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Publish books on Amazon. I've published 4 and make about $3k in profit per month, after paying for ads on amazon.

Don't write them yourself, that's a lot of work.

Instead, do key word research about what books sell in non-fiction categories (fiction is a whole different ballgame). Look for keywords that 1) auto complete in the amazon search bar, and 2) have less than 4,000 matching books, and 3) have an average Amazon BSR of less than 150k.

The above isn't easy, nor is it particularly difficult.

Once you've found a good keyword, create an outline on the subject. You'll have to do a bit of research here, but this can be done in a few hours to a few days. The more time you spend here, the better your result will be.

Then, hire a ghostwriter to produce a 30k-ish word long book. This will run you around $1000, and produce a book long enough to turn into a 3+ hour audiobook on Audible (audiobooks over 3hrs get significantly better royalties than less than 3 hours).

Get a cover made. This will run from $50ish on fiverr to several hundred on 99designs or upwork. Don't cheap out, good covers are important.

Publish on amazon. Run ads.

There's obviously more too it than this. If interested, look up the Mikkelsen twins or Dane McBeth on youtube.

There's something about this that just makes me really sad. I guess being in my late 30's I hold on to the flawed notion that there is sanctity in something that is 'published'.

Does anyone here want to read a book that wasn't written by an expert on the topic? How upset or sad would you feel if you spend several hours reading a book only to discover it was produced by an opportunist who picked that keyword and asked someone in a developing nation with no expertise about the subject to grok some blogs (which might or might not be factually correct) and pad out to make it a 3hr audiobook read.

I'm sorry, I just think it's a shitty thing to be doing. I'm not against making money (I'm a VC!) but it just undermines the integrity of the medium of books because now you have to sort out 'real' knowledgeable authors from this carpet bagging.

On the one hand, I agree. On the other, Sturgeon's law. Surely you remember how terrible most of the books were in the tech section of B&N or Borders. Why should some publishing house that published a bunch of "X For Dummies" books be the only ones in on the game?

O’Reilly has been publishing good tech books for decades with books often written by a top subject matter expert.

I have lots of those books. They are among the 10% of books that aren't crap.

For sure. I like the animals on the covers too.

I actually buy these books only because of the nice cover pictures.

Agreed. Not that Amazon is where I normally buy books anyway, but it makes me think twice baout doing so. Feels like a bit of a dilution of an otherwise well-regarded art form when someone can just be producing arbitrary books. That said, I suppose this isn't new, and has been happening with textbooks forever.

Sanctity is just another word for exclusivity.

Knowledge used to be reserved for the elite, locked behind closed doors that the majority never knew existed.

Then the printing press came along. Knowledge was commoditized, no longer reserved for those born into families of status. Society changed, and I’d like to think for the better. We began to see innovation like never before.

This evolution was not without burden. Knowledge can be irksome at times—after all, it requires a certain degree of mental exertion to process. Fortunately, the means to publish knowledge remained somewhat exclusive; one need not look further than a book store for an authority on any subject. If it’s in print, it’s trustworthy.

Then the internet came along and commoditized that, too. Now, we’re forced to analyze all information presented to us should we seek the truth. How do we tell what’s trustworthy? Why must we expend such effort to sort fact from fiction?

I see this as a natural progression, given our history as a society. We’ll adapt, and we’ll be better for it.

On the other hand, I’m some random person typing into the digital abyss while lying in bed. Am I a subject matter expert, or am I a 13-year-old who’s presently failing History? You’ll never know, and that’s the beauty of it: you’re stuck judging my statements without the context of authority or a librarian’s recommendation.

Nothing has changed here. You should always be questioning what you read. Open an encyclopedia from a few decades ago; you’re quite likely to find numerous mistakes on each page.

Ah, but you don’t want to waste time reading something that never even tried to be correct, right? Well, that’s a problem we haven’t solved yet: give everyone a voice, and all you hear is noise. Maybe some young, enterprising VC will sort that out for us, but exclusivity isn’t the solution.

People have got to make a living, by any mean. That's the state of the economy today, no small part by the effort of VC's.

