Write an Ebook That Sells Itself (and Builds Your Email List) Pt. 2

16 min

We are talking ebooks. Not the one that you publish on Kindle for $2.99 but what you sell on your own site at $29, $47 or even $99. Possibly your first information product. If you are interested in writing an ebook as your first tier product, you are in the right place.

In the first part of this series, I talked about why you should create an ebook and why it makes a great entry level product (so people can sample your stuff and are ready to buy your higher priced offerings.)

I also talked about the eight big reasons which stop people from writing an ebook – even when this is something they really want to do. If you haven’t read the first post, go check it out now. Hopefully, you have put your mind at ease so now you are ready to begin.

Just to give you an idea of what to expect this is what we will be covering in this four part series:

  • Part 1: Why write an ebook and how to bust beliefs that are holding you back,
  • Part 2: Choosing a fail proof idea that will work every time and get your audience thinking about it,
  • Part 3: How to write that ebook already and get it ready for the world,
  • Part 4: How to sell that ebook and build your email list.

I ended the last post cautioning you not to jump right into tor ebook creation.

There is nothing worse than creating a product nobody wants to buy. You must, must be sure that your idea will work beforehand. You don’t want to touch this project unless you are absolutely sure that there is a market for your idea.

In this part, I am going to teach you how to know for sure that your ebook will sell before you even write a single word.

I am thinking you fall into one of following categories:

  1. I have no idea. What should I write about? What would people pay me for?
  2. I have too many ideas. Which one should I go with?
  3. I have an idea but it is not proven. How do I know this ebook will sell before I invest tons of time and effort into it?
  4. I have an idea and I am already halfway through the first draft.

If you identify with any of those, know that you are not alone. I want you to stop obsessing about your ebook idea – right now! Let me tell you why.

Most people think the first step in writing an ebook is coming up with a fantastic idea. They couldn’t be more wrong. The first step is knowing who you want to write the ebook for. Who are the people that will be buying your ebook. And the only way to determine is to take a deep dive into market research. But before we learn how to do this effectively, let’s look at the recipe for a winning idea so you are motivated to research in the first place.

Your winning ebook idea combines three elements.

  1. There is a demand for your idea.
  2. You solve a specific problem.
  3. You are motivated to help solve this problem.

Problem: There is no demand for it

If you choose an idea that solves a specific problem and you are passionate about it but people are either not aware that this problem exists or if they are, they are not motivated to solve it, you will end up creating an ebook that nobody will buy.

Example: You realize that there are tons of people who are camera shy. You think if you write an ebook on how to gain inner confidence so that they are no longer afraid to make videos, it can be a big seller. It might be that people who don’t want to make public appearances will simply not consider your ebook because they are not driven to make videos in the first place. I am not saying you won’t find any buyers, I am just saying you want to choose an idea for which demand exists already.

Problem: The issue is not specific enough

If you choose something that there is a market demand for, and you are passionate to solve it, but it is a very big, all-encompassing issue, an ebook might not be the perfect format to tackle this in. You might be better off creating an online course or partner with someone else to create a more detailed solution for it.

You want to be writing an ebook on a topic that provides people with a specific result. Something that moves them from point A to point B.

Example: You want to help women find fulfilling careers who had to leave their jobs in order to stay with their kids. This is a huge problem which you are not likely to solve in an ebook.

People want to learn how to draw. It is very hard to create an ebook on this topic. You are better off teaching it in a video based course.

Problem: You are not passionate about the topic

If you tackle an idea where there are people willing to pay for because it solves a specific need, but you have no interest or passion in the topic, you WILL fizzle out. Ebooks take time and you have to jump in with your eyes wide open. Even if you somehow manage to complete this project, apart from the sales from this product, you won’t be able to move people in your sales funnel because the subject most likely doesn’t match with your other higher priced offerings.

Example: You see that people are always complaining about low engagement on their Facebook page. You are right in thinking that there is demand for this topic. However, you hired a social media expert to manage your own Facebook account, and even though you know some insider tips that work for you, you might not be the best person to write this ebook. It could be that you are simply not interested in teaching that topic or this topic lies outside your area of expertise. It would not be a wise move to consider it. Especially if you are a health coach operating in an entirely different industry and looking for more one-on-one clients.

Choose something that combines passion and profit. Profit includes market demand and specificity of the nature of the problem you intend to solve.

Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: Analyse your market

Why competition is a good thing.

