How to Write an Ebook That Unlocks Passive Income
Ebooks attract clients like bees to honey and unlock passive income streams. In this guide, learn how to write an ebook from start to finish.
Why should you write an ebook?
1. Attract subscribers
Ebooks make powerful lead magnets, so much so that 22.8% of marketers agreed that this content format generated the highest conversion rate.
If you’re looking to attract email subscribers and nurture them to customers, this is it!
2. Score new projects or partnerships
Ebooks also make effective authority builders.
You get to distill your experience into insights, educate prospective customers, and drive them through the sales pipeline.
Here’s an inspiring example to show you what we mean.
Jennifer Havice didn’t set out to write an ebook because she wanted to make money off it.
Source: Make Mention Media
Rather, she wanted to position her message consulting business as an authority in the industry.
The ebook turned out to be a worthwhile investment—it landed her two clients.
3. Earn more money
Selling ebooks on the side unlocks an extra revenue stream.
In some cases, it even cushions you from the dreadful business dry spells.
Steph Smith, the director of marketing at HubSpot, wrote Doing Content Right to teach marketers worldwide how to build a successful publication.
As of this writing, her ebook has sold over 3,500 copies on Gumroad alone.
How to write an ebook in 10 steps
1. Survey and poll your audience
There’s no better way to skyrocket your ebook sales than reaching out to your target audience.
These are the people you’re trying to solve problems for. They have all the answers. You just need to ask the right questions.
Here are three questions you might ask on social media, community groups, or email:
- “What keeps you up at night?”
- “What’s something that’s bothering you about your industry that’s not often talked about?”
- “What’s the biggest challenge you currently face in your role or industry?
Edit these questions as you see fit and ask away!
Surveys and polls are effective at shaping the angle, content, and title of your ebook.
When Farez Rahman, a freelance developer, was writing an ebook for indie makers, he polled users on Indie Hackers on their favorite title.
In the end, he walked away with a winning title and several bonus tips from a professional book editor.
Pro tip: If you’ve already built a target audience and you know what their biggest challenges are, set up a pre-sale landing page before you even start writing your ebook.
Ashley Ambirge, founder of The Middle Finger Project, did precisely this.
After she announced her book pre-order to her 2,500 subscribers, she made $2,000 overnight.
2. Mine reviews to identify a gap
Without a “secret sauce,” your ebook is like any other book: a collection of ideas that regurgitate what readers already know.
One approach to identifying your ebook’s unique selling proposition is to go through the 3- and 4-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Why 3- and 4-star reviews? Because they’re usually less biased and chock-full of valuable customer insights.
Let’s see how this looks like in an example.
Say you’re writing a book about product positioning, and you decide to check out April Dunford’s popular book, Obviously Awesome.
While mining the three-star reviews, you discover several similarities among these readers: They felt the book lacked concrete examples.
With this information at your fingertips, you might decide to back up your points with in-depth and real-world examples.
3. Choose your writing sidekick
Your writing app can make or break your writing process.
Pick a complicated tool—looking at you, Scrivener—and you’ll waste time learning the features instead of writing your ebook.
But when it’s a tool that takes minutes to master? You can get your writing done breezily.
Ultimately, this would depend on your needs.
If you’re only looking for the basics, there’s good old Google Docs. Writing a research-heavy ebook that involves a lot of footnotes? You can’t go wrong with Airstory, thanks to its unparalleled web clipper.
If you need help with proofreading, look no further than Linguix.
This AI-powered writing assistant corrects your grammar mistakes and suggests writing improvements, helping you write with confidence.
Grab the Linguix annual deal on AppSumo today for $49 (usual price: $288).
4. Plot an outline
Your outline is the backbone of your ebook.
Without it, your ebook would end up as a tangled mess of ideas that confuse readers.
In the best-case scenario, readers stop reading the ebook and leave it sitting on their devices, collecting digital dust. In the worst-case scenario, they request a refund and write a negative review.
Let’s avoid that.
Writing an outline helps you connect the dots in your ebook. Think of it as a compass that guides you where you need to go.
Here’s how you can get started.
Start with the main chapters. Refer to the insights you’ve gathered from your surveys and polls. This customer data will shape your content.
Next, research and expand on these main sections with bullet points. Make sure to include the action steps, sources, relevant links to your blog posts (more on tip 6), and examples to back up your statements.
Finally, plan the introduction and conclusion. You want to save these two components for the last part as you can only spot underlying themes after structuring the main body of your ebook.
Before we end this tip, one last note: Avoid oversharing the nitty-gritty of your strategies if you want readers to hire you after reading your ebook.
However, that’s not to say that you should only share fluffy tips!
The trick here is to tease your target audience with high-level tactics that make them return for more.
5. Write a stormy first draft
There’s no right or wrong way to write.
You might find that you write better in the wee hours of the morning, while your accountability buddy writes better when commuting.
Whichever method works for you, set a writing schedule and stick to it.
