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How to Self-Publish a Book and Earn $1,152 in Passive Income [Case Study]

Back when Gina self-published her book – Make Money as a Freelance Writer, she couldn’t have done it without Sally Miller guiding her throughout the entire process.

Because publishing a book definitely doesn’t end when you’re done with the writing.

There are so many other moving parts to consider if you want your book to be discovered by readers.

Sally agreed to share the behind-the-scenes of self-publishing a book (and she goes into even more depth about it in her course, Author Success Blueprint).

Here’s Sally!

I first met Gina when I took 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. Gina showed me how to land multiple, four-figure writing clients. And with her help, I went on to build a successful freelancing career.

I hadn’t always been a writer. Even though I’d enjoyed writing as a kid.

At school, I specialized in the sciences. My time was taken up with experiments, equations, and methods. There was no space left for writing.

I went on to follow a career in Information Technology, my childhood love for writing forgotten.

Then something happened. I was home with a new baby, searching for ways to make money on the side. I attended an online conference for writers and came away inspired.

Four months later, I’d written and published my first book. Then I wrote another one. I enjoyed writing so much, I started to freelance. I found clients who were willing to pay me to write.

Yet, in between clients, I continued to pursue my first interest – writing and publishing nonfiction books. And so, when Gina asked whether I was interested in co-authoring a title, I jumped at the opportunity.

The book we wrote together was the third book in my Paid To Stay Home series. I already had two Amazon best-sellers under my belt, so I was excited to see what would happen when I partnered with Gina.

Fast forward six months, to September 2016, and our book was live on Amazon.

In the first six months, Make Money As a Freelance Writer  was downloaded 4,653 times and earned $1,152 in book royalties. To this day, Amazon still sends us monthly royalty checks.

And now that our book is published, this income is 100 percent passive.

But, of course, royalties aren’t the only reason to write a book. In fact, they aren’t even the biggest reason to put time and effort into a book.

Here’s why self-publishing is hands down the best thing I’ve done …

Writing a book makes you an instant authority in your field.

Think about it … how many published authors do you know?

I bet you don’t know that many people who can call themselves published authors. When you write a best-selling book, you gain immediate credibility. You’re an expert in your space and are impacting the lives of your readers.

So, how exactly do you self-publish a book? There are many routes to becoming an author: traditional publishing, vanity publishing, etc. But the easiest and fastest way is to self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform.

With over 300 million active user accounts, Amazon is the best way to get your book into the hands of thousands of readers.

And becoming a best-selling Amazon author is not as hard as you may think. You just need to do a few key things. In this post, I share exactly how Gina and I wrote and published our book. Plus I’ll show you exactly what happened after we hit publish.

There are three steps to writing and publishing a book that flies off the shelves.

Step 1: Write a book your readers want to read.

Writing a best-seller starts with doing your research. You want to write a book people will buy and read. And to do that you need to make sure the topic of your book will sell even before you start writing.

How to self-publish a bookThe best place to research your topic is on Amazon itself. In a sense, you want to reverse-engineer your book. Spend some time browsing Amazon’s best-seller pages and make sure there are books already selling on your topic.

Competition is a good thing. It shows that there’s already a market for your book.

When we were preparing to write our book, Gina had already been helping freelancers for over two years. But we still needed to make sure people would buy a book that would teach them how to become a freelance writer.

It only took 15 minutes of searching in Amazon’s Kindle store for me to find three existing books about freelance writing. All were selling well and had plenty of positive reviews.

This was all the information we needed at that phase. We were good to go. Once we’d researched our book idea, it was time to get writing.

My most important tip here is to spend some time outlining your book.

The outline is simply a list of chapters with a summary of what you want to include in each chapter. Gina and I got together and came up with a book outline. Then, we divided the individual chapters between the two of us.

The next few weeks were all about writing. My top advice at this stage is to write every day. Keep going until you have all of your ideas out of your head and onto paper.

Also, don’t worry too much about editing as you go. Just keep writing!

With a solid outline and a daily writing habit, you can finish your first draft in a few weeks.

When you have your first draft, give yourself a break before reading and revising it. Then come back with fresh eyes.

When revising your book, you’re checking grammar, wording, flow, etc. Though I urge you not to get too caught up in the detail at this stage. It can be easy to let your inner perfectionist stop you from finishing.

Your goal is to get a decent manuscript that can be handed over to someone else (ideally a professional editor). More on that in step two…

Not sure what niches you can specialize in as a freelance writer? We’ve done some research and brainstorming for you, and we came up with over 200 niches to choose from. Here’s the list:

Step 2: Package your book to sell.

For many people, writing a book is the hardest step. And I won’t deny that this step is an impressive achievement.

But of course writing is only half the battle. A well-written book is not going to hit best-seller status on its own. Next, you need to package and launch your book.

