Writing an eBook can be a great way to monetize your website. Yes, it'll be a lot of work to create and publish your book, but the rewards can be substantial. Your eBook sales will boost your monetization efforts but also help you to increase your authority.
So how do you write an eBook? How do you publish it? And how do you make it successful? Let's get started.
Writing your eBook
I'm assuming you have a topic in mind. Something you're passionate about as well as knowledgeable. But where do we start?
Before you start writing you need to think about what your target audience is and what you want them to learn from reading your eBook. Is there a unifying theme of your book, and how can it be structured into chapters? You will also need to decide on what style you wish to use (personal, motivational or professional). These considerations are mostly dictated by your topic and audience, so no rocket science here, but making these decisions before you start will save you a lot of time later on in the process.
Start with structure
No matter what the topic of your eBook is, or what the point you want to bring across is, your book needs structure. Before you start thinking in terms of chapters, hold on for just a little bit because we need to think about it first. Let's start with creating a mindmap:
- Write down the topic of your book in the center of a piece of paper.
- Now add all the ideas, sub-topics and other points that come to mind around your central topic.
- Ask a few friends or colleagues to add to this list (explain your topic and ask them to share what comes to mind when thinking about it).
- Now structure the points on your list, by creating clusters.
With this mindmap you have an idea of how to structure your topic into subtopics. But most likely, your mindmap is big, so you will need to decide on the scope of your writing before we can proceed. So what should be in your book, and what not? You have already decided on the audience of your eBook, and most likely, you know your audience because you engage with them in your network and on Social Media. So ask yourself, what is it they want? Keeping this in mind, return to your mindmap, and start eliminating points that are outside the scope of your eBook.
The last step of creating the structure of your eBook is to put the points that remain on your mindmap in a logical sequence. What is the starting point of your book (what do your readers need to know about first) and how do you proceed from there all the way towards the end?
Once your mindmap is structured we only need to add an introduction and conclusion, perhaps an appendix, and you got yourself a table of contents for your eBook!
Software you will need to write your eBook
Unless you are a skilled InDesign designer (which only very few people are) and unless you focus exclusively on iBooks (in that case use iBooks Author), I urge you to keep things simple. Use your normal Word or Pages software to write your texts.
There is one thing you need to keep in mind: once you finish writing, your texts will need to be converted into several eBook formats. In these formats, your text structuring options are very limited. This means you need to keep your texts simple:
Do not use:
- Aligned images
- Page background colors
- Headers or footers
You can use:
- Bullet points
- Numbered lists
- Bold, Italic and Underlined texts
You have created your mind map and used it to arrive at the table of contents of your book. So you know what you will need to write about, you simply need to get started.
Everyone has a different method, but what works for me is to skip the introduction and start writing the chapters first, from start to end. For each individual chapter I start with making an outline, to make sure I write with structure. Did I mention structure is important (yes I did!). This outline consists of the chapter's title and its subtitles, and preferably sub-subtitles. This article you are reading right now? I added all the titles before I created the texts, and I hope you noticed it got structure!
Whatever works for you. But get started!
No matter what your topic is, your book needs graphical elements. Think about adding illustrations, photos, infographics and diagrams. These elements help structure your content and bring your point across in a clear way. People love graphics much more than they like text.
Probably, you are no expert at creating graphics, so you will need to find someone who can help you. There are a few websites that offer free graphics (try GraphicStock) but you can also hire someone to create custom work using Fiverr.
Things to keep in mind when you're done writing
Finished writing? Well done! There are a few things to look at next:
Your eBook's title
Your title is a very important factor for people deciding whether or not to purchase your book. It needs to cover your book's content, but more importantly, it needs to draw attention of your audience. So what is it they want? Why don't you surf to Amazon's site and open the Kindle store, browse to the category where you will most likely publish your book as well, and have a look around. What titles are published that you find interesting?
Most likely, some book covers attract your attention before you even look at titles (we will talk about your cover next), but what you will notice is that the cover thumbnails are small. This means that your title needs to be short so that you can use a large font.
Conclusion: you need a title that attracts the attention of your audience and it needs to be short.
Your eBook's cover
Welcome to the single most important step of your eBook's success. Competition on stores like Amazon and iBooks is huge, so your eBook cover needs to stand out. Go back to Amazon's Kindle store and look at the covers; which ones do you like, and why?
