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How to Write & Publish an eBook and Sell It for Profit

By David Bakke

reading ebooksSince bursting onto the market in 2007, digital reading devices have become incredibly popular. The first version of the Amazon Kindle sold out in just over five hours, and late last year, Amazon announced that, for the first time ever, ebook sales surpassed that of paperback books.

With the advent of the new Amazon Kindle book reader, now is a great time for authors to capitalize on ebook sales.

Benefits of eBooks

eBooks come with many benefits when compared to traditional printed books. Publishing costs are significantly reduced, revenue-splitting is minimal, and there are no shipping costs. Also, you can target the marketing of an ebook to a core group of readers.

Promotional efforts for ebooks are fairly inexpensive, as you can provide free promotional copies at no cost. The production process is also very streamlined, as ebooks are generally shorter in length than printed publications. Overall, creating an ebook is a great way to showcase your talents in a more simplified and economical fashion.

How to Write an eBook

The considerations that you must take into account to write a successful ebook can differ slightly from the criteria for a printed book. Here are seven basic categories to address as you write your ebook:

1. Topic

Choosing a topic that you are either very knowledgeable or passionate about is key to creating an ebook that will be informative and profitable. But you also want to take into account your target market before you even begin to write. Creating your ebook first and later identifying the target market is like trying to fit a square block into a round hole. Decide what niche you want to target, identify their needs, and base the topic of your book on those facets.

2. Length

There are no hard rules when it comes to the length of an ebook. In some instances, I have read informative and creative ebooks that were less than five pages in length. Don’t be constrained by any preset word limit. On the other hand, don’t include fluff and filler in your ebook just to get it to a certain length. Say what you have to say in a concise, organized, and comprehensive fashion.

Some people equate the number of pages in an ebook to value, but this is a false assumption. If your ebook is 100 pages long, but packed with unique and creative ideas, that’s great. But if you can provide the reader with what they want in five pages, that’s fine too.

3. Title

The ebook market is a competitive one, so your title should stand out from the rest. An uncreative title, such as “Five Ways to Save on Home Energy Costs” is unlikely to sell well because there just isn’t any “wow” factor.

I once wrote an ebook of comprehensive ways to save money in your everyday life, and I solicited suggestions from friends and family as to what to title my book. Most were generic title ideas, such as “Making Money Matter.” Ultimately, I chose to title the book, “Don’t Be a Mule: Ways to Save More, Spend Less and Generate Income in Your Everyday Life.” There is no way to measure how much profit was directly attributable to the creative title, but it’s safe to say the eye-catching title drew at least a few people in to take a closer look.

man couch ebook reader

4. Unique Content

With the high level of competition in the ebook market, packing your digital work with unique content is the key to its overall success. Your knowledge of and passion for your chosen topic will allow you to provide key insights to the reader that other ebooks don’t offer. Hone in on these points and highlight them in your book.

If you are writing an instructional book, research the competition. You may find their content to be outdated, impersonal, not relevant to the average reader, or in many cases, inaccurate. Write in easy-to-understand terms, and if possible, utilize real-life, first person narratives and examples. Setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack is a huge factor in the overall success of your ebook.

Lastly, do not forget important sections of the book. Be sure to include all applicable copyright information, a table of contents, and an “about the author” section.

5. Format

You need to save your work in PDF format. If you start formatting your work in Microsoft Word, the transition to PDF can be troublesome, as links have a tendency to be lost. One option to avoid this is to produce your work using Open Office and then save it as a PDF. An added benefit is that unlike Word, Open Office can be downloaded for free online. Also, formatting your book to a standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ page will make it more convenient for printing.

6. Editing

You can offer the best ebook in the world, containing tips and ideas never before published, but if it is filled with grammatical errors, it will be doomed to failure. I highly recommend utilizing a professional editing service to ensure that your book is grammatically correct. Otherwise, even the smallest of errors can impart to the reader that the author was sloppy in his or her writing, or that the content itself may be inaccurate.

7. Cover Design

Once your ebook is complete, producing an attractive cover design is another key to its success. Many readers do judge a book by its cover, and if your ebook is graced by a less-than-professional cover, your unique content may never be seen.

