How to Make Money With E-Books You Give Away


I don't know how much money I've made giving away e-books over the years, since it was only one of many things I did online. But it certainly netted me at least a few thousand dollars. And there are several ways to make money by handing out these freebies. Let's look at three of them.

The Affiliate Code Method

Years ago I created a book called "Mind Power Meditation." It was a PDF e-book. In it I described various meditation techniques for boosting the power of one's mind. Several of the techniques involved meditation recordings that used brainwave entrainment technology. I had bought a product that I liked previously, and the company had a good affiliate program, so it was a natural one to promote in my free book. Here's how it worked...

When I mentioned using brainwave entrainment in the book I recommended this particular product and linked to it using my affiliate code. The code is provided by the company so they can track sales and pay a commission. I received half of every $85 sale that resulted from someone buying after arriving at the sales page through my links.

I gave the book away to subscribers to my Mind Power Report, and on a couple websites. I made a few hundred dollars in commissions in the first few months. Later I set up the website and let visitors subscribe to the book for free there. Of course there are many other ways to give away your e-book if you try this. And if you do not have a PDF maker in your word processing program you can get one for free here:

Cute PDF Writer

The Autoresponder Website Method

I had written an e-book on how to buy cheap houses and it wasn't selling very well. In fact, the month after I lowered the price to $7 I think it sold just two copies, netting me about $11 after processing fees. I had to try something different.

I created 30 pages on one of my real estate related websites and put a chapter from the book on each one. These were not linked to from anyplace online. I provided access by way of weekly mailings that each linked to a page (a chapter). I had an account with Aweber, a mailing and auto-responder service, and they allowed for more lists without additional charges, so it cost me nothing to set up a subscription form and load up 30 emails (it did take some time to write up 30 emails introducing each chapter).

An auto-responder is an email program that automatically sends out emails in a set order once someone subscribes. When it was ready, I put the subscriptions form for the free version on the sales page, and visitors signed up to get a chapter each week. I decided to also leave the order button, so if a subscriber was impatient he or she could always buy the whole e-book as an immediate download for $7.

The results were not spectacular, but instead of making $10 or $20 monthly I was selling ten or more copies per month. I didn't expect that part, but apparently people liked what they read and didn't want to wait 30 weeks to get it all. So I tripled my sales, but that was the smaller part of the plan.

Where I made even more money was on the advertising on the pages that had the chapters. Subscribers would return to the site as many as 30 times to read every chapter, and they occasionally clicked on pay-per-click ads or affiliate links. The non-book revenue from the site was soon over $100 per month. Still not a great success, but making $2,000 annually from a book that was otherwise doing only about $100 per year was something.

I did the same with an e-book on ultralight backpacking. I had 45 chapters mailed out one-per-week, giving subscribers plenty of opportunities to either buy the download version or click on ads and affiliate links on the site. Here's the basic outline of this strategy:

1. Write an e-book.

2. Set up a website to promote it. If you really want to go cheap with this you can get a free site from WordPress.

3. Break your book into 20 or more pages and put them on your site without any links pointing to them. Make a list of the URLs so you can link to each from you emails.

4. Monetize all these pages using Google AdSense or links to affiliate products that are relevant to what your book is about.

5. Write a series of emails to send out, each with a link to the page that has the next part of your book.

6. Set up your auto-responder series. This is the only expensive part; most services start at about $20 per month. Load your emails and set them so the first one goes out as soon as the person subscribes, and the others go out automatically every week or twice weekly.

7. Create a home page that convinces visitors to sign up for your free e-book. Explain clearly that they'll get access to a piece at a time.

8. Put a subscription form on the homepage; usually the auto-responder service you use will provide tools for making one.

9. Promote your site and e-book any way you can. The marketing end is a whole other topic, but at least promote your product on your Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Some suggestions...

The more mailings it takes to get the whole book, the more times subscribers return to your site, so don't put too much on each page. If a longer chapter is split up into four pages, it requires four mailings and four visits.

To keep your writing time to a minimum, you might offer to do this for someone else's e-book, with the author keeping the sales generated and you keeping the revenue from your website. Give away ten e-books this way and you can have quite a bit of return traffic without ever having to write a book.

I use Aweber, but there are many different auto-responder services available. Once you load the mailings, they go out in order as soon as someone subscribes, according to whatever frequency you set, and automatically. I have mailing lists that are set up like this which I haven't looked at in months. It's all on automatic. Opt for that versus trying to do the mailings yourself each week (which would be almost impossible with many subscribers starting at different times).

The Kindle Giveaway

If you publish your e-books on the Amazon Kindle platform, and you sign up for the KDP Select program, you are allowed to give away your book for a period of time every 90 days. The strategy here is to boost the popularity of the book, and so its placement in the Kindle rankings. Thus, after the giveaway period is done you will have more sales than before going forward because of better visibility. I have not tried this strategy yet with my Kindle e-books, but I am intrigued. You can read more about it here.

How Much Can You Make?

There is no way to know how much you can or will make with any of these strategies. There are just too many factors involved, from the popularity of your subject matter to how well you learn marketing, to random chance events that generate traffic to your website and so on.

But for an idea of what is possible, consider the success of Vic Johnson, who--starting in 2001--gave away copies of an e-book version of As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen, an out-of-copyright book. He did it just to promote his site and build his mailing list, but in time he had given away hundreds of thousands of copies of a book he didn't even write, and was making hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from his website (with self-development products and advertising revenue as I recall).

Those are some of the ways you can make money giving away e-books. Good luck!

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Every Way to Make Money | Make Money With eBooks You Give Away