Welcome to my low-content publishing royalty report, where I share the monthly breakdown of my first year publishing low-content books for sale on Amazon.
Digging deep into my monthly reports was a fascinating journey for me. Seeing things in a visual format was a great way to get an at-a-glance view of my progress—and pitfalls—over that first year and drilling down in this way allowed me to get a precise account of the “why?” behind each month’s rise or fall in revenue and to adjust my strategy where necessary moving forward.
2017 was the year in which I transitioned my focus from publishing romantic fiction novellas to putting my full efforts into low-content publishing. But don’t be fooled by the words “full efforts”. For the first few months of the year I only dedicated a few hours per week to the low-content side of my business, as I still had several fiction books already underway that I needed to see through to their respective launches. These minimal efforts resulted in a slow build for the first part of the year, but still managed to snowball into some impressive earnings by the second half of the year.
So, without further adieu, let’s jump right in and get straight to the numbers.
*The following chart reflects only paperback royalties earned; royalties earned from non-fiction and fiction e-books are not included.
Units Sold: 27,224
Units Sold: 112
January of 2017 was the first month I decided to experiment with publishing low-content books on the Createspace platform. I had already published print versions of a few of my non-fiction books, but their sales definitely weren’t anything to brag about.
The first low-content titles I published were a few lined journals and bullet journals, and they accounted for 29 out of the total 112 units sold throughout the month. Nothing that was going to send me on a trip around the world, but it was validation that low-content books were definitely worth pursuing, especially because they could be produced in a fraction of the time I had spent publishing my non-fiction titles. And the thing that really blew my skirt up was that I hadn’t invested a dime in their creation—any royalties earned were pure profit! This was a game-changer for me in my publishing business, as all of the fiction and nonfiction books I had published so far (mainly e-books in the romantic fiction niche) had each required an initial investment of $100-$500 USD, as well as ongoing marketing efforts to drive traffic to Amazon.
As a result of this initial validation of low-content book publishing, January was the month that I decided to focus exclusively on creating low-content titles rather than continue to build my romantic fiction publishing business.
$316.49 USD +71%
£24.53 GBP -24%
€2.58 EUR -84%
Units Sold: 165 +47%
Even though I had decided in January to focus solely on low-content publishing, I had several fiction e-books and their print counterparts already underway, so much of my time was spent ensuring that those titles were still launched successfully. This, coupled with the fact that I spent half the month in Mexico with my husband and parents (one of the best perks of running a location-independent business) and only spent about 1-2 hours per day working, meant that I didn’t actually create or publish any new low-content books this month. But the books I had published in January were starting to pick up some steam and I still saw unit sales increase by 47%!
$567.46 USD +79%
£32.76 GBP +34%
€19.32 EUR +649%
Units Sold: 292 +77%
In March I was back at it and started experimenting with a new sub-niche of journals that I had uncovered through my research, which began selling fairly well right off the bat. The bullet journals were also still going strong, with just a few sales going toward a couple of my lined journals, fiction and non-fiction titles.
This was also the month that I found out I was pregnant. Holy shit! Technically this was NOT a planned pregnancy (we found out a few days after deciding to start trying that we were already expecting), but I was overjoyed—not only for the pregnancy itself, but for the fact that I could spend it working from the comfort of my own home.
$869.96 USD +53%
£33.03 GBP +1%
€17.08 EUR -12%
Units Sold: 486 +66%
I didn’t publish many new low-content titles in April, but as the steam continued to build with my previously published titles unit sales still increased by 66%.
By this point I was also starting to notice that there were a few particular stand-out titles that were far out-performing the rest. For example, while most of the bullet journals only made between 1-6 sales this month, one sold 24 units and another sold 186 units! It was quite interesting to see which particular titles resonated with Amazon customers and which ones didn’t.
$1,657.14 USD +90%
£48.25 GBP +46%
€17.80 EUR +4%
Units Sold: 768 +58%
In May I started to experiment with a different type of low-content book, and many of them began to take off almost immediately. This is about the time I became really excited, as my low-content publishing income had nearly doubled by the end of the month.
This is also about the time when I really started to notice the 80/20 principle at play, with approximately 20% of my published titles generating 80% of my royalty earnings. Many of my titles were only selling 1-5 copies per month, but several were starting to sell 25, 50, 75, 100, or even 200+ units per month.
$2,024.96 USD +22%
£74.52 GBP +54%
€26.39 EUR +48%
Units Sold: 928 +21%
In June I cracked $2,000 USD, which was an amazing feeling. Remember, I was still only spending a few hours a week creating new low-content titles, and I wasn’t doing anything to market or maintain them once they were up. And with each month that passed by, the titles I had already published continued to pick up steam.
After expanding into various sub-niches related to titles I had already published, I also began to experiment with creating daily planners, which proved to be immediately profitable.
