How to create and sell eBooks: all you need to know
Everywhere we look people are creating and selling digital products, from templates and presets to eBooks, courses, and various other digital forms.
We live in an era where we can publish our ideas without the permission of publishing houses or any other gatekeepers.
As more people transition into online learning, packaging your knowledge into a digital print like an eBook allows you to educate hundreds, if not thousands of people, with minimal effort.
In this article, we guide you, step-by-step, to create and sell your first digital eBook.
- Why Create and Sell an eBook
- How to Create Your eBook
- How to Market Your eBook
- How to Price Your eBook
- How to Sell Your eBook with Gumroad
Let's dive right in!
Why Create and Sell an eBook?
Here are a few reasons why creators sell eBooks as their first digital product:
- It’s easy to create. You can start typing words on a Google doc and convert the document to PDF. If you cover an extensive topic comprehensively, you essentially have created an eBook. Some eBooks could be 10 pages or 100+ pages. It's that easy.
- You can explore your creativity. Creating an eBook lets you tap into your creativity — whether it's with design, writing, or thinking about the different ways to make your content understandable. The best way to learn is to teach it to others.
- It’s (virtually) free. Depending on the tools you use, you can create and launch an eBook completely for free. What costs more is when you use other products that help the process make it easier, which we'll get into later.
- You learn how to start your first business. When you decide to sell your first digital product, you're going to learn the basics of running a business. You're going to learn how to take payments from customers, and how to price and market your eBook, along with after-sales support, and financial elements too.
- You earn an income. You might not earn 6 figures, but you'll be proud of what you've created, and if you decide to sell it, you'll make some money along the way.
To help you out, here's the step-by-step guide you can follow today.
Step 1: Pick a Topic You Want to Talk About
Pick a topic you're interested in or feel comfortable talking about to make things easy for yourself. For example, if you have a background (expert or not) in personal finance, consider starting an eBook project related to money. This makes it easy for you to start and see your project through.
Here are some questions to help you with what topic to start with:
- What do I love talking about to my friends and family?
- What am I good at that I can start teaching others?
- What do people ask me for advice?
- What topic do I enjoy talking about?
It's normal to feel like you have nothing to offer, but once you start talking to others, you'll start to realize you know more than you think.
Come up with a list of 5 to 10 topics you're interested in pursuing until you come up with one that you wouldn't mind spending tons of time researching about.
Step 2: Research The Demand for Your Topic
Learning about the demand of your topic will help you figure out if others need your solution to their problem.
Here’s how to research the demand for your eBook:
Ask your audience what they want
If you have an audience (whether it's big or small), start asking your audience what topic they'd love for you to deep dive into. For example, on Twitter, you can directly ask them what they want. On Instagram, you can use features like the “polls” or “ask me a question” to get a sense of where your audience is, and what they’re struggling with, so you can help provide a solution.
Make a note of the questions people ask you
Start becoming more aware of what people are asking you in your industry. If you notice that people are asking you the same questions over and over again, start creating content that answers specific questions.
If you feel that their questions need a more detailed explanation, then turn it into an eBook.
This is exactly what Gumroad creator Arvid Kahl did. He had many questions asking how to run a bootstrapped SaaS business, so he packaged his knowledge as an eBook, Zero To Sold, then sold it.
Be aware of people's comments or questions in your industry
Have you ever tried scrolling on a famous YouTube creator comment section?
The comment section will provide you with a lot of clues as to what people want. Sometimes, users will ask the creator specific questions. These are real people asking real questions they need help with. You can also use this strategy on Twitter or Instagram, or any other social media. Use this information to help you pick your topic.
For example, Gumroad creator Tom Hirst is a freelancer who had a Twitter thread go viral. The thread talked about how he made over 6-figures in the last 11+ years as a freelancer. That tweet led to over 3,000 people messaging him about this topic. Because he couldn't answer each person one by one, he created an eBook to package all his knowledge about becoming a high-earning freelancer because there was a demand for the topic he chose.
As a result, when he published his eBook, there was almost a high guarantee that it would get lots of sales.
Use social media or search engines like Google or Quora to help you figure out what people are asking. Just search for “X eBook” and you'll know whether there's a demand for your eBook topic.
Step 3: Plan Your eBook Content
At this point, you've picked a topic, and you know what problem you're helping people with. Remember, eBooks help people solve problems. It could be earning more income, being more efficient, being happier, or anything else, regardless of how small it may be.
