Welcome to the ultimate guide on how to make passive income with Amazon Kindle in 2023! Whether you're looking to diversify your income streams or make writing your main gig, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers a world of possibilities. With the rise of digital content and the power of AI, there's never been a better time to jump into the world of self-publishing.
Why Kindle for Passive Income?
In 1995, Amazon started as a bookselling platform. Today, it still dominates eBook sales - a market currently valued at 16.48 billion dollars and projected to reach over 20 billion in the next five years.
In other words:
Ebooks are on the rise and Amazon is the place to sell them.
Unlike traditional publishers, you don’t need an agent or a signed deal to get your book out there. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows you to publish your own eBooks and paperbacks, making your work accessible to millions of readers worldwide.
Then, there’s the other barrier – actually writing the book. That’s where AI can help. With Bookwiz, you can get your novel ready for under $50 and you don’t need a knack for writing to get started.
But, if you’re new to the world of Kindle publishing, it can all be a bit overwhelming. That’s what this guide is for.
I have been doing KDP as a side hustle since 2017 and I’ll show you how to get started – and quickly. I will go through these steps with you and introduce my favorite tools – including free alternatives to make this as cheap and convenient as possible. By the end of this guide, you'll have a roadmap to not just publish a book, but to do it in a way that sets you up for passive income.
So, are you ready to turn your writing dreams into a revenue-generating reality? Let's dive in and get you started on your KDP journey. Stay tuned!
Before you even put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—you want to know what type of book you want to write. We’ll spend the first couple of steps in this process selecting the right niche and even the right keywords. This is important because you’re not just writing a book for pleasure, you want to create an asset that is marketable and will bring you profit.
But, before we even get into niches, let’s talk about the main book categories available to you as an aspiring publisher. Should you go for low/no-content books (as was trending on passive income TikTok for a while), fiction or non-fiction? Let’s break them down:
Fiction books are imaginative works that tell a story. Whether it's romance, mystery, fantasy, or any other genre, fiction allows you to unleash your creativity. More importantly fiction is the most profitable option for most KDP authors – here’s why:
- Loyal Readers: Let’s compare fiction with non-fition for a second. Let’s say you’re interested in time management. You might read one, two, three books tops on the topic. After that, you’re equipped with the skills you need and you’re not likely to purchase more books. With fiction, however, readers are often genre enthusiasts. A sucker for romance remains a sucker for romance and requires a steady supply of books. There’s a reason why authors like Nora Roberts have hundreds of titles – people that are genre fans will always want another book.
- High Engagement: Fiction often generates strong emotional responses, making it easier to build a reader base.
- Series Potential: If your book does well, you can expand it into a series, maximizing your revenue streams. This is fairly common (and almost expected) in niches like romance.
Non-fiction books are based on factual information. Think self-help, memoirs, history, or instructional guides. Some of the perks of non-fiction include:
- Expertise: If you have specialized knowledge or skills, this is a great way to share it.
- Credibiilty: A well-researched non-fiction book can establish you as an authority in your field. On the flipside, keep in mind there are already established experts in most non-fiction fields. Having a previous following helps here, but otherwise you’d need to spend some time promoting yourself if you hope to sell well.
Low-content books include journals, planners, coloring books, and the like. These are generally easier to produce so for a while they were trending on social media. Producing and publishing hundreds of low-content books is still a side hustle many recommend.
Unfortunately, with quick to market times comes a lot of competition. If anybody can design a journal on Canva… well, everybody will. I have actually seen some success with low-content books in the past, but the market has become insanely saturated. Finding low-compeitition keywords and niches is tough and your earning potential is low because your royalties per book sold are tiny,
In 2023, my recommendation is 100% go for fiction.
Given the genre fanatics, potential for reader engagement, and the opportunity to create a series, it’s no surprise fiction books can drive so much sales. It's a genre that allows you to explore endless possibilities while offering a rewarding challenge. And, it’s also a genre where AI can now help you create very low-cost books to market on Amazon.
Now that you've chosen your genre, it's time to narrow it down to a specific niche. A niche is essentially a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service. In the context of KDP, your niche is the specific category or subcategory your book will fall under. The right niche can make or break your book's success, so let's get into how to research and validate it.
