This is the fourth post in my series on how to successfully publish and sell an eBook online. Till now we have covered quite a bit in theory.
In this section, I will discuss putting that theory into practice by creating an eBook that you can start marketing and selling online. But before continuing on, I recommend reading the first three posts of this series to truly appreciate this part of the process.
To create an eBook and successfully sell it online is not a difficult task. If you ask me which part of the process is the most challenging I’d say it is the creation of the actual product. This is of course, relatively speaking as the entire process is not too difficult once you know exactly what to do.
It is the product creation that intimidates most aspiring eBook authors, and the biggest reason why many don’t get started on this journey. We’ve already discussed how anyone can write a book and what to write on. You might be pleasantly surprised after reading this article how easy it is to actually see that belief turn to fruition. Yes, you too can create an eBook and sell it online.
I also want to emphasize at this point that although there are many ways to “skin a cat”, the approach I tend to favor on this blog is one that involves automation so that you can benefit from your endeavors as much as possible without having to work on them on an ongoing basis. I think of this as establishing income producing assets that generate passive and residual income overtime.
If you follow this process, I can assure you that you will be able to sell your eBook 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without having to do anything after setting up an automated system that we will go through together in this article. This automated process will enable you to generate passive and residual income while eating, playing, sleeping and working on anything else but this.
Whether you sell 10 eBooks a month or 10,000, there is no incremental work or effort needed on your part. This is called scaleability”, another reason why selling an eBook online is so attractive.
This “system” will display your eBook, collect customer payments, fulfill “shipment” to customers, account for and handle all affiliate related business as well as product returns and refunds. All you do is work on driving more traffic to the avenues on which you sell your eBook (i.e. your website, blog or Amazon eBook listing page) view your bank account online monthly to see how much money was deposited in your account, and that’s only if you want to.
If reading all this feels good to you at this point, wait until you have the full “system” set up. And as I often say, the process is repeatable so that you can rinse and repeat as many times as you want, setting up a new passive income stream each time along the way.
Earlier in this series, we talked about how to research a successful eBook topic. Once you have a topic selected, brainstorming its subtopics and the layout within your eBook is the next step in the process. This process is important because it will dictate how difficult or easy it will be to write the eBook. This also determines how a reader follows and “digests” the content of your eBook. If you do this right, you can gain raving fans who will happily recommend your eBook to others. You want the word of mouth to spread and that’s how you do it.
While some people are naturals at outlining and flowing things out, most of us need to really focus and work on mapping out the eBook on paper. The good news is that there are tools that can help us with this process. Keep in mind that these are not absolutely necessary to use, but they are tools that assist us in executing the process easier. For example, one can mow the lawn just fine with a manual push pull lawnmower, but an automatic / electric one makes the job easier, faster and sometimes cleaner.
Because of the passion you have for the topic you selected, there may be several sub-topical ideas bouncing in your head. This can drive you crazy, and because of the speed and frequency at which the ideas bounce around can cause you to accidentally forget about many of the ideas that popped in your mind earlier at some point.
The best way in my experience to take control of this situation is by putting together an outline, or a map of ideas and then arranging and rearranging them until they follow a logical sequence. This is essentially a visual flow chart that depicts your entire book on one page / one screen.
You can see an example of a mind map in the making at MindMeister.com (check out the video on the front page), which is a tool I’ve used in the past to organize my ideas. You can get a free membership with MindMeister, which allows you to create a few free mind maps.
The beauty of this process is that it is very easy (and fun) to execute, and when you are done you can pull it right into your eBook. It essentially becomes your “Table of Contents”. You can slice and dice it any which way you want, add and take out components as you feel necessary. The mind mapping process is not only for eBook planning purposes. In fact, I don’t think it was meant for it. It is a broad planning and documentation tool you can use with pretty much anything.
The most important thing as you organize your eBook layout is to keep in mind the reader. Make sure your content is organized logically so readers can follow it. Remember, they are new to this topic while you are the “expert”, so approach the layout and language accordingly.