Most likely you won't design your own eBook cover, a website I highly recommend to have yours designed is Fiverr (and it will cost only $5). But before you ask someone to design it you will need to have decided on colors, show some designs you like and have a title ready. The title should cover a quarter or even half your cover, in order to make sure that it is readable also on stores like Amazon where it will be displayed as a small thumbnail.
The cover needs to be at least 625 x 1000 pixels, or taller.
Formats: ePub, Mobi and PDF
Before you can start to publish your eBook you will need to convert your Word/Pages file into several formats.
This is the open standard for the industry and accepted by most publishers, including Nook and iBooks. If you created your eBook using Word you will need to convert it. There are several ways to do so, but I recommend using an opensource program named Calibre. Using this program you can easily convert your file. Apple's program Pages can export files into the ePub format directly, if for some reason this doesn't work out you can also use Calibre for Mac. Always check the resulting ePub file carefully, as some design features of your book might have been changed during the conversion. Remember that ePub only offers very simple design options, as we mentioned above in the paragraph on software.
This is Amazon's format and unfortunately they don't accept ePub. They do offer a tool to convert ePub into Mobi format, called KindleGen. Be sure to check the resulting Mobi file for design errors before you publish it.
Both Word and Pages can easily export your texts into the PDF format, which will be useful if you decide to sell your eBook directly to your website visitors.
Setting the price of your eBook
The price of your eBook should depend on its length, quality and competition. Unfortunately, I don't have the winning formula for you, so you will have to experiment to establish what works for you. Have a look at the Kindle store to have an idea of what prices are common for similar books. Setting your price above the competition might signal quality, but this will have to match with your future reviews. Setting a lower price might be a smart strategy to launch your eBook and to receive your first, much needed, reviews.
Amazon and Nook offer the best royalty rates when you price your eBook between $2,99 and $9,99 so you probably want to respect that.
I wrote an eBook on starting with growing Bonsai and there were a lot of Bonsai eBooks on Amazon already. Their covers were colorful and had a lot of text on them, so I decided to go for a solid black cover with a big title and an absolutely stunning image. This turned out to be very successful and my eBook's cover attracts most attention. My audience is people not yet growing Bonsai trees, so the title of my book is "Bonsai, a beginners guide".Oscar, bonsaiempire.com
Publishing your eBook
Finally we reach the best part; publishing and selling your eBook. You can publish your eBook directly at the largest stores (the big three) but also through intermediates that will publish your book for you to many stores. The latter comes with an additional price tag, but it can be convenient. Finally, you can also sell your eBook directly to your website's visitors as PDF.
I recommend self publishing to the big three to maximize your royalty share, and using an intermediate in case you also want your eBook published to the many other stores out there. If your website has traffic, definitely offer your book as PDF file to sell it directly to your visitors as well.
The big three
The big three are Amazon (Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook) and Apple iTunes (iBooks). Amazon is the largest in the USA with a market share of around 60%, Nook and iBooks follow and are about the same size (around 15%). This means that the big three combined have a market share of close to 90% in the USA.
All three stores have self publishing platforms and offer royalties around 65%, which is much better than the royalties you would receive from selling printed books. Another convenience is that with self publishing at the big three, you don't need to purchase an ISBN for your eBook.
eBook Publishing at Amazon's Kindle
Self publishing your eBook at Amazon is easy and won't take much of your time. If your eBook's price is between $2,99 and $9,99 your royalty share is 70%, which is pretty good. You will also need to pay for delivery costs of your eBook, so in the end you will make slightly less than the 70% share.
You do need to consider a few options they offer when publishing your book, so keep reading:
- Sign up at Amazon's self publishing platform called KDP.
- You will need to agree with their terms and then provide your details, including bank account and possibly taxpayer ID.
- Once your account is set up, click on "Add new title"
- You need to decide whether or not to enroll in the KDP Select. The advantage is that you make additional money from the Kindle Unlimited program and have access to promotional tools, also, you will most likely get those much wanted first book reviews faster. The downside is that for 90 days you can't publish your book elsewhere. If you book is targeting the USA it often makes sense to enroll.
- Add your book's details like title, subtitle and description.
- At "Publishing Rights" you most likely need to select that your book is not a public work (if you hold the rights to everything inside your book).
- Pick two categories for your book, the first is the most important.
- Add your cover.
- Add your book file (your .mobi file).
- In the next step set your price.
- Kindle match book: only applicable if you have a hard-copy version as well.
- Kindle lending: this enables sharing your eBook between befriended customers. I usually enable this feature, especially when I first publish an eBook.
