One of the best ways to get started in turning your knowledge into products you can sell is by writing and launching an e-book. Writing an e-book may sound intimidating, but it’s really not. In fact, you can have your first (or next) e-book generating sales in just 30 days!
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to plan, write, and market an e-book that will generate passive income for you for years or decades to come.
How I Became an E-Book Author
The first passive income product I ever sold was an e-book. I was a political consultant helping candidates win campaigns, and I realized that there were tens of thousands of people out there that had thought about running for office but had no idea how to run a winning campaign. They weren’t ready to hire a consultant to help them, so they wouldn’t be calling me any time soon. But they were willing to buy an e-book that would teach them how to win.
I started by creating a short e-book teaching people how to set up a competitive political campaign. The e-book was a success, and I quickly created more, including a comprehensive guide called How to Win Any Election. Over the years I launched three successful consulting companies, and during that time I have packaged my consulting knowledge more than a dozen different e-books. Becoming an e-book author has added hundreds of thousands of dollars to my companies’ bottom lines… and it can do the same for you!
Why Creating an E-Book is a Great Option for Passive Income
I believe that writing an e-book is a great way to earn passive income for your business. In fact, if you’re just starting out in creating passive income products, I recommend that you make an e-book the first passive income product that you sell.
The reason I make this recommendation is because when compared to creating an online course, selling webinars, or any of the other types of passive income products, writing and selling an e-book is relatively simple. As a consultant, you know things… people pay you for what you know. An e-book is just another way to teach people what you know. You can easily sit down and spend an hour or two per day writing, and at the end of a month, you’ll have an e-book ready to sell.
As I said, I recommend that consultants and freelancers make their first passive income product an e-book. But that doesn’t mean you should stop writing e-books once you grow your passive income empire. Quite the contrary! Over the past twenty years, I have created hundreds of passive income products, including classes, webinars, membership programs, and more… and I still write and sell e-books teaching what I know.
The 4 Most Important Things to Understand About Launching an E-Book
As you begin the process of writing and launching an e-book, there are four very important things that you need to understand if you want to be successful:
#1: You’re Not Just the Author… You’re the Publisher Too
In traditional book publishing, the author writes the book, and the publisher markets and sells the book. Because of this, the author generally only gets about 15% of the sales price of each book as a royalty, with the publisher keeping the other 85%. This is because the publisher not only pays to print the book, but also does the most important thing for any product: the publisher figures out how to market and sell it.
When creating an e-book for your business, remember that you are both the author and the publisher of the book. Writing the book is only half the battle (actually, it’s more like 10% of the battle). You’ll need to spend far more time on marketing and selling the e-book than you do on writing it. The good news is that because you’re both the author and the publisher, you’ll get to keep 100% of the profits.
#2: Don’t Make the Perfect the Enemy of the Good
Most consultants and freelancers worry about writing a book because they think they need to make it perfect. They figure that they need to pick out the perfect title, find someone to design the perfect cover, write the perfect book, develop the perfect marketing plan, etc. And because they’re shooting for perfect, they either never get started or they get bogged down in the details.
When you’re writing an e-book, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. Take it from someone who has done it over and over again: the most important thing is to get your e-book finished and get it out into the world. You can always fiddle around with the details later. Yes, your e-book should be good, and yes, you should avoid sloppy mistakes, but don’t sweat the details. Do your best and get it out there!
#3: Writing an E-Book Will Boost Your Consulting Sales
The primary reason why I write e-books is to profit off of them… when I write an e-book, I can sell it over and over again (including
while I’m asleep or on vacation) and it will bring in a steady profit, especially if I continue to market it. But there’s a hidden extra benefit to writing an e-book: it will boost your consulting sales too!
Writing an e-book helps to position you as an authority in your field. It allows you to put an author’s credential in your marketing materials (e.g. John Smith, landscaping consultant and author of The World’s Best Gardening Guide). It will also help potential clients find you, particularly if you sell your e-book through Amazon as well as on your own website.