There are a variety of websites that allow users to create an ebook cover for free, but I recommend using a professional designer, unless you are fully capable of doing a professional job yourself. To save money, you can opt to outsource your cover design through a website such as Elance, where professionals will design your cover at a cheaper rate than other paid websites.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, consider KillerCovers. They offer custom-made ebook covers with your choice of over 19 different templates. They offer a no questions asked, money-back guarantee, and also offer web design services as well.

Another option is 99designs, which relies on the concept of crowdsourcing. With this concept, you host your own “design contest,” where a pool of professionals will attempt to win your project, and in seven days or less, you will receive your book design. Packages start from $195, and the site also offers a money-back guarantee.

On a final note, I have found that writing ebooks on a variety of related, pointed topics is much more profitable than putting together a single grand, lengthy, all-inclusive work. After I launched my first ebook, I went on to publish many more on targeted topics, such as ways to save on groceries, how to save on college tuition, how to save on car insurance, and how to save on Internet service. With the right approach, you can write multiple successful ebooks.

market to your core audience

Marketing and Selling Your ebook

1. Identify Your Target Market

Instead of trying to sell an ebook to everyone, identify a core target market. Concentrate on a smaller subset of people, and tailor your marketing approach to them.

For example, if your ebook is about how to land your first job, you definitely don’t want to be marketing or reaching out to retirement sites. Rather, you would want to market your ebook to recent high school and college graduates.

Also, beyond the demographic strategy, you need to find people who actually read ebooks. Promoting your product on some free ebook download sites is a great way to reach out to the ideal buyer base.

2. Price to Sell

If you are new to the world of selling ebooks, consider pricing your ebook very competitively. Once you’ve had some success and made a name for yourself, you can start charging more. Just as people look for deals on gifts and groceries, they also look for less expensive ebooks.

One great strategy is to sell your book for a dollar or less. That way, you can drastically increase the number of purchases and book reviews on sites like Amazon, enabling you to shoot up the bestseller list within your specific ebook genre, while also increasing your potential for word-of-mouth marketing.

3. Create an Eye-Catching Landing Page

A landing page is a single webpage that appears as a result of clicking on an advertisement. A successful landing page is particularly focused on whatever product or service you are offering, with the end goal being a sale of your ebook to the customer.

Your landing page should be highly focused and targeted. You want to hone in on exactly what you are offering, what audience you are appealing to,  and why they should purchase your ebook, and offer clear and specific instructions on how to purchase your ebook.

friends reading bed

4. Broaden Your Online Marketing Strategy

Marketing your ebook should include all of the following techniques:

Use Social Media
Take advantage of free marketing wherever you can get it, including social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Delicious. For example, one of the best ways to promote your ebook without any costs is to use your Facebook page for marketing. Another great strategy is to publish snippets of your ebook on Facebook to spark interest.

Start Your Own Blog
I actually did this as a precursor to my first ebook. I posted articles there daily for a few months and then incorporated this content into my ebook.

Starting a blog is easier than it sounds, as there are several self-help online tutorials available that can guide you through the process step-by-step. To save time, I outsourced my project, and within about a week my blog was set up and ready to go. I paid a one-time fee of $150.

Once your blog is up and running, you can post articles centered around the theme of your ebook, explaining in more detail its features, and provide a link to your landing page. However, you also need to drive traffic to your blog. The best way to do this is to post your articles to multiple social media websites.

Rather than logging into numerous social media sites individually to post your content, consider using a free service such as OnlyWire, which allows you to submit links to multiple social media websites at once. This is the best and most time-effective way to drive traffic to your blog.

Write Articles
Use the content already in your ebook to create interesting and informative articles that target your demographic. There are many popular sites where you can post these articles, such as EzineArticles. Mention your ebook within the article, and include links to your sales page or blog. Also, add an author resource box at the end that includes the URL of your website. By proving yourself as an authoritative, expert source through free material, you will have already succeeded in winning over your readers.

