3 Unusual Keys to Using Ebooks to Make a Living

By Leo Babauta

We are living in the most exciting time in history to be a writer, to publish your ideas, to make a living helping others.

It’s incredible because:

  • It’s easier than ever before to publish your ideas.
  • Publishing a book can be done by anyone.
  • Good ideas rise to the top in this new idea marketplace.
  • There are no limits to how you publish ideas — books are just one option.
  • You no longer need permission to get your ideas out, and you’re not limited by shelf space.
  • You don’t need money to be a publisher.

And that’s just the start of it.

But how do you create and publish an ebook? How do you get people to buy it? That can be confusing, but in four years of publishing books, ebooks, courses and more, I’ve learned a few things most people don’t tell you.

I’ll share some of what I’ve learned here, in hopes that it’ll help you get your ideas out there, and in the process, start making a living doing what you love.

1. Ebooks can be simpler than you think. Many people are intimidated by publishing an ebook, or put it off for months (or years) because it seems too hard. It’s not. It can be as simple as gathering your best information on solving a problem you’ve already published on your blog, perhaps expanding, updating or refining it, and putting it in an order that makes sense for learning that topic. It could be gathering reader questions on a topic and simply answering them in short chapters — I’ve done this and written an ebook in just a few days, by keeping the scope of the problem very limited. It could be scheduling webinars once a week on various aspects of a problem, and either charging for the webinars or making them free, and then using those as content for your product. It could be a very simple ebook (10-15 pages) to start with, and then expanded to a series of ebooks, a larger ebook, or a full digital package that includes audio and video — and you can expand even after you’ve started selling the product.

Once you have the content, publishing can be really simple — you can use a simple program like Word (PC) or Pages (Mac), publish as a PDF, and you’re done. You can expand on this with other formats (Kindle, epub, video, audio) but you don’t need to do that to start. Publishing an ebook or digital product can be very complicated if you make it so, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple and get your ideas out there.

2. Launches, landing pages, and mailing lists are NOT what’s important. This is something many online marketing types won’t tell you, because they’ve found some success building up massive mailing lists, creating huge launches, crafting the perfect landing pages. And yes, to some extent, that stuff works. But in the end, they are trying to convince people to buy something who don’t want to buy something. That’s the wrong approach. Instead, build a relationship with people who want to read what you have to share, and base that relationship on trust. If people trust you, you don’t need to sell to them. If they already are in a relationship with you, they don’t need social proof or testimonials or before and after photos. They already know you put out good stuff, and they already want to read more from you. When you’ve accomplished that, you need to do minimal selling, and your landing pages can be nothing but a simple list of what you get when you buy the product.

How do you build this relationship based on trust with readers? That’s the hard part, but also the easy part. Put out great stuff on a regular basis on your blog. You might already be doing that. Here’s the important part: always put your readers first. Pop-ups that encourage them to sign up for your mailing list, a ton of ads, social buttons and widgets all over the place — these things and more tell the reader that you care more about their email address or sharing your stuff on their Facebook page or advertising dollars than you do about what they want. Don’t do any of that, and instead, give them what they want and get out of their way. They will begin to trust you, and so when you do put out a product (especially if you do it in a non-spammy, non-markety way), they will say, “All right. I trust Leo, I know this is going to help me, and it’s designed to solve a problem I want to solve.” You don’t need to sell.

3. There are no rules. I like to write, so I create ebooks. Other people are better at making videos, so they make a video product. Others like doing live webinars. There is no limit to how you create your product, but it really should solve a problem that people want solved. Want to make a simple PDF and nothing more? Awesome. Want to add some instructional screencasts, or workbooks, or quick guides, or interviews with experts? Even better. Want the entire thing to be online, so people can read the articles and watch videos on your site, and you can update the product at any time? Great idea! Want to have live weekly calls with you, or interactive forums? Easily done! Want it to be a membership program, paid monthly, with monthly webinars or fresh content? Well, I’m sure you can guess whether that’s possible.

There are also no rules for pricing — it can be free, $1.99, $20, $49, or $597 if you like. Figure out what it’s worth to people to solve that problem — it’s worth much more to help them pass the bar exam than it is to help them fix a broken faucet.

There are no rules for anything. You, like the rest of us, will be making it up as you go, figuring out what works best for you and your readers. You will make mistakes, and it will not end your world. That’s the liberating thing: there are no rules, and there’s no such thing as bad mistakes. You are free to do anything, and mistakes just help you get better.

Ebook Mastery Course

Mary Jaksch and I have created a course called Ebook Mastery for the A-List Blogging Bootcamps.

We’re looking forward to helping you create your first (or best) ebook or digital product.

What you get with this course:

  1. The course teaches you the simple abc steps for choosing the best eBook topic; planning and writing your eBook; and designing and publishing your eBook.
  2. You’ll have interaction and support via an online forum, from the course teachers, from forum moderators with experience in creating profitable eBooks.
  3. You can ask questions live, and get them answered, in weekly live video webinars by Leo Babauta, Mary Jaksch, and other superstar guest experts.
  4. Each week you’ll get a new module of content aimed at teaching you the specifics of creating an eBook from beginning to end including:
    • Articles with specific strategies and actions for determining a viable topic, outlining your content and writing plan; creating a writing style that is best for your readers; and specifics on designing and publishing your product.
    • Recommendations and statistics on pricing your eBook.
    • Case studies by people from regular bloggers like you who have created successful and profitable eBooks.
    • Videos, podcasts, and expert interviews to motivate you and help you stay on track with writing and completing your eBook.
    • Assignments, resources, and planning materials to help you stay organized and focused while working on your eBook.
  5. Your own eBook that you have created (or started to create) during this course that you can sell right away.

Check out Ebook Mastery.

About the author

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is the blogger behind the superblog, Zen Habits, which is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of life.

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