Writing your eBook takes the longest, simply because it focuses on the meat of your product, the content itself. If you did your mind map correctly, writing should just be a matter of execution without having to think and plan much. Your sub topics will already be laid out in your mind map, and your experience about the topic of your choice will enable you to keep writing away on each sub topic. A well executed mind map means you will be able to create an eBook fairly easily.
What tool do you need to write on to create an eBook? Nothing special, just a regular word processor such as Microsoft Word. I believe MaC users have a similar software called Pages. Personally, I use Microsoft Word because it has all the features and functions I need to create a clean, nice looking eBook with all the bells and whistles such as headers, footers, page numbers, customized fonts, headlines, sub headlines, outlines and layouts.
Efficiency Tip: Most word processing systems have a template building feature, which allows you to customize a template and keep using it throughout the document / pages. If possible, do this first thing when you start to create an eBook. If you have a template created, you just need to keep writing as all the pages will follow this template or format. Basically, you spend time only once formatting and beautifying your eBook template, which you can keep on using.
Choose one that is consistent with your topic. For example, a blue and white combination resonates well with medical and healthcare related topics. A green and white combination goes well with business and finance related topics. Many choose to keep their color schemes plain black and white, which works in almost all cases. Whatever color combination you choose when you create an eBook, just ensure that the color is subtle and that it doesn’t overpower the content of your eBook. You want the content to be the focus, not the background. Keep it easy on the readers’ eyes.
Page Size and Layout:
I typically keep mine at 8.5” by 11”, just like reading a Microsoft Word document. However, many like to create more outer spacing on the borders, thereby reducing the actual eBook landscape. Most of my eBooks are in “Portrait” format, however “Landscape” format eBooks look pretty as well.
Header & Footer:
I use these features to embed my brand, a copyright disclosure as well as page numbers. Many choose not to use this space, which is fine, but because these areas are highly visible I like to use them to highlight my brand.
Use a clean font in large 20 to 22 pt. font. Make it bold for emphasis. Consider this for example:
Similar to headings, use a clean font in larger 16 -18 pt. font. Bolding sub heading is optional, so do what you feel looks best in your eBook template. For example:
If you are going to have sub headings within sub headings, then keep reducing the font for each level. Consider using size 14 for the next sub heading, and then 12 for the next.
Keep your eBook font simple, easy on the eyes and easy to read. I prefer a 11 to 13 pt. Arial font. Many use Times New Roman as well, though I feel it looks too formal.
Overall, keep things simple, clean and leave a lot of white space. Give your readers’ eyes some breathing room. Logos and images are also helpful, particularly if they help your reader visualize a concept that is easier to digest in visual form. Keep image use limited and relevant. Again, you want your eBook’s content to be the main focus.
Why are these attributes so important?
Without customizing the attributes above, your eBook will be one big chunk of text that can appear intimidating, dull and perceived to be a poor quality product no matter how good your content is.
Can you imagine reading
this blog where sentences
re not separated and there
re no headings, sub headings
side bars, color variety. Can
you also imagine this blog
without a header or a footer?
Would you continue to read it?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to selecting a style when writing your eBook. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different sizes, fonts and styles. Have a look at other eBooks and websites and assess what kinds of attributes resonate well with you and your target audience. The key is to experiment with a variety until you find the most ideal mix or blend of style for you.
Efficiency Tip: When you start writing your eBook, complete the Table of Contents immediately and list out the topics in chronological order. Having a list of all your topics in order will allow you to write in an organized, sequential manner that will allow you to save your work at any time and pick up from where you left off the next time you sit down to write your eBook. This way your document file is one continuous work in progress until you are finished writing all the sections.
In addition to writing the content of your eBook, there are a handful of additional pages I recommend you include in your eBook to further “professionalize” your product.
About the Author Page:
Because many of your readers may not be familiar with who you are and what you do, this section gives you a chance to add your background and show your personality. This is where you connect with your reader. Tell them why they should read your stuff, what gives you the credibility to write about your topic as well as any other detail you feel is necessary to build rapport.
