OK, before we even get to the ultimate guide stuff, let’s just clear something up right now.
Is it ebook or e-book?
We can compare it to e-mail, which a lot of people (including me) have taken to writing email, but with this being an ultimate guide and all, and my wanting it to be accurate, I consulted an expert. Grammar Girl says it’s e-book (and e-mail, by the way), so that’s what I’m sticking with in this article. You do what you want, but I don’t know why you’d want to defy Grammar Girl.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the reason you came here!
You want to know about e-books. And why wouldn’t you? They’ve been a marketing staple for quite a while now, and an educational tool for even longer, pretty much since the Internet went mainstream, and everyone started getting online. And now with the self-publishing industry exploding the way it is, and the rise of the “authorpreneur,” e-books are more ubiquitous than ever.
The truth is, though, e-books have been around a lot longer than the Internet has, and maybe even longer than some of you have been alive.
History of the E-book
You didn’t know there was gonna be history, right? There may also be a quiz at the end of this article. OK, not really, but bear with me for a minute anyway.
The e-book was conceptualized and essentially invented in 1971 by a man named Michael Hart. He received an operator’s account containing $100,000,000 of computer time on the Xerox Sigma-5 mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois.
In an effort to be worthy of such a gift, he tried to come up with an idea that would equate to the value of that computer time. His solution? You guessed it—e-books. Hart concluded that “the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries.” (It seems Google would agree.)
This was the beginning of what is now known as Project Gutenberg, which currently makes more than 50,000 e-books available for free.
Today, creating an e-book is as easy as opening up your word processing program, writing the text, putting it in a conveniently transported, easily digested format, and making it available to your audience through one of the myriad options available to marketers, writers, businesses, bloggers, anyone willing to put in the time and effort to create a quality piece of content.
And that’s a key factor—if it’s not going to be quality, don’t even bother. But weI’ll get to that a little later, and we’ll also talk about the why and how of creating e-books.
Right now, though, let’s answer the question that must be answered before any other.
Should You Write an E-book?
You’ve probably heard before, “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” Sure, you can go to the grocery store in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers, but should you? I’m gonna say no, especially if it means you may be banned from the store.
To answer this question, you must first answer a few others.
Is Your Topic Narrow Enough?
An e-book about content marketing can easily turn into a textbook-length treatise. It’s a broad subject with way too many nooks and crannies to cover in one little e-book. However, an e-book that focuses on lead scoring, one small facet of content (and other types of) marketing can make for an ideal e-book topic.
So how about “Nine Content Marketing Tactics for 2016”? Doesn’t that sound more like a blog post? You may be able to expound on each tactic enough to fill up an e-book, but the thing is, this topic is also limited in the amount of time it will be relevant. Which leads us to the next question.
Is Your Topic Evergreen?
Eventually, nearly any e-book—particularly those focused on marketing tactics and strategies—will fall out of date, or out of favor. E-books published 20 years ago about keyword “optimization” (read: stuffing) don’t do anyone any good now. But you can still choose a topic that will stick around for longer than a year, or at least longer than it takes Google to release an algorithm update that renders your keyword e-book moot.
Remember, too, that you can always update your e-book, provided the changes to the subject matter are minimal, and not a complete reversal of the processes or tactics the e-book recommends. This can also be a good way to generate renewed interest in your e-book, and to boost the goal you set out for it.
For example, if your goal was to encourage newsletter signups (which we’ll cover shortly), but it’s obvious the e-book you’re offering in exchange for subscriptions is old and out of date, updating it—and then promoting that update—can catch the attention of additional subscribers who may have initially declined to sign up.
Is There Enough Material to Cover?
The other side of the narrow topic coin is – will you be able to write enough about your chosen topic to warrant an e-book? You may narrow down your subject so much that you can cover it in just a page or two, or even a few paragraphs. Keep the focus tight, while also exploring a topic that can benefit from explanation.
