Sooner or later, every blogger thinks about writing an ebook or other information product. For most of them, that's as far as it ever gets.
Fear is mostly to blame. Sure, maybe the idea isn't perfect yet, or the amount of work seems overwhelming. But take away fear, and all of the sudden these problems become surmountable.
Dave Navarro has a great post called Weekend Challenge: How to Turn a Beer into a Product. Reading that post went a long way towards killing the fear for me. Prior to reading it, I envisioned "My Ebook" as this giant monster with three heads that I might one day find the guts and the determination to slay. Dave's article made me realize I could have a product in a weekend, not a year.
Producing Your First Ebook
My ebook, Fuel Your Run the Tarahumara Way, took longer than a weekend, and it wasn't as cheap to produce as Dave's product (which might cost three bucks max, and that's if you're drinking the good stuff).
No, it took a few weeks and it cost me 73 dollars. But that's a hell of a lot less than I had always pictured when I thought about "My Ebook." And the result, with a nice, shiny cover design and an attractive layout, makes it look like the work of an author, not a blogger in his mom's basement. (I swear I don't live in my mom's basement.)
You can do this. If you're scared to write an ebook because it might not sell or your readers might hate it or someone might tell you that you suck, you have to do this. It'll teach you to get over that.
Start small, like Dave suggests. Or put just a little more time and money into it: You'll be shocked at how easy it is to produce something great when you leverage the resources now available on the internet. Here's how I made my first ebook for 73 bucks.
How to Get a Great Ebook Design for $73
1. Find the perfect photo. ($15)
You might be able to find something free, using clipart sites or Flickr's Creative Commons photos. If you're on anything but the thinnest shoestring budget though, head over to istockphoto.com and just try not to be floored by the hundreds of beautiful images available for the price of lunch. (Bonus: This is also a great place to find photos for blog posts. The ones I buy usually cost between one and two dollars.)
2. Pay a designer to assemble your cover. ($50)
I'm a member of this unbelievably valuable internet marketing community called The Third Tribe (affiliate link), and in the forums there I met a woman named Sherice Jacob. Sherice runs eCoverArtist, where she'll make you an ebook cover for 50 bucks. (The fancy kind that looks like a 3D book, magazine, spiral bound report, etc.) Sherice was very accommodating of my lack of design know-how; we went through several iterations of me suggesting something stupid, her doing it for me, then me changing my mind, and she was pleasant and helpful throughout the whole process.
If it's a killer cover your after, I'd recommend spending more than 50 dollars on the design. But if you're looking for a quick way to make your first (or second, or third) product look pretty damn good, especially if you have an idea of what you want it to look like, well, look no further.
3. Get a template for the actual document. ($8)
Again, this is a place where it'd be easy to skimp and just use a plain white background and some standard fonts. But when you can get a nice-looking template for five or eight dollars, why wouldn't you? The templates like the one I got from EbookTemplates.net have a ready-made table of contents, title page, and headers and footers you can modify with your own information.
Until recently, Microsoft Word couldn't publish to PDF very easily, so most ebook templates you'll find are for OpenOffice Writer, which is free and works just like Word.
The above $73 gets you an ebook design. You'll have to put it your own ideas and your own time, but that's the fun part. And if your book is a recipe book, like mine, then of course you'll have to spend money to test and develop the recipes. But since you get to eat the food, I'm not counting that.
I also pay five dollars per month for a service called e-junkie (affiliate link) that I use to sell stuff, mainly because it makes it easy to track and manage affiliate programs. This allows you to pay bloggers a commission when they refer people to your site to buy your ebook. (And if you're interested in joining the affiliate program for my book, you can learn about it here.)
I hope you're convinced that creating an ebook, even one that looks pretty good, doesn't have to be expensive. And that's one less excuse you now have not to write one. Get over that fear, set a deadline and make it happen.
In my next post, I'll write about the process of writing a sales page to sell your ebook. And honestly, the techniques of sales pages apply equally well to your About page and even your regular blog posts. Every time you write, you're making a sale. You're asking for the reader's attention.
When you write your blog posts, you're competing for attention, just like advertisers who want their ad to be the one that gets noticed and read. But the techniques of writing sales copy are not obvious at all, so you won't want to miss that one.
Now get to work!