Choosing a niche isn't just about writing what you're passionate about—although that's important too. It's about finding a sweet spot where your interests meet market demand. A well-chosen niche can help you:
- Stand out in a crowded market
- Target a specific, engaged audience
- Increase your book's visibility and sales
Here is my exact approach to selecting a book niche (btw we’re planning on a case study soon based on this method so stay tuned for the wonders it can do:
Before we get started, I suggest you install the DS Amazon Quick View plugin. It’s a free plugin for the Chrome browser that shows you the Amazon Best Seller Rank (BSR) without you having to click on every listing. We’ll use the BSR to get an idea of how popular and profitable the book is.
Get this plugin (blue icon) – they’ve recently introduced a paid version with a green icon that shows up first, but the free version is enough for this tutorial:
With the plugin installed, go to the Kindle best sellers list. You have the top 100 books there (stick to paid; you’re trying to make a book that sells). Already, you can get an idea of what sells on Kindle – there are a bunch of romance, thriller, and fantasy books.
Psst! You can see the genre when you hover with the plugin activated.
Since romance is clearly trending, this is the category I will go for. There are multiple sub-categories here – from Amish romance (a surprisingly popular category btw, among those looking for a clean romance book) to Rockstar romance (yes, this is its own category).
Choose a sub-category that interests you and look at the best-sellers for that. I picked Paranormal romance, which also comes with its own sub-categories, depending on the creature in question.
Google Trends is an amazing (free!) resource that Google offers. It shows you the level of interest in a specific topic from how many Google searches on it happened. This is perfect for our purposes – if interest in our topic is growing, so will the sales.
Go to Google Trends and type up your sub-category. In my case, I will be validating the creatures – werewolfs, vampires, magicians, etc. For that, type the keyword (e.g., “werewolf romance”). Set the filter to the United States for the past 5 years. We are doing this because most sales come from the US and a lot of book trends start there, too.
You can see that for werewolf romance, the interest has fluctuated but is generally increasing:
When I looked up magician romance the results weren’t nearly as flattering:
The Best Seller Rank (BSR) is a number Amazon assigns to products based on their sales. It's updated hourly and can be found on a book's product detail page (or by hovering with the plugin you just installed. A lower BSR means higher sales – here’s a calculator to help you figure out exactly how many.
For example, a BSR of 1000 means you’re selling 34 books per day (which is $3060 profit per month if you’re making $3 on every book.)
Personally, I go to the final sub-category and find the 100th best-selling book in that category. If it has a BSR of under 5000, that’s great. This means even after 100 better-selling books in the niche, this one makes over $3000 a month. That’s pretty neat for a side hustle – or a business, if you publish multiple books.
For the werewolves category, the 100th best-selling book was this one – Dark Souls Academy: Claiming her mates and it has a BSR of 2793.
This book sells 74 times per day. And, here’s the kicker – it’s not even a werewolf book primarily, its main category is demons and devils romance. So, a book that only mentions werewolves is already ranking and making money. There definitely seems to be space in that category ;)
If you're active on platforms like TikTok, you can use them to gauge what's trending. Pay attention to what people are talking about, what books they're recommending, and what's getting the most engagement. BookTok is a major force in publishing right now (bookstores even have #BookTok sections) so you can use it to further validate your idea.
Once you've gathered all this information, you should have a clearer idea of which niche to pursue. Remember, the goal is to find a niche that you're passionate about and that has a proven market demand. Your chosen niche will guide the rest of your KDP journey, from keyword research to writing and marketing your book.
Ready to move on? The next step is all about optimizing your book for searchability through keyword research. Stay tuned!
Keywords are what readers use to find books on Amazon. Optimizing your book listing with the right keywords can significantly improve its visibility, leading to more clicks, more sales, and ultimately, more passive income.
You might be wondering – shouldn’t I look for keywords after I’ve written the book. Sure, if this is just a passion project for you, you should. But for our purposes keywords will help us niche down even further and then create a book that readers will love. Here’s how to do it:
One of the most straightforward methods to research keywords is by going to the Amazon search results themselves and using the AMZ Suggestion Expander, a free Chrome plugin. This tool expands Amazon's autocomplete suggestions, giving you a broader range of keywords to consider. Here’s what it looks like in the Chrome store:
Once you’ve installed it, open up a spreadsheet and we’re ready to go:
Set the search category to 'All' instead of just 'Kindle Store'. This is closer to what your actual readers will experience. If you can, change your location to the US with a VPN – or at least change your address to the US if you’re not based there. Again, most sales come from the US so this is where we are focusing.