That said, if you can find a new angle on something that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to lend itself to an entire e-book, you may be surprised by what you can do with it.
For example, How to Write an E-book Description for Amazon sounds pretty basic, right? Keep it focused on the book, make it interesting, hook the reader.
But what if you incorporated other helpful factors?
- Use power words to encourage conversion
- How descriptions for fiction and non-fiction differ
- How to incorporate keywords and optimize your e-book description
- The pros and cons of comparing your e-book to those of other authors
- How to use HTML to make your description stand out
- How much description is too much? Also known as, don’t give away spoilers!
Now maybe you’ve got enough for an e-book on what seems like a fairly straightforward subject if you’re new to the game and have never written such a description before.
Only you will know whether the topic you want to write about will be well served by an e-book as opposed to a blog post or article, because only you know what you want to say, and how detailed you may be able to get. Just think it through before you sit down to write and possibly find yourself with not enough to say.
Before we move on, let’s answer one more related question that has probably come to mind by now.
How Long is an E-book?
I’ve seen e-books that were 20 pages long, and others that were 150. How long your e-book turns out to be will depend on the topic you’re covering, how much you have to say about it, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, who your audience is (will they tolerate a longer book, or are they looking for quick answers?), and where you’re going to publish it. The first four are self-explanatory, so let’s look at the platform factor.
If you’re making an e-book available through your own site, you can make it just about any length you like, and charge whatever you want, or make it freely available, if you prefer.
But if you’re going to publish it on another platform such as Amazon, it may mean you’ll have to charge something for it, and that may factor into the e-book’s length. Amazon doesn’t allow books to be priced as “free” without some hoop-jumping.
That’s fine, if you don’t want your book to be free. You worked hard on it, and you want to sell it. Even a 20-page e-book may cover a complex topic that took you six months to research and write. But for many readers—the people you want to buy your e-book—there’s a certain perception of price equating to length.
It’s not always like this, but right now it’s prevalent, especially with many independent (indie) authors pricing some of their books at $.99 for marketing purposes. Readers think, “If I can get this 300-page novel for $.99, why should I pay $4.99 for this 20-page e-book?
Let me break the bad news to you right now.
Some (not all) readers don’t care how long a book took you to write, how much of your blood, sweat, tears, and caffeine went into it, or how much of a personal triumph it is for you to finish and publish your e-book. At their end of the transaction, they’re only looking at what they’re spending, and what they’re getting, and if those two things don’t match up for them, you’re not making that sale.
Pricing e-books and countering reader perceptions and expectations warrants an entire post of its own. For now, just know this is something to be aware of, and can influence your work and how you make it available. Depending on your goals, it may be that you have to put less importance on the production costs, and more on the results you’re trying to achieve.
How to Choose an E-book Topic
The possibilities here are endless, so I’m going to focus on just two methods you can use to write a successful non-fiction e-book, one of which you may not have considered.
Write About Your Own Stuff
Whatever field you’re in, once you’ve spent some time in it and gotten some experience under your belt, you may be ready to share your knowledge and expertise with the world, or at least with your colleagues. An e-book can be the answer.
One good example of this is the Master Keyword Research in 7 Days course from Nick Eubanks. You know some courses are delivered via video, webinar, or other methods. Nick’s course is a PDF, so for all intents and purposes, it’s an e-book.
This is an effective way to deliver a course for a few reasons:
- Students can go at their own pace.
- Students can do the course at their convenience, not when a webinar is being broadcast.
- It allows for a lot of screenshots to help with explanations and examples.
- The format is easily accessed from pretty much anywhere by anyone.
My point here, though, is that Nick put his own expertise and knowledge into building this course. He took what he has learned over the years about keyword research, and shared it with an audience who could benefit from his experience. This is always an option available to you.
But what if your area of expertise is so well covered that another e-book about it would just be noise? What if you’re not really sure how to explain what it is you do? Or what if, instead of talking about what you do every day, you’d rather talk about something you’re passionate about, but it doesn’t belong to you?
Write About Someone Else’s Stuff
This can be a tricky area, so it comes with a caveat about copyright infringement and plagiarism. I’m not talking about either of those things, nor am I advising you to engage in either of them.
What I’m talking about is, someone else’s product or service that can benefit from a little more explanation or detail.
This is what Brett Kelly did with Evernote.
If you use Evernote, you know how useful and helpful it is. But back in 2010, it was a little lacking in the documentation department. Brett loved Evernote, and because of that, it wasn’t really work for him to figure out how to use the program to its fullest potential. He became such an evangelist that he eventually took it upon himself to write Evernote Essentials: The Definitive Guide for New Evernote Users.
Brett put his e-book up for sale on Amazon, and in very little time, it was a hit, selling more than 16,000 copies in about two years’ time. The e-book was so good, in fact, that Evernote hired Brett.
While what Brett did is essentially the same thing Nick did—they both put their personal experience and expertise to use—Brett did so based on something someone else had created. Look around you. Is there something you use every day just begging for a how-to e-book?
What is Your E-book’s Purpose?
Just like any other content you produce, you have to know what your goal for it is before you even begin creating it. Content without goals is just noise, and a waste of everyone’s time, including yours. So let’s look at a few of the most common purposes for e-books:
- Sell a product or service
- Generate leads for your business
- Build your mailing list
- Demonstrate authority in your vertical
- (And of course) sell the book itself
Sell a Product or Service
This is the most obvious purpose, whether it’s to sell a product or service, or to sell the book itself, whether it’s a how-to or a murder mystery (two genres you may not want to combine).
Creating an e-book to sell a product or service doesn’t have to sound like an infomercial, and it shouldn’t. If all you’re going to do is talk up what you’re selling, save yourself some time and engage in some paid advertising.
Much like what Brett Kelly did for Evernote, make your e-book a helpful how-to for the product or service you offer. Yes, you’ll want to include some salesy content, such as case studies, but keep those to a minimum so the focus remains on the helpful, valuable, non-salesy information.
Your e-book is also a prime place to answer the quintessential Internet question, “What’s in it for me?” If you can demonstrate how your product or service will save the reader time, money, energy, or some combination thereof, you’re halfway to making that sale, thereby increasing your e-book’s ROI. (C’mon, we can’t talk about marketing without at least ONE mention of ROI. It’s against the rules.)
Want to gain access to a new market sector? Give away an e-book. Another Internet truth: people like free.
Free is good. Free can be your foot in the door. But remember the other half of this tactic is promotion.
Simply making an e-book available for free on your site, for any purpose, isn’t going to automatically bring in droves of customers begging you to take their money. I’m sure you’ve heard the Field of Dreams admonishment once or twice in the last 20 years. Make something good, then promote the heck out of it.
Build Your Mailing List
This one goes hand in hand with generating leads. If you’ve spent any time in the marketing industry, you know how important The List is. E-mail marketing continues to provide a higher ROI than any other marketing channel.
One of the fastest ways to build The List is to give away something for free. But in order to get someone to hand over their e-mail address, that very personal and direct access to them, you have to give away something good. Like, say, a high-quality e-book.
Hubspot collected data, and found that e-mails offering e-books saw twice as many click-throughs as e-mails offering webinars.
Demonstrate and Build Your Authority
You may already be considered an authority in your space, whether through your blog, your social presence, or by reputation. An e-book can help solidify your standing in your field, or it can help you build it if you’re still working on attaining that stature.
Sure, you can do this with a blog or on Twitter. But honestly, few blog posts stand the test of time, and social media updates are transitory. As we discussed before, an e-book can and should be more evergreen, something your audience will refer back to again and again rather than reading it the day it’s published, and then never giving it another thought.
This is one of the reasons your e-book must be of the highest quality. You’re not going to demonstrate anything but a lack of professionalism or attention to detail if you distribute an e-book that was hastily compiled, and shows it.
