How much would you like to have a side income stream that looked like this?:
That’s the product revenue from August 2011 through January 2012 for an ebook I created for one of my websites. It’s bringing in $1500 a month right now, and it goes up each passing month. Sound like something you might be interested in having yourself? If so, then sit back and let me tell you just how you can make an ebook that will help you bring in a little (or a lot of) extra coin too.
Mind you before we dive in, this post isn’t about selling your ebook or getting traffic to your website or increasing how many of your visitors become customers (see the post on using the A/B test for more on that one). I’ll get more posts up on those topics on here with time. This post is on creating a great ebook that people will buy… and love.
So how do you do that?
Content, Content, Content
I’ve seen countless places on the Internet that are article-rich and content-poor. What I mean is, there’s very little fresh, informative, or insightful information on those sites. Because of that, those sites don’t stand out; they don’t offer anything exceptional to the reader; and their products don’t sell. And when their products do sell, their return rates are high and customer satisfaction low.
If you want success when you make an ebook, you’re going to want to have good, solid, original content.
But how do you get original content?
Everywhere I write these days, I get told that my content is great, original, and insightful. I wasn’t always a producer of vast quantities of more-or-less original material, however. Once upon a time I had difficulty coming up with ideas about what to write about.
I started my online writing career in Internet forums, where I primarily replied to other people’s questions. I had advice to give, but I always figured that if I couldn’t contribute something new and original, I didn’t want to write. So I didn’t.
Over time, I started jotting new ideas down into original posts when I had them. And then, once I started blogging, I began writing primers on just about everything. The content just flowed.
This is one approach you can take to writing an ebook: write it as a primer for everything you know how to do. Assume the reader knows nothing, and taking him through the basics. Then build up to the more difficult parts of doing whatever it is you’re teaching how to do.
The best, most popular books in the world take this approach. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time didn’t get popular because everybody loved Stephen Hawking when he wrote it. Rather, it was the book that made him famous and loved – because it took a rather complicated aspect of science (specifically, cosmology) and made it simple.
So that’s one of the approaches you can take. The main ones are:
- Being a simplifier
- Being an innovator
- Being an aggregator
- Focusing tightly on one particular thing
- Painting the big picture for people wanting an overview
- Writing a detailed in-depth how-to book
I’ll go into each of these:
1. Being a Simplifier
A simplifier is someone who takes a complicated topic and makes it easy for the general public to understand, just like Stephen Hawking did with Time. There’s a great deal of money to be made in the simplifier role – especially if you’re good at it. There are always plenty of topics in need of simplification, and few people who know those topics well enough and also are good enough at explaining them to lay people.
If you’re good at telling people how some complicated thing works and why it does what it does and how they can use it to their best advantage, you can write an ebook that simplifies things. And you can probably sell it pretty easily too, because people need to have a simplified version of their how-to manuals in their hands.
2. Being an Innovator
If you manage to come up with some new idea, concept, or way of doing things, you stand a very good chance – if it’s something particularly interesting or useful – that you can turn that into an ebook and sell it.
For instance, if you’ve innovated a new way of doing online marketing, that’s a niche where there’s tons of demand for new products giving new methods, and while it’s saturated, the customer base is huge and those customers are always on the hunt for the next best thing. Or if you’ve built a new self-help method for keeping people on-track and getting them to reach their goals, and it works well, you’ve got a market ready to receive your work. Even for smaller niches – let’s say you came up with a better way to buy plane tickets cheaply, or you figured out how to teach your children so that they’re a grade ahead by the time they’re 10 years old with minimal fuss – there’s a market for you if you can innovate.
3. Being an Aggregator
Sometimes the best-known people in a field are not the innovators, but the aggregators. Did you know that James Watson and Francis Crick didn’t actually come up with the innovations that won them the Noble prize for discovering DNA’s double helix in 1962. Rather, their role in the discovery of DNA was as aggregators – they talked to Erwin Chargaff, who gave them part of the picture, and Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, who gave them another part of the picture, and Maurice Wilkins, who gave them still more. Then they pooled all of that knowledge together and came up with the understanding of DNA that won them the prize.
People sometimes dislike aggregators and feel like they’re standing on the shoulders – and taking advantage – of true innovators. Well, they are, but they also provide their own style of innovation too.
If there was no Watson and Crick to connect the dots, when would we have finally figured out DNA? Aggregators are innovators too, it’s just that their innovations come in the form of connecting the dots rather than being the ones who put the dots on the paper in the first place.
If you can take an area where there’s a lot of dispersed, un-unified information and you can coalesce all or most of that information into one authoritative source, you can be an aggregator and you can make an ebook on your subject matter of choice.
4. Focusing on One Thing
Not every ebook is about a wide array of things, or even a small array of things. There remains a certain demand for highly specialized, precise books – books that focus on one thing, and one thing only, and tell the reader how to do exactly that.