Type your niche into the search bar and observe the expanded list of suggestions. Note these suggestions down in your spreadsheet:
Side note: I don’t include any keywords that contain the word “free”. I can’t really provide what these people are looking for – I would be selling my final piece. I also exclude any book names like “Second Chance Mate Series” which clearly refers to a specific competitor.
Click on these keywords and see how the suggestions expand even more. Note all relevant keywords in your spreadsheet.
Now, we’ll look at the number of search results for each keyword. In general, under 1000 search results shows very low competition. These would be more specific keywords, for example “werewolf alpha romance enemies to lovers”:
Amazon allows you to enter up to seven keywords for your book. Choose at least five that have fewer than 1,000 search results. This increases your chances of ranking higher due to lower competition.
There is one key aspect that we didn’t touch on when it comes to keywords. Although you can see competition, you don’t know how many people look up these words every day. This is called search volume and it shows you the eyeballs you’ll get on your book from these search queries.
Unfortunately, there are no good free tools that show search volume. You can pay for AMZ Premium which has them or check out Publisher Rocket or Helim 10. Both of these tools are specifically created for Amazon publishers to help them find profitable keywords. We'll cover these in more detail in future articles, but they're worth considering if you're serious about maximizing your book's visibility.
Your selected keywords will not only help your book get discovered but also guide its creation. They can inspire chapter titles, subheadings, and even the content itself, making your book more relevant to what readers are actively searching for.
Up next, we'll dive into competitive research to help you understand what you're up against and how to stand out.
After you've selected your niche and keywords, it's time to dig deeper into the competitive landscape. Understanding what you're up against shows you what works and what doesn't in your chosen niche. This step will help you fine-tune your book's content, cover design, and pricing strategy.
For each of the seven keywords you've chosen, search them on Amazon and take note of the top books that appear in the results. Here's what to look for:
The cover is the first thing potential readers see. Note the design elements that are common among top sellers. Is there a recurring color scheme, typography, or layout? I like to take screenshots of the results page to remind me of what covers are out there.
Knowing competitors’ covers also means you can work to stand out while meeting expectations. For example, look at all these abs and dark hues. They go perfectly with the topic but if I wanted to stand out, I could try dark + gold tones (plus the obligatory half-naked man) to stand out:
Check the length of the top-selling books. This can give you an idea of what readers in your niche expect in terms of content depth. Most books on werewolf romance were 200-300 pages long.
Take note of the price range for these top books. This will help you set a competitive price for your own book. There’s also the debate of Kindle Unlimited Vs no Kindle unlimited. Sure, one pays less but in my experience Kindle Unlimited readers weren’t going to buy your book to begin with. If I see a lot of Kindle Unlimited books in the category, I tend to enroll mine, too.
Read through the customer reviews for these books. Pay close attention to what readers liked and didn't like. Reviews can offer direct insights into reader preferences and expectations.
As you go through the reviews, you'll likely notice specific comments about plot development, character depth, pacing, or even formatting issues. These are golden nuggets of information. Make sure to jot them down as they can guide you in crafting a book that meets or exceeds reader expectations.
For example, here’s a critical review of one top-rated werewolf book. The reader didn’t like that an overly dominant male was pushing the innocent heroine. A fair bit of the positive reviews talk about how they like his dominance so perhaps a book where the female lead has a bit more spice could be better to appease this reader:
Competitive research is like a reconnaissance mission. It equips you with the knowledge to make informed decisions throughout your book's development and marketing stages. It's an essential step in ensuring that your book not only stands out but also meets the demands and expectations of your target audience.
Next, we will finally write your book – and it will be competitive and passive-income-firendly:
You've done the groundwork—niche selection, keyword research, and competitive analysis. Now comes the part you've probably been waiting for: actually writing the book. While the blank page can either be a canvas of possibilities or a daunting abyss, tools like Bookwiz can make the process more manageable and efficient.
