Wed | Dec 1, 2021
ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

Yaneek Page | Literary talent can earn you thousands from Amazon in the pandemic

Published:Saturday | October 16, 2021 | 12:05 AM
A Kindle Fire device.
A Kindle Fire device.

If you have a vivid imagination, enjoy writing, love creating stories and would like to earn passive income from your literary talent, then this article is for you. There are amateur Jamaican writers earning thousands of US dollars in passive...

If you have a vivid imagination, enjoy writing, love creating stories and would like to earn passive income from your literary talent, then this article is for you.

There are amateur Jamaican writers earning thousands of US dollars in passive income, doing what they love while delighting an international audience of devoted readers. Some of these writers have come into their own because of this pandemic, using the downtime in lockdown and curfews as an opportunity to launch their books on the global stage with credible results.

That’s the inspiring reality for one of my readers who generously agreed to share his experience of publishing books on Amazon. At his request, I have omitted his name and book titles, which were published under pen names, as he is still employed full-time with a government agency.

In July 2021, with no formal training in writing or publication and what he describes as “purely God-given talent”, he earned approximately US$700 from his Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Account, or KDP, which he notes has been steadily increasing since 2020. It’s a massive increase of over 2,000 per cent from his first payment of US$33 just over a year ago in March 2020, a deposit he says he cherishes to this day. Though he has published five manuscripts in total, most of his earnings come from two ‘urban fiction’ titles, the genre which in his experience has been most lucrative.

Steps in the KDP journey

The first step is to research the genres of interest to your prospective audience and just start writing. Apart from his passion for writing the only other resources my reader had was a laptop and internet connection.

Once you have a completed manuscript and documented it in Microsoft Word, the next step is to create covers for the book. For this he used the application Canva, which comes prepopulated with book cover samples. To format his manuscript he did basic internet research on Amazon’s preference and made adjustments accordingly. Amazon publishing terms and conditions document should be your bible in this field, he insisted. He then hired editors and proofreaders from Fiverr.com, spending about US$30 per book in total.

The next step was creating an Amazon account and then an Amazon KDP account through which the works will be published directly. He noted that although a US bank account was required, he was able to use his Payoneer.com account as a workaround, which allows for his funds to be transferred easily for access via the debit card associated with the Payoneer account.

On the issue of payment other critical points to note are that as a Jamaican account holder he was required to pay a 10 per cent withholding tax once he earned US$100 or more. In addition, payments are processed in 60 days. Therefore, money earned from sales in January will likely be received at the end of March.

Once the KDP account is set up, you may select the option to upload a title, after which you will be asked to answer several questions about your book, including whether it is an original title and the genre.

Advertising your book or books is critical, and according to my reader, “the more you spend is the more you earn”. It is the investment in promotions that he credits for the steady growth in monthly income. He currently spends between US$5 and US$30 monthly to promote his books on various book promotion websites that then promote his titles to their database of subscribers. Of the hundreds of services he has researched, the ones that work for him are Best Book Monkey and Free Booksy.

Final success tips

One key success factor for my reader was to focus less on the prospective earnings and more on the creative process of writing a book that your audience will fall in love with. Focusing on quality first, and producing content as a labour of love is paying off handsomely for this part-time writer who hasn’t added any recent titles to his repertoire, though his passive earnings continue to grow exponentially.

Another success tip is to be prepared to invest the time to do research and really plan for the opportunities, including investigating all the ways you can earn from and promote your book.

The final tip is to be patient, and willing to spend a little cash upfront, after the minimal costs of editing the books and creating a cover, before you earn a real profit.

“My initial plan was just to get my books out there,” said my reader. “I have since fallen in love with the business side. It wasn’t until I got the courage to start investing US$30-$50 on the low-cost sites in September 2020 that I started seeing much greater earnings, ranging from US$200 to US$300 in November and December to nearly US$700 in July, and the upward trend continues,” he said.

I hope his story inspires readers to find the courage to eke out opportunity amid crisis, and unleash the incredible potential of your own hidden talents.

One love!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series. Email yaneek.page@gmail.com