21 Tips on Writing, Publishing & Marketing Nonfiction eBooks like a Sane Person

by @thewritermama on March 25, 2012 · 9 comments

In my interactions with thousands of writers a year, I often find that when it comes to the topic of eBooks, writers often have stars in their eyes (can I get rich? will it be easy? how long until I get discovered?), instead of focusing on basic truths of eBook writing, which are also basic truths of writing careers in general.

When you create an eBook organically from scratch to serve your readers, you get to stop focusing on getting rich, making it easy on yourself, and getting discovered, and put your focus where it rightly belongs: writing the best darn eBook you can write, publishing it in whatever formats make sense, and getting it in front of people who are interested in its promise so they can decide whether or not to hit the “Buy Now” button.

Here are twenty-one tips on writing, publishing, and marketing nonfiction eBooks for sensible people:

1. Don’t listen to people who say you are going to get rich doing this. Their focus is in the wrong place. Publish eBooks with integrity, just like you would do anything else. Integrity is the focus of everything you do, right?

2. If you focus on serving readers rather than getting wealthy, you will be rich in the ways that matters most and your eBooks will succeed. People who do quality work on a daily basis understand this.

3. Focusing on selling an eBook just for the sake of selling an eBook is just as foolish as focusing on writing a book for the sake of writing a book. Get your game face on. There is no reason to write, publish, and market a book, unless the book/eBook is merited. If it’s not merited, save your energy for other pursuits.

4. EBooks are merited more often than traditionally published books because the marketplace is wider, deeper and more flexible than it is for traditionally published books. This is because of “The Wide Tail.” Bottom line, you don’t have to sell a million copies, you might be better off selling hundreds of copies.

5. EBooks, like books, both take an enormous amount of energy to write, publish, and market if you want them to make any kind of serious impact in the trajectory of your career. And, of course, you do, right? Please don’t believe anyone who tells you something different. If your eBook is not an integral part of your growing writing career, take pause. Publishing eBooks is not a recreational sport. Steer clear of folks who make it sound like it is.

6. On that note, recognize that eBook publishing is not magic. An eBook is  just one more literary vehicle for your expertise to fill, so it can reach readers. There are dozens of literary forms. Some are much less complicated than eBooks. If you have not tried other shorter, nonfiction forms, you probably should before you tackle an eBook.

7. There is an exception to every rule. Let’s take a closer look at a good case study of an exception. The people who write this blog, in my opinion, should be working with professionals who can help them create a saleable eBook on their topic. In this case, they have a platform. They have media interest. They have an incredibly helpful niche that is just radiating integrity. And no eBook. That’s just not right. Even if they have traditional publisher interest, I would suggest they get an eBook done and on sale now. Why shouldn’t they capitalize on their success and on their hard work?

8. Generally speaking the best time to write an eBook is exactly the same as a traditionally published book. When you are the right person, with the right content, at the right time, you should write that eBook. Timing sells books. Content sells books. And solid expertise and thorough research sells books.

9. Let the eBook format emerge out of what makes the most sense for the reader. In teaching my Micro-publishing For Mom Writers class the focus in the class is on writing the most frictionless eBook possible. Nothing else can happen until you have written the best eBook you can write. This should be your primary focus until the job is done. Nothing else is as important.

10. Speaking of working with others, you should probably collaborate with others when writing, publishing and marketing nonfiction eBooks. Don’t go it alone. We don’t need any more poorly written, poorly targeted, and poorly marketed anything in this world. So unless you are committed to multiple collaborations to create, publish, and launch the best possible product, I would hold off until you are willing.

11. Steer clear of cult-like groups. You don’t need a group of people to commiserate with, you need a clear mission and a kick-ass eBook. You need to be an individual, who can partner with others and serve others. Your book serves the world, not a group of cronies. I push my students to be strong individuals with a clear sense of professional purpose and this helps them to become more self-confident professionals, who create their own luck despite external circumstances.

12. Focusing on the reader is not only the most important thing for your sanity and success, it’s also the most important thing in any business. If the customer is always right, then the reader is also always right. Addressing reader needs and frustrations isn’t just one thing, it’s the primary thing.

13. Polish your eBook until your excellence appears effortless. This requires a lot more work than you think. I can think of about thirty-three possible formats for your eBook. But the best possible format for your eBook is the one that will appear seamless to the reader because the reader will be so busy absorbing the excellent content that you provide.

14. Forget everything everybody says about pricing. You will price your eBook according to what the reader will pay for it, period. This is also known as “what the market will bear.” Sell your eBook for the highest price that readers will pay to move quantities of the book. Trial and error is the best way to figure this out.

15. You will know when you have achieved a marketable eBook because advance readers in your target market will rave about the eBook. Until this happens, you are not there yet.

16. If you are not there yet, it’s likely because you didn’t work with a developmental editor, you didn’t have early readers give you feedback, you didn’t have people help you fine tune and proof the manuscript, and you wrote the eBook you felt like writing rather than the one that readers didn’t know they needed.

17. Your eBook is a natural extension of everything you do and everything you offer and everything you are known for. It goes with the big picture of who you are and what you do.

18. You will sell as many copies of your eBook as you offer. No offer. No sales. Not comfortable with sales and self-promotion? This is going to be a problem. Every writer, with very few exceptions, must become comfortable with selling and self-promotion and do it with wisely and well. There is no shame in creating excellence and offering it to others. If you have a problem with this, you need to get over it. If you hang with a crowd of people who have a problem with this, see number 11.

19. Discoverability is a huge factor in the success of your eBook. If I want to buy it but I can’t find it in an online search in seconds, you’ve lost the sale.

20. Discoverability is also key for readers who don’t know about you or your eBook but are looking for any information on your topic. You want these folks to be able to find your eBook, right? Then you need to offer it on a website with excellent Search Engine Optimization. You need old media, social media, and word-of-mouth. Anyone who says that any author does not need all of these things is grasping for straws.

21. The time and energy you devote to your eBook will likely be worthwhile and win-win-win for everyone involved. If it won’t be worthwhile and win-win-win, don’t do it!

Are you willing to get to work on your eBook now? Are you committed to selling it for the life of your writing career? Are you going to devote the best of your writing, publishing production, selling, and self-promotion efforts to the project? Great. Then you are probably going to succeed in both the short run and the long run.

Here are some great examples, in my opinion, of writers who publish eBooks as an integrated part of their existing platform and are richer writers for it:

Malia Jacobson
eBook: Ready, Set, Sleep

Judy M. Miller
eBook: Parenting Your Adopted Child

Jenny Kales
The New Nut-Free Mom: A Crash Course in Caring for Your Nut-Allergic Child

Cindy Hudson
Mother-Daughter Book Club Meeting Planner Guides: Collection One (eGuide)
Book By Book, The Complete Guide to Creating Mother Daughter Book Clubs (Traditionally Published)

I am the author of three books from Writer’s Digest: The Writer’s Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and Writer Mama. I also published Author Mama and The Build Your Author Platform Workbook in digital formats. Please subscribe to my ezine, The Prosperous Writer, and this blog so we can stay in touch.

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