Sell an E-book
Fiction or non-fiction, maybe you just want to write and sell a book. For one thing, few thrills match seeing something you created get its very own page on Amazon. Aside from checking something off the bucket list, selling e-books has become a viable career for many indie authors.
Now that publishing’s barrier to entry is so low, and with huge success stories for names like Hocking, Dawson, and Howey, it may seem like all you have to do is write a book—any book—load it into Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (or any of the many others out there), and presto! You’re a bestselling millionaire a week later!
If only that were true.
Make no mistake, deciding to pursue a career as an indie author is exactly that—a career. It requires work, patience, work, diligence, business acumen, work, talent, persistence, and marketing proficiency. And then more work.
On the other hand, if all you want to do is write a couple of helpful e-books and make them available to as wide an audience as possible, that low barrier to entry is your best friend.
Should You Publish Your E-book on Amazon (or any Other Platform)?
The answer is, why not?! If you’re going to spend all that time and energy creating a really kickass e-book for your readers, colleagues, and customers, why not broaden your market base and put the big book-selling sites’ search algorithms to work for you? There’s no reason why you can’t publish your e-book on your own site and elsewhere simultaneously. In fact, Search Engine Journal has done just that.
Last year, SEJ published a Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It contains three sections and 13 chapters to introduce readers to SEO philosophy, strategies, and tactics. You will also find this guide for just $.99 on Amazon.
So should you publish on an external platform? Again I ask, why not? And again, I say, if you’re going to publish anything, anywhere, be prepared to either promote it, or to have nothing but a bunch of crickets for customers.
E-Book File Types
If you really wanted to, you could just type up your e-book in MS Word, e-mail it to your list, and call it a day. But come on, you want to make it at least a little fancy, right? Not to mention, if you want to give your readers the option to read your e-book on devices other than their desktop or laptop computers, you’ll need to offer your e-book in a variety of formats. Let’s look at some of the most common ones.
This is another “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should” question. And we already know the answer, right? Still, if for some reason, you absolutely must offer your e-book as a Word document, it’s an option.
Aside from providing e-books to readers yourself, some platforms, such as Smashwords, only accept Word documents. Smashwords has a proprietary program that will automatically convert your Word document into other needed formats.
Amazon also allows you to upload Word documents. However, you may find the e-book you so painstakingly formatted in Word looks like a bunch of gobbledygook once Amazon is done with it. Best to upload to Amazon in one of its other accepted formats.
OK, we’re getting a little better here. Making your e-book available as a PDF may be more convenient for some of your readers. And if you’re proficient with InDesign, you can make some really gorgeous PDFs. Yes, the design of your book counts, especially the cover. We’ll get to that shortly.
Now we’re into the premium formats. Because the ePub format is XML-based, it works with a larger number of devices and platforms, including Barnes & Noble Nook, Kindle Fire, Sony Reader, Kobo eReader, Apple iBooks, and more. You can also upload an ePub via Kindle Direct Publishing (for availability on Amazon), and it will automatically be converted to a mobi file.
This format was created by a French company called MobiPocket for their own reading application. Amazon bought the company, and the mobi file format moved to the Kindle.
This is just a handful of e-book file formats available, but they’ll get you to most places you want to go with little to no trouble.
By the way, you’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about locking or password-protecting documents, or adding DRM. This is another topic that warrants an entire post all its own, and it’s a big can of ugly, nasty worms that all have different, controversial opinions. Educate yourself about media protection and piracy, and make the choice that’s best for you.
E-Book Building Tools
As self-publishing grows, more and more websites, tools, and programs are released and touted for making the process easy. Wanna know a secret? It’s already easy. Not the writing part—that can be a soul-wrenching experience. I’m talking about the tools to actually build the e-book. You only need a few, some of which you likely already know how to use, and then you’re on your way.
