How-To Guide

Ebook Guide: How to create and sell your ebook online for free

Writing an ebook is one of the quickest ways to start making sales online. Here’s what you need to do to get started today.

    Part 1
    How to create and sell your ebook online for free
    16 min read
    In this Article

    Let me know if this sounds familiar:

    You see a story about a first-time creator making $2,000 on a digital product and think, “I could totally do that.”

    It doesn’t take long for your mind to start spending your imaginary earnings, so you begin to think about how to sell your own ebook. Only instead of finding answers, you discover more questions. How do I make an ebook? Where can you even sell it online? How much do I charge?

    A moment ago, you had a heart full of hope and a mind full of dancing dollar bills. You could practically hear the “ka-ching.” Now, a rain cloud is looming, and you’re reasoning with yourself that your 9-5 isn’t always that bad.

    There’s a magical cure for this challenge, and it’s called “small, simple actions.” If you take the process of writing an ebook one step at a time and look to the creators who have come before you for inspiration, you’ll be ready to make your first sale soon.

    Are you ready to feel a serious sense of accomplishment and make some money? Here’s your step-by-step guide to creating and selling your first ebook—all without spending a cent.

    how to write an ebook

    What is an ebook?

    If you’ve explored other bloggers’ and creatives’ websites, you’ve probably seen an ebook or two.

    An ebook is a digital resource that typically focuses on written content rather than video or audio.

    When we talk about ebooks, they’re often nonfiction guides on a particular topic, like growing a business, cooking meals for your family, or sharing writing tips. Ebooks come in as many shapes and sizes as their printed counterparts, though, including fiction.

    Why every creator should write an ebook

    Reality check: your first ebook probably won’t become a bestseller. But the best part of self-publishing means you can avoid the traditional publishing roadblocks. Seriously, there’s no ebook council you need to answer to, so if you have an idea you can write about, go ahead and give it a shot.

    If you have an interest or skill set, there are likely people worldwide that could benefit from your content. So what are you waiting for? Every creator can (and should) create an ebook to grow their business.

    Here are just a few reasons why:

    • You can write more about your audience’s favorite topics. Ebooks give you a place to dive deeper into a subject than you can on a blog post.
    • You can create and sell an ebook quickly. You can repurpose existing content into an ebook, which means it won’t take long to make. You also don’t need a lot of equipment or software to get started.
    • You don’t have to update ebooks constantly. If you already have your hands full creating content for your paid newsletter or blog, ebooks are a great “set-it-and-forget-it” sales channel.
    • You can scale your income and audience with ebooks. Ebooks have a place at basically every point in the customer journey. Free ebooks are good for growing your email list, or you can make an ebook once and sell it over and over to your email list to scale your income.

    Six ebook styles to try

    If you want to create a successful ebook, the first decision to make is what kind it will be. There are two main types of ebooks—free and paid.

    Within these two categories, there are different styles for laying out your information. Here are six examples of ebook formats to inspire you.

    #1 Cookbooks

    Calling all food bloggers—have you created a digital cookbook yet? If you already have recipes on your site, you have the ingredients for a lead magnet or sales tool. To create a cookbook lead magnet, you can compile your most popular recipes into a single source or group recipes around a common theme.

    You can also put existing and exclusive recipes together into a paid cookbook. Chef Daniella Malfitano sells monthly cookbooks filled with plant-based recipes and weekly grocery lists.

    Ebook cookbook example
    Daniella’s cookbook sales page outlines what’s included and how readers will benefit. Image via Chef D Malfi.

    Not sure you have time to create free content and paid ebooks? You can repurpose ebook content to grow your audience. Chef D Malfi live streams cooking lessons on her Facebook page and often features recipes from the paid cookbooks.

    #2 Interactive workbooks

    If you want to get readers involved in your ebook, you can make parts of your PDF digitally fillable to take notes or respond to workbook prompts. This ebook format is perfect for coaches, teachers, and consultants.

    Shelby Abrahamson of Little Coffee Fox uses a workbook-style ebook to teach lettering design. Each ebook includes art tips plus worksheets to practice what readers just learned.

    Lettering ebook example
    If you make your ebook PDF editable, readers can either use it digitally or print it out. Image via Little Coffee Fox.

    Shelby’s workbooks prove that just because ebooks are text-based doesn’t mean they need to be text-heavy to be valuable. Giving people a way to get involved with the content could also encourage them to actually see the content through.

    #3 How-To guides

    If you have a lot of tips and insights to share on a topic, then you can create a how-to guide. These in-depth ebooks usually cover one specific topic in greater detail than a single blog post could.