Many people are put off by the thought of competition. They come up with a winning idea and then see so many people already selling similar products. They think there is no need for them to write an ebook and talk themselves out of it. Big mistake!

Let me tell you something: Competition is actually a very good thing. Competition tells you that people are already buying products similar to yours and that there is a healthy market for it.

Believe it or not, you don’t want to enter a market where nobody sells something like what you are planning to sell. Think of it as a big red flag. You are not the first one to come up with an ebook idea on your topic, it could be that people have thought of similar ideas before but they just didn’t work so you can’t find these products anymore.

Now I am not saying you have to replicate what’s available. That is the surefire way of putting yourself out of business (same logic applies to your other products and services). You will first establish that there is a market demand and then put your own spin you’re your ebook which I’ll talk about in the third part of this series where I’ll teach you how to write and position your ebook.

Researching your competitors

Does the thought of analysing your market raise a feeling of dread in you? Would you rather clean your house and re-organize all your drawers and wardrobe than research your market?

Worry not, gone are the days where you had to do in-depth market research and testing to see whether your product has some merit. These days, with a little help from Google, you can figure out (in less than an hour) what is already available.

  • Search on Clickbank.com. Clickbank is a place where people list their information products in the hopes of finding affiliate partners and buyers. You need to click on the marketplace tab and search for the keywords your ideal customer might be looking for. If you don’t find anything, it may mean that products do exist but in this format. Move on to the next step.
  • Google it. Simply search for your keywords (topic + ebook) on Google (for example golfing ebooks, or cover letters ebooks or self-esteem ebooks). Pay attention to the ads that come up. This means people are selling their wares and there is demand for your topic. Even if you find products in other formats, this indicates that people are looking for help in your topic.
  • Make use of your industry knowledge. When you have spent some amount of time learning about an industry, honing your skills and becoming an expert, you have access to insider knowledge that nobody has. What do you see people complaining about? Do you see a gap in the market that you can fill?
  • Tap your network. Ask people about problems they face that you can help them with. What are they struggling with and can’t seem to find the exact solution? (The solution might already be there but it might not appeal to them.)
  • Ask buyers. Ask your customers. Ask them what they want to learn from you. You’d be surprised at the answers.

Record all your data. What sort of products are available? At what price points? Which seem to be successful? (Look at customer testimonials and buyer reviews.) Which products are available that are not ebooks but online programs, videos, tutorials, live workshops, coaching and so on. Even though you find that there are no ebooks but other training formats indicate that there might be demand for your ebook.

Step 2: Shortlist your profitable ideas

Now, you have an idea of what sort of ebooks or related products exist in the market. The question then becomes, what problem do you want to solve? There are two things to keep in mind while you are toying with all the ideas you have got.

Choose the right problem.

You need a problem where people are actively looking for solutions to solve it. Lack of competition is a bad thing. Make sure your idea has some competition.

Choose the right niche.

You also want to target a group of people that is big enough (not so niche that you have problems attracting buyers) but not so big that you become a small fish in a big pond.

For example, you might want to write an ebook on how to network and your ideal audience are people who are introverted, shy or people with social anxiety. That’s a significantly large market. Compare it to people who people who might start stuttering when it comes to introduce themselves to a stranger – that would be a tiny subset of a niche.

The three niches in the world are health & fitness, money & business and personal development & relationships. Every day, people are looking to solve problems such as ..

  1. How to lose 5 kg before your wedding. (Health & fitness)
  2. How to get rid of adult acne. (Health & fitness)
  3. How to pay your student loan. (Money & business)
  4. How to nail your dream job interview. (Money & business)
  5. How to find your ideal life partner.  (Personal development & relationships)

And so on …

While there is stiff competition in these areas, tackling any topic in these topics (with a new angle or fresh perspective) gives you hug chances of success.

However, if you are outside these niches, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t succeed. It just means you have to be extra diligent of picking your idea. 

Make a list of all the possible ideas you are interested in writing about and have expertise in the subject matter.

Start with what you want to teach. Cross out all ideas that might have a mind numbing effect on you. Keep the ones that are less than exciting as you might be able to make them exciting, so hang on to those.

Secondly, think about which ideas solve a specific problem. Cross out all ideas that are too broad, tackle issues that are much bigger than you (poverty, education, gender inequality, etc) and are theoretical in nature. You are looking for ideas that are practical and solve a specific problem and give people a specific result.

Think about a problem that will lead people through your sales funnel. Think about filling a need for which the next step naturally becomes to work with you or enrol into a 6–week online program, for example. You don’t want to choose something that is totally different to rest of your offerings.