I normally don’t write anything in Word. In fact, I’m drafting this article in LibreOffice Writer. I find some of Word’s “features” annoying, and I don’t like most of the “corrections” it automatically makes for me. I know what I’m doing. Thanks anyway, Clippy.
However, for building e-books, Word has one undeniably outstanding feature—the automatic table of contents builder. This alone is reason enough to write your e-book in Word. All you have to do is use the appropriate formatting throughout your text, click a few buttons, and voilà! Instant table of contents, which will come in handy later on.
Word also allows you to save documents as PDFs, which is one format you may use to make your e-book available to your audience. So for these purposes, yay for Word!
Windows, Mac and Linux
OK, you can save a Word doc as a PDF, but what if you want an ePub? Calibre to the rescue! Free to download, Calibre does several other things besides convert Word docs to ePubs, but for this purpose alone, it’s invaluable.
Open your Word document in Calibre as a book, then simply click “convert book,” and choose ePub as your desired format. Calibre does allow you to edit the resulting ePub, but it’s not exactly user-friendly in that respect. Which is why you’ll also need…
Windows and Mac
Also free to download, Sigil makes editing ePubs super easy. Once you’ve converted your Word doc to an ePub in Calibre, open it in Sigil, and then you can either edit the document its text form, or you can edit the HTML directly. It also offers a split screen so you can see both at the same time.
Once the ePub is to your liking, you can make it available to your readers directly, or upload it to whatever external platform(s) you’re using. Unless you want a mobi file. In which case…
Windows and Mac
This is a neat little tool. As its name suggests, it gives you a preview of what your e-book will look like on several Kindle devices before you upload it for publication so you can be sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. But it’s more than just a previewer. Open an ePub in it, and it will automatically convert it to a mobi file. Now you can also provide this format to your readers who are Kindle users, or upload it to Amazon with no conversion on their end, keeping your formatting intact. This is also a free tool.
Windows, Mac and Linux
Not only have entire posts been written about Scrivener, there’s even a training course available, and the program itself comes with a walk-through tutorial. It’s that extensive. I’ll be honest with you—I’ve owned Scrivener for at least a year now, and I have yet to use it.
Old habits die hard, and I haven’t made myself sit down to learn the program despite the rave reviews I’ve heard from other writers, and how they tell me it’ll make my writing life SO much easier. So it’s on my to-do list. I’m still mentioning it here, even though I haven’t used it yet, because it is something I will use, and something I think you might want to look into using as well.
All that said, don’t dismiss it out of hand because I just talked about how intense it is, and how it’ll take some time to learn how to use it. The features I have seen in action are impressive: outlining; research material storage; rich text editor; tools for non-fiction and scriptwriting; and project targets.
Scrivener is not free, although the price may vary depending on where you find it. I got a deal on AppSumo. Right now, Scrivener is offering a deal to NaNoWriMo participants that provides a trial period a little longer than the standard 30 days. NaNoWriMo winners can then take 50% off the usual price, while other participants can get 20% off.
Don’t know what the heck NaNoWriMo is? Well, it just may be the perfect opportunity for you to write that e-book we’ve been talking about!
Be aware that while your e-book’s text may look pretty in Sigil, the code may not. Word documents usually bring over a bunch of unnecessary and messy tags. While it may look good in both Calibre and Sigil, it may look wonky once you convert it from the ePub into any other format, or actually get the file onto a reading device or app.
What does this mean? Knowing HTML is a big bonus in formatting your e-books yourself. Of course, if this business of jumping from one program to another to another to another just to get an e-book on a reading device is too much of a hassle, or your HTML skills aren’t very strong, you always have the option of having your book professionally formatted.
One quick Google search will show you how many choices you have there. Just remember, like any other service, some are better at it than others, and prices vary widely. Do your due diligence to find the service that will get you the best results at a reasonable cost.
Let me start by saying, I am by no means a Photoshop expert. The extent of my Photoshop use is resizing images, cropping them, and maybe, maybe changing a color or some other simple feature. I have no clue about layers, brushes, or any of the other fancy and fantastic things Photoshop allows you to do. But if you’re adept with Photoshop, you can make killer e-book covers.
Do readers judge books by their covers? Yes. Yes, they do. Sadly, a lot of indie authors who are very good writers, but not good designers, don’t spend a little extra for professional covers, and it shows. Boy, does it. An amateur-looking cover doesn’t necessarily equate to a bad book, but many readers won’t get past that point to find out. You need an attractive cover for your e-book.
If you don’t already have it, Adobe Creative Cloud has a $9.99 per month option that gives you access to Photoshop and Lightroom, or you can get Photoshop alone for $19.99, and get 20GB of cloud storage as well.
For those of you who are also graphic-design-challenged, you are going to love—LOVE—Canva. I know I do. I’ve used it to create two book covers, a ton of promotional graphics for Twitter and Facebook, and shareable quote images that seem to be so popular on social media.
I also use it to create the featured images for all my blog posts. This way, they’re all the same size and use the same fonts, which can give your images a more consistent branded look. It also means I don’t use stock images that are also on 873 other blogs.
The best thing about Canva is…no, there isn’t just one best thing. Canva is freaking awesome. It’s free to use, and comes with a ton of templates: Twitter headers, Facebook covers, e-book covers, business cards, infographics, YouTube channel art, and e-mail headers, which I’ve used for my MailChimp list e-mails, and too many more to list here.
You’ll also find tons of free graphics and photos, and paid options, too, although I’ve never seen a graphic or photo cost more than a dollar. How much are stock photos going for on Shutterstock and iStock these days? Right. Oh, and there’s a long list of fonts to choose from, and you can now even upload your own.
Actually, there is one best thing about Canva—it’s tremendously easy to use. I’m still no graphic designer, but I can at least make something that doesn’t look like I cobbled it together in Paint. (What? Hey, Paint still comes in handy sometimes!)
Canva also recently rolled out a business account option which is not free, but gives you access to a bunch of branding tools, and the ability to have an entire team access your graphics.
I think at this point I should mention, no, I’m not a Canva affiliate, and no one is paying me to say all this. I just really, REALLY like it, and can’t recommend it enough.
Professional Cover Design
Just like the professional formatting option, e-book cover designers can be a lifesaver if you either don’t have design skills, don’t have the time to do a good cover, or both. Same caveat about due diligence applies here. And always, always look at their portfolios to get an idea of what you’ll be getting.
One cost-saving feature a lot of e-book cover designers offer is the pre-made cover. Less expensive than custom covers, they’re still a little customizable. Obviously, the cover has to have your title and name, and maybe a few minor changes to the colors and graphics.
The downside to pre-made covers is that unless the designer specifies that the covers are exclusive (meaning, they’re no longer available after one person purchases them), it’s possible you could choose a pre-made cover that’s already in use on a handful of books. It comes down to how much you’re willing to spend for exclusivity, and whether you have a specific vision for your covers that only custom design can accomplish.
How to Distribute E-books to Your Audience
Right now, the most common way that businesses, marketers, and website owners make their e-books available is as PDFs that can either be downloaded directly from the site, or are sent via e-mail. This is a good solution, and if it’s working for you, then you probably don’t need to change anything.
But if you decide you’d like to make your e-book—whether it’s an SEO how-to or a sci-fi thriller—available in more than one format to allow your readers to decide how to read them and on what devices, you have several options.
Download Directly From Your Site
This is a great solution, but you may run into a few roadblocks. The biggest one I’ve encountered is making ePub and mobi files available on a WordPress site.
WordPress limits the file types you can upload to the Media Library, and right now, ePub and mobi are not included in the list of default allowed mime types. You can get around this by either installing a plugin that allows additional mime types to your site, or editing your functions.php file to add ePub and mobi to the default list.