    Ebook example
    Your ebook library can feature a mix of free and paid content across topics. Image via Ed Latimore.

    Eventually, you can build up an entire library like Ed Latimore has. His website teaches “stoic street smarts,” and Ed’s ebook shop covers topics ranging from emotional mastery and money skills to his experience with addiction and sobriety. Since Ed’s ebook topics align with his blogging, he can naturally weave in references to his ebooks, so interested readers find ways to go deeper on a topic.

    #4 Resource bundles

    If you have templates or have thought about creating them, you can sell them with ebooks to make bundles. Teela Cunningham from Every Tuesday pairs her ebook, Full Time Graphic Design, with different resources to target segments of her audience.

    Ebook example
    Customizing bundles to fit the needs of your audience makes the experience feel more personal for subscribers. Image via Full Time Graphic Design.

    Having the same ebook as the base for each bundle cuts down on the amount of work to create the content. Then, you can spend time making each bundle relevant to a segment of your target audience with additional templates or downloads.

    #5 Free ebook

    A free ebook can be any style you like, though they’re generally shorter than paid ebooks. You can make a free ebook by combining info from a few top blog posts, or giving people the option to download the first chapter of a longer ebook for free.

    Ebook example
    Since free ebooks might be one of the first ways a person interacts with your brand, it’s helpful to include an “about me” section on the landing page. Image via Melissa Macher.

    Coaches can also use free ebooks to introduce their philosophy, like Melissa Macher from Grateful Meal Nutrition does. After introducing new subscribers to your insights and approach, you can promote your high-price coaching packages.

    #6 Novels and short stories

    Fiction writers can get in on the ebook fun, too. Selling ebooks on your own website is much easier than traditional ebook publishing channels, and you can offer samples of your writing as lead magnets.

    Ebook example
    Authors can use free ebooks as lead magnets to grow their email list and sell more books. Image via J.F. Penn.

    J.F. Penn is a New York Times bestselling thriller author who offers a free ebook on her website. Once subscribers access her free ebook, they’ll also join J.F.’s newsletter with writing updates, podcast episodes, and book deals.

    How to write your first ebook

    There are few things as daunting as looking at a blank page with a mind overflowing with hope but bereft of words. Writing your ebook is a huge topic, but careful planning makes creating ebook content easier.

    Here are the three phases of creating the content for your ebook:

    Choose a topic

    The best ebook topics meet a few criteria. First, it has to interest your audience. Second, you have to be willing and excited to write about it. These tips can help you find the topic sweet spot:

    Determine your structure

    After choosing your topic, you can begin organizing the content. Think about why someone would download or buy an ebook on the subject and what readers want to get out of it. You can also look at ebooks in your niche to see what works for other creators.

    • Think about designing for readability and usefulness as you’re writing to organize your thoughts and make the content more engaging. An organized table of contents and descriptive headers help readers find the info they’re interested in.
    • Do you want to get readers involved in the ebook? Templates, worksheets, prompts, and assignments make your ebook more interactive.
    • Have an idea of how long you’d like your ebook to be before you start writing. Free content should be shorter than paid resources.

    Write compelling content

    Ebooks are usually longer than your standard blog post, which means your content must be good to keep readers’ attention. Aim to stay focused on the topic and call out essential info with headers or bullet points. Some other writing tips include:

    • Use your most popular content as a reference for what writing resonates.
    • Ask for feedback on your first draft so you can make essential edits now and not after you’ve published.
    • Break content into smaller sections with clear headlines in case readers want to skim to the areas they care most about
    • More isn’t always more—resist the urge to put in content just to reach a certain length. Quality over quantity is always better.
    • Don’t forget about proofreading! Have your spouse, friend, or colleague read through your final draft and flag any little errors you might have missed.

    Self-publishing your ebook, step by step

    Once you have the content of your ebook sorted, it’s time to make the actual document your audience will download. If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t worry. There are tools and resources to help you each step of the way.

    Choose a design tool

    Most ebooks have some level of design, and there are a ton of ways to create the layout. You’ll have the easiest time if you choose a design you’re comfortable with, whether that’s a designer-focused tool like InDesign or a drag and drop editor like Canva.

    You can even make an ebook in Pages, and we have an ebook template to get you started.

    Add your content and visuals

    To avoid selling an ebook that’s just a wall of words, Include visuals like screenshots, images, or illustrations to break up the text. If you don’t have your own images, there are great stock image websites like Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay you can use to add visual flair.

    Ebook example
    Pictures, icons, and bold headers visually break up your text to make it more enjoyable to read.

