As the author of the popular e-book, "The Creative Clinician: Exercises and Activities for Clients and Group Therapy" and an expert coach who helps other therapists create multiple income streams, one of the questions that often comes up in my coaching sessions and in my Facebook coaching group, is the topic of creating a passive income stream through writing an e-book.
I thought it would be helpful to outline my process through the most frequently asked questions that I receive in order to support you in getting started on your own e-book and passive income stream.
FAQs about writing and publishing an e-book
These are the questions that come my way most often, I've provided answers, tools, tips and links as a support. Writing an e-book can feel like a daunting process, so let's roll up our sleeves and dive in to help clarify this process!
Q: Mari, why did you decide to publish an e-book when your first book was a bestseller on Amazon?
A: There are advantages and disadvantages to both. For example, when an author publishes a book in a traditional way (e.g. you have a publisher, an editor, it is sold on a large site (s) like Amazon, or sold in bookstores, and the publisher does all of the marketing), you do not have to do all of those steps or secure your outsourcing team. That is a nice advantage as it is a big time saver.
The disadvantage is that most authors (unless you are Dr. Phil) receive about 12% of the gross profit which you also pay taxes on. This means that each quarter you will receive a royalty check from the publishing company for your percentage. And this means the publishing company will receive about 88% of the gross. You won't get rich on a book, but there are many other advantages which I discuss below.
When you publish your own book, either an e-book or self publishing, you must do all of the leg work and put your team together, and market your book on your own. However, you will receive most of your sales income (minus an Amazon fee if you market there, or a shopping cart fee if you sell from your own website, and of course, good old Uncle Sam's cut - that greedy bastard!).
Q. What are the tools I need to get started in writing an e-book?
A: You will want to create an easy, simple system to keep your ideas and writing, research, table of contents and so forth, organized. There are several great tools to do this, among the most popular are: Trello, Dropbox, Asana, but my favorite is Evernote. Evernote is like a big electronic notebook with various sections that you can add your notes, ideas and writing, and you can even communicate with your team through this tool (and nope, I have no affiliate relationships with any of the tools I will be discussing on this blog). This way when your creative muse hits you, you can jump onto Evernote and organize your thoughts and stay focused. If you want something more "low tech", then simply pull up a word document, and save it as a running outline.
Tip: On every book or product, I start by giving the project a title. Once I have a title, it feels more "real" to me. Not having a title feels kind of like having a pet with no name. You will want to name your e-book something that stands out, yet also conveys exactly what the consumer will be getting. My Amazon book is called, "Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts", and my e-book is called, "The Creative Clinician: Exercises and Activities for Clients and Group Therapy" - both easily and clearly convey what the content is so there are no surprises for the consumer.
Next you will want to think about how you will format your e-book. My e-book is not on kindle because I sell it as a digital download in a PDF format. Meaning my e-book customer simply clicks on my e-book, adds to the shopping cart, pays for the e-book, and is sent the digital download link directly to their email. Easy peasy! My customer loves this, and it keeps it very simple for me. My e-commerce store tracks the sales, which I transparently share here.
Tip: I kept my writing tools super simple and used a word document. I would send the various chapters to my copy editor as completed. His job was to stay on top of the formatting, typos, grammar, layout and so forth, and making sure the final product was beautiful and readable on the digital download in a PDF. It worked like a charm!
NOTE: If you plan on publishing on Amazon, and will have a kindle version, then it is very important to follow their guidelines on font style and layout. The best information on this is directly on Amazon's site here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A17W8UM0MMSQX6
Q. Do I need to outsource to others to support my e-book project? If so, who?
A: Yes, yes, 1,000 x yes! Please do outsource some of this work if you are able to do so. Here are the roles that I hired for and paid to support my e-book project:
1. Copy Editor - This is a person who will be your second set of eyes and the most important person on your team. You will work closely with them for several months, so choose wisely - no flakes, moody complainers, excuse makers, or slackers allowed. This person will check for grammar, typos, punctuation, sentence structure, layout, etc. The cost is about $25-$30 an hour and, depending upon the size of your e-book, will run you about $500. Facebook is a great place to find copy editors. Join a group or ask around. You can also call a local college and see if there are any writing interns or English majors looking for part time work.
2. Graphic Designer - You will want your e-book to look beautiful and part of that is a gorgeous cover that conveys your message to your reader. You will spend about $150 on a good cover design, and if you are including art or illustrations in your book, this will run you about $125 per drawing. My total investment into my e-book art was $300.
Tip: There are plenty of cheap-y on line graphic designer websites like Fiver. Just know that you will get what you pay for. And this is your brand and image we are talking about! I wanted my e-book to be something I was proud to put my name on, with a memorable cover that conveyed what the reader would be purchasing. And I wanted something unique.
