The Beginner’s Guide to Writing, Designing and Selling an Ebook

Have you ever thought about offering an ebook for sale on your blog? Or maybe as a free resource to encourage opt-ins for your email list?

Ebooks and any form of digital information products are a really great way to start moving your blog, from blog to business. They don’t require a lot of upfront cost to produce and they let you take that first step into a blogging income which will do a world of good for your initial confidence levels.

To end up with a finished, ready to sell ebook on your site, you’ll need to move through 3 phases that we’ll go through in detail below.

It’s a lot easier to tackle something that feels big by breaking in down into manageable pieces and you’ll also feel a lot more progress when each phase is finished.

The 3 phases of ebook creation are:

  1. Writing
  2. Design
  3. Delivery

See, 3 steps, doesn’t seem so bad now does it?

Phase 1: Writing

Deciding on a Topic

Before you begin writing, you’ll need to figure out what it is that you’re going to write about.

When you start selling anything on your blog it can feel a bit scary. You may run into a bit of the “who do you think you are” mental gremlins that plague us all from time to time. But, if people are coming to your blog and reading your posts then you have hard evidence that you’re already creating something that people enjoy.

Creating an ebook to sell (or give away as an opt-in incentive)  is just a natural extension of what you already do, day in and day out.

When trying to discover the perfect topic for you ebook, keep in mind that there likely is no one perfect topic. There are likely many ideas that you could work with and the hard part is going to be narrowing down your idea to the best one for right now and putting the rest on the shelf for later.

Great places to look for ebook topic inspiration are your own posts:

  • What posts or types of posts got the most comments?
  • What got shared the most?
  • What elicited the most emotional reaction from your readers?
  • What do people ask you in the comments or on your contact page?
  • What do people struggle with?

You have a unique advantage as a blogger that most new-to-business people don’t. You already talk to your audience (and potential customers) on a daily basis.

You know their fears, frustrations and what keeps them up at night because in most cases, you are very similar to the people you write for. With this unique knowledge, you can choose a topic to write about that solves one of these problems that your audience faces.

If you already provide a paid service on your blog then a natural extension of that would be to write about what it is you do for other people.

A personal trainer can create a 12 week workout program ebook, a registered dietician can create a menu planning or nutritional guide.

When people already pay you to provide value for them use that as a jumping off point for your ebook. It’s also a great way to earn income that doesn’t require you to physically be providing a service and can provide a lower entry price point for people who aren’t ready for your higher price services.

Creating a Writing Plan & Getting it Done

Once you have an idea of what topic you’re going to write about, the next step is the actual writing. This is often where you run into a brick wall of resistance and procrastination.

When you try to step out of your comfort zone and do something against the grain, you’re going to encounter these issues and honestly, I still get these doubts every time I start working on a new product too. They don’t disappear just because you’ve sold things before. You just have to make your schedule and commit to seeing things through to the end.

Everyone who is now selling something on their blog was once a person who wasn’t. They simply made the choice to try!

Carving out time to write your ebook may seem like an impossible task given that you’re still writing your regular blog posts but it can be done if you start with a solid plan.

With your main topic in mind, start with a brief outline of the main points, chapters or sections. Chunk it down into manageable parts.  Then take each of the sections and either outline them or if your book is short enough you can start the writing process after a basic outline.

How you chose to keep on track is ultimately up to you but I like to schedule time to work on each section as an actual appointment in my calendar.

For example, I would work on Chapter 1 for one hour on Monday afternoon, then maybe another hour on Thursday morning. For each section, I would guess-timate the time it will take to write and then schedule that much time in my calendar to make it happen.

If you like to free flow a bit more than that, you just schedule writing blocks especially reserved for your ebook at various intervals throughout the week, working on each section until it’s done.

However you choose to tackle the writing task, the main thing is that you make a plan to consistently move your progress forward. You’ll build momentum as you go and finish it faster than you thought possible.

One final note about the ebook writing process. Don’t get hung up on length of the book. You only need to write what is required to solve the problem or frustration you set out to fix. No more no less. Focus on quality information and not fluff just to fill pages.

Some of the best ebooks I’ve read (and paid for) were short on words but high in value.

Editing & Formatting

Once you’re done the lions share of the writing, pat yourself on the back and enjoy a cocktail, and start working on those extra pages that need to be included but are often forgotten.

Pages like the:

  1. About the Author: this is a great place to refer readers back to your website to subscribe to your blog or other call to action.
  2. Copyright Information: This article lists many different copyright variations you could use as inspiration for your page.
  3. Table of Contents: Just like you needed an outline to write the book, your Table of Contents helps readers see how your information is organized and makes for a better reader experience.
  4. Footers: Not so much a page as it is a formatting note, be sure to include a link to your website and page numbers on your final document.
  5. References/Resources: Depending on your subject matter, you may need a reference section to site stats, other websites or more information to support your work. It’s best to make notes of your sources as you go rather than hunt them down at the end.

Phase 2: Design

Does the word photoshop scare the living daylights out of you (and your pocket book)?

