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For the past few years, low-content books have been hyped as the new passive way to make money online. I noticed there was an overlap with self-publishing regular books and I want to talk about that today. But first, I know you’re asking, “What are low-content books?” Well, they’re books that require little effort to create like notebooks, planners, or journals. These kinds of books are supposed to take only a few hours to make mainly because creators use templates and stock art they find online. These books are then uploaded to Amazon by the truckload. However, as with most moneymaking trends, there’s a lot of hype and not too much in the way of real information. 

On the outside, it has all the hallmarks of the Kindle Gold Rush of 2008. You remember when Amazon launched the Kindle and all of sudden everyone had a book in them? Authors were becoming ‘Kindle Millionaires’ and were paraded around in the media on sites like The Huffington Post and even Forbes. As with most good things, it came to an end around 2013, when more and more authors found their earnings decreasing. Some went from making thousands per month to almost nothing overnight. The same thing seems to be happening here with low-content books (LCBs).  

You see back in the day, a few people had the idea to create notebooks or planners through KDP and were able to make good money from them. However, as word spread, more and more competition entered the market. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of results when you search Amazon for notebooks. Even if you niche down, and type in the words: mermaid notebook you get 2,000 results which isn’t considered a small keyword BTW. Sadly, you can almost tell which ones are the LCBs because the covers look bad and the prices are cheap. Here’s a recent search I did, can you spot the LCBs? 

I’m not here to shame anyone, if you can make a few bucks, go for it. However, if you’re looking for a passive way to replace or supplement your income, I’m about to shatter your dreams. You see, to make money from LCBs you need to build a business and the steps are identical to self-publishing non/fiction books. You know steps like: 

  1. Produce a professional product
  2. Solicit reviews
  3. Learn copywriting & SEO (for product descriptions & keywords)
  4. Create an email list
  5. Build a website…

I’m sure you got the point by now.  

It’s Not Passive

Low-content books are often sold as passive income but as you can see, there’s a lot of work involved. First let me define what I consider passive income, plainly put it’s a type of income earned from minimal effort. The IRS goes even further and defines it as: Passive activities include trade or business activities in which you don’t materially participate. You materially participate in an activity if you’re involved in the operation of the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.  So LCBs don’t really pass the test here.    

You can’t just set it and forget it like buying a stock or bond. You have to keep producing content because Amazon’s algorithms insist you do. It rewards new titles and sales with better visibility. This is why after the Kindle gold rush ended the online gurus started giving advice like, ‘write faster.’ Seriously, there were actual courses and books devoted to teaching indie authors how to write a book in a month, then one month turned into 2 weeks, and finally, 2 hours.

The same goes for LCBs, you have to constantly throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. In fact, some people have thrown so much spaghetti that you can’t even see the wall anymore.  In one of my Facebook groups, an author was making fun of an ad that popped up on her newsfeed.  We assumed they were in the LCB business and the advertiser was selling a course on their ‘secrets’ but as you can see, there’s a big problem.     

Notice how this person had to publish 1,837 books to get to that six-figure amount?    

I also have another screenshot from an actual LCB Facebook group where someone is bragging about how much they’ve sold after publishing over 200 books.

Again I’m not making fun, but these are typical results from the research I’ve done.  However, the surprising thing that I’ve learned from the more successful LCB creators is that most of their books aren’t selling.  Out of the hundreds or in some cases thousands of books, they have only one or two bestsellers, the rest don’t draw a dime. 

The Biggest Problem With Low Content Books

As you’re probably already guessing, Amazon is flooded with LCBs since it became the latest passive income scheme. Now to stand out from the crowd you’re going to have to come up with some pretty awesome and unique books. Instead of producing poor quality, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort and study the trends on Amazon. This will be hard work since Amazon doesn’t give too much data to the public. The technique that most of the LCB gurus recommend is finding a book that is making money and try to imitate it. 

Oh Yeah, About Those Gurus

I saw a lot of the same problematic advice that I see in our community which is information that is either out of date or advice that is ethically questionable. For example, one guru on Youtube advised driving traffic to your sales page by hiring people (virtual assistants) from overseas to visit the page and throw the book in their cart. This is to trick Amazon’s algorithm into thinking your book is a big deal. The problem with that is if Amazon becomes suspicious of this traffic, your account will be shut down.  

Years ago, I saw the same type of behavior in a self-publishing course where the guru advised authors to use Amazon affiliate links in their emails. When questioned about this bad advice, (which is against Amazon’s rules) he said, “Hey, you’re an adult.” So legally, he covered his a**. But as you can imagine, someone actually tried it and got themselves into trouble.  

A Final Word

Low-content books are not a scam, but the idea of selling them to make passive income is. Just like when people sell the idea of self-publishing books as a form of passive income either don’t know what they’re talking about or are peddling a scam. There’s no such thing as easy money in publishing and never was. I hope this clears up the hype around low-content books, if you found this post helpful please like and share.