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Infopreneurs/Self-Publishers: Marketing Insight from My 15+ Years of Selling Info Online

This is the final part to this post, Freelance Writers: What It’s REALLY Like to Create and Sell Your Own Info Products Online – What I’ve Learned in 10+ Years, which turned into a three-part series (Read Part I and Part II).

As I said in the previous posts in this series, I’ve been writing and selling information products (ebooks and ecourses) online since 2002. I first wrote this series in 2013. This is the 2017 update.

In this part, we’re going to discuss some free and low-cost ways to market your info product(s). Before we get to that though, there are a couple of observations I want to make about the evolution of self-published products: (i) the importance of appearance (eg, ebook covers); and delivery method.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

Ebook Covers: Yes, They Matter — A Lot!

I’ve been writing and selling ebooks and other information products online since 2002, when I published my first ebook. It t didn’t have a cover. It was just a simple pdf file with my company’s logo on it, which back then was just a picture of a black and white inkwell.

I published like this for years before I got into creating professional-looking covers. Did I make sales? Yes. Did I make many sales? Probably not as many as I could have, and I think this had something to do with the cover art. It’s hard for me to say because back then, I didn’t look at self-publishing as a viable income stream.

In fact, I didn’t even think of the first six or seven ebooks I wrote as “self publishing.” It was simply a way for me to get information to people who had been asking me questions about freelancing as expeditiously as possible.

My First Ebook: How It Came About

BTW, my first ebook was How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer. I wrote it because, at the time, I ran an editorial staffing agency in New York City. We staffed on-site and off-site (ie, freelance) positions. Editorial professionals who wanted to freelance kept asking me the same questions over and over again. So, I put together a little booklet that explained how to go about it. 

Voila! I was a “self-published author” — even though I didn’t think of it that way at the time. 

After this first title, I put together others basically for the same reasons – to answer questions I’d received from editorial professionals – which allowed me to dispense the info as quickly and expeditiously as possible. It wasn’t until 2011 — when I realized that over half my income had come from information products I produced and sold that I realized, “Hmmm, this self-publishing thing can be lucrative.”

By then, I’d published 15-20 or so – most in/on/about some aspect of freelancing, internet marketing, self-publishing and/or SEO writing. 

This is when I started to take cover art seriously. You see, by this time, self-publishing was a bona fide cottage industry – and readers were starting to be more discerning about who they purchased from.

If an ebook looked amateurish or “self-published,” then it started to be harder to make sales. Now when you go on Amazon, some of the cover art on self-published ebooks rival that of mainstream publishers.

As I discussed in this post, self-publishing has spawned a cottage industry of freelance opportunities – one of these are ebook cover artists/graphic designers. So build this expense into your budget – because it’s hard to make sales if your ebook’s cover isn’t up to par.

Another thing that matters …

Your Delivery Platform

To date, I’ve created four ecourses. The exisiting ones can be found on Teachable, my current delivery platform.

As I discussed in Part I of this series, before being on Teachable, my ecourses were delivered as simple pdf files. And while that served its purpose, it was limiting in a couple of ways: (i) students had to pay, then wait for me to email them the files; and (ii) they had to inquire about updates.

With Teachable, when a student enrolls in a course, they can access it 24/7/365 — immediately. And, all updates are immediately accessible because when I update the class, the imaterial is right there for them when they log in.

There’s no need for your info product to look amateurish anymore. You can find pros on sites like Fiverr to create graphics and other technical stuff you don’t know how to do, and platforms like Teachable have free options to start. Today, it’s easier than ever to present professionally right from the start — even with very little money.

Now let’s turn our attention to some free and low-cost ways to market your info product (ebook). Here’s the plan I use to earn five figures per year marketing my ebooks online That post was written seven months before this one, so there are a couple of more things I want to add.

The Importance of Blogging As a Marketing Tool to Sell More Ebooks

Even though I write fiction (romance) and non-fiction, the advice I’m giving here applies mainly to non-fiction, how-to ebooks. 

In my opinion, blogging regularly is becoming ever more critical to making ebook sales — especially in the non-fiction arena because what you’re selling is your expertise. Also, more people are jumping into the self-publishing waters, making them ever more crowded, hence harder to stand out. Proof?

In 2015, author-published books accounted for 18% of the entire book market in the US; the industry’s growth is staggering, and some firms predict the business could eventually get as big as $52 billion.

The giant self-publishing market essentially now falls largely to Amazon, which already churns out an estimated 85% of self-published titles via its various platforms. [Source: Quartz Media]

Stiff competition. But when you blog, you: (i) put your expertise on display; (ii) stay in front of potential buyers; and (iii) start developing a deep web footprint, which I talk about in the linked-to article above on how I earn five figures per year self-publishing ebooks.

Ebook Marketing & the Importance of Publishing Multiple Titles

I’ve published almost 100 ebooks to date (fiction and non-fiction). The vast majority of my non-fiction titles are in/on/about freelancing. And as I wrote in the last part of this series:

I didn’t start to realize that I could make a real living from selling my ebooks online until I’d written a dozen or so titles. That’s when I noticed that my sales became more consistent.