$1,634.75 USD -19%
£199.51 GBP +168%
€175.69 EUR +566%
Units Sold: 937 +10%
My US sales decreased by almost 20% in July, which was the first month I experienced a downturn since beginning to publish low-content books. While this felt like a disappointment, my GBP and EUR sales increased dramatically—mostly due to the new daily planners—and my overall unit sales still saw a 10% increase.
$6,282.33 USD +284%
£961.27 GBP +382%
€1,069.64 EUR +509%
Units Sold: 3,463 +270%
Okay, shit was now getting REAL. Earning over $6,000, almost £1,000 and over €1,000—the equivalent of over $8,000 USD—in a single month meant that not only was I generating a respectable full-time income, but I was fast approaching 6-figure territory! This was MUCH more than the $5,000 a month I was earning as an Art Director working in an advertising agency. (And that’s $5,000 CDN, so more like $3,8000 USD.) This was obviously a big deal for me; in just half a year of putting in part-time hours I was now making an incredible full-time living off of the passive income stream I had created. I was absolutely stoked!
So, what accounted for the massive spike in revenue this month? It was ONE particular book that really hit it big time. In fact, that one book produced just over half of all revenue earned in August.
$10,923.56 USD +74%
£2,157.33 GBP +124%
€2,480.73 EUR +132%
Units Sold: 6,487 +87%
Okay, so if I was stoked to make 8 grand in August, imagine what September felt like! Over $16,000 USD (including GBP and EUR)! If I could keep it up, I would reach my goal of a 6-figure income in no time—it was now so close I could taste it.
Once again, almost half of all revenue earned this month was due to just one title that had really taken off.
At this point I was putting in about 15 hours per week (about 3 per day) creating and publishing new low-content books—an insanely small time commitment for such an awesome financial reward. Which was great, as I was entering my third trimester of pregnancy and starting to get a bit more tired again.
This is the beauty of passive income, folks. You’re in full control of your schedule. For me, this meant that I was able to respect my body’s needs while carrying my baby; I could take that daily hour-long walk along the seawall with my dog, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about the nap on my couch that usually followed it. If I needed a break, I took one. And the money kept on rolling in.
$6,566.74 USD -40%
£733.54 GBP -66%
€1,171.93 EUR -53%
Units Sold: 3,801 -41%
Eek! For the first time in 8 months I was down on all fronts. Why the hell had I just experienced such a precipitous drop in revenue?
After going through my monthly report, it was easy to spot the culprit: the same star title that had been bringing in the lion’s share of revenue for the last two months was now starting to falter; it was part of a seasonal niche that was starting to wind down. Thankfully, the sale of all other titles remained consistent.
Disappointing as it was it made total sense, and it was something I could plan for in the future. While “evergreen” niches generate sales all year long, seasonal niches create some nice boosts of revenue at certain times throughout the year. This was to be expected.
$5,742.19 USD -13%
£323.48 GBP -56%
€711.62 EUR -39%
Units Sold: 3,436 -10%
Another disappointing month, due to the further decline in revenue from my titles in that seasonal niche. But I knew that this could be mitigated by creating more evergreen titles and finding new seasonal trends to work within.
November was also the month that I incorporated my business, as it was now making sense financially to do so.
I have to admit, I really wasn’t working much at this point. I was now nine months pregnant and feeling pretty damn tired and uncomfortable most of the time. And most of the energy I had was spent on final preparations for the bundle of joy that would soon be arriving.
$9,304.90 USD +62%
£623.43 GBP +93%
€809.63 EUR +14%
Units Sold: 6,349 +85%
Finally, back on the upswing! While the sales in that one seasonal niche continued to dwindle another seasonal niche that I had planned for back in September was starting to pick up some steam. This was amazing to see, as I gave birth to my daughter during the first week of the month, so spending any time creating more titles was out of the question.
By the end of the year I had generated over $45,000 USD, £5,000 GBP and €6,000 EUR—the equivalent of approximately $60,000 USD. Not bad for a part-time effort! But the main achievement for me this year was reaching my goal of earning 6-figures—which I successfully accomplished after adding my nonfiction and fiction e-book revenue to my low-content revenue. This had been a lofty goal for me, as my nonfiction and fiction publishing revenue had only brought in the equivalent of approximately $27,000 USD in 2016. Granted, I was still working a full-time job in 2016, but to go from $27,000 to $100,000 in passive income in the span of a year felt almost impossible to me at the time. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about goal-setting over the last few years, it’s that any goal that you set should feel a little bit scary and maybe a touch impossible. It’s only when one has to ask oneself, “How in the HELL am I going to accomplish this?” that one really digs deep and is forced to come up with an answer. So that’s what I did. And it worked!
But was I able to sustain my growth into 2018? Let’s take a look at my 2018 Low-Content Publishing Royalty Report.