I’ve tried both those solutions, and neither one worked for me. But I’m no WordPress developer, either, so it could be that I missed something. Or it could be that WordPress is a jerk sometimes. Either way, I had to figure out something else.
This is not an ideal solution, but it works. Create a public folder, and load your e-book files into it. Each file will then have its own direct link, which you can provide to your readers and customers, via your e-mail newsletter, social media, your site, however you decide to share it. When your readers click the link, they’re taken to Dropbox, where they can download the file and be on their way.
The downside? Once your readers have the mobi or ePub file, they need to know how to sideload it onto their device. One of the most common pain points for both e-book authors is the numerous e-mails they receive from readers asking for help to get the book files from their computers to their reading devices. You can try to head that off by providing the instructions beforehand, or you can try a solution that does all that explaining for you.
E-mail to Kindle
As far as I know right now, and after doing a little research, it seems Kindle is the only device that allows you to e-mail a book directly to the device. (If this is incorrect, please let me know in the comments!)
For readers who use a Kindle device, all they have to do is attach an ePub or mobi file to an e-mail, and send it to the special Kindle e-mail address Amazon assigns to them. You can always direct your readers here for more info.
Have you heard of this one? No? That’s because it hasn’t been released yet. BookFunnel is currently in beta, and will be launched at the end of November. You heard it here first!
The developer, Damon Courtney, an indie author himself, became frustrated with the downloading and sideloading issue I just mentioned, so he created BookFunnel. I first used it to download a book from a favorite author of mine, and I’m now using it for my own lead gen magnet. I can tell you without a doubt, this is a fantastic bit of work.
In addition to hosting the books, BookFunnel presents a book downloading method that helps the reader through the process step-by-step, including support from the BookFunnel team, if necessary. This means you don’t get all those tech support e-mails—they do.
The download changes based on the reader’s device, so if they use a Kindle, they’ll get instructions specific to Kindle. Same for iPad or iPhone, Nook, Kobo, and Android devices.
BookFunnel will be a paid service, but at a very reasonable price. Keep an eye out for its launch, and give it a try.
Promoting Your E-book
I’m not going to get too in-depth here. As I’ve mentioned a few times in this piece, e-book promotion could warrant an ultimate guide all its own. In fact, dozens of entire books about marketing and promotion exist. Who knew, right?
I will say this, though, because it bears repeating. It doesn’t matter who you are, how well-known you are, what kind of reputation you have, or how large your audience is on one channel. If you decide to publish an e-book, you have to promote it to see any results.
Maybe you’re popular on Twitter. Maybe you’re a highly regarded industry speaker. Maybe you work with big-name clients. That’s all great. But the minute you put an e-book up on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, or any other platform, you’re immediately a little fish in a very, very big pond.
This should not be news to you as a marketer. You know all about building an audience, developing your brand, and, um, what’s that called again? Oh yes—marketing!
So don’t think your name and reputation are going to automatically carry over wherever you go. Have a plan in place, and get to promoting!
I have one word here: Duh. Once your e-book is published, whether it’s on your own site or on every external platform in existence, shout it from the social media rooftops. Multiple times. A social media strategy is only one part of your whole marketing and promotion plan, so don’t forget what may seem to be the most obvious tool in your toolbox.
Do you already have a list? Great! Tell all your subscribers about your e-book. Get them excited about it. Get them to start helping you spread the word. It doesn’t matter whether your list has 10 subscribers or 10,000. Put that list to work.
No, really. Just listen for a minute.
You may hear a lot of people getting down on Facebook ads. “That bastard Zuckerberg reduced Facebook page organic reach just to make more money through ads! Well forget him!”
OK, if that’s how you feel about it. But I have to tell you, as far as e-book promotion goes, Facebook has a lot of potential. I’m not going to go into all the details about it. I’m going to let this article do that talking for me because Mark Dawson can explain it much better than I can.
