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:
E-book: How to Sell Your First Million!
How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in Five Months
21 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your First E-Book
Sarah Mansker says
What an excellent post! I’m thinking of writing an e book and these 5 steps are inspiring! Thank you!
You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂 If you decide to write your eBook (and I hope you do) best of luck!
Hi Ashlee! This was a great article! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂
Kristen C. says
Thank you so much for this post and information! It was very informative. I can’t wait to venture into e-book writing!
Best of luck with your e-book. When you’re done, please let me know! I would love a chance to read it. I’m a big book (and especially ebook) fan!
Great read Ashlee, I will take from your article and put to action. This will be my first ebook, and I’m very confident it will do very well. Continue to write great articles Ashlee.
Ashlee Anderson says
Thanks for stopping by! I wish you the best of luck on your first ebook. Remember, the first one is the hardest. Once you get one under your belt, the rest are easy-peasy. Don’t be afraid to contact me if you have any questions. I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for this post. I am very enlightened as to how to get started writing by first eBook. You made all five steps so very doable Ashlee, thank you again.
Ashlee Anderson says
Thanks for stopping by! Really, getting started is the hardest part 🙂 I hope this post spurs you into action! If you need any help, don’t ever hesitate to ask.
Simone Stephanie Shaw- Stewart says
Hi Ashlee, I stumbled upon your site and i am loving it. It seems like I cant help myself as I am overcome with the desire to write.
I am currently writing devotionals and sharing with my friends. How do I find sites that needs my kind of writing?
Ashlee Anderson says
Great question! This is not an area I’m familiar with, but I did find a couple of articles that might help:
It seems like there is quite a demand for Christian and theological-based writing — I wish you much success!
Clarene Miller says
Ashlee Hi. Would you please explain to me “where” online do I go about writing content for my ebook? I’m not very techy at all and I would just like to know if you have a blog on the subject of the first step to writing content for an ebook in what computer program. I’ve checked out tutorials and am at a loss still as to exactly “where” to start writing content in what program on my computer. I would like to publish an ebook on K D Publishing first and then on my blog as a digital download (now that I’ve read your fantastic blog on how to create a blog) Thank you Ashlee and thank you so much for this post.
Ashlee Anderson says
Thanks for stopping by! Great question. You can use a number of different platforms to actually sit down and write your ebook. Do you have Microsoft Word? This is the best place to start writing if you want to use Amazon’s KDP to sell your final product.
You can easily write and design your ebook using Word and then format it to be published with KDP. You could also use Google Docs as long as you make sure to save your Doc as a .doc or .docx
Honestly, KDP supports a lot of different formats — but it’s recommended you stick with Microsoft Word .doc or .docx for the best results 🙂
Let me know if you have any questions — I’m happy to help!
You definitely got me reading through the last word. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.
I’m already thinking about my first eBook now.
Ashlee Anderson says
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you write that first eBook — it really can be a great source of passive income. Good luck!
Thank you so much for this post! This is the first time I’v stumbled onto your blog, via pintrest ; )
I accualy have a couple questions,so the timing is great! Iv always loved writing, infact
I’m always writing something, with huge hopes of someday being published .
So, to me a e -book sounds perfect to start. I love to research on all types of intrest. And I think this would be best to start off with….However this is also where all my questions come in & worries. What are the laws on Copy Writing? If I’m writing non-fiction, There has to be a Copy Write somewhere…Please dont get me wrong, I absolutly have my own words, experencies, and thoughts, But they DO stem from all the info I’v read, blogs, ect..
Sorry I know this was long, but it has been bothering me in one eay or another for awhile. What would ypur sujestions be?
Thank you soooo much!!
Ashlee Anderson says
Thanks for stopping by! The copyright notice will usually appear in the first few pages of the book before the introduction. For example, you could label those page i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc. And then label page 1 when you begin the introduction. You may also consider putting a reference page at the end of your book — this can give credit to any sources you feel you took inspiration from without paraphrasing or quoting them 🙂
When writing non-fiction, you should start with something you know well and have a unique perspective on. For example, I’m almost done writing an ebook about how to find and land a remote career with full-time hours and employee benefits. Always play to your strengths — your ebook will sound much more authentic and provide tons of value to readers. In turn, you’ll be rewarded with positive reviews and more sales.
Good luck! Let me know if I can help in any way.
L.T. Sensley says
THANKS!!!!! I. REALLY I’m interested in writing an EBOOK. Making money while I sleep is EXTREMELY appealing to me. Getting my work out there is a dream come true. My question is can I write an e-book and sale that same e-book as a hard back , as well.
Adrienne Bradley says
I just wanted to thank you for this article. You have truly inspired me to take a leap and start to write an e-book. I especially love the timeframe that you lay out. It seems very achievable. Again, thanks so much.
I tried many techniques to develop a passive income stream: P2P lending, designins tshirts, real estate, etc.
I talked in detail about my experience in this blog post https://www.gettingpassiveincome.com/personal-feedback-most-passive-income-ideas/
What worked for me though was writing ebooks. I consistently make 2500€ per month. Here is my tale for those interested: https://www.gettingpassiveincome.com/writing-ebooks-for-fun-and-profit
I have a question! Do you have to have a personal website in order to sell ebooks? I have been considering starting a blog, but am I little daunted with the commitment of a blog with everything else I have in my plate. Full time job, Mom, wife, etc…. Just wondering if I really need to blog platform to get ebooks sold or if just publishing in Amazon is/can be enough?
Ashlee Anderson says
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Publishing on Amazon can definitely be a great way to sell your ebooks. But you also need to get your name out there and market your book to potential buyers. That’s where a blog or personal website can be super effective.
I don’t think it would require a huge time commitment if your blog’s sole purpose is to talk about you, as an author, and redirect visitors to the Amazon sales page.
Plus, a website will help strengthen your personal brand — which is super important if you’re looking to make money online 🙂
You can learn more about personal branding tips here: https://workfromhomehappiness.com/personal-website/
Great information, which really is an inspiration.
Do I seriously have the liberty to ask for help from you, if i stumble.
Thanks once again.
Ashlee Anderson says
Absolutely! I’m a real person and happy to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out!
Awesome post which will motivate mass writing group…very good excellent job…god bless you..