No matter how busy you are, don’t stop. Even spending 5 minutes a day is progress!
More importantly, don’t worry about perfecting every sentence.
The goal is to lay out your points quickly, no matter how convoluted they are. There’s plenty of time to finetune them in editing.
Pro tip: Stuck on a word or phrase? Don’t let it hold you up. Use a placeholder text (e.g., “[word for small and spirited]”) and continue writing.
Learn to write better using these two guides:
- How to Write Well with Consistency [Based on James Clear]
- How to Become a Better Writer (With 15 Tips and Examples)
6. Drive traffic to and from your website
Note: This distribution tip only works if you have a website. If you don’t have one, fret not! Our last tip will show you how to promote your ebook even if you don’t have an audience.
Internal links are hyperlinks that point to pages on a single domain.
These links are crucial to SEO, as they help Google index and understand the structure of your website. When you use them strategically, you can bump up your posts on the SERPs significantly.
Why are we going on about internal links?
That’s because when you promote your ebook landing page, you’ll want to drive as much traffic to it. And one easy way to do this is through internal links.
Have you written about similar topics on your blog? If so, add your ebook landing page’s URL within these relevant blog posts.
Let’s explore how this looks like in an example.
Say your ebook is about hiring content marketers, you might include its link in a post about content briefs.
Users who click “content marketers” will be directed to the ebook landing page
Your ebook is also a channel to promote your website, so don’t hesitate to add a link or two to drive traffic back to it.
7. End with a dazzling call-to-action
Irresistible calls-to-action (CTAs) increase conversions.
At the end of your ebook, add one or two CTAs to funnel your readers.
If you’re stuck, go back to the big goal of your ebook. Here are three examples to show you what we mean:
- If you want to boost your personal branding, invite readers to follow you on social media.
- If you want to attract clients, encourage them to book a discovery call via a Calendly link.
- If you want to cross- or upsell readers, drop a link to promote it. This could be another ebook of a relevant topic or a set of printables to help readers apply the tactics.
In your CTA, lead with value or benefits to boost the click-through rate.
For example, if you’re a content marketer, avoid bland CTAs like “Book a call today” or “Hire me to write your blog posts.”
Go with a benefit-driven CTA (e.g., “Get me on the first page of Google!”) to compel readers to click it.
8. Hire a copyeditor
It never hurts to have an extra eye to review your work.
This is where copyeditors come in. These editing professionals transform convoluted thoughts into clear and concise writing.
Note that copyeditors are different from proofreaders. They do more than spot grammatical and punctuation errors.
Copyeditors are trained professionals who spot gaps in your writing and offer high-level suggestions so that when your prospective customers read through them, they can grasp your ideas quickly.
9. Hire a formatting professional
Copy leads design.
Now that you’ve written and edited your ebook, it’s time to design the layout.
Create plain-text ebooks with Microsoft Word or Google Docs. If you plan to publish the ebook in a physical format, opt for tools like Adobe InDesign and Vellum.
However, if your ebook includes images, charts, and footnotes, delegate it to a professional who formats by hand with HTML and CSS. That way, you’ll have full control over the formatting of your ebook.
10. Promote your ebook
Did you receive your final epub and mobi files from the professional formatter?
Brilliant, you’re now ready for the final step: Promote your ebook.
Here are five places to promote it far and wide:
- Social media: Pin it on Twitter, create an Instagram story, cross-publish it on LinkedIn, etc.
- Podcast: Pitch your ebook to podcasts in your niche and add it to the show notes.
- Email newsletter: Build a welcome or nurturing email sequence with SendFox.
- Blog: Publish the first chapter of your ebook to drive interest and optimize it with relevant keywords for targeted traffic.
- Email signature: Drop your ebook URL with EmailBadge.
Pro tip: Drive urgency to boost sales.
Steph Smith ran a sale to promote Doing Content Right, cutting prices from $100 to $35.
Then, she increased it by $5 every day and informed prospective customers that it would double to $200 on Black Friday.
Source: Doing Content Right
Steph’s unconventional approach speaks to our desire to save money
We advocate these approaches, but we ought to point out that they only work for folks with a large following.
If you prefer to skip the heavy lifting in your promotional campaign, list your ebook on AppSumo.
With over 1M community members, we dare say it’s one of the best places to promote your ebook, gather early feedback, and build a vibrant community of supporters.
As an AppSumo partner, you don’t need to pay any upfront fees.
We only take a small cut of commissions.
Here’s how it works:
When you bring new customers to our marketplace, you earn 95% of the revenue.
And for returning customers we bring to you, you take home 70% of the revenue.
Publish a successful ebook today
Writing an ebook requires hard work, but promoting it doesn’t have to be difficult.
As an AppSumo partner, you get to gather valuable feedback and build a vibrant community of early supporters.
What’s more, there are no upfront fees or limits on our marketplace.
List your ebook on AppSumo and reach millions of customers today.