#4: It’s All Figure-out-able
When I wrote my first e-book, I had no idea what I was doing… and there weren’t many online tools available to help (this was in 2002). Guess what? I figured it out… trust me, it’s all figure-out-able. Writing an e-book isn’t rocket science. Millions of people have done it, and you can too. Best of all, there are now plenty of tools available to help make it easy for you (we’ll discuss some of them later in this guide). Don’t get discouraged or intimidated. You can do this!
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to turn our attention to the nitty-gritty. We’ll look at how to plan your e-book, how to write your e-book, and how to market your e-book… everything you need to know to write a bestselling e-book right now:
How to Plan Your E-Book
The first step to writing a successful e-book is to spend a little bit of time planning. As you plan out your e-book, you’ll need to focus on three primary considerations:
The first thing you’ll need to decide is the topic for your e-book. Obviously, you’ll want to write an e-book that packages some of your knowledge as a consultant or freelancer into an e-book people can use to learn your skills. I say “some of your knowledge” because it is highly unlikely that you’ll want to write an e-book that includes everything you know… particularly for your first e-book.
Thus, if you’re a business marketing consultant, you almost certainly don’t want to write a 500-page e-book covering every aspect of business marketing. Instead, you will need to choose a niche to focus on. For example, you might write an e-book on how to develop a unique brand… or an e-book on how to use e-mail marketing. You could go even further, and write an e-book on how to write amazing sales e-mails, or how doctors offices can build a better brand.
As you work to figure out your topic, you will want to do some research to see what information people in your niche are interested in and willing to pay for. Remember, while people may not be willing to pay just to learn about something they are interested in, they are almost always willing to pay to learn how to solve a problem or reach a goal they have set for themselves. So be sure that your e-book topic helps people solve their problems or reach their goals, whatever those may be.
Think about your clients and what types of questions they ask you and are willing to pay you to answer for them. Look on Amazon to see what e-books are selling in your niche. Use online tools to see what keywords people are searching for on Google that relate to your niche. Find out what the most popular YouTube videos in your niche are. Make sure you are planning to write an e-book on a topic that people are really interested in.
The e-book market is a competitive one, and one of the best ways to stand out is by choosing a title that captures people’s attention. The cover of your e-book (which includes the title) is like an advertisement for your e-book. If your title makes your book look interesting, and makes it clear that you are going to solve the person’s problem or help them reach their goal, then they are far more likely to buy your book.
You should also try to work some keywords into your title if you can. When people are searching for books on Amazon, or on any other platform, they will enter words into a search box that describe what they are looking for. Having those keywords in your title will help your e-book move to the top of the search results.
For example, if you are writing an e-book about finding new major donors for a non-profit, you may decide that you want to reach people who are using the search term “major donor fundraising.” In that case, you might want to come up with a title that uses those keywords, while also being an interesting title… maybe something like The Superstar’s Super Guide to Major Donor Fundraising or 30 Days to Major Donor Fundraising Success.
The final thing that you’ll need to think about as you set out to launch your e-book is to think a little bit about the length of your book. While you won’t be able to settle on the final length of your e-book until after you write it, it is helpful to know a ballpark figure for how long you would like your e-book to be.
In my experience, the average “how to” e-book runs between 40,000 – 60,000 words. This isn’t as much as it sounds like. In fact, the article you are reading right now is almost 4,000 words long… meaning that if you strung 10 of these articles together, you would have an e-book that fell within those averages.
The truth is that e-book lengths vary widely. I have written short e-books on simpler topics that were only 10,000 words in length, and I have written comprehensive e-book guides that ran well over 120,000 words. Make your e-book as long as it needs to be to teach people what you are trying to teach them.
For your first e-book, my suggestion would be to make it on the smaller end… perhaps 25,000-30,000 words. Remember, your goal is to get it done and get it out there. Making your first one easier to write will help you start selling faster, and each e-book you write after that will be easier and faster to write and launch.
How to Write Your E-Book
Once you have your topic and title ready, it’s time to sit down and write your e-book. This is the part where first-time authors normally get scared. Don’t worry! You’ve chosen a topic you already know, in a field you are already working in. You have the knowledge, now you just need to put pen to paper. Remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to get done!
