There’s a revolution happening in the publishing industry and it goes by the name of ebooks. eBooks and the way people publish them have begun to democratize the publishing industry, once controlled only by large companies with lots of money. Now, with the introduction of the Kindle, among other ereaders, and the online marketplaces that serve as a platform for others to sell off of, anyone with a little bit of know-how can easily publish their own ebook. And after you finish reading this handy guide–you will too!

Dan Marques, senior online marketing manager at Reebok and entrepreneur, stopped by Intelligent.ly on Tuesday night to give our students the rundown on how they too can publish their own ebooks. And guess what? It’s not as hard as you might think once you learn how to use the tools you have available. Not to mention that ebooks are absolute content marketing gold.

Why Publish an eBook?

The first question you might be asking yourself might be, “Why bother?”

The answer: There’s a huge opportunity here. According to 3dIssue, ebook sales now account for over 20% of all book sales, equalling more than $2.8 billion, with few signs of growth slowing down.

In 2011, John Locke, author of the Donovan Creed series, became the first person to surpass 1 million ebooks on Amazon, using a $0.99 price point and lots of social media outreach to do so. Since then, he has written another ebook about reaching his success.

But it’s not just about the money. Publishing an ebook provides a great way reputation building–for your brand or for yourself–by allowing you to show authority through your knowledge on a certain topic. In addition, it can provide a channel for lead generation, customer acquisition, and even SEO, which we’ll touch upon a little bit later.

Validating Demand

First you need to choose a topic to write about. To do so, you’ll want to find a topic that has enough interest from consumers, but one that has low barriers on entry to penetrating the market. Follow these steps:

  1. Determine the search volume by using Google’s Keyword Tool. Enter in a potential search term and see how many people search it monthly. You’ll want terms that have a high number of searches. Use your discretion here, depending on the topic. The Keyword Tool can also provide similar terms that users could potentially search.
  2. Determine the amount of competitors you’ll have if you decide to write a book on that topic. Next, do a quick search on Amazon for the subject. You want a subject that has moderate competition, but not so much that it’d be hard to gain recognition.
  3. Experiment with keywords in the Amazon search. See which ones provide the most relevant results.
  4. Check the Kindle store rankings of the last book result in your keyword search in its respective category. Use the table below to calculate how many books you’ll need to sell in order to break into the market for this category. You want to see a very low ranking (meaning a high number) because the lower down in the rankings, the fewer books you will have to sell to break in.
Rank Sales Needed to Break In
250K Not many
100-250k Selling 1 every few days
50-100k ~1 per day
10-49k Multiple per day
Below 10k Exponential (3k=~30-60 per day)

Writing It

Once you’ve decided on a good topic to publish an ebook on, now you’ve got to write it. You can do this yourself, but there are other alternatives to doing so.

Write it Yourself

This method takes the most time, but it can also be the most fun. Research thoroughly. Schedule blocks of time in which you will write specific segments of the book. Utilize outlines. Use tools like Dragon Naturally Speaking to avoid hand cramps from typing for too long.

Outsource

If you’re more interested in the money and less interested in actually writing the book, you can have others do it for you. There are services like oDesk, TextBroker, WritersAccess, and Craigslist on which to find authors who will write material for a fee.

When using these services, make sure to provide detailed instructions in order to avoid confusion and to cut down on costs (this way they can’t charge you for having to do extra work in addition to just the writing). Separate your research, provide detailed instructions,outlines, and resources, and stick with US writers to avoid messy grammar and language mistakes.

Pricing for these services can run anywhere from $0.04-$0.06 per word ($10-15 per page) for average quality, or $0.10-$0.15 per word for very high quality work if you search around. A thirty page non-fiction book should run you $300-$450.

Writing Alternatives

If you don’t want to write your own content and would like to avoid outsourcing to other authors, reuse existing content from yourself or partner with others. Beware though, if you use public domain content and do not make any significant changes to it, Amazon reserves the right to first issue you a warning, and then ban you from publishing on their marketplace if they catch you a subsequent time.

Some great and easy formats to use include interviews and FAQs, quizzes, and even curated collections. These collections can draw upon anything from blog posts, to articles, and even short stories. Reach out to authors for permission to use their content. Oftentimes they won’t charge you and will be glad about the free exposure they’ll be getting.

Formatting and Editing

Keep it simple. Format for the simplest device in mind, which in Amazon’s case would be the Basic Kindle. Microsoft Word formatting or HTML are the easiest to work with and are supported by virtually all devices. Kindle Publisher provides a conversion tool, which can be very useful, but make sure to preview your work after conversion. Don’t include page numbers, as these can get jumbled and won’t be consistent on every device after conversion. You can pay to get this done too, using Fiverr, oDesk, and Smashwords for $5 to $35.

Cover Design

Cover design is extremely important as it is the first thing someone sees when searching for your book. Look at your competition to see what they’re using for covers. Remember, images are your friend. Find royalty free ones at Creative Commons.

Publishing

Head over to the Kindle Direct Publishing site and make an account. After you’ve made an account, select Publish a Title. Fill out all the required info including the book title, the author, etc. Be sure to enter an enticing description with the targeted keywords that you have selected. Once you’ve entered all the information and uploaded your file, all you have to do is click the Publish button and your ebook will go live!

Note the option of selecting Kindle Select. By selecting it, you can only sell exclusively to Amazon customers, but Amazon Prime members can get your book for free while still receiving $2-$3 per book. They also provide provide more promotional tools like “free days.”

I’m Published! What’s next?

The process isn’t complete once you’re published. There are still a number of things you can do.

Make Money

Promote the book on social media. Get reviews, likes, and tags to build publicity. Publish more books and expand into a series. Expand your distribution to other networks, like Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Optimize the book for the cover, price, keywords, description, and title. Create an Amazon author page and write a biography. Gift copies to vendors, customers and leads.

Customer Acquisition

Use email as a capture tool. Provide free copies of the ebook and highlight the regular price from Amazon. Optimize the book for lead generation by peppering offers throughout the book along the lines of “Like what you read, get exclusive content/free consulting at www.booktitle.com.” Give order incentives like “Every order receives a free copy of my eBook, a $10 value!”

SEO

Utilize the ebook as a link building tool. Embed the URL to a website in the text of the book and post free excerpts on sites like Scribd and author review sites so that bots will pick up the links.Include target keywords in title description, reviews, keywords, tags.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to making money in no time. For more great lessons, check out the Intellingent.ly blog, or visit our class page.