How to write eBooks as a Second Stream of Income

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If you’ve ever browsed through the Kindle Store on Amazon, you’ve seen thousands and thousands of eBooks for sale. Some are really good, and some are really (really, really…) bad. Have you ever said to yourself, “Self, that could be my book up there!”?

Why would you want to write eBooks?

  • The barrier to entry is very low. If you want to publish a traditional paper book, you have to pitch it to multiple publishers, work out a contract, write it, wait for it to be printed and shipped, and hope that they are able to market it well. With an eBook, you basically write it and click a few buttons to publish.
  • An eBook boosts your authority in your field. By publishing on Amazon, you can appear next to some of the biggest names in your industry.
  • It can give you a nice residual income. And unlike traditional publishing, where your typical royalties from your book are probably only about 10%, you can earn as much as 70% by publishing on Amazon, and close to 100% distributing it yourself.
  • eReader usage is increasing. At the end of 2014, 28% of adults had read at least one e-book, and 50% had a reading device–a tablet or e-reader. This doesn’t include people that read on their smartphone!

eBooks are easy to write and simple to release. If you know how to use a computer, you can edit, format and publish your book from your own couch. It doesn’t cost you anything except your time. Even if your book is not a bestseller, you’ll probably gain useful knowledge doing the research for it. And having a few eBooks out there is a good way to start building that second stream of income that we’ve been talking about.

What format of eBook will you publish–PDF vs. EPUB

PDF eBooks can be created on just about any computer. Most word processing programs will allow you to save your file as a PDF. A PDF document can be ready on pretty much any computer, tablet, or smart phone. They’re a good format if you’ve never written an eBook before, and they’re great if you plan to use a lot of pictures or charts.

EPUB eBooks can also be created on almost any computer, but they do require a few more steps. They feature text that can be enlarged or changed by the reader, and they’re not a good format for embedding images. They are normally uploaded to a third-party website such as Amazon or Apple’s iBookstore to sell.

Getting started writing your eBook

No matter your subject or publishing format, writing your eBook should follow these steps:

  1. Pick Your Topic–Figure out who your audience is, and write specifically for them. What do they need? What problem(s) can you solve for them? Make sure your topic is narrow enough– don’t try to include so much information that you can’t go into good detail about it.
  2. Create an Outline–You need to get organized. There are many different ways to do so–you could create a mindmap using a tool like, or just make a bullet-point list of everything that needs to be in the book.
  3. Write–Yup, you actually have to put the time in writing! A good target to shoot for is 750 words per day–this works out to about 3 completed pages.
  4. Edit your eBook–Print out your book and look for things like:
    • Any information that you forgot to include
    • Chapters (or sections) that would work better if put into a different order
    • Any information that appears more than once (and doesn’t absolutely need to be included)
  5. Proofread–At this point you’re looking for misspellings, stray commas, misused apostrophes, etc.
  6. Format your book–If you’re creating a PDF format book, then you format it just like would format any other word processing document. For an EPUB format book, the process is more difficult. You can format it yourself (keep reading for more info), or hire someone to do the formatting for you–check out Kindle’s list of Professional Conversion Services.
  7. Publish–Upload your eBook to whatever platform will be selling it (more on this in a moment).
  8. Market– You can’t just hope the readers will find your eBook on their own, you have to actively market it. Keep reading.


  • Avoid saturated niches–find a category where you would have less competition.
  • Write a great title and have a compelling image. You may only have a few seconds to hook a casual browser–make sure the cover makes them want to learn more. If you don’t feel you’re up to creating an eye-catching cover, try hiring someone off of a service like Fiverr.
  • Walk away from your book when it’s done. Don’t just dive straight into editing it, let some time pass–at least a couple days, preferably an entire week. Then you’ll come back to it as a reader and not just a writer, and be able to see things you might have otherwise missed.
  • “Hire” an editor. That doesn’t mean you have to pay someone–give it to friends and family to review and proofread, and tell them to be brutally honest.
  • If you already have an online presence, like a blog, be sure to link to it in the book. You want your book readers to discover the rest of your content!

Avoid These Mistakes

  • Don’t choose a subject you know very little about. It may be tempting to pick a hot topic, thinking that’s where the money is at, but you’ll wind up doing so much extra research that it will likely not be worth your time.
  • Don’t just think like a writer, think like a publisher. You can’t just drop your book on Amazon and cross your fingers. You need to work out your sales pitch and marketing campaign, figure out how you will get the word out, figure out how to get reviews, etc.
  • Don’t include EVERY piece of information in your eBook. If you try to cover every little bit of your topic in depth, you may wind up constantly writing and researching and never actually getting it published. Plus, you want to save something back for you next book!
  • Don’t just start to write at chapter one. Create an outline first–lay out your chapters (along with their titles), then list the general items you want to cover in each chapter.
  • Don’t edit as you write. You may find yourself writing a sentence or two, then stopping and going back to tweak them. This will slow you down tremendously. Get your words down on paper (so to speak) first, then go back and proofread when you’re done with the chapter (or at least done for the day).
  • Not sticking to a schedule. Pick a specific time each day (or at least a few times a week) to work on your eBook, even if it’s just for half an hour. If you don’t write consistently, it’s hard to build up momentum, and you’ll find yourself writing less and less with more breaks in between.
  • Deleting large chunks of text. You may not like how something is flowing, and delete a couple pages, only to come up with the perfect way to fix them tomorrow. Instead, make a new version of your file–MyBook-v1, MyBook-v2, etc.
  • Not keeping a backup. Computers can crash. Keep a backup of your file somewhere, whether it’s on a service like DropBox, or just in a Gmail account.
  • Don’t quit!

Formatting your eBook

As I mentioned before, if you’re publishing a PDF format eBook, then you just use your regular word processing layout to format it. What you see will be exactly what you get when you save it as a PDF.

If you’re publishing an EPUB format, then you want to simplify the formatting as much as possible. The following things should all be avoided:

  • Automatic footnotes
  • Text boxes
  • Headers and footers
  • Columns
  • Tables
  • Page numbers
  • Borders, background colors or images
  • Any other fancy word-processing stuff

You should basically just have paragraphs of text. It’s best to use a single, standard font such as Times New Roman, Georgia or Arial, in 10, 11 or 12 point size.

Read more about formatting for Kindle at Simplified Formatting Guide.

Read more about formatting for the Barnes and Noble Nook at Nook Press Support.

Read more about formatting for the Apple Store with iBooks Author.

Publishing your eBook

Do your research before deciding on what platform you’ll sell your eBook on. Some of them, such as Kindle Direct, restrict you from selling on any other platform for a certain period of time.

If you are not going to use a service like Amazon or iBooks to sell your book, you need to decide whether you will sell your eBook on your own website, or through a service such as E-Junkie. Check out  this list of 20 Websites To Sell Your EBook.

If you sell your book on your own website, you’ll keep 100% of the profits, minus the transaction fee. You’ll need one or more plugins to handle the checkout process; here at Seed To Pantry School we use the Easy Digital Downloads WordPress plugin.

Selling your book through one or more external websites is a good idea if you don’t have your own blog, or if your blog doesn’t have a large traffic number. The amount you will pay varies–in some cases the site takes a commission ranging from 10% to 50% or more, and some sites just charge you a flat monthly fee. For example, E-junkie charges $5 per month for your first 10 eBooks, and you keep 100% of the sales.

Marketing your eBook

Now comes the hard part (what, you thought writing was the hard part?)–marketing your eBook! The strategies involved in marketing an eBook are very similar to those for marketing almost anything online:

  • Set your price right–Is the goal of your first eBook to make money, or to get your name out there? You could try using a low price (like 99 cents) to gain your initial audience, then go to a higher price on your second (and third, and fourth…) eBook.
  • Ask for reviews–Give your book away to bloggers in your niche, or to other reviewers, in exchange for an honest review.
  • Get some reviews first–If you’re using Amazon or another site that allows reviews, try to get a few positive reviews first before announcing it to the world.
  • Join a marketing club–Check out author marketing groups like Author Marketing Club--they have a variety of promotional opportunities, and many are completely free.

Now it’s time for you to stop reading and start writing! If you’ve already written your own eBook, or are thinking about writing one, please tell us about it in the comments!