Written By Susan Johnston
A writer friend who’s already self-published an ebook warned me that it may not pay off financially. “It’s a lot of work to put together and then you have to market it like crazy,” she cautioned. Her ebook was more a labor of love than a cash cow. Then again, I know other writers whose self-published ebooks bring in four figures of virtually passive income each month.
It’s still too soon to tell if my ebook will be a financial success or if it will breed more competition for writing assignments. But whatever happens, I’m glad I wrote and self-published an ebook. Here’s why:
- Ebooks let you bypass traditional editors and publishers. Many aspiring authors never publish a book because they end up jaded and frustrated by the lengthy submission process. Many feature articles never see print, because they’ll feel stale by the time the magazine comes out six months later. But with an ebook, writers can skip the months of querying and waiting and praying. If you have an ebook idea and can pinpoint the type of reader who’d be interested in it, then you can cut out the middleman using sites like Lulu.com or E-junkie. Many of us blog out of a similar desire to reach readers on our terms.
- Writing an ebook means you always have a project you care about. Most professional writers don’t have the luxury of only writing about topics that fascinate them (said the girl who once wrote newsletters for an industrial fastener company). Sometimes we end up accepting projects merely to pay the bills, which makes writing feel downright mercenary. Since your ebook probably won’t make you a millionaire, choose a topic you love and you’ll always have a fun, creative project to balance out the other stuff.
- Ebooks can fill gaps in the market. If readers are hungry for a certain type of information, whether it’s recipes for organic beauty products or tips on writing for the web, your ebook can tap into that market potential. I get emails from fellow writers practically every week asking “how’d you get to write for that X? Who should I contact at Y?” and I want to help them, but it takes a long time to type out customized responses. My ebook has more in-depth information than would be appropriate for a blog post (and probably a little less than you’d want in a printed book), but I think the people who are willing to buy an ebook will really value that type of information.
- Ebooks are part of your platform. Now that virtually everyone has their own blog, it’s not such a differentiator anymore. Having your own ebook shows expertise in a given topic and a certain entrepreneurial spark. Sure, publishing a traditional title is more impressive in some circles, but self-publishing an ebook is still an accomplishment to be proud of. While many bloggers sell ebooks as a way to monetize their blog’s following, others give away ebooks (or ebooklets) as an incentive for signing up for their newsletter or feed.
- It’s good practice for writing a “real” book someday. I’d like to write and publish a mainstream title someday, but I used to worry that such a big project would be too overwhelming. I’m used to writing bite-sized morsels of copy (500 word blog posts, maybe a 1,200 word feature) and having daily deadlines, but now I know that I’m capable of writing a 10,000 words with only a self-imposed deadline to meet. Granted, most novels are closer to 50,000 words, but nobody runs a marathon without warming up first. If articles or blog posts are like sprints and a books are like a marathon, then an ebook is like a 5K road race.
What do you think? Have you ever considered writing an ebook? Why or why not?
Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer, blogger, and copy ninja who just released her first ebook, The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets.