PDFs and eBooks Oh My

By Jeremy Deighan


Welcome to The Digital Product Blog. Today we are talking about PDFs and ebooks. We touched on this a little bit in the previous installment, but I want to dive a little deeper into the topic to give you some ideas about things you can create for your business, and an overview of how PDFs and ebooks f work. 

Creating PDFs

As I mentioned last time, PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format that can be read across a lot of different devices. They can be created in a lot of different ways. The PDFs can be read by Acrobat Reader, which is an Adobe product. This file format can be read on your smartphone, Mac devices, Windows devices, tablets, etc. Pretty much every device nowadays can read a PDF format. That’s why it’s a popular file format for sharing things in a book form. Most people have seen these before, documents that you need to sign and other packets of information often come in a PDF. They're pretty common. 

Making these is quite simple. There are many different programs that allow you to create PDF documents. Microsoft Word, Pages (the word processor standard on Macs) and Google Docs can all export to PDF format. For example, I use Google Drive and Google Drive applications for everything that I do. I've given up on Word and Pages and Excel and all those things. I do everything through Google. 

Google Drive Application
Google Drive Application

To do this, I created a Google account. You get this free with a Gmail account and access to Google Drive applications. These are cloud applications that you can use to create documents. Now, what I do is sign into my Google account, go to Google Drive, and locate the application called Google Docs. That is a word processor, just like Microsoft Word. 

I can open that application and write a little book or put in images or whatever I want, and then export that to a PDF file. Then I can take that PDF, and share that with people. Anyone can pull that format up on their phone, computer, or wherever they like to read it. 

Another great thing about using Google Drive is because it's already in the cloud, you can actually share the PDF directly from Google Drive to other users. They can pull it up directly from there, and they don't have access to the rest of your account, just that PDF file you share. This makes it really convenient to send it out to people. 

So you can charge people whatever amount of money you would like for your little ebook or recipe book or whatever you're creating. When you get the money, you simply share the link with them. 

There are types of software and different ways to automate this and make it easier. But basically, it's really smooth and easy to go onto Google Docs, create an account, create a document, and then share that as a PDF. 

Ebook Ideas

A PDF file can be a lot of things. But typically what people make to sell are ebooks. Ebooks are electronic books, which can be one page, five pages, 10 pages, 50 pages, 101,000 pages...however long you need it to be. So you could write a whole novel and sell that online, or write a nonfiction book and put that in ebook form. The ebook is rendered as a PDF file. And then you share that PDF in exchange for money. 

There are all kinds of ebooks you could create. Think about what service, business or hobby you like to do. Is there some type of ebook that you could create related to that topic to sell online? 

Think about what service, business or hobby you like to do. Is there some type of ebook that you could create related to that topic to sell online? 

For instance, if you want to teach people how to play an instrument, you could create an ebook file of the different ways to learn chord progressions or to hold the guitar. You could teach how to play drums. So if you want to teach music, what are some books you could create and sell online? 

Maybe they could be books with actual sheet music. If you compose your own music, you could write that as an ebook. Or you could teach how to play different scales. You could even teach the piano. There are a lot of different things you could do, and that's just music. 

Saxophone and Sheet Music
Saxophone and Sheet Music

Maybe you like to cook, and you want to teach people how to have a healthier lifestyle, so you could provide a recipe book. Or maybe a nutrition book in which you discuss different aspects of nutrition. What do the different vitamins and minerals do? What should you be eating? What shouldn't you be eating? If you have expertise in that area, you could compile that information as an ebook and sell it online. 

If you enjoy some kind of craft—I know I've talked about woodworking as an example before—but any kind of craft or art could work. So if you're a designer, painter, woodworker, metal worker, or maybe you like to work with cars. Whatever your craft, is there something that you could create in an ebook form and sell online? To use the car example, if you work in the automotive industry, you could teach people how to repair or customize their cars. Could you come up with an ebook with images and words that would teach readers how to do what you do? Hopefully, by now your brain has started working, and you’re thinking about some possibilities for ebooks you could create for your business. 

It doesn't matter if you're in marketing or sales or you have a hobby or passion that you want to talk about. Maybe you're in a particular industry or career that you know a lot about. Start thinking about what you could create to publish online. 

Giving Away Ebooks

Ebooks are given out in different ways for different reasons. It helps to know which strategy is right for you. 

The first way we sometimes see is that people will give ebooks away for free. These include books that have valuable information that you typically would pay for. When you give this away for free, the recipient might say, "Wow, I would have paid 10 bucks for this, I can't believe I'm getting it for free." 

But why would you do that? 

One key reason to give an ebook (recipe book, how-to guide, fiction book, etc.) away for free, is an exchange for something other than money. You might use a free book as a lead generator, which means that you give it away in exchange for a potential customer’s contact information (usually an email address) so that you can sell to them in the future. You will see this a lot as you start paying attention to it online. 

