Got a hankering to write your own ebook, digital guide, or virtual workbook? I don’t blame you. It’s a great way to spread your ideas, buck the traditional publishing system, and get some money flowing into your business.
But how do you create your own ebook? And, more importantly, what tools do you use to sell your own ebook?
Below you’ll find the (very few!) tools I use to create & sell my digital guides. By & large, these tools are extremely inexpensive and worth every penny – and probably a few thousand dollars more.
I’m a Mac so I use Pages – available in the App store for $19.99 – to format, design, & convert to PDF. Pages is great because it’s actually designed to be a page layout tool – not just a word processor. Finally, Pages allows you to export to ePub format, meaning iDevice users can read your work right in fully-featured iBooks.
Of course, you can use Microsoft Word for this part of the process, as well. And I’ve even heard of people using Google Docs to do create their ebooks. It’s free & has many of the same functions as Word.
I use e-Junkie to sell the ebooks. e-Junkie will walk you through the process of uploading the product, naming it, pricing it, etc… You can even customize the email that gets sent to buyers and even suggest additional products.
Best of all, e-Junkie starts at $5 per month. Meaning you’d have to sell zero books to lose any money on it.
e-Junkie works with PayPal – my choice of payment processor! – to allow people to check out seamlessly. e-Junkie also allows you to establish an affiliate program so that friends, satisfied customers, and enthusiastic strangers can help you sell your product.
For a step up, you might want to check out 1shoppingcart which comes with a lot more features (for a much bigger price tag, too).
Other tools you might find handy dandy in the ebook writing process:
Ommwriter – an app that gets you into a focused, zen environment for writing (now available for PC!)
Calendar – put deadlines, dedicated writing time, launch dates on whatever calendar program you use
Evernote – jot down notes, record inspiration, and cite sources using this web clipping app
Mind Mapping software – lots of resources available for this (here’s an example), really helpful for brain dumping!
Step 1. Become aware that you’re searching for an “a ha!” moment.
Step 2. Turn off the computer. Put down the paint brush. Close the journal. Drop the pencil.
Step 3. Walk away.
Step 4. Keep walking.
Step 5. Do something you love: Read a book. Listen to music. Make love. Drink coffee. Sip tea. Take a nap. Talk to a friend. Play dress up. Go see a movie. Take your time.
Step 6. Breathe. Repeat steps 5 & 6 as needed.
Step 7. Accept your “a ha!” moment. Even if it doesn’t look like you thought it would.
You can start a business with absolutely no money. You can start making money before you invest a cent in platform, design, or technology.
If you got the itch, you could start a business – right now – by setting up a free blog, emailing 10 friends, or announcing on Facebook that you’re for hire… all whilst leaving your credit card in the other room. The barrier to starting a business has never been lower.
This is well documented. And… at this point… boring.
Starting a business for free is great. But starting is just one step – albeit an important one – on the way to truly leveraging your time, energy, and expertise into a world-changing, money-making venture.
You simply can’t afford to stay in the beginner stage of business very long.
It’s not good for morale or for your bank account. But where to go? What to do?
Take a look at the businesses that are where you’d like to be. No need to look at multi-million dollar corporations, take stock of other solopreneurs and passion-driven business owners. How does your business stack up? Do you look like a beginner? Do you sound like someone “faking it til she makes it?” These are difficult questions to pose to yourself, let alone answer.
People are making judgement calls about your business every day. And it affects where their money goes when it’s time to make a purchase.
While there are many levels of this question to consider, here’s some direction on what your business needs in order to be taken seriously online. Again, you don’t need all these items in place to begin hocking your wares or offering your services but you should be checking more & more items off this list the longer you are in business.
To give you an idea of what to budget, I’ve included approximate costs for each item on the list!
Website at a domain name that’s all your own. This small cost makes a huge difference in how others perceive your business. You can still run a free platform and trick it out with a domain or you can invest in web hosting and build a more professional site using WordPress. $10 per year for domain, $90 per year for web hosting.
Email address at your own domain name. For the love of money, stop using that AOL address and take 10 minutes to create your own email address! There are plenty of services that allow you to do this without web hosting but, since you really should have web hosting anyhow, take a break from Twitter today to figure out how to set up your own email account through your provider. Hint: my email addresses all forward to my Gmail account – where you can also send from private email – so I can maintain my easy peasy email integration. Free with web hosting.
Website that is custom looking. No really, custom looking is fine. You can achieve this with a little help from limited edition graphics, like a header from By Reese, and a WordPress theme like Headway or StudioPress that don’t require code skills to customize them. $90-500 depending on needs.
The design doesn’t have to make me go “Oh wow, who designed this website?!” but, if I land on the page and my first thought is “Ouch, they shouldn’t have done this themselves,” then there’s a problem.
Great photo of you. This is one I fought for a long time. When I finally put up a pro head shot on my website, I really felt like I was being taken more seriously – and that was after my first 6-figure year. It’s really, really worth it. Don’t forget to put your full name – unless you have some good reason to have a business under an alias – under that pretty pic! Don’t laugh: I have a hard time figuring out who some business owners really are. $175 for a session with a pro photographer. Check with photography students for a discounted rate.
Nothing on your website that you didn’t deliberately put there. Several website platforms include ads – either for themselves or others – or other text that have nothing to do with your business. Often times, you can get rid of them by paying a small fee. If you love that platform, it’s well worth the small expense. $15 per year.
