How to Make Money With E-Books You Give Away
By Steve Gillman
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 BestMeditationCds.com
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
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.
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
Those are some of the ways you can make money giving away
e-books. Good luck!