I hired a wonderful freelance graphic artist who is also a fine artist and illustrator by the name of John Dubin on both of my books. I really enjoyed working with John not only because of his high level of creativity and skill, but also his professional turn around time, plus he is fair, affordable and fun to work with. His website is: www.johndubinart.com. FYI: I do not receive any benefit or affiliation fee from referring to him, I simply respect and trust his work and wanted to pass along his contact information for those in need.
3. Virtual Assistant - A VA can help with the little tasks that you may not have time for like researching Amazon, getting forms in place, managing tasks, submissions, social media marketing, and so forth.
Tip: If you can find a VA that is proficient with your website platform, and knows how to set up an e-commerce page (if you are selling from your own website) that is a big plus!
Average cost for a VA is about $25-$35/hour. You can find VAs by asking for referrals from colleagues you trust, and/or going to Facebook, joining a VA group, and scouting around for someone who feels best for you. Be sure to get a recommendation before starting your work. Have a list of questions so you are prepared. Remember, a VA is not your employee, they work for themselves and as such would be a 1099 contract employee, so the upside is that you get to right this off! And...you get to write all of the investments off.
4. Website/e-commerce person - If you do not know how to set up your e-commerce store and/or don't have time to do this, and if your VA doesn't know how, then have your website designer do this for you.
Tip: Have them walk you through the steps via a video (where they record themselves) and then tuck this video away as a tutorial when you or your VA need a refresher on how to go through the steps. AND be sure that the website person understands SEO and how to set up your URLs, page descriptions, product H1s and H2s and so forth. This is very important because your consumer will be searching via google for your e-book and you want them to find you easily. Website designer fees vary. If you need more info on SEO website set up, I have a good blog that you can read here.
5. Copyright Attorney or Paralegal - Please be sure to copyright your e-book. This is considered your intellectual property and you must protect your work, both for yourself, and if anyone decides to claim your work as their own.
You can read more about this process here: http://www.copyright.gov. And yes, this will run you some money, so check around, get a referral, or look into www.legalzoom.com
Tip: Don't believe it when someone tells you that you can mail a letter with your idea inside to yourself. This is an urban myth and will not hold up in a court of law.
6. Writing Coach or Consultant - If you struggle with writing, or want to work with someone to help you get started, if you need to brainstorm your idea, or refine your copy, then working with a coach for a 3-4 sessions can be very helpful. I love supporting my coaching clients in this way and have received a lot of positive feedback. Remember, when selecting a coach to help you with your writing, be sure that they have writing samples, have an e-book or book, and blog often.
Q. How much time and total money did you invest in your e-book Mari?
A: In total I spent just under $1,250 for my outsourcing support, and another $300 on my copyright. It was worth every single penny. And, I sold 100 copies right out of the gate at $39.95, so I more than made up for the investment within the first month. Since that time (February 2014 to date April 2016) I have grossed over $10,500 on my e-book.
Tip: I break all of my passive income down with screen shots of my e-commerce store on this blog as a support to others, and for the sake of transparency and integrity. Sadly, there are coaches who claim to be experts with e-books, or multiple income streams and do not make any income or very little income on their products.
The time invested for my e-book was about 1 year. I set up a weekly writing calendar that kept me focused, and put aside 1-2 hours per week to write. This also included meetings with my VA, graphic artist and copy editor.
Tip: Set your final publish date and stick to it as if you had a contract with a publishing company who is waiting on your book. My date was in January 2014 and I took the entire year of 2013 to first hire my outsourcing team, and then to set up and stick to my writing calendar. I also began doing podcasts and speaking on webinars, and alerting my audience that the book would be out on a certain date. This kept me from slacking off on my writing and deadlines.
Q: How do you market your e-book?
A: The most important thing in successfully selling your e-book is to know your reader/consumer and begin building a trusting relationship with them well before you publish your e-book.
The top ways to connect with your audience are:
1. Blogging/Guest Blogging
2. Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Linked In/Google + and other social media
3. Public speaking
6. YouTube Videos
7. List serves
10. On line articles (think about what articles your audience would be reading on line).
When you have already begun to establish yourself as an authority on the topic you are writing your e-book on, and you have built trust and connection with your audience, then it is much easier to market and sell your book because your consumer knows you and trusts you.
Tip: Please do not neglect this important step in building your audience. Your reputation and trustworthiness is the most important "tool" you will have in promoting and selling your product.
Q: Mari, why did you decide to sell your e-book on your coaching website vs. Amazon?
A: After researching both, I made the choice to sell on my website because there are stipulations that Amazon has in place where an author may not sell on their website and through Amazon at the same time. I had invested many years of establishing my reputation and authority within my expertise, and had built an audience that trusted and respected my work. Thus, it simply made more sense to sell via my website, using Facebook, my listserves, my podcast interviews, and blogging to let folks know about The Creative Clinician because I have a good audience that trusts my work.
Tip: If you are still creating your brand and establishing yourself, you will get a much larger reach via Amazon. Just be sure to do your homework so that you understand their boundaries with respect to marketing, and what their cut will be.