There are five key steps to writing your e-book:
#1: Outline Your Book
Don’t skip this step! Many first-time authors skip outlining and move straight to writing their book. I can tell you that if you want to make writing your book easy, you will want to outline it first. The secret to getting your book out the door is to create a comprehensive outline of what you want to say… that way, when you are writing your book you never need to figure out what comes next. You just move step by step through the outline until you have finished the book.
Start by outlining the major themes of the book, which will become your chapter headings. For example, if you are writing a book about how to win a political campaign, your chapter headings might be:
- Your Campaign Message
- Building a Campaign Organization
- Raising Money
- Campaign Communications
- Grassroots Campaigning
- Getting Out the Vote
- Writing Your Campaign Plan
Then, once you have your major topics outlined, go back and continue to outline the subtopics you want to cover in each chapter. For example, for the chapter on Research, you might list:
b. Voter Segments
c. Past Election Results
f. Current and Past Elected Officials
h. Media Outlets
i. Local Influencers
You can do subheadings like this for each of your main topics. Then, I suggest going back one more time, and adding another level of topics under each of the subheadings. This won’t always be possible for every subheading, but for many, it will be.
Your goal is to have an outline in place that makes it easy to write your e-book. I generally assume that I am going to be able to write anywhere from half a page to a whole page on each item in my list. Generally, a standard page in Word using Times New Roman size 12 contains about 500 words. This means that for a 30,000 word e-book, you’ll need at least 60 items in your outline.
When writing, if you are using the items in your outline as your chapter titles and the subheadings in your chapters, be sure to spice them up a bit so they look enticing to read. Thus, instead of calling your chapter “Raising Money,” you could call it “How to Raise Every Single Dollar You Need to Win.”
#2: Write on a Schedule
My best advice for writing your e-book is to set a schedule and stick to it. When I’m working on an e-book, I like to set aside an hour or two every day, at a set time, to write. The first day you do this, it will be hard. But as you start to write, the ideas (and words) will flow. Don’t be a perfectionist about the book… just write and get it done.
You’ll quickly find that you’re able to write 1,500-2,000 words per day during that hour or two you set aside… which means that after two-three weeks, you’ll have 30,000+ words written. Set a schedule, and stick to it!
#3: Edit Your Book
After writing your book, the next step is to edit it. Again, you don’t need to go crazy, agonizing over every word choice. Your goal here is simply to make sure that you don’t have any typos, repeated words, or blatant errors.
You’ll also want to make sure that your book makes sense, and that you didn’t skip over anything. While editing, I often find that I need to insert a few paragraphs here and there, and occasionally I realize that I talked about the same thing twice over the course of the book and thus need to delete a section or two.
My advice when editing your e-book is to either have someone else (like a spouse, friend, or colleague) edit the book for you (if they are willing and able to do it quickly) or to let the e-book sit for a day or two after you are done writing it and then come back to it yourself to get the editing done.
#4: Design a Cover
Once you have finished editing the book, you will want to design a cover. You’ll want to have your cover design available in two separate formats.
First, you’ll want a “flat cover” that you can add to the word document where you created your book, so that the PDF version of the e-book has a cover. This flat cover will also be used when you upload your e-book to Amazon for sale on Kindle devices.
Second, you’ll want a 3D e-book cover that looks like a book, including the book spine. This cover is useful for selling the e-book on your own site.
There are lots of different ways to design a cover for your e-book. I use a company called Killer Covers to design all of my e-book covers.
They make great covers and will give you both formats (the flat cover and the 3D cover) for less than $125, and they will have it to you in under a week. Click here to see what they have to offer. (Note that these are affiliate links and we earn a small commission if you choose to buy your cover through them).
Another option is Canva, a free option that will allow you to create e-book covers. In my experience though, using a paid designer like Killer Covers is worth it because it will save you tons of time and aggravation.