To help with your outline, consider the following:
The purpose of your eBook
Ask yourself, what is the purpose of creating this book? Is it to help people write better? Is it to help people with their money problems? Is it to help people become a better version of themselves? You have to have an overall purpose for this book which becomes your north star.
Outline your content
This is the meat of your digital book. For example, Tom Hirst, who wrote a free eBook, 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Freelancer, clearly states the content on his sales page.
Let’s look at the problem he’s trying to solve:
- Problem: struggling as a freelancer
- Solution: become a better freelancer
In this book, he lays out the step-by-step guide on becoming a better freelancer through mindset, positioning, clients, pricing, and many more strategies.
The content of your eBook needs to be able to bridge the gap between the problem and the solution.
List all the topics that come to mind when helping someone solve a specific problem. Outline your topics in a way that makes sense. Use bullet points to help you, and don't worry about what you want to say in each point. At this point, you're only making an overview of what you want to talk about.
Step 4: Create Engaging Content
After writing an outline that you're happy with, it's time to create engaging content.
Engaging content means writing information that's useful or helpful to your reader. Most people don't want to read fluff. They want information that is useful, relevant, and actionable.
Know who you’re writing for. It’s easier to create content if you know the person you’re talking to. Let’s say you want to teach people about personal finance. Ask yourself if you will be writing for someone who’s an absolute beginner to finance or someone who knows the basics of investing and budgeting. Your language might be different in each scenario, so make sure you know who you’re talking to. Never assume that your reader knows what you’re talking about when introducing a topic that might be obvious to you.
For example, Daniel Vassallo, Gumroad’s Head of Product, wrote an eBook called The Good Parts of AWS. Right away, you’ll know whether this book is for someone who knows what “AWS” (without Googling it) means. So make sure you know who you’re talking to.
Use lists, bullets and bolded sentences. These simple writing techniques can make a lot of difference in your content. It makes it easy for your readers to digest what you’re saying. So wherever you can, use lists, numbers, bullet points and bold your sentences to make it easy for the reader. The more you make their life (or reading experience) easy, the more they’ll engage with your content.
Here’s what it looks like:
Deliver on your topic promise. People buy from creators they trust. If you are using an eBook to teach people “how to be or do anything”, make sure that your eBook delivers on that promise.
For example, Kyle Prinsloo, from Gumroad’s marketing team, wrote an eBook that teaches web developers and web designers to become freelancers and now has hundreds of positive testimonials of people who become freelancers after consuming his content.
Questions to ask as you create content for your eBook:
- Is this information useful to the reader?
- Is this information relevant to the goal of the eBook?
- Is the information actionable and repeatable?
Write as if you're talking to a friend. When you do this, you help others understand your message, and they will appreciate you more. If you can, include worksheets that your readers can do while reading your eBook. This helps people take action so that they can see results from your advice.
Step 5: Get Outside Feedback
Getting feedback helps you improve your eBook.
So reaching out to different people for their input can be beneficial. It might be scary to get criticized, but without feedback, you can't improve. So, learn to embrace feedback, as that’s the only way to improve your eBook.
Here's where you can get feedback:
From Beta Testers
Beta testers are the first readers of your eBook.
Sometimes, as creators, we love everything we make. But it doesn't mean that everything we make is worth putting out there. So having a second, third, or fourth opinion will help you see what you missed.
When you work with beta testers, it's crucial to have an open dialogue. Let them know what your eBook is helping them with and whether your content helps them reach that goal. Ideally, your beta testers are your target audience. So if you have specific jargon there, they might be able to understand it better.
There are many places to find beta testers: friends, family, FaceBook groups, email lists, social media audience, or communities you’re a part of.
From Outside Editors/Creators
If you can't get beta testers for your eBook, approaching an editor or a creator is also a good option.
They may have more experience so they'll know how to guide you. If you've been making friends in the creator economy, it might also be helpful for you to approach your creator friends to give you feedback. The purpose is to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.
When you're asking for feedback, it's essential to be specific. Ask them:
- What they liked
- What they didn't like or what needs to be improved
- Whether you delivered your promise
Remember, your goal is to help others with your eBook, so being clear is your priority.
Use incentives to help gather feedback. Incentives can be as simple as offering a free 1:1 30 minute call to help them with a specific problem. It can also be offering discounts or giveaways. The goal is to generate more awareness and hype for your eBook.
Step 6: Package Your eBook
Designing the front page of your eBook can be as simple as putting a title and publishing it as is.
But if you want to take a step further, you can use pre-made templates or hire a professional.
