I’ve been asked several times how to get started writing and selling ebooks, workshops, or other virtual products. Here’s my process and some other advice from me.
** Writing Your Own eBooks **
There are lots of different ways to write, this is just what works for me.
1 ) Choose Topic and Deadline
Obviously the first step. You need to choose your topic. Before you choose make sure there’s a market for what you’re planning to write. Set a reasonable deadline to have your project completed.
2 ) Write Outline and Sales Page
Next, write the basic outline of your ebook including any worksheets or supplementary material you want to include. This can be a great point to write your sales page at because as you’re writing it you can include the things you want to share and the benefits of the product, which will help you develop and focus your outline.
Take your outline and set mini-goals for each section based on your overall deadline so you know which part needs completed when to reach your goal in time. Leave time at the beginning for research and time at the end for proofreading and seeking feedback.
3 ) Research
Based on your outline, you should have a good idea which areas you already know what you need to write and which areas you need to research. Like any other writing project make sure you have multiple sources for your information. Consider the library, books, periodicals, reference books, wikipedia and online resources, surveys, interviews, etc as you research.
4 ) Write
Next step is writing. It takes me anywhere from a few days to a few months to finish a special report or ebook, just depends on how much time I can invest in it (I work from home with my website design/hosting business, homeschool my two boys, and have a 3 year old daughter, so I don’t always have a ton of time to spend on my ebooks).
I use Microsoft Word to write my books in if I’m on my Mac (99% of the time) or Open Office if I’m on my PC. If you need nice software to write in with formatting features, try www.openoffice.org
As I write I sprinkle in clip art or photos where appropriate to add some visual interest. I like www.istockphoto.com and you can also check www.bigstockphoto.com or www.clipart.com for royalty-free images.
5 ) Proofread
When I’ve finished writing, I print a copy then set the ebook aside for at least a few hours or a day, and come back and proofread with fresh eyes. I generally also have my VA proofread for me.
Hint: If you have more than one person proofread, have them turn on “track changes” in Microsoft Word so you can easily spot their edits and decide whether you agree or not.
6 ) Get Feedback & Revise as Needed
Send your completed ebook to a few colleagues or friends who are willing to review it for you and offer their impressions and advice, then make any necessary changes. This is also a good time to solicit testimonials and feedback that you can add to your sales page.
7 ) Convert to PDF
If you’re on a Mac running OS X, you can print to PDF by doing File / Print / PDF. It’s pretty easy.
I don’t recommend using .exe format files because you’re cutting all Mac users (I think it’s about 8-10% of computers right now, and growing) out of your market if you do. I’ve seen more than one ebook that I would have loved to purchase, but it was only available in .exe format so I couldn’t purchase. If you are determined to use .exe, please consider providing an alternative .pdf format and purchase route for Mac users who may want to purchase your ebook. And make sure you note somewhere what format your ebooks are in. I’ve also purchased a product before after scouring the sales page to be sure it didn’t say Windows only, then sure enough when I downloaded, it was Windows only. I won’t be purchasing anything from that internet marketer again.
8 ) Design Cover & Add to Website
Sometimes I do this step sooner with a “Coming Soon!” note. I personally use Photoshop to design my boxshots and covers. For boxshots I design the cover image, then use the Perspective or Distort tool to make it 3D-ish (this is how I did Jenn’s boxshots and the ones for my workshops). An easy way to do a report cover is to purchase an image from somewhere like www.istockphoto.com then put your cover on top of it (this is how I did the report series covers I have — the spiral notebook image was from istockphoto). Or use layers and shadows to make your image look like a few pages (this is how I did the images on the “Free Resources” page). You can see samples at www.michelleshaeffer.com if you’d like.
** Selling Your eBooks **
There are a lot of ways to sell your products. After a lot of research and trial and error… I don’t recommend the strung together solutions where you hack a traditional shopping cart to make it work for downloads. You’ll spend more time trying to get it to work and dealing with frustrated customers when they don’t get their downloads or can’t figure out where to download their product, etc. Go for a cart that is *designed* for downloads and you’ll be able to sleep better at night. ;-)
The solutions below range from FREE to $100/month. So even if you’re just getting started, one of these will work for you. :-) These are generally copy & paste type code buttons. You login, setup your product by giving the name, description, image, price, etc, and then when you save your info the service will give you a bunch of HTML code that you then copy & paste into your website. This can be used on plain HTML sites, WordPress sites, any site that you can access your coding or add HTML snippets, you can use these carts to sell your products.
Quick and easy to use, the files are securely stored on their server, and it’s free for under $100/month in sales. Here are the features and price points for various sales levels: https://www.payloadz.com/account/acct_levels.asp
$5 per month, no limits, no other fees
works with PayPal, Google Checkout or Authorize.net
YouPublish (new site/service, just launched)
Video overview here: https://www.youpublish.com/pages/welcome_video
You get 50% of sales prices on your files here, sort of like if they’re an affiliate promoting your products
Includes your cart/checkout plus newsletters and autoresponders
1ShoppingCart and all the variations
Includes your cart/checkout plus newsletters and autoresponders
I haven’t used this one but it’s the gold standard of carts for internet marketers and a lot of them have their own branded versions like MichaelPort.com offers it as the Booked Solid Cart.
** Promoting Your eBooks **
Here are some easy ways to promote your ebook:
— If you sign up with Payloadz or YouPublish some of your promotion will be done for you since they list your books in their searchable catalogs. But here are some other ways to promote your books.
— If you accept PayPal, get listed in the PayPal marketplace:
— Choose a good, helpful excerpt from your book and convert it into an article to share. Be sure your blurb at the bottom is strong and includes a promo for the book with a link to your sales page. Submit it to www.ezinearticles.com, www.wahmarticles.com, etc or have your VA submit for you.
— Convert your title page, table of contents, and a few pages from your ebook into a “preview” version and offer it free on your website for visitors to download. This way they can get a good idea of the contents and style of your writing to see if it will work for them.
— Post about your ebook on your blog. Include a link to your free preview file.
— Add your ebook preview link or sales page to your forum signature and/or email signature.
There’s my process and some other info that I hope helps you as you create and publish your ebooks.
P.S. You’re welcome to stop by my website at https://www.michelleshaeffer.com to see the ebooks, special reports, and workshops I’ve created and how I set them up for sale including their product images, the cart I’m using, the previews (previews are down for some edits right now but I’m hoping to have them back up within a few days), etc. There’s a special deal available on my report series right now celebrating the launch of my two newest products, it’s on the “special reports” link.