#5: Format Your E-Book
There are two primary places where you will want to sell your e-book: on your own website and on Amazon. There are other places you could sell your book, such as Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble’s Nook eReader, but if you sell on your own site and on Amazon you’ll have most of the market covered and can worry about the rest later.
To sell on your own site, you’ll want to format your ebook as a PDF. To sell on Amazon, you’ll need to format your book in EPUB format.
Before worrying about formats, start by creating a table of contents for your book. You can see instructions for how to do that by clicking here.
Next, you’ll want to make sure your e-book formatting looks nice and easy to read. My recommendation is to use an online tool like Reedsy. Tools like Reedsy will allow you to change your book’s typesetting, format how your chapter titles and subheadings look, and export your e-book in both PDF and EPUB formats.
Once your e-book is ready in both formats, you’re ready to start selling. As noted above, you’ll want to sell your e-book both on your own website and on Amazon. If you don’t yet have your own website, you can start by selling just on Amazon, but you’ll want to launch your own site as soon as you can to start building your own tribe of loyal fans.
Start by creating a sales page on your own website to market the book. You can use PayPal, or a payment processor like GumRoad, to accept payments right on your site. Or you can set up a sales funnel for your e-book through ClickFunnels. First time ClickFunnels users should take the One Funnel Away Challenge to get their funnel set up quickly. (Affiliate link)
After setting up a sales page on your website, you should get your e-book set up to be sold through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon provides tons of information at that link on how to get started with selling your e-book on Kindle.
How to Market Your E-Book
Early in this guide, I noted that when you write your own e-book, you are both the author and the publisher. This means that you are responsible not only for creating the e-book, but also for marketing it and making sure it sells. There are lots of ways to promote your e-book:
Sell to Your Current Audience / Customers
The best way to market your e-book is by selling it to your own e-mail list. Hopefully, you’ve built your own online presence and starting an e-mail newsletter list (if not, this article will show you how). Now it’s time to use this list to promote your e-book and get people to purchase it. Not only should you run a launch to introduce your book to your list, but you should also promote your e-book to your list on a regular basis, several times per year.
Also, be sure to promote your e-book right on your website. You can do this by linking to your e-book from your navigation bar, by putting an ad for your e-book in your sidebar, and by creating one or more blog posts about the e-book.
Post on Social Media
You should also be posting about your e-book regularly on social media. When you create social media content relating to your book, be sure to link back to the sales page so that your followers can buy a copy of the book. If you have experience with social media advertising, you can also do paid advertising for your e-book on sites like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Reach Out to Others in Your Niche
Another way to promote your e-book is by reaching out to others in your niche to offer them a free copy of the e-book in return for a quick mention on their site or in their social media. For example, if you are writing an e-book on how to train to run a marathon, create a list of 50 or 100 people who blog about running, and post about running on social media. Reach out to each of them via e-mail to introduce yourself and your e-book, and offer them a free copy. Ask them to consider writing a quick review of the book or mention of it in their social media feeds.
You can also reach out to websites that cover your niche and offer to write a guest post on the topic. Using our marathon example above, you could reach out to running sites to offer to write articles like:
- How I Went from Couch Potato to First Marathon in 90 Days
- The 5 Best Ways to Care for Your Feet After a Marathon
- The 10 Top Beginners’ Marathons in the United States
The sites you post on don’t need to be huge… if you can place some guest posts on small and medium sized sites, it will help drive traffic to your e-book sales page. Just be sure that you include an author bio box with information on you and your book, as well as a link back to the book sales page
Create a Marketing Plan for Your E-Book!
There are hundreds of other ways to market your e-book once you are ready to sell it. For more great ideas, check out the following articles:
How to Market Your Kindle Books in 10 Steps by Wishpond
7 Ways to Turbocharge Your E-Book Marketing by Writer’s Digest
Remember, you can do this! When I first decided to write an e-book, I was intimidated by the process. But after I got started, I realized that it was easier than it seemed. If you’re a consultant or freelancer, now is the best time to get started with passive income by writing and selling your own e-book. 30 days from now, you could have an e-book for sale on your website, your e-mail list, and Amazon!