Here are some tools that can help you:
Google Docs, Word, and Pages are all examples of free software to create your eBook. Besides being free, they're usually pretty good if you're only looking for functionality.
Canva, Designrr, Adobe in Design and Sqribble. You might want to opt for paid software if you're serious about how to package your eBook. The paid products make it easy to create your content using pre-made templates.
Once you’ve got your eBook ready, save it in PDF and EPUB formats so it’s easily viewable on mobile, desktop, or Kindle devices.
Start with the free tool or use the trial offers that paid software offers. Packaging your eBook is more about the experience that the reader will feel, so don’t worry about the product design.
Step 7: Price Your eBook
Depending on the value of your product, people will pay for what they feel like your eBook is worth.
It's easy to think that people won't pay for your product, especially if your information is free. But, when people buy your eBook, they pay for your knowledge and extra details that come with it, even if the information feels obvious to you.
Here are some tips to help you figure out how much to sell your eBook for:
- Look up the prices of your competitors in your industry
- Start with a value you're comfortable with
- Increase your price over time
It's easier to start from a low price and, over time, increase it. So even if you think your eBook is worth $100, there's no harm in starting at $10. Gumroad creator Steph Smith did just that.
Her eBook initially cost $10, and a year later, it cost $100 because of its demand. This is called the tiered pricing strategy.
For example, with tiered pricing, you can sell your eBook for:
- $10 at 50 sales
- $25 at 50 sales
- $50 at 100 sales
- $100 at 200 sales
The tiered pricing works because it incentivizes others to buy your product at a discounted price. This also helps you become more confident in the value of your product. As more people buy it and tell others about it, the more you can increase your price.
You can also offer your eBook for free initially. Gumroad allows users to pay for what they want, even if your product is $0. This way, you can give value, and if people appreciate it enough, they can reward you with money. It’s also a great way to build your email list.
Step 8: Market Your eBook
Now that your eBook is ready to publish, you have to think about how to distribute it.
There are many eBooks out there, so you have to promote your product if you want people to read it. If you believe in your eBook's value, it'll be easier for you to tell people about it.
Here are some ways you can market your eBook:
Tell your followers on social media
If you build your eBook gathering information from your followers, it's now time to let them know about it. It's even better if you took your followers along the journey by building in public.
Use your email list
If you have an email list, you may have just found the first few customers of your eBook. When you tell your subscribers about your eBook, they're more inclined to support you and download it. Ask them to read it. Ask them for feedback. Give your subscribers an incentive to share it on their social media.
Use affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing uses other people's influence to market your product in exchange for a commission. Watch this to see how to get started with affiliate marketing.
Collaborate with other creators
When you build genuine relationships with creators, you can build, grow and sell together.
Through collaborations, you can promote each others' products together.
Ad Marketing is the use of advertisements through paid methods. Ads allow you to target a specific demographic that organic reach might miss. Ever wonder why your Instagram ads are very customized to your liking? That's the ad technology at work. This approach helps you find the customers who will most likely buy your product.
Start with 1 - 2 ways to market your eBook. Pick the ways that you can do today. The more you complicate your strategy, the harder it will be for you to show up and sell your eBook. Remember, progress matters more than perfection.
Step 9: Easily Sell Your eBook with Gumroad
Just create an account, upload your product, and send your link to your customers in less than 2 minutes. It really should be that simple to get paid online. Luckily for you, Gumroad did the heavy lifting so you can easily sell your eBook.
Check out this tutorial to find out how to upload your first digital product on Gumroad.
Consider being accessible and format your product into Kindle, ePub, or Mobi format. The more you help your customer enjoy their experience interacting with your product, the better they'll enjoy you and keep coming back to you for more.
Here’s an example of how Kyle does it:
Step 10: Be Proud of What You've Created
Whether you made money or not, don't forget to be proud of yourself.
Building a digital product isn't easy, but you decided to take on this challenge and create something for yourself. Whether you plan to create more digital products in the future, don't forget to pat yourself on the back for creating something that's uniquely yours. So be proud and share your win on social media or within a community of creators.
Even if your first launch doesn't take off as you expect, remember that it's only the beginning. Creating an eBook is a stepping stone in the world of online entrepreneurship. Building an eBook (especially if you build in public) can lead to more digital products like online courses or service businesses.
Build Your eBook with the Gumroad Community
Need more support in building your eBook?
Join the Gumroad community, where creators hang out, share their wins, and make friends while doing something they love. Make online friends here.
To your success,