Smart Affiliate Marketing Strategies
Smart Affiliate Marketing Strategies

I like to use the fishing terminology just because I grew up in a fishing town. So let's say for instance that you love to fish, and you want to sell fishing gear online. Maybe you have your own rods and reels, lures, tackle and different things that you want to sell. Or maybe you're an affiliate and sell other people's rods and reels, but taking a small percentage because the sales are coming through you. 

To get your name out there, you need to pull people into your world, which means you need to reach out to them. But if you just approach someone and say, "Hey, want to buy this rod or reel?" and they don't know who you are, it's going to be a hard sell. So you need to start establishing trust, building an audience of people who will pay attention to you. One great way to do that is with a free ebook. 

So you could create an ebook teaching people something about fishing: maybe the best equipment to use in a lake, or the best tackle and lures to use in saltwater casting or offshore fishing. You would compile an ebook to teach this information, and then you could give that ebook away for free. 

But when you give it for free, you will ask readers for something in exchange. Typically, that's an email address. Email is one of the most powerful ways to stay in contact with potential buyers. So you have this free ebook, you put it on a website, and you tell people, "Go download my free ebook, just type in your email, and I'll send it to you." They type in their email, and that book is sent to them automatically. Now they have their free ebook and you have their email address so you can stay in touch with them. (There's software that does this automatically, which we'll talk about this in a future installment.) 

The ebook is worth something, but their contact information is worth a lot more than what that ebook's value is. Now that you are able to contact them one-on-one through email, you can continue selling to them. You're starting to establish credibility and building your audience. You can start sending out emails and teaching them more about fishing, or selling them on the things they might want to buy. You can send an email that says, "Hey, you downloaded my ebook and learned about fishing. Did you know that I have a special on rods and reels right now?"

Something else I've seen in the marketplace is writers who give the electronic book away for free, and then offer to upgrade or upsell readers to a physical copy of the book. Their promotion might be, "I'll give you a free copy of the book in PDF format. But if you want the print version, just fill out your credit card information." 

A third reason to give away an ebook is as a sample, so readers can check out your work to see if they like the content you’re providing. If you write a series of books on a topic--recipes, for example, or woodworking instructions--you might give one of those books away for free so people can check it out. If they like the content you provide, they might choose to buy the other books in your series.

Selling Ebooks

You can give ebooks away for free, and you can also sell them. Depending on the quality and the content you're providing in the ebook, there are different price ranges you’ll be able to sell it for. If it's a short 5 or 10-page ebook, and the content isn't very in-depth, you might not be able to sell it. You might want to give it away for free. 

If it's pretty good and provides some value, but isn’t in-depth, you might sell it for $7 or $10. However, if you provide enough value to your readers, you could sell it for more money: $15 or $20 or more. Personally, I don't know if I've ever seen an ebook selling for more than say, a hundred bucks. And if you know of one, definitely let me know because I'd love to check it out. 

Woman Reading Book
Woman Reading Book

Typically, print nonfiction books will go for $30 or $40 at the store at most. People like having a physical book that they can hold in their hands. So they're willing to spend a little more money on that, which is why ebooks are typically priced lower. It's going to be a hard sell to get more than $40, $50, $60 through an ebook unless it's extremely high quality with a lot of content and providing a lot of value. 

For example, you could write a recipe book and put 40 or 50 of your favorite recipes (paleo recipes, or intermittent fasting recipes or whatever you want to have in there). You could sell those online, you know, for say, $7 or $10. Some people make a series of books. In this example, you might have five different recipe books, and sell each for 7 or 10 dollars, maybe each on different topics. But they're able to sell multiples, so if a customer likes the first one they might buy the rest of the books. Just make sure you do some research in your particular industry to see examples of price ranges and how to price your books.

So ebooks are versatile: you can either give them away for free or sell them online. I hope this gives you some ideas. Once you have an ebook written, there are different ways you can go about selling it. For instance, you can host it on your own website. You will need a system to collect readers’ credit card information and deliver the ebook. There are many software options for doing that, which we'll talk about later on.

Another option is to publish your ebook on a website like Amazon, which is a marketplace where people are already shopping, with their credit card ready (and processed through Amazon). The platform for publishing an ebook on Amazon is called KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Of course, when you sell on Amazon, they take a percentage, and there are rules and regulations that you'll need to follow. If you're interested in that route, you'll definitely want to check out their website for more information.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

KDP also allows you to take your ebook and create a physical version through their print-on-demand service. This allows you to sell the ebook and print versions on Amazon and elsewhere. Another popular print on demand service is called Ingram Spark.

So if you like to write, or you have a good idea for an ebook, start taking notes and putting information together. Later on, we'll talk more about how to put the book together: outlines, sections, etc. 

In the meantime, head over to a site like Amazon, and start looking up books in your industry or topic, to see what's already out there. See what other people are creating and buying. If there are other people out there who are already selling ebooks on that topic, don't let that worry you. That's a good sign. That means people are buying that information, and you can create something similar to sell as well. 

Thank you for reading, and good luck as you start getting ideas for your ebooks.

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