Well don’t worry, design should not be a block to getting your great idea out into the world. And with all things blog related, there’s a sliding scale of investment where you can start with a total do-it-yourself effort and move into more pro services as the budget allows.

Essentially, you need to find a service or software that will allow you to insert your written copy and export it as a PDF. That’s the format the final book needs to be in so you can upload it for sale.

There are many software options available to you so just be sure that you can get your final book in PDF before spending hours designing something you can’t use.

Budget Friendly Ebook Design: iBooks Author (Free on Mac)

If you’re on a Mac, I’ve found no better ebook editor than iBooks Author. It comes with 15 easy to customize templates and they look pretty darn good right out of the box.

Even if you’re not design inclined, it’s hard to not make your book look good with the pre-designed templates. Even more experienced designers can enjoy this platform with it’s multi-media features, interactive features and a step by step walk through to publish your book to the iBooks store.

write an ebook

iBooks Author templates include the cover as part of the project design but if you want a 3d cover mock up for your book, you’ll need to get that made separately. Fiverr is a great resource for getting a mock up done quickly and on the cheap.

Budget Friendly Ebook Design: OpenOffice (Free PC or Mac)

OpenOffice is a free word processor that you can use to write your book as well as export it in the PDF you need.

Since OpenOffice is more about wordprocessing than design, if you use this option, go simple with mainly text, lots of white space and don’t try to force the program to be something it’s not. You’ll end up spending hours and hours getting really frustrated.

Since OpenOffice doesn’t come with the built in templates that iBooks Author does, you’ll need to investigate getting a cover designed which you can outsource to Fiverr too.

Going Pro Ebook Design: Hire a Designer

Hiring a designer is often really hard for us bootstrapping bloggers and solo-preneurs. Either we’re convinced that we must do everything ourselves (I’m guilty of this one) or we have a hard time justifying the expense.

One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that it’s best to stick to what you’re really good at and let other people rock what they’re good at. They’ll likely get the job done in half the time it would take you plus it will likely look a million times better.

The decision to hire out your design will obviously depend a lot on your budget, your timeframes and the ultimate goals for you book but definitely consider it, you won’t be sorry.

If you’re looking for an ebook designer, you can check out Sarah Hart, I’ve worked with her in the past and she is absolutely fabulous.

Phase 3: Delivery

For successful selling you need a reliable and automated system. You don’t want to have unhappy customers because their “instant download” turned into a back and forth email conversation troubleshooting issues.

The tricky part of selling your ebook is that when people buy it, you don’t want to just send them to a page on your site that has the book because anyone could go there, even if they didn’t buy it.

You need a system that encrypts the download link to keep your work and profits as safe as they can be.

There are a number of ways to set up a ebook delivery but we’ll just discuss 2 of the easiest options here.

Create a Sales Page

Your new book is going to need a home on your blog. Ideally this home will be it’s own page where you can display your beautiful cover design as well as explain to potential customers what benefits they’ll experience from reading it.

One of the best ways to figure out how to write a great sales page is to study great sales pages. Hunt around online and check out what some of your favorite bloggers have done for their ebooks to get inspired for your own.

Some ideas of what to include:

  1. Social Proof: testimonials and reviews are great for sales, consider giving out free copies of the book to generate pre-launch testimonials.
  2. A Guarantee: many people are still apprehensive about making purchases online so let them know that you stand behind your work 100% and give them an easy way to get ahold of you in case of a problem.

Free Option: GumRoad

Gumroad is handsdown the easiest option you’ll find for selling any digital products online. It’s as simple as creating an account, uploading your book and setting a price. Gumroad, just like Paypal takes a small fee per transaction so it’s not technically free but you only pay when you make money yourself.

One of my favorite features of Gumroad is the way they handle the payment screen. Customers will see a beautifully designed pop up that enhances the entire purchase experience.

gumroad

Free Option: WooCommerce

If you’re on a self-hosted WordPress blog you can install the WooCommerce plugin, integrate it with Paypal and configure the plugin to manage digital downloadable products (which is another way to say ebook.)

The plugin has a lot of options and can be confusing so give yourself some time to get this set up properly (and test it!)

Budget Friendly: E-Junkie

If you’re not tech savvy and want an affiliate program to go with your ebook than I suggest going with E-junkie. The service is $5 a month as long as you have less than 10 digital products plus it collects email address of customers so you can communicate with them in the future.

Once you set up your account and upload your book, it’s just a matter of embedding a bit of code on your site and presto, people can purchase your book and E-junkie handles the delivery automatically.

E-junkie also comes with a built in affiliate program so you can have other people promote your product and earn commissions. Affiliate programs are game changers when it comes to online sales and you won’t find many out of the box affiliate solutions that are this cheap and easy to use.

Test Your Cart

After your system is set up you just have one final but critical task left: testing. It’s really important to know before you hit publish on your sales page that your technology is working properly.

Make a sample purchase of your ebook and write down any part of the process that you need to tweak. By doing this you may find an automated email you forgot to update or something big like your Paypal account isn’t hooked up properly.