Market via Word-of-Mouth
Contact friends, family, and colleagues, and offer them a free copy of your ebook. Ask them to write testimonials which you can use in your sales letter or landing page. Also, if possible, get a popular blogger or multiple bloggers to write reviews of your ebook and post them on their websites. By using this tactic, you can reach out to potential buyers through people they already trust.

Optimize for Search Engines
You want to modify your ebook website so that it ranks as high as possible on search engine results. Getting on the first page is key, and getting higher up on the first page is even more important. For example, a top ranking on Google will get you roughly 8.5 times more page visits than if you are ranked fifth.

Include free content around the theme of your ebook on your website, and try to rank for keywords that will attract the right readership.  Utilizing unique and accurate page titles, and including relevant keywords in your content, will help you along the way.

Get Your Book Reviewed
Contact blogs that cover topics relevant to your ebook, and submit to them to be reviewed. This is another great way to market your ebook to your target audience.

5. Identify the Best Places to Sell Your eBook

You can sell your ebook directly from your website, but there are a wide variety of websites where you can do the same thing, and you’re likely to enjoy better traffic results.

Here are several websites to consider for selling your ebook:

  • Amazon. This is one of the most popular websites for ebooks, and with Kindle Direct Publishing, you can self-publish your ebook on the Amazon Kindle Store. The process is simple and free. You will be eligible for 70% of the royalties from your sales. Your ebook will be available for purchase on all Kindle devices and Kindle apps.
  • Free-eBooks. Here you can submit your ebook for only $4.97. The site is dedicated to free ebooks, but you can ask for donations from your readers, and the funds are deposited directly into your Paypal account.
  • PayLoadz. PayLoadz lets you sell your ebook, but also provides other useful tips on subject matter, marketing, pricing, and more. Their basic account costs $14.95 per month, and the first month is free. There is a transaction fee for each purchase that ranges from $0.05 up to 4.9% of the selling price.
  • Craigslist. Creating a listing here with a link back to your website or landing page is free, easy, and simple. There is only one catch: You can only list your ebook in the city in which you live. However, many people have been able to successfully sell on Craigslist.

reading an ebook

6. Set Goals

As with any business venture, setting goals to track your progress is imperative to the overall success of your ebook. After its launch, set certain benchmarks for the first 30, 60, and 90 days. If the goals are surpassed, congratulations! You then know that your strategy is effective.

If you fall short of your projections, you will want to review your marketing initiatives. Other avenues may need to be considered, or you might need to tweak other aspects of your selling strategy.

Final Word

Whether you are writing an ebook just to make money, or you are creating one to promote a more comprehensive service or product to your readers, there are many things to take into consideration to ensure that your final product is professional and saleable to your target audience. However, by creating an attractive product and following a thorough marketing plan, you can be sure that your ebook will be profitable to you and valuable to your readers.

What suggestions do you have for writing and selling an ebook?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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  • http://www.investitwisely.com/ Invest It Wisely

    I suppose that much of this can apply to writing a paper book as well! I am wondering about formatting since it seems like standard document writers can be poor tools to format a book. I’ve heard some people having success with Latex, which, though harder to learn up front, gives a lot more flexibility in the end.

    • Davidbakke

      I think Lulu would be an option as well.

    • Davidbakke

      I think Lulu would be an option as well.

  • BG

    Thanks for this advice. I am coming up with an ebook now, and I think it contains valuable advice (don’t all authors?!), but you’ve given me ideas on what to do and what not to do. Thanks again!

    • Davidbakke

      BG–I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Veer

    Teachers are the highest of the highest, the richest of the richest and the best of people. I don’t tell very many people this but to you I do. Great advice. Thanks.

  • Kelly Drake

    Love this article! I have been considering writing a couple of e-books and this is really helped me understand the process better. It was short, sweet, and to the point. Thanks!

    • David Bakke

      Hey Kelly

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Charlotte Parker

    Great article – many thanks for the info! I’m looking to start my own blog and eventually an write an ebook as well. You said your own blog was set up and ready to go within a week for a one off payment which sounds great – who did you use? Or which company would you recommend? Thanks again!

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