Use Ebooks to Boost Your Company’s Profile and Bottom Line

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BEFORE BYLINING AND PRIOR TO PUBLISHING

Eager to attack that keyboard and start churning out the pages? Curb that enthusiasm for a moment, and remember to complete the necessary due diligence first. That starts with researching the competition closely to learn what others are saying about a subject you're interested in writing about. "Make sure to read the negative reviews for competitive books and see what is missing from them. I would try and cover these topics more in-depth," says Ramos.

In addition, if your topic has already been written about by someone else, think twice before plowing ahead on that subject, says Debra Caruso Marrone, co-publisher at E-Lit Books in New York City. "You must find a niche that has an audience. In publishing, we use the ‘Who would read this book?' rule of thumb. If the answer is a substantial number of people to whom you can direct a successful marketing campaign, you should go forward with your project," Marrone says. "If the audience is small-or too hard to reach-the topic you have in mind might not be viable."

When it comes to budgeting for ebook creation, the costs can be minimal to nil, assuming you write and design it yourself using any of the plentiful publishing platforms available for self-publishers, including Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and Tablo; ample free resources are also available online to help with things such as formatting and designing a cover, among them calibre, iBooks Author, Canva, and Leanpub.

It's wise to enlist the aid of a professional editor and/or proofreader, as well as a cover artist/designer; these outside professionals can each cost anywhere from $30 an hour or more and can be found via sites such as Elance, oDesk, Writer.ly, and Freelancer.com.

Give careful consideration, as well, to pricing your self-published ebook. If your aim is to use it as a B2B marketing asset, you should provide it gratis and offer it for easy download on your website and social media channels. "After all, you're selling products or services, you're not selling books. Ultimately, your ebook should serve to move customers further through the buying cycle-it shouldn't cost them anything more than the few seconds it takes to fill out a registration field," says Cournoyer.

Keep in mind that if you charge money, Solar says, readers "will probably find a way to get the information elsewhere and for free. Unless the ebook offers information that cannot be found anywhere else, a ‘freemium' model typically works best."

If you're determined to put a price tag on that digital tome, think small. "Start with a $1.99 for smaller ebooks and $3.99 for larger ones. You will likely only be able to charge more when you have a larger following," McDougall says.

If you've decided to forego the self-publishing route, be prepared to part with a sizeable chunk of the profits. "An external publisher is really an investor-in you-and in the gamble your book will be successful. As such, they take on all the risk and about 90% of the proceeds. So if you sell your ebook for $18, expect to take only $1.80 on the sale of each," Farkovitz says. "If you produce the book with your own team, however, you'll likely keep about 67% of the proceeds. Either way, books are rarely financially successful in and of themselves. They are successful for all the other earning opportunities they can bring your way."

To publicize and help distribute your ebook, plan to use social network tools-such as LinkedIn and Twitter-and pay an email distribution service to send it to tens of thousands of people on your email lists. "Also, make sure it is prominent on your homepage and throughout your website and blog continually to get more search engine traffic to drive people to download your ebook," McDougall says.

The bottom line on ebooks is that-with the right vision, planning, and execution­-they can bolster your profile, build your business, and broaden your customer base without breaking the bank.

"Publishing an ebook is not necessarily ‘easy' to do. There are still a number of technical requirements and technical tools to master. But it's dramatically less expensive to distribute and promote because of our digital world," says Farkovitz. "And it's a good way to discover and follow your heart's desire."

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