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How to Make Money Selling eBooks Online
For any of these strategies to work, your ebooks have to be high-quality. Here’s what you need to know to create an ebook worth promoting and/or selling.
Step 1: Identify the best topic(s).
Before you sit down to start writing, you have to determine a topic that will be worthy of the time and energy you’ll be devoting to it. It has to be something that:
- You know a lot about (although you should be prepared to do research to learn more).
- Fits with the business brand you’re building
- Is a topic of interest to your target audience
- Isn’t a topic area that’s already oversaturated online.
Those last two bullet points will be the hardest. Most new business owners will need to commit time and research to figuring out who their target audience is, and understanding what they care about. Writing an ebook you’re interested in may feel like a valuable experience for you. But if you want it to make money, you need to confirm that a larger audience will also find value in the information you provide.
And complicating this step further, a number of high-profile entrepreneurs have been touting the benefits of passive income for years. The more people that try to enter the space and make money off information products, the harder it is to provide something that’s truly unique. Not to mention, your paid products will be competing with all the free information businesses provide as content marketing.
If you release an ebook that contains information people can easily find for free elsewhere, why would they pay for it? And if your ebook is on the same topic that a number of other entrepreneurs have tackled in their information products, can you add something that makes yours stand out?
Spend some time looking into the information that’s been put out there by other businesses and websites working in a similar information space to the one you’re in. You don’t want to put in all the work of researching, writing, and publishing an ebook, only to realize that there’s another ebook out there on the same subject by a brand with bigger reach than yours.
Step 2: Do your research.
This is a big step and it could be easy to get stuck in if you’re not careful. You may need to do a few different phases of research here. First, deepen the customer research you started in the last step. Spend time talking to people in your target audience and studying up on their behavior and interests.
You won’t know what to write for your audience until you know who your audience is. Create personas to help you picture who you’re writing for. Read the ebooks and blogs they like to read, and pay attention to what works about them. Researching the other brands and people in the space will both provide insights into what your audience is interested in and help you identify the gaps in information that you can help fill.
Finally, start doing research into the topic your ebook is on. Whatever knowledge you already have on the subject, it’s a good idea to double check and supplement it with additional sources. Browse online, buy books on the subject, or head to the library to expand your knowledge.
Then start organizing all that information into an outline that clarifies the shape your ebook will take.
Step 3: Get started writing (or hire a writer).
Once your outline is complete, it’s time to dive in and start writing. If writing isn’t really your forte, it’s OK to look for a professional ghostwriter during this step. You can provide them with your outline, notes, and knowledge to turn into writing gold.
Whether you write it yourself or not, you’ll likely find that it’s worth doing additional research as you go. Just don’t let the research become an excuse not to get the writing done.
This step will likely take the longest of any of them, but it’s the most important part in having an ebook to release for your business.
Step 4: Hire an editor.
It’s tempting to skip this step, but don’t. When your business is built on information products, every one you produce needs to be top notch. If your writing is sloppy or you let typos through, it makes you look unprofessional and makes the people reading less likely to trust you or return to your business for additional information.
Even if you hired a writer, it’s worth also hiring an editor in order to have a second set of professional eyes that know what to look for on those pages before you take the plunge of publishing.
Step 5: Hire a designer to turn it into a proper ebook.
The information in your ebook needs to be high quality and well communicated. But you also want to present it in a way that’s easy to read and looks good. Good design makes a big difference in the experience your customers will have when reading your book and you want them to come away from it finding every part of the book impressive.
For that reason, it’s worth spending a little more to invest in a good designer who can help you with the formatting, overall design, and images you bring into the book. An ebook that’s intuitively designed and visually appealing will help your readers absorb and retain the information better, and the fact of taking that extra step to make the ebook look good tells them something about your brand and professionalism.
A designer can also do the important job of designing you a great book cover that will generate interest in the ebook. Book covers may not be quite as important for your average ebook as they are for the print books people browse for in bookstores, but they still matter and may help pique the interest of some readers who wouldn’t otherwise check the book out.
How to Make Money by Creating Online Courses
Step 1: Determine the topic(s) your target audience needs help with.
The first step to creating an online course is the same as it is for any information product: you have to figure out the overlap between the knowledge you have and information your target audience needs.
If you haven’t already, this requires doing some research into who the people in your target audience are and what their needs are. Some needs can be met with informational blog posts or podcasts, but for online courses you want to pinpoint the needs that are about both doing and knowing.
And you want to find a topic that benefits from a deep dive. If the topic you choose can be learned in a 1,000 word blog post, it’s not deep enough. Why would a student commit their time and money for your course, rather than seeking out a free blog post on the same thing?
Bonus points if the topic is something that will help people profit. You may be able to attract some customers that want to improve their skills in a non-paying hobby, like gardening or sewing. But you’ll be able to charge more for your course if it teaches a skill that will help people make more money in their career, such as programming or copywriting.
Step 2: Research other online courses in your space.
This step accomplishes a few important things:
- It helps you look for gaps in the market. If you offer a course in a topic that more established brands have already covered, you’ll have a harder time convincing potential students to choose yours. Try to identify a niche within your topic area that’s underserved. Maybe people can find 100 courses on making great floral arrangements, but you notice a dearth of courses on how to effectively market a florist business. That’s the better topic to cover.
- It gives you an understanding of the typical rates in your topic area. Deciding what to charge for an online course is difficult (more on that in the next section). A good starting point will be looking at what similar courses are charging. That provides knowledge on what people in your target audience are likely to be comfortable spending.
- You can analyze what’s commonly included in the courses currently available. This gives you an idea of what your audience is likely to expect from your course. But it can also give you ideas for how to improve upon the courses currently available in your area. If you see a lot of online courses that provide content, but without any interaction or community element, that’s something you can add to your course to make it more valuable.
Researching the industry you’re in is an important step in any business. Don’t skip this. It will put you in a better position to create a course plan that makes sense for your target audience and the market you’re joining.
Step 3: Determine your pricing.
Picking the actual number to charge may make more sense once the course is created, but you at least want to start thinking about it at this stage. Based on what you learned in your research, consider what’s normal, what the market will bear, and what your pricing model options are.
Unless you’re offering considerably more information and features for your students than similar courses, you’ll likely want to stick within a comparable pricing range. If they’re charging $80 and you’re confident your course is better (and can make a compelling case to that effect), you may charge $100. But jumping up to $500 would be a stretch.
You may also attract more students if you provide a range of pricing models. Maybe access to the content comes at one rate, and getting personalized instruction and feedback from you comes at the premium rate.
Over time, if you build up a library of information products, you could consider offering a subscription model as well. Instead of having to buy each course individually, students that want access to more can pay a set amount monthly or yearly to gain access to the full catalog of courses and other information items.
Step 4: Determine what content formats your online course will include.
Courses typically include a mix of different types of content. This may include:
- Written content like chapters or articles
- Video content such as tutorials that walk students through how to do specific things, video lectures on relevant topics, or Q&As with experts in the field
- Audio content like podcasts
- Interactive content like quizzes, webinars, or video calls students can join in real-time.
- Community elements such as a shared Slack or online forum where students can interact with and learn from each other
Once you know which formats will be included, you can start to better visualize what your course will look like. This step will also help you figure out which tools you need to invest in to create your course, which brings us to our next step.