- Click on Publish and you're done! Amazon will check your book and within a day your book is available in the Kindle store.
- On the KDP homepage you can copy the direct link to your eBook per Amazon country, use these links when promoting your book.
eBook Publishing at iTunes and its iBooks
Self publishing your eBook at iBooks is also relatively straight forward. You earn a 70% royalty on your sales and iTunes doesn't charge delivery cost, so your earnings per sold book will be higher than with Amazon.
- Get your AppleID.
- Enable your AppleID for iTunes Connect here.
- You will need to provide your personal details, including bank account and possibly taxpayer ID.
- Download the software iTunes Producer, this is the program used to add your eBook to the iBooks store.
- Open iTunes Producer and create a new Book.
- Add your eBook details, including title, subtitle, description, publisher and publication date.
- Upload your cover photo and up to five screenshots of attractive pages from your eBook.
- In the next step, set up the price of your eBook for all or for individual regions.
- In the last step, select your eBook file (the .epub file).
- Once approved you can upload your book to iTunes / iBooks. It will take some time before it starts to appear in the iTunes stores worldwide.
- To link to your eBook in the iTunes stores you can use iTunes Link Maker.
eBook Publishing at Nook
Publishing your eBook at Nook is easy. Your royalty share is 65% for products priced between $2,99 - $9,99.
- Create your account at Nook Press here.
- You will need to provide your personal details, including bank account and possibly taxpayer ID in your account.
- Click on "Create a project" and insert your eBook title.
- Upload your eBook (your .epub file)
- Nook will search your ePub file for the title and other data, but make sure to check this carefully.
- Upload your cover image.
- Insert all the required data and select the categories (up to 5).
- Set your eBook price and choose whether or not to enable DRM (protection of your file; I suggest you don't use this feature as it will annoy your customers).
- Publish your eBook and wait for a few hours for your book to be accepted.
- To get the direct link to your Nook sales page, open your eBook project page and click on "View Nook Book product page".
Other eBook publishers and intermediates
If self publishing is too much effort for you, using the services of an intermediate can be convenient. You only need to signup once and upload your eBook file, and they will publish and distribute to all the eBook stores. They can even help you with designing a cover, though I recommend to save money by arranging this yourself. In case you have chosen to self publish your eBook at the big three there are several more stores where you can also publish your book using an intermediate.
There are two famous intermediates, BookBaby and SmashWords. BookBaby offers better royalty rates but they charge a signup fee starting at $99. SmashWords is a free service, but they take part of your royalties. Compare both services and their prices on their websites. Simplicissimus is another service in which you can freely select the stores where you want your eBook published, convenient if you wish to combine self publishing and their services.
A few other markets for eBooks
The USA leads the way in terms of eBook sales, but the eBook markets in several other countries are growing:
Spanish: iBooks (40%), Amazon (30%) and Casa del Libro (15%).
German: Amazon (50%), Thalia+Weltbild (34%) and iBooks (10%).
Italian: Amazon leads, with iBooks, Kobo and IBS following.
Dutch: Bol.com (80%) and iBooks (10%).
I have my eBook available in several languages. The English version is by far the most important, but the Spanish and German books do pretty well too. If you have translations of your content, make sure to publish your eBook in multiple languages.Oscar, starttomonetize.com
Maximizing your eBook sales
You've published your eBook, so what's next?
Creating your sales page
Although your eBook is available on the stores of Amazon and iBooks, it makes sense to drive as much traffic to those pages as you possibly can from your website. It makes even more sense to offer your visitors a chance to buy your eBook directly from you as well; so sell your book in PDF format on a sales page!
Your sales page should include pictures of your book, a description and some reviews, as well as links to the stores where your eBook can be purchased. If you wish to sell a PDF file from your website you can arrange this yourself by installing a digital file sales extension (available for both Joomla! and WordPress) or use an external service like Selz or Sellfy.
The importance of reviews
Customer reviews on stores including Amazon, iBooks and Nook are very important to drive sales. At some stores it is possible to add a review without buying the book, but be sure to expect a banned account if all your reviews are non-paid. Most publishers even buy positive reviews, but this is a risky practice.
What I do after launching an eBook is offering fans on Social Media a free copy if they write a review. Setting a low introduction price of your eBook might also be a good way to get those first reviews.
eBook done, what's next?
Now that your eBook is published, think about other way to make some
additional money with your site, like creating an online course.