If there’s one area that most bloggers and site owners are missing out the most, it’s in the area of products and services. Many people can master SEO enough to earn advertising revenue, figure out an email system that works for them, and do some affiliate marketing. But the fifth pillar of Site School is all about creating products and services.
Perhaps part of the reason people avoid that work is that’s the hardest work you can do as a site owner or blogger; coming up with an original idea, figuring out how to bring it to life, and then testing ways to “sell” it to people (whether as a freebie or paid product) is a whole other set of skills beyond the mostly-writing work that allows you to succeed with affiliate and advertising income.
As an evangelist for diversified income streams, I almost consider it my responsibility to share ways to make money through products and services – and this post is part of that strategy which I use on my own sites.
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to create your first eBook, which you can either sell or offer as a freebie to get more email signups (which are also valuable!). I’ve used this process repeatedly to create eBooks on a variety of topics across my sites, and to increase my revenue to help insulate my business from the swings of the economy.
Ready to create your first eBook already? Let’s get to it.
🎧 Want to listen instead? This post was inspired by episode 2 of the Site School podcast.
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
When it comes time to start working on your eBook, the very first question to ask yourself is: what topic do I want associated with my name in the long term?
Writing an eBook can be easy – but it can also have a big impact on you or your site’s brand – so it’s important to choose a topic you want to be known for and already have experience and/or expertise in.
For example, here are some of the eBooks I’ve created for my sites over the years
- The Night Sky in 2020 for Space Tourism Guide
- Alaska’s Best Travel Itineraries for Valerie & Valise
- Affordable London for London On my Mind
- Bourdain-Inspired Lisbon Walking Food Tour Guide for Eat Like Bourdain
As you can see, each of these eBooks is directly related to both the topic and my EEAT for that site.
Start by creating a list of all the eBooks you could write, based on the content you already have.
Step 2: Choose Your Format
With your list of ideas in hand, it’s time to think: what format do you want your eBook to be? The name kinda says it all; I recommend creating a digital eBook rather than a physical book. This just makes life so much simpler – it saves on logistics and shipping, as well as finding a printer.
(It is possible to create a physical book in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform that is “print on demand,” meaning it’s only printed when someone purchases it.)
If you’re on the fence about physical vs digital, spend some time thinking about how people might consume the content: is it something they’ll want to refer to time and again, take with them, or mark up? Maybe a physical copy is a better choice. If you’re conveying info one time, or it’s pretty simple information, a digital version might be better.
As someone who has both physical and digital books, I’m a digital-first publisher. From start to finish, life is easier with an eBook.
Step 3: Get Feedback
Now that you have some ideas of what your book might be about and the format you want to deliver it in, I recommend getting some feedback. You can do this easily with your existing audience, such as by sending a newsletter to your email list (helping you tick off another week’s email topics this month) or using the Instagram polls feature.
Even if your audience is just friends and family, it can be helpful to get some input to see which topic(s) resonate most with the people who might sign up or pay for your eBook. You don’t have to do what people say they want most, but it’s good to have that “market research” to help guide your decision-making.
Step 4: Assemble the Content You Already Have
I’m assuming you haven’t skipped any steps and already started writing your eBook before finishing this article, so here’s the secret hack to write your first eBook super easily: 95% of your eBook can be compiled of articles you’ve already published on your site.
So with some feedback from your potential audience in hand, take a look at your list of articles and decide: what eBook can I put together really quickly with the articles I’ve already written?
For example, aside from an Introduction and Conclusion, my entire 57-page eBook about The Complete Denali Guide from Valerie & Valise is compiled from the following articles:
- 15 Incredible Things to Do in Denali & Denali National Park
- Where to Eat in Denali: A Local’s Guide to 10 Great Restaurants
- Where to Stay in Denali: The 5 Best Hotels & Vacation Rentals
- A Perfect Denali National Park Itinerary: 2 or 3 Days in the Alaskan Wilderness
My How to See the Milky Way eBook for Space Tourism Guide was built from just two posts:
By using my existing content, I was able to create each of these eBooks in about one hour, using Google Docs and some photos from my articles. Also, I don’t create a fancy design for my eBooks since I want a low price point and to convey the information simply. That makes it super easy to justify my time, since only a few sales will make up for the hour I spent putting together the book.
Actually, you’re not really writing an eBook so much as collecting your existing written work and packaging it as an eBook. And yes, if you’re wondering, people will pay for that convenience of having all the info they need in one place.
Step 5: Release & Promote Your eBook
Whether you’re using your eBook as a freebie or selling it is up to you – I usually charge for my eBooks but I have a few that I’ve offered as freebies over the years.
In either case, I recommend emailing your list to share that the eBook is available – if your eBook is a freebie, you can just offer it to everyone, or you can include the link where people can purchase. If there’s a way for people to leave reviews, encourage them to do that too to help generate buzz for your new eBook.
It’s also important to plug your eBook into your ecosystem: make sure it’s somewhere on your site, such as a bottom banner or in the sidebar, as well as in your email funnel (either as the freebie delivered to people) or in your welcome series as a purchase opportunity.
Promoting and selling an eBook is a whole other beast that could take up an entire separate post here on Site School, so I’ll wrap this up here… but congratulations! If you’ve followed these steps, you now have your first eBook!
Have any questions about creating your first eBook? Let me know in the comments!