Psst! This here is an overview on using Bookwiz for your ebook. Check out our detailed guide on getting started with Bookwiz to learn more.
Bookwiz is a specialized AI writing software designed for authors.
At $25 per month (if billed annually) or $38 for a single month, Bookwiz provides enough credits to generate one to two novels. This is cheaper than all of its competitors AND it comes with a cover designer, too.
In the olden days of KDP, you’d usually outsource writing the book to a freelancer. This costs upward of $1000 (much more for a good one) and it takes months. With AI, you can do it in a couple of weeks and control the quality much closer. Your competitive research insights also really help – you can directly tell the AI about them.
Here’s what it generated from my own rough idea:
Writing with BookWiz is a multi-step process where you go through idea, then outline, main themes, characters, etc. The whole thing is very streamlined, even if you are a complete beginner. One of the handiest features I personally found was the characters section where you can generate and store characters. The AI remembers them for the following steps but it’s also just great that you can have that single reference. You can then create moodboards and promotional materials related to the characters, which is perfect for marketing.
Here's what Bookwiz came up with for my heroine:
Now, reality check, even though you’re using AI, this isn’t completely a hands off process. Bookwiz helps guide you through story creation and writes the chapters for you step by step. However, it does still need human help – for example, in creating the detailed plot, you’d need to give it ideas about the storyline and twists. Still, you’re able to create the book within 10-20 days depending on how long you spend each day. Leave a week for editing and you have your full novel in a month – much quicker than a freelance ghostwriter can do it.
You've penned down your words, and your manuscript is taking shape. Now it's time to focus on the visual element that will either draw readers in or make them scroll past—your book cover. Another BookWiz perk here - you have the Midjourney/ DALL·E 2 integration, which can generate covers.
Full disclosure: This is still a beta feature (learn more about how it was introduced to Bookwiz in our dedicated piece). It’s a little slower than other AI image generators and I couldn’t get it to include the book title. Still, the result was pretty impressive. Check out my preliminary cover:
People do judge books by their cover. This is the first and biggest thing a person sees about your novel. It’s your chance to grab their attention straight from the search results. That’s why the competitor research specifically included looking into their covers.
With the integrated capabilities of Bookwiz and Midjourney, creating a cover that resonates with your target audience is much easier. It's an integral step in your KDP journey, one that can significantly impact your book's marketability.
Next, we'll move on to formatting your eBook for publication, ensuring that the inside of your book is as polished as the outside. Stay tuned!
Your manuscript is complete, and your cover is ready to captivate readers. Now it's time to focus on the technical aspect of your book—formatting it for publication. Thankfully, Amazon provides a free tool called Kindle Create that simplifies this process, ensuring that your eBook looks professional across various devices and platforms.
Kindle Create is designed by Amazon for KDP authors, offering a range of formatting features tailored to eBook publication. It’s completely free and very easy to use. We’re formatting a novel here, nothing technical or with special typography requirements – the free software by Amazon is more than enough.
Kindle Create is a desktop application for Mac and Windows. Download it from Amazon's KDP website and install it on your computer. Then, import your manuscript, double-check the chapters are right (it auto-detects them) and generate your book.
You're almost at the finish line! Your book is written, the cover is designed, and the eBook is formatted. Now it's time to create your book listing on Amazon, a crucial step that serves as your book's storefront. This is where potential readers will decide whether to click that "Buy Now" button or move on to something else. Let's make sure they choose the former.
Your book description is essentially a sales pitch. It needs to grab attention, convey the essence of your book, and prompt action—all within a few short paragraphs. Here's how to go about it:
- Start Strong: Open with a hook that immediately piques interest. Many fiction writers go for a quote from the book itself. Pick something eye-catching – e.g., in the werewolf niche a lot of books feature a She’s-mine-and-I’ll-always-protect-her type of quote. It resonates with the audience – they want a
- Be Clear and Concise: Avoid long-winded explanations. Get to the point while keeping the language engaging
- Utilize Keywords & Tropes: Incorporate some of the keywords you researched earlier. Genre fiction readers know what tropes they enjoy. When you have them right in the book description (some authors even include them in the title itself), it’s a selling point - and, after your competitor research, you know what works, so take advantage of that knowledge.