You could use this line of reasoning to justify a lot of terrible and/or illegal ways to make money.

Sure. I don't think that's the best way to behave. But I also don't like a VC moralizing over us.

And still, in reality, in an economy like our, that's what you get.

because now you have to sort out 'real' knowledgeable authors from this carpet bagging

I don't believe that's difficult. You can almost always differentiate real books from the grift-type ebooks by looking at them by publisher. Big difference between serious non-fiction publishers and print on demand titles.

The problem is that if you're looking for information about a niche subject, there are sometimes independent researchers who study for their own fulfillment, and then self-publish or publish through small publishers or vanity publishers. If you happen to find a book like this it can be a treasure since it's literally several years labor of love on the topic you want to know about. That person is also happy to have reached someone interested in their topic, even if their financial reward is negligible, zero or negative.

Because of the 'business' described above, that book is now impossible to find. It's been swamped by hundreds of easily generated titles which are at best copy pasted from the wikipedia, at worst utter gibberish.

I always want a recommendation I trust or a book chapter preview or an author I trust.

>sanctity in something that is 'published'

I'm not quite in my 30s yet but "published" in general vs "published by a specific publisher" (like O'rielly) seems really odd, especially after some of the absolute garbage we were forced to buy in college.

It’s time to let go of your naivety.

Who says the ghostwriter is not an expert on the topic? The above is quite similar to a startup incubator, there is a demand in the marketplace that's unmet, one hires people to meet that demand and develop a product after which customers buy it.

$1000 says he isn't.

At 3 cents/word, not only is the ghostwriter not an expert, they probably aren't even a good writer. That's less than what a decent typist would charge for material that's already written (transcribing from audio or handwritten manuscript).

Maybe. Looks like the OP says his books are pretty good with high ratings and a high volume of ratings as well, so they must be enjoyable enough to the people who buy them.

I’m sure we can trust the self publisher of a ghostwritten unedited cost-first keyword-selected book to never employ fake reviews. He’s only here to provide what’s best for his customer.

That's pretty disingenuous to say they employ fake reviews, regardless of whatever your opinions of self publishing are.

Why is it disingenuous? They've literally described a process optimised to produce "passive income" with absolutely no quality control at all.

Selection bias. People who see OP's books in the search results and conclude it's a shitty book/something is off/etc are not going to leave a review (on a book they didn't buy) to say so. People who spend $10 and 4hrs of their time are inclined to not want to feel like they just wasted that and so will positively review something to reinforce.

Since the person promoting the book has literally no interest in the content, it doesn't make sense that the writer would be an expert, nor that the book would be any good.

An expert ghostwriter would be undercut by a ghostwriter supplying copy-pasted material just good enough to get past the publisher. A publisher who actually cares about whether or not the book is worthless would outbid this publisher for the skills of the expert.

You hire ghostwriters through freelance sites so it’s possible but for sure not a given the ghostwriter will be an expert. It’s more likely the author would do a lot of web searches and cobble something together that’s most likely or some value but it’ll likely be a got-what-you paid for situation.

Well, he did create "an outline on the subject" and spent a few days on it. It is theoretically possible he is so talented that this creative work alone made it a worthy read.


I looked the twins up. Looks like they've figured they can make more selling courses on what you describe.

A family member does FBA and does quite well. The book selling thing just sounds grim to me.

Maybe I'm being dumb - and there certainly is no rule written in stone about this - but I expect a level of craftsmanship and dedication from published books that only comes from years of research/experience. I would hate to spend my dollars and hours reading a book only to discover it was written by some ghost writer. It's the kind of thing I expect from a Medium article.

I can't exactly point out what, but it feels gross.

Wouldn't the author have to be knowledgeable about the subject? 30k words for $1000 sounds pretty low for an expert.

Seriously, whatever happened to being an expert on a certain domain of knowledge? This sounds like a disgusting startup-esque approach to writing a book.

They do their own research too, but they're not experts. You'll have to get at least mildly informed on the subject to make the outline and make sure the writer stays on track. I tend to read several book on whatever the subject is to make sure my book captures the best information I can find.

