How to Write an Ebook in 5 Steps for Passive Income
Passive revenue streams are one of the most sought after online opportunities. If you build up enough of them (that actually make money) you could, in theory, earn a full-time living while doing nothing more than vacationing in Hawaii, sitting on your couch, or globetrotting.
Sounds pretty awesome, right?
It is, if you can actually come up with legitimate passive income streams that pay. As a freelance writer, I’ve seen an increase in the number of clients requesting eBooks in recent years. Why? Because eBooks are a great way for anyone to start earning a passive income.
If you’ve always wanted to get started, but just didn’t know how, read on. I’ve learned a thing or two ghostwriting more than a dozen eBooks. I’ve seen firsthand what works, what doesn’t, and what kinds of eBooks can actually lead to passive income success.
First Things First, You’ve got to Make Time
Look at your calendar and pick 30 days that you will use to write your eBook. Commit to working on it bit by bit each of those 30 days. Why 30 days? Well, a month’s time (assuming it’s not February), is about what it takes for someone to sit down and write a well-thought out eBook, and actually get it up for sale.
Could you, technically, write an Ebook in one day? Yes. Would it be amazing and result in tons of sales and stellar feedback? Probably not.
When you’re new to writing Ebooks, a month should be enough time to conceptualize, write, create, and sell your first book. Plus, if you set a goal for yourself to have your eBook done by X-date, you’ll be much more likely to actually commit to getting it done versus open-endedly saying, okay, I’m gonna write an eBook soon…
The best part is, even if you have a full time job or other responsibilities, you can devote a little time each day to your eBook and still get it done on time.
1. What are you going to write about?
There’s no set answer to this question. What you write about will entirely depend on your skills, experience, interests and expertise.
So, for the first step of the eBook writing challenge, you need to narrow down a topic (this is different than a title, that will come next). The topic is the general subject matter you will tackle.
If you’re looking to turn your eBook into a passive revenue stream, I’d recommend taking a look at the Amazon Kindle Best-Selling Book List for inspiration.
If you think you can write the next great American novel, some of the most popular fiction categories include:
If writing fiction just isn’t your thing (don’t worry, it’s not mine either) you’ll have to go the nonfiction route. Just about anyone can write a well-thought out and popular nonfiction eBook whereas a fiction eBook requires the painstaking process of developing characters, dialogue, and creating a plotline. Doing this well means having a good deal of existing creative writing skills (and will take much longer than 30 days!).
So for the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on writing a nonfiction eBook.
Popular non-fiction eBook topics include:
If you’re completely stuck for a topic, picking a niche in one of the above areas, fiction or nonfiction, is a good place to start. After all, the goal of writing an eBook is to generate sales and a passive income. When you write about a popular topic, you increase your likelihood of getting the sales you’re looking for.
Bonus Tip: Stay on top of trends. A good friend of mine is a freelance writer. She wrote an eBook about the Pegan Diet (Paleo meets vegan) before everybody else caught wind of it. Her eBook sales skyrocketed and even though they’ve slowed down now, for about six months she was earning $2,000 in passive income from one short eBook.
2. Come Up with an Attention-Grabbing Title
If you have an attention-grabbing title in mind from the start, great!
The right title can guide the entire eBook writing process and make all the difference in how well your book sells.
But if a title isn’t coming so easy to you, don’t worry! To get some ideas, start thinking about your audience and how they’ll benefit from reading your book.
Let’s say you’re writing a book about starting a freelance writing career. How does your audience benefit? The more specific you can answer the question, the better. A title like Earn $3,000 a Month Writing Online Content is more enticing than How to Make a Living as a Freelance Writer.
Action titles work really well too. For example, something like Fire Your Boss: 30 Days to Freelance Writing Success is more attention-grabbing than a broad title like Freelance Writing for Beginners.
If you’re still lacking inspiration, don’t be afraid to see what others are doing! Referencing the Amazon Kindle Best-Seller list in your eBook’s category can give you a feel of what titles are performing well. The types of titles that work well in one category might not do so well in others.
Take a look at these popular titles in the Self-Help Category:
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
- The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy
- 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works
See a theme? Take inspiration from others who have found success.
3. Plan Your Content and Write Authentically
So, you’ve got your topic and a title that sells, now what? Now it’s time to provide valuable content. You can have the most amazing eBook title within the most popular niche, but if your content is terrible, you won’t make it very far.
Whether you write 8,000 words or 80,000 words, they should each be written in order to provide value to the reader.
Avoid filler words and fluff. Don’t just spin existing content. Provide actionable ideas and real world advice. Write with a purpose and your audience will take notice and reward you with positive reviews. And in the eBook world, the reviews you get will go a long way in boosting your book sales.