Finally, end your description with a call to action. It’s cheesy, maybe, but asking people to do what you want them to do (a.k.a. buy the book) really seems to help. Encourage readers to take the next step, whether it's reading a sample or making a purchase.
Pricing is a balancing act. Set it too high, and you risk alienating potential buyers. Set it too low, and you undermine the perceived value of your book. Consider the following when setting your price:
- Market Research: Refer back to your competitive research. What is the average price of top-selling books in your niche? No need to low-ball them, but stay around that number
- Royalty Plan: On Amazon, you can either have a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty on your book. Why would anybody pick 35%? Well, mostly because of the price range. To be eligible for 70% royalty, your book price must be between $2.99 and $9.99 on the US market. The 35% category has an upper limit of $200. Now, to be completely honest with you, you’d rarely price a genre KDP book over $9.99 - your competitors aren’t doing it, either. But, if you’re publishing something particularly long that genuinely deserves a higher price tag, you’re stuck with the 35% royalty option. Keep that in mind when calculating your earnings
- Factor in the VAT: When you set your prices, they don’t include the VAT. If you price a book at $2.99, it would appear at around $3.26 in the US store because Amazon includes that tax automatically. Keep this in mind when it comes to staying competitive.
You've already done the groundwork here. Select the categories and subcategories that align with your earlier research. Add the seven keywords you've chosen to maximize your book's discoverability.
And… well, there you have it. You do, of course, also have to upload your book and cover, but that’s just a couple of clicks. You’re ready to go online now:
Congratulations, your book is now ready for the world to see! But publishing is just the first part of the equation. To truly make this a source of passive income, you'll need to focus on promotion and marketing. Here's how to get started.
Reviews provide social proof, influencing potential buyers and boosting your book's credibility. Because you don’t have a big publisher’s marketing budget (or a big-name-author pull), don’t expect people to flock to your book from day one. Be proactive about gathering those first reviews yourself.
There are two main ways to do this:
- Friends and Family: Reach out to people in your network who would be interested in your book. Ask them to leave an honest review from their Amazon profile. Better yet, ask them to leave an honest, 5-star review, because it’s the star ratings that people really look at .
- Book Bloggers and Reviewers: Identify influencers in your genre and send them a free copy of your book in exchange for an unbiased review. There are also reader/reviewer services you can use. The way it works is you send them a free copy, they review it. They won’t guarantee a positive review and there can be a fee in some cases, but you’re getting the reviews up and that’s what matters.
Amazon Ads can give your book immediate visibility, placing it in front of a targeted audience. While this involves an upfront investment, it can pay off in terms of initial sales and rankings. We’ll do a more in-depth guide to Amazon Ads for KDP soon, but here are the basics:
- Set a Budget: Decide how much you're willing to invest in advertising. The price per conversion should be lower than what you earn from a book (so, say for every 100 clicks you get 1 sale and you make $5 from a sale ⇒ you can’t spend more than $0.05 per click)
- Target Keywords: Use the keywords you've researched to target your ads effectively. You can also try using competitor book names and even author names as keywords - a sneaky way to steal some competitor traffic.
- Monitor and Tweak: Keep an eye on your ad performance. Honestly, the most important part when you’re learning the ropes of Amazon Ads. Adjust your budget and keywords as needed to optimize results.
Whether you're using your real name or a pen name, social media platforms can be powerful tools for promotion. Start creating those author profiles from the get-go and you’ll have an easier time promoting future books.
- Choose the Right Platforms: Not all social media platforms are created equal. Choose the ones where your target audience hangs out. Instagram is universally popular, Facebook is good for older audiences, and TikTok - for younger ones (+ you gain an initial boost on TikTok when you start posting which is a nice perk).
- Content Strategy: Share valuable or entertaining content related to your book's genre or subject matter. This could be behind-the-scenes looks, related articles, or even snippets from your book. One thing that works well on TikTok and Instagram reels is sharing moodboard-style videos about your story.
- Engage: Don't just post content; interact with your audience. Reply to comments, ask questions, and encourage discussions. This obviously helps build a relationship and it also helps with the algorithm (so you’ll appear more on discovery pages).