So what does this have to do with ebook marketing? In my opinion, don’t start really marketing until you have a cache of products; at least three. Why? Because otherwise, you’re like a one-hit wonder. You go after that immediate sale, and then there’s nothing to keep prospects coming back for more.

As it’s becoming more and more difficult to get your marketing efforts to pay off, why waste time like this, especially if you still run a freelance writing business (or have a full-time job) as well.

Because of what I’ve learned, I implemented this ebook marketing strategy when I dipped my toes into the fiction writing waters. I remember when I published my first romance novel. When I marketed it, I sold copies daily – and all I did was use social media basically.

Ebook Marketing Tips and Insights

I conversed regularly online with another romance writer and she told me she was selling anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 copies of her ebooks per month. At that time, she had half a dozen titles out. During one of our conversations, she said that she noticed that when she published a new title, copies of her older titles ticked up in sales too.

She gained  readership – a readership that liked her work well enough to double back and buy existing titles. It hit me — now that was some smart marketing simply because you get more return out of your marketing efforts, and previous clients are the best market to keep satisfied to increase sales.

So that’s why I didn’t even think about doing any extensive marketing of my “romance line” (ie, not just one book) –  until I had at least three titles published. Now with over 40 under my belt, here are a list of 6 things I do to promote a novella when I finish one. 

How Much Can You Earn from One Ebook?

FYI, I ran across this interesting link about indie author earnings and how much each title makes them. In 2014 (and some previous years), the author conducted an informal survey and found the following:

This year [2014] I received responses from a total of 227 authors, representing 2,594 indie titles of which 1928 were frontlist indie titles and 666 were backlist (trad-pubbed, now indie) titles. AVERAGE indie earnings reported per author: $91,337.

MEDIAN earnings per author: $20,000 (half of earnings fell above, half below this amount). Earnings reported ranged from a low of $4 (which might possibly have been a typo) to a high of $2.1 million. This works out to an AVERAGE of $7,996 per title for 2014 earnings.

The point I want to drive home is to wait until you have a few titles under your belt before you start marketing heavily. As these stats prove, it can pay off big, especially if you start to build a loyal following.

Conclusion

I know this post touched on a lot more than just ebook marketing, but I wanted to give you the full picture. I used to rely a lot on article marketing — and I still think that’s effective, but not as effective as it used to be. And once I got into fiction and those sales started to come in without very much marketing at all — beyond putting out a new book — I started to spend most of my time writing.

That’s your best marketing tactic, by the way — a new book.

These days, I use basically blogging which goes hand-in-hand with newsletter publishing; and social media, to sell ebooks. That’s about it.

My ebook marketing plan is not fancy or expensive because I’m in this for the long haul. And this is the final thing I want to share with you — self-publishing is a business; it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Sure, you may get lucky and have a title that just takes off on you. And that’s great. In fact, on Inkwell Editorial’s Facebook page, I corresponded with one self-published author from France who had this happen. He wrote, in part:

. . . i have been online for quite a while too. and i also publish only non-fiction.  …i recently put some old titles online and – i don’t know why – one book in particular began to fly. of course the money was unexpected and very welcome. so its encouraged me to do more.

so that’s why your advice and encouragement is very welcome . . . the weirdest thing for me is not knowing WHY one particular book (the jersey murder book) is doing very well…whilst other titles are not shifting at all, despite my best efforts.

However, don’t build your self-publishing business plan around this happening. Not to pound a dead horse, but when you publish multiple titles – you’re more likely to become invested in the process and treat self-publishing like the business it is, not something you just do to see “if things will work out.”

Once you treat it like a business, you’ll discover the ebook marketing methods that work best for you and your budget. Good luck!

Is Making Money Selling Ebooks Online for You?

Making money ebook-publishing-packonline selling ebooks and ecourses is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for lazy people. It’s not for those who need others to motivate them.

The Ultimate Self-Publishing Package: 4 Ebooks. 1 Low Price.

But if you are the anti-thesis of this, ie, courageous, hard-working and self-motivated, you really can make a lot of money selling ebooks and ecourses online (I’m proof of this) – if you don’t forget that last ingredient – perseverance.

Share Your Ebook Selling Tips and Questions?

Have any ebook selling tips you can share? Have a question about how to make money selling ebooks online? Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Serious about Starting a Self-Publishing Career? Then You Need a Website/Blog. Learn why and how to start one.

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    Comments

    1. William Joseph says:

      Thank you. Just what I needed.

    2. I have two eBooks I’m thinking of writing and publishing. It seems like such a huge task. It was great to hear how your first eBook came to be though and to find a nice outline of the marketing strategies you’ve used along the way.

      Personally, I feel that Blogging and promoting your ebook via social media and youtube are the best methods.

      • Thanks Dan for dropping by.

        The only thing I would add is that while blogging and promoting your ebook via social media and youtube have worked for me, the main point I want to get across is that you have to test, test, test to find that “magic marketing formula” that works for you because self-publishing is so individual.

        Again, thanks for dropping by and sharing your insights.