How EBooks Can Complement Your Traditional Writing

May 21, 2012

Speaking of ebooks, I’m offering a pre-launch sale on my next two ebooks to my newsletter subscribers tomorrow. One’s about how to create a social media strategy, the other’s about finding freedom in your life by working for yourself. If you’re not already on the newsletter list and want access to this discount, you can sign up here. Otherwise, I’ll officially launch the guides in a week or two.

Onto today’s post! A version of this piece originally ran on the WordServe Water Cooler.

Most authors (or soon-to-be authors) think of themselves purely as creators of old-school books. But as the publishing landscape changes, we have an increasing number of opportunities to use our story-telling skills – including via ebooks.

When I say “ebook,” I don't mean a digital version of your traditionally published book, nor a digital version of your self-published book. I'm talking about the kind of informational ebooks that live only online.

Reading Kindle

Who doesn't love a good ebook?

These ebooks are typically shorter than traditional books, and they're often nonfiction, the self-help variety. You can sell them through Amazon, but many creators (like me) choose to sell them through their own website instead.

Before you pooh-pooh this avenue for your writing, recognize that creating ebooks can boost your writing career in ways traditional books can't. That means if you delve into ebooks at the same time as traditional publishing, the two pursuits can play off each other.

Here are three ways creating ebooks can boost your traditional writing career:

1. Make money to support your writing habit

We all know publishers aren't handing out huge advances lately. Creating digital products can help you bridge the financial gap between books. Here's why: When you self-publish digitally, you keep all the profits. And overhead is low because there's no physical product. Here's what I paid to create my last digital guide:

  • $450 for edits
  • $100 for postcards to bring to speaking gigs (optional)
  • $5/month for ejunkie, the e-commerce system I use to sell the guide
  • PayPal fees (because buyers pay me through PayPal)

Not so shabby, huh? And perhaps the best part is that every time you want to offer your digital product to a blog for review, it costs you nothing. Rather than eating the cost of a physical book, you simply email them the digital file.

EBooks also have a higher price point than traditional books. For example, my guide How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business sells for $24. Since neither a publisher nor a distributor (I'm my own distributor) take a cut, that means $24 in my pocket every time I sell a guide. I've sold more than 250 since launching the guide last year.

2. Attract potential readers for your traditionally published book

If your digital products are related to your overall writing pursuits, they can help you build an audience for your traditional books.

Here's what I mean: one of my guides, How to Take a Career Break to Travel, is directly related to my travel memoir about backpacking solo through Africa. Essentially, my guide is a complement to my memoir.

Yet because I'm publishing the guide myself, I'm able to get it out there before my (hopefully) traditional book. And guess what? The people who read my guide will likely be the same target market for my book. Not only will this help people find out about me (and hopefully subscribe to my newsletter or blog) before my book comes out, I've gone so far as to include a note about my upcoming travel memoir inside the guide.

3. Drive more traffic to your blog

Since I launched my first eguide, traffic to my site has increased dramatically.

Selling an eguide boosts traffic for several reasons:

  • People visit my blog to check out my guides (and maybe buy one!)
  • Some of those new visitors realized they like my blog, so they bookmark it or subscribed and visited again later, maybe even daily
  • Guest posts I've written for sites with big audiences (like Mashable) with the goal of promoting my guide have brought lots of new visitors my way

All of those eyes on my website will help me sell my book to a publisher and sell my traditionally published book to readers.

Have you considered wading into ebook territory? If you have questions, I'm happy to answer based on my experience.

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    9 Replies to “How EBooks Can Complement Your Traditional Writing”

    • Bonnee says:

      It’s definitely something I have thought about, being someone who is about to jump into the industry. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with us through this post.

    • This is a timely post for me because I am getting ready to launch my first e-book next week. Like you, I’m pursuing traditional publication for a travel memoir (mine is about Hong Kong). In the mean time, I’ve written a “mini travel memoir” about the spectator’s experience at the Beijing Olympics. It’s far too long to be an article and too short to be a print book, but I’m hoping the e-book will help me in my search for a publisher for my longer work. I’ve also been itching to try out all of the exciting possibilities in the digital publishing market. This is an awesome chance to experiment without giving up on my goals for the HK memoir. Thank you for the encouragement that I might be doing the right thing!

    • Hi Alexis, question: why through your own site instead of Amazon? Wouldn’t amazon reviews and recommendation algorithm help drive sales?

      Also, what resources did you use as far as how to actually upload/create/format your ebooks?

      Thank you, looking forward to reading your new guides!

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey Shawndra — Eventually I’ll probably go through Amazon, too, for exactly the reason you mentioned. I like going through my own site for now because then I don’t have to share a cut with Amazon 🙂

        Re: uploading and creating, here’s a post I wrote a while back that answers those questions:

        I no longer use Google Docs, though. I write in Scrivener, move over to Word for formatting, then turn into a PDF with the nice-looking cover.

        Let me know if you have any more specific questions — Would love to share what I’ve learned about the creation process since I’ve put a lot of time into figuring it out!

    • Jordan says:

      Great insight! I attended a self-publishing class and they mostly focused on the e-reader type of ebook and I always wondered how people published the type of ebook you refer to. Thanks for the info and being so straightforward about the numbers, (I’m always so curious about that end.)

    • Fantastic rundown of the benefits of writing ebooks. I plan to write a few myself.

    • wanda says:

      Yes I have and glad to hear that it’s a good strategy!

    • Thomas James says:

      As of me, it is a good guide to all who aspires to be one of the better writer because e-book could also show good write-ups and stories that could easily help anyone to be the best in writing.

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