Publishing your book is a significant milestone, but the journey doesn't end there. Effective promotion can turn your one-time publishing project into a long-term income stream. It requires a strategic approach, a bit of investment, and a lot of engagement, but the rewards—both financial and personal—can be substantial.
In the next and final step, we'll discuss how to maintain and grow this newly established source of passive income. Your book could be the first of many successful projects, so let's make sure it sets the stage for ongoing success. Stay tuned!
You've written, published, and promoted your book. Sales are coming in, and reviews are starting to accumulate. It's tempting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, but if you're serious about making this a source of passive income, the work isn't over yet. Here's how to keep the momentum going and turn this into a sustainable income stream.
Arguably the least “passive” aspect of passive income is you’ll still need to keep an eye on it. For me, when I’m not publishing new books, I still open my KDP account every week just to see how things are going. That’s the bare minimum in my view - I do it far more often when I’m running ads or publishing new books.
Here’s what you should look at when your book is already out:
- Sales Data: Obviously, keep an eye on your sales numbers. Are they steady, increasing, or declining? This data can offer insights into when it might be time to ramp up promotional efforts or even publish a new book. Don’t rush to freak out if they drop during a time, though, there is also seasonality when it comes to KDP.
- Reviews: Continue to monitor customer reviews for feedback that could help you improve future projects. Learn from your own readers - in fact, feel free to be obsessive about this one. The more you tailor your product to meet reader expectations, the better it will sell.
- Ad Performance: If you're using Amazon Ads or other promotional methods, it goes without saying you should regularly check their performance. Be prepared to adjust your strategy based on results.
Next step, don’t put all your eggs in one basket (even if you only have the one book).
- Audiobooks: Consider turning your eBook into an audiobook. Platforms like ACX make it relatively easy to find a narrator and get your audiobook onto Audible. It’s an instant new income stream.
- Hard cover: If you haven’t published a physical book yet, do it ASAP. Just like with the audiobook, this is a new income stream - and, yes, in some cases it’s even more profitable. I have noticed physical books do great in niches with an older reader base.
- Merchandise: If your book lends itself to it, think about creating related merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, or… well, whatever other product you think your readers might like. Sites like Spring (formerly TeeSpring) are an easy way to do this because they handle production and shipping, all you have to do is upload the design.
Finally, well, you’re not likely to make a full-time living out of a single book. Sales can die off, niches can go out of fashionl… Things happen, basically. So, once you’ve published one, it’s time to start thinking about the next.
Sequels and spin-offs are the obvious first step. Genre readers enjoy book series and once they’ve fallen in love with your characters, it’s easier to sell a second book.
Alternatively, you could explore a completely different genre or niche, using the skills and knowledge you've gained from this project. If your first book wasn’t a huge success, it could be nice to dabble into another niche - maybe it’s not your writing and marketing skills, but simply the genre. And, even if you are somewhat established, trying out new niches = diversifying. This protects you if anything were to happen to your current niche’s popularity.
You've made it to the end of this comprehensive guide, and you're now equipped with the tools, strategies, and insights to make your Amazon Kindle publishing journey a success. But remember, the end of this guide is just the beginning of your adventure.
- Review and Implement: Go back through the steps outlined in this guide and start implementing them one by one. The journey might seem daunting, but remember, every big achievement starts with the decision to try.
- Stay Updated: The world of self-publishing is ever-changing. Platforms evolve, reader preferences shift, and new promotional avenues emerge. Stay abreast of industry trends to keep your strategy fresh and effective.
- Join a Community: Whether it's a forum, social media group, or a local meet-up, connecting with other authors can provide invaluable support and insights. We are partial to our Discord server, which also includes tips on AI-powered KDP publishing.
- Never Stop Learning: The most successful authors are those who view each book as a learning experience. Whether it's improving your writing skills, mastering marketing, or understanding the nuances of cover design, there's always something new to learn.
Turning your passion for writing into a source of passive income is more achievable today than ever before. With platforms like Amazon Kindle, the barriers to entry are low, but the potential rewards are high. It won't always be easy, and you'll face challenges along the way, but the key is to stay committed, be adaptable, and above all, enjoy the creative process.
Thank you for joining me on this journey through the world of Amazon Kindle publishing. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavors and look forward to hearing about your successes. Until then, happy writing!