    Create an ebook cover

    You’re always told not to judge a book by its cover, but chances are readers will. It helps to compare ebook cover designs in your niche to get inspiration for your cover, so it stands out on your sales page.

    Ebook example
    Color, font, and imagery all help your book cover stand out. Image via Smart Passive Income.

    Save the ebook as a PDF

    Ebooks can come in different file formats depending on where and how readers will view them. For example, Amazon has its own book formats (AZW and AZW3) and the MOBI format is most popular with Kindles. An EPUB file is widely supported and a good option for ebooks.

    Our recommendation for your first ebook is to save the file as a PDF, though. This type of file is widely known and used, maintains design and formatting, and can be read on nearly any device. While PDFs aren’t “reflowable,” which means they don’t adjust to small screen sizes, they’re easy to create since most design software lets you save a document in this format. If you aren’t sure what ebook file format to choose, check with your ecommerce platform to see which the site allows.

    Pick a price

    If the thought of choosing a price for your ebook strikes fear in your heart, you aren’t alone. Assigning a value to your work can feel tricky and uncomfortable, especially if you’re new to the world of digital products. It’s helpful to remember that you don’t need to come up with a number at random, and you aren’t stuck with that price forever.

    These are a few tips to make pricing your book less daunting:

    • Check for minimum prices on your ecommerce platform. Books on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (often shortened to KDP) can be as low as $0.99, while ConvertKit Commerce has a minimum product price of $5.
    • Look at what other creators in your niche are charging since some topics may tend to cost more than others.
    • Consider the length of your ebook and what other bonuses come along with it. For example, you could include an audiobook recording with each ebook purchase.

      Ebook example ConvertKit Commerce
      The Authority ebook package comes with multiple file types, including an audiobook read by the author. Image via Nathan Barry.
    • Experiment with ebook pricing over time. You can poll your audience about what they’d be willing to pay or try different prices. Remember to keep other variables the same when you experiment with the price and don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.

    Choose an ecommerce platform

    Your ebook is finished, and you have a price in mind—now it’s time to start selling!

    If you don’t already have a website, never fear—you can list your ebook with a ConvertKit Commerce product page in just a few minutes.

    If you have a website, you’ll need to create an ebook landing page and choose an ecommerce platform. There’s no shortage of ebook sales routes, including Amazon or within your website builder like Squarespace or Wix.

    The best place to sell an ebook is on your own website, and preferably with a tool like ConvertKit Commerce that integrates with multiple tools you use in your business, like your website and email marketing. If you choose to sell your ebooks through Amazon, you lose touch with your customers.

    How to promote your ebook (for free!)

    Creating and setting up your ebook for sale is only the beginning of your creator journey. To truly reap the rewards of your hard work, you’ll need to dedicate some time to promoting your ebook. There are plenty of ways to promote your ebook, but it’s best to start with the basics and build from there.

    Here are some ideas for using social media, website content, and email to sell your ebook online.

    Social media ebook promotion ideas

    • Put up polls about topics to gauge interest
    • Consistently share behind-the-scenes of creating the ebook
    • Create a scavenger hunt throughout your content for the chance to win a free copy
    • Ask readers to share a picture on social media when they download their copy
    • Promote content that has a CTA for your ebook at the end
    • Share occasional bundles or discounts
    • Pin a tweet about your ebook
    Ebook example
    Daniella’s cookbook sales page outlines what’s included and how readers will benefit. Image via Chef D Malfi.

    Website ebook promotion ideas

    Ebook example
    You can create a list of potential ebook buyers before you write a single word by creating a pre-sale interest landing page. Image via Mission Plantified.

    Email ebook promotion ideas

    Ebook example
    Creator Ryan Baustert learns about his audience by asking what held them back from buying his products. Image via Ryan Baustert.

    Every creator has an ebook in them

    If you’ve spent any time writing, working, or coaching in a niche, you likely have an ebook idea ready to come to life. There are so many inspiring stories of creators making a living online, and it’s possible for you too. Everyone has a unique perspective, which means you can create a distinctive ebook even if it’s a topic that’s been covered a thousand times before.

    If you have an idea, ConvertKit Commerce has the tools to help bring it to life. Sign up for a free account to create a landing page for your ebook in a few minutes and start making sales.

    Start selling within minutes

    As a creator, you deserve to get paid for your work. ConvertKit Commerce is ready-made to help you sell digital products.

    Steph Knapp

    Steph Knapp is a freelance B2B + SaaS content marketer that loves educating and empowering curious humans. When she's not typing away, you'll find her volunteering at the animal shelter and obsessing over a new hobby every week. She shares marketing, freelance, and cat content on Twitter @ hellostephknapp.