The Joy of Passive Income, Through Self-Published Books

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A Guest Post by Jill Nussinow

Culinary Educator Jill Nussinow sells print-on-demand cookbooks on her website, which lead to passive income.

Just last week, I made almost $100 in e-book sales with almost zero effort. The cost was a minute or two of my time to login to, enter the buyers’ information and hit the Send button. The money showed up in my PayPal account like magic. Who wouldn’t love that?

I got the idea to sell a downloadable cookbook in March 2011, when I hired a designer to format my manuscript. Within a few weeks, I had something saleable but wasn’t sure how to sell it. A publisher The program is so easy that I set it up myself. I installed a buy button on my website, which connects to PayPal. I sent out my email newsletter announcing that the e-book version of The New Fast Food was available at the special price of $9.95 for just 10 days, to stimulate sales.

That version had plenty of mistakes and a less-than-ideal cover, yet the first day I recovered the cost of the design work and made a profit. It felt as though I’d won a slot machine jackpot.

To add to my outreach, I picked a number of food bloggers who I thought would appreciate my e-book and offered them an affiliate program, which continues today. I offer a 25% commission on sales. Each person gets a unique code from e-junkie and can mention the e-book in ads, blog posts, email newsletters, social media and elsewhere.  E-junkie tracks sales, and I pay my affiliates monthly for the previous month’s sales through PayPal’s masspay feature.

I also set up discount codes for my customers through e-junkie (and no, I do not work for them and they only charge $5 per month). If I speak at an event or on the radio and want to offer a discount, I can set up a code and announce it. People love a deal, and I can track the discount code sales to determine the effectiveness of my special offers.

All the while I incur very little cost to deliver the e-book. I have to pay a small percentage to PayPal but I don’t see a way around that.

Later, I hired a higher-quality designer who redesigned the PDF and the print version of the book. I published a print-on-demand (POD) book through Lightning Source, releasing it in paperback in November 2011.

The look and feel of the POD book cover and paper was not to my liking, though. So in the third quarter of 2012, I printed 2000 copies with Worzalla to sell at public events. Most copies of The New Fast Food, however, sell as POD through Amazon (discounted 20%) and that, too, requires no work on my part.  Income, minus print costs, is direct-deposited monthly from sales three months prior.

I have two more cookbooks. The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, first self-published in 2005, now lives on as an e-book. My latest book, Nutrition Champs, had 44 other contributors, so I set up a special affiliate program for them, hoping that they will promote it. Champs is going to Lightening Source next month to become a POD through Amazon.

Offering a PDF version of my books allows me to collect all the money on sales, to send out copies for reviews, or offer giveaways whenever I want. It’s always a win.

Now, as I mentioned, I make about $100 per week from my e-books. There is joy in receiving passive income, whether I am desk-bound or sitting on the beach in Mexico — although I much prefer the latter. And I can keep my books in print for as long as the money flows in. Wouldn’t you like to make passive income too?

Got a question or comment for Jill? Write to her in the comments.

* * *

Jill Nussinow, aka The Veggie Queen, is a cookbook author, culinary educator, and Registered Dietician. Her latest book, Nutrition CHAMPS: The Veggie Queen’s Guide to Eating and Cooking for Optimum Health, Happiness, Energy and Vitality, is on sale for $9.95 via her website. After July 9 the price will increase to $12.95. Printed copies of the book will arrive in August.



  1. says

    Dianne, You’ve had a couple of posts and guest posts about cookbook authors going towards e-book and it just sounds better and better. I just wanted to clear one confusing (for me) point… can a book be both e-book (pdf) and pod? Thanks to Jill for this post and the information!

    • says


      I sell my book as a POD and also as an ebook. People get a choice as to which way they want to buy it. It’s less expensive as an ebook but many people want to hold a cookbook in their hands. I am with those people but very happy to offer the ebook, too. It’s all part of the joy and money for me.
      Good question. Thank you.

    • says


      My books have illustrations or black and white photography. I did a bit of the photography because my designer pushed me but I do not do any illustrations.

      My books go through an editing process but more could be done. I produce my books on a budget so I do what I can to make them the best that I can.

      I have a number of people who edit and proofread but they are not truly “hired”.

      If I were going to hire a great editor, my first choice would be Dianne J.

      Thank you for the comment.

  2. says

    I love e-junkie, Jill. I’ve used it to automatically deliver my e-book through eBay sales for the last several years. It is the greatest little tool and I have to do absolutely NOTHING when an eBay sale happens. I regularly check the download reports to ensure my buyers have successfully downloaded the link but, other than that, it is completely automated. I like the ideas you presented here. It opens up some avenues I hadn’t considered. Thanks for that!