You want your book’s packaging to speak to your potential readers. You want to make sure it screams “buy me.” So that when your ideal reader is browsing the virtual book shelves, they simply have to purchase your book.

Your book’s packaging includes the following components:

1. Editing

You want another set of eyes to review your book for content and line editing. Gina and I used a professional editor. It cost $246.24 to get our book professionally edited. And it was worth every penny. Your editor takes your manuscript and turns it into a polished product.

2. Book cover

If you’re handy with graphic design tools then you can do this step yourself. Or you can hire a professional designer. You can get a book cover for as little as $5 on fiverr.com or pay up to $200 to hire a professional designer. Our book cover was $40.

A key part of your cover is the title and subtitle.

You want to select your title carefully – make sure it appeals to your potential readers and is displayed clearly on your book cover. Start by brainstorming titles for your book. Write your ideas down and keep coming back to the list.

My favorite strategy for coming up with titles is the WYSIWYG strategy. This stands for What You See Is What You Get. In my WYSIWYG strategy, you name your book after the exact outcome it delivers. For example: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

3. Formatting

This step makes sure your book is in a format that will upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. You can do this yourself – as long as you’re patient and have some technical skills.

Or you can hire a professional formatter for around $40.

4. Description

Most people read a book’s description before buying it. This is your opportunity to sell your book. If you’re a copywriter then you won’t have any trouble here.

One tip is to read the descriptions of other books in the Amazon store. See which ones appeal to you and why. You can read the description for our book here.

5. Book categories and keywords

Categories and keywords are how browsers in the Amazon store find your book. Amazon allows you to select two categories for your book and seven keywords.

Customers shopping for books on Amazon can browse by genre and subgenre. These are called browse categories. Keywords are the search terms that a user may enter into the Amazon search bar when looking for books on your topic.

Step 3: Self-publish on Amazon.

Once you have your book written and packaged, it’s time to upload it to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform and hit publish.

But before you do that, you need a plan. If you publish without promoting your book, then not a lot is going to happen. Amazon isn’t going to promote your book for you… at least not in the beginning.

BUT if you put some effort into marketing your book in the first week or two after publishing. Then the Amazon engine will take notice and that’s when the magic happens.

After you’ve generated some sales through your own efforts, you can sit back and let Amazon do the rest for you. Amazon will promote your book by sharing it with Kindle readers, displaying it as a suggested book, and highlighting it in the bestsellers’ lists.

Now, if you don’t have an existing audience or hate the idea of marketing, don’t panic! You can still promote your book.

You need to do just two things:

  1. Get book reviews with a launch team.
  2. Schedule some promotions on book promotion websites.

Your launch team is simply 20 or more people who agree to support your book at launch. You recruit launch team members in advance (one way you could do that is by asking on social media and in online communities). Then when you publish your book, you ask your team to download it and leave an honest review.

Not all launch team members will follow through, but if you have at least 20 team members then you’ll end up with between 5 and 10 reviews. That’s enough to get things started on Amazon.

The second thing is to promote your book through book promotion sites. These are sites that for a small fee (or sometimes for free) will share your book with their followers. Book promotion sites are by far the fastest way to reach over 100,000 readers.

We used the following promotion sites: BKNights on Fiverr, Freebooksy, Reading Deals, Bookzio, and Buck Books. Our total marketing budget was $150.

The Numbers Broken Down

This wouldn’t be a case study without a detailed breakdown of the numbers. So here’s the full nitty gritty for you:

  • Total book royalties in the first six months: $1,152
  • Book cover expense: -$40
  • Book editing expense: -$246.24
  • Book promotions: -$150.20
  • Number of downloads (free and paid) in the first six months: 4,653
  • Number of five-star customer reviews: 87
  • Highest ranking out of ALL paid books on Amazon: 3,550
  • #1 best-seller in the “Writing Skills” and “Education & Reference” categories
  • Featured as a “Hot New Release” and “Top Rated” on Amazon

Yet the above numbers don’t tell the full story. Make Money As A Freelance Writer still helps Gina grow her email list every day. Our book is reaching thousands of new people and making a real difference in their lives.

Ready to publish your bestseller?

What do you think? Have you always dreamed of becoming a published author? Or do you want to reach more people with a bestselling book?

With a little time and commitment, you absolutely can finish your book and get it published. In fact, you can have your book on the virtual bookshelves in as little as 90 days.

If you’d like someone to stand by your side along the way, I’d love for you to check out Author Success Blueprint. It’s a step-by-step online course that teaches you the quickest way to become a bestselling author on Amazon … and claim instant authority in your field.

And as always, if you have a question, please post in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Sally is a mom on a mission. She is passionate about answering the question, “Can modern moms have it all?” In a previous life, Sally worked for nineteen years as a project manager and business analyst in London and Silicon Valley. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Since leaving her nine-to-five, Sally has published five bestselling books on Amazon (and counting). You can connect with Sally at sallyannmiller.com.



Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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