E-Books: What They Are and Why You Should Write One

I missed my deadline for this column.

I woke up this morning and, while staring out the window, realized it was due two days ago. The reason it’s late is because I’ve been preoccupied with an e-book I was writing and trying to self-publish…which is actually what the topic of this column is supposed to be about. So in a way, this column is accidentally coming together just swimmingly.

I’ve only recently jumped into the world of e-books. I’ve written several traditional books—finding an agent, shopping the idea around, then writing the book and waiting nine months to a year for it show up in print. With an e-book, you can self-publish pretty much instantly. From idea to online took me about eight days.

And that’s the opportunity I want to share with you this month: earning an e-income with e-books. And don’t run away if you think you’re not a writer, or you think you have nothing to say. Instead, read on…

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the now-trite “new normal” to our world. Working from home is now standard fare, either because companies are following social distancing rules…or because workers have lost their jobs and are looking for ways to earn a paycheck. Whatever the reason, this strange iteration of reality highlights the myriad legitimate ways that exist to earn a non-traditional paycheck.

I’ve been spending my time in quarantine pursuing several, just to see how viable each really is.

E-books and blogging are the two I’m most excited about. Already, I’ve started earning a bit of money at it. Not a lot, mind you—just $6.52. But the book is all of a week old. Moreover, the topic—learning how to thrive as a digital nomad—is, at best, aspirational in a moment when the entire world is on lockdown.

But that’s actually the bigger point here, and why I asked you stick around even if you think you have nothing to say. Living the digital nomad life is a passion of mine. I love living this life in Prague, and I truly enjoy the writing I do on this topic. And I’m willing to bet you have something you’re equally passionate about. In that, there is an e-book waiting to be told.

As I write this, I am thinking back across the various people I’ve befriended in my life and cataloging their passions. There was the guitarist who loved finding ratty old electric guitars at second-hand stores and tearing them apart and restoring them to pristine, working condition. There was the baker who loved experimenting with what she called “fusion pastry,” like a crazy-delicious Italian/Mexican/Japanese cinnamon-chocolate tiramisu doused in plum liquor. There was the fly fisherman I worked with in Seattle who hand-tied some of the most beautiful, artistic fishing flies I’ve ever seen.

Every one of those passions is an e-book in waiting.

See, e-books don’t need to be 100,000-word, 200-page bodice rippers (though if you have a couple of those in mind, they tend to sell well. I have friend writing urban romance e-books, and she’s earning six figures at it). Instead, they can be much simpler affairs that tell a compelling or interesting “how-to” story. Readers want that, and they’re willing to pay for it if it helps them accomplish some particular task relevant to their life.

My book is just 18,000 words and about 45 pages on a topic that is, admittedly, quite narrow in its appeal. It’s the five steps that, based on personal experience, I think can help wannabe digital nomads better prepare for, and ultimately thrive in this lifestyle. Like I said, that’s a narrow audience. And right now, it’s not an engaged audience because of the pandemic. I’m betting (hoping) that changes when the world reopens.

An e-book can be 10 or 20 pages—whatever it takes to cover the topic in a way the leaves your reader smarter, entertained, or more capable of achieving some goal.

Don’t want to write it yourself? You can find affordable writers these days on various freelance apps who will spin your words into a compelling story. Likewise, you can find graphic artists to fashion a cover for you…or you can build one yourself for free from some very professional templates on a website such as Canva.com. That’s what I did and, frankly, I sort of impressed myself—and I am not a graphic designer by any stretch. But that’s how easy it is to gin up a professional book cover nowadays.

I listed my book on Kindle, but there are more than a score of e-book sites these days, many of which cater to certain niches.

As for marketing, you can accomplish that through all manner of social media platforms.

So what I am saying is this: If you can dream it, you can write it. And with a little bit of effort you can find an audience for it.

I’m not promising you’ll get rich. I certainly don’t expect to retire on my e-book royalties. Most e-books sell for $0.99 to about $9.99, and depending on various factors, you’ll keep 35% to 95% of that. Nevertheless, e-books are a viable way to begin earning an e-income. And with the technology that exists these days, putting one together and listing it on a website is as easy as writing, “Once upon a time…”

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