One of the most effective techniques for mapping out your eBook is creating an outline. When done right, an outline keeps you organized, gives your book balance, reduces your writing workload, and keeps you motivated and on track for a 30-day completion!
Sample eBook Outline
Your outline should follow a set pattern. This makes it easy for your readers to follow along and spur them into action (a good nonfiction eBook provides value to the reader and helps them do/complete/finish something!)
Title – Place your amazing title here
Introduction – This is where you’ll introduce your audience to yourself and the eBook. Tell them what they can expect as they read through your book and most importantly, what they won’t be getting from your book. Telling them what not to expect prevents any confusion. For example, if you were writing an ebook about how to earn money with a niche blog or website, you might want to share with the audience that your ebook is not about setting up a WordPress site or other technical concepts but rather focuses on content creation and marketing techniques.
After the introduction you’ll write each of your sections (or chapters, if you prefer). Each section should be laid out the same way:
- Section – Section Name/Title
- Main Topic/Headline
- Actionable Ideas/Steps to take
- Main Topic/Headline
Follow this pattern for your entire ebook and before you know it, you’ll have all the talking points laid out in front of you.
When done right, an ebook outline takes care of about 40% of the work for you.
How many sections you have depends on your subject matter and your ideal word count. Keep in mind, it really is all about the content. Instead of limiting yourself to a number of pages or words, focus on providing the best content you can for your readers. So if this means a 50-page ebook or a 15-page one, always make sure it is a valuable read!
4. People Will Judge Your ebook by its Cover
It’s true. Just like when you walk into Barnes and Noble and start picking up books because their cover is appealing, so too will online shoppers look at your cover art and decide in a second whether or not your book is worth a further look.
With that being said, I recommend outsourcing this (unless, of course, you moonlight as a graphic designer). Trying to save a few bucks on creating your own cover art will probably end up costing you more in the long run.
Fiverr has a lot of amazing designers that will create a professional ebook cover for you for just $5.
Although a designer will be able to make your cover look professional, you should have some idea in mind of what you want your cover to look like. Generally speaking, here’s some things you’ll want to consider:
- Color usage
- Images (whether to use a stock photo or custom created image)
- Design (minimal, bold, abstract, etc.)
- How your cover looks as a thumbnail (this is how it will be viewed by readers most of the time)
Tell the designer what you’re looking for. They’ll be able to combine your ideas with their professional eye for design.
5. Start Earning Passive Income
You’re in the home stretch! Deciding how you sell your ebook is a big decision. Some people choose to sell them on their own website as a digital download. Others opt to sell on popular ebook platforms to help them handle sales and reach a larger audience.
Before you start selling your book, decide how much you’re going to sell it for. A great debate rages on in the ebook community regarding price point for ebooks. There are no hard and fast rules for setting a price. What you sell for should depend on your target audience, the content, and length (although keep in mind a 500 page ebook full of garbage doesn’t necessarily call for a high price!).
And while length of book isn’t the end-all-be-all in price decisions, it does play a factor.
How would you feel if you paid $20 for an ebook that was ten pages in length? Even if it was some of the best content, you’d probably feel a little ripped off. Your audience will feel the same way.
Amazon seems to have set the bar for ebooks that are priced $9.99 and below. Some of the best ebooks I’ve bought and read from the Kindle Bookstore have been priced anywhere from $0.99 to $2.99.
Remember, it’s entirely okay to play around with prices to find a number that works well for your target audience. Some authors even give away their book for free to start (say for 30 or 60 days) to generate buzz and get reviews rolling in. After the free-giveaway period, they’ve got tons of positive reviews and are able to ask a reasonable price for their books.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
If this is your first ebook, I suggest using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. When you start your publishing journey here, your books are sold in the oh-so popular Amazon Kindle Store. You can literally complete the selling process in five minutes and have your book up for sale within 72 hours. It’s free to signup and you’ll earn as much as 70% for each book you sell.
Of course, there are many other ways to sell your ebook too. But many success stories come out of the Amazon KDP program (like this guy who has sold over 1,000,000 ebooks!). Over 90% of his sales have been through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
Try, Try Again
You’ll learn a lot your first time selling an ebook. If your book fails to take flight, don’t worry. Take the things you’ve learned in failing and apply those lessons learned to your next attempt. Some writers go through ten or more ebooks before hitting their stride and finding what works for them.
The best part is, the only thing writing a failed ebook will cost you is time (and five bucks if you outsourced your cover art on Fiverr!) There are few passive income opportunities that require next to none startup costs. If you’re ready to get writing, here are some additional resources to get you started: