Writing and selling an ebook is a great way for web designers and developers to earn some serious money. It also puts to good use all those years of experience working in the field. You see, a lot of people are looking for affordable training materials, and they will pay for them if it’s worth every dollar. So, why not write to teach (and to earn money)?
Everything you need to write about is already out there in the open. You just have to find what to write about. If your goal is to write for money, writing non-fiction is a good path to take.
The first part of researching is spent on gathering lots of related materials. From competitors’ data (number of downloads, ratings, book rankings, and the like) down to reading reviews, both good and bad. This is then followed by organizing and analyzing all the things you have compiled.
In fact, you can complete your research in just one day and start writing the next.
Let me show you how.
Researching For Your Ebook Topic
Determine Your Golden Topic
Image credit: IvanClow
The first thing you need to consider is your main interest. What is that one thing that is close to your heart that you believe you can talk about for hours and days on end? It is important that the topic you want to write about, and make money from, is something that you have at least a basic understanding of. Without it, you’ll just basically write fluff and your readers will “feel” it.
If you are interested in money (who isn’t?) then write about money. But not just money as a general topic. You need to go deeper, find a sub-category so that your book can be laser-focused. For example, you can write about personal finance.
But is there money in this topic? That’s what you need to find out. Remember, if, in the next section, you find out that personal finance is not doing well on Amazon, drop it and find another topic (if your goal is to earn money, otherwise if it’s to educate, feel free to write about it anyway).
Find Where The Money Lies
Image credit: Anthony Joh
Note: if your main goal is not to write for money, this section will still be of great help in researching what topics are actually being read.
Amazon is your friend here. In fact, about a fourth to half of the research time will be spent on Amazon. And I promise you it will be worth your while. It will be like being spoon-fed, only you need to go to the kitchen first and get your own spoon.
Now go to Kindle eBooks and choose a category, or even a specific sub-category.
In my example above I chose Business and Investing and I was greeted with top-sellers and top-ranked books. For the sake of realism, I chose a book that was published recently and is currently doing great in terms of ranking, reviews, and sales. The book is How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and at the time of writing this, it has 64 reviews with 4.5 stars and is ranked at 5,467 in the best sellers list, which is important.
Here is the only variable that matters when researching on Amazon:
Pick books that are within 10,000 of Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank. These books are there for a reason and they sell well, which means they’re well-researched, well-written, and well-founded.
There is just one catch, of course. It’s easy enough to find a book within the 10,000 rankings for most topics, but remember that you are not the only one looking for these topics, and it can easily be over-saturated.
Here’s a chart from Theresa Ragan, a best-selling Author with books within the top 100 Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank.
Suppose you price your book at $2.99, after fees you’ll earn $2.09 for each sale. And if you are selling 15 books a day, that’s already $31.35 per day or $940.5 per month. Of course this is true if you are only publishing a 10,000 to 20,000 word book. You can definitely set the price higher. But hey, if you can write three books that can reach the 10,000 rankings every week, that’s not bad money at all!
If the topic you have in mind doesn’t pass the 10,000 mark, you may want to consider looking for a different topic. That is, if your goal is to earn money. But of course, there are exceptions. For example, if you are targeting a very specific niche like web design and development, you really can’t expect to be on the top 1,000 because not everyone who reads are web designers or developers.
Successful eBooks Written by Web Designers
Don’t Make Me Think – $22.99
Ranked at 14,673 overall and 2 in Website Design category.
“Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2000, hundreds of thousands of Web designers and developers have relied on usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help them understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject.”
The Web Designer’s Idea Book vol. 4 – $18.99
Ranked 140,681 overall and 74 in Website Design category. But don’t let that turn you off. Patrick McNeil is the real deal and his book series is a huge hit among web designers and developers.
“Looking for inspiration for your latest web design project? Expert Patrick McNeil, author of the popular Web Designer’s Idea Book series, is back with all new examples of today’s best website design. Featuring more than 650 examples of the latest trends, this fourth volume of The Web Designer’s Idea Book is overflowing with visual inspiration.”
HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites $17.39 (paperback)
Ranked 770 overall in Books and 1 in CSS, Programming Languages, and Web Design categories.
“Every day, more and more people want to learn some HTML and CSS. Joining the professional web designers and programmers are new audiences who need to know a little bit of code at work (update a content management system or e-commerce store) and those who want to make their personal blogs more attractive. Many books teaching HTML and CSS are dry and only written for those who want to become programmers, which is why this book takes an entirely new approach.”
“Do you want to build web pages, but have no previous experience? This friendly guide is the perfect place to start. You’ll begin at square one, learning how the Web and web pages work, and then steadily build from there. By the end of the book, you’ll have the skills to create a simple site with multi-column pages that adapt for mobile devices.”
WordPress To Go – How To Build A WordPress Website On Your Own Domain, From Scratch, Even If You Are A Complete Beginner – $4.99
Ranked 44,082 overall and 19 in Website Design, 20 in Blogging & Blogs, and 59 in Web Design (print).
“Do you want to build your own website but don’t know where to start? Have you been put off by all the jargon and gobbledygook of other Internet guides? If so then this plain, easy WordPress tutorial is the ideal place to start.”
If you are already set, it’s time to do some proper research so that you can start writing as soon as possible!
Image credit: olarte.ollie
Once you have finally determined the topic you want to write about, it’s time to proceed with the most arduous task of them all, which is researching. Yep, it’s not writing. Writing is easy. But knowing what to write about is not. And it is crucial that you do proper research, avoid inaccuracies, and those little tiny details that may build up and eventually ruin your entire book.
Note that this part is like making a stew. You throw everything in on the pot. You don’t have to read and analyze everything just yet. All you need to do is skim through things, read their title and subheadings, maybe read the intro and conclusion as well. The reading and analyzing of everything comes last.
1. Copy All Tables of Contents
Every eBook on Amazon has 10% preview which you can check at to glean a general idea of what the book is all about.
Here’s the table of contents from How to Stop Living from Paycheck to Paycheck, the example given above:
- What is a Budget?
- The 6 Most Important Things You Can Do to Take Control of Your Money
- The 5 Biggest Benefits of Having a Budget
- 5 Budget Myths Explained
- 10 Tips: How to Get the Right Mindset for Success
- 11 Budget Traps (And How to Avoid Them)
- The Easiest Way to Have More Money, Without Earning More
- How to Trim Your Expenses With (almost) No Effort
- Budgeting 101: How to Make a Budget
- Month 1: Find Out Where You Stand
- Month 2: This is the Part Where You Take Control of Your Money
- Month 3 and Beyond – How to Stay on Track
Using the example above, you can already glean a lot of information about why this eBook is an instant hit. It tackles the sweet spot that readers are actually dying to know.
Open 10 or 20 books that are similar to the topic you want to write about and copy all of their table of contents on Evernote or Google Drive. Simply collect these and throw them in together; you can add notes if you want. The purpose of this is to identify what these books have in common content-wise, and what difference they have that made each of them unique. Also, just by looking at the table of contents can sometimes give you a general idea of what the book is all about.
In some instances when the books don’t have table of contents, you can still glean some information from it by reading the free 10% preview. Usually this covers the preface and introduction of the book, and as all introductions go, they reveal what the book is all about.
2. Look For Similar Blogs
And I mean just simply gathering ten or twenty or fifty blogs that are relevant to your golden topic. Don’t do extensive reading just yet, because that will be for later. Remember, what you are doing is bolstering your resources for future use. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should read every blog you come to.
Here are some directories you can browse around on to find relevant blogs:
- Alltop – It is one of the finest blog directories online and I rely heavily on this to find article ideas (sometimes!). If you want to find WordPress blogs, go to WordPress.alltop.com. If you want to search for PHP, go to PHP.alltop.com. See the trend here? There are a lot of categories in there, all you need to do is search by topic.
- Feedly – Technically, Feedly is a reader and not a blog directory where people submit their blogs. But the way it’s setup, you can simply choose a category to add to your feed and all the relevant blogs will appear.
Seriously, these are the only two sites you’ll ever need to find blogs that are relevant to your topic.
After gathering all the blogs you think you will need, it’s time to put them to good use.
Search each blog for the most relevant articles. Bookmark all of them or compile them on Evernote. While this might seem like plagiarising, it’s not. Because the end goal here is to research, and you are simply gathering all of your research materials in one place.
3. Grab Ideas From the Comments and Reviews
Another thing you can do to solicit ideas from the bestsellers you want to emulate is to look at the review section. Usually people will tell you to read the positive reviews only and integrate their good review into your book, but it is also crucial to know where they went wrong and attempt to rectify that.
Compile everything that makes sense and use that as your guidelines on what to do.
Separate good feedback from bad feedback. This will act as your do’s and don’ts when writing your book.
Wrap It Up By Organizing, Analyzing, and Writing
Spend a day compiling everything you feel should belong in your book. You can have 100 pages of purely copied content from all over the internet and that is a great start. Think of it like the detectives you see on TV where they have a lot of newspaper clippings, photos of suspects, maps, and some evidence on the table. That is what you are doing.
Once you feel you already have enough information, that is when you start organizing by relevance. Remove redundant things. Analyze why the things you gathered “worked” for their readers and try to emulate it.
After removing the nonessentials and sorting everything out by relevance, that is when you clearly divide each section with their own headline – which, coincidentally, will result to your own table of contents.
When you finally have your own table of contents, that’s when you open up a new document and start writing based on your research.
So, I guess that’s it. Have fun researching and writing like a detective!