Thinking of writing an eBook? Well, buckle up — it’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. I’ve written five self-published books, and I’ve learned these lessons the hard way. So let me save you some time and share with you the five things you absolutely must know before getting started.

You will need to pay.

Writing an eBook is going to cost you. Why? Because no one wants to read a book that looks like a Word document. People don’t want to see typos. Readers expect a level of quality nowadays. They know that the technology available to produce a book is advanced and that there’s plenty of help available. When they see a poorly put-together product, they associate that with the writer, and you don’t want that to happen. Your eBook is representing you and your business, and you want it to look exactly – and I mean exactly – like any book you would buy from a well-known author.

So it will cost you. To do it right, you’re going to need help. You’re the brains behind the great content, and that’s what you do best. But you will want to utilize other people’s brains to do what they do best. You’ll need an editor and likely a separate proofreader because the more eyes, the better. You’ll also need a graphic designer and possibly a photographer to ensure that your front and back cover look professional. You may even need research assistance. What will this all cost you? Likely between $5,000 and $10,000 if you want to do it right, and that doesn’t include marketing or the cost to print books.

You will need to have a budget.

Are you a billionaire entrepreneur, a TV star or a famous chef? No? Then you’re not going to be a best-selling author. Sorry.

You are not going to make any money selling books. It is not a sustainable living for you. If you don’t believe me, just do the math. A typical eBook can sell online for anywhere from $1 to $15. If you’re doing this on Amazon or working with another distributor, they will take a commission, or you will incur a printing cost. Sure there are the few authors who sell lots and lots of books, but c’mon, you know that’s rare. You will be lucky to sell a few thousand books over a period of a few years, and at a profit of $5 a book (even that’s a stretch), it will only be enough to cover your costs of production (see above).

But that shouldn’t discourage you. Think of your eBook as a 21st-century marketing document. Back in the day, people would make hardcopy brochures, catalogs and other sales materials. Some still do. Well, your eBook is just that — a robust brochure for you and your business. It’s a potential giveaway, a prize, a treat or an incentive to attract new customers or engage and strengthen your relationship with existing customers. Don’t view your eBook as a profit center. View it as a tool to help you generate more revenues. So if you do spend $10K to produce a great eBook and it helps generate $50K in new business, then it was well worth it.

You can use the eBook in different channels and formats.

An eBook isn’t really just an eBook. You can make it more than that. For example, I like to publish my books using Amazon’s author services. Why? Because, uh, everyone goes to Amazon to buy their books! But there are other great services that can help you get your book placed on different channels. For example, Books2Read will ensure that your book is available not only on Amazon but Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and other booksellers and distributors. Kitaboo and FBReader are examples of platforms that provide publishing tools and will accept your eBook and make it available across a wider audience of people searching for books. Then there are many independent printers and publishers (you can Google them) that will take your book and make them available for volume purchases. Oh, and BookSprout will help you get reviews.

Your goal is to get your book in the hands of as many people as possible, so exploring these options is critical for your marketing and distribution campaigns.

You will need to keep it current or write more eBooks.

Every year hundreds of thousands of eBooks are published, so the field of authors is crowded. Like I mentioned above, you’re not going to write a best seller. But your book can stand apart because it addresses a certain niche, answers questions or fixes problems. Done the right way, it can be an excellent informational tool for your community. But as we all know, information gets old fast, which means that just writing a single eBook isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need to keep writing, or at the very least, update your eBook frequently. I make it a point to regularly put out new “editions” of certain books where I go in and revise, edit, add and delete content. That way the information is fresh.

Reserve time every year to update your eBook. Your audience can tell if you’re getting lazy.

You have to like to write.

Writing a book is not easy. If it were, many more people would do it. To have a decent book, it needs to be a decent size – at least 60,000 words, in my opinion. I realize some may argue that the size of a book doesn’t matter as much as the content, and I can understand that point of view. But there’s an expectation that when someone gets a book, it’s a book. Which means it should be weightier than what you would get in a blog or article.

All of this means you need to write a lot, so you better enjoy it. Writing an eBook can take months of hard work. It requires discipline, dedication and tenacity. If you skate through the process, you’ll just produce something of mediocre quality, and your readers will know that. You’ll be spending time away from your day job and your family. That’s a cost. So again, I hope you enjoy writing. You’ll need to if you want to produce a quality book.

In the end, a successful eBook is like anything else — you get out of it what you put into it. It’s unlikely you’ll make much money from the book itself. But done the right way, it will surely help you land more business and generate revenues for your business.

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