What I will say, though, is Facebook recently added lead generation to its ad campaign options, which is huge if your goal is to build your mailing list or, y’know, generate leads. If you’ve turned your nose up at Facebook advertising, it may be worth another look, at least as far as e-book marketing goes.
Have you tried Twitter Ads yet? One of the best ways I’ve seen it used so far is by an indie author who created an ad for a free e-book, included a download button, and pinned that tweet to the top of his profile page.
I sure would love to share that image with you…if I could find that Twitter account again, because while I thought I had bookmarked it for this piece, apparently I did not. As an aside, when is Google going to get smart enough that we can search for, “that thing I saw on Twitter that one day that I would need later but totally forgot to bookmark”? Huh? When will that day come, Google?!
Anyway, Twitter Ads may be something to consider, but do your homework before you shell out any money. Apparently, some businesses aren’t seeing that great of a return—at least not yet.
Editing Your E-book
You’ve heard me mention quality a couple or ten times throughout this piece. It shouldn’t need to be said at this point that content will only get you so far (without optimization and marketing), but that poor quality content may actually set you back.
How can you demonstrate authority if your text is rife with typos, and bad grammar and spelling? It doesn’t matter whether that’s your wheelhouse or not—it’s an indication of your attention to detail, and your desire to put in the time and effort (and possibly money) to create a good product, whether it’s an e-book, an SEO audit, or a content strategy.
So before you even think about hitting that “publish” button, you have some more work to do, and a couple of ways to do it.
Edit Your E-book Yourself
Are you confident in your writing and editing skills? Then by all means, save yourself some money and edit your work yourself. You know how you want it to sound, what you’re trying to get across, and you’d rather take a hands-on approach to your work.
That said, be aware that after you’ve been looking at text for a day, a week, or a month, you’ll stop seeing the little typos and missing commas because your brain will trick you into thinking they’re there (but not their). So even if you do your own editing, it’s never a bad idea to have at least one other person read through your e-book before you publish it, just to be on the safe side. The more pairs of eyes on it, the better.
Hire a Professional Editor
Don’t have time to edit your e-book yourself? An admitted bad speller? Then consider getting a professional editor to help you get your e-book up to snuff.
Most professional editors offer a few levels of editing, from proofreading to an in-depth developmental edit that will not only examine spelling and grammar, but continuity, parallel structure, and flow, among many other factors.
As with the professional formatting and cover design, look around a bit first. Editors come in all skill levels and price points. And by the way, if you don’t hit the jackpot with the first one, don’t give up. It may take a little time to find that editor who can also be your collaborator.
E-Book Resources for Further Reading
One last thought—there is no one right way to write an e-book, to build it, to format it, or to publish it. Even ultimate guides have their limitations—can you encompass all of SEO in one article? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. The same is true for e-books and their publication. There’s a lot of information here, and I hope you find some, most, or even all of it helpful. But there’s still so much more to learn and know and do.
To that end, I’ve also compiled a list of resources where you can do some more reading and listening. And of course, you’ll find no shortage of e-books about e-books and self-publishing at pretty much any bookseller, online or otherwise.
Happy reading and writing!
E-Book and Self-Publishing Resources
- Jane Friedman
- The Creative Penn
- Mark Dawson – Self Publishing Formula
- Nick Stephenson – Author Marketing
- Kindle Formatting Guide
- Smashwords Style Guide
- BookBub Insights
- Writer’s Digest
- Publishers Weekly
- The Self Publishing Podcast
- Self Publishing Roundtable (podcast)
- The Author Hangout (podcast)
- Authorpreneur (podcast)
Author Disclaimer: All mentions of software, websites, authors, tools, or any other specific brands or names do not constitute an endorsement either from me or Search Engine Journal. I’ve used some of the things I’ve mentioned here, but not others, and I did my best to make that clear throughout the article. I was not compensated in any way by anyone or any product mentioned here. If I included a product or service, it was because it’s a good option available to you, a good illustrative example, or an effort to provide you with the best information possible.