing and promoting the book or album are the real challenges.

    • One of my colleagues at work published her own book. I don’t see a reason to wait for a large publishing house to get started.

  • I am ready to jump on the e-book train too! Our life has been interesting so far, and I think it would be a great read for someone starting out. Keep your eyes open for new e-book from me soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Interesting stuff. The viability of an individual publishing their own stuff – albeit via e-book – provides opportunities for people where doors may have been shut before. Entry costs seem low as well. The landscape is changing!

    • It sure is. I think that the 99 cent price point works for lots of things, but paying 99 cent for a whole book feels wrong to me. I don’t know if it’s just the writer in me.

  • Great and inspiring story. ๐Ÿ™‚ Funny, with iTunes, iPhone apps, and eBooks, is 99 cents the new magic price point? Will traditional publishing houses go the way of the dinosaur like Blockbuster, Borders, Barnes and Nobles, and DVDs?

  • Inspirational post, in a way. I’ve always admired anyone who can write a decent novel. Their brain must be wired in a special way. I’ve made a couple of attempts, and faced writer’s block from the very first page.

  • Although ebook is the new trend and it is easier for readers to get ebook files than books note that tere are many people who still don’t use e-readers or like the feeling of hard copy. But still there is a way to self-publish without investment. “Booksurge” is a service (actually now is apart of amazon group) who can publish your book on-demand and then sell them to amazon. A nice service to try,

  • I enjoy Amanda Hocking books and discovered this path to income from her venue. It’s brilliant. I hope more authors step out into this kind of income stream.

    • She is doing incredibly well in this arena and providing inspiration for people like you and I. Good luck with your books!

  • I started selling my ebook in June, starting at $29.99. Then I lowered the price at $19 (current price) and not only sales went up, but also total profit. Now I am thinking I should go all the way and offer it for under $10 and see what happens… I am also considering selling the ebook in Amazon (used Clickbank so far). Thanks for this post, I think I am totally convinced now that low prices are the way to go ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hi Sandy,
    On a similar note,, Many people want to know how to make money online selling cost per action offers and are even wondering if you can make money doing it. And though most might be skeptical, don’t get lost into that doubtfulness. You can indeed make money online selling CPA offers.
    Good Job!

  • There has never been a better time to make money online selling information products than right now. The internet is wide open to people who are searching for all types of information. Just the other day I was told that people are searching for information on “how to build a chicken coop”. Now I would never have thought of that.

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