Today, my new ebook, “Discover Your New Job Online,” goes on sale at Lifehack. While I’d love it if you purchased a copy or passed the news along to someone else interested, this post is really about how I got to this point: what happened to get the ebook ready to go and the decisions that were made about how it is sold.
In many ways, getting an ebook ready to launch isn’t so different than preparing for a book launch — but in many ways, it’s quite different. The time line can be a lot shorter and what a publisher may or may not do for you can vary greatly.
The Publishing Process
My ebook is exactly the second ebook that Lifehack has brought out. The editor-in-chief of Lifehack, Dustin Wax, has been working on adding an ebook store to the blog for quite a while. The ebook store had a soft launch last month, with Dustin’s ebook, Back to Basics Productivity. Last summer, we decided that I would put together an ebook about how to hunt for a job online — a topic I had written about for Lifehack in the past. We agreed on a length, a due date and a general idea of what the ebook would contain.
I wrote up my manuscript. Having written full-length manuscripts for print, there are a couple of key differences that I noticed. First of all, when you’re dealing with a printed book, there are some standard lengths expected. With an ebook, you can pick a word count out of thin air. I was also able to include far more links, lists and other formats for information beyond the simple paragraphs that print publisher expect (they put lists in as illustrations or figures, typically).
Once I finished writing, I shipped it off to Dustin. He edited it, caught all my typos and generally improved the manuscript. Once I signed off on the edits, it went off to a designer. Because the designer was working on what is essentially a template for all Lifehack ebooks to come, it took a little while to get it ready to go. There was another round of review — think of it as the proofs that a writer receives when working with a printer.
The Selling Process
Having a finished ebook didn’t mean that we were ready to sell. Since Lifehack is only starting to offer ebooks for sale, some infrastructure had to be built before those sales could start happening and some decisions had to be made about how ebooks would be sold.
There are a lot of different ways that an ebook publisher can handle the infrastructure end of things. Some go with custom-built ecommerce sites, others use tools to modify existing website. For my ebook that I released here, Market Your Freelance Writing in 31 Days, I chose E-Junkie because it’s very easy to set up. Lifehack took a similar approach.
Lifehack also chose to set up an affiliate program for the ebooks sold through the site. If you aren’t familiar with affiliate programs, here’s a basic explanation: when you sign up for the program, you’ll receive a special link. As long as you use that special link when talking about the product — here, we’re talking about a specific ebook — you get a cut of the proceeds for anyone that buys the ebook after clicking on that link. That means that you could post a review of the ebook on your blog and if your readers buy it based on that review, you get a certain percentage.
Personally, I think affiliate programs are an excellent choice — but not all ebook publishers agree. Managing an affiliate program requires more time and effort than simply offering an ebook for sale. It also means that the publisher doesn’t make as much money on each copy of the ebook. The trade-off is that, for most products, affiliate programs can drive up sales.
Once all the details were in place, we set a launch date and I set out to build up some buzz ahead of time. In this case, because I’ve written about employment topics in the past, I have some connections among bloggers who routinely cover the topic. I sent out emails, offering review copies and guest posts. Another standard way to promote ebooks is offer a giveaway of once copy — but when you’re working with a publisher, you may not have that option.
Some ebook publishers will take steps to build up buzz themselves, just like some print publishers will have a publicist work with an author. Just the same, though, some publishers don’t do a lot of marketing, relying on a writer’s platform to build sales. Lifehack is a special case because the site already has excellent readership in place, simplifying marketing plans.
The Final Product
All of that culminates in a page offering an ebook for sale. It’s not quite the lengthy process required for a publisher to bring a book to market, but it’s also not quite the same thing as bringing out your own ebook. Got any questions about ebook publishing? Please share them in the comments.