How to Write an eBook and Make Money

author writing an eBook

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

It used to be a struggle for authors to publish books — especially if you were unable or unwilling to land a publishing deal. Printing your own books was expensive, and it was nearly impossible to distribute them. But now, thanks to eBooks, any author can publish and sell their book worldwide with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Why should I write an eBook?

Here are some of the many reasons why writing an eBook may be right for you.

  • Speed to market. Unlike with a traditional publishing deal, which can take over a year to get your books into stores, self-publishing an eBook means you can be available for sale in a matter of days.
  • Global reach. Thanks to digital distribution, you can sell your eBook in stores all around the world. If you publish your book through BookBaby, for example, your eBook will be available in 170 countries and over 60 stores, from Amazon and Barnes & Noble to Kobo, Vearsa, Gardners, and beyond.
  • High royalty rates. A traditional publisher will only pay a royalty rate of 5-20 percent, while self-publishers earn 50-70 percent for their eBook sales. If you publish through BookBaby, you can sell your eBooks on Bookshop, which offers you a royalty rate of 85 percent.
  • Passive income. Once published, eBooks can provide a steady stream of passive income. And eBooks never go out of print.
  • Expertise showcase. Authoring an eBook allows you to establish yourself as an expert in your niche.
  • Cost-effective. Writing an eBook is a cost-effective way to share your knowledge and stories. You never have to worry about printing or shipping costs.
  • Flexibility and control. When you self-publish your eBook, you have complete control over the content creation, design, promotion, and distribution.

How can you make money from eBooks?

Want to turn your eBook idea into a success story? A successful eBook marketing strategy accounts for online and offline channels.

  • Sell your eBook. File this under “Obvious,” but the most direct way to make money from your eBook is by selling it directly to the reader. To do this, you can either publish your eBook directly through the publishing arm of a store like Amazon’s KDP, or you can use a service like BookBaby.
  • Offer free samples. Attract potential readers by offering free samples and then encourage them to purchase the full eBook.
  • Subscription services. Consider distributing your eBook through subscription models like Scribd and Kindle Unlimited in which readers pay a recurring fee for access to multiple eBooks. (BookBaby will distribute your title through these companies.)
  • Affiliate marketing. Promote products or services within your eBook and earn a commission on sales generated through your recommendations.
  • Email list building. Offer a free copy of your eBook to collect emails for your marketing campaigns and potentially sell other products or services to your subscribers.
  • Consulting and speaking engagements. Publishing an eBook can position you as an expert and lead to opportunities for paid consulting or speaking engagements.

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How to write an eBook in 9 steps

Now that you know why you should write an eBook and how to make money from it, all that’s left is the task of writing it. No problem, right? In all seriousness, if you’ve never written a book before, don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect. Just take the writing process one step at a time.

1. Know your audience and market

Whether you are writing a novel or a business guide, you need to know what’s selling and what your target audience is looking for. Hop on social media to see what people are hyping. Spend an afternoon in the bookstore and peruse the latest best-sellers in your genre. Pay attention to the content, cover design, length, writing style, marketing, etc.

This isn’t to say you have to stick to current trends — by the time your book is ready to publish, there may be new trends — but you can learn a lot by what is selling. See if you can find evergreen patterns in your genre. Maybe you can find a gap in the current books available that yours can fill. Or, see if you can find an eBook topic that is similar to a recent best-seller but also different enough that you can put your mark on it. That way you can position your book as, “If you enjoyed this book, you’ll also love mine.”

2. Define your purpose

Once you’ve done your research, it’s a good idea to clearly outline the purpose of your eBook. Is it informative, instructional, or entertaining? Set specific goals for what you want to achieve with your eBook. It’s vital to develop a mission statement so your book doesn’t drift away from your intention.

3. Set writing goals

Many authors find it helpful to establish a writing schedule and even daily word-count targets. Others find this too stressful and prefer to write when they are feeling inspired. You need to decide which approach is going to best motivate you. You will find that the more you write, the better you are at writing and the more likely you’ll hit your daily targets.