  3. says

    What an interesting post about self-publishing. I think this is the future in publishing which is already here. Nice to know the majority of us have options like these, not just to earn additional income, but to bring our recipes to our audience faster.Thanks, Dianne and Jill !

    • says

      I agree Betty Ann. As authors we have many avenues beyond blogging to get the word out. Some people choose to give away their recipe ebooks as a promo, and that can work too, to get your name out there.

      Thank you for your comment.

  4. says

    Dianne, thanks for including this chock-full post of great resources and information from Jill. Jill, thanks for sharing your publishing journey. I have 100’s (maybe thousands) of recipes that I’ve created or adapted over the years for my cooking classes and I’ve wondered how to best share them with a much wider, and hopefully, more profitable, audience. Do you calculate time-spent on producing the e-book into your profit? Do you “pay” yourself and set aside $$ for other costs? It’s an exciting prospect that I will certainly research more.

    • says


      I don’t include my time in my profit and loss statement. It’s the work that I do.
      I don’t do that much work. I have my designer (whom I pay) put the book together so that it looks good. The PDF that she creates can also be used to create the POD (print on demand) book so it all works out.

      You don’t have to pay a designer but I think that it’s worth it to have a good looking product.

      Thank you for asking.

      • says

        Jill, I am in the same position as Carol above, having many recipes from teaching classes that are begging to be shared/published/sold!

        So how does one find a designer (are we talking about a graphic designer?) And at what point do you start the e-junkie membership? Is it after you are totally done with your manuscript? Sorry for the silly questions–I am still trying to understand POD /self-publish/e-publish differences. Thanks for a helpful post!

  5. says

    It’s so exciting to see the opportunities for self-publishing – thank you for sharing your journey. I haven’t tried e-junkie, but you’ve just about persuaded me!

    • says


      I want to encourage you to take your chances with e-junkie for $5 a month. It has been invaluable for me for delivering products in an efficient way. It can do much more than what I ask of it, too.

      Thank you for reading this post.

  6. says

    Wow is that a catching title! Who doesn’t love Passive Income. All kidding aside though, this post really is a wealth of great information to those of us interested in selling e-book version of our cookbooks.

  7. says

    This is such a great post! This is such a testament to bloggers who build their own following. It doesn’t matter if another publisher likes you. Everyone has the potential to do exactly what Jill did and build your own following and sell your ebook without a whole lot of extra effort.

    I did the exact same thing and the sales I make from Amazon and E-junkie are a great way to increase my savings. I teach a lot of other self-publishers, as well as wannabe self-publishers, to do the exact same thing. If you want to be free to create your cookbooks, or any other kinds of books, it’s possible with the internet. Don’t sit and wait for a publisher to recognize your talent. Take your future into your own hands and start writing and publishing now.

  8. says

    Jill Nussinow is a great teacher — not only in the kitchen, but to other cooks, writers and bloggers. Thanks for forging your own path and showing us the way, Jill, and Dianne, thanks for this post.

  9. Laura says

    I work with Jill, and use one of her affiliate links to sell her book. The earnings (25% commission) is way better than what you can get from amazon and big motivator for me to feature the post with a link to the book multiple times.

    Also, I had the pleasure of meeting her in person and during our tea I saw she had something long hanging off her laptop. It was a credit-card reader so she can do direct sales at events!!! She is a genius at seizing opportunities to monetize her hard work and I’m glad to see her post here to share some of that knowledge.

    Jill is a true inspiration and one thing she told me that day, that keeps ringing in my head “publishing your own book is like printing your own money”


    I was enlightened *after* I had already signed with a publishing house – so now that my book is coming out in September I’ll get to gauge if going with a publisher is going to give me “access” to opportunities publicity that I would not be able to drum-up myself.

    My gut is to go solo – especially after the book production experience I had to go through with a totally screwy editor – but I’m willing to keep an open mind to see if the publisher is going to be worth all the trouble (and money)!!

    Diane and Jill – I’d love to read more about POD books especially since, as Jill said, cookbooks are still a very tactile experience for many .

    I’ve read from someone else (I think here) that they also were not that satisfied with the end product, either. So I’m interested to hear about experiences in production and creation of a POD book – and if they make sense for recipe books with lots of photos!

    Since I don’t live in the U.S. printing the books myself and shipping/selling them is not an option.



  10. says

    I see you don’t use the power of social websites like twitter and facebook on your blog.
    You can get huge traffic from social sites on autopilot
    using one useful tool, for more info search in google for:

    Alufi’s Social Automation

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