E-Books: A New Medium for Your Writing

Many of the freelance writers I encounter online work within very specialized topics. It makes sense, really. Write about what you find interesting. Write about what you know. I also know that these same writers have developed an inventory of articles sitting around on the hard drive collecting digital dust. We’re always looking for new ways to repackage the work we’ve already done in order find new markets and save precious time. With that in mind, you may want to consider breathing a new life into your older articles and put together an e-book.

A Perfect Online Product

E-books have been touted as the perfect product for online sales. The have an advantage over traditional physical products for a number of reasons. Once you’ve created the e-book, your work is done. You don’t have to keep manufacturing product to fill the demand. Storage is not a problem. E-books take up a small amount of space on your computer – not valuable room in a warehouse. You can quickly upload your product to your web server and make it available to anyone very quickly.

Of course, that brings up another major problem with physical products – fulfillment. When you have a physical product, you have to worry about packing and shipping the product every time your customers make a purchase. With a digital product, you can automate this process very easily so that every time a customer makes a purchase, they are automatically sent the information about how to download the product.

As writers, we realize that the product we offer, our writing, has some of these advantages, but if you haven’t thought of creating an e-book, let me encourage you to give it a try.

The market for information is tremendous. People are always looking for ideas that will help them improve some aspect of their lives. That’s where you come in. As a freelance writer, you have your life experiences to rely on. There’s something about you that’s unique – some perspective you can offer to others. You also have the ability to write about what you know and share that information in a meaningful way.

Research and Writing

As I mentioned before, many writers also have an inventory of articles they can draw from – previous material they have written on their niche topics.

If this describes you, you’re in the perfect position to create an e-book. You probably have most of the work already done. You’ll probably just need to do some polishing and clean-up work.

So, here’s what you do. Gather all your articles about a particular theme or niche. Organize them in such a way that they provide a complete picture of your topic. Then begin working on filling in the gaps. Cut out parts that are redundant. Research and write new sections where information may be missing. Edit passages to make clear transitions from one topic to the next.
You probably have a method for working that fits your needs and style, so make the most of it. You can create an outline and plug in information from previous articles or just bring everything in to one document and hack your way through it. Do whatever works for you.

The most successful e-books are those that address the needs of the reader. If you can answer your reader’s questions in a way that no one else can, you’ll truly have a product people want to buy.

If you’re searching for a topic to write about, visit online forums where your niche topic is discussed. Read the questions that people have and use these as the basis for your chapters or sections. Ask questions in the forums. Ask people what kinds of problems they are experiencing and if they’ve found any solutions. Forums are a great place to conduct market research on an infinite variety of topics.

Answer the questions that haven’t been answered before and bring your unique style and experience to it and you’ll have a killer product.

Creating the Final Product

Once you have your manuscript complete, it’s time to create your e-book.

You have a number of choices for compiling and presenting your manuscript into e-book form. Many people like to use an e-book compiler. There are quite a few programs on the market that will import HTML or text files, allow you to edit and arrange them, and then compile them into an executable file.

These e-book compilers are pretty easy to use and the flexibility of writing in HTML means you can design your own book pages. You can also include links within your book. Many authors not only add links to their websites but include advertising or use this feature to promote other products and projects.

A quick look in your favorite search engine will bring up a lot of e-book compilers. One word of caution: take some time to review the various products before you make a purchase. There are many different features and you may not want to spend a ton of money for things you won’t need and won’t ever use. Smart comparison shopping will usually lead to making the right choice.

The second option for creating your e-book is to convert your manuscript into PDF format. PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is easily read using Adobe Acrobat Reader which is standard on most computers.

I like PDF format because it’s easy to use and I can create an e-book directly from Microsoft Word (my word processor of choice). Once I finish my manuscript, I spend a few minutes formatting the text to make it presentable. Once this is done, creating the e-book is as simple as printing or saving a file.

One of the advantages of PDF is that it’s a secure format. You can edit the security settings of your e-book to make sure no one can copy and paste the text pr print the e-book. You can also password protect the entire file. This is great if you want to give your book away as an incentive to sign up for your newsletter. (More about that in a moment.)

Some of the e-book compilers have these features as well, so shop around. I like PDF because it’s simple and easy to use. You’ll need to purchase the software. Adobe Acrobat (www.adobe.com) is a little on the pricey side, but there are inexpensive converters available now at your local office or computer store.

Getting Your e-Book to Market

Once you get your manuscript converted into e-book format, you’ll want to think about how you are going to promote and sell it. You have a lot of options.

You may want to test the market by offering it on eBay. This is a great way to get an idea for how much to charge. Offer a couple copies at auction and see what it sells for. Then you can fix your price based on this information. You’ll also see what kind of demand there is for the book. (You can also make changes based on the feedback you receive.)

You have two options for getting your e-book into your customers’ hands: sell it or give it away.

Selling your e-book is pretty straight-forward. You can create a web site with information about your e-book. You’ll need to consider product fulfillment – ordering and delivery.

Fortunately, there’s a great site out there to help you: ClickBank. When you create a merchant account with ClickBank, you pay a small fee to have your product listed. They handle the credit card processing and product delivery for your e-books. They charge a small fee, but it’s worth it knowing you won’t have to worry about this aspect of your business.

ClickBank also has an incredibly strong and loyal affiliate program. Once you list your product, any of the thousands of ClickBank affiliates can begin to promote your product for you. Of course, you’ll need to pay them a commission for the sale, but ClickBank handles that for you. It usually worth a percentage of the sales to have such a strong sales force promoting your product.

Of course, you could also use the merchant tools on PayPal to add a quick and easy shopping cart to your web page. This will accomplish the same thing but filter payments through PayPal. With this option you will need to take a few additional steps to set up your product for automatic delivery. Both PayPal and ClickBank provide an easy yet affordable solution for product ordering and delivery.

You may want to consider whether you want to sell your product at all. It may be more beneficial to give it away. Now, you’re going to tell me that you’re not in the business of giving away your hard work. Think about the possibilities for a moment.
Many people write and give away their e-books to promote their web site or other products. For example, you may give away your e-book from your web site. In order to get their free e-book, your visitors would have to provide you with their name and email address.

So what good is that?

Let’s call it the two-part sale. It’s a very common marketing technique. I’ll explain how you can use it to your advantage.

First of all, you have two different versions of your e-book. One is the complete version and the second is a scaled down version: the first chapter, sample chapters, or some other limited version.

On your site you give away the trial version for free in exchange for email addresses. Once you have their email address, you can send them regular email messages: a newsletter about your business and information about buying the complete version of your e-book.

With this method, you are building a mailing list. It’s more valuable to you to create a list of email addresses that you can send offers to than to try to make a quick sale.

Once your customers become familiar with your work (through the sample e-book), the will be more inclined to make a purchase from you, especially if you write the sample book in such a way as to pique their curiosity and get them hooked.
The added benefit to this method is that you’ll be able to go back to your list when you have a new product to offer. You can continue to create e-book after e-book and you’ll always have a database of ready-and-willing customers to promote to.

There are a lot more venues for uploading a free product. E-book directories will gladly post your free e-book because it generates traffic for their site. If you go this route, make sure you password protect your sample e-book and provide instructions in a separate text file about where to go to get the password. Direct them to your web site and the form where they can enter their name and email address in order to get the unlock code. Include your e-book and the instruction file in one compressed (.zip) file for convenient downloading.

This is just a brief overview of the process of creating and marketing an e-book. A niche writer who really understands a topic could do very well writing and selling a quality e-book. Like anything online, it takes not only a quality product, but a well thought out marketing plan.

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