4. Create an outline. Or don’t.

If you are writing nonfiction, it’s a good idea to organize your eBook’s content into chapters or sections. This will ensure a logical flow of information that will meet your readers’ expectations. If you are writing fiction, you will need to decide for yourself if you are a plotter or a “pantser.” Learn more about how to outline a novel and how to pants a novel.

5. Rewrite

Writing is rewriting. No author ever writes their final draft on the first try. My advice: Once you have finished your first draft, set it aside for one month. Then, take a fresh look at your writing and begin your second draft.

6. Seek beta readers

six months to publishingOnce you’ve refined your draft, it’s time for feedback. Although it’s tempting to ask friends and family to read your book and offer you feedback, it’s often hard to get good criticism this way. Even if you specifically ask people to be honest and specific, they often will struggle to do so. Your best bet is to hire beta readers through a freelance service like Fiverr or Upwork. These readers are not expensive, you can find providers who specialize in your genre, and they return lots of valuable feedback. Hire multiple readers (five is a good number) so you can get a variety of opinions. You may find that what one person doesn’t like, two others cite as a highlight.

Although it’s a good idea to get feedback from nonbiased sources, it’s also important to be critical of their critiques. In other words, you don’t have to take every suggestion you get. Use your knowledge and your research to help you decide which suggestions are the most useful.

7. Proofread and edit your writing

Once you have received and implemented your feedback, it’s time to edit your book. It’s a good idea to use an app like Grammarly to help you fine-tune your language, though before you send your book off to print, you need to hire a professional editor.

8. Cover design

Your book cover is your single greatest marketing asset, so do not skimp on this step. You can use an eBook template to visualize your ideas, but when it comes to the final design, hire a pro. But what’s more — you need to tell your designer what it is you want. Do extensive research, study 100 books in your genre and find out what’s working and what’s not. and ultimately, give your designer direction, but allow lots of room for creativity and let them do what they do best.

9. eBook formatting

Once your manuscript and book cover are finished, it’s time to format your eBook for different devices and platforms (e.g., Kindle, ePub, PDF). Although some word processors offer an easy way to export your document as an eBook, this will not result in a professional-looking product. Your best bet is to hire an eBook formatting service like BookBaby to do it for you. It will save you all the headaches and worry and ensure your finished product is professional and ready to impress.

Publishing your eBook

After you’re done with the eBook creation process, it’s time to consider publishing and marketing strategies.

Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing

I’ve focused on the benefits of self-publishing because it’s available to all authors (and it offers higher royalties, speedier publishing times, and greater control). But traditional publishing does offer you two important things that self-publishing does not: an advance and a professional marketing department. Now there are plenty of authors who grumble about the lack of attention they receive from their publishers when it comes to marketing and promotion, but it is true that a traditional publisher can open doors for you that would be hard to access on your own.

eBook platforms and distribution

If you choose to self-publish your eBook, there are several companies that can help you. One option is to publish through Amazon’s KDP. This is nice because it’s affordable and it gets your book directly on Amazon, which is the largest distributor of eBooks in the world. Sounds good, but then you’re missing out on selling your book in all the other wonderful bookstores in the world. Plus, some potential buyers actively avoid buying things from Amazon, so if you limit yourself to that one store, you’re missing out on a ton of customers — especially overseas. That’s where partnering with BookBaby makes things easy and gets you in Amazon as well as all the other popular book retailers around the world.

Metadata, pricing, and promotion

There are a few, final important steps when it comes to publishing your eBook.

  • Metadata. Your book metadata is the content you create that helps readers find your books in stores like Amazon. Optimizing your metadata is crucial to the success of your book.
  • Pricing. How much you charge for your eBook depends on quite a few factors, including whether making money from direct sales is the most important goal, making sure you cover the cost of creating your book, and what percentage of royalty you want to earn.
  • Marketing and promotion. This is perhaps the most important part of the eBook publishing process: book marketing and promotion. Rather than sum it up here, check out my post on “15 Book Promotion Ideas to Boost Your Sales.”

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Your First Draft is Beautiful — Even if it is a Beautiful Mess

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