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Careers

Selling E-Books to Earn Extra Cash

With low production costs and little hassle, creating an e-book can help boost your income and reputation.

Tara Jefferson spent a year and a half on a book proposal for traditional publishers before she decided to just write the book. Last May, she produced an e-book titled Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide to Creating the Career You Crave using Amazon's Create­Space, at no cost. Jefferson, 26, has sold some 650 copies, pocketing about $840. "It exceeded my expectations," she says.

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As e-books become mainstream, authors are taking advantage of low do-it-yourself costs. Self-published titles at e-book publisher Smashwords more than tripled in 2011 to 92,500, up from 28,800 in 2010.

Anyone can create a digital book free with such publishers as CreateSpace, Lulu and Smashwords. You'll keep a percentage of your sales, often in the range of 60% to 90%; the publisher or distributor takes the rest. If you're serious about selling, invest in professional design, editing and marketing, says Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. Basic serv­ices from self-publishing sites or outside sources run as little as a few hundred dollars. Top-of-the-line serv­ices could run $10,000 to $20,000. Be aware that you may not recover your costs.

Jefferson, who is making a career of writing for young mothers, has widened her circle of connections and landed speaking gigs. And successful self-publishers sometimes snag traditional publishing deals.