Q. How much should I charge for my e-book, or should it be free?
A: It all depends. I lean on the side of honoring your time, expertise, effort and energy by charging for your work and materials. However, if you are using your e-book as an opt in, or to build a list, or as part of a marketing crazy straw (which has replaced the term "funnel"), you can certainly give this information away for free.
However, no matter if you sell or give as a freebie, your e-book should be treated as if it is representing you. Do not half ass your book if you are creating this as an opt in. In my Like A Boss! Coaching Facebook group for therapists we have a saying that one of our L.A.B. members came up with, "No half ass-ing allowed. We go into our projects with our full ass!" which I just love :-). So put your full ass into your projects! Invest the same effort and energy, and hire and outsource excellent people, just as you would if you were selling your e-book for top dollar.
NOTE: There are good and not so good e-books being used as opt ins and for sale. I have seen some beautiful opt in (free) e-books, and some terrible ones. I have also seen beautiful, high quality e-books being sold, and some terrible ones. This product will have your name on it, so you want to be proud and confident in your work. Reputation and integrity is everything and extends to our products as well.
Tip: Whether you choose to sell your book or give your book away as an opt in, then my suggestion is to purchase 2-3 e-books as comps from people you respect and trust. Take a look at the way they structure their e-book, the art, the layout, what to include, what you like, what you don't like to get a better sense of design, flow and layout. I did this when I was starting my e-book process and it was worth the investment of less than $75.00. Remember, all of these expenses are write offs, so make sure you have a separate project file to stash your receipts.
If you feel that this blog has been a helpful support, if you like what I am sharing, and if you find that my writing style resonates with you, then you may want to consider using my e-book as an example, guide or template.
Q. What should I write about? I have so many ideas, where do I focus?
A: What is your passion? What are you known for professionally? What information is your client in need of? When you can combine these three areas: Passion+ Expertise + Consumer Need, you have found your topic or the subject of your e-book!
Tip: Use this formula example to help you focus:
1. What is your passion? My passion is knitting, cars, yoga, music, and working with couples on their communication, and I also love traveling with my family.
2. What are you know for professionally? I am known for helping couples repair years of resentment and learn tools for healthier communication and closeness. My colleagues know me as a supportive and kind professional and refer to me often, and come to me with consulting questions.
3. Where is there a need in your audience/clients? My couple clients share that they wish they had a workbook of couples exercises to help them outside of session. My colleagues from around the world share that they wish they had tools to help the more challenging couples they work with in session. And/or wish that I would teach them my methods.
By using this 3 step formula you will focus in on your passion (what you love to do), what you are known for (your expertise), and what the need is that your e-book could fill (your consumer).
Tip: Using our example here, I want you to think about really honing in on that workbook for couples. What kind of couple needs this information? Straight couples, gay couples, couples who lost a child, couples who are just married, couples moving through divorce, co-parenting couples, Christian couples, couples who work together. WHO is your couple? Then hone in on your colleague client. Who is the colleague that really needs this book to support their work and their clients? Where do they hang out?
Q: Do I need testimonials? What if I don't have any?
A: Yes, it is wise to have testimonials. The best thing to do is to offer your e-book for free to three or four people you respect (if this is for a therapy client, you would NOT ask them as this would be an unethical practice). Ask them to read your e-book. If they like the book, then ask if they are willing to provide a testimonial. Even if they are not the client, if they work with your ideal client, they can share that.
Over time as people begin to buy your e-book, you will receive positive feedback. When you do, if appropriate and ethical, you may ask that person if they are willing to allow you to add their kind words on your website. 99% of the time, people are very happy to do this.
TIP: After you have gathered several testimonials, you can replace the originals with testimonials from buyers. You can take a look at what I am discussing on my own testimonial page here.
Q: What are other advantages in writing an e-book besides selling an e-book?
A: There are many opportunities in writing an e-book besides generating passive income or creating an opt in tool to increase your list.
Here are a few:
1. Branding yourself as an expert with colleagues
2. Booking paid speaking gigs
3. Coaching others on your expertise
5. Further defining your niche
6. Opportunities for podcast interviews
7. Opportunities for leveraged income (workshops and webinars)
8. Publishing in various top notch media
As you can see, writing an e-book has many opportunities besides generating leads, growing your mailing list, and creating passive income. And, when other doors open, like traveling to speak and present, if this is a passion (as we noted in our hypothetical example with the couples e-book) then you check that box off as well.
As I bring this blog to a close, I hope that what you have learned here inspires you to get started on your own e-book dream. If you need support, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's set up a time to roll up our sleeves so together we can get you started on your e-book. I wish you all the very best on your journey forward ~ you CAN do this!
Kindly and in support,
P.S. If you like what you have read here, please consider sharing this information with others. I'd also love for you to introduce yourself and share what your own e-book vision is below in the comments!