There are a lot of moving parts going on behind the scenes so it’s vital to double check before going live.

Promote, Promote and Repeat as Necessary

Hands down one of the best things about digital products like ebooks is the fact that once they’re done, you can sell them over and over while you’re busy doing all the other things you do to grow your blog. You will have a little customer service time here and there to deal will refunds but that’s about it.

After you’ve done the hard part of writing, designing and delivering the book, you just need to work on promotion and then maybe round out your library with a few new titles in the future.

Additional Resources:

  1. MyEcoverMaker
  2. 99 Designs
  3. Mind Map Software for outlining content and brainstorming
  4. iBooks Author Templates for a large selection of pro book templates for $19.99 each
  5. eBook Template for OpenOffice
  6. Vibrant Life Cleanse Program sales page example

If you made it this far into the post, I kind of feel like you should win a prize or something. This one was a biggie.

Have you ever thought about self-publishing an ebook for your blog? What’s stopped you?

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Comments

  1. says

    Rita,
    I am loving your posts, especially lately :) Very resourceful and on point with what I have been researching/interested in/experiencing {lucky me!}.

    It had been a while since I’ve been over to Fiverr; thanks for the reminder!
    I also appreciate you recommending E-junkie. I’ll have to check them out {interesting in affiliate programs where I am not the affiliate lol}.

    Work work work.
    I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be on my site, but who ever sets realistic expectations? haha ;)
    I’m still feeling my way into presentation, design, my voice…I’m sure you understand.

    Thanks so much for the value/relation you provide!

    With gratitude,
    Sheree

    • Rita Barry says

      Thanks so much Sheree, that’s really thoughtful and I appreciate the comment! I try to post about what would be helpful so it’s wonderful to hear that it resonates.

      Fiverr’s come a long way! You can find a lot of gems on there.

      I do wish ejunkie would improve their user interface a bit, it’s looked like that for years but it’s the only thing I know of that really makes it easy to run an affiliate program. With smaller audiences, those affiliate partners can really help get exposure. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Gumroad will do an affiliate add on of some sort, then it would be brilliant!

  2. Loz says

    Hi Rita,
    The “absolutely fabulous” Sarah Hart, ebook designer, sent me the link to this awesome page as I am currently working on content for ebooks. Thank you for this post I am inspired to schedule in regular time for my ebook writing. This is all so very very new to me as I have been working in clinical practice for the last 8 years. Now I’ve discovered writing and blogging and loved that I’ve come across Sarah and now you.
    I would like to refer to ‘Design Budget Friendly Ebook Design: iBooks Author (Free on Mac) in Phase 2: Design’. As I searched my Mac for iBooks Author I came across this article http://www.betatales.com/2012/01/22/why-i-dont-dare-to-publish-with-apples-ibooks-author-app/
    Can you please share any light on this (the current situation) as I don’t want to drive right into the designing (although I’m not quite ready yet) and then encounter a road block along the way. I just got a bit confused when i started reading the comments. Thanks I really appreciate any insight from you or anyone else. Cheers, Loz

    • Rita Barry says

      Hi Loz, I’m so glad you stumbled upon our little corner of the world!

      It is a whole different world from clinical practice, isn’t it? The article you referenced is about the publication of books to the iBooks store itself and that I don’t have experience with so I can’t comment on specifically.

      With the post being 2 years old, I would investigate the terms of service Apple has now to see if that fits with what you’d like to accomplish with your book (if you plan to publish in the iBooks store.)

      You can use iBooks Author for designing and converting ebooks into PDF’s (that function is under File>Export) then selling those on your blog without a 3rd party.

      Plus, you can price your book higher and create package bundles for it when sold on your site and that isn’t possible in the Apple store.

      Feel free to ask any follow up questions if that’s still fuzzy. I know the leap to online publishing and blogs has a steep learning curve :)

      • Loz says

        Thanks Rita, you have cleared my confusion. i’m excited to discover iBooks author and can’t wait to finish my books to then start designing then delivering. Would love to do it all with great style! I have saved this post for future use.

  3. says

    This article swooped into my life just in the knick of time. I’m about to launch my very first one-on-one coaching program (Sweet Liberation: 30-Days to Kick Sugar to the Curb), and I’ve created an e-guide for my clients that I need to pretty-up. Thank you so much for directing me to iBooks Author — I’m so excited to have a simple solution to my design dilemma. Cheers!

    • Rita Barry says

      I’m so happy to hear that Alison! So nice that it’s already done and can just get a touch up, that makes for quick work. Congrats on the inaugural coaching program, that’s fantastic news.

  4. says

    Thank you Rita!

    I’ve been wanting to write a book (or ebook) for years. I really don’t know what to write it about. I am going to save this post for when I finally am able to think of a topic. But I want to write a book so bad.

    • Rita Barry says

      My pleasure Beki. I bet you just might find some clarity on your topic one of these months ;)

  5. Debbie says

    Rita, thanks for this post. I have 2 books in the “oven” lol and this will definitely help me!

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