Don’t be afraid to get into your personal life as this is the section to do that. If you have certifications, hobbies and interests you’d like to share, this is the section to do that. This is the section where you talk about your family. You want to build that one on one relationship with your reader. If you have a website, or a social networking account you’d like to drive the reader to, mention it here. I recommend placing this section toward the beginning of your eBook.
This is the introduction to your eBook. You can position this section either before or after the About page. The preface is typically the section where you discuss the content of the book in detail. In this section you have a chance to clearly explain the intent of your eBook and what you hope your readers will gain from it. This section is called a preface because it primes your reader before they dive into the content.
Copyright and Legal Disclaimer Page:
It is very important in my opinion to provide a legal disclaimer stating that the content of your eBook is compiled from your own knowledge and experience, and that it should not be taken as professional legal or tax guidance.
If you mention entities within your book that you have no association with, call them out in this section and mention that you are not responsible for who they are and their actions. With the amount of “lawsuit happy” souls out there, it is best to consult an attorney when drafting this page. At the very least, research other disclaimer pages online and take bits and pieces from them that are relevant to you. From a copyright perspective, it’s always good to mention the brand names and URLs that you own copyrights to.
Thank You Page:
I highly recommend a thank you note at the end of your eBook to not only thank your readers for spending their time and money on your product, but also to retouch base with them to hone that relationship you’ve established. This is a great place to steer your reader in the direction you want them to go in (i.e. your website, FaceBook fan page, etc). There is no limitation to how you can use this section to strategically promote your brand. Most people simply need to be told what to do and they will do it, especially online.
We have almost reached the point of converting your eBook into a digitally deliverable product and setting up the automated sales platform. But before that I’d like to go over a few points worth noting as it can enhance your overall experience as an eBook author.
Embedding Active Links in PDF:
Gone are the days when links couldn’t be embedded in word documents that were later converted to PDF. The tools today allow you to insert links that remain active links even after converting your word document to a PDF copy. Many authors embed links to their websites, blogs, products and services. In fact, a common strategy is to sell an eBook for a relatively low price (i.e. $4.99) but embed affiliate product links within and profit from back-end affiliate commissions generated from product sales.
Just from this example alone, you can imagine that writing an eBook can serve multiple purposes, in this case such as driving traffic to your website, products and services. Authors typically embed various links throughout the content of their eBooks, much like I have in this post. Many also choose to reserve a full section within their eBook for links to helpful resources. And just as I discussed earlier, the header and footer can be a great place to embed a link to your website, blog or anywhere else you’d like.
The proper use of images can add a totally different dimension to your product. Including relevant images that supplement your content can help explain concepts that are easier to understand when visually depicted. Imagine including historical stock market charts that summarize three decades of information in one concise graph?
Images can also emphasize certain critical points within your content. Images also give your readers’ eyes a breather, making your content easier to digest and more enjoyable to read. And because many people associate certain information with images, you can deliver more value to your reader by giving them a “peg” by which they can remember your content by.
While image use can prove to be a valuable strategic decision, it is important not to overuse this strategy for several reasons. Readers will stop paying attention to images if they find they are not relevant to the content or do not add value, therefore it is important that the images you use add value to your content and not just some clip art that is in your word processing library.
On a final note on images, make sure the images you use are your own, or those that you have full and exclusive rights to. The best way to ensure this is to get your photography from iStockphoto.
Incorporating some “bonus” material really gives you a chance to exceed your reader’s expectations and deliver value that is unexpected. The bonus content you provide highly depends on your eBook’s topic. For example, I sell an eBook on raw dog food diet, and as a bonus provide a list of top 10 raw dog food recipes.
Similarly, if your eBook is about achieving the certified nurse assistant (CNA) certification, you may provide a quiz your readers can take to better prepare for the exam. I can’t tell you how many email messages I receive from readers appreciating and expressing their gratitude for some of the bonus material I provide, especially in eBooks that discuss “how to” topics.
Now that we have covered all that goes into writing an eBook, it’s time to see your hard labor turn into a beautiful, tangible digital product that you can sell and distribute online. In this section we will discuss how to convert your eBook from a word document to a PDF document, the most common format in which eBooks are read online.