Ghost written or quick buck books are super common in Google Unlimited or low priced books. I can now spot them pretty quickly. Tech books are an area where I’d go with a known publishing house that has a good track record.

Don't people give it like 1-2 star reviews and it tanks with a few months?

Damn, this is one of the more disappointing things I’ve read on HN. Everyone is just trying to exploit the system for a dollar, I get it that’s capitalism. It’s just kind of saddening to me, it’s like the social media infection spreading. Where you can’t really trust what you read because you have a fake author, hiring a maybe expert to write a book. Hell, that ghost writer may have developed a good algorithm for pulling together information for that book, or just copying and pasting from places. I guess I just have issues with the do whatever I can to earn a buck thing.

You are a Ferengi, we get it.

"They're greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn't turn my back on one of them for a second."

Now you have given Instagramers the secret sauce to "How to Launch a book on Amazon without any work and make a killing". Be ready for the Tsunami of these creators who are charging money to teach others how to do it.

This is just so incredibly filthy.

How much do you have to spend on ads to make the $3K? I I imagine it's a hefty sum?

Around $1000 - $1500. The $3k varies by month too. April and May have been slow, while Jan/Feb were really good.

Are the books any good? What are reviews like?

They are poor quality and clearly written by ghost writers.

I don't blame people for going for the easy money, but it's like paying "writers" to write thousands of articles about "best pool equipment 2021" to target keywords on Google just so you can soak up Amazon affiliate revenue. Sure you make money, but how many people are reading your "blog" as fact?

Yeah, the review sites that drive affiliate revenue with content marketing SEO tend to hire low cost writers to do web searches and write articles, stopping just short of the plagiarism line, realizing that duplicate content isn’t good for SEO.

These sites aren’t going to to really test the pool cleaning equipment, the web hosting services being reviewed and ranked, learning Python tutorials. Nobody is going to pay anyone to test anything to make sure how the how-to cobbled together from three similar articles actually works.

I like to think my books are good. One has over 900 reviews with an average of 4.8 stars. Two others have over 100 reviews with about a 4.6. The 4th one has about 20 reviews with 4.4 stars-ish (I didn't follow the formula on this one, my own fault).

I'm not the only one doing this, of course. Most of the books I see my competitors make are of lower quality, but they probably paid a lot less for them. In general, books made by people like me read like really long blog posts - because that's where most of the information comes from.

Did you buy any of those reviews?

What kind of topics do you write about? Is it programming/reference material like "Mastering framework X in lang Y"?

I won't say what category I focus on, but I will say that programming books don't sell well, in general. Some do quite well, but most don't.

Dog and bird training, growing plants, etc

Thanks yea that's what I figured, it's all about finding that niche and going for it.

Do you run the ads on Amazon itself, or on Google Ads, or Reddit ads, or somewhere else?

First of all thanks for sharing "inside" secret. Old me would have judged you but not any more. Man got to do what he need to do. All the best :)

Incredible. Do you publish under a ghost name?

Yes, several. Each pen name has their own "personality" and focuses on different aspects.

Where do you go to hire the ghostwriters, or did you find one that you go back to each time?

I tend to use hotghostwriters.com. The output isn't bad, but I still end up paying quite a bit for editing.

The big reason to get a ghost writer is because writing books is easy, editing them is hard. Amazon's search algorithm dings books for every little grammar, wording, and punctuation error. Unless you were an English major, you will spend 75% of your time getting every sentence perfect. Hiring someone to edit costs about the same as hiring someone to write.

A simple line editor shouldn't run you more than $200 for a 30k book.

This is not passive advice whatsoever. It all requires regular "maintenance".

You should write a book how one can do it:)

Is this $3000 for one book or all four?

All 4.

I hate everything about this. Every step in this process is about making money and nothing else.

That does not sound passive to me, ideally a passive income should require minimal amount of working hours outside of ones regular job

Passive income is about "do once, profit passively forever after" and this fits that -> write once, revenue forever.

No income source is truly "free". Either you pay with time or money.

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