While the overall market size isn’t normally as large for tightly focused books as it is for the books with a wider lens, the ebooks available for those niches are often far smaller in number – if they exist at all – and are less likely to be of good quality or have much of a targeted online sales campaign built around them.
“Training Your Dog” for instance is going to be a lot more difficult a market to get your book noticed in than “Training Your Terrier,” which might have little to no competition in and no good books. So instead of trying to write a big, comprehensive book that it’ll be hard to get traction for, you write one targeted to a specific breed of dog. You put out “Training Your Terrier,” make it a success, and then maybe you put out “Training Your Labrador.” You can have a whole series of books – all of them focused on just one thing.
5. Painting the Big Picture
Have you ever done web design before? What if you never had – what kind of ebook would you want to buy?
Well, you wouldn’t want one that only talks about “Designing in CSS” or “Designing in Bootstrap.” Rather, you’d want something general, more of a broad brush overview – you’d want a primer for someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, and that covers all the bases.
There’s a lot of room for the big picture books out there. They can be for beginners, or they can be (if they’re more comprehensive) for people interested in mastering the nuances and learning the things they didn’t realize they hadn’t learned yet.
6. Writing an In-Depth How-To
If you go deep into the nuances, that’s when you start heading into in-depth how-to territory.
An in-depth how-to is basically a highly detailed manual that covers EVERYTHING you need to know. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care is an example of this: it’s a big book and just goes chapter by chapter through everything you could ever possibly want or need to know about raising a child, from pregnancy through adolescence.
The market is harder to break into for these books, but take a look first. It may just be that nobody’s written a big, thick how-to book on your field just yet. If that’s the case, there’s plenty of room for you to dive in then. Or it may be that you bring a unique perspective, a refreshing voice, or new information that the dusty old tomes available have yet to include.
What You Need to Make an eBook People Love
Want to be lounging on the beach in some exotic locale, free from the daily grind that ordinary people go through every day?
Believe it or not, you don’t need flashy graphics or design skills. Many successful ebooks don’t have a similar image in the entire book. Graphics are nice, but they’re not mandatory.
And you don’t need a bunch of bonus products, special offers, or gifts that make the book seem like a better deal. Again, those can sweeten things up for potential customers, but they’re not what make the ebook itself great.
No, what you need to make an ebook a success are the following:
- Content people want (see above)
- A likeable speaking voice
- A good story
And that’s about it.
Content we just talked about.
The “speaking voice” isn’t actually your verbal speaking voice – I don’t mean talking aloud, of course. What I mean by “speaking voice” is your voice in your writing – are you likable, conversational, fresh? Will people enjoy reading what you write? The way you write is every bit as important as what you write – make sure you write in an appealing way.
Even if you’re putting together a book that doesn’t require much writing – say, you’ve decided to make an ebook about making beautiful presentations, and much of the ebook is going to be images and examples – your tone of voice in the parts of the book where you are writing will make an immense difference in how the book is received.
And the good story, that’s what gets people to actually stick around and read your book – and it’s what makes them recommend it to friends. What makes a good story? Well, any time you talk about doing the incredible. Any time you talk about overcoming insurmountable odds. Or even if you talk about something different, captivating, or utterly other from people’s prior experience.
Face it: unless you’re doing a PDF report with 20 pages or less and loads of visuals, people want to read a story. The best content in the world doesn’t hold much water if there isn’t an engaging and personal story to go along with it. It doesn’t even have to be your own story – just look at how Malcolm Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker and author of a number of bestselling books – weaves stories in and out of his pieces. You can even sprinkle anecdotes in here and there, to catch the reader’s attention and illustrate your points.
Why doesn’t everybody make an ebook to sell on the Internet?
Well, time is one thing. Everybody thinks it’ll take forever to do. But that ebook I mentioned above I wrote in one month of dedicated writing, and it’s 400 pages. Could you write a smaller ebook in two months of writing only a few hours a day?
The lack of know-how is another. But that’s what this post is designed to help you remedy.
If you ever sit and wish to yourself that you could have a little more money than you do right now, and you have a few hours unused every day at the end of the day, I’m not really sure what you’re waiting for. Get to work writing your ebook. You’ll spend a few months writing it, a little time figuring out what distribution channel(s) you want to use, and then you’ll need to do a little marketing for it one way or another to make sure it gets sales. You’ll put four or five months in, and then even if you never want to touch it again, you’ll have something that’ll be generating at least some extra income for you each and every month for so long as you care to keep it out there.
And if you’ve decided you want to get started making an ebook or otherwise embark on the path giving yourself financial freedom, you definitely don’t want to miss all the great tips, tools, techniques, and insights on offer in my newsletter – so sign up now to start getting it delivered straight to your inbox:
Talk to you later.