Choose 2-3 ideas. Don’t worry about how you are going to differentiate your ebook from others. We will talk about that in the next post. Now there is one more thing left before you can pick your winning idea!

Step 3: Survey your audience

You need to gauge your list interest. You will be selling your ebook on your website and it is vital that your list in on board with your idea. If your own audience is not even interested in your product, it will be very hard to convert cold traffic.

So, I am going to assume that you already have a blog or have some access to an audience (maybe you belong to a few groups or online forums). In order to choose your final idea, you need to ask your audience. You can easily do this in a form of a survey. But be a bit careful of what you ask in the survey.

You can do a general survey where you ask your audience about specific problems they face related to your topic. You can use GetResponse online surveys or surveymonkey.com to create a free survey and ask this in the form of an open ended question. Your respondents will stay anonymous and you will get some great insights.

Secondly, if you are feeling confident and generally happy about one idea, you can create a survey for that particular idea. Be sure to get feedback on these issues.

  • What are your top three areas in (your topic) that you are struggling with?
  • Have you bought any training to solve it? What sort of training?
  • What stopped you from solving your problem? How did the training fall short?
  • If I were to create an ebook that (solves a particular problem), what do you want me to address in it?

Don’t worry too much about asking your readers on the following:

  • How long the ebook needs to be (it will be long enough to solve the problem and get them the results they need)
  • How much would they be willing to pay (you’d be surprised to know how much people pay for something that they truly want)
  • Will they be interested in buying it? (sometimes interest doesn’t translate into sales)

These are things you need to figure out as a small business owner and as an expert. It is not the job of your prospects to give you the answers to these questions.

By asking the right questions, you are trying to see whether or not your ebook addresses their concerns. If you do this right, you will have enough to know if there is genuine interest in your topic – or not.

By running a survey, you can finalize your idea.

Follow the next step and you will start to feel very good about it being a success.

Step 4: Start warming your list

Great, you have got your idea finalized and have the backing of your list. This won’t include everybody but if you get 15-20% to respond to your surveys and hit reply to your emails, you have a good chance of converting many of them. If you have a large list, the numbers may be less.

Here you need to start doing two things:

  1. Start outlining your ebook (explained in the next part of this series).
  2. Start publishing related content on your blog.

The purpose is to see how much interest you can generate for the content on your blog. You want to see many people responding positively to it, sharing it and engaging with it.

And you also don’t want people forgetting that you are working on this ebook. You want to keep them in the loop, make them feel like a big part of the creation process if you can.

Here are four solid ideas to create some pre-launch content that will keep you top of mind.

  1. Take them behind the scenes of your ebook creation process. Talk about the exciting bits you are working on and also share your frustrations. This will humanize this process and earn your brownie points.
  2. Talk about client stories. If you have worked with people one-on-one, talk about something that worked for someone and the results they got. Remind your audience you can only work with so many people and this is your way of helping more people.
  3. Give them proof that you know what you are talking about. Talk about your own journey and how you have gotten results and now want to save your readers the huge learning curve and wasted hours.
  4. Teach content related to your ebook. Talk about topics that people should know in order to buy this ebook. Educate them on topics they might not already be familiar with so you convert even more people.

Your content can take any shape: you can post videos, infographics, podcasts or blog posts. Your business, your choice.

Their feedback on these posts will also help you shape your ebook. You could reiterate or pivot if you want. Nothing is set in stone at this stage.

Step 5: Start guest posting on your topic today

In this final step, as you start writing your ebook, you will actively begin taking steps to attract more people to your site and build your email list. The more people you have on your list, the more you will sell.

The most effective way I have found to be is guest posting.

Now, you have got to be strategic here.

  • You create basic personas for 2-3 types of persons who you can see buying your ebook.
  • You target those places where these people hang out.
  • You pitch some content that overlaps the host’s blog topic as well as topic for your ebook.

This way you are attracting all those people who are likely to buy your ebook.

You start guest posting a few weeks before you ebook is to come out and you will also try to schedule some posts at the time of the launch. I will talk more about that in the final post where I walk you through the process of creating buzz for your ebook launch period.

Now it is time to write that book and get it out there already.

Make sure to read the next post in this series to find out how.

Marya Jan
Marya Jan
Marya Jan is a Facebook Ad Strategist. She works with coaches, consultants and service-based entrepreneurs to build their email lists, fill up their webinars with Facebook ads and generate big profits in their businesses.