Smart email signature. I get a lot of business question emails from people with no email signatures! Don’t miss this crucial marketing opportunity – include your website, a brief explanation of what you do, and another spot to connect with you. Any more than that and it starts to get annoying – any less than that and you’re wasting your time. Free!
Well-written copy. Let’s face it: we’re not all great writers. And even good writers need help with their website copy. This isn’t just avoiding typos or bad grammar – it’s about clearly communicating who you are, what you do, and how you do it. With style. $250 per page.
Elegant way to handle payments. There are lots of ways to jimmy your payment gateway & invoicing. Sadly, when you choose to jimmy instead of choosing elegance, your business doesn’t look as serious or trust-worthy. The easiest & cheapest way to improve your checkout process is with e-Junkie. Use it with a digital product to guarantee immediate downloads. Use it with a service to provide extra instruction via URL redirect. Or go to the next level and try out a service like 1shoppingcart. $5-100 per month.
This is not a comprehensive list. These are the items that most often catch my eye as disappointing mistakes in businesses that are struggling for attention and trying desperately to get ahead.
If you’re wondering where to invest your time & money now that you’ve been at this for a bit, these are the things that need to get taken care of as soon as possible. If you’re only getting started, don’t let this list hold you back but keep it in mind when you’re making decisions.
What’s missing from this list? What do you need to see to really take a business seriously?
By the by, if you’re in need of some help in the website department… Check out Website Kick Start – it’s my not-so-crash course in creating a website you’re proud of.
Before I pack up ye olde Mac Book and hop on a flight to sunny California, I wanted to share some of my tools of the trade.
I’m keenly aware that DIY culture doesn’t stop at knitting needles and paint thinner. If you’re running a small business or just trying to keep up with the glory of technology, there is plenty to DIY right on your own computer.
After I posted my video with Dyana Valentine, many of you wanted to know how I achieved the cross-country side-by-side video. It’s so much easier than you might think.
I use Skype to “call” via video. If you’re talking to someone else with a Skype account (you do have one, don’t you?), it’s always free. Then I hit the record button on my handy Ecamm Call Recorder. You can set up your preferences for your video output directly from the Skype controls.
Once Call Recorder creates my video, I load it into iMovie and edit away. If you’re on a PC, your video editor of choice will do just fine!
For serious writing, I love a hot little application I found recently called Omm Writer. It turns your computer screen into a low contrast, high focus zen wonderland of creative flow.
For all my digital downloads (ebooks and the like), I use e-Junkie. Not only is it insanely inexpensive, it is pretty easy to use. You can set up a nice little affiliate program for your products and spread the love accordingly. You can also create cart & product discounts.
I do still have some semblance of an advertising program over at Scoutie Girl and for that I use a little WordPress plug-in called AdRotate. You can manage click thrus, expiration dates, and ad rotation all with the same lovely little program.
For my ecourses (and The Creative Empire) I have used both Buddypress – a plugin that turns your WordPress installation into a social network – and bbpress – a WordPress add-on that creates a forum with a familiar interface. I like both for different reasons.
I am a big fan of Outright.com for their no-nonsense approach to bookkeeping for microbusinesses & freelancers. They’ll even help you get organized for your taxes and keep you on schedule for your quarterly payments. Input your bank account & PayPal account and you’re off to the races!
Twitter tools seem to need their own category nowadays, don’t they? I’ve recently been turned on to HootSuite and really enjoy it. It brings together all the benefits of a desktop client with the quiet simplicity of going straight to the source. You can schedule tweets, run multiple accounts, integrate with Facebook and other networks, and get stats on individual messages. It’s lovely really!
Don’t have Photoshop but want to dabble in advanced photoediting? I use Pixelmator, a long time sweetheart of Mac users. You can’t beat the free trial & $60 price tag.
I’ll admit it, I have the hots for Mail Chimp. It’s silly, easy on the eyes, and ridiculously robust & full-featured. What’s there not to fall in love with? (Don’t forget to sign up for my free email program on creating action towards your goals!)
Have questions about other tools I use? Have your own recommendations? Share them in the comments below.
If social media has changed anything, it’s made us all think more about how our businesses and ourselves are one and the same. That’s why I recommend to all over my web design clients that their mug shot & a tiny bio appear in a prominent place on their website.
Customers & clients want to understand who they’re sending their money to.
Watch the video above to find out how to add an “about me” blurb as a widget in your sidebar on your WordPress blog/site. Then share the know-how with your friends by clicking the share buttons below.
Here’s an example of the code I used in the video that you can copy & paste!
If you’re selling your art or craft on Etsy, adding an Etsy Mini to your blog or website is a must!
If you’re using WordPress (self-hosted), it’s also a snap. For my web design clients, I like to suggest using very large Etsy Minis to mimic the look of a custom ecommerce site, even if they’re not ready to make the leap off of Etsy. Take a look at the example below to see how that looks:
Watch the video above to learn how to add this detail to your website or blog – then use the Facebook Like or Twitter buttons to share it with your friends.
Need more help kick starting your website? Sign up to receive advanced notice – and a sweet discount! – of when my Website Kick Start ecourse reopens: click here.
Tara Gentile is on a mission to turn the small business owners of today into the economic powerhouses of tomorrow. She's the creator of Quiet Power Strategy®, a business design system and entrepreneurial family. She's also the host of Profit. Power. Pursuit., which Entrepreneur named one of the 24 top woman-hosted business podcasts.