PDF is the most common format because it is easy to work with, has the most optimal file size (usually much smaller than other formats), can be made in color, can have links embedded within and is the most flexible / customizable.
I continue to see PDF documents include all kinds of things I never knew one could do. The best part of all this is because PDF is the most commonly and widely used document reading format online, there are several tutorials online on how to do pretty much anything in PDF. Everything I know today is self-taught, thanks to Google.
To convert a word document to a PDF document, open your word document in Microsoft Word and navigate to the Print option under File (top left menu). Within the Print menu, you will find an option to “Print to PDF”. If you can’t find this option, you can also save your document in PDF format instead and it will serve the same purpose. To find this option, go to File, Save As and then find the option that reads “Save As A PDF”. On newer versions, this option also reads as “PDF or XPS”. This is how the menu looks like:
Select the option, designate the location where you want to save the PDF copy of the eBook, provide a title and click Save. This is how the menu looks like:
If you are a MaC user, there is a PDF conversion option within your print menu. Under the “file” section, select “print” and then select the PDF button. Select “Save as PDF” and you have your eBook in PDF.
What if you can’t find any of these options? Or have older versions of tools that don’t include these options? No worries. You can download software called Pdf955 for free. This software installs a printer in your print menu titled Pdf955 which you can select to “Print” your document in PDF. Now it doesn’t physically print your document on paper, rather it prints it digitally into PDF which you can save right on your computer.
After you download this free software, simply navigate to the print option on your word document. Drag down the list of printers and you should see Pdf955 as one of the options. This is how it looks like:
If this route doesn’t work out for some reason, you can always ask a friend to convert your word document file into PDF. Simply email them the word file and have them email you back the PDF. If you have a work computer, chances are it has newer, more updated programs and you might be able to find any one of the options discussed above on it providing you are allowed to use it for personal purposes.
We are almost, but not quite done with our product creation. You now have the actual eBook, but before anyone reads your eBook they will have to purchase it. This is where you need a killer eBook cover that helps sell your product.
You may be thinking why you need a good eBook cover or why it is important. I agree that the reader will likely purchase your eBook based on the sales copy you create, the message / value you are able to convey and the actual content of your eBook. However, a poor or subpar image on your sales page can turn off a potential customer to a large extent.
Companies spend billions of dollars each year on marketing and advertising, and a big part of that is image development. You can’t run your business any different. You too must focus on quality. Creating a pleasant eBook cover is not a difficult task for someone who knows how to use an image editor or design program such as Adobe Photoshop, but most don’t have access to this program or know how to use it.
The most efficient way to get a solid eBook cover done in this case is to outsource the task to a professional freelancer through a platform like Elance. I have paid as much as $25 for a nice looking three dimensional eBook image.
When you list the requirements of your task, spend some time browsing Google Images for eBook covers and include links of eBook covers you’d like yours to model after. Select one that is appealing to the eyes and demonstrates the solid quality of the product.
For example, compare these two eBook covers:
Which eBook cover persuades you more to purchase the eBook?
Side Note: Adobe Photoshop is by far the most comprehensive and effective design software I have ever seen and used. It’s so far ahead that no competitor comes close in terms of its capabilities and what it can do for its users. It is personally my favorite. And although I do fully stand behind my recommendation of this software, it does cost a significant amount of money and you do not absolutely need it in terms of the scope of this article. But if you are considering or ever consider a digital image creation and editing software, I highly recommend you look into Adobe Photoshop.
So here we are, well over 4,000 words later, with our very own digital product that we can start marketing, selling and distributing all over the internet.
In the next post of this series on how to successfully profit from selling an eBook, I will discuss how to price and sell your eBook.
Note: This discussion only focuses on creating an eBook in PDF format for simplicity and familiarity. I am currently exploring digital friendly eBook formats that all eReaders accept and render. I will share my thoughts down the road.
Readers: Do you have any questions or concerns so far? What part of the eBook creation and conversion process did I miss in this article? What else would you like to see covered related to the topic of eBooks?Previous: How to Increase Rental Income Effortlessly and Instantly